Dubai has started 2023 with a bang, unveiling a raft of measures intended to double its economy. The headline-grabbing announcement was part of a new 10-year plan from Dubai’s ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid. Other measures are also being rolled out alongside this to increase the number of Emiratis in the private sector and to offer more protection for all employees.

But the 10-year plan is by far the most ambitious of the emirate’s moves to make the city a powerful force globally, as the UAE moves away from its reliance on oil. Most of Dubai’s revenues are non-oil based nowadays and it is already leading the way in generating income from other sources, such as tourism and finance.


Justin Harper, journalist

D33 seeks to bring 65,000 Emiratis into the labour market, while attracting the world’s best universities

Global ambition

If Sheikh Mohammed’s bold vision is successful, it will catapult Dubai into the world’s top cities by economic strength. Named the Dubai Economic Agenda (D33), it aims to add billions of dirhams to the economy across more than 100 projects, helping the city become one of the top four global financial centres. This would put it up there with the likes of New York, London, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Singapore and San Francisco, which typically dominate the upper echelons of the ranking.

Playing on Dubai’s strong international ties, Sheikh Mohammed tweeted that the plan relies on new trade corridors with 400 cities around the world, with a key focus on Africa and South America. The UAE has always been keen to forge new partnerships with neighbouring economies and historically has attracted plenty of foreign direct investment (FDI). So while 400 cities may sound ambitious, Dubai has the resources and connections to make it happen.

Unicorn creator

One pioneering initiative within the bold 10-year economic blueprint is the launch of business incubators that will support around 30 private companies to hopefully become unicorns (firms valued at more than US$1bn) in the coming years. This encourages local entrepreneurs and businesses to start scaling up and speaks to the UAE’s desire to involve more Emiratis in the local economy. Indeed, the D33 plan seeks to bring a further 65,000 Emiratis into the labour market, while attracting the world’s best universities to the city, which will in turn bolster its higher education sector.

Sandbox Dubai aims to develop the emirate into an innovation hub

Supporting this start-up culture will be the establishment of Sandbox Dubai, which aims to develop the emirate into an innovation hub by enabling testing of new products and technology before they go live to market.

The extremely focused 10-year plan marks the 17th anniversary of Sheikh Mohammed’s rule, as he continues to raise the emirate’s profile globally. More details on the 100 transformative projects are set to be revealed at a later date, but they will involve economic targets totalling Dh32 trillion (US$8.7 trillion) for the next 10 years, and foreign trade doubling to Dh25 trillion over the same period. On top of this, Dubai hopes to attract foreign direct investments exceeding Dh700bn.

‘Our city has more than 300,000 investors,’ Sheikh Mohammed said in a statement. ‘Our digital transformation will add Dh100bn to Dubai’s economy annually.’

Long-term outlook

The UAE is known for planning for the long term and Dubai is no different. In December, Dubai’s ruler set out the next phase of the city’s 2040 Urban Master Plan, with new housing and easier commuting among the top priorities. These include building shops, schools, offices and recreation facilities within a 20-minute journey of new homes. The plan is to curtail lengthy commutes and boost the city’s status as a liveable destination, creating what has been dubbed ‘a 20-minute city’.

Such developments can only be good news for accountants and finance professionals.

Already, firms are building up their presence to provide advisory services in support of Dubai’s growth. This latest announcement suggests that suitably qualified individuals considering a move to the emirate will find plenty of opportunity in the coming decade and beyond.