COUNTRY NAME: United Arab Emirates
LAND AREA: 83,600 km2
POPULATION: 4.9 million (2010 est.)
CURRENCY: 1 UAE Dirham (AED) = 100 Fils ; 1 EUR = 4.92 AED (Nov. 2010)
MAIN CITIES: Abu Dhabi (capital), Dubai, Sharjah
NATIONAL DAY: 2 December
TIME ZONE: Standard Time is GMT + 4
In little more than 30 years the UAE has achieved remarkable progress from a group of small neighbouring communities to a prosperous and modern commercial centre whose continually changing skyline is beginning to rival anything in the Middle East. The UAE has a vibrant free economy, a significant proportion of its revenues arising from exports of oil and gas. Successful efforts have been made to diversify, away from dependence on hydrocarbons and a solid industrial base has been created, together with a very strong services sector. The establishment of free zones has been an important feature of this diversification policy and reform of property laws gave a major boost to real estate and tourism sectors.
Despite the global financial crisis resulting in an inevitable contraction in 2009, the UAE economy remains robust, shielded by signify cant overseas financial assets acquired during the period of booming oil revenues. Substantial public expenditure, made possible by its assets, combined with strong fundamentals and sound fiscal policies, to minimise the impact of the crisis and receding petrodollar income on the UAE’s economy. It has speeded up its recovery in 2010. In particular, the UAE decided to maintain high investment budgets, especially for core long-term infrastructure projects, in order to stimulate growth and steer the economy away from recession. The UAE has obviously not been totally insulated from the reverberations of the global recession and in this regard cargo handler DP World revealed that business at its ports dropped ten per cent in the fi rst half of 2009 as the shipping industry struggled through the downturn.
Oil & Gas
The UAE is the world’s third largest exporter of crude oil and, as of February 2009, oil production was 2.223 million barrels a day. Oil reserves were 97.8 billion barrels, the sixth largest reserves in the world. Abu Dhabi holds 92.2 billion barrels or 94% of the UAE total. Meanwhile, natural gas reserves are 6 trillion cubic metres, which is the fifth largest in the world, according to official sources. The UAE is an increasingly attractive place to do business and, despite the global downturn of 2009, considerable opportunities continue to emerge in each of the emirates. Clearly Dubai and Abu Dhabi are the big attractions, but investors are now increasingly looking further afield towards the emerging markets of the smaller emirates such as Sharjah and Ras Al Khaimah. Visitors are drawn towards the open, low-tax and robust economy, stable market, the ease of doing business, the essential back up provided by first rate infrastructure, the transparent regulatory system and the legal protection offered in particular to intellectual property rights.
Despite the global slowdown, the UAE continued to be one of the most active construction markets in the world with more than 750 active projects in construction and 450 recently completed, according to a report by Dubai-based research house Proleads Global issued in July 2009. Although more than 400 projects with a total value in excess of $300 billion had been placed on hold or withdrawn; the report forecasts stability returning to the sector in 2009 with some recovery in cash flow in 2010. Considerable building activities are taking place across the emirates. Abu Dhabi still has a major shortage of residential units and work on infrastructure projects such as new roads, the metro and Khalifa Port, as well as airports and new industrial areas, has proceeded without delay. Abu Dhabi was considering allowing 100 per cent foreign ownership of some projects, the chairman of the Department of Economic Development stated. “We feel strongly inclined to grant 100 per cent ownership to foreigners in new and old industries as well as other projects,” Nasser Ahmed Al Kuwaiti told Emirates Business on 24 May 2009. Meanwhile, the number of contractors and consultants entering Abu Dhabi increased according to a report issued by the Directorate of Contractors’ Classification and Consultants’ Registration at the Department of Economic Development (DED), which said that the construction sector in Abu Dhabi witnessed a major development during the fi rst half of 2009. The construction sector in Ras Al Khaimah is to be better regulated under a new law issued by H H Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi, Crown Prince and Deputy Ruler of Ras Al Khaimah.. Provisions of law no 1 of 2009 for regulating buildings in RAK will be applicable to all buildings with the exception of those that come under a special decree or resolution. The law covers a wide range of topics dealing with buildings starting from designs, construction license, architectural standards and specifications, additions, expansions, maintenance and safety and security systems up to penalties for breaching provisions of the law.
