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Tue 17 May 2011 09:50 AM

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RAK ruler sees economy growing 10% in 2011

Industry and tourism set to lead economic expansion, northern emirate has little oil wealth

RAK ruler sees economy growing 10% in 2011
GROWTH PREDICTION: for Ras Al Khaimah.

Ras Al
Khaimah will increase its economy by 10 percent in 2011 as it looks to expand
its industrial and tourism sectors, the emirate’s ruler said Monday.

The
northern emirate, whose GDP comprises 1.5 percent of the UAE’s economy, is also
on track to generate 20 percent of its income from tourism revenues by 2021,
said HH Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi.

“I
expect we can make the same figure we have done last year, which is about 10
percent,” he told Arabian Business.
He added that he hoped the economy would continue to grow at the same pace for
the next few years. 

Fitch
Ratings in April assigned the emirate a stable outlook and said its public
finances were in good order, aided by its ability to source new markets for its
products.

“The
budget has moved back into surplus, debt has begun to decline and the debt
maturity profile has benefited from proactive debt refinancing,” the ratings
agency said.

Ras Al
Khaimah has little oil wealth and has built its economy on industries such as
cement, pharmaceuticals and glass. The emirate launched RAK Maritime City on
Monday, an AED520m ($141.5m) free zone that will enable businesses to operate
directly out of a dedicated port.

The city
is also developing its tourism sector by positioning itself as a lower-cost
destination to its glitzy neighbour, Dubai. The emirate is ploughing $100m into
hotel and tourism projects over the next four years in a bid to quadruple its
visitor count, said HH Sheikh Saud. 

“As a
commitment to this we have just created a tourism authority. The idea is to give
a real focus [to tourism],” he said. “We have a good industrial authority to
delivery our strategy, that’s why we want to reflect the same strategy for
tourism and I think it [20 percent income from tourism] is achievable.”

RAK
relaunched its flag carrier in October with tickets priced as low as AED10 in a
bid to ramp up tourism numbers in the emirate. The carrier, which suspended
operations in May 2009 due to tough economic conditions, has targeted the
budget, short-haul market with routes to India, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

Projects
due to come online this year in the emirate include the Waldorf Astoria hotel –
the luxury brand’s first UAE property – and two new shopping malls, the Ras Al
Khaimah Mall and the Al Naim mall.

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