His Highness Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, stressed that Sharjah, which had remained removed from the economic conflicts, has been able to establish its status and boost its economic growth alongside its intellectual and cultural growth and has made quality leaps in building integrated state-of-the-art infrastructure. His Highness further emphasised that the Emirate has received excellent credit ratings from international rating agencies and has become a safe investment destination just as it is a cultural and educational destination.
In his speech at the opening ceremony of the World Forum for Foreign Direct Investment 2015, which is being hosted by the Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq) at the Jawaher Reception and Convention Centre, His Highness said that while the global economies faced tremendous challenges including the global financial crisis, the emirate of Sharjah was isolated from the impact of these crises, as the Emirate is building its economy with the vision of building its human capital physically, intellectually, and economically. He emphasised that at a time when the pace of recovery from regional unrest and financial crisis may be slow in other parts of the world, the pace of development and building in Sharjah is accelerated, allowing it to serve as the safe haven for investors, based on its already integrated environment, developed over many years of work, and on investor friendly regulations, and investment incentives and privileges, in addition to its well developed industrial cities and free zones.
His Highness Sheikh Dr Sultan Bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, said:" In a world full of conflicts and wars, disputes and settling up of accounts among players, and growing poverty and unemployment problems, a lot needs to be achieved in order to bring global pillars closer and to build an economy that realises people’s hopes an focuses on youth, the hope for today, and the future for nations. In today’s world, many issues have become entangled. The economy has become influential yet it is affected by many factors and is now a driver and a policy maker.”
“In Sharjah, this small and ambitious corner of the big and vast world, we meet. Sharjah, the regular meeting point for all global pillars in culture, science, media and thought leadership, is gathering you today to enhance its vision and development which is based on investing in human resources, the corner stone for the growth of any community. Sharjah is now named the Capital of Arab Tourism and was last year’s Islamic Culture Capital and the capital of Arab Culture a few years back. It began its development strategies in culture and science and moved into a knowledge-based economy which caters for the needs of the intellect and sustainable growth while building a stable and secure economic future,” His Highness added.
“Our economic decisions are connected to human values which are based on transparency and justice. We work according to plans and goals for a prosperous growth that will benefit individuals today and tomorrow. We direct our youth towards creativity, accomplishment, and building a secure and safe future four our children and grandchildren. In Sharjah, we believe in openness and economic partnerships beneficial to all and here we are open to investments while deploying tools that will make partnerships flourish and grow. We hope this forum develops into a good omen for innovation, and strengthening cooperation among us all,” His Highness stressed.
“Some believe economy and culture do not meet but this is wrong as both complement each other – without culture economy becomes just dry numbers with no creativity or innovation. Without economy, culture also becomes an equation of theories looking for reality. Culture supplements a successful economy."
His Highness the Ruler of Sharjah also recommended more emphasis to be given to creativity and innovation, stressing that repetition is one of his biggest fears. “Proper ideas lead to proper economy and misconceptions weaken economy. Economy without virtues becomes brutal and the biggest virtue is justice.”
His Highness also pointed out that science is the lead to culture and economics and that it is imperative in prosperity and in adversity. “Yet science needs a bit of adventure like fishermen who know that the sea and storms are risky but these dangers are not sufficient reasons for them to stay ashore. Venture and achieve your dreams, do not let repetition gnaw. The best authors excel at standing and with time they learn to craft short sentences.”
The opening ceremony of the three-day 12th edition of the forum entitled “Where East Meets West”, was attended by HE Eng. Sultan bin Saeed Al Mansouri, UAE Minister of Economy, Sheikh Mohammed bin Saoud Al Qasimi, Member of the Sharjah Executive Council, Sheikha Bodour Bint Sultan Al Qasimi, Chairperson of the Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq), Sheikh Khalid bin Abdullah Sultan Al Qasimi, Chairman of Sharjah Ports ad Customs Department, and Sheikh Khaled bin Essam bin Saqr Al Qasimi, Chairman of Sharjah Civil Aviation, in addition to top officials representing a range of UAE ministries and departments.
In his speech, HE Eng. Sultan Al Mansouri, UAE Minister of Economy, said:” The forum’s slogan, ‘Where East meets West’, is a reflection of the UAE which gathers cultures and civilisations on its land. There are more than 200 nationalities here, thousands of companies as well as multinationals.”
Sharjah, he added, is one of the pillars of economic diversity in the UAE and thanks to the guidance and wise leadership of His Highness Ruler of Sharjah, has become a major component of the UAE’s comprehensive development. “His vision led to the establishment of a government body that has driven Sharjah to become an investment, tourism, and commercial destination in the UAE,” he stressed.
In a short span of time, said the minister, Shurooq, has driven Sharjah to the top regional investment destinations and has pushed forward the Emirate’s economic development. Investment is one of the major pillars of economic growth in countries and governments work on attracting FDIs through the introduction of special tools that encourage companies and investors to pump capital in various destinations.
“We set infrastructure in place that attract FDIs and developed a number of tools that make the UAE one of the top attractors of foreign capital. We consider investments a major component in the long-term development of a national sustainable economy, as well as in knowledge transfer and the growth of the UAE National workforce,” said Al Mansouri.
The UAE Minister of Economy also stressed that the ministry is committed to establishing the proper environment for attracting FDIs and that the UAE has become a preferred destination in the Middle East and North Africa for international companies due to its strategic location, massive economic capabilities, open economic policies, flexibility, and diversity.
