Economy of the United Arab Emirates

Mother Earth Travel > Country Index > UAE > Map Economy History

Prior to the first exports of oil in 1962, the UAE economy was dominated by pearl production, fishing, agriculture, and herding. Since the rise of oil prices in 1973, however, petroleum has dominated the economy, accounting for most of its export earnings and providing significant opportunities for investment. The UAE has huge proven oil reserves, estimated at 98.2 billion barrels in 1998, with gas reserves estimated at 5.8 billion cubic meters; at present production rates, these supplies would last well over 150 years.

In 2000, the UAE produced about 2.2 million barrels of oil per day--of which Abu Dhabi produced approximately 85%--with Dubai, and Sharjah to a much lesser extent, producing the rest.

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 $150 billion in overseas investments.

More than 200 factories operate at the Jebel Ali complex in Dubai, which includes a deep-water port and a free trade zone for manufacturing and distribution in which all goods for re-export or transshipment enjoy a 100% duty exemption. A major power plant with associated water desalination units, an aluminum smelter, and a steel fabrication unit are prominent facilities in the complex.

Except in the free trade zone, the UAE requires at least 51% local citizen ownership in all businesses operating in the country as part of its attempt to place Emiratis into leadership positions.

As a member of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), the UAE participates in the wide range of GCC activities that focus on economic issues. These include regular consultations and development of common policies covering trade, investment, banking and finance, transportation, telecommunications, and other technical areas, including protection of intellectual property rights.

GDP: purchasing power parity - $54 billion (2000 est.)
GDP - real growth rate: 2.5% (1999 est.), 4% (2000 est.)
GDP - per capita: purchasing power parity - $22,800 (2000 est.)
GDP - composition by sector:
agriculture: 3%
industry: 52%
services: 45% (1996 est.)
Inflation rate (consumer prices): 4% (1999 est.)
Labor force: 1.38 million (1998 est.)
note: 75% of the population in the 15-64 age group is non-national (July 1998 est.)
Labor force - by occupation: services 60%, industry 32%, agriculture 8% (1996 est.)
revenues: $5.5 billion
expenditures: $6.2 billion (1999 est.)
Industries: petroleum, fishing, petrochemicals, construction materials, some boat building, handicrafts, pearling
Industrial production growth rate: 0% (1997 est.)
Electricity - production: 20.11 billion kWh (1998)
Electricity - production by source:
fossil fuel: 100%
hydro: 0%
nuclear: 0%
other: 0% (1998)
Electricity - consumption: 18.702 billion kWh (1998)
Agriculture - products: dates, vegetables, watermelons; poultry, eggs, dairy products; fish
Exports: $34 billion (f.o.b., 1999 est.)
Exports - commodities: crude oil 45%, natural gas, reexports, dried fish, dates
Exports - partners: Japan 30%, South Korea 10%, India 6%, Singapore 4.5%, Oman 3%, Iran (1998)
Imports: $27.5 billion (f.o.b., 1999 est.)
Imports - commodities: machinery and transport equipment, chemicals, food
Imports - partners: United States 10%, Japan 9%, United Kingdom 9%, Germany 6%, South Korea 5%, Italy (1998)
Debt - external: $15.5 billion (1998 est.)
Currency: 1 Emirati dirham (AED) = 100 fils

SOURCES: The World Factbook, U.S. Department of State

Mother Earth Travel > Country Index > United Arab Emirates > Map Economy History