• Initiatives to increase private sector role in infrastructure development preceded oil price drop
  • Current private sector investments include bus, taxi and port operations

UAE Public Works Minister Abdullah Belhaif al-Naimi has indicated that increasing private sector participation has been a major priority in the UAE’s infrastructure development policies over the past decade and long before the recent oil price drop began.

This priority, Al-Naimi says, has translated in major changes, particularly in the federal government’s contracting framework.

“We have covered about 90 per cent of the private and international firms worries when it comes to contracting issues with the government,” Al-Naimi told MEED on the sidelines of the Mena Rail & Metro Summit in Dubai in early October.

The minister said the government has historically suffered from the perception that contracts with the government are one-sided.

The minister said progress has been made towards increasing private sector participation across the broad spectrum of the country’s transport and infrastructure projects. He cited that private companies are now actively involved in operating of bus and taxi systems as well as ports, and the level of private sector investment in similar and other projects could only increase in future.

He said that the ongoing overhaul in the regulatory framework, particularly with respect to ensuring a contracting framework that is fair to both the government and private firms, will encourage greater private sector participation overall.

“We have a few projects [engaging the private sector] now… and their participation is more important than ever,” Al-Naimi explains. “We want to be clear that the private sector is an important part of the formula to develop infrastructure projects [in the UAE].”

As well as highlighting the need for increased engagement with the the private sector, Al-Naimi also highlighted the UAE government’s achievements in terms of its sustainability objectives, particularly in the transport sector during the recently concluded rail conference.

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