He said the contribution of Indians living in the Gulf region to the advancement of the respective host economies is substantive and sustainable. He called upon Arab investors to pitch in their capital in India’s infrastructure development projects, based on a Public Private Partnership (PPP) model. He pointed out that India was looking for $450 billion investment in the next three years for the development of its infrastructure.
Business leaders from over 20 countries, including CEOs from India, Pakistan, China, Russia as well as Europe and North and South America came together for one and a half day retreat to debate the critical requirements for Arab firms to successfully expand their operations towards a global level-playing field.The Horasis Global Arab Business Meeting was co-hosted by the Ras Al Khaimah Investment Authority (RAKIA), and supported by a group of private sector partners.
Benita Ferrero-Waldner, Former European Commissioner; Member of the Board, Gamesa, Spain, told participants that ‘the Global Arab Business Meeting provides an excellent platform to discuss Arab firms’ strategies, challenges and contributions to overcome the global economic crisis and to develop into truly globalized corporations.’
Arab firm’s corporate globalization was at the heart of the agenda indeed, with a joining of forces among an engaged community of business leaders, led by the co-chairs: Esko Aho, Former Prime Minister of Finland; Executive Vice President, Nokia, Finland; Mohammed Al Barwani, Chairman, MB Holding, Oman; Naif Al.
Al-Mutawa, Chief Executive Officer,Teshkeel Media Group (THE 99), Kuwait, Bertrand Collomb, Honorary Chairman, Lafarge, France; Mohamed Elmandjra, Chief Executive Officer, Meditel, Morocco; Benita Ferrero- Waldner, Former European Commissioner; Member of the Board, Gamesa, Spain; Neemat Frem, Chairman, Indevco, Lebanon; Rajive Kaul, Chairman, Nicco Group; Past President,AIMA, India; Hee-Beom Lee, Chairman, STX Energy, Korea; Tidu Maini, Executive Chairman, Qatar Science & Technology Park, Qatar; Munir Majid, Chairman, Malaysia Airlines, Malaysia; Saeb Nahas, Chairman, Nahas Enterprises Group, Syria.
The opening plenary panel focused on identifying the key factors that will shape the region’s economies over the next 6 to 12 months.The forward-looking approach used for this plenary tried to provide participants with new perspectives and genuine take-home value. Panelists examined what happened to the Dubai economy during the last months and pondered on the implications for the whole region.
Dubai, struggling under $80 billion in debt, asked in November 2009 to delay interest payments for some of its flagship companies, sending markets tumbling around the world. Esko Aho, Former Prime Minister of Finland; Executive Vice President, Nokia, Finland noted that global investors increasingly feel that the Dubai crisis is ending.‘We see signs of confidence,’ he added.‘Dubai is back.’
On the current weakness of the Euro, Neemat Frem, Chairman, Indevco, Lebanon, admitted that ‘the region’s exports in short term to the European Union could face some problems due to the ongoing crisis facing some Southern European Countries.’ Ian Hudson, President, DuPont Europe,Middle East & Africa agreed.This is ‘a time of distinct economic uncertainty,’ he observed.
‘But our economies will overcome temporary difficulties and finally tide over the global crisis,’ argued Rajive Kaul, Chairman, Nicco Group, India. Although the Arab world’s economies are currently rather dynamic and offer substantive business opportunities, there is no doubt that improvements to national competitiveness and closer integration with the global economy are necessary if this growth momentum is to be sustained,’ stressed Adel Danish, Chairman and CEO, Xceed, Egypt.A major theme discussed at the meeting was the significance of technology to improve productivity and boost Arab economy’s knowledge base.‘Technology will help businesses emerge stronger from the economic crisis. Companies that invest in IT and integrate technology into its strategies will also boost their potential for sustainable growth,’ Tahir Akhtar, Managing Partner, IXL Centre Dubai, UAE, observed.
‘There is lot of reason for optimism in terms of technologydriven growth,’ added Mikael Hagström, President EMEA & Asia Pacific, SAS, USA. Parag Amin, President, Radiqal, USA pointed out that ‘we have to leverage major shifts in the global economy to enhance sustainable growth through innovation in technology.And we need to do the necessary to ensure that technology related investments increase corporate performance.’
Ziad T. Monla, Chairman, Lunasat, Lebanon, concluded that economic growth in the future will be primarily achieved through the advancement of technology – with the Arab world becoming an important hub for innovations in technology.
Reflecting on this comment, Erik Essiger, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Emirates Capital, UAE, reasoned how the region’s economic model shall look like in the future.
‘The country’s unique development model – relying on world-class infrastructure and services related to oil and gas – has brought a quarter century of record growth. Should this model be complemented by a manufacturing-driven element?’ Harjeev Kandhari, Executive Director, Al Dobowi Group, UAE, added ‘that the challenge is to look for a new economic model, one that looks to the grassroots and seeks to promote growth from the bottom up. Despite the oil boom, a quarter of the region’s population still lives below the poverty line as defined by the United Nations.’
Mohammed Al Barwani, Chairman, MB Holding, Oman, said that the Arab world has the opportunity to become a strong player in energy intensive and capital intensive industries.
‘It is a pity that we are producing crude and exporting to the world instead of converting crude oil within the Arab world into value-added products,’ he said and added that the low inter-trade in the Arab world posed a disadvantage for growth of manufacturing sector.
Mohammad Rashid Ashraf, Chairman, ETC Group, UAE, said that the creation of an Industrial Fund for the Arab world would help entrepreneurs meet their financing needs and added that it was important to keep the Arab world a cost-effective destination for industries.
‘Entrepreneurship is key,’ stated Phidias Pilides, Chairman, Cyprus Investment Promotion Agency, Cyprus.‘Diversification of Arab economies and improving business competitiveness are a direct function of sprawling entrepreneurship.’ Some Arab countries are improving their competitiveness by investing into manufacturing capabilities. Speaking on this topic,
Saudi Arabia has not ever imposed any antidumping tariff on any product coming to Saudi even as several of its industries are facing difficulties while trying to export to foreign countries.We want to work by WTO standards and have complied with it while many foreign countries where we export to are not keen on implementing them.’ He added that ’there would be around 20 million unemployed citizens in the Arab world by 2025 and the region needs to transform itself to an advanced knowledge deploying industrial society to face the challenge.
Yasser Hatami, Managing Director, GulfTalent, UAE, examined how the Arab world can move up the industrial value chain while employing millions of new entrants into the workforce. Abdulla Al Zamil, President, Zamil Industrial, Saudi Arabia, presented high-end manufacturing as source of economic growth in the Gulf.
‘Most gulf countries have a world-class infrastructure,’ said Abdullah M. Al Fehaid, Chief Executive Officer,Manafea Holding, Saudi Arabia.‘Companies find that access to such quality of infrastructure can influence them to choose to relocate to the Gulf.’