The UAE’s economy, fuelled by surging oil prices, has seen unprecedented growth in recent years. Although RAK does not have abundant energy resources, it does produce about 500 barrels per day of condensate. While there are undeveloped tracts of land that have shown traces of oil and gas, the emirate has had to look beyond its borders to fulfil its demand for gas.
As the emirate will never be a major oil producer, RAK has instead had to concentrate on developing its industrial sector. It opened the UAE’s first cement company in the early 1970s and is now the UAE’s largest producer of cement. In the 1980s, the emirate formed RAK Ceramics, which has become the world’s largest ceramics producer, and Julphar, the Gulf region’s first pharmaceuticals company.
Also the first medical supplies company in the Gulf, Julphar has developed into a global brand and now sells its products, which meet the rigorous US Food and Drug Administration and European Commission guidelines, to almost 50 countries.
More traditional industries, such as fishing and agriculture, continue to play an important role in RAK’s economy. In 1955, the first agricultural research centre in the UAE was established there, and since then, innovative methods of arid zone cultivation have made the emirate one of the leading agricultural producers in the UAE.
There have also been recent efforts to diversify the emirate’s economy. Since Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi became crown prince in 2003, the emirate has embarked on an aggressive development programme, with a particular focus on tourism and real estate. Capitalising on its virgin coastline and mountains, RAK has launched several mixed-use projects that will feature five-star hotels, residential units and resorts. Some of the more ambitious plans include a mountain resort with an artificial ski slope and a spaceport to host the Middle East’s first suborbital flights.
To bring in the people, the emirate will launch the UAE’s fourth national carrier, RAK Airways, in 2007. Thus far, $230m has been raised, in addition to the $410m in authorised capital, which includes a five-year expansion plan for the emirate’s RAK International Airport.