United Arab Emirates flag United Arab Emirates: Economic outline

Economic Outline

Economic Indicators

The United Arab Emirates’ economy rebounded well from the COVID-19 crisis, growing 7.9% in 2022 and an estimated 3.4% in 2023, fueled by robust domestic activity. Forecasts for 2024 indicate a non-hydrocarbon GDP growth surpassing 4%, driven by the tourism, construction, and real estate sectors. Anticipated for 2024 is a 7% year-on-year increase in tourism receipts, reaching USD 43.7 billion (around 9% of the GDP). This surge is poised to further contribute to a rise in private consumption. Conversely, government consumption, accounting for approximately 12% of the GDP, will primarily focus on business reforms and incentives, rather than implementing stimulus programs to boost consumption. For the year as a whole, the IMF forecasts growth at 4%, followed by 4.2% in 2025.

The UAE’s public finances are sound. Supported by elevated oil prices, both fiscal and external surpluses maintain their strength. Projections for 2023 indicate a fiscal balance of around 5% of GDP, underpinned by robust economic activity and oil revenue. The gradual implementation of a corporate income tax, initiated in June 2023, is poised to contribute to increased non-oil revenue in the medium term. The consolidated UAE government debt-to-GDP ratio decreased to 29.4% of GDP in 2023 (from 31.1% one year earlier) and should follow a downward trend over the forecast horizon (28.3% by 2025). This decline is further influenced by the Dubai Emirate's commitment to reducing its public debt by EAD 29 billion in accordance with its Public Debt Sustainability Strategy. Simultaneously, the current account surplus is anticipated to surpass the medium-term level significantly in both 2023 and 2024. Nevertheless, the seven Emirates have varied debt profiles, with the Emirate of Dubai recording the highest level, at 78% of its GDP in 2022 (Fitch). Furthermore, the UAE’s Central Bank and sovereign wealth funds own important foreign assets, providing the country with a large liquidity cushion (Abu Dhabi holds the world's fourth-largest sovereign wealth fund) and making the country a net creditor at the global level. Overall, the Federation is estimated to have around USD 700 billion of assets in its sovereign wealth funds (Coface). In 2023, inflationary pressures moderated gradually to reach 3.1%; albeit a further reduction is expected for 2024 (2.3% as per the IMF projections), increasing rental prices are expected to exert upward pressure on the housing component of the CPI basket. As a result, inflation is likely to remain above the average observed in 2020-2022, which hovered around 1.3%.

The UAE has one of the highest per capita income levels in the world (estimated at USD 88,962 in 2023 at PPP by the IMF) and a highly developed welfare system. It also has one of the lowest rates of unemployment in the Middle East, at 2.8% in 2022 according to the World Bank (while Dubai enjoys the lowest unemployment level in the world, at around 0.5%) and depends heavily on foreign labour (more than 85% of the workforce). A policy of “Emiratisation” has been launched to encourage the employment of the local workforce; nevertheless, the unemployment rate among nationals continues to be considerably high compared to the rate among non-nationals (it varies according to the emirate and is the highest in Abu Dhabi).

Main Indicators 20222023 (E)2024 (E)2025 (E)2026 (E)
GDP (billions USD) 507.06504.17527.80550.24577.75
GDP (Constant Prices, Annual % Change)
GDP per Capita (USD) 52,62551,90953,91655,78158,139
General Government Gross Debt (in % of GDP) 31.130.930.330.330.1
Inflation Rate (%)
Current Account (billions USD) 59.0446.7741.0438.1138.40
Current Account (in % of GDP)

Source: IMF – World Economic Outlook Database, 2016

Note: (e) Estimated Data

Monetary Indicators 20162017201820192020
UAE Dirham (AED) - Average Annual Exchange Rate For 1 GBP 4.964.734.904.634.71

Source: World Bank, 2015


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Latest Update: April 2024

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