The Emirate of Sharjah occupies an important position in the economic infrastructure of the UAE. It has made great effort to develop its industrial, commercial, and tourism sectors. It now has more manufacturing units than any of the other Emirates, and has ambitious plans to further develop industry and tourism in the Emirate, to make it, over the next decade, a thriving commercial entity to rival Dubai.
Reem Mahmoud from Al Shindagah met with Said Obeid Al Jarwan, General Manager of the Sharjah, and General Manager of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Sharjah, and General Manager of the Sharjah Expo Centre, to discuss Sharjah’s economic plan for the future:
“Sharjah is embarking on an ambitious program aimed at highlighting the Emirate’s successful economic activity and to define its industrial and commercial progress in order to promote itself locally and internationally. The aim of active commercial interchange with other markets, is to attract more investment from the Gulf region and internationally, making sure that such foreign investment serves the country’s best interests. The national industries’ exhibitions held in Uzbekistan and Jakarta where part of the same plan. The positive results achieved by these exhibitions prove we are going in the right direction. It also encouraged delegations and representatives of economic authorities from all over the world to visit the Emirate, to see the progress we are making in developing the Emirate economically.”
Al Jarwan adds that international interest in the Emirate is not limited to industry and commerce alone. More and more attention is being focused on tourism, considered by the Chamber of Commerce as one of the most important sectors for the development, and it is seen as a very important factor in the UAE’s economy.
How does Al Jarwan, as general manager of the Sharjah Chamber of Commerce evaluate Sharjah’s economic status when compared to the other emirates? He says. “The UAE is a young country that is still developing; it needs to put to good use all its strengths, its natural resources, its location, and the commercial experience of its people.” Although each emirate has its own economy within the Federal Structure, he believes that the economy of each emirate completes and supports the existence of the others. He completely rejects the notion believed by some, that there is direct competition between the emirates. For him, Dubai excels in certain types of economic activity; Abu Dhabi has its own unique set of characteristics, and each one of the other emirates have strengths that compliment the UAE as a whole.
Sharjah’s most prominent economic characteristics and contribution to the country’s economy, Al Jarwan feels, are the many industrial areas within the Emirate that have been set up and equipped with the necessary infrastructure by the Government of Sharjah, that allows manufacturers to set up factories, manufacture products and transport them cost-effectively throughout the region. To encourage business further, Sharjah has expanded its existing duty free areas, and has created a free trade zone at Al Hamriyah.
Sharjah airport is an important regional airfreight handler. A significant percentage of the annual international airfreight tonnage passes through its cargo handling facility. To ensure future growth, a number of new regulations are being formulated to make the administrative and legal safe of this economic activity easier. This along with an expansion of the airports cargo handling facilities should ensure growth into the new century.
Sharjah, under the direction of HH Dr. Shaikh Sultan Al Qasemi has done much to preserve its cultural heritage. Nothing shows this more clearly than the restoration of old public and private buildings, the opening of different museums throughout the Emirate and the maintenance of its markets and historical areas. This has made Sharjah one of the more culturally interesting places in the UAE and as such, is a great attraction for tourists. It is this aspect of the Emirate that the Government and the Chamber of Commerce are particularly keen to exploit, to help expand tourism to the Emirate. A great deal of effort has been made to enhance the standard of its hotels and build new ones, particularly in the three and two star categories, in order to encourage middle class and family tourism. But there is good news for business travelers and the better off, as well, as interest is being taken in opening first class hotels within the Emirate with many new offers from international companies taking shape.
Another major tourist activity is shopping. To ensure that a visitor to Sharjah does not have to travel far to find things to buy, Sharjah is planning to open some big shopping malls in the near future...
Another project on the Chamber’s agenda is the Expo Centre; Al Jarwan says: “Work is being intensified in order to complete the new Trade Centre in Sharjah which will mark a major step forward. As for the Expo Centre itself, this has recently been expanded, and the exhibition area increased to 20 thousands square meters”. On the activities of the exhibition centre, Al Jarwan said: “ Sharjah Expo Centre has witnessed a number of important trade exhibitions and fairs. These exhibitions are often sponsored by international and Arabic trade organisations, including the Leather Exhibition sponsored by the International Leather Alliance. Also, the International Food Exhibition is mounted with the support of the Ministry of Agriculture in Sharjah and the Arabic Alliance for Foodstuffs. Currently, the Chamber has an ambitious plan to increase the number of exhibitions from 18 per cent to 22”. Currently it is only the management of The Expo Centre that is permitted to manage exhibitions and fairs, but the may change according to Al Jarwan. “There is a plan for the future aimed at putting regulations in place to provide organizing licenses to companies wishing to organize exhibitions for third parties.”
Given that economic development plan for Sharjah is successful and attracts more industry and investors, Al Shindagah asked Mr. Said Obaid Al Jarwan how this type of industrial planning fitted in with his membership of the environmental preservation committee. He answers; “We wish to establish proper environmental regulations, while at the same time we try to attract investors who reply on clean technologies in order to minimize levels of pollution and ensure a healthy environment for our citizens”.