Mohammed al Shaibani is a man who deserves to be heard more often.
Yesterday, in an interview in the Financial Times, he gave the clearest indication yet of the strategy Dubai will employ to get through the long-term effects of the financial crisis, and raised the possibility of a privatisation programme of the emirate's most valuable assets.
As head of the Ruler's Court, he has direct access to the thinking of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.
As a member of the four-man Supreme Fiscal Committee (chaired by Sheikh Mohammed, and alongside Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, the head of the Emirates Group, and Ahmed Humaid al Tayer, the governor of the Dubai International Financial Centre) Mr al Shaibani has been at the centre of the financial restructuring of the emirate's biggest corporations, including Dubai World (job done) and Dubai Holding (work in progress).
The transcript of the interview deserves close attention. Nuggets of revelation about the emirate's long-term strategy fall out of virtually every paragraph, as well as hints about the tactical tools the Government will use to restore its finances.
We have already heard some of the basic messages in the year since the restructuring of Dubai World was announced, and Mr al Shaibani takes the opportunity to hammer home some of the new realities: he reinforces the commitment to transparency and good corporate governance, for example, and for good measure tells how it took six months for him to get to grips with the basic issues at Dubai World, such was the complexity and opaqueness of the set-up there.
And he restates what constitutes the core values of Dubai. During the crisis, he says, "we left something very valuable behind which is what Dubai is all about. It's all about logistics, re-export, retail business, tourism, services, that's what we're all about". It was the move by some Dubai companies into foreign investments that really affected the emirate, he says, because this was where the serious erosion of value took place, badly affecting Dubai World and Dubai Holding.
"A lot of our exposure was due to what had happened in the US. The economic crisis hit the US, we had quite a bit of exposure in the US and Europe that definitely impacted the performance of the companies here," he says.
That will be news to those analysts who have seen the collapse of the property market as the main reason for the problems at Dubai World and other Dubai Inc entities, but Mr al Shaibani also recognises the effects of the property downturn. "Yes, we are impacted in real estate, there was a lot of oversupply in the real estate sector," he admits, but he also sees the benefits of making the Dubai property market more competitive.
But it is when he talks about the future strategy, and specifically about Dubai's ability to repay its debts, that it is especially illuminating. The claim by the IMF that Dubai has total debts of US$110 billion (Dh403.98bn) is a misreading of the real situation, he implies, because that is "amalgamating" all kinds of liabilities - government debt (which he puts at $36bn-38bn), operational debt and infrastructure debt.
As regards repayment, "when you break it down to individual companies, it's doable", he insists. "These companies are more than capable of handling their debt situation."
Here, the interview moves to perhaps the most intriguing phase. "People see the potential, people are looking forward, one day, to the Government to unlock value. I own everything I mentioned today 100 per cent. I don't need to own 100 per cent of DEWA [Dubai Electricity and Water Authority]. I don't need to own 100 per cent of Emirates Airline or Dubal or the train or you name it."
That is the clearest indication that Dubai is considering a privatisation (Mr al Shaibani actually volunteers the word) programme of some of its most valuable assets in the medium term to help to repay its debts. The assets that might be included in this sell-off of state businesses includes some of the best-known in the emirate: elsewhere he draws attention to the value of the Jumeirah leisure group, as well as the Dubai Metro (paid for in "hard cash") and DP World.
In one particularly telling comment, he suggests that a sale of DP World could be used as a way of paying down the entire indebtedness of its parent company, the Government-owned Dubai World. If, in five years or so, DP World shares were to hit $1.50, he says, "there's a lot of potential, that's why we're not really worried". The shares are currently around 60 cents.
On one key issue Mr al Shaibani is adamant: Abu Dhabi, which assisted Dubai to the tune of $20bn, including $10bn for the Central Bank, at the height of the crisis, does not want to buy Dubai assets. "Completely ridiculous, it's really not true … It's one family … The relationship [between Abu Dhabi and Dubai] has always been healthy, it's always been the same," he insists.