Leading U.A.E.-Based Finance Executives Forecast an Economic Upturn in 2021

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January 25, 2021

Leading U.A.E.-based finance executives forecasted an economic upswing in the U.A.E. following a difficult 2020 during a U.S.-U.A.E. Business Council webinar held on 25 January 2021. A video of the webinar can be found here.

Dr. Monica Malik, Chief Economist at Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank (pictured bottom middle) discussed the financial conditions in the U.A.E. during the pandemic, as the Central Bank moved quickly to help out key financial institutions. With the Central Bank extending stimulus measures into 2021, and the continued impact of the U.A.E. vaccination program, the U.A.E. will continue to be “one of the top recovery stories.”

Mr. Mohanad Al-Borno, Head of Global Corporate and Investment Coverage at First Abu Dhabi Bank (pictured bottom left), spoke about the need for a quick and agile response for 2021 “as we are not out of the woods yet” and “we cannot take our foot off the stimulus yet.” He talked about how the airline, hospitality, and retail industries were hit hardest and how he expects them to bounce back quickly in 2021. This progress, alongside Expo 2020 and government relaxation in foreign ownership laws, will be a key catalyst for recovery and growth. 

Mr. Declan Hegarty, Head of Infrastructure Finance and Corporate Banking CEEMEA at J.P. Morgan Chase (pictured top right), stated that the nimbleness and decisiveness of the government in terms of injecting liquidity helped stave off disaster. Mr. Hegarty added that Dubai’s three main industries, tourism, transport, and trade, were in the eye of the storm but these competitive elements of the economy will recover soon. ​Mr. Hegarty also highlighted the importance and significance of the large influx of foreign investment into the U.A.E. over the past year.

Picking up on this theme, Mr. Sammy Kayello, Chairman and CEO of Morgan Stanley MENA (pictured top left), observed how equity investors from the United States and Europe were keen to provide credit to the U.A.E. as they saw it as a safe haven, which is a positive development. He credited this to the positive geopolitical engagements that occurred in 2020, such as the Abraham Accords and the normalization of relations with Qatar.  Mr. Kayello also predicted that while the the U.A.E.’s economic snapback might not be quite so sudden as some others, the U.A.E.’s will be more stable and long-lasting ​than its peers. 

Ms. Carla Slim, Head Economist for the Middle East, North Africa, and Pakistan at Standard Chartered (pictured top middle), said the election of Joseph Biden and the subsequent nomination of Janet Yellen in the United States as Secretary of Treasury, who will be focusing on consumers and small businesses, has led her to be bearish on the U.S. dollar which entails positivity for emerging markets in the region. Ms. Slim also noted that with the U.A.E.’s vaccination rollout underway, alongside the reconciliation with Qatar and Expo 2020, that 2021 should see the U.A.E. return to economic growth. 

Following remarks by the panelists, Mr. Danny Sebright, President of the U.S.-U.A.E. Business Council, moderated a question and answer session during which the panelists offered more perspectives on what lies in store in 2021. Mr. Kayello stated that the U.A.E.’s new foreign ownership laws are important as they allow it to attract both intellectual capital and foreign direct investment, which will be key for the U.A.E. in the long run. Building on this, Mr. Al-Borno elaborated on how the U.A.E. has gone above and beyond to support both the population and industries during the pandemic, and it has found the right balance between their citizens’ health and the economy’s health.

Moreover, Ms. Slim added that the U.A.E. is searching for new growth drivers, and has been looking at expanding its knowledge economy. She added that between 2010 and 2019 non-oil government revenue doubled, and that shows the resolve of the government to move away from oil, and this resolve is showing up in the numbers. In turn,  Dr. Malik stated that Expo 2020 will be a very important bounce back for many sectors, and the timing in October is excellent in terms of global momentum towards vaccination and normalization.

Mr. Hegarty spoke of the U.A.E.’s “commitment to delivery to both ends of Sheikh Zayed Road”, as the U.A.E. has been planning and delivering on its ambition for the last 50 years. With the Golden Jubilee in mind, the U.A.E. is now looking forward, and it would be a mistake to bet against it. 

Mr. Kayello and Dr. Malik also spoke of the key role that the Abraham accords have played by bringing stability which in turn allows growth. They stated that the technological sector is one to watch, as both the U.A.E. and Israel seek to expand their industries. 

For more information about our slate exciting slate of upcoming events, please contact the U.S.-U.A.E. Business Council’s head of communications, Ms. Mary Zuccarello at mzuccarello@usuaebusiness.org or visit our website at www.usuaebusiness.org.