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Invisible Towers By Zeina Soufan

“Why do we want to make generic medicines? What value is carried by this industry? Why don’t we invent medicine?”

I don’t know why the self-flagellation hymns on which our societies were addicted came to my mind. We are either unable to enter the fields of real production turfs or our entry is doomed by low expectations that cannot be exceeded due to our abilities and intentions! There is great injustice in this matter.

Those words were in general for a participant in a dinner and dialog meeting that was held on the sidelines of the Arab Health Exhibition & Congress week to discuss the Dubai Industrial Strategy in the fields of medicines and medical equipment.

This meeting was a part of initial meetings conducted by the committee assigned to prepare a plan, in which Dubai Science Park occupied the cockpit, aided by experts from Dubai Medical City, Dubai South, Jafza and others entities with direct or indirect relations to the project for revitalizing the pharmaceutical industry.

The excitement lied in the fact that paving the ground for the debate about the adverse environment for the flourishment of industry was the courageous and transparent task of The Executive Council of Dubai, as it included a large measure of self-criticism. The plan specified the registration procedures of factories’ lands for example within the framework of obstacles… that are waiting for the specialized committee to present an integrated plan to overcome them.

The core idea through the Industrial Strategy 2030 that falls within Dubai Plan 2021 was the shift toward making Dubai an international platform for industries based on knowledge, innovation, and sustainability without necessarily meaning an increase of its share in the overall outcome so that to exceed the commerce or services shares that form the backbone of the Emirati economy, but to secure a better presence in the value chains for the industrial field.

The one familiar with the lines of the general strategy will notice that Dubai knows very well what it doesn’t want to be as well as what it wants to be. It takes itself out from the competing circles of the heavy industries, while aiming for a circle occupied by countries like Ireland and Singapore.

Perhaps the two countries constitute righteously two good models to which Dubai looks up for in many fields, especially the pharmaceutical industries and medical equipment. Ireland and Singapore didn’t join the manufacturing train in its beginning, but they transformed themselves today and within few decades from small entities to two high edifices through targeting carefully selected sectors, strengthened by an exceptional environment for research and development.

I returned to the Dubai Industrial Strategy that was posted on the e-government site, and searched for the number allocated to research and development:

“The industrial strategy will have a noticeable effect on Dubai’s economy until 2030, so that the results will be an increase in spending on research and development by around 700 million dirhams…”

“700 million dirhams! Isn’t the amount inadequate?” I said to the one sitting near me on the dinner and dialog table. He smiled and replied since he was very familiar with the strategy: “this is the case… those are the limits of money allocated to invisible towers… this should be our next battle”.

*The alternative medicines that are similar to the original ones, whose exclusive patent has ended.


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