A new survey of the top SMEs in the U.A.E. shows that 90% of small business owners are optimistic about their prospects in 2014 on the basis of an expected strong year-end performance. The poll was conducted by MEED among the top 20 small and medium-sized businesses in the U.A.E. to determine year-end performance and business outlook for 2014. The positive outlook of SMEs reflects the continuing improvements in the U.A.E. economy, which last year grew by 4.5 percent. "For the Dubai SME 100, we've witnessed a 50 percent increase in our applications this year. We expect this figure to grow even more next year as more business opportunities arise with the continuing growth of the economy. We have programmes in place to help ensure the success of our entrepreneurs, including partnering with the Gulf Capital SME Awards programme, to recognise best practices and success stories that will hopefully inspire more to become business owners," said Abdul Baset Al Janahi, CEO of Dubai SME, the agency under the Department of Economic Development mandated to develop Dubai's SME sector. An overwhelming majority of the SMEs polled, 85 percent, expected to achieve a higher net profit by the end of 2013 compared to their 2012 performance. "We are gearing up for a more competitive environment for businesses in general and SMEs in particular. This is why we expect more SMEs to achieve break-out performances next year, making the awards more competitive and challenging. "It will be exciting to find out who among the SMEs will be declared as winners in the Gulf Capital SME Awards," said Becky Crayman, Head of Awards, MEED. Another potentially strong impetus for SME growth in the coming years will come from opportunities arising from Dubai's triumphant World Expo 2020 bid. With such massive opportunities on the horizon for U.A.E. small business owners, Crayman said those who have strong track record of performance and credibility in the market will have stronger chances of success. "On behalf of MEED, we are proud to be working with such prominent SME supporters, Gulf Capital, MasterCard and RSA, who are committed to enabling growth in the SME sector in the U.A.E.," she added.