x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Clarity the key in Dubai saga

A statement that at first glance was a move toward transparency has actually muddled the picture even further.

Dubai has the perfect opportunity today to demonstrate the extent of its recently renewed commitment to transparency. Late last Thursday, after most people had packed up at the office for the weekend, a news item appeared on the UAE official news site in Arabic. Hurriedly translated into English, it seemed to suggest that Dubai had passed a law requiring government-related companies to hand over "surplus income" to the central exchequer.

There was lots of room for confusion. A government-related company could be interpreted as municipal departments such as the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) or Dubai Customs or the Immigration Department. It could also be taken to mean commercial operations such as Dubai Holding, Investment Corporation of Dubai (ICD), or Dubai World. To further confuse matters, a clarification was later issued which suggested that ICD, which controls municipal entities such as Dubai Electricity and Water Authority, was included in the new law while Dubai Holding and Dubai World were not.

This interpretation also leaves gaping chasms of uncertainty. What, for example, would it mean for Emirates Group, the entity that runs Dubai's profitable flagship airline and which is controlled by ICD? Does Emirates have to hand over all its profit to the Government? And what would that mean for its continuing fleet expansion? If it just affected municipal entities such as the RTA, it was a sensible bit of budget control and to be applauded in tough financial times, lawyers said. If, on the other hand, it applied to a wholly commercial business such as Emirates, they emphasised it could be seen to cloud the controversial issue of sovereign ownership.

Perhaps it was just a mis-translation; what the linguistics experts call intra-lingual interference. It should be definitively clarified as soon as possible. @Email:fkane@thenational.ae