Calls for loan checks and UAE credit bureau grow despite bad debt ruling

ABU DHABI // Calls are growing for a credit bureau to protect citizens from unscrupulous banking practices, despite Dubai prosecutors announcing that 555 bad-cheque charges against Emiratis have been dismissed.

Fadhel Al Mansoori, 25, an Air Force cadet, said he and his Emirati friends were often pressured into getting loans.

"I was never planning on getting a loan but they told me I would have instant cash, which is why I got it," Mr Al Mansoori said. "They try to lure us, that is true."

Much legislation to protect customers has been passed since the financial crisis began in late 2008.

In 2011, the Central Bank made it illegal to extend new loans to customers whose current repayments exceeded 50 per cent of their monthly salary, and a loan could not exceed more than 20 times the applicant's total monthly income.

The legislation also included caps on bank charges for personal loans and minimum income levels for those seeking credit cards.

Last July regulations were further tweaked to allow banks to extend the loan-repayment period beyond the usual four-year deadline if a borrower ran into financial trouble.

Another regulation also barred lenders from cold-calling members of the public to offer them unsolicited loans and credit cards if they were not already customers of that bank.

And in October, the President Sheikh Khalifa decriminalised the issuing of bad security cheques for Emiratis.

But without a credit bureau to check on loan practices, experts say the issue will persist.

"The problem is a little bit alleviated by the new parameters, which are now standardised for all to follow," said Ali Al Nuaimi, an FNC member from Ajman with several years of experience in the banking sector. "But to my knowledge, not all banks stick to the new rules."

Mr Al Nuaimi has been a vocal advocate for solutions to the debt problem, and said he and other FNC members were assured by the Minister of State for Financial Affairs, Obaid Al Tayer, that a credit bureau would be operating by this year.

Although the credit bureau now has a board of directors, it is not yet fully functional.

"No credit bureau means there is not 100 per cent credibility," Mr Al Nuaimi said. "When a person comes and takes out a loan, there is no way to check if he has other loans with other banks."

Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank (ADCB) admits that, without a bureau, banks have very few clues to go on when ascertaining a customer's debt history, and instead must lend based on profiles.

"You have to ask: what is their occupation, income, background, education," said Arup Mukhopadhyay, head of consumer banking at ADCB. "If somebody says they won't pay we follow our collection strategy."

Mr Mukhopadhyay said banks always tried to demonstrate prudence when lending and minimise the risk of defaulting among customers.

Sultan Al Sammahi, an FNC member from Fujairah, has suggested that lenders be fined by the Central Bank if they are found to be taking advantage of locals.

"Interest rates need to be lowered," Mr Al Sammahi said. "And locals should not be made to pay any interest in the first year if they are setting up small to medium business. The first year they get no profit anyway."

* Additional reporting by Ayesha Al Khoori, Salam Al Amir and Thamer Al Subaihi


Company name: Revibe
Started: 2022
Founders: Hamza Iraqui and Abdessamad Ben Zakour
Based: UAE
Industry: Refurbished electronics
Funds raised so far: $10m
Investors: Flat6Labs, Resonance and various others

Company Profile

Company name: Cargoz
Date started: January 2022
Founders: Premlal Pullisserry and Lijo Antony
Based: Dubai
Number of staff: 30
Investment stage: Seed


Director: Stephen Gaghan

Stars: Robert Downey Jr, Michael Sheen

One-and-a-half out of five stars


Al Jazira 3 Persepolis 2
Mabkhout (52'), Romarinho (77'), Al Hammadi (90'+6)
Persepolis: Alipour (42'), Mensha (84')

Need to know

The flights: Flydubai flies from Dubai to Kilimanjaro airport via Dar es Salaam from Dh1,619 return including taxes. The trip takes 8 hours. 

The trek: Make sure that whatever tour company you select to climb Kilimanjaro, that it is a reputable one. The way to climb successfully would be with experienced guides and porters, from a company committed to quality, safety and an ethical approach to the mountain and its staff. Sonia Nazareth booked a VIP package through Safari Africa. The tour works out to $4,775 (Dh17,538) per person, based on a 4-person booking scheme, for 9 nights on the mountain (including one night before and after the trek at Arusha). The price includes all meals, a head guide, an assistant guide for every 2 trekkers, porters to carry the luggage, a cook and kitchen staff, a dining and mess tent, a sleeping tent set up for 2 persons, a chemical toilet and park entrance fees. The tiny ration of heated water provided for our bath in our makeshift private bathroom stall was the greatest luxury. A standard package, also based on a 4-person booking, works out to $3,050 (Dh11,202) per person.

