Abu Dhabi Recasts Government as It Grapples With Low Oil

  • Abu Dhabi ruler names a new head of finance department
  • Cabinet minister Sultan al Jaber named as head of Adnoc

Abu Dhabi’s government replaced the head of its finance department and appointed a cabinet minister as general manager of state-owned oil company Adnoc as the oil producer grapples with low prices.

Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, president of the United Arab Emirates and Abu Dhabi’s ruler, issued a decree late Monday naming Riyad Al Mubarak as head of the finance department in place of Hamad Al Hurr Al Suwaidi, state-run news agency WAM reported. In a separate decree, Sheikh Khalifa appointed Sultan Al Jaber as general manager of Abu Dhabi National Oil Co., replacing Abdulla Nasser Al Suwaidi.

“It’s indicative of the trend to move to younger and maybe more dynamic leadership and a bit more technocratic as well,” Robin Mills, CEO of Qamar Energy in Dubai, said by phone.

The reshuffle comes as Abu Dhabi, home to 6 percent of the world’s known oil reserves, may consider tapping its sovereign wealth fund and issuing local and foreign debt to bridge a deficit wrought by low crude prices, according to Fitch Ratings Ltd. The emirate, which has deregulated fuel prices and increased utility rates, is also looking for measures to diversify its economy away from oil, which contributes about 50 percent of its economy.

“The mandate is greater efficiency, looking to the beyond-oil era, which is the key thing that Abu Dhabi has been looking for,” said Ghanem Nuseibeh, founder of London-based consulting firm Cornerstone Global Associates. The decisions would have been consensual among the leadership in Abu Dhabi, he said by phone.

The change comes days after the federal government rolled out a sweeping reshuffle that included eight women and new ministries for happiness, tolerance and climate change. The finance, oil and foreign affairs ministers kept their positions. The last major change in Abu Dhabi government came in March 2014. Abu Dhabi is the largest and richest of the seven emirates that make up the U.A.E.

There will be a push toward non-oil economic growth in the coming two years, during which crude prices are unlikely to rise sharply, according to Allison Wood, Middle East and North Africa analyst at Control Risks in Dubai. 

“In light of low oil prices, you’re seeing a bit of strategic refocusing in a number of government ministries and initiatives and perhaps a shift in priorities,” Wood said.

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