The UAE compares favourably internationally in terms of its ICT services recording high rates of usage as the country’s ICT sector shows continuing rapid growth. The dynamism in the sector is attributed largely to the introduction of competition, as well as the adoption of international best practices and governance. The UAE ranked first among Arab countries in internet user rate, international internet bandwidth rates, the importance of ICT to the government’s vision of the future, personal computer rates, ICT use and government efficiency; e-government, government prioritisation of ICT, laws relating to ICT, and the number of telephone lines, according to the Global Information Technology Report 2007 – 2008, released in March 2009 by the World Economic Forum and based on estimates of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). The UAE also ranked second among the Arab countries in terms of: high-speed monthly broadband subscription, lowest cost of broadband, the availability of government online services, and secure internet servers. Internationally, the UAE ranked first worldwide on the cost of mobile telephone call and on residential monthly telephone subscriptions. In other areas, the UAE ranks worldwide as follows: fourth on the importance of ICT to government vision of the future, sixth on government success in ICT promotion, seventh on government prioritization of ICT, ninth on ICT use and government efficiency, 10th on mobile telephone subscribers rate, 10th on business telephone connection charge, and 14th on residential telephone connection charge.
Each of the emirates now has its own free zones, although the majority are in Dubai. All free zones in the UAE are governed by the independent Free Zone Authority (FZA) which is also the agency responsible for issuing operating licences and assisting companies with establishing their business. Dubai is the home to a majority of the free zones, including the famous Jebel Ali, the Airport Free Zone, Dubai Internet City and Dubai Healthcare City. More specialist free zones are planned catering for specific sectors including textile, energy and design cities. Setting up business in one of the UAE’s many Free Trade Zones (FTZs) is widely seen as an attractive option for foreign investors. The concessions offered to investors in the free zones have led to their success in attracting a large number of companies and foreign direct investment. In turn, this success has had the positive effect of expanding net non-oil exports.
Tourism sector officials in Abu Dhabi reported that the emirate was becoming an important tourism hub in the Gulf and Middle East due to its rich tourism varieties and capability to provide unprecedented entertainment, culture, artistic, musical, fairs and other competitive services in the region. In addition, Abu Dhabi said that it was eyeing a 59% growth in cruise passenger arrivals in the 2009/2010 season. Forecasts by the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA) point to some 199,113 arrivalsin the season, which runs from end of November to beginning of May.
Meanwhile, Sharjah, widely seen as the UAE’s cultural capital, was holding its position as a leading destination for cultural, heritage and family tourism worldwide.
The UAE has demonstrated an increased interest in the development of organic farming in recent years. This is largely because traditional farming methods are widely seen as impractical to meet the needs of the growing population. The first internationally recognised organic farm in Abu Dhabi was certified to European standards in 2007 and since then the sector has been growing. The land under organic cultivation is set to double against the backdrop of increasing support and encouragement from UAE public agencies keen to promote the sector. The total area under organic farming would increase to 3,000 acres as the demand for natural food products is on the rise, said industry experts. They said the focus on organic farming had come at a time when the market for organic and natural food products started picking up in the UAE as well as in the region. According to global data, the Middle East is considered to be the fastest growing market for natural and organic foods. On current estimates, the global market for these green alternatives to conventional food is to the tune of $220bn. The main domestically grown crops in the UAE are dates, tomatoes, melons, cucumbers, lettuce, camel milk, Akkawi cheese, eggplants and celery. The UAE imports most of its basic food needs including sugar, dairy products, meat, rice, tea, coffee, poultry, wheat flour and fruit.
Source: Austro-Arab Trade Directory 2011.
The mentioned data are subject to modification. No responsibility is taken for the correctness of the details provided.
Last modified: 24 January 2011