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UAE, Finland share common denominators in human resource development

Ilkka-Pekka Simila, Finnish Ambassador to UAE, talked about relations between countries

Image Credit: Abdel-Krim Kallouche/Gulf News
Ilkka Pekka Simila
Gulf News

Finland is a good example of how investing in human resources and education can be productive to economic growth. With the UAE too working on enhancing its human resource pool in line with strategic plans, including 2020 and 2030 visions, there are new avenues of cooperation with Finland.

In an interview with Gulf News, Ilkka-Pekka Simila, Finnish Ambassador to the UAE, talked about relations between the two countries and how to develop avenues of investment and cooperation.

What is the trade and economic exchange level in 2012 and expectations for 2013?

There are more than 50 Finnish companies in the UAE. Our bilateral trade ties with the UAE are improving every year. Finnish exports to the UAE in 2012 were €250 million (Dh1.2 billion) and in 2013 it is expected to reach the same level as of 2012. In the early 2000s, Finnish exports passed €1 billion. This was due to Nokia phones export from Finland. Since then export has declined partly because Nokia phone production has been shifted to other countries. Nowadays exports are however picking up again and prospects in many fields seem very promising. The Major Finnish export products to the UAE are telecommunications and sound recording equipment, electric machinery, power generating machinery and equipment, paper/board, machinery for specialised industries and iron and steel. Export profile includes also new generation high tech and eco-friendly solutions and consultancy services.

In an interview with Gulf News, Ambassador Simila talked about relations between the two countries.

What are the industries that are most promising and profitable in Finland?

The competitiveness of the Finnish economy is constantly rated as one of the best in the world. In 2012, the World Economic Forum evaluated Finland as the third most competitive economy in the world. In particular, the strengths of the Finnish system are: education and health, well-functioning and highly transparent public institutions, among the best run and most ethical private institutions, highly flexible and adaptive workforce, high level of technical progress and innovation.

Our main exports are electro-technical goods, metal products, machinery, transport equipment, wood and paper products and chemicals. We are targeting clean technology and it is one of the priorities to our economic policies to sustain growth by creating 40,000 jobs within the cleantech sector by 2020 and to double the total turnover of cleantech businesses from approximately €20 million at present to €40 million by 2018.

What are the major facilities that the Finnish government extends to UAE businessmen who seek to invest, what are the areas of investment?

Finland is an advanced industrial economy with a thriving private sector and a business environment that is highly conducive to FDI. The government is business friendly and the country has a developed infrastructure, a skilled workforce and competitive operating costs. Red tape is minimal and Finland is one of the least corrupt countries in the world according to Transparency International. The Finnish economy is knowledge based and strong on innovations. It is among the top countries globally in terms of R&D spending per capita. Our companies and consumers are early adopters of emerging technologies, which make Finland an ideal test bed for new solutions and technologies. Foreign owned companies in Finland are eligible for a wide range of government and EU incentives on an equal footing with Finnish-owned companies. Foreign owned companies can benefit from government investment incentives and access to the research from the extensive cooperation between Finnish universities and the private sector. Incentives include business aid, loans, and guarantees by Finnerva, a state-owned financing company, EU-funded support, R&D and innovation incentives by Tekes (Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation), and capital investments from Finnish Industry Investment as well as R&D tax break for companies.

Sectors that offer reliable investment opportunities are mining, bio-energy, water technology, wood construction, and logistics (energy grids, data centres) and tourism. Foreign investment in Finland is welcomed as a boost to the dynamism of the economy. as one of the most competitive and open economies in the world. Finland has a great deal to offer foreign investors.

The political and cultural ties are of due concern to both leaderships, can you comment on that? What areas can the UAE businessmen invest in Finland?

We have excellent bilateral relations with the UAE at all levels. Though our countries are geographically far apart from each other, growing ties have brought us closer. Business and economic ties are an essential element in our bilateral relations. The UAE has been one of the main trading partners to Finland in the Middle East and the Gulf region. The number of Finnish companies operating in the UAE is growing and so is the number of Finns residing in the country. More and more Finnish tourists visit the UAE annually. The UAE’s huge potentials and the visit of the PM of Finland and minister of foreign affairs to the UAE are good sign for the strong ties. The prime minister was accompanied by a big delegation representing companies covering architecture, design, business services, construction and infrastructure, defense, education, energy, renewable energy and health care.

For us the UAE represents a stable and predictable business environment with long term potential and prospects. Growing business ties gives also an excellent opportunity for two small nations from different circumstances to share experiences and best practices and explore new avenues of cooperation. One of the key areas in our foreign policy strategy is to enhance economic relations between Finland and other countries. This includes both new market access for our companies and more FDI to Finland. Tourism could be one of the potential areas for cooperation between both countries. For tourists Finland is a destination worth exploring. Having four different seasons is the most obvious contrasts. It also offers a large range of leisure and holiday pursuits.

How about cultural ties?

Our cultural relations include small scale translation projects under the umbrella of the embassy of Finland in Abu Dhabi and in cooperation with Finnish Literature Society and Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage. Therefore, there are some main works that have been translated including books. Translation cooperation is being expanded to children’s books. The Finnish-Arabic Society celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2013.The Society was founded in 1963 being the first friendship society between Finland and Arab countries. The Society aims at serving as one of the cultural “bridges” between Finland and Arab world.