Nasser Saidi, President, Nasser Saidi & Associates and the moderator: Courtney Fingar, Editor in Chief, ‘fDi Magazine, Financial Times’ during Sharjah FDI Forum 2016 in Sharjah yesterday. Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/ Gulf News

Sharjah: The UAE will need to further focus on education, attracting human capital from abroad and adopting certain laws in order to improve in the field of innovation, according to Nasser Saidi, president of Nasser Saidi and Associates and member of the Regional Advisory Group for the Middle East and North Africa region at the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Modern economies “are about knowledge and that means [educating] people,” Saidi said at the Sharjah Foreign Direct Investment [FDI] Forum on Thursday.

He stated that educational institutions, from nursery to university level, should focus on educating students on science, technology, engineering and mathematics. “By the time they get to university, they can become highly [knowledgeable] in these areas”, which will lead to innovation, he said.

Attracting more human capital from other parts of the world, and not just internally, is another area that the country will need to look at. This means changing the immigration policy so that people coming to the UAE can stay longer, Saidi said.

“I would advocate that we should have a green card programme in the UAE, similar to what the Saudis are just announcing. The green card programme allows people to become long term residents. If you want people to stay here for a long time and continue to innovate and do research and development, [you] need to think long term,” he added.

The UAE will also need federal funding of research and development, a public debt law, and an overhaul of intellectual property laws, according to Saidi. “We’re not spending enough on research and development. Our companies don’t spend a lot on research and development. We need incubators and accelerators,” he said, further pointed out that having an investment law will help facilitate investment in sectors including technology.

Speaking about the telecommunications sector in the country, Saidi said it should be “liberalised”. “We have just two [telecoms] companies. Whenever you have two companies, they can agree between each other. It’s true that we have good services, but the cost of broadband and data is expensive,” he explained.

And as for the financial markets, Saidi said that the UAE will “need to think about the merger of financial markets” and “free up the barriers” in the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council). “We don’t want five kilometres of trucks waiting to enter Saudi Arabia,” he said.