x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Financial literacy: Dirhami helps Abu Dhabi residents avoid going into heavy debt

A campaign is under way in the capital to make people aware of the dangers of getting in over their heads on borrowing.

Abu Dhabi Council of Economic Development (ADCED) has officially opened the annual Dirhami stand at Marina Mall Abu Dhabi, designed to increase the public's knowledge about basic financial concepts, and raise awareness on managing finances personally and professionally. Mona Al Marzooqi / The National
Abu Dhabi Council of Economic Development (ADCED) has officially opened the annual Dirhami stand at Marina Mall Abu Dhabi, designed to increase the public's knowledge about basic financial concepts, and raise awareness on managing finances personally and professionally. Mona Al Marzooqi / The National

Bankers and investment professionals beware: a campaign to boost financial awareness among residents of Abu Dhabi may reduce your bottom lines.

That’s because since 2009 the Abu Dhabi Economic Council has been campaigning to promote a greater understanding of the basic principles of personal savings and investment to stem the tide of investment scams and reduce indebtedness.

The financial literacy awareness programme, called Dirhami, or My Dirham, is part of the 2030 Economic Vision which, among other things, seeks to foster a dynamic Emirati workforce.

Players with Al Wahda Football Club in Abu Dhabi, including the central defender Hamdan Al Kamali, have been participating in workshops this year with financial advisors to help them get their finances in order. The campaign starts by providing the most basic financial information, such as the difference between a credit card and a debit card, as well as highlighting the dangers of credit and teaching the principles of investment.

“They’ve shown us how to protect our savings from inflation, either at the bank or how to invest it in projects, such as real estate,’’ Al Kamali said. “I am saving much more now. This is important especially since the career of a footballer is limited.”

There are no official statistics yet to show how effective the campaign has been, but Afra Al Mehairi, Dirhami’s project manager, said numbers attending the project’s workshops have increased. Abu Dhabi Economic Council, a body entrusted with formulating the city’s economic policies, is hosting a stand at the Marina Mall in Abu Dhabi until Sunday. The exhibition includes a maze that helps shoppers get to grips with the consequences of borrowing too much money to fund a lavish lifestyle and the benefits of savings: two extremes of a possible jail sentence or a rosy and comfortable retirement after putting your kids through college.

“We have a lot of studies that show that people who have a lot of debts are falling for scams of banks and false investments,” Ms Al Mehairi said.

Dirhami has used adverts, leaflet distribution and roadshows that include visiting institutions such as universities to spread the word of good financial sense, she added. Abu Dhabi Chamber of Commerce recently joined forces with the council to raise awareness and surprisingly, Ms Al Mehairi said, even banks have expressed interest in helping the campaign.

mkassem@thenational.ae