Emirati Economy
Economy - overview: The UAE has an open economy with a high per capita income and a sizable annual trade surplus. Successful efforts at economic diversification have reduced the portion of GDP based on oil and gas output to 25%. Since the discovery of oil in the UAE more than 30 years ago, the country has undergone a profound transformation from an impoverished region of small desert principalities to a modern state with a high standard of living. The government has increased spending on job creation and infrastructure expansion and is opening up utilities to greater private sector involvement. The country's free trade zones - offering 100% foreign ownership and zero taxes - are helping to attract foreign investors. The global financial crisis of 2008, tight international credit, and deflated asset prices constricted the economy in 2009. UAE authorities tried to blunt the crisis by increasing spending and boosting liquidity in the banking sector. The crisis hit Dubai hardest, as it was heavily exposed to depressed real estate prices. Dubai lacked sufficient cash to meet its debt obligations, prompting global concern about its solvency and ultimately a $20 billion bailout from the UAE Central Bank and Abu Dhabi-emirate government that was refinanced in March 2014. Dependence on oil, a large expatriate workforce, and growing inflation pressures are significant long-term challenges. The UAE's strategic plan for the next few years focuses on economic diversification and creating more job opportunities for nationals through improved education and increased private sector employment.
GDP (purchasing power parity): $599.8 billion (2014 est.)
GDP (official exchange rate): $401.6 billion (2014 est.)
GDP - real growth rate: 3.6% (2014 est.)
GDP - per capita (PPP): $64,500 (2014 est.)
GDP - composition by sector: agriculture: 0.6%
industry: 58.9%
services: 40.5% (2014 est.)
Labor force: 4.891 million (2014 est.)
Labor force - by occupation: agriculture: 7%
industry: 15%
services: 78% (2000 est.)
Unemployment rate: 2.4% (2001 est.)
Household income or consumption by percentage share: lowest 10%: NA%
highest 10%: NA%
Investment (gross fixed): 28.9% of GDP (2009 est.)
Budget: revenues: $140.6 billion
expenditures: $116 billion
note: the UAE federal budget does not account for emirate-level spending in Abu Dhabi and Dubai (2014 est.)
Public debt: 44.2% of GDP (2014 est.)
Inflation rate (consumer prices): 2.3% (2014 est.)
Central bank discount rate: NA%
Agriculture - products: dates, vegetables, watermelons; poultry, eggs, dairy products; fish
Industries: petroleum and petrochemicals; fishing, aluminum, cement, fertilizers, commercial ship repair, construction materials, some boat building, handicrafts, textiles
Industrial production growth rate: 3.5% (2014 est.)
Electricity - production: 100.5 billion kWh (2012 est.)
Electricity - consumption: 93.28 billion kWh (2012 est.)
Electricity - exports: 0 kWh (2013 est.)
Electricity - imports: 0 kWh (2013 est.)
Oil - production: 2.82 million bbl/day (2014 est.)
Oil - consumption: 463,000 bbl/day (2008 est.)
Oil - exports: 2.5 million bbl/day (2013 est.)
Oil - imports: 0 bbl/day (2012 est.)
Oil - proved reserves: 97.8 billion bbl (1 January 2015 est.)
Natural gas - production: 54.36 billion cu m (2013 est.)
Natural gas - consumption: 66.69 billion cu m (2013 est.)
Natural gas - exports: 7.4 billion cu m (2013 est.)
Natural gas - imports: 19.49 billion cu m (2013 est.)
Natural gas - proved reserves: 6.089 trillion cu m (1 January 2014 est.)
Current account balance: $48.45 billion (2014 est.)
Exports: $404.7 billion (2014 est.)
Exports - commodities: crude oil 45%, natural gas, reexports, dried fish, dates
Exports - partners: Japan 14.8%, Iran 11.4%, India 9.6%, South Korea 5.7%, China 5.5%, Singapore 5.4%, Thailand 4.5% (2014)
Imports: $271.7 billion (2014 est.)
Imports - commodities: machinery and transport equipment, chemicals, food
Imports - partners: China 15.7%, India 13.4%, US 8.9%, Germany 5.3% (2014)
Reserves of foreign exchange and gold: $74.7 billion (31 December 2014 est.)
Debt - external: $173.3 billion (31 December 2014 est.)
Stock of direct foreign investment - at home: $114.9 billion (31 December 2014 est.)
Stock of direct foreign investment - abroad: $65.7 billion (31 December 2014 est.)
Exchange rates: Emirati dirhams (AED) per US dollar - 3.673 (2014 est.), 3.673 (2013 est.), 3.67 (2012 est.), 3.673 (2011 est.), 3.6725 (2010 est.)
economic climate  
Background:
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) economy is mainly dependent on oil and natural gas, which accounts for around 36 per cent of GDP. The UAE is currently the fourth largest producer of oil in the Organization of Exporting Petroleum Countries (OPEC) with reserves estimated at 98 billion barrels (10 per cent of the world reserves).
The capital, Abu Dhabi contributes as much as 93 per cent of the country's total output and is heavily oil revenue dependent. Dubai on the other hand has, over the years, diversified into trading and has emerged as the leading trading entry point of the Gulf and Middle East.
Since the early 1980s, the two main economic aims of the UAE authorities have been to reduce the dependence on hydrocarbons and to boost private sector activity. This strategy has been developed in a bid to balance the country’s vulnerability to changes in the world oil prices and to plan for the economy in the event of the depletion of oil resources. The UAE is one of the world's richest nations with per capita GDP reported at US$17,547 by the Economist Intelligence Unit.
Export opportunities:
Due to the lack of highly developed industrial and agricultural sectors, the UAE is heavily reliant on imports of goods and services. For this reason opportunities exist in a number of industry sectors including:
- Building and construction
- Education
- Food, beverages and agribusiness
- Health services and pharmaceuticals
- Consumer goods
- Education
- Financial services
- ICT
Update: This page was last updated on 10 November 2015
Sources: 1. CIA, The World Factbook, https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ae.html
2. http://www.austrade.gov.au
3. DIBNC Experts Team