The DUBAI business environment can be very lucrative and even predictable if care is taken to understand the influences working on an individual market at any one time. Keeping an ear to the ground and maintaining a steady physical presence is invaluable.
Visiting business people are advised to consult the many sources of commercial intelligence, including embassy lists, the chambers of commerce, official gazettes and tender lists. DUBAI national businessmen are the best source of information, and the ideal man in a business development role will usually be the one with excellent contacts in the local business community. Given the right high-level contacts it is possible to hear of projects ahead of the rest and long before tender documents can be officially purchased. The DUBAI is one of the most open and freely competitive markets in the world and although the authorities want to do business on the basis of quality and value for money, much still depends on this inside knowledge.
Personalities play a significant role in contract award. The knowledge, accessibility and reputation of one's local associate is often a vital factor in determining the outcome of fierce bidding between large numbers of international companies.
Business is Distinctive
Business in the DUBAI is complicated by the distinct character of each emirate. The commercial aspirations of Dubai Emirate mean that in most quarters there is a definite will to conduct business at a Western-style pace. This does not mean that traditional courtesies are waived. Business visitors will find that in Dubai, where there are fewer commercial pressures, the pace is more measured and the atmosphere more traditional. In the smaller emirates, except Sharjah, the pace of business is altogether more traditional. Sharjah, with its rapidly growing industrial sector, to a great extent follows the Dubai mode. So lessons learned in one emirate are not necessarily applicable in another.
The application of uniform federal standards and regulations, which started in the 1980s, has increased in speed in the first half of the 1990s. But discrepancies and procedural differences still persist.
Dubai's Economic Department is a New Departure
The Dubai government set up an Economic Department in 1992 with the express purpose of facilitating and encouraging the development of trade and industry in the emirate. It functions as a one-stop shop for business registration. If it receives correctly completed documents and approvals from the respective authorities in time, then a business licence is issued within a few days.
In order to speed up the procedure, representatives from the Chamber of Commerce & Industry, Dubai Municipality, Civil Defence and a notary public all provide their services at the Economic Department. In addition, staff at the Economic Department liaise with the federal Economy & Commerce Ministry and follow up applications themselves.
However, there are categories of business that require approval from other authorities: manufacturing institutions are subject to approval by the Finance & Industry Ministry and financial institutions from the Central Bank. The Economic Department was working on a plan for future co-ordination with these authorities to further facilitate the registration process as the practical guide was being published.
In addition, the Economic Department is in charge of strategic economic planning for the emirate of Dubai, the organisation of industry and trade, the execution of statutes relating to commercial and industrial activities, developing the natural resources of the emirate and diversifying its sources of income.
To achieve this, it is in charge of preparing and maintaining the commercial register, protecting industrial and commercial property rights, organising commercial agents and mediators, commercial advertising, and decisions on the establishment or expansion of factories. It is also responsible for the promotion of the emirate's industrial products and the investment of national and foreign capital in commercial industrial projects. It can recommend government participation in development projects and represents government interests in national companies. Finally, it co-ordinates with federal government departments in the implementation of federal laws related to commerce and industry.