Money & Me: Abu Dhabi doctor shuns temptation of luxury

Anselma Ferrao, an obstetrician and gynaecologist, is the medical director of Brightport Royal Women’s Hospital in Abu Dhabi. From India, Dr Ferrao is married to a neonatologist at Corniche Hospital Abu Dhabi and the couple have a grown-up son.

How did your upbringing shape your attitude towards money?

I come from a rather well-to-do family and never had any financial difficulties in childhood. My father paid for my education. Choosing to become a doctor was a career decision, rather than a decision about money. I wanted to work in a hospital – I like medicine, I like working with patients. I never thought about finances, and didn’t think about starting my own business or my own hospital chain.

How much did you get paid for your first job?

It was my internship in Kasturba Medical College in Manipal, India. You don’t get paid much, it was around 600 rupees per month – you’re supposed to learn. It’s a stipend. I was living at home with my parents, so this was extra pocket money to me because I didn’t have to pay for housing or clothes or food. So I was comfortable.

Are you a spender or saver?

I save about 80 to 90 per cent of my money, but that’s because I don’t pay for my household expenses. I get my housing and expenses through my husband. I spend whatever I need to, but don’t go after luxury goods or aim to have a luxury car. I want a comfortable life, but I wouldn’t take a loan to buy things that are not necessary. Whenever I go on holiday, however, I do spend.

Have you ever had a month where you feared you could not pay the bills?

No. I got married as a student; my father and my in-law’s family were both, not extremely rich, but reasonably well to-do. I never had financial problems, there was always someone there to support me.

Where do you save your money?

My husband and I have a financial consultant, and he advises us on how to save. We meet him once a month to discuss which stock market is doing well as we invest in stocks and bonds.

Do you prefer paying by credit card or in cash?

By credit card, because it saves the trouble of carrying money around, but I always pay 100 per cent of my outstanding balance each month. I don’t owe any money to the bank, don’t have any debts and have given standing instructions to the bank to clear my balance every month.

What has been your best investment?

A property we bought in Bangalore. We bought land, with the aim of building a house on it. Then the developer decided to build a series of apartment blocks on top of it instead, which was very good, because we earned money from four houses built on it instead of just one. We got lucky – not every developer decides to increase the size of their project like that.

What do you most regret spending money on?

Kitchen gadgets – you buy them and then they don’t work as they should and they end up in the cupboard. Sometimes we buy clothes that look good in the shop – but then we never get around to wear them. But those are things that happen to everybody. I have no major regrets. Some amount of money is meant to be wasted on small things.

Do you have a plan for the future?

We have made financial investments to give us, once we retire, enough to maintain the same standard of living as we have now. We have also taken out insurance plans. As long as you are working, you have health insurance from your employer. But as you get older, that’s when you get sick – you start to get chronic and critical illnesses. That is a good investment – to have a good health insurance plan. I also plan to travel more.

If you won Dh1 million, what would you do with it?

I’d go on more holidays, but I wouldn’t give up my job. However, I don’t think I’d win Dh1 million. I’m not a lucky person. I once bought a ticket in the Dubai Duty Free because somebody encouraged me to buy one. I didn’t win.

business@thenational.ae

Follow The National’s Business section on Twitter

Brexit: D-Day looms for Britain

A vote by Britain to leave the EU on June 23, the IMF predicts, will lead to a recession in the United Kingdom.

Christine Lagarde, the fund’s chief, said recently that the possible economic outcomes for the UK of a vote to leave, or Brexit, range from “pretty bad to very, very bad”.

But what about the impact on the Middle East? The UAE is the UK’s fourth-largest export destination, with UAE residents buying £1.6 billion (Dh8.63bn) in British goods in the year to April 2016, according to data from the UK’s Revenue and Customs, the British tax authority. Saudi Arabia follows close behind, as the sixth-largest export destination for British goods outside the EU. Collectively, these countries account for 9 per cent of British exports.

Still, Jason Tuvey, an emerging markets economist at Capital Economist, thinks a Brexit would have little effect on trade ties between the UK and the Arabian Gulf. “Trade ties aren’t exactly huge, and goods mainly go one way – from the UK to the GCC.” What might happen is that investment from UAE sovereign wealth funds and private investors dries up, he says. “But that depends on how much of that investment is dependent on the EU.”

