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RAK's ingredients for prosperity

Interview - March 2, 2012
Ras Al Khaimah has all the makings of a successful economy and has long lived up to its excellent potential. United World meets with Sheikh Mohammed, Vice-President of the RAK Economic Development Department, to discuss what path RAK's economy is taking today.

We know that the UAE’s economy is very much on the straight and narrow. Last year its economic growth amounted to 3.8% and it even rose on the Human Development Index. What are your comments on the effects of the Arab Spring in the UAE and its economic performance in 2011?

In my opinion, the changes in the region are having a positive effect on us. The UAE has all the infrastructural facilities including telecoms and transportation, and furthermore, the UAE is one of the Gulf’s major re-export hubs. There are also many different nationalities in the UAE which I believe contribute to a safer society. This is a safe area for business people to live. Our multilingual approach to roads, trains, hospitals, schools, universities and nurseries makes it more attractive for different nationalities that are looking at coming to the UAE.

GDP growth is positive, and in my opinion there will be a further increase in the future. We are strategically located in the middle of Asia, Africa and Europe, and we serve as a meeting point for all businessmen from Australia, Brazil and America. The ruler of Ras Al Khaimah has a clear vision and goal for this Emirate. We would like to further expand both the tourism and industrial sectors. Over the past seven years these sectors have taken big strides here in Ras Al Khaimah. We have developed  many new hotels of very high-quality that encompass different environments such as the sea, the desert and the mountains. If you were to visit Ras Al Khaimah, you could easily access these three environments in a very short period of time which gives the emirate a huge advantage. RAK Airways is helping to develop the region by opening up new destinations from RAK Airport for business people and tourists to come to Ras Al Khaimah.

RAK is one of the oldest places in the world in terms of human inhabitance. Ras Al Khaimah has not been blessed with hydrocarbon wealth unlike some of the other emirates, but it has done extremely well in terms of the diversification of its economy and industrialization. What are some of the success stories of this process?

We have some success stories in Ras Al Khaimah, such as the biggest factory in the world producing high-quality ceramics. And there are a lot more success stories like RAK Ceramics. There are American, Japanese, Indian and French factories here. A large amount of foreign owned factories are located in the emirate. On top of this there are joint ventures with locals and government as well. These stories act as solid practical examples of why businesses should locate here.

Tell us more about the infrastructure in place here in order for businesses to come and operate.

We have an intelligent ruler here in Ras Al Khaimah. He expanded a small ceramics factory into a worldwide operator. Everybody believes that he can make Ras Al Khaimah a different place. A successful person can build a successful country. His Highness concentrates on how to satisfy our guests, investors and those who live in Ras Al Khaimah. I think the next step is to develop the mountains. We have roads going up to 2,000 meters elevation. Up there, the weather is completely different in the winter compared to the summer.

New projects are in the pipeline, and that will create a different environment in Ras Al Khaimah.

His Highness has taken over since the unfortunate death of his father in 2010. What would you say have been his main challenges and accomplishments in the past year and a half?

Various international ratings agencies and bodies have visited Ras Al Khaimah to evaluate its performance and they have ranked it as AA around the world. They found that Ras Al Khaimah was one of the best regions in the world to invest in and that it had the best sovereign financial status.

What are your prospects for Ras Al Khaimah going forward?

Whilst analyzing and collating the statistics for Ras Al Khaimah we saw that last year, two to three factories were open during the economic crisis and each of these factories had capital of around 200 million. This shows you that people are still coming to the area and investing, and there is still economic growth.

RAK Ceramics, for example, exports to over 135 countries around the world. How are  trade relations with the U.S., and how important is this relationship?

We have very good relations between the UAE and the U.S. It is difficult to enter the U.S. market because they have specific requirements for any product entering the country, especially medicine.

What would be your final comments to the readers of USA Today about Ras Al Khaimah?

In the UAE, each emirate has its own vision and target. This is the advantage of the UAE – you can come to the UAE and you will find differences in every emirate. We are not competing with the others. We are complementing them.