After elections in May 2009 that brought fresh blood into the assembly – including for the first time four women – the emirate’s parliament is considerably more reform-minded than in the past and that has made pushing through legislation much easier. Since the start of the year framework legislation for a long-awaited Capital Market Authority has been also passed. Confidence in the energy and construction sectors is also improving.

The Partnerships Technical Bureau, which was enacted in mid-2009 to facilitate public-private partnerships, is pressing ahead with major infrastructure projects, including the country’s first independent power and water project, and a metro system. On the energy side, plans to retender a $17bn refinery contract at Al-Zour, which was cancelled in 2008, are being discussed and the terms of a first enhanced technical service agreement have been drawn up with UK/Dutch Shell.

But analysts and businessmen remain cautious. Fears are the authorities could easily slip back into the political squabbles that have held back the country’s progress until now. So far the signs are good, but it is still early days.