13 February 2008

Consumer loans jump 40%, as UAE residents pile on the debt

UAE consumer loans jump 40%
Consumer loans in the UAE surged almost 40 per cent in 2007 as the second-largest Arab economy struggles to contain inflation and resist calls for it to drop its dollar peg or revalue its currency. Loans to individuals in the world's fifth-largest oil exporter rose to Dh43.46 billion ($11.84 billion) on December 31, compared with Dh31.26 billion a year earlier, reports Gulf News.

Consumer lending has almost doubled over the last four years, during which time oil prices have also more than tripled, helping to drive the UAE economy and borrowing. Total bank assets grew 42.3 per cent to Dh1.23 trillion in the year to December. 31, the central bank said.

Experts play down Dubai crash fears
Experts looked to calm fears that a possible market crash could stunt Dubai's impressive growth on Monday, arguing the emirate's expanding population and sound economic fundamentals would sustain future growth.

The region's high population growth, expected to increase at close to 10% over the next decade, ought to sustain high demand for residential property and service the needs of the expanding economy.

"While it [Dubai] does have a greater debt than some of its GCC partners on a gross basis and even on a net basis, it is certainly not disproportionately greater, or not even as great as some of the more highly rated countries in the west," Farouk Soussa, director for Standard & Poor's sovereign ratings division, told Arabian Business.

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Lebanon Time-Line

Introducing Lebanon

Coolly combining the ancient with the ultramodern, Lebanon is one of the most captivating countries in the Middle East. From the Phoenician findings of Tyre (Sour) and Roman Baalbek's tremendous temple to Beirut's BO18 and Bernard Khoury's modern movement, the span of Lebanon's history leaves many visitors spinning. Tripoli (Trablous) is considered to have the best souk in the country and is famous for its Mamluk architecture. It's well equipped with a taste of modernity as well; Jounieh, formerly a sleepy fishing village, is a town alive with nightclubs and glitz on summer weekends.

With all of the Middle East's best bits - warm and welcoming people, mind-blowing history and considerable culture, Lebanon is also the antithesis of many people's imaginings of the Middle East: mostly mountainous with skiing to boot, it's also laid-back, liberal and fun. While Beirut is fast becoming the region's party place, Lebanon is working hard to recapture its crown as the 'Paris of the Orient'.

The rejuvenation of the Beirut Central District is one of the largest, most ambitious urban redevelopment projects ever undertaken. Travellers will find the excitement surrounding this and other developments and designs palpable - and very infectious.

Finally, Lebanon's cuisine is considered the richest of the region. From hummus to hommard (lobster), you'll dine like a king. With legendary sights, hospitality, food and nightlife, what more could a traveller want?

Introducing Beirut

What Beirut is depends entirely on where you are. If you’re gazing at the beautifully reconstructed colonial relics and mosques of central Beirut’s Downtown, the city is a triumph of rejuvenation over disaster.

If you’re in the young, vibrant neighbourhoods of Gemmayzeh or Achrafiye, Beirut is about living for the moment: partying, eating and drinking as if there’s no tomorrow. If you’re standing in the shadow of buildings still peppered with bullet holes, or walking the Green Line with an elderly resident, it’s a city of bitter memories and a dark past. If you’re with Beirut’s Armenians, Beirut is about salvation; if you’re with its handful of Jews, it’s about hiding your true identity. Here you’ll find the freest gay scene in the Arab Middle East, yet homosexuality is still illegal. If you’re in one of Beirut’s southern refugee camps, Beirut is about sorrow and displacement; other southern districts are considered a base for paramilitary operations and south Beirut is home to infamous Hezbollah secretary general, Hassan Nasrallah. For some, it’s a city of fear; for others, freedom.

Throw in maniacal drivers, air pollution from old, smoking Mercedes taxis, world-class universities, bars to rival Soho and coffee thicker than mud, political demonstrations, and swimming pools awash with more silicone than Miami. Add people so friendly you’ll swear it can’t be true, a political situation existing on a knife-edge, internationally renowned museums and gallery openings that continue in the face of explosions, assassinations and power cuts, and you’ll find that you’ve never experienced a capital city quite so alive and kicking – despite its frequent volatility.