The Trucial States of the Persian Gulf coast granted the UK control of their defense and foreign affairs in 19th century treaties. In 1971, six of these states - Abu Dhabi, 'Ajman, Al Fujayrah, Ash Shariqah, Dubayy, and Umm al Qaywayn - merged to form the United Arab Emirates (UAE). They were joined in 1972 by Ra's al Khaymah. The UAE's per capita GDP is on par with those of leading West European nations. For more than three decades, oil and global finance drove the UAE's economy. However, in 2008-09, the confluence of falling oil prices, collapsing real estate prices, and the international banking crisis hit the UAE especially hard. The UAE essentially avoided the "Arab Spring" unrest seen elsewhere in the Middle East in 2010-11 and in an effort to stem potential unrest, the government announced a multi-year, $1.6-billion infrastructure investment plan for the poorer northern emirates and aggressively pursued advocates of political reform. The UAE in recent years has played a vital role in regional affairs. In addition to donating billions of dollars in economic aid to help stabilize Egypt, the UAE is a member of a US-led global coalition to defeat the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and a coalition partner in a Saudi-led military campaign to restore the government of Yemen.
Middle East, bordering the Gulf of Oman and the Persian Gulf, between Oman and Saudi Arabia
petroleum, natural gas
Population - distribution
population is heavily concentrated to the northeast on the Musandam Peninsula; the three largest emirates - Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and Sharjah - are home to nearly 85% of the population
Arabic (official), Persian, English, Hindi, Urdu
Dubai 2.415 million; Sharjah 1.279 million; ABU DHABI (capital) 1.145 million (2015)
- Conventional long form
- United Arab Emirates
- Conventional short form
- Local long form
- Al Imarat al Arabiyah al Muttahidah
- Local short form
- Abu Dhabi
- Geographic coordinates
- 24 28 N, 54 22 E
- Time difference
- UTC+4 (9 hours ahead of Washington, DC, during Standard Time)
has not submitted an ICJ jurisdiction declaration; non-party state to the ICCt
The UAE has an open economy with a high per capita income and a sizable annual trade surplus. Successful efforts at economic diversification have reduced the portion of GDP from the oil and gas sector to 30%.
- Total tax rate (% of commercial profits)
- Real Interest Rate
- Manufacturing, value added (% of GDP)
- Current Account Balance
- Labor Force, Total
- Employment in Agriculture
- Employment in Industry
- Employment in Services
- Unemployment Rate
- Imports of goods and services
- US$ 353,764,465,623
- Exports of goods and services
- US$ 362,069,434,990
- Total Merchandise Trade
- FDI, net inflows
- US$ 8,795,098,707
- Commercial Service Exports
dates, vegetables, watermelons; poultry, eggs, dairy products; fish
petroleum and petrochemicals; fishing, aluminum, cement, fertilizer, commercial ship repair, construction materials, handicrafts, textiles
- crude oil 45%, natural gas, reexports, dried fish, dates (2012 est.)
- Iran 13.6%, Oman 11.3%, Japan 9.2%, India 8%, China 4.4% (2015)
- machinery and transport equipment, chemicals, food
- China 15.4%, India 12.6%, US 9.6%, Germany 6.7%, Oman 4.5%, UK 4.3% (2015)
- Country Risk Rating
- A somewhat shaky political and economic outlook and a relatively volatile business environment can affect corporate payment behavior. Corporate default probability is still acceptable on average.
- Business Climate Rating
- The business environment is good. When available, corporate financial information is reliable. Debt collection is reasonably efficient. Institutions generally perform efficiently. Intercompany transactions usually run smoothly in the relatively stable environment rated A2.
- Among the most diversified economies in the Middle East
- Importance of Abu Dhabi, which holds 90% of the United Arab Emirates’ substantial hydrocarbon reserves
- Dubai's growing importance in services (regional business center, world’s seventh biggest port)
- Important financial base thanks to the Abu Dhabi sovereign fund
- Political stability of the Federation
- Diverse economies, still dependent on Abu Dhabi's hydrocarbon revenues
- High external debt of Dubai's para-public entities
- Quasi-public entities lack transparency
- Problem of demographic balance, due to the size of the foreign population
UAE economy remains more diversified than that of the other GCC countries and has shown some resilience in the face of lower hydrocarbon prices. The slowdown in oil production and the decline in public spending had repercussions on the non-oil economy. Abu Dhabi, which remains the most dependent Emirate on hydrocarbon sector (49% of GDP), should experience a more marked slowdown in 2017, following the cuts in capital spending and less transfers to quasi-public sector companies. Dubai should be more resilient, even though non-oil activity will show signs of a loss of momentum. At the Federation’s level, financial and tourism sectors will continue to drive growth. In contrast, construction will continue to experience difficulties. Distribution and trade will also suffer from less dynamic consumption. Investment will slow in response to the fall in public procurement, which will have an impact on credit growth. Exports will continue to be hampered by the dollar appreciation, to which the dirham is pegged, and the hike in US interest rates should reinforce this trend. The slight rise in oil prices could, however, temper this soft economic environment and give a slight impetus to activity. Inflation will remain contained in 2017, as the effect of removing subsidies will have been absorbed. The fall in property prices could also put pressure on overall price levels.
The public deficit widened significantly in 2016, but is still smaller than that observed in the other GCC countries. The fall in hydrocarbon prices from an average of USD 52.2 in 2015 to USD 44 in 2016 affected the Federation's budgetary income. In 2017, the public deficit will be lower, as the expected modest recovery in oil prices is projected to take the pressure off the public finances. Non-oil revenues will develop only weakly compared to 2016, following the adjustments to taxes and royalties aimed primarily at expatriates. Spending is expected to remain unchanged compared with 2016, with a forecast budget of USD 13bn, whose main items will be the development of the energy and water sectors, and the Sheikh Zayed housing program. Moreover, a plan covering the period 2017-2021 is designed to rationalize and priorities public spending over five years. This plan will place more focus on education and health spending and aim to limit the pressure on public infrastructure caused by rapid population growth. The appearance of a public deficit from 2015 initially constrained the governments of the Emirates to draw on their financial reserves and subsequently to issue debt on the international markets, like the USD 5 billion bond issued by Abu Dhabi in May 2016. The amount of debt at the Federation level will remain sustainable, provided the seven Emirates apply the principle of budgetary solidarity, but the amount of quasi-public debt remains concerning for Dubai. Indeed, the Gre’s debt represent 70% of Dubai GDP against 27% for Abu Dhabi. Despite the downturn in public deposits, the banking sector remains liquid. The Emirates' banks are profitable and well capitalized.
Reliant on oil exports, the external accounts are expected to recover in 2017, having been constrained by the slowdown in exports in 2016. An appreciation of the dollar following the hike in US interest rates could however limit the competitiveness of exports, especially of non-oil exports. The attractiveness of the property sector could also suffer, thus limiting its attractiveness for foreign investors. The central banks' reserves will continue to be maintained at a high level. These totaled USD 81bn in October 2016.
The United Arab Emirates stands out for the stability of its political and security situation in the region. However, the Federation plays a regional role, particularly within the coalition in Yemen and Syria. The business climate, considered as one of the most favorable in the area, is on an improving trend, thanks to the expected passing of the new insolvency law, which should provide a framework for the process for the winding up and restructuring of companies in difficulty. Conversely, the "emirisation" program for jobs, under which recruitment is based on nationality, could be an obstacle to foreign investment.