The UAE’s Steady Growth Post-Pandemic
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) was one of the first of the Emirates that encountered cases of COVID-19 on its home turf. This country, with a population of 3.4 million, is considered to be one of the centers of the world, with many trade and cross border businesses being routed through the UAE. Apart from trade and business, UAE mainly relies on industries such as hospitality, tourism, retail and travel. These industries at the time of COVID-19, saw a dramatic decline in revenue.
During the early days of March 2020, UAE announced the closure of its schools and universities, with education moved to be conducted through online platforms. However, as cases began to surge by the end of March 2020, the UAE closed its borders and suspended all international passenger and transit flights. By 26th March 2020, the government had restricted free mobility within the country and a night curfew was implemented whereby residents were not allowed to move freely during the day and at night, were restricted from leaving their homes. Strict measures were implemented along with mass testing and disinfection programs, with the country under strict lockdown from April 4th until April 23rd.
In spite of these strict measures, cases were still on the rise, the UAE embarked on a mass testing strategy, with the number of tests spiking close to a high of 60,000 per day. Due to this strategy, the authorities were able to detect the infected individual and closely monitor or quarantine accordingly. By May 2022, the country had reached its peak of 994 daily diagnosed cases. This number slowly began to decline due to their mass testing strategy and by July 2022, their average rate of cases fell below 1% of the population The lockdown was later eased, however the night-time curfew remained, but subsequently relaxed in a systematic way.
The government also took rapid action to support its economy. As early as March 2020, the Central Bank of the UAE responded by providing a 100 billion Emirati Dirham (AED) Comprehensive Economic Support Scheme to support the retail and corporate customers of banks affected by COVID‑19.
Additional stimulus packages were offered by the Federal Government, as well as by the Emirates of Abu Dhabi and Dubai, to businesses and citizens. As part of the post‑COVID economic plan, the UAE Cabinet approved a package of 33 initiatives in three phases to provide immediate and medium to long‑term support for SMEs, tourism, manufacturing and the digital sectors. The Fourth Industrial Revolution and sustainable development were targeted as a long‑term development strategy.
Due to the COVID- 19 impact, the government has continued to pay special attention to the revival of its hard-hit economy. Sectors such as transportation and storage, as well as hotels and restaurants that were the most affected saw a year-on-year increase, with wholesale and retail trade also grew steadily from 2.8% and 3.5% in 2021-22.
The UAE had become one of first few nations to fully vaccinate the majority of its population by way of mass vaccination campaigns. To ease global travel, it also increased the frequency of international flights arriving to the UAE with relaxed COVID-19 restrictions.
The UAE was scheduled to hold the world’s largest Expo in the year 2020, however, due to the pandemic, the six-month mega-event had to be delayed by a year due to the pandemic, as by the fourth quarter of 2021, UAE was well-positioned to see higher tourism numbers.
Expo-2020 Dubai created an unprecedented opportunity for government institutions, private sector companies and academics to visit the country in order to forge future commercial relationships, raise agendas and establish sustainable partnerships. It welcomed the world to gather in a peaceful and safe environment in accordance with the highest international precautionary standards. Thousands of international leaders visited the event, including kings, heads of states, prime ministers, other government ministers and high-level officials, to seize the many investment and commercial opportunities offered by the UAE.
Expo-2020, assisted in bringing out the UAE’s leading role in the areas of international politics, culture, the economy and science and offered discussions about the major challenges facing humanity and held many activities that aimed to create solutions to these challenges.
Indeed, Expo-2020 Dubai helped to accelerate the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and showcased to the world its unique model of tolerance, pluralism and diversity while still achieving growth in all economic sectors.
The Central Bank of the UAE Emirates has stated that it expects the UAE economy to grow 4.2% in 2022. UAE’s non-oil economy has benefited from public spending, credit growth and improving business sentiment. The hosting of the Dubai World EXPO has since boosted tourism and has helped to accelerate growth.