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Dubai: Country and Foreign Investment

Business Environment

This page was last updated on 9 March 2021.

Dubai businessmen combine local and regional expertise with a full understanding of international business practices. English ranks on a par with Arabic as the main business language and there are plenty of foreign banks, lawyers and other advisors - as well as the Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing, the Economic Department, Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Jebel Ali Free Zone Authority to help those wanting to enter the market.

The emirate's transport infrastructure is unrivalled in the region in terms of size, facilities and efficiency. Dubai’s ports are served by more than 170 shipping lines and the airport by around 100 airlines.

The postal system in the UAE is very modern and the post offices are among the most efficient in the Gulf. Between the UAE and Europe or the USA, mail takes about ten days; to Australia, about eight to ten days. There is an excellent telephone system and you can phone anywhere in the world from the most remote areas. Internet use in the UAE in general and Dubai in particular (as evidenced by the creation of Dubai Internet City) is extensive, and the government has developed many effective online portals for accessing services and information.

There is no corporate tax in Dubai. The only exceptions to this are for oil producing companies and branches of foreign banks. Likewise, there are no personal taxes. Direct taxation is against the traditions of the UAE and it is highly unlikely that it will be introduced in the near future. (See Domestic Corporate Taxation and Personal Taxation.)

Trade practices in Dubai are in line with normal international standards. All correspondence should be in Arabic or English. As a sophisticated market, full technical specifications should be provided with CIF Dubai prices and Middle East references. Payments are normally effected by letter of credit. The UAE is a signatory of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT).

The registration of accountants and auditors in the UAE is governed by Federal Law No. 9 of 1975. There is no local professional body of accountants but many of the large international accountancy firms have offices in Dubai. Under Federal Law No.13 of 1988, as amended, all businesses are required to keep financial records but current legislation is not specific as to the nature of such records.

Dubai has many local and international law firms willing to advise foreign business organisations on legal matters. The emirate has civil, criminal and Sharia (Islamic) courts of first instance. All court decisions may be brought to the Dubai Court of Appeal. Thereafter, a final appeal may be made to the Dubai Court of Cassation.

The Civil Court (as opposed to the Sharia court) has jurisdiction over labour, civil and commercial transactions, as well as personal matters (e.g. wills, divorces etc) relating to non-Muslims. The language of the Courts is Arabic and advocates admitted to plead are all Arab nationals.

However, in addition to these systems, the DIFC has its own court, which held its first session in October 2005. The DIFC Courts were rated alongside the best commercial courts worldwide in the International Association for Court Administration influential international survey on performance during 2012.

On October 31, 2011, a law was signed allowing any businesses to use the English language DIFC Courts. This move is designed to consolidate the position of the DIFC as a leading financial and business hub for companies from the Gulf Cooperation Council region and the developed markets of Europe, Asia and the Americas, by simplifying the court processes for resolving commercial disputes, available to companies who are licensed to operate, transact or conclude contracts within the DIFC.

In January 2012, the DIFC Court reported that its first non-DIFC related case had been heard and resolved. The case concerned a dispute surrounding the non-payment of an invoice involving two Dubai-based SMEs and was resolved in late December 2011. A settlement was agreed upon by both parties after being overseen by the DIFC Courts and Small Claims Tribunal. Both parties accepted the DIFC Courts jurisdiction and subsequently reached a mutual settlement on December 29.

In 2009, Dubai was for the first time classified as the top destination city in the world for foreign direct investment (FDI) in a special report published by the Financial Times, surpassing the likes of London and Shanghai. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) continued to lead the way in the Middle East and Africa, accounting for 50% of total projects in the region.

In its position as the top destination city for FDI for 2008, Dubai attracted a total of 342 projects, had US$21bn of capital investment and created over 58,000 new jobs. The UAE was once again the leading destination for FDI in the region with 480 projects, capital expenditure of US$35bn and the creation of over 87,000 new jobs in 2008. For the Middle East as a whole, sources show that the total number of FDI projects amounted to 969, with capital expenditure of US$154bn, creating over 237,000 jobs. The financial crisis saw a significant drop in FDI during 2009 and 2010 and investment in Dubai fell to US$4bn in both 2009 and 2010.

According to the Department of Economic Development, 2011 saw a total of US$940 million in capital and 77 companies come to Dubai, delivering a collective turnover of US$4.51 billion.

In March 2012, Dubai FDI announced it had formed a partnership with the International Business Consultancy 'The Business Year' to produce a comprehensive report on economic opportunities in Dubai entitled 'The Business Year: Dubai 2012'.



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