This is where the UAE economy is headed: CEOs

Dubai: With all the news headlines about job cuts, fewer vacancies or lower economic growth forecast in the region, one may be forgiven for feeling a bit despondent.

But despite all the current headwinds that may be putting pressure on the economy, business conditions in the UAE will remain positive for the rest of the year.

That’s the sentiment gathered from the majority of heads of companies across the emirates.

More than eight in 10 — or 82 per cent — of chief executive officers (CEOs) in the UAE said during a survey that they have “positive or very positive expectations” of local business conditions for the coming year.


Staff at the Oxford Business Group which conducted the survey on a face-to-face basis also found that three quarters of the CEOs think that their company is very likely or likely to make a significant investment within the next 12 months.

This overall feeling of positivity is thanks largely to the UAE’s unique strengths. The country’s economy is diversified, so it’s no longer highly dependent on the fate of oil prices, while its infrastructure is regarded as world class.

It has a number of attractions in place that are a sure magnet for tourists – from the world’s tallest tower to the musical fountain, to the largest shopping mall and biggest air-conditioned theme park.

Oliver Cornock, editor-in-chief and managing editor for the Middle East at Oxford Business Group, which surveyed the CEOs, said the results of the study suggested that Dubai, Abu Dhabi and the rest of the emirates are meeting the challenges head on.

“World-class infrastructure and tourism offerings, significant financial reserves and a reputation as a safe haven have all contributed to a feeling that despite the various headwinds buffeting the UAE, it is well placed to drive on with reforms intended to ensure long-term, sustainable prosperity,” noted Cornock.

The survey included high-level executives from across the industries in the UAE. Its main objective is to gauge overall business sentiment.

The majority of the respondents were from private companies and based in Dubai.

External events

When asked which two external events were most likely to impact the UAE economy, nearly eight in ten (75 per cent) of the CEOs chose regional security as a possible key factor.

The opening up of Iran was also cited by 40 per cent of the respondents, followed by currency volatility (15 per cent) and the slowdown in China (11 per cent).

A significant number of the CEOs (46 per cent), however, noted that getting financial aid from lending institutions in the UAE can be “difficult or very difficult.”

“I think we can draw two important conclusions [from the survey]; first, it speaks of the underlying, long-term confidence CEOs have in the UAE; and, perhaps more importantly, it underlines the identified, but as-yet unrealised potential that the country offers,” said Cornock.

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