HH Sheikh Saud Bin Saqr Al Qasimi interview: Ruler of Ras Al Khaimah

The ruler of Ras Al Khaimah, His Highness Sheikh Saud Bin Saqr Al Qasimi, speaks exclusively to Arabian Business about his expectations for the UAE’s northernmost emirate following the deal with legendary Spanish football team Real Madrid


“I’m optimistic for the future,” the ruler says.

“I’m optimistic for the future,” the ruler says.

Adorned with Persian rugs and antique weapons showcased in glass cabinets, the palace of Ras Al Khaimah’s ruler is as grand as one would expect. Outside, peacocks are showing off their feathers on the patio. Inside, the Arabic coffee is free-flowing.

Sitting in his chair in the main hall, His Highness Sheikh Saud Bin Saqr Al Qasimi says he is confident about the growth of the UAE’s northernmost emirate. Not only has Ras Al Khaimah (RAK) recently signed a deal with the world-famous Spanish football team, Real Madrid, but in 2011, the emirate has shown positive rates of growth despite the ongoing politcial unrest in the region.

“I’m optimistic for the future,” the ruler says. “The growth in GDP for RAK was eight percent last year, and I hope we’ll have the same figure this year, if not better. We have also seen a growth in business registration by more than 25 percent. This is an indicator of growth, and I think this figure will stay the same in 2012.”

The long-term outlook for RAK, whose GDP makes up around 1.5 percent of the UAE’s economy, is currently dominated by plans to attract additional investment and boost tourism. Given the emirate’s lack of oil wealth, it has traditionally relied heavily on industries such as glass, cement and pharmaceuticals, but is now looking to diversify and expand.

According to Sheikh Saud, the government has already taken several steps to boost investment; from the launch of large industrial parks and the opening of its freezone, to the construction of a maritime city and the development of its ports. In the coming months and years, it will continue to review the business environment.

“We’re trying to increase transparency. We are reviewing our practices on a continuous basis and how to simplify them. We are also looking at how to improve our IT systems to make them more accessible, and how to improve our processes to make them more investment-friendly.”

At the same time, the emirate has also made moves to raise the number of visitors, with the establishment in May of a Tourism Investment and Development Authority (TIDA) to help investors, and a government-owned hospitality management company to take care of state-backed leisure developments.

Going forward, Sheikh Saud says RAK will continue to maximise its best assets.

“What we are trying to do is focus on our competitive advantage. Our economic development depends on the choices that we have. It is evident we have been successful in attracting industry, as we have world-class brands that have grown out of RAK and that have come here. But we also have good hotel occupancy now, and this supports our strategy to develop tourism even further.”

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