x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Capital launches economic gauge

Abu Dhabi has launched a set of socio-economic indicators as it moves to boost its appeal to investors.

Abu Dhabi has launched a set of socio-economic indicators as it moves to boost its appeal to investors. The indicators will for the first time provide monthly statistics on consumer confidence across Abu Dhabi, as well as quarterly data on the health of the emirate's business environment and financial sector.

The indicators will also shed light on demand in the labour market and provide statistics on nationals, including levels of unemployment and standards of living. The Department of Economic Development (DED) said the move was triggered by complaints of a lack of key business and economic data on Abu Dhabi. Officials say they hope the supply of regular information on the economy will help to entice investors by bringing the emirate up to standards of international best practice on data availability, while demonstrating a strong recovery from the global financial crisis.

"There was an absence of information," said Mohammed Omar Abdullah, the undersecretary of the DED. "Businessmen and markets did not have a good base for decision-making. We said this vacuum should be filled and will continue producing new indicators." The amount of socio-economic statistics available at an emirate level until now has been limited, with many investors and economists often having to rely on information supplied at a federal level, either from the Central Bank or the Ministry of Economy.

"The importance of a supply of economic information is highlighted whenever there's a local or global financial crisis," said Dr Mahdi Mattar, the head of research and chief economist at Shuaa Capital. "It means governments are able to make the right monetary or fiscal decisions and investors are able to make informed decisions on consumption of stocks and bonds." Officials from the Statistics Centre-Abu Dhabi say figures for the indicators, which it began collating in April, indicate Abu Dhabi's recovery from the global financial crisis has been "fully realised".

The results of the monthly consumer confidence index rose between April and last month, with the exception of a slight slowdown in June. The index also showed increased confidence in Government policies to stimulate the economy. A closer look at the figures shows a greater level of consumer confidence among nationals than expatriates and among those living in urban areas than in more sparsely populated locations. Consumers with an education of a degree or higher level were generally more optimistic than those less educated.

Evidence of increasing confidence among consumers comes a day after the release of official figures showing consumer price inflation in Abu Dhabi eased to 1.17 per cent during the first nine months of the year, compared with 14.88 per cent last September. An indicator on confidence in the business environment, which is collated on a quarterly basis, also shows signs of improvement. It reflected a greater level of confidence among businesses in the urban areas of Abu Dhabi than in Al Ain, with greater confidence among larger businesses than smaller ones.

The findings also throw up concerns raised by businesses. A shortage of skilled labour was the biggest issue raised by companies. Labour laws, administrative corruption and the instability of the economy were also of concern to businesses. Mr Abdullah said he expected levels of foreign direct investment (FDI) to rise next year but declined to give a figure for this year. "We are doing our best to attract FDI," he said. "FDI is not only for inflow of money but to ensure a strategic partnership for the transfer of knowledge and know-how to allow us to build our businesses."

@Email:tarnold@thenational.ae