Businesses in Dubai are being urged to step up their social services activities in exchange for special incentives, such as considerable discounts on government fees.
During a roundtable discussion on Wednesday, Ahmad Abdul Kareem Julfar, director-general of the Community Development Authority (CDA) said these fees could be slashed by “up to 50 per cent” in the future. The incentive options are currently in discussion.
Before the year-end, the CDA will also launch an online portal where businesses can choose from a list of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) opportunities available, and pick and choose what they want to be involved in.
Although the Ministry of Economy (MoE) clarified earlier this year that CSR is “voluntary for companies” here, Julfar said the mandatory practice is something the CDA would like to encourage in the long-term.
“We are working with the ministry to update the laws on CSR. To avoid putting people off setting up businesses here, it is unlikely it will make CSR participation mandatory straight away. It will be more an advisory approach, with rewards being offered.”
However, from the CDA’s perspective, Julfar did say it has “recommended that companies do contribute to CSR automatically”; a practice which is seen all throughout India.
“Indian law requires companies to give two per cent of profits to charity. With the UAE a tax haven, I think introducing this kind of law here will be a beneficial way of paying back something to the country and community.”
At present, the CDA is working with the MoE to update these laws. Once they are finalised, the authority will play a big role in the implementation process, from measuring the quality of the initiatives to establishing clear criteria for companies looking at CSR options.
Although monetary contributions are encouraged and welcome from companies, Julfar said: “we want them to be active in this space too”. “Money is good but participation is even better.”
Speaking about the online portal which will act as a platform for companies looking to take their CSR participation forward, Julfar said once it is up and running, the portal will be regularly updated, offering new initiatives for companies to support.
“We have created this portal to allow for complete transparency. It will also allow us to monitor what companies are doing in the realm of social services.”
And for those interested now, his recommendation is that you focus on supporting “people of determination and people from low-income families”.
With very few people qualified to work in the social services sector in Dubai, universities are being asked to introduce more courses offering academic specialisations in this field.
“We want a large number of qualified people to work in the social services sector but that requires support from universities. Such courses do not exist here but we need them,” Ahmad Abdul Kareem Julfar, director-general of the Community Development Authority (CDA) toldKhaleej Times.
Although the CDA gives licences to already trained professionals, it is currently in talks with both public and private universities in Dubai to carve out an academic course to equip people with the right qualifications to work in the social services sector. In the long-term, this will help strengthen the sector’s workforce here.
“We will also offer vocational training and internship opportunities to these students,” Julfar said.
Different sectors of the community are also being urged to develop social clubs here, which help support the community.
“Social clubs have been around in Dubai since the 1950’s. Take for instance the Indian Social Club. It has thousands of members and has built two non-profit, successful schools here. We need to see more of this and we will help support such organisations.”
During a brainstorming lab hosted by the CDA recently, the labs came up with 42 proposed projects. CDA will implement 21 of them immediately, with more details to come on what exactly they involve.