For Gulf investors and sovereign wealth funds, that means investment in London property in particular. UAE buyers accounted for about 20 per cent of UK buy-to-let property sales in 2015, according to the estate brokerage Chestertons.

For foreign investors, especially those exposed to real estate, the value of the pound is important.

With the currency sliding this year, some are “thinking that [London] is starting to look relatively cheap compared to a year ago”, says Faisal Durrani, the head of research at the estate agents Cluttons.

A Brexit vote could also produce sudden changes in exchange rates, which would appeal to property investors thinking about currencies, he believes. “In the event of Brexit, there are forecasts for the pound between no change, to 30 per cent fall in the 24 hours after the vote. There will be a lot of opportunistic investors seeing London look exceptionally cheap compared to the past few years.”

For cash-rich sovereign wealth funds, this might be a good time to increase positions in the UK, Mr Tuvey reckons. “If the pound falls, some Gulf states might see the opportunity to buy up cheap assets.”

Anthony Harris, who was the UK’s ambassador to the UAE between 1998 and 2003, is currently trying to sell his house in London. But the EU referendum has made that more difficult.

“When I do sell it I’m going to get stuffed,” he says. “I’m not expecting sympathy for this – but it is a fact of life. We wait to see what effect the referendum will have on house prices, but I’m pretty pessimistic. The London market has gone completely flat. There are no transactions and foreigners have stopped buying.”

Foreign buyers believe “that sterling [will be] worth at least 10 per cent less” if Britain votes to leave, Mr Harris says – which is why they are holding off.

Leaving the EU will change how Middle East investors see the UK, he adds. “When I was young, every Arab who did well in business bought a flat on the Edgware Road, but it’s more complicated now. A vote to Leave wouldn’t dramatically affect that, but it would contribute to this overall impression that Britain is less interested in the rest of the world and is somehow a shrinking force in international affairs.”

It is a question of Britain’s global influence, not a matter of direct economic impact, Mr Harris says. “I don’t see the Leave vote having a major practical effect – British ministers will say that the UK is not reneging on its international obligations. The main impact is to accelerate the risk that Britain is seen as a declining power and to diminish our influence here and everywhere else.”

David Burns, a British businessman in Dubai who favours leaving the EU, believes that the Middle East may benefit as UK companies used to trading with the EU look further afield. There might be “a big push for UK investment to move into the UAE”, he says. “Those trading companies that are currently trading with Europe, will they move to the UAE? That could be an advantage for British business here.”

The nature of the European organisation has changed since its inception, and the EU has outgrown its initial purpose, Mr Burns believes.

“I won’t personally be affected by Brexit, but I’m old enough to remember the original treaties, and I remember the arguments against joining. You had six founding nations who, at the time of the founding of the EU, had the same standard of living, spoke the same languages, had a common history, experienced the same weather. But now we have 28 countries, they don’t all have the same moral compass and they don’t have the same ethical principles as the founding six.”

Mr Burns says he thinks that much of the criticism of the Brexit case is overblown. “In my own industry, accountancy, 19 out of top 20 audit firms have their headquarters in London. We are the world’s shopkeepers and accountants,” he says, citing also the use of UK law in the Dubai International Financial Center.

“Leaving the EU isn’t going to make people say we’re not going to use UK common law. The role of the UK on the greater world stage is not going to be diminished by an iota.”

Most of the economic argument has focused on the Single Market, the EU institution that is an attempt to economically integrate the countries of Europe into a single economic area. More thorough than a customs union or trade agreement, the Single Market sees European countries agree on regulations collectively in order to reduce “behind-the-borders” restrictions on trade between EU countries.

Economists’ estimates of the harm that Brexit will cause the EU are based on a shift from this trading relationship to one in which the UK’s regulations differ from those of the EU and therefore that it must renegotiate a trade deal – one with less far-reaching regulatory harmonisation than that required in the Single Market.

The Leave campaign wants to “Take Back Control” – and that means setting regulations at home, even if they clash with European regulations that ought to make everyone – including Britain – better off. It is also why there has been a strong consensus among economists that the economic impact of leaving the EU will be negative. Easier trade between EU members makes them better off, economists reckon – and imposing new barriers to economic activity between these states will not make any of them better off.

Calling the vote, even with just 24 hours to go, is practically impossible. The YouGov pollster Peter Kellner expects a late swing towards the status quo, as occurred in the 2014 referendum on Scottish Independence.

