Top Dubai official defends decision to replace finance chief

New finance boss 'right man' to manage next stage of crisis, director of ruler's office. 
Top Dubai official defends decision to replace finance chief
By Thomas Atkins
Wed 20 May 2009 08:26 AM

A top Dubai official moved to assure investors that the emirate was committed to meeting its financial obligations, one day after Dubai's ruler dismissed his finance chief.

The surprise dismissal of Nasser Al Sheikh as the emirate's finance head on Monday triggered questions among some investors about Dubai's economic future.

"The government is firmly committed to sustainable fiscal policies and to adopt actions that are appropriate for the current circumstances taking into account the scope of the global crisis, meeting Dubai's financial obligations and future development requirements," said Mohammed Al Shaibani, aide to Dubai's ruler, in a statement issued late on Tuesday.

Al Shaibani is director of the office of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Ruler of Dubai and vice president and prime minister of the UAE.

Al Shaibani expressed his support for the new finance director, Abdul Rahman Al Saleh, as "the right man to lead the next stage of managing the economic situation".

Saleh previously held a top position at Dubai's customs authority and was in charge of the now shelved VAT plan.

The timing of the surprise leadership switch comes just three months after the Dubai government launched a $20bn bond programme, to ease liquidity difficulties at a number ofgovernment-related entities (GREs).

The emirate has said it has outstanding debt of around $80bn.

So far more than 50 percent of a first $10bn tranche of the bond, which was bought up by the UAE Central Bank, has been distributed to GREs, such as the property developer Nakeel. 

The second $10bn tranche is due to be released by the end of the year.

During his brief tenure, Al Sheikh earned a measure of respect from investors as head of the department for his efforts to navigate the difficulties created in the emirate as a result of the global economic crisis.

In his new position, Al Sheikh will serve as an assistant to the director of the ruler's court for foreign affairs.

He also holds leadership or positions at a number of important Dubai companies. (Reuters)

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