One of the great innovations by Dubai (apart from no tax adage) has been to set up FREEZONEs for businesses to do business without interference and fear of local regulations (& sponsors). Jebel Ali Free Zone is one of the pioneers and has developed leaps and bounds over a decade now. In all the free zones in the country it offers the best services and visibility for businesses.
The boom in the region brought all cheers to free zones also were the business houses were struggling to get a piece of space to hold their foot. Here the trouble starts for future, seeing the great demand and scarce supply (read as controlled and biased supply) of space; the lease rates have been increased substantially. The pace of work and procedures have become too tidious. Businesses have to spend considerable resources to get the things done from authorities. The wellness of business has gone at back (to the tune newly deleloped and handed over area like Jebel Ali Free Zone (South), Hamriyah Free Zone Phase II etc. do not have proper roads also) and costs have increased a lot. Can you imagine paying AED 50 (in JAFZA) or AED 350 (in HFZ) to get a simple NOC to get your visa stamped for foreign country travel? Can you imagine paying AED 700 (in JAFZA) for a visit visa which actually costs AED 120 from DNRD? On the top add to this hours to be spent to get the things done. Likewise there are numurous other costs which one would not come to know until the license is taken and you have committed to the free zone.
I suggest when you are planning to set up business in UAE don’t rush for free zones but rather evaluate all of them and compare with locally sponsored business costs. There is no dearth of good sponsors who would help you grow your business without interfering…numurous successes are there albeit failures normally rule the news.