x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Birkett looking for new mountains to climb

The UAE has sent the clearest possible signals that the old days of excessive debt are over.

The UAE has sent the clearest possible signals that the old days of excessive debt are over. On the day it was announced Aidan Birkett was to step down from his restructuring role at Dubai World - "job done" - Sultan al Suwaidi, the Governor of the UAE Central Bank, highlighted measures to ensure Mr Birkett's skills and the restructuring profession he represents would not be needed again.

Mr al Suwaidi's calls for a more co-ordinated approach to credit management, with control ultimately in the hands of the federal debt management office, should help insure that no single body, in the public or private sector, can amass levels of debt that might threaten the whole economy. These are sensible and realistic proposals, in line with global trends. It does not amount to an "austerity package" along Irish or Greek lines but it should help ensure the UAE manages the recovery properly.

Mr Birkett can leave Dubai with a sense of achievement. It was not all his doing, of course, as he would be the first to admit. The banks with whom he dealt showed a responsible and pragmatic attitude too. For the Dubai Government, which it should be remembered put US$9 billion (Dh33.05bn) of its own money into the restructuring, the Dubai World process was a deeply challenging one, but respond to it it did, as the recent bond prospectus showed.

The challenge for the emirate now will be to finance future growth while staying within the Central Bank's new parameters. Mr Birkett, apparently, is off to climb Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa and will then return to the UAE, perhaps with Deloitte, the accounting firm where he was a partner before Dubai World came along. But there are still debt mountains to be climbed in some parts of the Middle East where his skills would be put to good use.

fkane@thenational.ae