In comparison with Dubai, Abu Dhabi has followed a low-profile, slower-moving development path. But this is changing.
The scale and ambition of its cutting-edge developments in tourism and renew-able energy highlight a fundamental change in approach taking place in the UAE’s biggest emirate.
Progress on its governmental reform agenda has been nothing short of spectacular. In less than three years, the number of employees in the civil service has dropped from 64,000 to 11,000 and municipal staff numbers have fallen from 45,000 to 4,300. Essential services have been outsourced to the private sector and cost savings are already being recorded.
But there is still a long way to go. Legislative reform has been slower to come into effect and initiatives such as changing the Company Law are taking a long time to resolve.
Uncertainty also surrounds changes that are to be made to criteria governing foreign businesses operating in the emirate.
Abu Dhabi is right to take a measured approach, but prolonged uncertainty can lead to unhealthy speculation about what is really going on.
Better communication, both internally and externally, of the changes, both planned and implemented, would improve planning, create joined-up thinking in government and give more confidence to the private sector.