UAE: Islamic personal law reforms are good for business

Out-Law News | 11 Nov 2020 | 5:35 pm | 1 min. read

Reforms announced to Islamic personal laws in the UAE will have a positive impact for the local economy and business confidence, according to legal experts.

Dubai-based Luke Tapp and Catherine Workman of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law, were commenting after the UAE government confirmed a series of changes to the country's Islamic personal laws on Saturday. The main changes, which are effective immediately, include permitting unmarried couples to cohabit, removing the requirement for residents to obtain an alcohol licence in order to purchase alcohol from retailers, and criminalising so-called 'honour killings'.

Tapp said the changes will reinforce the country’s position as one of the most attractive and tolerant places to live within the Middle East region. 

"The changes are driven by the UAE leaders’ focus on promoting tolerance across the country and acceptance of residents and visitors from around the world," Tapp said. "The changes will also support the UAE economy insofar as it will help to attract and retain world class talent and international business into the country."

"Attracting top talent into local businesses has been a challenge for certain sectors in the past, notably the real estate, energy and infrastructure sectors where the hiring of top talent was highlighted to be a key concern in our report on the future of the UAE’s regulatory framework, released earlier this year. These sectors are highly cyclical generally and therefore in a local context, where the majority of the staff are ex-pat employees, attracting and retaining top talent is often a business priority," he said.

Workman said: "The recent changes announced in the UAE to modernise the local legal landscape for ex-pats are likely to have a positive impact in attracting top talent into the emirates and retaining those individuals in the UAE for the long term, which will, in turn, drive forward the economy of and confidence within the UAE and the business opportunities within the local market."

The announcement of the reforms comes shortly after the UAE and Israel agreed a deal aimed at normalising the relationships between the countries, and as the UAE continues its preparations for the World Expo. The event was due to take place in Dubai in 2020 but was pushed back a year because of the coronavirus pandemic. The event is expected to bring a flurry of commercial activity and some 25 million visitors to the UAE. Tapp and Workman said the recent regulatory changes are likely to give both initiatives a boost as the leaders of the UAE continue to support the economic performance of the country.