Residents of the UAE are better at saving money than all of their counterparts across the GCC, where the habit of putting cash aside is still to catch on.
A total of 35 per cent of respondents in the Emirates to the National Bonds GCC Savings Index survey said they were saving regularly, compared to 26 per cent in Saudi Arabia and 29 per cent in Kuwait, Qatar, Oman and Bahrain.
The results point to a greater savings culture in the UAE, a trend that has accelerated since the annual survey was launched in 2010. For two years the Emirates topped the list as being the best savers.
But the survey, released yesterday, still revealed a perceived shortfall in savings across the region. A total of 92 per cent of Saudi residents believe that their savings are not adequate for their future. Residents of other GCC countries displayed similar pessimism. Residents of Kuwait (91 per cent), Bahrain (88 per cent), UAE (87 per cent), Oman (85 per cent) and Qatar (84 per cent) were close behind.
The development of a savings culture across the GCC was still in its infancy, said Mohammed Qasim Al Ali, the chief executive of National Bonds, a Sharia-compliant saving scheme. "There is a gigantic task to be done," he said. "It requires a collaborative effort between government, the education system and employers, as they play a part in enhancing the lifestyle of employees, and the house, as in the GCC there are a lot of housewives and they control a lot of the spending in collaboration with the breadwinner."
National Bonds has been carrying out a regular survey of GCC residents across all nationalities since 2010 to gauge savings patterns.
The overall index is based on three factors: how people feel about the savings environment; whether they plan to raise the amount they save in the next six months; and how stable they feel about their financial status in the next six months.
Residents of Bahrain showed the biggest overall rise in savings sentiment this year, followed by the UAE, Oman and Saudi Arabia. In contrast, residents of Qatar showed the largest drop in savings sentiment.
"The population of Qatar has doubled since 2004 to 1.6 million residents in 2010 and when you have a population boom inflation goes up," said Mr Al Ali. "There's also a changing culture in Qatar, with more malls and they will spend a lot of money on the World Cup 2022 and when the lifestyle changes the tendency is to spend money."
Officials said the more positive results for the UAE may be a reflection of the greater steps the Government is taking to educate people about the importance of putting cash aside.
Earlier this year, the Government started workshops to educate people about the need to save money. It followed the launch last year of a Dh10 billion (US$2.72bn) fund to help Emiratis who had run up large debts.
But generally, the trend of a lack of saving across the GCC was continuing, the survey showed. A total of 74 per cent of residents in Saudi Arabia and 71 per cent in Kuwait, Oman and Bahrain said they do not save regularly. In the UAE, 65 per cent of respondents made the same claim.
Only 1 per cent of residents of Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar, Bahrain and Kuwait and 2 per cent of those in Oman said they would class their savings as "more than enough" for their future.
Bank accounts or bank savings accounts were the most common savings instruments being used by most residents. Respondents in Saudi Arabia used the fewest range of savings vehicles compared to elsewhere. After the Emirates, residents in Qatar were the most likely to use gold as a savings vehicle and were also the highest overall users of property as an investment tool.