Statement at the Conclusion of the 2012 Article IV Consultation Mission to the United Arab Emirates

Press Release No. 12/82
March 14, 2012

An International Monetary Fund (IMF) mission led by Harald Finger visited the United Arab Emirates during February 28–March 14, 2012 to conduct discussions for the Article IV consultation with the United Arab Emirates. The mission met with H.E. Minister of State for Financial Affairs Obaid Humaid Al Tayer, H.E. Minister of Economy Sultan Bin Saeed Al Mansoori, H.E. Governor of the Central Bank of United Arab Emirates Sultan Bin Nasser Al Suwaidi, other senior government officials, as well as representatives from the business and financial community.

At the conclusion of the visit, Mr. Finger issued the following statement today in Abu Dhabi:

“The economic recovery looks set to continue. Real GDP growth reached an estimated 4.9 percent in 2011, supported by increases in oil production. Non-hydrocarbon growth also strengthened, to around 2.7 percent, backed by strong trade, tourism, and manufacturing, and despite continued oversupply in the real estate sector. Real non-oil GDP growth is projected to further strengthen to 3.5 percent in 2012. With limited potential for further increases in oil production in the near term, overall GDP growth is expected to moderate to 2.3 percent. Inflation is likely to remain subdued at around 1 ½ percent this year.

“The current uncertain global economic and financial environment poses a number of risks to this outlook. The weak growth prospects in the advanced economies could lead to a pronounced decline in oil prices if regional geopolitical risks subside. Moreover, a renewed worsening of global financing conditions could make it more difficult to roll over some of the GREs’ maturing external debt and affect liquidity conditions in the banking system.

“In this environment, the authorities’ plans to gradually consolidate fiscal policy are appropriate. The large increases in public expenditure that took place in response to the 2009 crisis should now be unwound as they expose the UAE to the risk of falling oil prices. The planned gradual pace of fiscal tightening will strengthen public finances without undermining the economic recovery. The recovery will also continue to be supported by an accommodative monetary stance under the peg to the U.S. dollar.

“Substantial progress has been made in the debt restructuring of government-related entities (GRE), but several troubled GREs are still in the process of restructuring. Moreover, the GREs are still faced with high refinancing needs and continued reliance on foreign funding. While they are increasingly managing their upcoming rollovers proactively, the current uncertain global financial environment still constitutes a key risk. Improved transparency and communication would support the market refinancing of GRE debt. Looking ahead, the authorities should continue to improve regulation, oversight and governance to manage the remaining GRE risks.

“The banking sector remains resilient to shocks, thanks to substantial liquidity and capital buffers. Although the banking system has remained comfortably liquid, a foreign funding shock could generate some foreign currency liquidity tightening in the banking sector. Despite a considerable rise in non-performing loans since 2008, the banking system remains well-capitalized. However, care should be taken to avoid a further increase in banks’ loan concentration to the government and GREs.

“The authorities have made good progress in establishing databases and improving the quality of economic statistics. Nevertheless, more progress is needed to strengthen key statistics, including balance of payments, national accounts, and fiscal accounts.”



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