x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

That's why they get paid the big bucks

Mr Al Suwaidi is suggesting that banks and companies pay off their foreign loans to reduce their reliance on pesky international capital markets, thereby removing more funds from the country and sending them abroad.

The subsidies, er, bailout packages, are flying thick and fast now: Germany is now offering 100 billion Euros in loans to companies facing tight credit amid falling machine tool orders. Japan is offering trade financing to exporters. This echoes calls earlier this week for a UAE industrial bank that would offer government loans to companies that can't prise funds from banks. Some industry players are also suggesting the government get ahead of the curve and set up an agency that would be able to buy loans from the country's banks, lowering their loan-deposit ratio - already over the 100 per cent legal limit - and so allow them to start lending out their new deposits and liquidity injections. Central Bank governor Sultan bin Nasser al Suwaidi apparently thinks this is a dumb idea. Why build a levee before the floodwaters rise? Nonperforming loans aren't a problem yet, so why bother? What banks need is more liquidity, says the man whose Dh50bn in liquidity injections have, according to bankers and economists, done little to ease liquidity. Instead, Mr Al Suwaidi is suggesting that banks and companies pay off their foreign loans to reduce their reliance on pesky international capital markets, thereby removing more funds from the country and sending them abroad. Now, Emirates NBD is reportedly going to convert federal deposits into federally owned equity, which is tantamount to the US federal government buying part of Citigroup, i.e. a bailout. How much with the government end up owning? Will Rick Pudner, like Vikram Pandit, get to keep his job? Stay tuned for the answers to these and other fascinating questions. It's never a good sign for an economy that stocks rise on hopes that the government will be dissolved. But that's what's happening in Kuwait, where reports that the Emir might dissolve Parliament have buoyed hopes that doing so would remove the major obstacle to passing an effective economic bailout package.

warnold@thenational.ae