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UAE Consumer Confidence On the Rise Following Strong Economic Performance and Retail Banking Expansion

UAE : 15 January 2012

Forbes Study Ranks UAE at Second Place in Economic Performance Study

The UAE claimed the second place spot for economic performance in a recent Forbes Middle East study.

Higher oil prices over the last year have driven growth in profits and revenue across the economies of oil-exporting nations in the Arab world. Seven of those countries found a place on the study’s list of top performing economies.

Saudi Arabia claimed first place, with the UAE in second. Qatar ranked third place and Oman claimed fourth. Study results reveal that surplus revenues have allowed for increased spending in domestic infrastructure throughout Arab nations, as well as investments in key factors like education and health, increased standards of living, and enhanced employee wages. Kuwait claimed fifth place, with Iraq and Algeria following.

Khuloud Al Omian, editor-in-chief at Forbes Middle East, noted that the new year is full of optimism due to positive changes happening or set to happen in the Arab world. The goal of Forbes’ study was to capture a vision of the future for the region that reached a GDP of $1.05 trillion in 2011, representing 3.7 percent growth.

Reform and additional, positive government spending are expected for 2012, according to Al Omian.

Morocco ranked first among non-oil exporters and captured eighth place overall. Morocco’s GDP grew by almost 4.6 percent. Mauritania came in ninth, with 5.1 percent growth, while Jordan ranked tenth. Jordanian economic institutions have worked hard on policy implementations to pull the nation out of debts totalling more than $19 million. Growth in Jordan hit 22.5 percent. Stability in these nations is beneficial, especially given that the Arab Spring has not affected their economic performance.

Consumer Confidence Surges in Dubai

Dubai’s Consumer Confidence Index rose 15 points in the last quarter, reaching 125, based on data from the Department of Economic Development.

Recent statistics indicate that 22 percent more consumers feel optimistic about economic recovery, when compared to third quarter results. In terms of personal finance, 79 percent of consumers reported a positive position, and 70 percent expect the employment situation to improve.

Observations on the economic state indicate clear improvements over Q4, as over 60 percent of consumers are confident. Those working in the public sector have greater optimism for personal finance and the employment prospects, while nearly 67 percent of consumers believe that the time is right to purchase what they want.

The largest consumer concerns were rising food prices and the economy, with surging utility bills and job security following.

According to the DED, as stated by director-general Sami Al Qamzi, the intention of the CCI is to realistically assess consumer insight on changes within the economy. Understanding of consumer response and expectations benefits business owners and government, assisting with planning and decisions and improving market competition and transparency throughout Dubai.

According to the index, 41 percent of consumers spend on outdoor pursuits and new clothing, while 13 percent more consumers spent money on technology and new products when compared to Q3. A large majority of consumers have plans to decrease energy and phone bills this year, according to sources.

The Commercial Compliance & Consumer Protection Division’s deputy CEO Mohammed Lootah stated that the quarterly CCI aids the planning of banks, construction firms and retailers, as well as other vital players in the economy of Dubai. The results provide flexibility when adapting to shifts in consumer sentiment and conditions within the economy. Consumer confidence results clearly indicate the level of competition in the market and protects consumer rights.

The latest CCI targeted various consumer categories, including 70 percent male respondents and 30 percent female. Ages of respondents ranged from 20 to 59 and residents of 35 areas were represented. UAE citizens were included, along with Western, Asian and Arabian expats employed in diverse positions across the public, semi-public and private sectors. Questions ere posed covering local employment prospects, purchasing and personal finances over the coming 12-month period.

The DED’s Division of Commercial Compliance & Consumer Protection created the surveys and conduct them quarterly, cooperating with an international market research company.

Retail Bank Expansions Appearing in Dubai

Banks in the Gulf region are competing for prime space throughout the Gulf, looking to expand in the retail banking network due to weakening corporate loans and vague global economic outlook. Local banks are watching their corporate business shrink, along with the associated fees, and diverting attention to traditional banking in the domestic market.

National Bank of Abu Dhabi’s consumer & private banking general manager Suvo Sarkar noted that many regional banks are targeting retail banking to help create steady revenues and growth. NBAD has plans to open ten branches annually until 2015, bringing the branch network total to 150 and spreading across 12 nations.

About 85 percent of Gulf bank executives confirmed plans for retail expansions in the next three years, based on survey results from Accenture.

Expanding banks face a major problem in the shortage of talent. Higher wages and better benefits in the public sector draw potential employees away from retail banking. Many also move towards corporate banking, which offers a higher profile and greater excitement in terms of careers.

Sarkar noted that retail banking provides broader career opportunities and long-term positions within a culture of entrepreneurs.

After the Qatari government increased wages in the public sector several banks in the nation, such as Qatar National Bank, also raised wages by 60 percent.

Nationalisation programs across the Gulf place heavy restrictions on larger retail banks. Saudi Arabian banks with a staff of more than 500 employees need to ensure that at least 49 percent of those employees are local.

Paul Holdsworth, Staff Writer, Gulf Jobs Market News
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