“The passport of the UAE, currently the 21st most powerful in the world, will soon rise to overtake the British passport in The Passport Index.”
This is what I told more than 200 guests at the Bloomberg Businessweek Global Leaders Forum in Dubai last week, during a discussion on migration trends.
You might think this is rather a bold claim, but just like a country’s currency, a passport’s strength is a measure of its’ success, as well as the world’s respect and trust towards the nation. This year marks the centenary of the birth of Sheikh Zayed al Nahyan, the founder of the UAE. With his vision, oil and gas made it a regional powerhouse. And Dubai has transformed itself within less than 30 years from a sleepy port to a bustling city, thanks to the leadership of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai and vice president and prime minister of the UAE.
Today, financial human capital is not only very mobile, but it is also very sensitive to political instability. People always say that stock markets hate uncertainty. Foreign investors hate it even more. The UAE realized this early on and now offers stability, transparency and the rule of law.
Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince, H.H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan has said that, 2018 being the Year of Zayed, will focus significantly on “tolerance”. This tolerance can be seen in the way the country has encouraged migration, created modern infrastructure, built a knowledge economy, and diversified away from oil to build a high-tech hub, building a gateway between East and West, facilitating trade and reactivating the Silk Route. Dubai is now the most desirable city in the Arab World to live, with Abu Dhabi not far behind. These are impressive achievements, especially when you consider some of the places in the region that are beset by instability and violence.
There are representatives of over 200 nations living in Dubai today, practicing just about every religion you can think of. If that isn’t tolerance, I don’t know what is.
Other governments in the world need to adapt to this new reality, to see migration not as a cost or a threat, but an opportunity. Migration has added value to every society in the past 100 years. Countries need to refine their migration policies, and produce their own programmes to attract the best people. This is what Canada did, where Arton Capital began. This is what Australia has done, and countless other countries are doing.
And having attracted these people, a country needs to make it easier for them to travel to other places. This is what the UAE is doing with such success.
The Passport Index tracks the power of a country’s passport based on its ability to visit other places without needing a visa. Currently Singapore ranks in 1st place, with South Korea in 2nd, and Germany and Japan both sharing 3rd place.
The UAE passport has risen dramatically. Three years ago it was ranked about 47th in the world, now it is 21st. Its citizens can travel to 142 countries without a visa, and this figure will grow. There are sound economic reasons for this: if you expand the reach of individuals, you expand the reach of the companies they work for.
As I always like to remind people: “If necessity is the mother of invention, then migration surely is the conductor of innovation.”
We need more of it, not less. The success of the UAE proves this lesson.