The Business Year

HE Mubarak Rashed Al Mansoori

UAE, ABU DHABI - Finance

Planning Ahead

Governor, Central Bank of the UAE


Mubarak Rashed Al Mansoori holds a bachelor’s degree in finance and an MBA degree and has served in his current position since 22 September 2014. He is CEO of Emirates Investment Authority since May 2008, and also serves as a board member of Etisalat, Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange (ADX), Mobily in KSA, and Abu Dhabi National Company for Building Materials (BILDCO). He started his career at ADIA in 1991 in the Equities Department, and moved on to become director general of Abu Dhabi Retirement Pensions & Benefits Fund since its establishment in 2000. He had also held directorship in a number of organizations including The Central Bank of United Arab Emirates, Securities & Commodities Authority of UAE (SCA), Etisalat Misr in Egypt, The Arab International Bank (AIB) in Egypt, Arab Banking Corporation (ABC) in Bahrain, Egypt and Jordan, Banco Atlántico in Spain, Tabreed, and Abu Dhabi Holding Company.

"Emiratization is an important strategic task embedded in the UAE Vision 2021."

During 2016, oil prices witnessed constant rebounds, adding to better growth rate expectations for the UAE. How have these factors impacted the Central Bank’s expansionary policies for 2017?

As oil prices nearly doubled from the low levels reached early this year, the concerns that oil prices could fall to low 20s turned out to be baseless, which was obviously good news for the UAE’s economic outlook. The Central Bank’s estimate is that non-oil activities will continue to grow by about 2.7—2.8% in 2016 and 2017, which is a respectable performance compared to global growth, notwithstanding the impact of the fall in oil receipts on our economy, which we are keen to contain going forward. The Central Bank remains determined to maintain its continued commitment to the fixed peg of the dirham’s exchange rate against the US dollar. However, we are keen to increase our capacity to manage liquidity to weather the impacts of external shocks, while adhering to the direction of US interest rate policy. Under these conditions, our focus is on the liquidity needs of banks with a forward-looking agenda. To that end, our research is currently focusing on the scope to activate the macro prudential instruments we have at our disposal and develop contingency plans to weather the adverse effects of global shocks on the domestic economy. This said, it could never be overstated that monetary instruments aim at managing liquidity to maintain resources for private sector activity. However, as experiences around the globe have demonstrated, available liquidity should be coordinated with fiscal and structural policies to boost investors’ confidence. The consortium of policies should be growth conducive to enhance our economic prospects to support the non-energy sector in the medium term.

How will the full economic diversification redesign fiscal and monetary policy when this target is met in 2021?

The UAE has been successful in diversifying its economy away from oil. Moreover, the strategies adopted by the UAE’s 2021 Vision, Abu Dhabi’s Economic Vision 2030, and Dubai’s Strategic Plan 2015 are all intended to attract foreign capital to promising activities, especially export-oriented sectors such as manufacturing, transport and logistics, tourism, telecommunications, renewable energies, and aviation. To support these activities, the government has played a leading role in infrastructure and regulatory developments that have boosted growth prospects in non-oil activities over time. To ensure sustainability in the wake of the recent decline of the oil price, the government has implemented necessary reforms to diversify fiscal revenues while reining in public expenditure in a gradual manner to increase fiscal sustainability. In parallel, policy coordination has necessitated diversifying sources of financing with the goal of reducing reliance on domestic liquidity and safeguarding credit growth in support of private sector activity.

You have been an advocate for the expansion of banking loans to SMEs and startups. What are the main incentives the Central Bank is currently offering to commercial banks to deepen credit to this segment of the economy?

Supporting SMEs is a strategic decision taken by the federal government, which has been a priority in the wake of the oil price decline. The first step in this direction was the issuance of the SME Law in 2014, which led to the creation of the SME Council. The Ministry of Economy is taking the lead in this regard and is fully cooperating with us to promote this vital sector. In the particular case of the Central Bank, we are committed to playing a fundamental role in the capitalization of SMEs and startups. We set up a team whose main task is to make proposals on ways and means the Central Bank could contribute to the implementation the SME Law, in coordination with the concerned stakeholders.

The IMF has been outspoken about the need to cut deficits in the GCC nations to maintain currency pegs. What action has the UAE taken to cut the deficit and how is the peg signaling a positive outlook on the Emirati economy to investors?

We agree with the IMF on the need for fiscal discipline in order to maintain fiscal sustainability and ensure the stability of the fixed peg regime. In the UAE, the government of Abu Dhabi took the lead by reviewing water and energy prices in 2014, which reduced the subsidy burden on the fiscal budget. In August 2015, the federal government pressed ahead with the reform of the energy subsidy system, with the aim to align local energy prices to international levels, and improve the overall fiscal outlook of the UAE. Reining in the budget deficit requires actions on both the revenue and the spending sides. Reforms have focused on diversifying non-energy revenues. On the spending side, fiscal consolidation aims to strike a balance between growth priorities and ensuring sustainability. In this regard, the UAE could afford to pace fiscal consolidation gradually in light of available sources of financing, including financial buffers accumulated by the sovereign wealth funds. The ample international reserves the Central Bank relies on, signify a solid background to out commitment to the stability of the exchange rate peg. Other GCC countries took similar actions albeit at varying degrees, therefore, we remain confident in our ability as GCC countries to keep the fixed peg regime.

You recently approved the five-year strategy for the Central Bank to match the financial targets stipulated in the UAE 2021 Plan. How will these objectives contribute to the further enhancement of regulations and to the Emiratization of the banking sector?

Emiratization is an important strategic task embedded in the UAE Vision 2021. It is high on our agenda. The banking sector is already employing 38,000 Emiratis as of the end of August 2016, which compares favorably with other private sector activities. Nevertheless, this is no reason for complacency. Banks continue to attract high caliber Emiratis for preferred career destinations. We are planning to introduce a new points system to incentivize the Emiratization plan in the banking system. The new system will focus on quantity and quality of UAE nationals as banks will achieve their target points through the hiring, developing, and training of UAE nationals. To that end, the system rewards the commitment of banks in hiring more nationals at different levels. As regards regulatory developments, ensuring a strong and well-regulated banking system in the UAE is important for enhancing the UAE’s reputation as a financial services center. The CBUAE’s 2017-2021 Strategy supports this objective. Therefore, in line with developments at the international level, we have an ambitious regulatory development program underway. We are in the process of migrating the banking sector towards Basel III standards for capital and liquidity. We are also upgrading regulatory requirements in relation to risk management at banks. In 2017, we will put forward a major piece of work in a new overarching Corporate Governance regulation for consultation with the banking sector. We will also continue to progress other regulations in the pipeline such as financial reporting, internal controls, compliance, and internal audit and outsourcing. The regulatory framework for non-bank financial institutions (NBFIs) is also currently under review, with a view to enhancing their organization, development, regulation, and supervisory oversight. Last but not least, we recognize that the development of FinTech will play an important role in shaping the future of the financial services industry in the UAE. In this regard, we are in the process of finalizing two new regulations in this area, namely, digital payments and crowdfunding.



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