The UAE has one of the most open economies in the world. This tradition of welcoming business and trade goes back to early Gulf history, when ships sailed to India and along the coast of East Africa as far south as Mozambique.
The UAE continues to be a strategic hub, with business-friendly free zones and a quickly growing economy. The country has experienced significant economic growth. Average GDP growth over 2000 to 2006 in the UAE was about 8.4 percent—the highest in the Gulf Cooperation Council, which averaged 6.5 percent.
In 2012 United Arab Emirates GDP was at number third in Middle East with $360 billion, and number 30th in the world. There are various inaccurate estimates regarding the actual growth rate of the nation’s GDP, however all available statistics indicate that the UAE currently has one of the fastest growing economies in the world. According to a recent report by the Ministry of Finance and Industry, nominal GDP rose by 20.8% in 2012 to $360 billion, compared with $298 billion in 2011.
The year 2012 will be remembered in the UAE’s history, among others, for economic recovery from the biggest financial crisis in its history starting October 2008. All key economic sectors are showing signs of growth in various degrees.
Although the UAE economy started to turn around last year, the real effect of the growth has been felt throughout 2012, especially in trade, aviation, tourism and retail sectors — the key drivers of economic growth — in addition to oil. Even the real estate and construction sectors have begun to turn around with developers actually awarding construction contracts and selling new projects.
Tourism is one of the main sources of revenue in the United Arab Emirates. Although the UAE is less dependent on natural resources as a source of revenue, petroleum, and natural gas exports still play an important role in the economy, especially in Abu Dhabi.
A massive construction boom, an expanding manufacturing base, and a thriving services sector are helping the United Arab Emirates to diversify its economy. Nationwide, there is currently $350 billion worth of active construction projects. The UAE is a member of the World Trade Organization.
Major increases in imports occurred in manufactured goods, machinery, and transportation equipment, which together accounted for 70% of total imports. Another important foreign exchange earner, the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority which controls the investments of Abu Dhabi, the wealthiest emirate manages an estimated $360 billion in overseas investments & an estimated $900 billion in assets. The UAE is in the top ten for the richest countries.
Recently, the Emirate of Dubai has started to look for other sources of revenue. High-class tourism and international finance are the new sectors starting to be developed. In line with this initiative, the Dubai International Financial Centre was announced, offering 55.5% foreign ownership, no withholding tax, freehold land and office space and a tailor-made financial regulatory system with laws taken from best practice in other leading financial centers like New York, London, Zürich and Singapore. A new stock market for regional companies and other initiatives were announced in DIFC. Dubai has also developed Internet and Media free zones, offering 100% foreign ownership, no tax office space for the world’s leading ICT and media companies, with the latest communications infrastructure to service them. Many of the world’s leading companies have now set up branch offices, and even changed headquarters to, there. Recent liberalization in the property market allowing non citizens to buy freehold land has resulted in a major boom in the construction and real estate sectors, with several signature developments such as the 2 Palm Islands, the World (archipelago), Dubai Marina, Jumairah Lake Towers, and a number of other developments, offering villas and high rise apartments and office space.