Ras al Khaimah outlines new growth strategy

Curbing overseas investment, the emirate looks to keep its funds working at home to attract businesses.

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Ras al Khaimah's Government investment body is trying to attract businesses and foreign money into the emirate as it focuses on economic growth at home, it said yesterday. The RAK Investment Authority (RAKIA) said it had generated almost US$3 billion (Dh11.01bn) in foreign investment and attracted 6,500 businesses since its launch less than five years ago.

"We sit in the middle of the energy centre of the world. We sit in the middle of the world," said Sheikh Saud bin Saqr, Crown Prince and Deputy Ruler of Ras al Khaimah, explaining a variety of measures had been introduced to make Ras al Khaimah more appealing as a destination for business and investment, including free zones and tax exemptions. Sheikh Saud said the emirate had also strived to set itself up as an attractive place to live. "We have to capitalise on what we have done."

Ras al Khaimah's GDP is expected to grow 12 per cent this year, said Khater Massaad, the chief executive of RAKIA. The emirate's GDP grew 14 per cent a year between 2004 and 2008, and 9 per cent last year, the investment authority said. "His Highness has given us instruction not to invest overseas anymore and to concentrate on Ras al Khaimah," said Mr Massaad. "Actually there's no future investments for overseas. The projects which have started, they are to be completed."

Its foreign investments include an aluminium project in India and the development of a port and free zone area in Georgia. RAKIA manages the three investment zones in the emirate and is responsible for industrial, trade, commercial, educational and health development initiatives for Ras al Khaimah. Mr Massaad said negotiations were under way with companies in countries including the US, Turkey, India, Germany and Kuwait to set up business activities and investment ventures in Ras al Khaimah.

The authority is in talks with companies in the car sector, among many others. It highlighted services and tourism as playing important roles in the emirate's growth plans. Several hotels are under construction in Ras al Khaimah, including Al Hamra Palace, a luxury hotel in the 5 million square metre Al Hamra Village development on the coast. A vast water and theme park called WOW RAK is also expected to open soon.

Other major tourism developments include Mina Al Arab, a beachfront resort destination, and the $1bn man-made island, Al Marjan. A number of property projects in Ras al Khaimah have been cancelled or put on hold but none is state-backed. "There are no government projects which have been cancelled or scaled down," Mr Massaad said. But he said investors in one project, Dana Island, had "asked to move their investments to Marjan Island".

Mr Massaad said property prices in Ras al Khaimah, which did not rise as sharply as in Dubai during the boom, were down 10 per cent on their peak. rbundhun@thenational.ae