But “anybody who says they know for sure how Britain will vote … is a fool or a liar and possibly both,” he says.

business@thenational.ae

Follow The National’s Business section on Twitter

Abu Dhabi registers falling inflation rate

The rate of inflation in Abu Dhabi last month edged down to 2.4 per cent year-on-year, despite continued increases in housing costs, according to the Statistics Centre Abu Dhabi.

That is a decrease of 0.4 percentage points compared with the March inflation rate of 2.8 per cent. Inflation stood at 3.4 per cent in February, Scad data show.

Lower fuel costs drove the fall in prices last month. Transport costs were down by 2.3 per cent last month against the previous month, following a fall in fuel prices. Transport costs have fallen for the past three consecutive months.

The government changed how it calculates petrol prices last August, which reduced its spending on energy subsidies.

Despite cuts to the government subsidies, the fall of oil prices to 12-year lows at the beginning of the year has led prices at the pump to fall.

Housing, water, electricity and gas prices rose by 7.5 per cent year-on-year last month, the grouping registering the biggest increase in costs.

Housing accounts for 31 per cent of Scad’s inflation basket. That is down slightly compared with the 8.2 per cent annualised increase in housing costs in February.

Costs at restaurants and ­hotels increased at a rate of 5 per cent in the year to last month, a decrease of 0.4 percentage points against February’s figure.

The rate of inflation fell considerably in January after the effect of cuts to subsidies on electricity and water was no longer shown in the index. Prices for expats consuming utilities increased on January 1 last year.

abouyamourn@thenational.ae

Follow The National’s Business section on Twitter

Central banks need to have a stronger role in setting regulations for the region’s Islamic banks, and must press ahead with introducing new liquidity management tools, the head of the Arab Monetary Fund said on Sunday.

“There is a need for more efforts to strengthen the supervisory and regulatory capacity of central banks,” said Abdulrahman Al Hamidy, the director general of AMF, in Dubai on Sunday. That includes new tools to help banks “hedge various risks”, he added.

Regulators need to introduce new liquidity management tools, and to work towards “the strengthening of governance and the development of human and technical capacity” in the industry, Mr Al Hamidy said.

The lack of tools for Islamic banks to manage their short-term financial obligations “still represents one of the most important challenges” for the sector, and one which places “a burden on policymakers and Islamic banks”.

Sharia law imposes restrictions on the kinds of products that Islamic banks can use for their day-to-day financing operations.

The region’s central banks have moved to offer Islamic banks new, Sharia-compliant liquidity facilities in a bid to help shore up their short-term financial positions.

The UAE Central Bank introduced a Sharia-compliant short-term lending facility in March last year. It allows banks to sell and repurchase Sharia-compliant securities overnight at profit.

Islamic finance is now systemically important in most Gulf countries, with Islamic financial assets accounting for more than 15 per cent of total assets in the UAE, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

abouyamourn@thenational.ae

Follow The National’s Business section on Twitter

The IMF has given Saudi Arabia’s reforms its seal of approval – while admitting that it doesn’t quite know exactly what they are.

Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s objectives are “bold and far-reaching”. But we must await the “supporting policies [that will] set out how these goals will be achieved”, the IMF says.

Mohammed Alyahya, a consultant and researcher at a Saudi think tank, writing in the Financial Times, argues that nit-picking through the specifics misses the point. “Visions are, by their very nature, idealistic and ambitious”, he writes, while what is “more important even than the detail of this vis­ion is the team behind it”, a rare illustration of meritocracy in the gerontocratic state.

No one quite knows what the political reception to these reforms will be, both within the Saudi royal family, and in the Saudi public at large.

So it’s plausible to see Prince Mohammed’s debut TV interview as a stake in the ground, a declaration of the direction of travel, an attempt to secure popular support for changes that are likely to make at least some Saudis worse off.

There’s also good reason to think that Saudi Arabia is in a better short-term situation, but a worse long-term situation, than the sudden crash in oil prices might suggest.

At one point, advisers to Prince Mohammed were worried that the kingdom would run out of funds within two years. An IMF forecast garnered headlines giving the Saudis a little longer – five years.

But this was always misleading. The kingdom had virtually no debt, and slight changes to the rate of asset depletion would have had a major impact on the length of time it took to run down Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth. The kingdom does not have to take urgent action to avoid bankruptcy – it simply has to change its fiscal course.

