Ras Al Khaimah is considering seeking loans from international banks and financial institutions to fuel its recent economic growth and tap investment opportunities.
The emirate’s economy, which does not have the luxury of oil, registered an 18 per cent growth last year and the government is keen to create financial and infrastructural resources to push this further, said Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi, Crown Prince and Deputy Ruler of RAK, yesterday during a two-day conference held by the RAK Investment Authority (Rakia) and the Middle East Economic Digest (Meed) at the Al Hamra Fort Hotel in the emirate.
“We have ambitious plans and projects in the pipeline and we need financial resources. When a government takes a loan and is able to repay it, it helps in building its credibility in the international financial sector,” Sheikh Saud said.
“In RAK, over the past five years we have been attempting to reinvent ourselves as a destination for both business and tourism and striving to not merely follow in the footsteps of our highly successful neighbours but to frame our own paths” he added.
The emirate is not only seeking huge investments but is also investing in foreign markets.
“We have already invested in an aluminium plant in India,” Sheikh Saud said.
He, however, believes that government-sponsored projects should not compete with private investors but rather be supportive of creating the right investment climate and economy.
Sheikh Saud said among other initiatives to reduce inflation, the government was considering a law to freeze rents at current levels.
Sheikh Saud said that a study is under way to have a railway system throughout the Emirates to boost the logistics infrastructure. He also noted that RAK is looking at connecting the emirate to cheaper forms of energy. “We have a gas agreement with Umm Al Quwain, which will be due in March or April and another gas agreement with Oman, which will be due in August or September,” he said. “As part of upgrading the infrastructural facilities, we aim to make Mina Saqr Port the most efficient port in the Gulf for bulk materials handling. The amount of bulk handled At Mina Saqr has increased from three million tonnes to 27 million tonnes per annum and the past four years have also seen the quadrupling of cement production in the emirate,” Sheikh Saud said.
RAK is keen to provide the infrastructure for a smooth and healthy investment environment, he said, adding that the government is building a power plant and has made the Federal Electricity and Water Authority aware of the needs of the emirate. Discussions are also on with internationally reputed educational and healthcare institutions to start operations.
“Our government has been witnessing consistent budget surpluses over the past five years and with the surplus we have been able to invest in other sectors of the economy, such as education, health and physical infrastructure. By being a fiscally responsible government, we have been able to transform RAK into a smooth running enterprise,” he said.
RAK to pump $10bn in its economy
RAK has plans to invest $10 billion (Dh36.7bn) in its economy in the next five years, of which about $2bn will be in the healthcare sector.
Strengthening of the economy and diversification of the emirate is moving at an incredibly swift pace, with Ras Al Khaimah Investment Authority (Rakia) alone having invested more than $408 million in local projects and attracting more than $950m in outside investment since 2004.
Foreign trade in RAK has increased by 110 per cent in 2005, with total foreign trade increasing to Dh10.4bn.
Development is taking place across a variety of areas, such as tourism, healthcare, real estate, sporting facilities and the retail sector. Edmund O’Sullivan, Chairman, Meed Events, said: “Ras Al Khaimah is emerging as one of the most attractive locations for investment, work and leisure in the Gulf. This conference will shed light on the scale and range of opportunities currently on offer in the emirate as well as highlight upcoming development plans.”
Dr Khater Masaad, Chief Executive of Rakia, said: “Industries, trade and commerce, tourism and real estate are the four pillars of the RAK economy. We are endeavouring to bring social prosperity and accomplish sustainable development. We have attracted more than 1,000 companies to the emirate.” More than 30 leading figures from key sectors spoke of their success stories and discussed the most pressing issues facing the emirate, including inflation, the greater need for power and water, education and healthcare facilities.
The conference was aimed at exchanging information and ideas and voicing the needs felt by investors.
It also included discussions on La Hoya Bay Residence and Business Village and the Dh300m Hilton Beach Hotel.
Delegates and speakers at the conference came from a variety of fields, such as construction, utilities, banking and finance, real estate, project management and the hospitality sector.
RAK set to transform its growing economy