AFTER the 2008 economic crisis, signs of recovery became apparent in the UAE during 2011. However, the real effect of the turn-around has become clearly visible during 2012 in all key sectors of the economy.
Trade, aviation, tourism and retail sectors have seen substantial growth, along with the oil and gas industry, benefiting from high international prices.
According to a November speech by the economy minister Sultan Al Mansouri, the UAE's economy is expected to grow by between 3.5 to four per cent during 2012, compared to growth of around 4.2 per cent in 2011, an impressive achievement at a time of growing difficulties for the global economy.
During 2011, the UAE booked a consolidated budget surplus of Dh 36.2 billion, or US$9.85 billion, 2.9 per cent of nominal Gross Domestic Product of Dh1.32 trillion (US $359 billion).
The latest updates from the country's three main airports, Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah, have all reported double-digit growth in passenger figures and the UAE's busiest airport, Dubai, is expected to record more than 50 million passengers during the course of the year, on its way to becoming the busiest airport in the world.
A selection of other statistics provides a further indication of the country's growth. Even the real estate sector, hardest-hit by the 2008 economic downturn, has revived during the year. The worst victim of that crisis, Nakheel, reported a 97 per cent increase in profits during the first nine months of 2012.
Outside the framework of the formal budgets, further steps have also been taken to help UAE citizens. One way in which this is being done is through what has become known as the Sheikh Khalifa Initiative, a broad collection of activities, supported directly by the president.
The initiative includes a program under which thousands of citizens who lack their own homes have been given houses and a debt-relief program. The Debt Settlement Fund has so far signed agreements with nearly 20 UAE banks on the creation of a mechanism for the payment of loans on which recipients have defaulted.
While sectors such as construction, real estate, tourism, trade and services continue to represent a growing share of the UAE's GDP, the country's oil and gas industry remains of enormous importance, thanks to the presence of the fourth largest oil and fifth largest gas reserves in the world. Most of those are found in Abu Dhabi, both offshore and onshore.