Sharjah offers plenty of business opportunities to foreign investors in various key sectors to attract 20 per cent more foreign direct investment (FDI) in 2018 that will help generate more jobs in the emirate, a top government official says.
Mohamed Juma Al Musharrkh, chief executive officer of Invest in Sharjah, said a record $1.63 billion (Dh5.97 billion) of FDI inflows generated 2,815 jobs in Sharjah last year. The emirate attracted $808 million FDI in 2016 that created 1,025 jobs in various key sectors and played an important role in economic diversification.
"These figures are a clear indication of the unwavering commitment of the local government to diversify and support sources of economic growth," Al Musharrkh told Khaleej Times in an interview.
Established in 2016, Invest in Sharjah is the investment promotion agency launched by the Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq). It recently organised the fourth edition of Sharjah FDI Forum under the support of the Ministry of Economy.
"Last year, the real estate, manufacturing and construction sectors recorded the bulk of growth, and in the next phase of diversification and economic development, we will be focusing on attracting investments in information and communication technologies and media sectors. We are estimating FDI growth to bump up another 20 per cent this year," he said.
He said the core objective of the Sharjah FDI Forum was to support the UAE's strategy to launch initiatives that will maintain and increase the inflow of foreign direct investments into local economy. The event identifies FDI as a key enabler of sustainable development in countries.
"Additionally, we will delve into discussing ways to harness new and emerging technologies in shaping future economies. Furthermore, the forum highlights the UAE's role in developing the FDI sector," he said.
Al Musharrkh said Sharjah will continue to maintain an investment-friendly climate to foreign investors in line with 'stable' economic outlook affirmed by Moody's Investor Service through an A3 rating to the Sharjah government.
"This rating, backed by the UAE sovereign credit rating of 'Aa2', is a strong indicator of the sound and growing investment market of Sharjah that has a relatively high GDP, low debt levels and government budget deficit - all projecting a resilient and profitable local economy," he said.
He said the strongest reason for this is Sharjah's leading economic diversity profile: it is one of the richest in the UAE and the region.
To put this in numbers, he said the oil sector contributed only three per cent to Sharjah's GDP in 2017, while the industrial sector reached 17 per cent, and real estate and retail stood at 10 per cent each. "This diversity and minimal oil dependence means that foreign investors have business opportunities in a wide-array sectors to tap into," he added.
He said strengthening public-private partnerships can have a massive impact on the local community. It is key to integrating development and profitability goals, he said.
To a question, he said foreign investments won't be successful in generating return on investments consistently unless they were aligned with the sustainable development goals of the economy they are investing in.
"To achieve this, we push investors, especially large corporations to take into consideration the environmental and social development and sustainability goals of the country when taking investment decisions," he said.
"In Sharjah, we continue our work to update our infrastructure as well as legislations to be as receptive to FDI inflows as possible, and have our goals aligned with the UAE's vision of turning FDI sector into a catalyst for achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals set for 2030," Al Musharrkh concluded.
By Muzaffar Rizvi
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