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UAE growth at 1.4 per cent in 2010 after contraction

Real GDP up +1.4 pct in 2010 after falling 1.6 pct in 2009; OPEC member sets 2007 as base year for econ indicators; Analysts still see downward pressure from property sector

May 15, 2011 9:53 by

The United Arab Emirates’ economy grew 1.4 percent in real terms in 2010 after shrinking 1.6 percent in 2009, its statistics office said on Saturday, although a struggling construction sector may continue to hamper growth.

Global financial turmoil in 2008 saw projects worth billions shelved in Dubai, a trade hub known for artificial palm-shaped islands and the world’s tallest tower, while oil output also fell as crude prices plunged, impacting overall growth.

The 1.6 percent decline in gross domestic product (GDP) in 2009 was the OPEC member’s first contraction since 1988.

In nominal terms, GDP reached 1,093 billion dirhams ($297.6 billion) in 2010 compared to 992.8 billion dirhams in the previous year, the data also showed.

The statistics office said in the statement that higher oil prices were a key factor driving the OPEC member’s economy out of the global financial crisis, but analysts also pointed to a broader recovery.

“The service sector, including tourism, the hospitality business, and also exports and re-exports and industrial growth were the key drivers out of the contraction,” said John Sfakianakis, chief economist at Banque Saudi Fransi in Riyadh.

The National Bureau of Statistics also said it changed its base year for economic indicators to 2007 from the previous benchmark of 2000.

Analysts still see risks, mainly from the property sector.

“We will see continued downward pressure stemming from the real estate and construction sector as they continue to be moribund,” Sfakianakis said.

“However the service sector, high oil production and industry will provide impetus as the UAE is going back to basics, and its economy is on a recovery path this year.”

The UAE has so far escaped the unrest sweeping much of the Arab world, and its economy minister said this week he expected GDP to grow between 3 and 3.5 per cent in 2011.

Analysts polled by Reuters in March forecast the world’s third-largest oil exporter to expand by 3.4 percent. ($1=3.673 UAE Dirham) (Reporting by Martina Fuchs; editing by Patrick Graham)

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