BUILDING A LEGACY

Sharjah 2015 | DIPLOMACY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to His Highness Sheikh Sultan bin Muhammad Sultan Al Qasimi, Crown Prince and Deputy Ruler of Sharjah, on the bedrocks of the Emirate's national identity, and how economic diversity has contributed to sustainable growth.

His Highness Sheikh Sultan bin Muhammad Sultan Al Qasimi
BIOGRAPHY
His Highness Sheikh Sultan bin Muhammad Sultan Al Qasimi is the Crown Prince and Deputy Ruler of Sharjah.

How has Sharjah's culture and education contributed to the formation of the Emirate's national identity, and how has Sharjah managed to carve out a role for itself in the field of culture and education in the greater region?

Thanks to the vision of His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, UAE Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, Sharjah has always been known for its preservation, patronage, promotion, and celebration of heritage, culture, arts, and knowledge. The Emirate takes pride in its rich Arab and Islamic heritage, civilizational legacy, and believes in peaceful coexistence with all people of the world.
In his book Taking the Reins—The Critical Years 1971-1977, His Highness stated in his speech during an announcement on the commencement of oil exportation in 1974: “[…]we are witnessing positive changes in this great country, which aspires to a future filled with opportunities for decent living, wellbeing and peace of mind[…]" He continues: “The plan has the citizens as its main focus point in order that we might create a well-balanced and robust society[…]."

Sharjah boasts a busy and diverse calendar of spectacular festivals, events, and activities held throughout the year celebrating the Emirati and Arab-Islamic values, its history, and culture. The Emirate is home to more than 20 museums, one of the richest being the Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilization. Cultural centers, art galleries, and heritage sites build essential parts of our portfolio and embrace the rich history and fruits of development our region has made.

Multicultural events with global reach, such as Sharjah International Book Fair, International Government Communication Forum, Sharjah Heritage Days, Sharjah Biennial, Sharjah Light Festival, and Sharjah Water Festival to name few, make the Emirate a year-long, must-visit destination for visitors from around the world.
At the same time, Sharjah is also known for its constant pursuit and patronage of a culture of knowledge and excellence, in the spirit of our civilizational legacy. The Emirate is home to some of the best and world-class universities such as the American University of Sharjah, the University of Sharjah, and colleges and research centers with renowned professors, attracting thousands of students from across the region and around the world.

In 1998, UNESCO declared Sharjah the Cultural Capital of the Arab world; and in 2014 the Emirate was crowned the Islamic Culture Capital by the Islamic Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (ISESCO).
This year, Sharjah is being celebrated as the Arab Tourism Capital by the Arab Tourism Organisation of the Arab League. Culture and education arguably form the backbone and pillars of Sharjah's national identity that are in line with the UAE's vision. The Emirate has successfully integrated those two fundamental pillars of human rights and bedrocks of sustainable development into the vision as inherent components to carve a unique identity and niche for itself in the region and to position the Emirate on the world map.

As the industrial hub of the UAE, how has Sharjah created a viable environment for industrial companies, and what efforts is the government currently undertaking to consolidate Sharjah's position as a preferred destination for industries?

Besides being the citadel of culture and heritage in the UAE and the region, Sharjah also happens to host nearly half of the country's manufacturing and industrial sector. Sharjah is an important base in the region for hundreds of multinational companies and is a major destination for foreign investors, thanks to its central position in the UAE and location along the Arabian Gulf and the Indian Ocean.
Sharjah's traditionally business- and investor-friendly policies and economic environment allowed to establish some of the biggest and well-equipped, world-class industrial areas and free zones. Strategically located at the confluence of major sea trade routes and Africa, Asia, and Europe, the Emirate is also home to three well-equipped, major seaports—the Port Khalid, Khorfakkan Port, and Hamriyah Port.

Which sectors of Sharjah's vibrant economy are most poised for growth and offer the best investment opportunities for the private sector?

Sharjah is one of the region's fastest growing and most diverse economies and offers tremendous growth potential and investment opportunities in all areas—especially in infrastructure development, industry, education, and tourism and hospitality sectors.

What initiatives and projects to be implemented by the government of Sharjah in the next few years will be most instrumental in driving Sharjah's socio-economic development forward?

The government of Sharjah has been constantly working and exploring measures to enhance its citizens' standard of life in the Emirate, develop its infrastructure, and offer enriching leisure experiences for its people. For decades, Sharjah—led by His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, UAE Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah—has been investing heavily in the Emirate's infrastructure, economy, education, and social welfare sectors. We are encouraging private sector stakeholders to do the same to generate more economic avenues, employment, and residential opportunities for our people.

Pursuing the same vision of the leadership, the Sharjah Executive Council has in the past few years initiated a number of innovative policies and projects that have fuelled the pace of growth in the Emirate and will have a long-term impact on Sharjah in terms of economic prospects.

In the past few years, Sharjah has initiated a number of ambitious, groundbreaking projects including the Heart of Sharjah, the billion dirham Kalba ecotourism initiative, and the AED500 million Sir Bu Nair Island project. The Sharjah Investment Development Authority (Shurooq) is planning to unveil many more such projects in the next few years that are set to catapult the Emirate further on the path of economic progress and will immensely benefit its people.

Sharjah has recorded strong year-on-year GDP growth in the last decade, and this is forecast to continue. What is your medium-term outlook for the economy?

Sharjah has registered remarkable, consistent growth, year by year, in accordance with the economic vision and strategy of the Emirate's leadership. Two important achievements have been recorded by our Finance Department.

Firstly, two leading international credit rating agencies, namely Moody's and Standard & Poor's (S&P) rated Sharjah as a sovereign government entity with a long-term credit rating (Moody's: A3, S&P: A). These credit ratings firmly established Sharjah within the top tier of sovereigns globally, affirming its position as a leading investment destination

Secondly, the government has announced the issuance of its debut transaction in the Debt Capital Markets, a $750 million 10-year Sukuk Al Ijara priced at 3.764%. This is not only the government of Sharjah's first issuance, but also the first time a sovereign has executed a 10-year Sukuk in its debut issuance.

We expect and are confident that the Emirate's economy will follow the same trajectory of growth as far as both medium and the long-term economic outlook is concerned.

The Emirate follows an open-door policy for local, regional, and international investors and spares no effort in making Sharjah an ideal, attractive, and friendly destination for trade, investments, and tourism in the region and around the world.

Our medium-term outlook for the economy holds many estate projects that will allow non-Arab nationals to invest into the Emirate and open opportunities to increase the economic output.