The metamorphosis of the UAE from a confederation of small states to an important player in regional and international affairs has been remarkable. Over the years, the UAE has built a reputation as a place where talent and hard work never go unrewarded, and where entrepreneurship has resulted in millions of lives being transformed and fortunes being made. A combination of the bold vision of its leadership and sheer enterprise of Emiratis and expatriates alike has made this country what it is today: An oasis of stability in the Middle East. On the cusp of 2018, the UAE is all set to enter a key phase of its march towards progress.

Year of Zayed

2018 is being celebrated as the Year of Zayed. If there is one single personality that we all feel indebted to, it is that of late Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan. The Founding Father of the UAE was instrumental in unifying this country, but that is not all. He entrusted the leadership and the people with some very noble ideals. It is those values that have transformed the UAE into one of the world’s most open, tolerant and successful economies. And it is this idea of the UAE that everyone — nationals, expatriates, young and the old alike — celebrate.

Year of Zayed will highlight his role in establishing the federation, and his local, regional and international achievements. Several programmes, initiatives and drives have been planned throughout 2018 to highlight the significant impact that Shaikh Zayed had on the lives of Emiratis and expatriates alike. Be it his humanitarian actions, or his role as a pioneer of charitable and developmental aid in the 20th century, the Founding Father holds a special place in our hearts. Interestingly, 2018 will mark 100 years since the birth of Shaikh Zayed and it is only natural that we honour his legacy and memory this year and for years to come.

For the first time since the country’s inception, implementation of value added tax (VAT) will kickstart this year. While it might alter the saving habits of many, VAT has been on the top of a slew of reforms that the UAE is ushering in. From today, a broad-based indirect tax will be levied on the consumption of goods at a standard rate of 5 per cent. While we brace for its impact, the experience from most countries around the world is that VAT is one of the most efficient forms of taxation.

With the UAE further diversifying its economy, implementation of VAT is estimated to bring in more than Dh12 billion worth of revenue during 2018 alone. Late last year, the UAE Cabinet approved a record Dh51.4 billion federal budget for this year. Part of the revenue will come from VAT and is expected to go towards creating better services, world-class infrastructure in health care, education and community well-being. By embracing VAT, all of us shall be doing our bit for the development of the UAE. VAT will usher in a more positive, prudent era.

Welcome to the future

Over the years, the UAE in general and Dubai in particular have led the race to the future. Galloping towards a tech-savvy, highly-connected and interactive future, where technology rules the roost, the country is shaping into a representation of what the coming decades may look like. Dubai especially is enabling this quest with several plans and strategies in the pipeline. Recently, the of Dubai Future Foundation (DFF) programme for 2018 was approved by Shaikh Hamdan Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the foundation.

Staying ahead of the innovation curve, Dubai shall be working on technologies like 3D printing, autonomous transportation, global Blockchain, artificial intelligence and augmented reality during 2018. The emirate is also keen on bringing in the latest drone technology. At the 2017 World Government Summit, the government had announced that drones could begin regular operations soon. The UAE is also expected to be one of the first countries in the world to get 5G networks, with mobile operators set to start deploying 5G networks from 2018. Not only will 5G be significantly faster than current internet speeds, it will open up a whole new world where both productivity and bandwidth are stupendous. Hailed as the future of robotics and artificial intelligence, we shall welcome the cutting-edge in 2018, by putting our foot in the door.