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RAK to attract $13.6bn investment

Ras Al Khaimah's share of the region's economic pie would grow exponentially in coming years, attracting $13.6 billion investment, experts say. It would position the emirate as a frontrunner in the race for global investment and attention, a cross-section of industry leaders said at the Ras Al Khaimah 2007 conference in the emirate.

Chief executives and leading analysts from the region's real estate, tourism, healthcare and education, infrastructure and investment sectors praised the emirate's strong start and expressed full confidence in its ability to achieve its economic and developmental goals in the coming years.

Dr Izzat Dajani, chief executive of the emirate's Investment and Development Office, said it has laid the groundwork to attract Dh50 billion ($13.6 billion) in inward investment in the next few years, with 60 per cent expected to come from lifestyle development and 40 per cent from industrial development.

Ras Al Khaimah currently has the third-highest level of project investment relative to GDP in the UAE ($25.9 billion) and accounts for a full five per cent of total GCC project investment, said Nicholas MacLean, managing director of international commercial real estate services firm CB Richard Ellis Middle East.

"For such a relatively small location, Ras Al Khaimah is making significant levels of investment to spur additional economic development and job creation, and we fully expect that level of growth to continue," MacLean said. The emirate, he added, must continue to develop its underlying industrial base, support services and infrastructure to create the right conditions for institutional investors.

"There are two key factors that factor heavily in Ras Al Khaimah's future," MacLean added. "The first is that it needs to concentrate on its natural resources that are unique in the UAE. Second, Ras Al Khaimah should not compete with the other emirates on products that already exist in the national marketplace, but instead find a role that is complementary." The emirate can continue to be served, he added, by its unique industrial base.

Selim El Zyr, president and chief executive officer of the Rotana Hotels Corporation, said the Middle East's leading independent hotel chain is also highly optimistic about growth potential in the emirate. Rotana is involved with two projects in the emirate, he said, at the $60 million hotel and villa project The Cove and the $2.7 billion Mina Al Arab waterfront development.

"Ras Al Khaimah has the potential to become a destination," El Zyr told a conference session on tourism. "It has a rare anchor, nature, and will resonate with people willing to pay the price for something that is unavailable in the rest of the region."

Representatives from top-tier educational and health institutions Tufts University and Methodist International also announced $50 million in two new initiatives at the Ras Al Khaimah conference. The new facilities will be hosted jointly by the existing EDRAK initiative, and a new RAK Health cluster.

The emirate's domestic trade activity continues to witness rapid growth. Earlier this month, the Ras Al Khaimah Free Trade Zone reported 190 per cent growth in the number of companies registered, representing a capital investment of Dhs3.3 billion.

The Ras Al Khaimah 2007 conference, organised by the emirate's Investment and Development Office and regional business magazine MEED, is focused on the current developments and opportunities in the emirate, and its ongoing efforts to diversify its economy.

More than 30 high profile international speakers and over 200 entrepreneurs and business leaders are attending the two-day conference and its specialized sessions on tourism, real estate, free zones, manufacturing, energy and petrochemicals, and other growth sectors.-(TradeArabia News Service)

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