Sheikha Bodour bint Sultan Al Qasimi remarked that FDIs face many challenges globally but offer massive opportunities in economy and cultural exchange. “We in Sharjah and the UAE believe in the importance of investment, economic collaboration and building bridges. The forum comes at the right moment where we need more collaboration between the region and the world.”
Sheikha Bodour also stressed that Sharjah understands that FDIs are influenced by legislation, quality of education, barriers, commercial incentives, security, stability, infrastructure, workforce, available talent and skills, as well negative and positive impressions of destinations.
“We believe all those factors are important in making investment decisions. Historically, we have been a destination on the commercial routes in the Gulf region, attracting merchants for centuries past. Our experience in facilitating trade and economy as well as our geographic location enhance investors’ confidence in our economy and GDP.”
Sheikha Bodour bint Sultan Al Qasimi said that the strategic destination has not been the only factor in establishing the foreign investor’s confidence in Sharjah economy, but also the government’s serious policy of diversifying its economy, which has made the emirate of Sharjah’s economy the most differentiated in the region, with no single sector contributing to more than 20% of the GDP. This diversification creates many opportunities to investors in various sectors such as environment, transport and logistics, travel and leisure and healthcare.
Speaking during the conference, Sheikha Bodour stated, “His Highness Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi has recently approved the annual budget of Sharjah, allocating 34% of the budget to improving the existing infrastructure and 45% to general economic development projects. These proportions reflect the government’s commitment to facilitate and encourage domestic and foreign investment in Sharjah. We are also striving to invest in education, research, development, and innovation. Therefore, Sharjah graduates have an excellent reputation in the local and regional markets in terms of talent and experience, which ensures that investors can find a highly qualified skilled workforce with superior knowledge in engineering, sciences, technologies, and other important skills.”
She added: “We advocate and encourage an entrepreneurial and innovation culture, with more than 45000 small and medium enterprises in Sharjah today, primarily in the manufacturing, real estate, and business services sectors. We are aware that challenges are opportunities for development. Therefore, we would like to hear from you about the direct challenges that foreign investment may face, be it in Sharjah or anywhere in the world. We would like, also, to hear about the solutions, previous experiences, and opportunities from which we may benefit to develop the general investment climate.”
In conclusion, Sheikha Bodour Al Qasimi said: “We are determined to facilitate and encourage the inflow of foreign direct investment to our Emirate and country, and to work together with you to achieve this goal.”
Catherine Dawson, Chief Executive of Red Hot Locations, organiser of the World Forum for Foreign Direct Investment, delivered a speech in which she paid tribute to the support of His Highness Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah. She thanked Sheikha Bodour bint Sultan Al Qasimi for her outstanding efforts in hosting the forum. Catherine stressed that Sharjah has become a platform for investment that is bridging the East with the West, thanks to the privileges and facilities the Emirate offers.
The forum’s sessions were opened with keynote address ‘Leapfrogging Competition: Tech Strategy for Business’, delivered by Sir Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web and one of the greatest innovators of our time, who was introduced by Frank Gardner, the BBC’s award-winning Security Correspondent.
After the opening addresses, the sponsors and partners of the forum were honoured. A sister city agreement between Sharjah and Tangier was signed between HE Rashid Sultan bin Tali’a, Chairman of the Sharjah Municipal Council and HE Fouad Al Amari, Mayor of the City of Tangier. According to the agreement, both sides will cooperate in the areas of common interest, including international initiatives, programmes, and economic development projects and will encourage cultural, sporting, and youth exchange between the public and private organisations in Sharjah and Tangier.
His Highness Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah honoured the sponsors of the forum. The sponsors are the Sharjah Airport International Free Zone Authority (SAIF-Zone), Hamriyah Free Zone Authority (HFZA), and the Department of Seaports and Customs - Government of Sharjah (Titanium Sponsors); the Sharjah Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCI), the Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority (SCTDA), Tilal Properties, and Gulftainer (Gold Sponsors); AIM the Annual Investment Meeting (Supporting Partner); Emirates Transport (Official Transport Sponsor); CNBC Arabia, (Official Business Broadcaster); Bloomberg Businessweek (Official Business Magazine); Sharjah Media corporation , Emirates Neon Group (Outdoor Media Partner),
HE Saud Salim Al Mazrouei, Director of Sharjah Airport International Free Zone Authority (SAIF-Zone) and Hamriyah Free Zone Authority (HFZA), praised hosting the World Forum for Foreign Direct Investment in Sharjah and for the first time in the Middle East. He emphasised that Sharjah has become a leading investment destination worldwide thanks to its strategic position, bridging the East and West, and the facilities and incentives given to investors in various sectors, in addition to its state-of-the-art infrastructure, free zones, and its road, sea, and air networks that contribute to boosting the trade movement and investment activities in the region.
Al Mazrouei added that Sharjah Free Zones Authority is proud of it support and sponsorship of this event which is being attended by world business leaders and leading investment agencies. He added that such platform would help highlight the unique investment environment in Sharjah and increase foreign investments in various economic sectors, which will serve the interests of the Emirate and the UAE.
After the opening ceremony, participants were taken on a tour of the economic and cultural landmarks as well as the tourism and leisure destinations in the emirate of Sharjah, including the Sharjah Airport International Free Zone Authority (SAIF-Zone) and the Heart of Sharjah, the old hub of the Emirate, which is being developed by Shurooq to be transformed into a premier tourist and heritage destination.