Sheikh Saud Bin Saqr Al Qasimi is a man with a mission. He comes across as someone in a hurry to get things done. Replacing his older half brother, Sheikh Khalid Bin Saqr Al Qasimi, as Crown Prince in 2003, he has since developed a reputation as a hands-on leader, keen to encourage businesses to invest in the northern emirate of Ras Al Khaimah (RAK).
He took over as ruler of RAK in October 2010 following the death of his father, Sheikh Saqr Bin Mohammad Al Qasimi, and was appointed a member of the Supreme Council of the United Arab Emirates. He met with fDiat his palace, overlooking the old town of RAK, and points out how the views from his vast windows are changing as more businesses set up across the emirate.
“We want to make RAK more complete,” he says. “We want to attract more investors. And the more we have, the more successful each one of them will become. I want to develop RAK airport and RAK Maritime City, and to learn every day how we can improve what we offer to the business community here.”
Key to success
Sheikh Saud says the basics for success are in place, with attractive packages for those that want to invest in RAK. He explains: “For companies looking to come here, we have a very efficient registration system, zero income tax, wonderful logistics for import/export and competitive rates for industry. We have a good track record of attracting successful companies that have decided to make RAK their home, so other businesses have the assurance that somebody else has already gone before them.”
RAK’s liberal policies have attracted businesses from around the world. “You have the right to bring your talent with you, labour is available at competitive rates. This is a very secure place offering a good lifestyle where women and children have the freedom to do what they want,” he says.
With the Arab Spring changing the investment climate across the Middle East and north Africa, important questions are being raised about the stability of the region. However, Sheikh Saud is confident in the emirate’s resilience, as well as its ability to evolve. He says: “What is happening around us is a reminder that governments have to address their responsibilities and take care of developments. When it’s a question of prosperity, we [RAK] are business partners. In the event of a crisis, we will be a safe haven.”
He adds: “Europeans, Asians and Americans have flocked here. They have voted with their feet and are proof of our ability to attract talent. Our success – [as with] any country – is in our ability to grow our own talent and allow outside talent to flourish here as well. That’s why I’m hoping to give people the opportunity to come here, to realise their dreams.”
A matter of pride
Talk is easy, but for Sheikh Saud, the proof of the emirate’s success is in the statistics. He says: “The number of tourists visiting RAK is rocketing and hotel occupancy is high. The number of business licences and industrial licences being issued is soaring. As for marine activity, this has been the best year ever for our ports, so I’m really optimistic. We need to keep this up, we need to innovate and we need to emphasise our message and actually embrace global partnerships. Tourists don’t visit somewhere unless they feel safe, happy and respected. Business people don’t invest in a place unless they feel happy about it; secure and assured of success. We are living proof of what it’s possible to achieve, so what we want to do is spread the word so we can attract more of these people.”
RAK is evolving fast and there are many achievements of which Sheikh Saud is proud. He proclaims: “I’m happy that we have created whole new industrial parks. I’m happy to have reorganised the workforce here so now we have outcome-based government assessments: every year, each of our government agencies is assessed and rated on the contribution it is making to the development of RAK. I’m happy that we have broken down the barriers and enabled young women to enter the labour force. And I’m proud that we have a number of initiatives that encourage our young people to be more active in improving their education.”