New rules will help only multinationals

DUBAI - Some of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules to be implemented from next year are unfair and set up to benefit some multinational companies and certain countries, according to a local businessman.

By Jamila Qadir

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Published: Thu 20 May 2004, 9:45 AM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 12:28 AM

Hisham Abdulla Al Shirawi, member of board of directors of Al Shirawi Group of Companies, told this correspondent that people who made these rules do not abide by them. "This is the rule of the might rather than the rule of the right. It is another form of imposing the will of the few on the rest of the world," he said.

He said that family-owned businesses in the UAE together with other private and public companies and the government should be better prepared for it to protect the national economy, taking some negotiating stance to resist the rules that might jeopardise the country's national interests.

Asked whether the WTO agreements would affect the family-owned businesses in the UAE, he said the new rules would hurt all the businesses, but added that those, which will organise themselves and improve their performances, will be able to survive. "There might be some mergers, some companies' activities will become bigger or smaller, while some will become close corporations," he predicted.

Depending on the type of the businesses, some family-run companies might float 100 per cent of their shares or go public partially, he said, adding, however, that for certain businesses it would be better to remain family-owned rather than convert into public joint stock companies.

Al Shirawi, whose family business was set up back in 1920, also said that there was no enactment forcing family businesses in the UAE to go public. He said: "You cannot do anything by force. It will be individual owners decision to adapt to global and regional changes, which will force them to adopt new policies to meet the new challenges."

Family business exists all over the world. Even most of the conglomerates and international organisations started as family businesses and developed their systems, getting enough experience and expertise to become public shareholding companies, he said.

Meanwhile, the Dubai-based Al Habtoor Group, recently announced that it was considering converting its family businesses to public joint stock companies. According to its chairman Khalaf Ahmed Al Habtoor, the group intends to convert "in phases" its family business to public joint stock companies.

He said that in the first phase the group has initiated a move to convert some of its major divisions into public companies, adding that the applications for the same will be submitted to relevant authorities shortly.


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