x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Stable oil prices help us all, FNC tells Spain

UAE advocates stabilising oil prices to protect the interests of importing and exporting countries, the FNC said.

MADRID // The UAE advocates stabilising global oil prices to protect the interests of importing and exporting countries, the Speaker of the Federal National Council (FNC) said yesterday. Abdul Aziz al Ghurair, addressing members of the Spanish Congress of Deputies, outlined the Government's oil policy amid calls by some oil-importing countries for a reduction in prices: "The market decides the prices, but what we want is to avoid fluctuation of ups and downs because it hurts both sides." During the meeting, which also touched upon the global financial crisis, sovereign-wealth funds and economic co-operation, Mr Ghurair said oil-importing countries should refrain from attributing higher commodity prices to the surge in oil prices. "The oil prices have dropped but the prices are still high." Low oil prices were not preferable because they could lead to major increases in energy consumption and harm the environment, he said. "There are people in the Emirates who call for not rushing to explore more oil fields, because the reserves will not last." Mr Ghurair added that despite the UAE's openness to international markets, government measures had enabled the economy to weather the credit crisis. "The Government has guaranteed the deposits in banks for three years to ensure people don't move money. To push the wheel of the economy, the Government has also pumped money into the banks." Some of the Spanish lawmakers suggested that the financial crisis was caused, in part, by a lack of financial liquidity in western markets, and suggested that the Gulf region, flush with cash, could help bring the crisis under control. Until now, the region's sovereign funds have refrained from intervening in the financial breakdown by, for example, funnelling money into banks on the verge of bankruptcy. Mr Ghurair said sovereign funds in the UAE, including the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, were driven by market factors, not politics. "The Government's policy is not to interfere in the funds' management or projects," he said. "We don't mix politics with investment." Mr Ghurair said a preliminary agreement signed at a meeting last month in Santiago, Chile, on two dozen principles to guide the investment practices of SWFs would also help ensure their transparency. Nonetheless, he said the funds could not be treated like public companies which "are required to be very transparent". "Sovereign funds are a different case; they require some privacy. "If there are some concerns about the nature of investments of some countries' sovereign funds, we hope that we are not mixed with them. We want to benefit mutually from these funds." The US has realised it needs these funds due to the financial crisis, and has removed obstacles to investments by them, he said. "Now they've welcomed the funds in the US. All what these funds are after is the right investment environment." On Monday the FNC delegation met the Spanish minister of industry, commerce and tourism, Joan Clos. Mr Ghurair urged Mr Clos to start direct flights between the UAE and Spain to increase the number of tourists in both countries. The Spanish minister said his country would work on facilitating the issuing of visas for Emiratis. Sultan al Qurtasi, the UAE ambassador to Spain, said the two countries had agreed to exempt diplomats from applying for visas. The parliamentary delegates left Spain yesterday for Poland, where they were scheduled to meet with senior officials today. The FNC officials paid a four-day visit to Italy last week. mhabboush@thenational.ae