x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

A touch of gloom for number crunchers

The Life: Globally, as well as in the UAE, accountants are feeling gloomy about the world's economic prospects. Jeffrey C. Thomson, president of the Institute of Management Accountants, explains why.

Jeffrey C Thomson, the president and chief executive of the Institute of Management Accountants. Pawan Singh / The National
Jeffrey C Thomson, the president and chief executive of the Institute of Management Accountants. Pawan Singh / The National

In the Emirates and globally, accountants have been feeling professionally gloomy of late.

Jeffrey C Thomson, the president and chief executive of the Institute of Management Accountants, discusses the concerns of financial professionals in the context of his organisation's latest study of sentiment in the industry.

Your study was conducted in part with the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants. How did finance professionals describe their economic sentiment?

There is a level of negativity or gloominess about economic prospects in those countries that are more heavily exposed to international trade. In the study, we talked of Hong Kong, Cyprus and Singapore.

Some indicators show trade levels have been growing in the UAE. What is the sentiment among finance experts here?

In the UAE in particular - this varies by industry - but the basic results were quite a bit of concern about stagnation and deterioration on a relative sense. There was some positives in the region in terms of the impact that government spending could have, which is a positive thing. Anything related to building of infrastructure tends to be, in this region, very resilient.

Your survey found 46 per cent of respondents in the Emirates were "less" or "much less" confident in the final quarter last year than the previous quarter. Which sectors here see trying times ahead?

I don't know how the Middle East is, but pharmaceuticals, IT and telecommunications are going to be definitely in that top group [globally] - either the greatest concerns or relative loss of confidence …

I do know in the United States, for example, the banking and financial sector - after what happened three, four years ago - is actually doing much better, as consumer confidence begins to build a bit. It's important to note [even] when you break this down by industry and country, the big picture is the gloominess - and timing is everything with what's going on in Europe. [Our next report] could reveal a bit of an improvement, because economic conditions in mature economies have stabilised, and my observation is Qatar is crazy in terms of growth - but that's probably not a good indicator.

What has helped improve economic sentiment in the past?

It's interesting that in the past it used to be more region-specific indicators, so greater demand, more hiring. But now that trade has become so much more cross-border and interdependent, a crisis in a mature market creates cross-border impacts that are significant.

Which industries in the UAE look most promising to new accountants and finance professionals who might be seeking a different position but unsure of where to look?

I would say that any [companies involved in] infrastructure and funding support for infrastructure - construction, communications infrastructure and all those facilities that go along with building and then the financing.

* Neil Parmar

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