What measures are being set up through RAKEZ to cut red tape for international investors?
We pride ourselves on our customer focus and service; any red tape in any organization will affect the end user or customer at the end of the day. We cannot afford to do that. One of our corporate objectives as well as one of our guiding pillars at RAKEZ include customer focus. Everything we do is customized for each customer. RAKEZ was established to be a regulator and to improve the services of the previous entities that we had, which were RAK Free Trade Zone and Ras Al Khaimah Investment Authority. When we merged them under RAKEZ, one of our main objectives was to re-engineer all our processes to be customer-centric, remove all bottlenecks and unnecessary transactional activities, and empower our frontline staff who deal with our clients, our leadership, and our managers with the right delegation of authority. They can now do away with red tapes when serving customers and making decisions on the spot. We cannot have a customer-centric organization or a customized approach to investor's packages or proposals when there are red tapes. Another thing is that in Ras Al Khaimah, we act as one team. It is not only RAKEZ that is eliminating red tape; the other government entities that are our stakeholders and partners work with us to deliver the service or approve a service follow the same philosophy.
How challenging is it to develop the Ras Al Khaimah brand in comparison to other Emirates?
Investing in a brand is a long-term strategy and we have created a strong brand in a short period of time. Ras Al Khaimah has historically been a strong brand for industry and SMEs; however, now it is also known for its value proposition: customization and customer-centricity. At the end of the day, it is how we deliver that brand and our DNA, as each of us may have the same, but we do it differently. The Emirates all complement each other, and we are all focused on the type of industries that we can attract, our enablers, and the services we can provide. Some choose to go to Abu Dhabi or Dubai for the amenities and the livability of those Emirates. Others choose to go for heavy industry that requires more power demands, which are available in different areas. We know and attract investors and customers that fit within our capability and we complement each other. In addition, the Ministry of Industry and the entire UAE are supportive of Ras Al Khaimah being an industrial hub. I do not see it as competition but as complementing and offering the right package for the right investor. Today, investors look at the total package; they not only look at RAKEZ fees, but also the standards of living. We know who we are attracting and we are looking at the contribution to Ras Al Khaimah's GDP and the contribution to the GDP of the UAE. However, to do that, we are also looking at the companies that we are capable of supporting because if we attract an investor that we cannot serve, then that is the worst thing we can do.
What value proposition does RAKEZ offer?
We focus not on heavy power-intensive industry as the industry is evolving and moving toward clean energy. We focus on industries that have a higher contribution in terms of manpower expenditure because we look at GDP contribution. The industry itself is shifting toward automation and robotics, and we offer a value proposition and services to these clusters of companies. One of our main value propositions is the cost-effectiveness of running a business in Ras Al Khaimah. We have a high standard of living, with seaports, airports, and a highway network that is second to none.
How do you balance industrial development with the idea of increasing economic diversification in Ras Al Khaimah?
Ras Al Khaimah has been strong in the tourism industry and historically strong in logistics due to our ports. We are actually home to the largest bulk port in the Middle East. In addition, we have a great deal of industry that not many people know about. Many of the top manufacturers that supply construction building materials are located here. We have over 600 manufacturers from small, medium, and large in all industries. As part of Vision 2030, we want to enhance the GDP contribution of manufacturing and other industrial sectors. It is our strength and we should continue to have that strength because of the value proposition and services that we give. They complement each other as we do not only boost the manufacturing industry but we create an ecosystem for living that contributes to the GDP.
What role can Ras Al Khaimah play in the GCC to move away from oil-based economies?
The great thing is that we were never truly reliant on the oil or carbon industry in the first place. We have always had to rely on being innovative and attracting both a healthy balance between SMEs and industrialists. We are ready to adapt to the industry that we attract, as they are changing as well. We have to look at targeting different types of industry that is evolving and be prepared for it. Everyone today is talking about Bitcoin and blockchain. We have to understand the trends in the market so that we are ready for it two or three years in advance. It is all about strategic planning and what we do today to prepare for the market in three to four years.