The Jebel Ali free zone
The Jebel Ali free zone. The UAE Cabinet move to allow 100 per cent foreign ownership in 13 sectors could allow investors to look beyond free zones. Image Credit: Courtesy: JAFZA

Dubai: Businesses can operate out of multiple free zones in Dubai through a single license under the “one free zone passport” scheme.

What this does is bring out significant cost savings in licensing fees for those businesses wanting to have a base in more than one free zone in the emirate. Meanwhile, there is also a proposal to allow free zone licenses entities to take up rental contracts from the current 25 years to 50 years.

The DFZ Council is also “developing a comprehensive geo-economic map of Dubai that seeks to position the emirate as a leading destination for investment and business set-up”.

“Greater coordination paves the way for sustainable development and presents exceptional opportunities to attract SMEs and international companies and empower entrepreneurs to realise their creative ideas,” said Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Chairman of DFZ Council.

This ties in closely with another recent Dubai-wide initiative, whereby free zone based entities could operate freely in “onshore” Dubai as well as offshore. This again did away with multiple licensing requirements for such businesses.

Financial marketplace

The DFZ Council is also lending its weight to the “Free Zone 10X” platform, which would create a financial market exclusively for free zone enterprises to tap funding through IPO listings. A study is being held on the feasibility of such a marketplace, and is now researching the “legislative and logistical requirements for implementing” it.

“The coordinated efforts among the free zones in Dubai contribute to economic diversification — an essential pillar of the economy of the future,” said Sheikh Ahmed. “This creates a favourable environment to bring groundbreaking concepts to life.”

Updating rental agreements

In what could be a path-breaking move, the Council also discussed a draft law proposal to systemise rental agreements within Dubai free zones. If passed, this will be done in conjunction with Dubai Land Department and the various free zone enterprises.

The proposal aims at “providing a larger pool of real estate options for companies”. If passed, it would extend lease terms for free zone businesses from 25 years to 50.

Wide representation

The team working on updating the free zone concept in Dubai includes representatives of the Ministry of Economy, the Department of Economic Development, Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Dubai Development Authority, Jebel Ali Free Zone, the Dubai International Financial Centre, Dubai Customs, and Dubai Municipality.

“The initiatives of the DFZ Council, such as the geo-economic map, bring added value to the local economy,” said Sheikh Ahmed. “Developments on the economic front transcend geographical borders and support the implementation of innovative projects in line with the priorities articulated in the recent “Letter of the New Season” from His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.”