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Thu 12 Nov 2009 04:00 AM

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Transparency pays

ADCB's move to make public the pay packets of senior executives needs to be applauded, says Damian Reilly.

Wouldn't the world be a more honest place if everyone walked around with their net worth emblazoned on their forehead? Perhaps on a small digital display. So much of the hubris of social occasions could be dispensed with at a stroke.

Questions like ‘how did he end up with her?', ‘why's he so popular?', ‘why are those people so miserable all the time?' and ‘why does no one tell him he is an insufferable bore?' would be solved immediately. We'd all be revealed at all times in all of our own pecuniary glory.

The ghastly dance of snobbery based on class (which is the coldest and most elaborate dance invented in the history of mankind - it's about money and nothing else, whatever its adherents claim) would be obliterated. Those of us with figures above our eyebrows starting with a minus could expect to be recognised as incredibly hungry for advancement, and we would probably have to be nice to everyone at all times, except, I suppose, to those even poorer than us.

People with huge numbers on their heads but not much else to recommend them would be saved the bother and indignity of having to equip themselves with all the gaudy trappings of wealth. They would no longer have to buy vulgar watches or shirts to proclaim their success. They could just point at the readout and say "see?"

Actually, it would also spell catastrophe for the advertising industry, who try so often to inveigle us all into buying things that will denote to others how brilliantly rich and successful and, therefore, attractive  we are. In a world where there were no secrets about personal wealth, what would be the point of taking a massive loan to buy a sports car or speedboat? Who would be impressed?

Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank (ADCB)

, which is listed, has announced it is about to make public the pay packets of senior executives in a move that will have many people who do business in this region hoping it is a giant step for transparency. No other bank in the Middle East does this. It's no secret, businesses in the Gulf are not as transparent as they are elsewhere in the world, and many economists and business leaders have talked in the past of this relative lack of transparency being a major hindrance to progress. The practice of name-lending, for example, which has recently so dominated headlines, is of course the epitome of opaque financial practice, and these days it is looking to be an increasingly risky proposition.

The reasons for

doing this now are not known, but it is a move that is to be applauded. A bank that is going to use its customers' money to invest in order to make its shareholders richer should be prepared to make public the sums of money with which it rewards its senior staff. All overheads should be revealed in the bright light of day. Any institution that is prepared to be so open, at this time particularly, is more attractive for investment than one which is not.  Certainly, we would all rather put our money into a company that lets us see exactly where it goes than one that does not. Let's hope this is the way of the future.

One question though. Can the chairman of

really only earn AED750,000 a year, as the company's website tells me he does? Maybe bankers, in the GCC at least, don't deserve the reputation they have after all.

Many thanks to the hundreds of readers who have contacted Arabian Business to express their outrage at the

practice of hotels, restaurants and bars withholding tips from their staff

, revealed in this space last week. We are starting a petition against it, which we will present to the relevant companies. Please visit the website to sign up.

Damian Reilly is the editor of Arabian Business English.

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SR 10 years ago

Chairman earning AED 750K???? They must be joking, may be it is a typing error; correctly read as AED 7.5M+bonus+profit sharing!!!