Dubai Free Zone Council holds first meeting

The Dubai Free Zone Council, a body to coordinate and govern the emirate’s free zones, held its first meeting.

Dubai runs 22 free zones across a range of industries, housing around Dh515 billion of trade and 20,000 companies, according to government data. It has launched free zones in healthcare, education and e-commerce as it attempt to develop specialisations in these economic areas.

The largest, Jebel Ali Free Zone, which was founded in 1985, now has around 80 per cent of its land occupied. Jafz accounts for 7 per cent of all employment in the emirate, and added 650 companies to its books last year.

Free zones permit companies to avoid restrictions on foreign ownership and federal hiring requirements. Around 25 per cent of Dubai’s GDP passes through its free zones, government data says.

Mahmoud Al Iriani, Ibrahim Elbadawi and Dhuha Fadh, in a paper published by the Dubai Economic council, showed that Dubai’s free zones have a major role in boosting employment and demand for bank loans in the emirate.

Free zone companies could contribute more to training Emiratis and buying local inputs if they were given bigger tax incentives, the authors argued.

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