An honour to be there

The Arab business world’s A-list converged on the Emirates Palace to witness the most prestigious award in the Middle East.

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By  James Bennett Published  December 17, 2006

|~||~||~|The Arab business world’s A-list converged on the Emirates Palace to witness the most prestigious award in the Middle East. I think you’ll agree after reading our coverage of this year’s sixth annual prestigious Arabian Business achievement awards 2006 that the winners were some of the most deserving and progressive in the Arab business community. Held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan with the awards presented on his behalf by His Highness Sheikh Hamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Chairman of the Department of Planning & Economy of Abu Dhabi, some particularly high achieving companies and individuals stood out. Tawhid Abdullah, managing director of UAE-based Damas Jewellery was honoured as businessman of the year. The business, which will incredibly celebrate its centenary next year, has seen outstanding success in 2006. Saudi Arabia’s Dr Nahed Taher, the first ever-female CEO of a Gulf bank has received a number of awards throughout 2006 and finished the year off in style picking up the gong for businesswoman of the year. Her rise to the top has been dramatic and more than deserved and she now ranks as one of the most powerful Arab women in the world alongside Queen Rania of Jordan, Lubna Al-Olayan, CEO of Riyadh-based Olayan Financing Company and Maha Al-Ghunaim, vice chair and managing director of Global Investment House. Taher, however, told me that her Arabian Business achievement award meant more to her “than any other” and that it was reassuring to know that her personal vision was appreciated by policy makers, politicians and economic analysts. My personal highlight of the evening however, came when the award for outstanding contribution to Middle East development was handed posthumously to the late Rafik Hariri, former Prime Minister of Lebanon. As soon as his name was announced and one of his sons, Sheikh Fahad Hariri, collected the award on his behalf, the ballroom erupted into a huge round of loud and long ringing applause. The ceremony crowd were truly moved. Wearing a picture of his late father on his lapel, Fahad told me that he was hugely honoured to receive the award and that it was something his father would have been very proud of. “Throughout his life he did everything he could to improve the way of life in the region — be it through his work in business or politics. I hope that we can carry on the work he started,” he said. A great event with some great winners and we’re already looking forward to 2007.||**||Euro all over again|~||~||~|I remember when the idea of the Euro was introduced and it caused all sorts of problems. People didn’t want to lose their national currencies and with it, their identities, they thought prices would soar and that it would never come up to scratch and compete against the dollar. And, in the most part they were right. The worst aspect of the whole implementation fiasco was that the price of everyday goods rose dramatically by almost a third, hurting low income earners the most and rendering a key section of society even poorer than they already were. Oman’s ‘delay’ in adopting the single GCC currency (tabled for 2010) due to not being able to meet the required criteria alongside Saudi Arabia’s finance minister calling the deadline “ambitious” are, in my mind, the first signs of the whole thing falling at the first hurdle. And bring back horrible Euro nightmares all over again. Oman maybe the second smallest economy in the Gulf, but nevertheless forms a key part of the council and the other member countries will be desperately trying to entice the Sultanate back into the fold. The problem, however, is a larger one with the current economic adoption criteria not just affecting Sultan Qaboos and his people, but also the wider Gulf countries. Qatar, for example, is feeling the pressure and allegedly struggling to meet the planned inflation cap, while Bahrain may not be able to meet criteria related to annual growth and public debts. The whole issue is up in the air and I have to agree with the KSA’s finance minister, 2010 is looking seriously bold. Let’s face it, the GCC has been working towards a currency union since the early 1980s. That’s 27 years of loose talk with little action and more rejections and questions than firm answers. Key details need to be ironed out and criteria clearly and commonly agreed, Oman needs to come back into the pact to form a united Gulf; countries, ministers and the public reassured that price rises will not drive key sections of society away from the GCC and the rest of the region; and that the common currency, whatever it is eventually called, does not block trade as it threatens to at present. If these points aren’t clarified, it will be another 27 years before anything concrete takes place and we will have another Euro on our hands.||**||

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