World Economy

UAE Will Return to Budget Surplus in 2017

UAE Will Return to Budget Surplus in 2017UAE Will Return to Budget Surplus in 2017

The UAE, which is currently experiencing a deterioration in its fiscal balances, will return to budget surpluses in 2017 owing to recovering oil prices and a planned increase in production levels, Moody’s Investors Service has said in a new report.

The ratings agency said it forecasts relatively modest budget deficits in 2015 and 2016, owing to the low oil price environment and given that hydrocarbons remain the backbone of the UAE economy despite diversification efforts, Arabian Business reported.

UAE includes seven emirates, namely,   Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Fujairah, Sharjah, Dubai, Ras al-Khaimah and Umm al-Qaiwain.

Based on its oil price projections that have Brent rising to $73 by 2019 after a modest dip in 2016, the UAE government will record a budget surplus in 2017, with surpluses growing during the rest of the decade, said Steven Hess, senior vice president at Moody’s.

“These deficits will not seriously affect the country’s strong financial position, given the government’s build-up of substantial financial assets over the past decade. Moreover, we expect the hydrocarbon sector to make positive contributions to real growth in 2015-2016 as production volume rises,” he added.

Moody’s said its forecasts are based on the UAE’s planned increase in the volume of oil production, with capacity targeted to rise by 30% by 2020.

The rating agency projects an upward trend, even if this target is not fully achieved, given that the planned increase is a response to growing domestic demand for processed hydrocarbons that has so far been met with imported gasoline.

“There is a risk that, if oil prices remain lower than we now expect, the UAE’s strong fiscal position could be eroded, but it can use the buffers it has built up for the time being,” said Hess.

Additionally, Moody’s said that the UAE sets itself apart from regional peers in its successful diversification efforts, moving away from hydrocarbon dependency and growing a competitive service sector.

Service industries accounted for 54.9% of nominal GDP in 2014, while the rating agency expects non-residential construction, tourism, trade and financial services to boost economic growth in 2016.

 Property Prices Fall

The pace of price declines in Dubai’s real estate market has slowed during the three months to October, according to Emirates National Bank of Dubai’s latest Dubai Real Estate Tracker survey.

It said there was an improvement in the new buyer enquiries index and the new international buyer enquiries index, particularly for apartments, suggesting there is demand at the right price.    

Data for the residential lettings market was also encouraging, with agents reporting rental price growth for both apartments and villas in the three months to October, albeit at a slower pace than in the August survey.

Although the price of both apartments and villas declined in the three months to October, the rate of decline was less than in the August survey, according to estate agents.

In particular, 17.1% of agents reported higher prices for villas in Q3, compared to 10.8% in the previous quarter.