The real challenge is long-term. McKinsey warns, however plausibly, of a demographic time bomb – that 6 million Saudi jobs will need to be created by 2030. By some measures, the kingdom’s dependence on oil has remained virtually unchanged over 40 years. A recent IMF paper shows how far the Gulf and the kingdom lag in terms of domestic higher education, business environment and exports in secondary or tertiary industries.

Vision 2030 is not urgent because low oil prices have eroded Saudi finances. It’s urgent because the economy hasn’t diversified. If the grand plan is filled out with specifics, then that is, as the IMF said yesterday, welcome.

abouyamourn@thenational.ae

Saudi wins approval from IMF on transformation plan

The IMF yesterday signalled its approval of Saudi Arabia’s Vis­ion 2030 plan, while it re­minded the country to press ahead with public spending cuts and budget procedure reforms in a bid to close its widening spending deficit.

Concluding its annual monitoring visit to the country, Tim Callen, the IMF’s mission chief to the kingdom, called the economic reform plan “an appropriately bold and far-reaching transformation of the Saudi Arabian economy”.

Outlined by deputy crown prince Mohammed bin Salman in a TV interview last month, the plan calls for the development of a domestic defence industry, the sale of a stake in national oil giant Saudi Aramco, and the introduction of new taxes. Prince Mohammed said that the country aims to end dependence on oil revenues by 2020. Further details of the plan are expected to be announced over the coming months.

Currently, the Saudi Arabian government earns about 77 per cent of its revenues from oil, according to IMF data. Prince Mohammed suggested that transferring ownership of Saudi Aramco to the Public Investment Fund, a Saudi sovereign wealth fund, would technically make investment returns the source of state income. Both institutions should “enhance their transparency” and become integrated into regular budget procedures, the IMF recommended.

The IMF called on the kingdom to continue with public spending cuts, following an austerity budget announced in December that aims to trim spending by 13 per cent, or 130 billion Saudi riyals (Dh127.3bn), over the course of 2016. The country is set to run a deficit of 14 per cent this year, down from its 15 per cent deficit last year, assuming it sticks to this plan. In previous years, the kingdom has overshot spending targets after ministries exceeded their budget allocations.

The Saudi government promised to introduce new mechanisms to prevent this happening, including clawing back cash unspent on individual projects, and the launch of a “macro-fiscal unit”, a monitoring body in the Saudi ministry of finance. The IMF repeated its call for stricter budget monitoring in its statement, saying: “Further reforms to the fiscal framework that sets the an­nual budget in a medium-term framework and clearly establishes fiscal policy goals would support fiscal adjustment.

There are no signs of a slowdown in credit growth in the kingdom, despite falling government deposits in the mostly state-run banking sector, and a backdrop of rising interest rates, the IMF said. “The banking sector is strong and well-posi­tioned to weather a slowing in the pace of growth,” Mr Callen said.

The IMF repeated its call for Saudi Arabia to introduce a slate of privatisations in a bid to encourage more private investment into the country. A McKin­sey report published last year argued that the kingdom would need to attract US$4 trillion in new investment from both public and private sources to help it create 6 million new jobs by 2030.

Oil prices have staged a modest rally over the past few days, approaching $50 per barrel for the first time since last November. Moody’s recently downgraded the Saudi Arabia’s credit rating on the assumption that oil prices would average $33 per barrel this year. ​

abouyamourn@thenational.ae

Follow The National’s Business section on Twitter

Abu Dhabi to ease budget spending cuts, says ratings agency Moody's

Abu Dhabi will slow the pace of spending cuts in its 2016 budget, ratings agency Moody’s expects.

“We expect Abu Dhabi government’s fiscal consolidation effort to slow because of the need to balance the two objectives of supporting growth and curbing the budget deficit,” said Math­ias Angonin, a Dubai-based sovereign analyst at Moody’s. “We [expect] that in 2016 there will be a lower decrease in spending than the 20 per cent achieved in 2015.”

The emirate cut public spending by about 20 per cent in 2015 after the hit to oil prices led Abu Dhabi to run a fiscal deficit of 13.2 per cent of GDP that year, according to estimates from Fitch. Moody’s expects that the deficit will narrow to 9 per cent of GDP this year.

Ministry of Finance figures show that the UAE Government, nationally and at the emirate level, cut public spending by 27 per cent in the year up to September 2015, the most recent period for which data is avail­able. Abu Dhabi does not release details of its annual spending.

