Expert Interview: H.E. Al Hamli, Secretary General of Dubai Competitiveness Office Since 2006, His Excellency Hani Al Hamli has served as the Secretary General of the Dubai Competitiveness Office. As the Secretary General of a culturally diverse city that has managed to consistently improve its quality-of-living standards over the decades, we were curious what insights Mr. Hani could provide in regards to overcoming specific challenges, utilizing new technologies and infrastructures, and highlighting the many accomplishments Dubai has made along the way. In the latest edition of our expert interview series, Mr. Hani was kind enough to answer several of our questions related to Dubai’s unique journey toward improving its quality of living, future plans for further increasing its city attractiveness, and more. Throughout the past 20 years, Dubai has consistently maintained or even improved its city attractiveness and standard of living. What do you think have been some of the most successful initiatives for making this a reality? Among its initiatives, Dubai introduced an Instant License facility allowing entrepreneurs to start a business in less than five minutes. This service enables these entrepreneurs to acquire a trade license, whether it is a commercial or professional one, quickly and easily. Further, there have been other government services such as fee reductions, the launching of a Gold Visas Scheme, and introducing tourist-visa provisions for longer-term visas. In terms of attractiveness, Dubai is constantly analyzing how it can provide a better environment to enable its residents and citizens whilst also attracting foreign talent. Guided by our leadership, we will continue to work on initiatives that will propel Dubai to the top of living standards, which is a part of our Dubai Competitiveness Strategy 2030 with its vision of “Dubai as the Frontier City, redefining global best practices in competitiveness, sustainability, and resilience.” This vision is already being driven by the following directions: “Delivering more, better, and for less.” “Enabling doing business, seamlessly.” “Enhancing R&D and innovation output.” “Harnessing digitization for economic development.” “Cluster-focused sector development.” “Maximizing human capital potential.” “Re-engineering enterprise performance.” “Ensuring societal well-being and an affordable cost of life.” What have been some of the biggest challenges you’ve had to overcome to implement your quality-of-living best practices to help create an even more attractive city for businesses, residents, and tourists? Dubai, as a global city, has a unique nature where 200+ nationalities live in the Emirate. This cultural variation makes it a challenge to implement quality-of-living ideas and best practices that would satisfy the needs of this wide group of people. However, through our leadership vision, we consider this variation a real opportunity for our city to grow through the different experiences we have. Through this perspective, we managed to formulate quality-of-living ideas and policies that take into consideration what everyone - either businesses, residents, or tourists - expect from our city. If you could give some general tips for cities that are already thriving on how to improve their city attractiveness and quality of living even more, what would you say? Have the right vision. Understand where you are as a city today and where you want to be in one year, five years, and even 10 years down the line. Enable the youth as much as possible, study global trends, and work on building an environment that fosters collaboration, critical thinking, and innovation. Also, the people who know best about the standard of living in a city are the citizens and residents themselves. As a government, we need to listen to their concerns and work on ways to resolve them efficiently and effectively. Would you agree that a city’s talent and business attractiveness tend to correlate with higher living standards? Yes, because talent breeds innovation that leads to an improvement to the standard of living. Similarly, an attractive business environment attracts entrepreneurs, investment, and talent into an economy, resulting in a higher living standard. That is why Dubai emphasizes its investment into its people through its human capital development while working hard on policies and legislation that facilitate the ease of doing business in our city. What do you believe should be the main priorities for Dubai over the next 20 years? Our key priorities are summarized by our national visions and plans such as The Fifty-Year Charter which was announced by His Highness Shk. Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum on the 4th January 2019. There’s the Dubai Plan 2021 and others as well. In short, some of the main priorities for Dubai include sustainable economic growth, empowering our citizens and residents, and providing a safe and secure city for our families. Upscaling from regional hubs in business, tourism, and innovation to a global level is something we are also working hard to achieve. Many cities are implementing new technologies and infrastructures in their quest to improve living standards. At the same time, issues such as globalization, gender parity, and diversity are also being viewed as important components for a city’s future if it wants to achieve a higher living standard. How true is this statement for Dubai? For us, a high-living standard is not a single point to be achieved but rather a continuous goal to work towards. That said, it is very important to Dubai. We invest in our people and the environment that enables them to achieve. We believe that high-living standard goes beyond infrastructure and technologies; it is about the daily life of people and the challenges they face. As such, we strive to eliminate barriers that provide some sort of hindrance to the people that live, study, work, and do business in Dubai. Would you be able to provide a few examples on how the city of Dubai has tackled gender parity/diversity to positively improve the living standard of its residents? We have created the Dubai Women Establishment, an organization that looks exclusively at ways of improving quality of life for women. As a recent example, one of the initiatives launched in Dubai’s Global Women's Forum is longer maternity leaves. This will help in equalizing gender disparity in employment rates. There are many examples like this and we are fully devoted to providing an enabling environment for women to raise their families and achieve their career ambitions. Furthermore, 50% of the members of the Federal National Council are women. We are fully committed to ensuring equal opportunity for all residents and citizens of Dubai. What other cities have done a great job improving their living standards for residents over the past decade? I believe Singapore has done a tremendous job in this regard, and now offers one of the highest standards of living in the world. A true testament to the right vision, leadership, and targeted initiatives. Singapore is a best performer in numerous competitiveness indicators and indices, but Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither was Singapore. This is a result of many years of effort in improving Singapore in all aspects, from business to education to research. We applaud their achievements across all areas and we share their drive and commitment to the betterment of our cities. How would you summarize Dubai today, and where you would like it to see it in the future? I believe Dubai has grown exponentially over the past few decades in all regards, yet our journey does not have a finish line. We will perpetually pursue the highest standard of living for our city. Today, we are seen by many as a regional hub for business, tourism, and other sectors, as well as a pioneer in many areas. Where I would like to see Dubai in the future is continuing on this trajectory and achieving global recognition in the areas of innovation, research, business, and more!