It gives me great pleasure and honor to be with you today at the opening of the “Middle East SME Forum-2011” and I would like to personally thank you all for being here. We are honored by your presence. This gathering reflects the growing and leading role played by SMEs in business community and the economy of our beloved country.Allow me first to welcome the distinguished elite of attendees, participants and guests. I would also like to extend my sincere appreciation to the organizing committee and to all persons and entities, led by the National Bank of Abu Dhabi, which has long been effectively participating in all efforts aimed at foreseeing the economic vision of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi; and at achieving the goals of economic development. Our meeting today comes to underline the importance of integration and effective communication between all partners, and stakeholders, not only at the level of the economy of the emirate of Abu Dhabi, and the UAE, but the region as a whole. We are gathering here today, to work together to support and develop the SMEs sector, which is one of the most important players in economic development and investment process. We also aim at stimulating and boosting production and services to maximize the utilization of capital and human resources.The support and development of SMEs, is one of the priorities of the Policy Agenda of our Government, and this stands as a critical issue, in achieving targeted economic diversification, and realizing sustainable economic development; especially in view of the rapid economic, social and political changes, currently facing the world and influencing the structure of the global economy as a whole.Ladies and Gentlemen,For a long time we have been debating, discussing and reviewing SMEs related issues, definition and pivotal role in advancing development. Today let's move beyond this stage. let's look into the future of SMEs, because what concerns us today, is the need to adopt a clear policy and an integrated strategy in order to maximize SMEs benefits and advantage, vitalize and activate their leading role in the development process, and provide greater opportunities for the participation of UAE national cadres and utilization of their capabilities. I am fully convinced that these goals will be achieved only by working together… government and business community, to mobilize and unify efforts to support the rise the competitiveness of SMEs, and provide the most favorable environment for fostering their growth.
SMEs still face major challenges and problems which limit tangle SMEs contribution to development. Some of the most pressing challenges embody the need to provide required financing, the weak linkages between SMEs and large industries, low competitiveness, and the inadequate rehabilitation and training programs. Extrapolating successful international experiences, reveals that means to support and develop SMEs have recently seen extensive changes. Financing and protectionist policies alone; are no longer the dominant pattern of supporting strategies. Support mechanisms and techniques have expanded and widened to include a range of tools which are more in line with contemporary economic and social realities. Such innovative tools have become more oriented towards providing substantive and technical support along with necessary financing.The Department of Economic Development has actively worked to strengthen and reinforce the role of SMEs in the process of overall economic development. The Department has developed a clear strategy and an integrated action plan, based on providing the best facilities and services to boost EMEs and assist local and international investors intending to invest in the emirate. The Department of Economic Development has also developed its supportive policies and economic laws and regulations, to facilitate business needs, speed up business setting procedures and render aiding services to develop SMEs. Innovative systems were also adopted to enhance transfer of technology, strengthen SMEs productive linkage, and enable business to grow and prosper, through a package of other supporting services. Moreover, the Department of Economic Development’s role to support and develop Abu Dhabi’s exports, is furthered by the establishment of the “Export Development Center”, which is entrusted primarily with supporting non-oil exports, enhancing business environment, assisting local and international investors. Investment flows will be more enhanced especially after the establishment of the investment promotion center.I would grasp this chance to commend the growth and development achieved by the economy of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi in 2010, as GDP rose by 16% and the rate of growth of non-oil GDP has reached about 5.5%, which demonstrates the substantial improvement in the performance of non-oil economic activities. This confirms that our economy is on the right track of economic recovery. The growth of manufacturing industries activity, which reached 10.8% in 2010, is another important indicator that underscores the government efforts to develop and advance this sector, as one of the pillars of sustainable development.Although the contribution of oil in GDP increased from 44.6% in 2009 to 49.7% in 2010, but it is still less than 50%, for the second year in a row. This confirms that the emirate has made great strides in diversifying the economic base, consistent with the goals of the 2030 Vision.
Honorable attendees,Ladies and gentlemen, The judicious leadership of His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE and Ruler of Abu Dhabi; and His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces and Chairman of the Executive Council of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, May Allah protect Them, pays growing attention to issues pertinent to investment, enhancement of business environment, development the capabilities of UAE nationals, as well as supporting and enabling the private sector, in which SMEs constitute the main pillars. The private sector will surely play the leading role in the development process.Acknowledging the existence of difficulties and obstacles is the first steps on the right path, to search for remedial mechanisms and means, to enable and support EMEs. Despite the success that we have achieved in the development and diversification of the emirate's economy, but the current situation of production and exports, capacity utilization rates, technical and technological levels, do not properly reflect the true potential of our economy, in light of the favorable characteristics and capabilities which would allow us to increase the optimal utilization of resources. Actually we are moving forward towards introducing more economic reforms, enhancing business environment, eliminating restrictions and constraints, in accordance with our ambitious 2030 vision and its clear strategy; and in partnership with all entities and stakeholders.
In conclusion, I would like to enthusiastically express my utter conviction that effective partnership between government, business community, associations and non-governmental institutions, represents the best formula for constructive work towards the advancement of this key sector, as a spearhead in economic and social development in our beloved country. So I invite you all to share thoughts, ideas and suggestions to best enrich the outcomes of this forum.Thank you