The government “cut back a bit on public investment in 2015, [but] we hope they won’t do that in the future,” Zeine Zeidane, IMF mission chief to the UAE, told The National last week, when he called on the UAE to “continue to rationalise [its] spending”.

The UAE continues to rely on oil for two-thirds of government revenues, according to IMF data. The collapse in oil prices that began in June 2015 has led the government to spend more than it earns from the sale of oil for the past two years. The IMF expects the UAE to continue to run budget deficits until at least 2020.

Fitch estimates that the Abu Dhabi government sold about $27 billion of sovereign wealth fund assets to help it finance its deficit in 2015. It can finance its deficit by drawing down on the assets of the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, the sovereign wealth fund that manages between $475bn and $773bn in assets, according to different estimates.

“Abu Dhabi is probably one of the best placed economies in the Gulf to cope with low oil prices,” said Jason Tuvey, an emerging markets economist at Capital Economics. “They’ve got enormous savings in their sovereign wealth funds and debt levels are low, so they can afford to prolong the adjustment for an extended period of time.” Abu Dhabi sovereign wealth funds hold assets under management equivalent to between three and four times the annual economic output of the emirate.

“They cut public spending by an awful lot last year – but, especially in the Gulf, there’s always low-hanging fruit to cut,” he said. “The economy is still very dependent on public spending, so it is in for a period of weaker growth over the coming years.”

The IMF expects the UAE will grow by 2.3 per cent this year, its slowest growth rate since 2011. Most of that growth will come from Dubai, where the economy is set to expand by 3.3 per cent this year.

Ali Majed Al Mansouri, chairman of the Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development, said that the emirate’s 2016 budget would be “stronger and greater” than its 2015 budget, Aletihad, The National’s Arabic-language sister news­paper, reported on Monday.

abouyamourn@thenational.ae

Follow The National’s Business section on Twitter

The developers of the Dh6.86 billion, 402-megawatt Dudgeon offshore wind plant in the UK, Masdar and two state-backed Norwegian energy companies, have secured financing for the project.

The project will be funded by £1.3bn in limited-recourse bonds, which were arranged by a consortium of banks including Credit Agricole, Société Générale and BNP Paribas.

Masdar owns a 35 per cent stake in the offshore wind plant. Statoil, a Norwegian government-backed oil and gas company, owns a 35 per cent stake in Dudgeon, while Statkraft, Norway’s state-owned electricity company, owns a 30 per cent stake.

The plant, expected to power about 400,000 homes, will start producing power in the second half of 2017. It will receive subsidies from the UK government as part of its “Contract for Difference” scheme, which aims to reduce the cost of investing in the UK clean energy sector for renewables developers.

Dudgeon comprises 67 wind turbines that are located 32 kilometres off the eastern coast of England.

Masdar also owns a stake in London Array, an offshore wind farm in the UK that, at 630MW, is the world’s largest by output. Masdar owns stakes in clean energy projects totalling 1.7 gigawatts of output.

“The completion of the Dudgeon wind farm will bring Masdar’s gross installed clean energy capacity in the UK to more than 1GW, further evidence of our growing international footprint and the strength of our commitment to the UK renewable energy industry,” said Mohamed Jameel Al Ramahi, Masdar’s chief executive.

Masdar completed a 30MW project in Egypt in April, and a 1MW project in the Solomon Islands this month.

abouyamourn@thenational.ae

Follow The National’s Business section on Twitter

Saudi Arabia, Oman and Bahrain credit ratings downgraded by Moody's

The ratings agency Moody’s has again downgraded the credit ratings of Saudi Arabia, Oman and Bahrain, as lower-than-expected oil prices in 2016 hit the fiscal positions of Gulf states. Abu Dhabi was placed on negative outlook, meaning that it its rating could be cut in future.

Saudi Arabia’s rating fell from Aa3 to A1, five notches above junk. Oman is now rated at Baa1, three notches above junk, with Bahrain two notches above junk and under review for further downgrades.

Moody’s is the latest of the three major ratings agencies to cut Gulf credit appraisals on the back of low oil prices. Standard & Poor’s cut Bahrain’s credit rating to junk earlier this year, and downgraded Saudi Arabia’s rating in October and February.

“A combination of lower growth, higher debt levels and smaller domestic and external buffer” would leave Saudi Arabia less well prepared to deal with future economic problems, Moody’s said, while the low oil price will continue to hurt the fiscal positions of Oman and Bahrain.

