Press Room

06 March 2009

H.H. Sheikh Saud Bin Saqr discusses the economic potential of the Emirate of Ras Al Khaimah

When people in the West talk about the Arabian Gulf, they talk about the tremendous progress in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Seldom do they mention any other place. But there is a miracle in the making; it is the Emirate of Ras Al Khaimah. Located on the blue, warm waters of the Arabian Gulf, Ras Al Khaimah is a serene place where East meets West and the rich, old Arab culture melds with the best of Western Civilization. The Crown Prince H.H. Sheikh Saud Bin Saqr al Qasimi is well known for stimulating the economic development of Ras Al Khaimah. Among his many achievements are starting the first exclusive medical and health sciences university (RAK MHSU) in the United Arab Emirates, establishing the Center for Advanced Materials (RAK-CAM). Following are excerpts from an interview of H.H. Sheikh Saud Bin Saqr.

H.H. Sheikh Saud Bin Saqr discusses the economic potential of the Emirate of Ras Al Khaimah What is your philosophy of economic development in Ras Al Khaimah?

The way I see it, government is the most important company in any country, because if that company fails then everything will fail. It is very important for us to structure government so that it is run like a business, because instead of becoming a liability on society, it becomes an asset. It is also a question of a culture that allows government employees to view themselves as a bridge for wealth creation rather than an authority which stifles development.

So, our approach is to unleash our potential through economic development. Economic development is vital to any country. We wanted to create in Ras Al Khaimah the circumstance so that if you have an industry, you can develop it very quickly. We wanted to create a legal infrastructure to create an open door to those who want to come to the Emirates, to create an environment where entrepreneurs, who are the real wealth creators, can find a home in Ras Al Khaimah.

Every country needs investors. And investors need a country where they feel safe, that is corruption free, transparent, efficient and cost effective. This is a country that has all of that. We have zero income tax. We can bring employment from anywhere, so it is meritocracy in practice. We have efficient ports, great connectivity.

It’s a very hospitable place. Whatever your race, whatever your religion, you are welcome. We are all humans at the end of the day.

We either put ourselves on the road to development, or we lock ourselves in the trap of underdevelopment. Countries have a choice.

Are there ways that Ras Al Khaimah is developing a niche in the region with regards to the strong international brands of Abu Dhabi and Dubai?

It is very simple. The image of Abu Dhabi and Dubai is good for us. Anything that is good on this globe is good for us. We want to be a partner with what is good. We want to be a partner with development. Maybe over time what we have done seems impossible. But that is because luck does not come just by dreaming, but by working. So, we are trying to organize our Emirate so that we take a gradual approach toward development, recognizing what we cannot do. And we live in a globe where we can’t completely define the global environment. We have to only adapt. And when we adapt we can contribute to this world. Challenges are sometimes opportunities for those who can see them and achieve them.

When you have a good environment, a good legal environment, a good economic environment where you can import machinery and allow talent from across the world to gather, when you organize your whole emirate to succeed, when you organize your emirate to work, that is success.

Is there a particular reason why industrial development is one of the priorities of Ras Al Khaimah, as opposed to finance, like Dubai?

Every place has to find what is doable. Industry is part of what we need. We feel there is a great need here to do industrial development because it is not as significant as tourism. But focusing on industry does not mean we have to forget about tourism. It does not mean we have to create another service economy. It is not just about creating a job, but to create a place that you would like to go to. It is a combination really of lifestyle, business environment and friendliness.

Is this all part of a master plan for development?

Yes. We have done a master plan. And we have identified the places where we could have development for tourism, where we could have industrial development. Today it is not a question of only dreaming. It is a question of making feasibility studies. And although any feasibility study has to have some gut feeling, you have to have educated businessmen. You have to review a study when you implement, to change it if you need to. Good management means that you plan the future but then you check how good your forecast is. And you adapt. Math is universal. Making money in Uruguay or Alaska or Japan is the same. It is the same logic. It is not an ideology. It is not about ego. It is simply business. Business should not have an ego. It should have a professional attitude.

How do you think that the current financial crisis is going to affect Ras Al Khaimah?

I think that what we do will have an impact on what we get. I am very optimistic about the future. I am not going to speculate on what happened in one country or another country. But let me tell you, this country is for business. This country is a place where any nationality can find work. The center of economic growth and success is the human being. Human talent is the source of success.

So here there is zero income tax, fantastic logistics and next to us you have China, India and great potential wealth in Africa. Next door is Europe and Russia. This is a great, enterprising region. The Emirates for the foreseeable future will be a producing country. It will be a place where tourists will come, where industry will be established. This is because it is not a dream. It is reality.

You cannot insulate one country from the rest of the world. This is one country that will benefit from any upside. The Emirates in bad times are a safe haven and in good times are a business partner.