In what way has Ras Al Khaimah facilitated its companies' growth into the global marketplace?
Ras Al Khaimah specializes in two sectors: industrial manufacturing and tourism. We have the mountains, desert, and sea, which are not there in the other Emirates. This combination makes it unique among the Emirates, a fact that is accentuated since they are all nearby. In 20 minutes one can go from mountain to desert to sea. With all the facilities and support of the government and new facilities and products from the Chamber, we are attracting many new businesses, while many internationally recognized companies have started a base here. We have exceeded 49% growth in the number of companies registered with the chamber in the last seven years.
What is Ras Al Khaimah doing to enhance investor protection?
First, we are benchmarking our legislation with international practices in Dubai, Singapore, Hong Kong, and the UK. In parallel, we are doing the same with the free zones. We have combined them into one, RAKEZ, and are also enhancing our legislation. We have had several meetings regarding taxation implementation for VAT to understand how it will affect companies.
Is it difficult to attract FDI in comparison to Abu Dhabi and Dubai?
Abu Dhabi is the capital of the UAE and larger than Kuwait, Lebanon, and Bahrain combined. Dubai has a target and been working on itself since 1906, when it was the first Emirate to drop the 10% tax paid to the government for all businesses and land in their creek. This was delivered over the years by the rulers that came to Dubai, as well as His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who had great vision to manage and position Dubai toward competing against other large and well-established cities in the world. Dubai also has different aspects to leverage, such as Emirates Airlines, and its airport was always a hub between the east and the west. However, it was not easy for Dubai to reach where it is today and this challenge is true for any other Emirate, city, or country, unless they focus on one thing and specialize in something. Ras Al Khaimah has stepped up its game since 2010, when His Highness Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi took over. This is visible everywhere, such as the developments in the construction of infrastructure and the number of companies that have come in. The challenges are still there and we have many steps to climb to reach where we want to be; however, the tools have become easier and wider for us. It took other cities or countries hundreds of years to reach where they are; however, I am confident it will take us 10 years with our determination, combined effort, and the blessing of the government.
What are the competitive advantages for growth in Ras Al Khaimah?
There are many geographic and natural elements here. We are the first stop when entering the Gulf for shipping lines. For them, going to any other Emirate takes more time and fuel, and they are more expensive than us. Number two, we have most of the elements of infrastructure, including ports and the airport. Finally, we have the natural elements of the mountain, desert, and sea. We are part of the UAE, which is a blessing for growth. If we were independent like Bahrain or Oman, then the challenges would be harder. Many people do not recognize that the Federation of the UAE and the seven Emirates is one of the strongest attractions for any international businessman to have flexibility in legislation. If something does not work in Dubai, one can go to Sharjah, Ras Al Khaimah, or another Emirate. The UAE has a flexible system; we have around 50 free zones, which provide a huge flexibility in terms of pricing, facilities, legislations, and logistics.