Dubai International Financial Centre
The Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) is a tax-free zone established in September 2004 as the centerpiece of the Gulf emirate’s efforts to create a global financial hub, with activities ranging across capital markets, asset management, investment banking and insurance.
The state-backed facility occupies a 110-acre site in central Dubai and hosts the Dubai International Financial Exchange and the Dubai Mercantile Exchange, as well as local subsidiaries of international financial institutions and professional firms. It is governed by the Dubai Financial Services Authority, an independent regulator.
The DIFC was conceived in 2002 as part of Dubai’s efforts to diversify its oil-based economy into a global services hub encompassing tourism, trade, financial services and a range of other projects including aerospace, media and education.
The project was conceived with a new independent regulator – modeled on the UK’s Financial Services Authority – with legislation enacted for its creation in July 2003 following negotiations between the seven emirates which form the UAE.
The project fell behind schedule after two senior regulators were dismissed, raising concerns over the independence of the structure, but the first three licences were granted in September 2004, and the centre had 200 licensed members by November 2007.