The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is easily one of the most prosperous countries in the Africa Mid-East region. The basis of its prosperity is oil, but the economy is diversified enough to allow it to withstand price fluctuations in the world oil markets.
The country's prosperity, stability, and growth leverage its influence in the Arab world well beyond a relatively small population.
That population enjoys one of the highest standards of living in the region. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimates that for 2005 the per capita income for the country will be US$19,599.
Over the past decade, per capita income has declined. It reached a peak of US$22,032 in 1997 and has fluctuated marginally since then. A 10-year linear trend line calculated using IMF statistics slopes rather sharply downward.
Nonetheless, there is a lively consumer market segment in the UAE. A recent review of the UAE economy in the Kahleej Times (Dubai) on July 30, 2005, said that the "Trade" sector of the UAE's national accounts, meaning retail, grew at an average annual rate of 15.6 percent during the period beginning in 2000 and ending in 2003. Also on an average basis, retail trade accounts for 14.3 percent of the UAE's GDP.
The IMF expects the UAE's GDP to grow 4.5 percent in 2005 with the country's rate of inflation gaining 2.1 percent.
The Times said that retail trade, and by extension the country's consumers, are "one of the most important and fastest growing activities in the domestic economy."
This opinion was echoed by Gulf News (Dubai), which provided the additional detail that retail trade grew at a faster average annual rate manufacturing and finance, and three basic infrastructure industries, electricity, gas and water.
London's Oxford Business Group posted a review of the UAE's economy on its Website on July 29, 2005 saying that the UAE had loosened restrictions for foreigners working in the country. Oxford said that this move was likely to enhance the UAE's ability to develop its research and development capabilities because more academic and research professionals were likely to be attracted to the country.
A GROWING POPULATION AND A DIVERSIFIED ECONOMY EQUAL