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Saturday, 6 March 2010

Big banks renegotiate more loans (Delayed posting)

The country’s three biggest banks have renegotiated more than Dh15 billion (US$4.08bn) in loans, raising concern that the balance sheets of local lenders may be weaker than previously believed.

This comes after a year in which UAE banks tripled provisions for bad loans as customers defaulted and corporate borrowers were unable to pay back loans taken out during the boom years.

The dramatic rise in renegotiated loans has triggered worries that the practice, which is known as evergreening, may mask the full extent of lending that could turn sour. Analysts said some banks now ran the risk of not being repaid on borrowing that would be better classified as non-performing.

Gulf’s spin doctors in a blur of activity in trying times

The Gulf may be struggling to come to terms with the fall out from the financial crisis, but one profession in particular is a hive of industry.

I refer of course to the region’s ever-increasing army of public-relations executives, who are in such a blur of hyperactivity at the moment that it’s hard to keep up with their comings and goings. But let’s try.

First stop, Kuwait. The sleepy emirate nestling between Iraq and Saudi Arabia has had an image problem for many years, going back at least to the first Gulf war in 1991 when its expensively armed military failed to keep Saddam Hussein’s invading forces for any significant length of time.

Quiz the Crown Prince of Bahrain

Economic reformer, champion of education and sports enthusiast, Sheikh Salman Al-Khalifa has been Bahrain's leading political figure since being named Crown Prince in 1999.

The Western-educated 40-year-old is credited with opening up an era of progressive government reforms and introducing a liberal economic strategy to the small island country in the Arabian Gulf.

When not being either Commander-in-chief of the Bahrain Defense Force, chairman of Housing and Urban Development or chair of Council for Youth and Sports, the crown prince is a serious sports enthusiast who spearheaded bringing the Formula One Grand Prix to Bahrain, seeing off stiff competition from other countries in the region.

This week on Marketplace Middle East

The UAE, like the rest of the Gulf, doesn't have a large indigenous labour force.

Expats make up majority of the workforce. So, the government began a process called "Emiratization."

In theory, its goal is to motivate locals to work, by creating jobs and training opportunities. But the UAE, like many of its neighbours, is a cash-rich nation. Citizens are entitled to a number of benefits, and few need to work.

So, how does the government create skilled local workforce? And why are women stepping up to drive the change?



Rail freight is showing the same robustness as the ISM reports in recent months.  According to the AAR, rail traffic for the week ending February 28th was higher across the board.  Total carloads jumped to 290,261 – up 2.6% versus last year.  Intermodal traffic surged 17.5% versus 2009.   This data, however, remains a bit misleading as year over year comps remain very easy.  When compared to 2008 total carloads were down 13.5% while intermodal traffic was off 8.1%.  This shows that there is still substantial work to be done before the economy has returned to its pre-credit crisis levels.  Nonetheless, the robust year over year improvement is an encouraging sign for the state of the real economy.