UAE leader in sustainable finance, economic growth: CEO for Barclays Private Bank

DUBAI: Rasha Badawi, CEO for Barclays Private Bank UAE, has highlighted the UAE's remarkable growth in sustainable finance and its resilient economic trajectory despite global challenges. She said that the past few years have witnessed accelerated growth in sustainable finance in the region and a remarkable increase in the UAE's presence as a leading regional centre for sustainable finance management. In statements to the Emirates News Agency (WAM), Badawi said that there are numerous opportunities in sustainable investments, particularly in areas such as the building system, renewable energy, water, food and agriculture, shipping, and others. She also noted an increase in the amount of financing dedicated to sustainable investments by high-net-worth individuals, family businesses, and institutional funds worldwide. She emphasised that with more opportunities available regionally, these allocations can focus on local and regional sustainable financing. Badawi spoke about the strength of the UAE economy and said that despite the slowdown in global economic growth - with the World Bank expecting global economic growth to reach 2.4% in 2024 - the UAE is moving forward to achieve a unique growth path this year. She pointed out that the World Bank recently raised its forecast for the UAE's GDP growth in 2024 and 2025 to 3.7% and 3.8%, respectively, noting the growing contribution of the non-oil economy to the economies of the GCC states in general. She stressed the importance of the continued rise in future economic activity indicators, such as the Standard and Poor's Purchasing Managers' Index, which reached 57.4 in December. The index levels above 50 indicate growth. She anticipated that the current economic diversification initiatives would continue yielding positive results, highlighting statements made by Abdullah bin Touq Al Marri, Minister of Economy where he emphasised the significance of the tourism and entertainment sector as a key element of economic diversification. This was evident in the substanti al increase in hotel revenues in the UAE, reaching AED32.2 billion between January and September 2023, marking a 27% growth compared to the same period in 2022. In terms of attracting high-net-worth investors, Badawi pointed out the rising demand for luxury brands among affluent individuals seeking diverse investment opportunities. She highlighted Dubai as a prime location for attracting such individuals, serving as a hub for prestigious sports, fashion, and design events. Furthermore, she noted a growing trend of families relocating to the region due to its safety, high-quality educational facilities, and recreational services. Many clients indicated that the UAE's appeal lies in its family-oriented lifestyle, offering numerous outdoor activities and entertainment options suitable for both children and adults. Badawi emphasised the resilience of the UAE economy and its ability to overcome global challenges, despite international circumstances that haven't affected the positive outlook maintained locally. She noted that GCC states, in general, remain largely unaffected by issues impacting global markets. She highlights positive developments like the strong recovery of international travel post-pandemic, leading local airlines to increase recruitment and open new routes. This, coupled with the UAE's position as a leading hub for cargo and travel, has contributed to the tourism sector's recovery exceeding pre-pandemic levels. Additionally, significant real estate development continues in the hospitality sector. Concerning the UAE banking sector, Badawi maintains that optimism remains strong throughout the year, with investors largely unaffected by events impacting other markets. She attributed this resilience to factors like diversified local economies, increased foreign investment in the UAE, and its status as a major financial and banking centre. She also highlighted the UAE's flexible trade system, with easier visa processes and low taxes. Badawi expects the local banking sector to continue growing alongs ide the overall economy and GDP. She reiterated the accelerated growth of sustainable finance in the region and the UAE's emergence as a leading regional centre for its management. She identified plentiful opportunities in the UAE across construction, urban design and planning, renewable energy, particularly solar, water, agriculture, shipping, and more. Badawi noted the increasing allocation of financing for sustainable investments by high-net-worth individuals, family businesses, and institutional funds globally. With emerging regional opportunities, these allocations can target local and regional sustainable financing. Source: Emirates News Agency