How do you evaluate the efforts of the Ras Al Khaimah's economy to become more diversified?
Over the last 10 years, Ras Al Khaimah's economy has really boomed. We noticed that Ras Al Khaimah did not experience a significant impact from the financial crisis, so we came back and asked why this was so. We found out that there was no large negative impact on Ras Al Khaimah because we had planned the economy well in terms of the products and factories that we are providing; there were good feasibility studies conducted before companies were created. To attract investors we also created a proper ecosystem in the Emirate, which is why we agreed to create a free zone that provides a platform for any investor to come and open a company and invest in the Emirate through 100% ownership of their investments. RAKEZ was a great platform to draw in investors and also provide input for some of the rules and regulations that match investors' requirements in terms of heavy industry, banking, education, and consultation. We attracted a lot of investors and give them proper foundations. We then noticed there is a great demand for tourism here, which means we need more hotel rooms. We have 5,000 rooms but require 10,000; hence, the Emirate is easing up the regulations to build more hotels
How important has diversification been for Ras Al Khaimah?
We have been blessed by our leadership, and the leadership of the country and of each Emirate to have different styles that work in great combination. The leadership has logical targets and respects that everyone wants to compete in the market. We also have Emirates airline, which is bringing us a great deal of traffic with around 20 million tourists coming to the UAE every year. So that kind of support and blessing is there, making long-term investment more attractive and realistic. Ras Al Khaimah even supports other Emirates because growth in other Emirates has a knock-on effect on the UAE as a whole. If they are creating more demand and traffic within the entire UAE, everyone will benefit from that as everyone has different product offerings that are complimentary to each other.
To what extent is it more cost effective to set up business in Ras Al Khaimah compared to the other Emirates?
There is healthy competition, and every Emirate is trying to create a proper ecosystem for investors. Most investors will look at two things: the cost and the rules and regulations. The government is working to ease all these things to attract investors. We have a proper agreement and prices available; however, we take care of investors on a case-by-case basis. At the end of the day, minimal but proper rules and regulations are critical for attracting and retaining investors.
What are the main challenges when seeking investors to the Emirate?
Most large investors will look at energy prices, so gas and electricity are a challenge, which is governed by federal laws and applies to everyone. We can offset these issues with good rules and regulations. If you have a cheap energy price, but bad rules and regulations that do not allow you to take your product to market easily, then we would rather charge more but have one formal step to ensure optimization, leaving the investor free to import and export wherever they want. When you look at this kind of offset, then we are in a good situation.
What are the competitive advantages that Ras Al Khaimah presents?
The advantage is the price of land; it is an attractive area as we still have a lot of space compared to other Emirates. Second, rules and regulations are more flexible for businesses and entrepreneurs. We are trying to cater to this entrepreneurial mindset.