The Central Bank of the UAE’s (CBUAE) timely and integrated measures to support the financial system helped shield the UAE economy from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and accelerated post-Covid-19 recovery, said AbdulAziz Al-Ghurair, chairman of the UAE Banks Federation (UBF).
Speaking at a press conference on Sunday, the first since the restrictions of the Covid-19 pandemic, he addressed a number of topics related to the post-pandemic recovery and growth of the UAE banking sector. These included the banking sector’s achievements during and post-Covid-19, progress made by UAE banks on the Emiratisation process, collective efforts by UBF members to achieve the goals set out in the government’s ‘Projects of the 50’ initiative, impact of Expo 2020 on the banking industry, and expectations for the UAE banking sector’s performance in the second half of 2021.
AbdulAziz Al-Ghurair said that, in total, the UAE dedicated a support package reaching Dh400 billion, of which the CBUAE gave banks a total relief package that exceeded Dh250 billion. “In particular, the Dh100 billion Zero Cost Facility benefited both individuals and businesses and facilitated liquidity management for banks through collateralised funding at zero cost. To date, the TESS loan deferral program made by CBUAE benefited hundreds of thousands of retail customers, tens of thousands of SMEs, and thousands of private sector companies.”
Reaffirming the banking sector’s commitment to Emiratisation and the ‘Projects of the 50’ initiative, he added: “UBF will take on an enhanced role in facilitating skill development and employment opportunities for UAE Nationals in line with the goals envisioned in ‘Projects of the 50’, which is a landmark initiative that sets out a roadmap for a new era of economic development. We believe in investing in Emirati population, who are the ones that will drive the next stage of our country’s growth and economic transformation.”
“In the long term, our focus goes beyond just creating job opportunities for Emiratis and extends to providing them with the resources and training they need to become financial sector’s leaders of tomorrow, so they find themselves able and prepared to shape the future of UAE economy,” he said.
During the meeting, the UBF chairman also observed that the demand for loans had gone up in the lead-up to Expo2020, which he identified as a key factor driving post-Covid-19 recovery of the UAE’s banking sector and the country’s economy in general. He noted that this demand is expected to pick up more pace over the coming months. He expressed his optimism that many companies visiting the UAE for Expo 2020 may transfer part of their business activities to the UAE and start new investments here, resulting in new business for banks.
Highlighting the strong Q2 financial results of UAE banks, Al-Ghurair said that the positive results are an indication that the banking industry is in recovery mode, after having been in decline globally due to Covid-19. He added that he expects UAE banks to maintain their growth momentum in the second half of the year, driven by improvements in operating conditions, cost efficiency, and credit demand.
He also shared his views on UAE’s new visa guidelines, observing that “the decision to liberalize residency guidelines is a landmark step that will stimulate the UAE’s economy by attracting visitors and investment and lay the foundation for growth for the coming decades.” He explained that the UAE is always striving to create a positive environment for investors, and as the human factor is a key part thereof, such visa guidelines were approved by the leadership of the UAE to promote such investment environment.