Each National Day, I, like many Emiratis who have lived through the foundation of the United Arab Emirates, pause to reflect on the progress we have made as a nation. I marvel at the strides we have taken since those first steps from the Union House in 1971. Visiting the Etihad Museum, which preserves the heritage of that historic moment, one can easily imagine hearing the echoes of our founders’ footsteps. As we prepare to celebrate the Year of Zayed in 2018, I am especially aware of the numerous milestones achieved by the leadership of my home city of Abu Dhabi.
Perhaps given my personal connection to its past, I am particularly proud of the transformation of Adnoc, where I started my career before joining the family petroleum firm. It has long been a champion of change by evolving sectorally and expanding geographically to diversify its holdings. Its growth trajectory has been aligned with the development curve of our economy and in many instances Adnoc set the best practices for other local industries in the areas of safety and governance. Once again, it is leading the way as regional oil companies look to privatise and further engage with strategic financial and operational partners. With unified branding and a restructured organisation, the company has invited investors to participate in the initial public offering of Adnoc Distribution, its fuel retail unit.
This IPO bellwether will set the tone for future offerings as our Government extends additional opportunities for individuals and institutions to share in the success of these ventures. Of course, we must recognise that the timing of the listing must be taken in the context of the prevailing market conditions. I witnessed the rebound in market sentiment firsthand at the recent Abu Dhabi International Petroleum Exhibition Conference (Adipec); the event drew record attendances and was the largest in its history. Allow me to also share my own personal view as a perspective formed over decades of past experience and forged through previous downturns in oil and gas.
In my capacity as both an engineer and an executive within the industry, I am confident that the fundamentals indicate a sustained recovery lies ahead. However, the expectation that oil prices will reach previous peak levels is unrealistic. Instead, the increasingly diversified energy mix, both in terms of alternative fuels and renewables generation, presents a long term balance of economic and environmental sustainability. The root of my confidence stems from my certainty in our country’s leadership to navigate the uncertain waters ahead. Applying equal measures of foresight and forbearance they have instituted public policies that reflect our economy’s commercial priorities. Correspondingly, as VAT is introduced to strengthen the UAE economy, we should embrace our obligation to contribute to the federal budget and pay our fair share of public services.
In 2018, Al Maskari Holding will celebrate its 50th anniversary. That milestone is as much about reflection as it is about longevity. The lessons learned along the journey’s long road have imparted a moral imperative to act conscientiously in the service of others. I am blessed with children that have followed in those footsteps. As I focus on our foundation’s activities, the third generation members of my family’s stewardship are leading the company through our own organisational transformation to prepare for the future. None of that, however, can be achieved without an aspirational vision set forth by the UAE’s rulers, who carry on the legacy of our founding fathers. I am excited to see where they lead us next.
Dr Shaikha Al Maskari is chairperson of Al Maskari Holding