Sharjah is a highly cost-efficient place for SMEs and startups to set up operations and the emirate will focus on traditional sectors to drive growth in the years ahead, senior government officials said on Sunday.
Marwan bin Jassim Al Sarkal, executive chairman of the Sharjah Investment & Development Authority (Shurooq), said the focus will remain on the healthcare, education, transport and logistics and travel and tourism sectors.
"We have a mission to look at markets from where we can get investments. There is a huge focus on home-grown entities too. We believe Sharjah has a cost advantage when it comes to doing business and the environment is highly friendly for investors to start a business. The government supports the private sector and listens to it with a vision to transform the emirate in a sustainable manner," Al Sarkal said during a panel discussion at the launch of 'Sharjah 2018' report by the Oxford Business Group (OBG).
He said the authorities are promoting Sharjah in countries across Asia, Europe and Americas.
According to the report, the emirate's gross domestic product (GDP) increased by 4.7 per cent from Dh88.5 billion in 2016 to Dh92.7 billion last year, with Sharjah accounting for around 7 per cent of the UAE's GDP. It attracted Dh6 billion FDI in 2017 and sees a 15 per cent increase in foreign direct investment this year.
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Sheikh Fahim bin Sultan Al Qassimi, executive chairman, department of government relations; Khaled Al Huraimel, Group CEO, Beeáh; and Najla Al Midfa, CEO, Sharjah Entrepreneurship Centre, also participate in the panel discussion.
Al Qassimi said Sharjah offered a cost-effective environment for businesses and good and steady returns to investors - akin to a matured market - when there was asset inflation or when RoI was on the decline during the global financial crisis.
"Sharjah offers long-term investment opportunities and long-term returns because we manage costs much better as compared to others. There is still demand for traditional retail in Sharjah. Our target is to put investors at the centre and invest in infrastructure that makes sense. Hospitals, schools and cultural activities matter to attract foreign investment and attract more people," Al Qassimi added.
He noted that the emirate has successfully created some local companies such as Gulftainer, Beeah, Shurooq and others.
Tom Koczwara, director of the debt management office at Sharjah's Department of Finance, was quoted as saying in the report that there was strong potential to the Sharjah government's forecast for the impact of value-added tax (VAT) on its finances, as it has not budgeted any VAT revenue receipts for 2018.
Oliver Cornock, editor-in-chief, OBG, pointed out that Sharjah's outlook is confidently positive due to a number of government announcements which are set to transform the landscape of the emirate physically and economically.
By Waheed Abbas
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