The United Arab Emirates announced on Sunday a major plan to stimulate its economy and liberalize stringent residency rules for expatriates, as the country seeks to overhaul its finances and attract foreign residents and capital.
The nation's plan to lure foreign talent over the coming decades reflects a growing contrast with the other sheikhdoms of the Persian Gulf that are becoming increasingly protectionist as they try to diversify their oil-bound economies. Now marking its 50th anniversary, the UAE is seeking to accelerate its economic and social reforms to rebrand for a post-pandemic future.
At the government’s first large in-person press conference since the pandemic, Abdulla bin Touq, the minister of the economy, promised the government would pour $13.6 billion directly into the economy over the next year, with a total of $150 billion invested by 2030.
Buried within the raft of flashy economic development initiatives on Sunday was a far more practical — and drastic — change to the country's visa system that governs the legions of foreign workers from Africa the Middle East and elsewhere who power the country's economy.
Since the UAE's independence, the state has tied employment to residency status, lending employers outsized power and forcing people to immediately leave the country once they lost their jobs.
The new plans give residents an additional three months to seek other jobs after being fired, allow parents to sponsor their children's visas for an extra seven years until the age of 25, and ease visa restrictions on freelancers, widows and divorced people, among other things. It's a subtle shift from the Gulf Arab states' traditional relationship to foreign labor, which long has been treated as an expendable underclass.
Ministers also said they sought to double the UAE’s economy in the next decade through major trade agreements with countries including Israel, Turkey United Kingdom and Indonesia.
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