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GCC better resourced than other regions to weather global slowdown

The consensus among speakers at DIFC Week was that the region was better-resourced than most other parts of the world to weather the global slowdown.

Over 500 international business leaders and policymakers from more than 30 countries in the GCC region and across the world met in Dubai to discuss the opportunities and critical challenges facing the region in the midst of the global economic crisis.

HE Dr. Omar Bin Sulaiman, Governor of the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) and Vice Chairman of the UAE Central Bank, said: "Over the past four days we've seen a series of highly insightful discussions about business in the Middle East. We've covered a wide range of fundamental issues and heard many different perspectives, and what is clear is that the region is well positioned to deal with the current financial crisis and there will continue to be many opportunities for growth."

Central issues debated during the week included the vital role of family businesses in the economy and how the global financial crisis can be an opportunity for investments, Dubai's ability to meet its debt obligations, governments' responses to new pressures on financial markets, structuring the regulatory framework for Islamic finance, energy geopolitics, emerging markets in and after the financial crisis and how to get confidence back in the global financial markets.

DIFC Week Key Quotes;

"The current financial crisis may provide several opportunities for family businesses to make investments both globally and regionally. In investing, family businesses should focus on good business value. As long as an investment is a good deal today, it will eventually bring good returns. The global economic cycle will turn and when it turns, it will be a wise and good investment." HE Dr. Omar Bin Sulaiman, Governor of Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) and Vice Chairman of the UAE Central Bank.

"If you have liquidity, this is a good time to invest. Good value will always be good value. Even if the value of your asset goes down in the next one or two years, it will bring benefits in the long term." Panel member at the Family Business Summit

"The Government can and will meet all its debt obligations going forward. Let there be no doubt about this fact" HE Mohammed Alabbar, Chairman, The Advisory Council, Government of Dubai and Chairman, Emaar Properties

"We are rising to the challenge of managing the new economic realities. But our feet are firmly planted on the ground – and our eyes remain fixed on new horizons, on a future that remains bright. Here in Dubai, we are realists. And we are also optimists. We have risen to great challenges before, and we will rise to them again." HE Mohammed Alabbar, Chairman, The Advisory Council, Government of Dubai and Chairman, Emaar Properties

"I would love to see a change in the US policy of becoming energy independent. Dependency for oil creates interdependency and interdependency promotes security." Nader Sultan, Chairman, Ikraus Petroleum Holdings and former CEO of Kuwait Petroleum Corporation.

"Emerging markets may not dominate the global economy, but we will have a world where economic power is more widely shared. We will have a situation where all the economies will have a stake in the table." Dr. Kevin W. Lu, Director and Chief Financial Officer, Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency, The World Bank Group.

"The operational framework can either hinder or promote Islamic finance. If you over-regulate it you are going to strangle it" Hari Bhambra, Senior Partner, Praesidium LLP

"The financial crisis will affect poverty-reduction budgets around the world and there is a risk of increased polarisation between the rich and the poor. Islamic Finance can play a role in helping the poorest sections of society by finding creative solutions to support them." Iqbal Ahmed Khan, CEO, Fajr Capital

"At moments like this, what we need is more ‘emotional quotient' (EQ). We need to generate trust. Trust may be intangible, you cannot see it or touch it, but you can feel it. Trust can drive motivation and motivation can lead to the restoration of confidence". Arif Masood Naqvi Founder & Group Chief Executive Officer, Abraaj Capital Limited.

The four-day event featured over 70 speakers from the world's major international markets, 21 separate sessions, and a televised debate on how to get confidence back in the global financial markets.

The DIFC Family Summit, held in association with the Tharawat Family Business Forum, provided a platform for the mutual exchange of knowledge and insights on management, growth, continuity, strategy and other business related topics. The Summit, attended by 75 leading Arab families and their representatives from the Middle East region, focused on the global market turmoil and the importance of making a rational and realistic assessment of the situation in order to make good investment.

The DIFC Forum, which took place on Monday 24 and Tuesday 25 November, witnessed a series of debates between analysts and business leaders from across the region and the world on the key issues facing the region.

The Forum opened by looking at the economic outlook for the world and the GCC in 2009. It covered a number of major topics and tackled critical issues that determine the GCC's future such as: the significance of foreign investment attraction and its value, the next generation of Islamic Finance, opportunities and obstacles facing women in business in the Gulf, energy geopolitics in an era of structural change and the emerging business of energy alternatives.

Key speakers reaffirmed that Dubai will take every possible measure to safeguard itself from the global financial crisis and that the government is able to meet its debt obligation. They also added that the Emirate's real estate sector is witnessing a healthy correction and that the Dubai Advisory Council, acting in cooperation with them as well as other private developers, is managing the current and future supply of new projects onto the market.

DIFC Week closed with a Conference on 26 November entitled: ‘The Inside Track on Dubai' which highlighted the "upside of the downside" of doing business in the UAE and was divided into commercial and legal/regulatory sessions that included panel and teaching discussions. Furthermore, it featured exhibitions by service providers from DIFC and Dubai's broader business community.