The UAE will extend its economic diversification strategy by removing further subsidies on energy, Suhail Al Mazrouei, the UAE’s Energy Minister, told the World Economic Forum in Davos.
In particular, Mr Al Mazrouei said he was planning to scrap subsidies on electricity and on gas sold to power generators.
“We need to think about major reforms to make the budget less dependent on the oil price, and to build an economy that is vibrant but also taking advantage of the lower oil prices,” he said.
“We saw the opportunity to do the right thing and to get people to pay the right price for energy. We have done it with petrol and diesel, next is electricity. We must remove remaining subsidies from electricity generation. Most of it is not subsidised, the majority of the tariff is fair. But there are old gas contracts that are not realistic and do not reflect fair pricing,” he added.
He gave no details on the timing of the subsidy removals.
His comments came in a wider debate about the pace of economic reform in Arab countries, dominated by concerns from oil-producing countries about the effect of falling oil prices on regional budgets.
Mr Al Mazrouei predicted that national populations could be “persuaded” to accept and embrace economic reform even when it might affect their standard of living by increasing consumer prices. “If you have a good story and tell it to local people they will be convinced. The majority of the population is young and they’re different from past generations.
“The economy is still growing but the challenging thing is to get more efficiency. We are redirecting the subsidy as an opportunity to invest in other parts of the economy, like building schools and hospitals. It’s a convincing story. It’s not so difficult to understand,” he said.
(Courtesy: The National, UAE)