Welcoming attendees, H.E. Sheikh Sultan Bin Ahmad Al Qassimi, Chairman of Sharjah Media Corporation said: "Forums such as this one form an excellent platform through which to explore ways in which various organisations and government entities can pursue mutually beneficial avenues of cooperation and collaboration and are a vital medium for enhancing bilateral relations on a number of levels. We look forward to the many successful and profitable partnerships that will result because of this even and will continue to work towards forging even stronger business, investment and cultural ties between Sharjah and Singapore in the future."
After opening remarks from H.E. Mohammad Ahmad Al Qubaisi, Ambassador of United Arab Emirates to Singapore, H.E. Marwan bin Jassim Al Sarkal, CEO of Shurooq addressed the forum.
Highlighting some of Sharjah's most promising sectors, Al Sarkal said: "Continuing demand for different experiences, the growing expatriate population, government investment and rising disposable income is creating new opportunities in the travel and leisure sector, with market potential expected to reach Dhs1.49bn by 2016. The transport and logistics sector is also fast-growing - as the benefits of Sharjah's access to the Arabian Gulf and the Indian Ocean continues to grow, so does the success of this sector. Here, market potential is expected to reach Dhs6.24bn by 2016."
He added: "Healthcare is another promising sector where the increased demand for specialised services is set to drive growth. The industry is expected to grow by 9.3%, from Dhs4.59bn this year to Dhs6.55bn in 2016."
Elaborating on the issue of healthcare, Mr Binu Pisharadi, Commercial Affairs Manager of Sharjah Healthcare City, stated that UAE is the 2nd largest pharma products consumer after Saudi Arabia; that the UAE currently has 88 hospitals - 15 of which are located in Sharjah; and that Sharjah and NE register about 3 million outpatients and 130,000 inpatients per year.
He indicated that the supply of specialised surgery centres, cancer centres, advanced diagnostics, rehab centres, and cardiac care centres are currently limited or lacking and, as such, represents an opportunity for investors.
Pisharadi explained that the SHCC's primary objective is to make Sharjah as a one-stop solution for all healthcare needs and, as a Free Zone, investors will be able to enjoy 100% ownership of their business, 100% freedom from taxes and duties of all kinds, and 100% repatriability of their capital and profit.
He said: "With the objective of providing the best customer service, excellent infrastructure, single window clearance system and a tax free environment, SHCC is confident in its vision to transform the Emirate of Sharjah into the most sought-after healthcare destination in the region."
Business and investment
A presentation by H.E. Hussain Mohammad Al Mahmoudi, Director General of Sharjah Chamber of Commerce and Industry, emphasised that the Chamber - which boasts more than 47,000 members - aims to be a stimulant of sustainable commercial and industrial development for Sharjah business community and to be a centre offering the best practice.
He said: "Our objective is to be the pioneering and defending voice of the Sharjah business community and to serve our members by offering information and value added services, as well as opportunities for growth, prosperity and competitive advantage in the global market."
Attractive Free zones
The Sharjah Airport International Free Zone (SAIF-Zone) was another area of interest for many attendees, and was addressed by Mr Humaid Al Khatri, Commercial Director of Sharjah International Airport - Freezone Authority, who elaborated on why the SAIF-ZONE has become one of the most important business and investment hubs in the UAE.
He said: "With its state-of-the art facilities, the SAIF-Zone offers unprecedented investment and trade incentives and unparalleled advantages, including 100% foreign ownership and 100% exemption from personal and corporate income taxes. In addition, it is constantly upgrading its value-added services, infrastructure facilities, technical and scientific expertise and facilities."
The SAIF-Zone was set up in 1995 and started its operations with 55 companies. Since then, it has developed considerably, and today hosts over 5200 companies from 138 countries, including some of the biggest names in the fields of aviation, IT services, media, consumables, trade and manufacturing.
Saud Salim Al Mazroui, Hamriyah Free Zone Director of Commercial Affairs said that they are looking to create a variety of special investments for Singaporean companies to benefit from. The Hamriyah Free Zone is a start mark for business and economic projects and that is for the strategic location it obtains such as the Arabian Gulf and a highly organised infrastructure and road networks, in addition to the special facilities it gives to clients and various incentives for its investors such as stores, ready for rent offices and development opportunities in the leased land and fulfilling the tenants needs with regards to commercial and economic activities.
More than just investment
Looking at the investment environment from a different perspective was Mr Lee Koon, CEO of Sharjah Asset Management Company, a Limited Liability Company (LLC), which is wholly-owned by the Finance Department of the Government of Sharjah with a strong presence across the Middle East.
"Sharjah Asset Management Company's mission is to generate income for the Government of Sharjah through portfolio management and investment activities," explained Koon. "While we can potentially invest anywhere in the world, the focus is on countries like Singapore, China, Malaysia, Indonesia and Australia, where we cover an array of sectors, including Oil & Gas Support Services, Food & Beverage, Real Estate, Internet & Technology, Healthcare and Logistics."
Tourism and Media
Mrs Conny Boettger, Destination Development Manager at the Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority, delivered the final presentation - Explore Sharjah - which, in particular, highlighted Sharjah's thriving tourism sector. She stated that 1.6 million people from across the globe visited Sharjah in 2011, which had a total monetary impact of Dhs5.8bn on Sharjah's GDP.
Commenting on the successful conclusion of the forum, H.E. Marwan bin Jassim Al Sarkal said: "The Sharjah delegation was able to showcase not only the Sharjah's rich cultural and tourist attractions, but also its business and investment potential. Each delegate successfully demonstrated the range of prospects in their respective sectors and, with many attendees having already expressed an interest in the opportunities presented, we have secured a number of new business leads."
H.E. Osama Samra, Director of Sharjah Media Centre has demonstrated during the session a presentation having what local and international media are addressing about Sharjah's tourism and economic sectors potentials, and how Sharjah Media Centre is working to promote for Sharjah and attract different media representatives to it and he continued to explain the plans that are being set for implementation to contribute to Sharjah's investment sector.
The Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq) was established in 2009 as an independent government body tasked with stimulating business activity and encouraging investment in the emirate. The Authority is dedicated to developing Sharjah through a range of quality projects and encouraging domestic and foreign investment by adopting the best international standards in providing services and studies that help attract investors from the region and all over the world.
Shurooq's mission is focused on providing the necessary facilities and incentives, overcoming obstacles facing investment in the Emirate, evaluating infrastructure projects related to tourism, trade and industry, and drawing up plans to complete these projects.