In the presence of an august audience comprising of renowned economic, banking and financial Arab leaders and experts, Sheikh Tariq bin Faisal Al Qassimi, Chairman of the Sharjah Economic Development Department, presented the keynote speech in the Arab Banking Conference under the theme “Investing in the Arab World, Investing in the Future” that was held in Casablanca by the Union of Arab Banks on April 27-28, 2006.
During his meeting with Fatah Allah Walalu, the Moroccan Minister of Finance, Sheikh Tariq Bin Faisal Al Qassimi stated that there is common ground for investors and foreigners to benefit from investments within the Arab World, especially in the real estate and tourism sector. He also stressed that the increase in foreign investments to the Arab World will witness a significant increase over the next three years.
Speaking of the investment environment in the region, Morocco’s Minister of Finance praised the concerted efforts of the United Arab Emirates in contributing to the economic growth of the Kingdom of Morocco, through investing in enormous tourism and real estate projects. These include recent announcements by UAE-based organizations, and expressed intention by other companies to launch strategic projects in the near future.
In his presentation, Sheikh Tariq defined the role of the tourism sector within the growth of Emirate of Sharjah. With family tourism as the main theme, the sector had played a pivotal role in supporting the economic development of the Emirate, where revenues from Sharjah’s Hotels has increased by 25% in comparison to 2004. Additionally, the Emirate of Sharjah has one of the largest areas dedicated to the industrial sector in the UAE and that includes 19 industrial areas, contributing 48% to the industrial sector revenue of the UAE. Moreover, he pinpointed to the active movement of the real estate sector in the industrial areas within Sharjah, where the size of demand and sales has increased in the second half of 2005 at a percentage of 20-30%.
Sheikh Tariq emphasized on the importance of working more efficiently to remove investment obstacles and to enhance old Arabic investment laws, which has to be adapted to today’s regional economic environment. However, some Arab countries prefer to deal with foreign investments as an alternative to dealing with other Arab countries.
With high levels of bureaucracy in many Arabic countries, most Arab investors have generally moved to foreign investment. Instead, it is important that Arabic countries enhance and attract investors to establish more projects, thereby helping the economy and increasing job vacancies and income levels.
Although there were improvements during the last year, the share of the Arab countries total foreign investments was limited, as it didn’t exceed 1.5% of worldwide foreign investment of which 5% came from developing countries. The Arabic countries should allow foreign investment in some sectors that will help in improving different economic sectors including oil and gas, infrastructure, telecommunication, electricity, banks, insurance, media, education and health services, without forgetting to manage, control and maintain these investments.
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