UNITED ARAB EMIRATES
UAE has the second largest economy in the GCC (after Saudi Arabia), with a gross domestic product (GDP) of $377 billion (1.38 trillion AED) in 2012. Since independence in 1971, UAE’s economy has grown by nearly 231 times to 1.45 trillion AED in 2013. The non-oil trade has grown to 1.2 trillion AED, a growth by around 28 times from 1981 to 2012. UAE is ranked as the 26th best nation in the world for doing business based on its economy and regulatory environment, ranked by the Doing Business 2017 Report published by the World Bank Group.
Although UAE has the most diversified economy in the GCC, the UAE’s economy remains extremely reliant on oil. With the exception of Dubai, most of the UAE is dependent on oil revenues. Petroleum and natural gas continue to play a central role in the economy, especially in Abu Dhabi. More than 85% of the UAE’s economy was based on the oil exports in 2009. While Abu Dhabi and other UAE emirates have remained relatively conservative in their approach to diversification, Dubai, which has far smaller oil reserves, was bolder in its diversification policy. In 2011, oil exports accounted for 77% of the UAE’s state budget. Successful efforts at economic diversification have reduced the portion of GDP based on oil/gas output to 25%. Dubai suffered from a significant economic crisis in 2007–2010 and was bailed out by Abu Dhabi’s oil wealth. Dubai is running a balanced budget, reflecting economic growth. Tourism acts as a growth sector for the entire UAE economy. Dubai is the top tourism destination in the Middle East. According to the annual MasterCard Global Destination Cities Index, Dubai is the fifth most popular tourism destination in the world. Dubai holds up to 66% share of the UAE’s tourism economy, with Abu Dhabi having 16% and Sharjah 10%. Dubai welcomed 10 million tourists in 2013. The UAE has the most advanced and developed infrastructure in the region. Since the 1980s, the UAE has been spending billions of dollars on infrastructure. These developments are particularly evident in the larger emirates of Abu Dhabi and Dubai. The northern emirates are rapidly following suit, providing major incentives for developers of residential and commercial property. Property prices in Dubai fell dramatically when Dubai World, the government construction company, sought to delay a debt payment.
UAE law does not allow trade unions to exist. The right to collective bargaining and the right to strike are not recognised, and the Ministry of Labour has the power to force workers to go back to work. Migrant workers who participate in a strike can have their work permits cancelled and be deported. Consequently, there are very few anti-discrimination laws in relation to labour issues, with Emiratis – other GCC Arabs – getting preference in public sector jobs despite lesser credentials than competitors and lower motivation. In fact, just over eighty percent of Emirati workers hold government posts, with many of the rest taking part in state-owned enterprises such as Emirates airlines and Dubai Properties.
On a positive note, according to a recent survey conducted by Bayt.com, 56% of professionals working in the UAE expect the economy to improve.