When to go: You can climb Kili at any time of year, but the best months to ascend  are  January-February and September-October.  Also good are July and August, if you’re tolerant of the colder weather that winter brings.

Do not underestimate the importance of kit. Even if you’re travelling at a relatively pleasant time, be geared up for the cold and the rain.


GMC Sierra Denali 1500

Engine: 6.2-litre V8

Transmission: 10-speed automatic

Power: 420hp

Torque: 623Nm

Price: Dh232,500

Director: Nag Ashwin

Starring: Prabhas, Saswata Chatterjee, Deepika Padukone, Amitabh Bachchan, Shobhana

Rating: ★★★★

How to get exposure to gold

Although you can buy gold easily on the Dubai markets, the problem with buying physical bars, coins or jewellery is that you then have storage, security and insurance issues.

A far easier option is to invest in a low-cost exchange traded fund (ETF) that invests in the precious metal instead, for example, ETFS Physical Gold (PHAU) and iShares Physical Gold (SGLN) both track physical gold. The VanEck Vectors Gold Miners ETF invests directly in mining companies.

Alternatively, BlackRock Gold & General seeks to achieve long-term capital growth primarily through an actively managed portfolio of gold mining, commodity and precious-metal related shares. Its largest portfolio holdings include gold miners Newcrest Mining, Barrick Gold Corp, Agnico Eagle Mines and the NewMont Goldcorp.

Brave investors could take on the added risk of buying individual gold mining stocks, many of which have performed wonderfully well lately.

London-listed Centamin is up more than 70 per cent in just three months, although in a sign of its volatility, it is down 5 per cent on two years ago. Trans-Siberian Gold, listed on London's alternative investment market (AIM) for small stocks, has seen its share price almost quadruple from 34p to 124p over the same period, but do not assume this kind of runaway growth can continue for long

However, buying individual equities like these is highly risky, as their share prices can crash just as quickly, which isn't what what you want from a supposedly safe haven.

What it means to be a conservationist

Who is Enric Sala?

Enric Sala is an expert on marine conservation and is currently the National Geographic Society's Explorer-in-Residence. His love of the sea started with his childhood in Spain, inspired by the example of the legendary diver Jacques Cousteau. He has been a university professor of Oceanography in the US, as well as working at the Spanish National Council for Scientific Research and is a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Future Council on Biodiversity and the Bio-Economy. He has dedicated his life to protecting life in the oceans. Enric describes himself as a flexitarian who only eats meat occasionally.

What is biodiversity?

According to the United Nations Environment Programme, all life on earth – including in its forests and oceans – forms a “rich tapestry of interconnecting and interdependent forces”. Biodiversity on earth today is the product of four billion years of evolution and consists of many millions of distinct biological species. The term ‘biodiversity’ is relatively new, popularised since the 1980s and coinciding with an understanding of the growing threats to the natural world including habitat loss, pollution and climate change. The loss of biodiversity itself is dangerous because it contributes to clean, consistent water flows, food security, protection from floods and storms and a stable climate. The natural world can be an ally in combating global climate change but to do so it must be protected. Nations are working to achieve this, including setting targets to be reached by 2020 for the protection of the natural state of 17 per cent of the land and 10 per cent of the oceans. However, these are well short of what is needed, according to experts, with half the land needed to be in a natural state to help avert disaster.


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Power: 181hp

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Transmission: 6-speed automatic

Starting price: Dh79,000

On sale: Now

UAE currency: the story behind the money in your pockets

1. Bhiwadi, India
2. Ghaziabad, India
3. Hotan, China
4. Delhi, India
5. Jaunpur, India
6. Faisalabad, Pakistan
7. Noida, India
8. Bahawalpur, Pakistan
9. Peshawar, Pakistan
10. Bagpat, India

Source: IQAir

Fund-raising tips for start-ups

Develop an innovative business concept

Have the ability to differentiate yourself from competitors

Put in place a business continuity plan after Covid-19

Prepare for the worst-case scenario (further lockdowns, long wait for a vaccine, etc.) 

Have enough cash to stay afloat for the next 12 to 18 months

Be creative and innovative to reduce expenses

Be prepared to use Covid-19 as an opportunity for your business

* Tips from Jassim Al Marzooqi and Walid Hanna


Started: 2023
Co-founders: Arto Bendiken and Talal Thabet
Based: Dubai, UAE
Industry: AI
Number of employees: 41
Funding: About $1.7 million
Investors: Self, family and friends

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