The UAE and Qatar are world leaders in developing intangible infrastructure and their focus on a knowledge-driven economy is setting the pace, says a British academic. Addressing the ‘Securing Asia’ security summit in London, Professor Rory Miller, director of the Middle East & Mediterranean Studies Programme, King’s College, London, said:
“The UAE and Qatar are not just regionally, but globally, at the forefront of such development ventures, both independently and in collaboration with leading partners externally.”
He noted the two countries’ investment in developing world class research institutes; new universities in association with or through branch campuses of leading universities; science and technology parks; centres of excellence in universities and national research agencies.
The UAE and Qatar, he said, recognised the importance of developing human capacity, speeding up diversification, improving competitiveness and increasing productivity. “In terms of regulatory policies, Qatar leads the way in the region and in terms of corporate governance and transparency, the UAE leads the way in the region,” Prof Miller said.
The key challenge, he told the summit on Wednesday, was in providing opportunities for the growing young population by developing “an entrepreneurial culture”. He recalled that at the first annual meeting of Gulf entrepreneurs held in Dubai in 2010, attended by 2,000 delegates, it was widely recognised that there was a critical need to develop the private sector and create opportunities for entrepreneurial activity.
The pre-eminence of the government rather than the private sector is, he said, recognised as a negative in the Gulf region. He observed that government procurement of advanced technology exceeds procurement by the private sector in every GCC state with the exception of Kuwait.
“If you have an overwhelmingly dominant public sector, you have a risk-averse culture, because of the benefits of the patronage society,” he said. “To make it viable and worthwhile for a young citizen of, for example Abu Dhabi, to give up a public job and take a risk in developing his own business, is to fundamentally overturn the status quo in society,” he maintained.
However, facing these economic and political challenges is, he said, vital to the future to ensure prosperity and productivity. “Developing a private sector through entrepreneurship, building SMEs, and allowing citizens to participate fully in the opportunities accrued from energy revenues is the key economic and political challenge for both Qatar and the UAE going forward.”