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UAE, Sharjah 2017 | FINANCE | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to HE Waleed Al Sayegh, Director General of Sharjah Finance Department, on Sharjah's investment climate, VAT, and strategies for reaching new economic heights.

HE Waleed Al Sayegh
BIOGRAPHY
HE Waleed Al Sayegh is the Director General of the Finance Department and the CEO and Director of Sharjah Asset Management, the financial arm of the Government of Sharjah. With extensive experience in investment and finance, Al Sayegh has played a major role in implementing the latest public finance procedures in the Finance Department, transforming a number of technology systems into smart applications. He also supervised the government of Sharjah’s sukuk issuance in 2014. He holds a graduate degree in accounting from Al Ain University and an MBA from Lincoln University in the UK.

What is your assessment of the investment-grade rating assigned to Sharjah by Standard & Poor's?

The rating of BBB+ shows the strength of the economy. It shows that the fundamentals of Sharjah are strong and solid, despite the global economic crisis and the turbulence we experienced in the financial market. Sharjah managed to maintain its rating on a yearly basis and maintain our solid position.

How has the number of vendors and contractors registered with Sharjah's Finance Department evolved in the last year?

The suppliers, customers, and business volume are always increasing; therefore, we always have more vendors and contractors listed in our database. We are committed to releasing payments of vendors and contractors as agreed, even in times of crisis. It really shows the strength of the financial processes we have in place.

What role has digitalization and integration played in improving transparency and efficiency?

Sharjah's finance department adopted the latest technology and applications as well as the best international standards in accounting and public finance. So, whether it is 60 or more, we are capable of handling this volume in the best way possible, and we have no problems in that. We have proper procedures and higher auditors who ensure that everything is in place. We see the management of our public finance department as one of the best worldwide.

How do you expect VAT's introduction to transform Sharjah's economy?

Of course, it did not come as a surprise. The VAT systems have been going through many years of study, analysis, and research, and it is in the best interest of the country and the wider Arab world. When the VAT system is implemented, it will be done in a proper way to add more value and improve the services of the Emirates.

What is your strategy to ensure that Sharjah's growth is sustainable and inclusive?

We have all of the elements of the economy working together, and we have all the factors in our favor. We have our reputation, our processes, our infrastructure, and the structure of our finance platforms—they are all in place. Therefore, growth will continue, and we always look for more ways to break records year after year. In 2017, the UAE had a record budget, and we will see this year what else we can do.

How can the Finance Department ensure that foreign investments translate into maximum benefits for the Emirate?

Foreign investment in Sharjah is not new. For decades, we have had foreign investors coming and we treat them as if this were their home. We do not tax their profits or levy fees when transferring funds. We have a freehold on a few projects in Sharjah and free zones where they can own 100% of the companies, so the environment for investing in Sharjah is in place. The investors that come to Sharjah have taken notice of these benefits.

What are your expectations for the year ahead?

I am always optimistic, and there are always ways to improve and develop. We feel that the future looks brighter and brighter. Under the leadership of our ruler, we always feel that he places the bar higher and higher year after year, and we are thankful that we are always able to translate his vision into reality and reach those heights, and we are always looking for a more challenging environment so that we can prove we are capable of beating our own records and achieving better results.