Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 24 February 2018

Worst of the financial crisis is behind us, majority believes

Confidence remains fragile, but workforce is quietly optimistic.

The survey paints a picture of a workforce that, while cautious, believes the economy is on track towards recovery. Of those polled, 31 per cent say the Emirates is among the countries that has handled the recession best, while 47 per cent feel the economy is on the mend. Just 9 per cent say the country has already recovered, while only 2 per cent believe the UAE had escaped recession completely.

Javed Ahmed Abbasi, 57, a Pakistani businessman who runs a small advertising agency in Abu Dhabi, is confident the worst is over. "Yes, things are getting better because the government is improving policies - there are good laws here, everything is going well," he said. "Everywhere we go, there are people listening to our comments very carefully and solving our problems as soon as possible." Sultan Nasser is just as confident. The Emirati, 21, works for a local dealership selling cars and is optimistic about the future.

"Before, it was harder to keep my job," he said. "Things are getting better, salaries are moving up and my job isn't as hard." But others in the workforce, particularly those who have seen colleagues laid off and the cost of living creep higher, are not so upbeat. Wimal Chanbana, 32, from Sri Lanka, is a waiter for a five-star hotel in Dubai, and has seen colleagues leave during the slowdown. "I work in a hotel and almost 250 people lost their jobs in the first three months of the financial crisis, and the hotel also reduced our benefits and is controlling our overtime more," he said, declining to name the hotel. "Things have since got better and the hope is that after Ramadan things will improve again.

"The economy is still not good and I find that day-to-day costs are increasing. Travelling by bus is more expensive than it used to be." While 40 per cent of businesses surveyed expect to hire new staff, confidence is still fragile for many small company owners. Badee Rahhal, 44, from Jordan, owns a small dealership in the Abu Dhabi car souq, and has felt the effects of the downturn. "Business is coming down," said Mr Rahhal, who has worked in the country for more than 20 years. "It's not stable. During the past two years, things have been as bad as they have ever been since I came here.

"But I think the situation is the same all over the world at the moment."