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Sharjah 2016 | ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to HE Marwan bin Jassim Al Sarkal, CEO of Shurooq, on the resilience of the Sharjah economy and supporting greater collaboration between the public and private sector in further diversifying the economy.

HE Marwan bin Jassim Al Sarkal
BIOGRAPHY
HE Marwan bin Jassim Al Sarkal, CEO of Shurooq, has been integral to the success of the authority since its inception in 2009. He is also a keen proponent of giving opportunities to talented Emiratis. Alongside his role at the helm of Shurooq, Al Sarkal is a Board Member of the Sharjah Sports Club, a patron of Design Days Dubai, Chairman of the German Emirati Joint Council for Industry & Commerce (AHK), and a former Board Member of Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority. He is also a member of the Sharjah Tourism Advisory Committee and serves on the Board of Governors of Skyline University College. He is widely considered a key figure in Sharjah’s growth ambitions.

How has Sharjah's economy performed so far in 2016?

Sharjah's economy has performed excellently throughout the year and we believe we are on the cusp of a new boom. This is attributed to the Emirate's commitment to diversifying its economy and its allocation of funds across an array of sectors that support global demand from investors and facilitate the economic paradigm shift from oil and gas related investments. The Sharjah Economic Development Department issued 35% more new trade licenses during the first two months of the year compared with the same period last year. The success of Sharjah's diversification policy and business model has been highlighted by Standard & Poor's 2015 A/A-1 long and short-term foreign and local currency sovereign credit ratings for the Emirate and its projection for a stable economic outlook. The agency's analysis positioned the Emirate as a diverse production-based economy.

In what way does Shurooq act as a bridge between the private sector and the government, and how does it make sure to maintain a strong relationship between the two?

A central strand of Shurooq's corporate philosophy is that the private sector cannot be strong unless the government is strong, and vice versa. The relationship is, in a sense, codependent, and the more this relationship is built on solid foundations defined by clear goals and objectives, the more Sharjah and the UAE will be able to attract investment and achieve sustainable growth. The most recent event that we hosted to bring the two sectors together took place this July, with senior representatives from across government departments in attendance, along with business leaders from the private sector. Subjects addressed at the event included scientific ways to facilitate tangible processes to nurture public-private partnerships and how integration between the two sectors helps to reduce unemployment and increase growth rates. One of the proposed models for partnership at the event focused on voluntary initiatives, which depend on simple and non-complicated norms and relationships. A second involved mandatory legislation to ensure the establishment and implementation of projects that contribute to the development of the economy.

One of the government's priorities, both at the local and federal level, is Emiratization. In this context, how is Shurooq working to promote this and attract talented UAE nationals to Sharjah's workforce?

Shurooq is committed to Emiratization; we run regular programs at UAE universities as well as participate at career fairs to attract local talent to take up positions with the organization. Shurooq works hand-in-hand with the Sharjah government in its drive to increase Emiratization. Of the government's total budget for 2016, 6% has been allocated for assistance and support, which will see government jobs created for citizens. Shurooq is an essential part of the UAE community and as such, works to offer meaningful openings and career growth opportunities to the country's new graduates and young people.

Do you think that factors such as tightening liquidity or the threat of inflation in the real estate sector can be challenges for the economy, and what is your medium-term outlook?

Sharjah's economy is currently well positioned thanks to the government putting in place a wide range of initiatives to help diversify Sharjah's economic base, encourage investment, and develop global trade. UAE banks are tightening their liquidity due to weak bank deposits in light of lower oil receipts, and we are witnessing an increase in interest rates and a reduction of credit. It is also true that rents in the real estate sector are increasing. However, there has been no concomitant decline in government spending in Sharjah. But as it stands, almost half of the Emirate's 2016 budget has been allocated to economic development, so we believe that the Emirate is capable of heading off a decrease in economic growth through high levels of investment.


 

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