x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

DPE says inflation figures wrong

The Abu Dhabi Department of Planning and Economy says Monday's figure of 12.88% second quarter inflation was inaccurate.

Rent is the single largest component of the basket of goods used to approximate Abu Dhabi's spending habits.
Rent is the single largest component of the basket of goods used to approximate Abu Dhabi's spending habits.

The Abu Dhabi Department of Planning and Economy (DPE) announced yesterday that Monday's figure of 12.88 per cent inflation for the second quarter of this year was inaccurate. Abubaker al Amoudi, a director of statistical administration at the DPE, said the data were incomplete and that he expected to publish a revised set of figures within the next two weeks.

The department did not elaborate on the erroneous gauge of inflation, which has soared in the past year on the back of increasing global commodity prices, government spending and housing costs. Inflation in all Gulf states except for Bahrain has reached double digits, threatening to dampen the region's ambitious development plans. The latest official estimate for the UAE as a whole - Monday's numbers applied only to the emirate of Abu Dhabi - was 11.1 per cent last year. Inflation in Saudi Arabia, the largest Gulf economy, stood at 10.6 per cent in June. In Qatar, it reached above 14 per cent in the first quarter of this year, the highest rate in the region.

The DPE report released on Monday said the category of goods comprised primarily of rent prices rose just 0.01 per cent from April to June this year, a rate far below figures cited by property agents. A housing shortage in Abu Dhabi has sent rentals skyrocketing this year, as developers struggle to keep up with the rush of new residents arriving in the capital. "It's clear they're keenly aware of the need to improve the timelines of the data they release," said Simon Williams, the chief economist of Gulf markets for HSBC. "Investors, commentators and policy makers will be pleased when data are available in the same timely fashion from the UAE that it is elsewhere in the region. In Saudi Arabia you have monthly inflation figures, the same in Oman, and you have quarterly data from Qatar. There's no reason why the same data shouldn't be available in the UAE."

The DPE conducts a survey of rent prices only every six months, even though it publishes CPI figures twice as often. Since rent is the single largest component in the basket of goods used to approximate the spending habits of Abu Dhabi residents, revisions in rent data have an especially dramatic effect on inflation figures. The DPE declared that it was working with the Ministry of Economy and Dubai Statistics Centre to devise a new basket of consumer goods representing the spending habits of Emirati citizens.

The new basket will include 1,100 goods and services, up from the 500 items currently, the DPE said. @Email:tpantin@thenational.ae