Abu Dhabi, Qatar and Kuwait were all put on negative ratings outlook, meaning that they are at risk of future cuts to their credit outlook. Moody’s placed Oman and Saudi Arabia on stable outlook, meaning that they do not anticipate further cuts to either country’s credit outlook.

Bahrain remains on negative outlook, because Moody’s “expects [its] debt burden and debt affordability to deteriorate significantly over the coming two to three years”. Bahrain cancelled a bond issue in December after its credit rating was cut to junk by S&P. It then reopened the bond sale days later.

Oman has considerably fewer sovereign wealth fund assets than its Gulf neighbours, which limits its ability to weather low oil prices. The sultanate depends on oil for 87 per cent of its government revenues, and ran a fiscal balance of 16.2 per cent last year.

Abu Dhabi has been placed on negative outlook because of a “lack of clarity” around government plans to trim the deficit and prevent the depletion of assets at its sovereign wealth funds. Its “very large” fiscal buffers will nevertheless “support economic and fiscal resilience during a period of low oil prices”, Moody’s said.

At about $40 per barrel, average oil prices are set to be lower this year than in 2015, when oil averaged around $50 per barrel, according to the IMF.

The ratings cuts are likely to raise the cost to Gulf states of issuing international debt. Oman, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia are all set to tap international bond markets over the next few years as they seek to finance their widening fiscal deficits.

The IMF expects that the Gulf nations will collectively run a budget deficit of 12.3 per cent this year and 10.8 per cent next year. Gulf states lost $390 billion in export earnings last year, and are set to lose a further $140bn this year.

The oil price has fallen from a high of $110 per barrel in June 2014 to $46.4 now. Brent crude hit 12-year lows in January amid record Opec production and failed discussion between major producers on output cuts.

abouyamourn@thenational.ae

Follow The National’s Business section on Twitter

The UAE should continue to contain the public sector wage bill amid an expanding budget deficit, according to a top IMF official.

“Spending on public sector wages is not increasing substantially, and there is no substantial increase in the size of the civil service,” said Zeine Zeidane, the IMF chief to the UAE. “The UAE government should continue to control the wage bill, and not increase it.”

The IMF expects the budget deficit to reach 7.2 per cent if GDP this year. It is widening as the oil price looks set to average around $40 per barrel this year. Although Brent has recovered from its 12-year low in January, the average oil price for 2016 is set to be below the US$50 average in 2015, the IMF says.

The deficit will increase “even though authorities made significant efforts at fiscal consolidation in 2015 and 2016,” Mr Zeidane said. “The UAE will be close to balancing the budget by 2020.”

That has led the UAE to adopt spending cuts, announce plans to introduce new debt, and bring in new taxes, including fees on expat rentals and hotel stays, as well as VAT by 2018.

Mr Zeidane said that the UAE’s move to issue international debt would help the country to fund its deficit without withdrawing liquidity from the domestic banking sector “We are fully supportive of new debt issuance, and would advise the authorities to be careful on domestic market to avoid crowding out of private sector, and encourage them to tap international markets rather than drawing down on assets.”

Abu Dhabi sold $5 billion in international sovereign bonds last month, in an issue that was 3.4 times oversubscribed. Mubadala is also selling $500 million in new bonds, in its first international issue for two years, according to Reuters.

Mr Zeidane said that the UAE should not cut public investment spending in 2016 but instead “continue to phase out subsidies”.

The UAE still has further to go to diversify its economy away from oil, the IMF says. “There is still a lot to do in terms of economic diversification. There needs to be structural reforms – to improve the business environment, be more open to FDI, to trade, to skills from abroad, and to strengthen competitiveness. The authorities need to create conditions for healthy competition,” Mr Zeidane said.

Investment in port infrastructure has helped to offset the impact of low oil prices on the UAE, Mr Zeidane said. Even though “global trade is slowing down very sharply, according to our data, Dubai and Jebel Ali and transport sectors are doing better than many places in the world”, he said. “Without the boost the UAE is getting from building a strong logistics and transportation sector, the country would have a much bigger slowdown.”

Describing the decline in Dubai property prices as “a correction”, Mr Zeidane said that the market was “holding up very well in many places, particularly in the end user market. It’s good for investors because yields are still very comfortable”.

The decline in prices “is not worrisome for the stability of the banking sector”, he said.

abouyamourn@thenational.ae

Follow The National’s Business section on Twitter