x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Dubai economy powers ahead, prospectus reveals

Dubai's economy has rebalanced since the global downturn, a government bond prospectus has revealed.

Dubai has opened its financial books to investors, revealing the impact of the global crisis on the emirate as well as the rebalancing of its economy since the downturn.

A prospectus linked to the sale of as much as US$5 billion (Dh18.36bn) of bonds shows how the economy has begun to shift from property to manufacturing, transport and other sectors.

The emirate's economy expanded by 2.4 per cent last year, rebounding from a decline by the same margin the year before, the prospectus shows.

The depth of the slowdown within the property sector is also revealed.

A total of 217 property projects were cancelled as of May 31 after a review of the industry during the past two years, according to the prospectus posted on the London Stock Exchange.

More than 450 projects were reviewed by the Real Estate Regulatory Authority, with 237 expected to be completed "in due course", it said.

Property transactions fell from Dh119.5bn at the end of last year, from Dh152.9bn a year earlier.

"Construction and property could never be a permanent contributor to Dubai's economy as it does not create long-term value but, instead, enables broader infrastructure to be developed within the economy," said Simon Williams, the chief economist at HSBC for the Middle East and North Africa region.

The prospectus shows the shrinking importance of the property sector to the economy.

Property and business services contributed 17.9 per cent to GDP in 2007, the data showed.

By last year, the sector contributed 13.7 per cent to the economy. Similarly, the construction sector also declined from 11.9 per cent to 9.4 per cent over the same period.

As those industries have shrunk, other segments have picked up the slack, the data showed.

Wholesale and retail trade rose from 29.8 per cent of GDP in 2007 to 30.3 per cent last year.

Manufacturing's economic share has grown from 10.6 per cent in 2007 to 13.2 per cent last year.

"The manufacturing sector grew largely as a result of increased demand for exports from Dubai as its principal trading partners began to recover from the global financial crisis," said the prospectus. Increased foreign trade and increased demand for freight and transport services as well as the opening of the Dubai Metro helped the transport, storage and communications sector to rise from 12.6 per cent of GDP in 2007 to 14.1 per cent last year.

Financial services and government services also accelerated over the period.

Other data offers an insight into the financial health of the Government.

The emirate has Dh115.4bn in total direct government debt as of May 20, including Dh22bn at its main holding company Investment Corporation of Dubai, the data showed.

A report released by the IMF last month estimated the emirate's debt as standing at Dh132.2bn, including the obligations of government-related companies guaranteed by the Government.

The Dubai Government expects its budget deficit to shrink to Dh3.8bn this year, its lowest in the past four years.

The deficit is forecast to narrow from Dh6bn last year.

Revenue is forecast to rise to Dh29.9bn this year, from Dh29.87bn last year, with spending falling to Dh33.7bn from Dh35.9bn last year, the prospectus said.

tarnold@thenational.ae