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Abu Dhabi: Real Progress in Achieving a Diversified Economy

Keith Boyfield - November 2012

Abu Dhabi has one of the highest GDP per capita rankings in the world. Keen not to rest on its laurels, the country is rapidly diversifying its economy so that it is not dependent on oil and gas. As part of this innovative strategy it is building up its infrastructure base, most notably a brand new container-port built on an artificial island off the coast. This scheme has so far cost US $7.1 billion and features the latest cutting-edge computer technology. Keith Boyfield attended the launch of the new facility and writes about this rapidly expanding Emirate economy and the challenges it faces in the years ahead.

Abu Dhabi is blessed.  It boasts one of the highest GDP per capita ratings in the world, attributable primarily to its hydrocarbon resources.  Abu Dhabi is one of the seven states that form the United Arab Emirates (UAE), established in 1972 which has grown rich as a result of oil. In 2010, it was responsible for producing over 2.3m barrels per day (bpd)  and the goal is to boost this production level to 3m bpd. As one of the seven states, Abu Dhabi accounts for 95% of the UAE’s oil reserves and 6% of its gas reserves. This is equivalent to 9% of the world’s proven oil reserves (almost 100 bn barrels).

The UAE scores comparatively highly in the latest Economic Freedom of the World’s 2012 Annual Report , notably with respect to freedom to trade internationally, where the Emirates as a group are ranked 16th worldwide (compared with 27th in 2000, see table).  Note also the UAE’s overall improvement, climbing from 39th position worldwide in 2000 to 22nd in 2010.

Table: UAE’s Global Ranking in the Economic Freedom of the World 2012 Annual Report: How 2012 compares with 2000.


Abu Dhabi has adopted an ambitious economic strategy aimed at diversifying away from its core oil and gas strength. The onus is on building up new value added sectors of the national economy. This strategy is embodied in the Abu Dhabi Economic Vision 2030, issued by ...

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