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Get your numbers right

Get your numbers right

Population estimates for the GCC states vary wildly, and according to a new study, that’s undermining calculations of economic performance.

January 5, 2010 5:49 by



Population estimates in the GCC States can be highly inaccurate. According to recent study by Madar Research and marketing consultancy Orient Planet, figures from international organizations such as the United Nations (UN) and World Bank can differ from official numbers by as much as 25 percent.

The study says that some countries, such as the UAE, have more than one official population estimate, and so different figures are used by different organizations, including the UN, the UAE Federal National Council (FNC), the UAE Ministry of Economy and the UAE Ministry of Labor.

Inaccuracies in population figures affect many performance indicators, including per capita gross domestic product (GDP), technology adoption, and the number of physicians per 1,000 of population, says the report.

For instance, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said in 2008 that Qatar had the highest GDP per capita in the world, standing at $85,868. This was based on a population of 1.1 million.

However, according to official figures released by the Qatar Statistics Authority for mid 2008, the country’s population was 1.45 million, so the per capita GDP should have been $65,092. That’s 24 percent lower than the IMF figure – the correction would take Qatar to number two in the world, says the study.

The report also cites the example of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), which said in 2007 that the UAE had the highest mobile phone penetration rate in the world: a mighty 176.52 percent. ITU’s calculation was based on a UAE population of 4.38 million at the end of 2007, but the FNC put the country’s population at approximately 6.5 million around the same time. Using the FNC’s estimate, the UAE’s mobile penetration rate would stand at 119.06 percent, and its rank would fall all the way to 16th.



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