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.
BIOGRAPHYHE Waleed Al Sayegh is the Director General of the Finance Department of the government of Sharjah and the CEO of Sharjah Asset Management, the investment arm of the government of Sharjah. He is also a Member of the Board of Directors of Sharjah Holding, a Member of the Board of Directors of Tilal Properties, and sits on the Fiscal Poliy Committee at the Ministry of Finance, UAE. He was awarded Director of the Year 2001 for the Sharjah Airport Authority by the government of Sharjah. He holds an MBA in finance from the University of Lincoln, UK.
What is the role of the Sharjah Finance Department in setting financial policy at this moment in time?
The main responsibility of Sharjah Finance is to implement and manage the physical policy of the Emirate of Sharjah. At the Sharjah Finance Department we are always looking for best practices in budgeting and we already implemented activity-based budgeting, which is one of the best practices in the world for managing expenditure and how we link the activities of the department with the budget allocation. We assess output by four factors; quantity, quality, cost, and time. Any government entity should be accountable for every single dirham and how it is spent, and what output or return that will generate. Before, the system was less regulated, and entities just had to show their balance sheets. It is now performance-based budgeting, which contains activities, output, and the result for each department.
How are government investments being prioritized, in terms of fixed-capital, internal investment, or digital transition?
Regarding the sukuk, we have already issued the first issue of around USD750 million for 10 years and the government of Sharjah was the first to issue in September 2014. A total of 250 investors participated and around 10 times over the subscription rate was reached. The second was issued in March 2015 of around USD500 million. The Finance Department is linked to around 70 government entities and we are the first government in the region that has started this electronic integration, which we began in 2006. We started with the integration of 20 departments and are now around 70. All the procedures are now electronic; accounting, purchasing, and budgeting is all integrated and we are now paperless. We are also making some procedures and application processes digital, in a bid to generate more efficiency. Everything is now fully automated and we are developing smart applications for some reports. This is useful because, for example, the chairman can, through his iPad or iPhone, approve a payment process, the budget transfer from code to code, and he can approve purchase orders, so it is easy for him to do this anywhere in the world.
Can you tell us about the Sharjah Asset Management activities?
Sharjah Asset Management is the investment arm of the government of Sharjah and we are trying to invest in sectors that will add value to the Sharjah economy. We have the Sharjah Oasis industrial area and Sharjah is one of the biggest industrial areas with 19 industrial areas now in place, making Sharjah well known as an industrial hub. This is the government's strategy and in line with that we are also managing the Souk Al Jubail, which is one of the biggest souks in the region. We have also Souk Al Haraj for cars, which is also one of the biggest markets in the region. We are trying to focus on the areas of the economy that will add value to the Sharjah economy. We have some other investments in the banks, aviation, and so forth.
Do you feel that the portfolio is currently balanced?
We established in 2014 so it is still an investment arm of the government and we are trying to build it the right way, step by step, without hurry. It is difficult in times of global economic difficulty, but nevertheless we are trying our best to choose whatever is best for the Sharjah government.
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