FREEING UP SHARJAH
Setting up new free zones is the government's strategy to attract FDI and plug the gaps in developing its market.
Historically, free zones have proven to be the most efficient answer to the dilemma haunting Gulf states for past decades: how to diversify productive activities and overcome the economy's dependency on oil. It is no surprise, then, that Sharjah has ambitions to become a free zones hub and attract significant investment.
There are more than 37 free zones operating in the UAE, mostly based in Dubai. In Sharjah there are five free zones: the first two are the well-known Sharjah Airport International Free Zone (SAIF) and Hamriyah Free Zone (HFZ). Both established in 1995, combined they are home to 13,500 companies and have contributed hugely to Sharjah's industrial development.
The other three free zones were more recently established as part of the government's plans to develop Sharjah as a free zone hub. The third free zone, Sharjah Healthcare City (SHCC), was created in 2012 to operate under the Sharjah Health Authority. The SHCC intends to offer investors, companies, and individuals excellent investment opportunities in the field of healthcare, and incentivises such investments through regulations aimed at making the zone as convenient as possible.
The fourth free zone, Sharjah Book City, is a less-conventional type of free zone. Established in 2013, it is the Arab World's very first publishing free zone. “Sharjah Book City is going to be the publishing hub for the World,” said Ahmed Al Ameri, chief of the Book Authority. “It will bring together publishing, translation, and all aspects of the industry under one roof.” Given that Sharjah is also home to the Sharjah International Book Fair, a 10-day annual event that has been running since 1982, and is one of the largest book fairs in the world, this is a natural channel to pursue.
Earlier this year, a fifth free zone, Sharjah Media City, was established by royal decree as an independent corporate body to develop the country's creative industry and build manpower in the media and creative fields, and regional leadership in the field of creative media training. Providing a favorable environment, it is hoped, will support the development of creative, high-quality media at a reasonable cost. The tax and fee exemptions are expected to attract a new generation of media production in Sharjah.
A new free zone, the AUS Research, Technology and Innovation (RTI) Park, is already under development. The entity responsible for the project is the AUS Enterprises, a holding company established to develop projects for the American University of Sharjah (AUS). Phase I is expected to be complete by 2018 and will aim to attract 200 companies, with the overall aim of identifying research and developing future key markets for the UAE economy. In total, R&D in the UAE is very underdeveloped, with the country's GDP expenditure being only 0.49%, compared to a world average of 2%. The project is therefore not only in line with the government's push for investment, but also with its desire to use them to boost underpenetrated markets.
The cost of setting up a business in Sharjah is the lowest in the UAE, and coupling this with the Emirate's advantageous geographic position (it is the only Emirate with ports on both the western and eastern coasts) makes it an ideal place to establish free zones. Companies in HFZ and SAIF have long benefitted from low operation costs and easy access to the major markets in the Middle East and beyond. Now, the R&D free zone currently under development will bring such benefits to a much more advanced level, with far-reaching effects on the many other flourishing sectors of this promising economy.
FREEING UP SHARJAH
TABLE OF CONTENTS
HH Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Federal Supreme Council and Ruler, Sharjah
HH Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Federal Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, has been an inspiring leader of the Emirate since 1972, carefully watching over its development into the cultural capital of the Islamic world.read article
Sheikh Fahim Bin Sultan Al Qasimi, Executive Chairman, Department of Government Relations
TBY talks to Sheikh Fahim Bin Sultan Al Qasimi, Executive Chairman of the Department of Government Relations, on his department's role in coordinating the delivery of information to key stakeholders and the important part it plays in cultivating sustainable development.read article
HE Sultan Abdullah Bin Hadda Al Suwaidi, Chairman , Sharjah Economic Development Department
TBY talks to HE Sultan Abdullah Bin Hadda Al Suwaidi, Chairman of Sharjah Economic Development Department, on the resilience of Sharjah's economy and building on its well-diversified foundations.read article
HE Sheikh Sultan bin Ahmed Al Qasimi, Chairman, Sharjah Media Corporation
TBY talks to HE Sheikh Sultan bin Ahmed Al Qasimi, Chairman of the Sharjah Media Corporation & Chairman of Sharjah Media Centre, on competitiveness in the sector, its influence on the other Emirates, and expectations for the future.read article
HE Waleed Al Sayegh, Director General , Sharjah's Finance Departmen
TBY talks to HE Waleed Al Sayegh, Director General of Sharjah's Finance Department & CEO of Sharjah Asset Management, on fiscal policy direction and initiatives being introduced to increase efficiency and transparency from the top down.read article
Dr. Rashid Al Leem, Chairman , Sharjah Energy and Water Authority (SEWA)
TBY talks to Dr. Rashid Al Leem, Chairman of Sharjah Energy and Water Authority (SEWA), on the challenges facing the Emirate's plan to reach 30% water re-use by 2020, and changing the attitudes through education.read article
Mohammed N. Al Hazzaa, Director General , Emirates Company for Industrial Cities (ECIC),
TBY talks to Mohammed N. Al Hazzaa, Director General of Emirates Company for Industrial Cities (ECIC), on the company's performance, government support of the private sector, and forecasting occupancy trends.read article
Focus: Reducing water and power consumption
Under Dr. Rashid Al Leem's stewardship, Sharjah is aiming to become the first City of Conservation. This principally encompasses supplying electricity and water through sustainable avenues with technological efficiency while raising awareness of sustainability practices.read article
Ted Young, Project Head, Al Zahia Communities Business Unit at Majid Al Futtaim Properties
TBY talks to Ted Young, Project Head of the Al Zahia Communities Business Unit at Majid Al Futtaim Properties, on the reasons behind the market's resilience and the future of housing demands in the Emirate.read article
Focus: Mixed-use Developments
Cities within Cities
Sharjah's real estate sector is undergoing important transformations, with the government and developers focusing on megaprojects to attract investors. For this purpose, mixed-use developments are increasingly preferred to purely residential or commercial developments.read article
Focus: Fighting Cardiac Disease
The UAE Ministry of Health has stated that over half of all deaths in the UAE are the result of four oft-occurring issues: cardiovascular disease, diabetes, road traffic accidents, and congenital abnormalities. A survey from the Emirates Cardiac Society showed that almost 9 in 10 Emiratis are at risk of heart disease, with one in three unaware of that fact.read article
HE Khalid Jasim Al Midfa, Chairman , Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority (SCTDA)
TBY talks to HE Khalid Jasim Al Midfa, Chairman of the Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority (SCTDA), on the growing tourism sector in the Emirate, its strategies to boost cruise tourism, and the incredible progress in Sharjah.read article
Manal Ataya, Director General , Sharjah Museums Department (SMD)
TBY talks to Manal Ataya, Director General of the Sharjah Museums Department (SMD), on cooperating on international exhibits, its educational festivals, and the challenge to ensure that museums are accessible to all.read article
Hanan Al Mahmoud, Director, Al Jawaher Reception & Convention Centre (JRCC)
TBY talks to Hanan Al Mahmoud, Director of Al Jawaher Reception & Convention Centre (JRCC), on the appeal of Sharjah as a MICE destination, plans for expansion, and the projected benefits of Expo 2020.read article