GOLF SUPPLEMENT - INTERVIEWWhat is at stake - ten billion euros

Adina Ardeleanu (Translated by Cosmin Ghidoveanu)
Ziarul BURSA #English Section #Supliment Golf / 8 martie 2011

What is at stake - ten billion euros

How would you characterize Romania"s cooperation with the countries in the Gulf area, and what is your outlook on the future of this cooperation?

The outstanding financial potential of the six Arab countries in the gulf has also manifested itself in the relationship with our country. In what the commercial relationships with the Arab countries is concerned, the Gulf states are in the top. The United Arab Emirates are now at the top of the chart, with 340 million dollars in commercial exchanges in 2010. Saudi Arabia, Oman, Kuwait, Qatar complete the picture.

The relationships are not only reliant on commercial exchanges. Thousands of Romanians found good jobs in the countries in the Gulf. It feels rather usual to meet a large number of Romanians in Kuwait or in Dubai. Romanians gained a reputation in Kuwait by putting out the fires of the oil drills after the first war in the Gulf. In the Emirates, particularly in Dubai and Sharjah, Romanians gained a reputation in the construction sector. The surprise comes when you meet them by the thousands of in Oman, where there are over 1300, in Qatar, where there are about the same, even more of them in Bahrain. Saudi Arabia has also become a major attraction. We have specialists in the oil sector, in the petrochemical industry, in IT and in the entire Arabian Peninsula.

This sizeable community, which was well received and is appreciated in the Gulf, has opened the way to a positive outlook on the future. This also includes several other factors that we will discuss for the duration of this interview, since I hope you have lots of question to ask me...

How would Romania benefit from the strengthening of its relationships with the countries of the Gulf area?

With the risk of repeating myself, I have to emphasize the financial strength of the six member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council. No one expects money to start flowing towards Romania as soon as Arab businessmen from the Gulf come to Bucharest to an economic forum. This depends on Romanian businessmen, on the representatives of the unions and of professional associations, on bankers and specialists in various sectors which will participate in the forum of March 8th - March 10th, and on their ability to present their offers. Romania has a huge potential. Together with the representatives of the Ministry of the Economy, Trade and Business Environment and with those of the company Forum Invest, with whom we elaborately prepared all the works of the forum, we had more than pleasant surprises. The offers were very good in the case of all the panels of the forum, established with our partners in the General Secretariat of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). This way, we have the opportunity to answer to the collaboration proposals made by the Arab business environment in the Gulf: Arab investments in Romania; joint investments in Romania, in the Gulf and in other countries; partnerships in Romania, in the Gulf and in third party countries; attracting the experience and the Romanian expertise and joint expertise in areas of interest in the Gulf and to work together in areas where the Gulf countries have invested and are investing massively, such as South-Eastern Asia or Africa.

Gulf countries have expressed their intentions to identify in Romania feasible investment projects, worth at least 20 million dollars each, in various economic sectors. Will Romania offer facilities to these investors? Are there any concrete measures to attract investors from the Gulf area?

During several trips to the Gulf area, I talked to several officials of the private and state business sectors, who expressed interest in the Romanian market. It"s true that there was this idea of entering partnerships or investing, provided serious projects existed. Let"s not forget that the countries in the Gulf Cooperation Council are courted by every powerful country in the world. Under these circumstances, their decision to travel to Bucharest to participate in an economic forum in which Romania is the main figure proves they have a lot of interest in our country. Which is not surprising. And I say this with pride and joy. It"s not a surprise, because the projects from all the areas which will be debated at the Forum, collected at Forum Invest to be put in order and then posted on the website of the forum as well as published in the special bulletins of the manifestation currently amount to a total of approximately 10 billion Euros. Several Romanian businessmen, who own major companies, as well as very powerful state owned companies have not yet made up their mind on their participation in the Forum and have not sent in projects. Their presence would raise the mentioned figure to an attractive level for any investor or financial backer. This way, we draw the conclusion that the Romanian market does not lack projects, and a financial involvement of the countries in the Gulf, would be beneficial to both parties, and it could open up the way for Romania"s mega projects, and for partnerships worth several billions of Euros. It is very important to get that point across. Romania isn"t looking for handouts, Romania can provide multiple opportunities in multiple areas. An honest and dignified partnership proposal can lay the groundwork for a long term beneficial cooperation: in Romania, in Europe, in the Gulf, on the markets of Asia and Africa. This is not an exalted message, it is a realistic one. And it is based on information and analyses made during a whole year. A concentration of forces, the creation of holdings, of solid corporations, could put us on very strong positions in any types of negotiations with the countries in the Gulf. In fact this is exactly what the business sectors of those countries want. A strong partner in negotiations can become a strong business partner. It is just one of the measures by which we can attract major investors.

What makes Romania more attractive for investors of the Gulf area, compared to other European countries?

There has been a lot of talk about Romania"s geo-strategic positioning. It"s been talked about so much that some analysts have agreed not to resort to this argument anymore. And, yet this is a fact. The Black Sea, the Danube, the positioning in the center of Europe, the proximity to huge markets such as Russia, Ukraine, the Caspian states, areas which are well known by the Romanian businesspeople due the shared recent history, are important. The ability of manufacturing in Romania for countries of the European Union is another advantage which can not be neglected. So is the ability of the Romanian agriculture to feed over 80 million people if it achieved rational exploitation and the necessary investments were made. And, please excuse my lack of modesty, but it needs to be said that Romanians are warm, hospitable, inventive and with a sense of humor. It is a country where every foreigner quickly feels at home. This is all coming from foreigners that dealt or are dealing with Romania and Romanians directly. As for ourselves, we are little bit harder on ourselves. Which sometimes is good. But not always!

How are the tensions in the Middle East and Africa affecting the relations with the countries in the Gulf area? Do you think this could potentially jeopardize the announced investments?

It"s only natural that under the current circumstances turning inward becomes a priority. But at the same time, one needs to think of tomorrow. I for one think that, in our case, Bucharest is seen by the countries in the Gulf as a very serious candidate to becoming their main pillar in Central and South Eastern Europe. If this thing comes true, we should take things as they come, to accept the reality of the moment. Fewer investments in a difficult period do not equal less interest. The fact that important officials from countries in the Gulf are coming to Bucharest accompanied by a large number of businesspeople is a guarantee that tomorrow the path for partnerships, extended cooperation and investments will open. However, a very serious and laborious process of pursuing the implementation of the things that have been discussed is required. Hence, the decision of the organizers of the Bucharest Forum, both from Romania and from the Gulf, to review the steps taken over the next ten months after the end of the forum, as part of a "Follow-up Forum" in the Gulf, to be hosted in a city which will be chosen by the Gulf Cooperation Council.

Which companies from the Gulf may invest in Romania?

I"d rather not give names. We contacted major companies in various areas of operation. With the help of our embassies in four countries of the Gulf area, and with the help of four of the embassies of those countries in Bucharest, we have presented Romania"s investment climate, what Romania has to offer, the benefits of collaboration with Romania. Between March 8th and March 10th, we will have an important test. I hope that the business sector, both private and state owned, will be up to the challenge.

Afacerile în discuţie - zece miliarde de euro

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