THE IDEAL DESTINATION

Ras Al Khaimah 2017 | ECONOMY & FINANCE | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Ramy Jallad, CEO of Ras Al Khaimah Free Trade Zone (RAK FTZ) and RAK Investment Authority (RAKIA), on the Emirate's comfortable position within the GCC, increasing investment, and up-and-coming projects.

 Ramy Jallad
BIOGRAPHY
Ramy Jallad is the CEO RAK FTZ and RAKIA. His role is to develop and drive the strategic growth creating a thriving commercial and industrial business hub that attracts and welcomes investors from all around the world. Jallad has over 25 years of professional experience, and he has developed and led various commercial and industrial free zones, business parks, and mixed-use real estate developments. Previously, Jallad held various key leadership positions in both government and private enterprises, such as Vice President-Free Zone & Properties for Abu Dhabi Airports Company, Executive Director of Business Development & Customer Services for Dubai Technology and Media Free Zone (TECOM), and General Manager of Caltex Oil Company.

Fitch gave RAK an 'A' rating with a stable outlook for both the short and long term. What is the main factor behind the Emirate's impressive economic performance?

The Emirate's biggest revenue stream is not from oil but from the export of construction materials to neighbouring countries. This is one of the main reasons why RAK enjoys a stable economy. Although some GCC countries are cutting back on construction costs, the demand for construction goods is still high, plus the Emirate also exports to Europe, Asia, and North Africa. The diversified activities within RAKIA and RAK FTZ are also a strong indicator of Ras Al Khaimah's diverse economy, as well as the development of the hospitality industry in the recent years, which substantially increased the number tourists coming to the Emirate. Both RAKIA and RAK FTZ plan to further support this strong position by embarking on major infrastructure advancements that will help bolster the influx of investors.

What makes the Emirate such an attractive investment destination?

Ras Al Khaimah has a strong trading heritage, which continues to this date through continuous infrastructural and economic developments. Today, RAK poses one of the most ideal investment destinations in the region, and made the list of top-10 small- and medium-sized global cities of the future, among the likes of Edinburg and Zurich. What is great about the Emirate is its cost effectiveness. Costs are lower here, from operating a business to living in the Emirate. Another important factor is business friendliness. RAK is very business friendly and follows clear and transparent regulations that lessen the bureaucratic requirements that have to be fulfilled by investors. The connectivity of the Emirate to the world's fast-growing economies is also a key asset as well as the premier residential places and schools. Overall, Ras Al Khaimah provides convenience to foreign investors, offering them everything they need to grow their business and at the same time, live a comfortable life away from home. What is even better is the high level of collaboration between RAK FTZ, RAKIA, and other government entities to further ease doing business and ensure the smooth establishment of new companies. For example, our Government Services Department in both RAKIA and RAK FTZ works efficiently with RAK Immigration to quickly issue all types of visas, as well as with the RAK Chamber to help clients easily acquire Chamber of Commerce membership. We also have a great relationship with RAK Municipality. In fact, late last year, RAK FTZ signed an MoU with the municipality that helps us quickly grant licenses to our clients. All organisations are working as one, and this is the kind of culture that foreign investors can greatly benefit from.

In terms of your medium-term plans, what are some of RAKIA and RAK FTZ's major upcoming projects?

This year, with RAKIA, we are set to begin master planning the Al Ghail Industrial City project. It is a business environment that will occupy 24 million sqm of land. Labor accommodation will also be built in Al Ghail Industrial Park, as well as warehouses for light industry and logistics use. The same units will be built in RAKIA's Al Hamra Industrial Park. Improvement of the road networks in both industrial areas is also in the pipeline. Additionally, we will construct a new commercial building and inaugurate a one-stop shop location that will house all RAKIA's services. As for RAK FTZ, we will also be doing more infrastructure developments to help provide a healthy growth environment. We will be opening another one-stop shop physical location for the clients' convenience as well as continuously enhancing the infrastructure of RAK FTZ's Industrial Park and construct new warehouses in the Technology Park. The warehouses will feature a showroom where manufacturers can store and display their products.