UAE. The government of Abu Dhabi said on Monday it had taken "appropriate steps" to make sure its entities would pay off money owed to contractors working on billions of dollars worth of construction projects in the oil-rich emirate.
Construction companies, consultancy and architectural firms have faced slow and irregular payments from some Abu Dhabi government-linked entities, in some cases leading to severe financial difficulties.
No total value for the amount owed by the Abu Dhabi government and its entities to contractors has been made public, but it is likely to be several billion dollars, according to estimates by three sources in the construction industry.
"The Abu Dhabi Government is fully aware of its obligations in terms of outstanding payments to contractors, and has taken the appropriate steps to ensure that all these obligations are met by the responsible government entities," the Abu Dhabi Office of Government Communications said in a statement issued to Reuters on behalf of the government.
The statement did not give any further details on what measures had been taken.
Abu Dhabi, home to the capital of the seven-member United Arab Emirates federation, holds some 95% of the country's oil. For the past decade, the emirate has been pumping billions of dollars into vast infrastructure and tourism projects, creating a construction boom that drew contractors from all over the world.
Abu Dhabi has fared better during the global financial downturn than neighbouring emirate Dubai, which saw a collapse in its property market that triggered the restructuring of its flagship firm Dubai World.
Still, Abu Dhabi has had to retrench, and last year launched a strategic review of government spending that saw major projects pushed back, funds frozen and numerous top-level management shake-ups.
The emirate now faces challenges as a large supply of high-end homes is expected to enter the market. Housing prices in Abu Dhabi are expected to fall as much as 11% this year, according to a Reuters poll of analysts in January.
Abu Dhabi, which rescued Dubai with a US$10 billion bailout, has spent an equal amount on its own struggling developer Aldar Properties, which landed in debt after a building spree.
"The Abu Dhabi Government and its related entities are currently managing well over 1,300 different projects, ranging in magnitude from several hundred thousand to billions of dirhams," the statement said.
"One may appreciate that the monitoring of progress, verification of contractual obligations, and scheduling of payments is a highly complex process, and that in such a large portfolio of projects some delays in delivery or payment are to a certain extent inevitable."
The statement added, "The Abu Dhabi Government recognises the valuable contribution that the contractors and their suppliers make to the local economy, and appreciates how important the timely management of cash flows is to the health of these businesses.