RAK moves education zone plans to head of the class
Ras Al Khaimah’s government is progressing plans to develop a new education free zone to attract more universities and schools to the emirate.
The zone is in the early design stages, which could take up to 18 months to complete, said Ramy Jallad, the chief executive of RAK FTZ and RAKIA.
He was speaking on the sidelines of the Ras Al Khaimah Finance Investment Forum held from 13 to 14 December 2016.
Discussions are already happening with institutions that can offer undergraduate, masters, PhD and executive learning programmes.
"We’re taking it gradually," he said. "In the past year, we’ve been talking to four major educational institutions in terms of high schools. We’ve been talking to three major universities. But these are all in the making."
Mr Jallad said that the authorities in the emirate were willing to incentivise higher education providers to set up there, but that it expected benefits to be funnelled back to potential students in the area by way of reduced tuition fees.
"When it comes to education, even in that sector our value proposition still holds," he said.
"So our mandate is that when we attract schools or universities to Ras Al Khaimah, the same quality of higher education institutions that are available in other parts of the world, or in neighbouring emirates, they come here and they’re able to provide a more cost-effective tuition fee to the population, because we are offering them incentives to allow them to keep their operating costs much lower than anywhere else."
Plans for a USD 1 billion (AED 3.67 billion) education free zone in Ras Al Khaimah were first announced in November 2008 but the project was never developed.
Mr Jallad said that there were also opportunities for investors in school projects to get involved in the development of its free zones, where it is looking for partners to build schools, hospitals, malls and accommodation for both blue- and white-collar workers.
"We’re opening up our master planning where these private investors can come into our zones and we work with them," said Mr Jallad.
"It can become a win-win where we’re all developing and creating that environment for SMEs or industry to thrive. Otherwise, if that load were to be put on the government’s head, it would take longer and it would be a real burden on our finances."
Abdulrahman Al Shayeb, the general director of RAK’s Department of Economic Development, said that he was chairing an executive committee aimed at improving the operating environment in the emirate for SMEs. He said that 21 recommendations for cutting red tape as well as reducing fees were likely to be announced by the end of the month.
Changes likely to be made include the reduction in the number of government departments investors have to deal with to gain licences. About AED 2.5 million is also being invested in a system that will allow for many functions, such as licence applications, to be completed online.
"We have to think that business people don’t waste their time going from one department to another. We want them to take the time to build their business."