ISLAND & THE SUN

UAE, Dubai 2012 | DIPLOMACY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to John Shimmin, Minister for the Department of Economic Development of the Isle of Man Government, on the development of the relationship between Dubai and the Isle of Man and the potential opportunities for investors.

John Shimmin
BIOGRAPHY
John Shimmin was educated at the Worcester College of Higher Education, where he studied Physical Education. Having enjoyed a successful career in teaching both in the UK and the Isle of Man, he decided to enter politics in 1996 and was elected to the Island’s Parliament (Tynwald) as a member of the House of Keys (MHK) for Douglas West. In 1999, he became Chairman of the Isle of Man Post Office and then went on to undertake a variety of ministerial roles in the Departments of Transport, Home Affairs and Local Government, and the Environment. In 2010, he became Minister of the Environment, Food, and Agriculture before being appointed by the Chief Minister to his present position as Minister for the Department of Economic Development in October 2011.

The Isle of Man and Dubai share a number of economic strengths. What scope is there for an enhanced trade relationship?

Indeed, we share mutual strengths in independent areas of expertise, which are not necessarily mutually exclusive. Our desire is to explore opportunities with the Emirates and further develop the already positive relationship at a government level. Equally, the Isle already has a number of excellent businesses and brands operating in the Middle East region, fully complementing the local offering. Examples include our life insurance companies, such as Zurich, which bases its international operations on the Isle, employs several hundred people in the UAE, and sells investment and savings products globally. The government on the Isle of Man is committed to providing support to such organizations.

What role does the UAE and wider Middle East play in the ongoing trade development vision?

Without a doubt, the Middle East has emerged as a key region in a global economic context, particularly over the past two decades. Furthermore, the ongoing growth pattern remains evident. This factor and Dubai's geographic location will continue to ensure the prominence of the region. The Isle of Man has recognized the opportunities, and for some time our government-to-government relationship has been strong. We have identified a number of possibilities to explore and the authorities are excited by the mutually beneficial prospects. While there have been past visits by former ministers and chief ministers to the region, with the advent of our new department committed to a sustained regional strategy for developing relationships, the Middle East has the potential to become our second most important market after the UK.

In which sectors do you see particular development potential opportunities?

Both the Middle East and the Isle of Man have demonstrated excellence in many areas. Undoubtedly, the financial services sector will feature in our joint appraisal of areas in which we can work together. In particular, our vibrantly successful international wealth management offering has potential; many globally branded businesses use the Isle of Man as a center from which to operate. We anticipate great opportunities as we explore this further. The Isle of Man also has clear strengths in asset structuring, retirement solutions, and succession planning. Diversity is a feature of the relevant economies, and we will welcome discussions at both a government and business level in the coming months. For now, a number of great ideas are emerging, which we are very eager to explore in the region. We know that sharia-compliant products may be important in the region, and there is no reason why our businesses cannot offer these. I know one or two companies that already do. We also now have foundations that are more readily accepted structures for holding assets in civil law countries, recognizing that our traditional trusts were not as popular.

What are the benefits for the registration of aircraft from the UAE and the wider Middle East?

We are proud of our renowned aircraft register, a highly successful component of our overall proposition. The register has a number of features. It is the world's only aircraft registry dedicated exclusively to executive jets, and our legislation and requirements are tailored uniquely to the executive jet sectors. In addition, we recognize and accept design standards and licenses issued by multiple jurisdictions, with an unrivalled service standard. Our charging scheme is highly competitive and includes a secure mortgage register. The private and public sectors work together closely to offer an integrated one-stop shop for our clients. Lastly, we offer a neutral national registration prefix (M), which is highly desirable to many owners.

How strong is the government-to-government relationship?

The respective governments have fostered a relationship for many years, and I am aware that former chief ministers are cited with great fondness by many existing government officials in the Emirates. Following meetings at the end of 2011 between counterparts from the Isle of Man and Dubai, we signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Department of Economic Development in Dubai and the Isle in January 2012. This is designed to underline our desire to work together for mutual benefit and will be the subject of a number of meetings during my visit to the region. We will pursue further agreements in the Middle East—the recently signed Double Taxation Agreement with Qatar is just one example.