Emirates take bold steps

RAK and Ajman are looking to the future with a series of striking developments. These are exciting times for two of the UAE’s less celebrated emirates, Ras Al Khaimah and Ajman. Each has, perhaps, lain in the shadow of Dubai and Abu Dhabi for too long. Yet, just possibly, now is their time to shine.

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By  Andrew White Published  June 25, 2006

|~||~||~|RAK and Ajman are looking to the future with a series of striking developments. These are exciting times for two of the UAE’s less celebrated emirates, Ras Al Khaimah and Ajman. Each has, perhaps, lain in the shadow of Dubai and Abu Dhabi for too long. Yet, just possibly, now is their time to shine. This week’s eight-page special on Ras Al Khaimah paints a vivid picture of an emirate on the cusp of something special. The airport is expanding, a seven-star hotel is under construction, there are plans for a spaceport, huge sums are being lavished on improving infrastructure and providing accommodation for both residents and tourists, and they are even building the world’s longest indoor ski slope for those of us wilting under the hot desert sun. Mina Al Arab, though by no means the only major development underway in the emirate, will boast three kilometers of natural beach, something not even Dubai can offer its increasingly cramped residents. Developers are looking to the mountains too, another fine move from an emirate clearly determined to make the best of its striking natural resources. From the nation’s northernmost emirate, to its smallest, and the new US$4 billion Emirates City that — it is hoped — will attract serious international investment. The project consists of around 72 residential and commercial properties and will encompass picturesque lakes, lush green parks, a shopping district, mosques, luxury hotels, and key educational and health facilities. The freehold project will immediately be made available for purchase to both UAE residents and expatriates, and developers hope to attract a truly diverse population from the Middle East and beyond. Within easy distance of Dubai, RAK, Sharjah, Umm Al Quwain and Abu Dhabi, the emirate boasts that which, again, Dubai struggles to provide — namely affordable prices and a peaceful existence free of gridlocked traffic and incessant noise. This is not to besmirch Dubai or to disregard the emirate’s achievements. Dubai lies at the heart of the modern Middle East, whether as a destination for business or tourism. However, it is highly encouraging to see neighbouring emirates beat a different path to their bustling, 24/7 cousin. Both RAK and Ajman are aiming higher than simple mimicry — they are aiming to establish themselves as unique, attractive destinations that can only help to highlight the breadth and diversity of the UAE.||**||Tighten up, please|~||~||~|Officials at the Abu Dhabi bourse have finally announced plans to make it compulsory for listed companies to follow a new corporate governance code. They are also insisting that brokers comply with new capital adequacy regulations, and are striving to develop new instruments and markets, to further improve the efficiency of capital markets. All this in the same week that the Merrill Lynch/Capgemini 2006 World Wealth Report confirms “this part of the world has become very appealing to investors”. This is a big moment for the region’s bourses. Strong leadership, which necessitates the swift introduction of measures such as those discussed in Abu Dhabi, will clearly further strengthen the credibility of our markets at home and abroad. Procrastination, on the other hand, may set us back immeasurably, and further erode confidence in markets that have taken a frightful battering over the last few months. On the trading floor at the DFM, you’ll find plenty of living, breathing witnesses who will tell you exactly what happens when an insufficiently experienced and regulated market gets the shakes. And as they dust themselves off and look for the green shoots of recovery, it is welcome to see market officials taking steps to cultivate a stronger, healthier, more robust trading environment.||**||Next year, perhaps?|~||~||~|Suffice to say I didn't quite make it into Merrill Lynch's calculations when it came to establishing how many high net worth individuals (HNWIs) there now are in the region. These wealthy individuals (who possess net financial assets of at least US$1 million, excluding their primary residence and consumables) are flourishing in the Middle East, a fact supported by the news that a 9.8% rise in the number of HNWIs is dwarfed by the rise in the wealth of these people — a whopping 19.8%. Whilst inheritance is still the number one source of HNWI wealth in the region, it can't be long before strong economic growth places success in business at the top of the table, can it?||**||

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