Dubai sets up financial panel

Dubai has set up a supreme financial committee to deal with its sovereign debt as well as challenges arising from the global financial crisis, a senior official said yesterday. Nasser Al Shaikh, Director-General of the Dubai Department of Finance, said the committee was established about eight weeks ago and would look at the various challenges posed by the crisis, including Dubai’s debt issues. At a bankers’ lunch organised by the UAE Bankers Forum he said Dubai still had a very strong credit position. « Many recent reports were confusing about the sovereign debt of Dubai, debt of government-owned companies, debt of government-controlled companies and the debt of private companies. They were calculating all these against Dubai’s GDP, » said Al Shaikh, adding: « Even if we accept this situation, they are also ignoring Dubai’s sovereign assets, which will be several times more than this total debt. » He said: « The committee is studying different categories of Dubai’s debt and will be dealing with sovereign debt, and the debt of government-owned and government-controlled companies. We will not be involved in the debt of private companies. » However, he said Dubai’s government would be ready to support any local company that may need help to refinance its debt. Al Shaikh said the committee would give its recommendations on ways to handle the financial crisis to His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. Mohamed Ali Alabbar, Chairman of the Committee and also Chairman of Emaar Properties, is expected to reveal details of the committee’s work next week. Other members of the committee include Mohammed Al Gergawi, Minister of State for Cabinet Affairs, Mohammed Al Shaibani, Chairman of Dubai Islamic Bank, and Essa Kazim, Chairman of Borse Dubai. Al Shaikh also refuted news that a global panel will advise Dubai regarding its debt. « There is only one committee – a local one. We are talking with bankers, credit rating agencies and the federal government, because there are some issues that Dubai cannot solve alone – such as in the banking and financial sector, which is supervised by the federal Central Bank. » Mohamad Al Kady