Business conditions improved in August, hitting a record high according to the latest reading from the Emirates NDB Dubai Economy Tracker. Sarah Dea / The National
Business conditions improved in August, hitting a record high according to the latest reading from the Emirates NDB Dubai Economy Tracker. Sarah Dea / The National

Middle East’s wealthiest say economy will get worse before it gets better

Almost half of the region’s richest individuals predict that the global economy will get worse before it gets better, according to a new survey.

The survey of the region’s high net worth individuals (HNWIs) by Dubai’s Emirates Investment Bank (EIBank), found that 47 per cent believed that the global eco­nomic situation is getting worse. Just 14 per cent believe that the situation is improving.

A year earlier 29 per cent predicted a worsening environment.

“With the global economy currently going through a period of significant volatility and with depressed oil prices, it comes as no surprise that this year’s report is more sombre than in previous years,” said Khaled Sifri, EI­Bank’s chief executive.

In the GCC region, about 36 per cent of HNWIs expect the economic situation to get worse – a fourfold increase on the 9 per cent of respondents who held that view a year earlier.

Economic growth is expected to slow this year to 2.7 per cent across the GCC, compared with 3.2 per cent last year, according to the IMF.

The UAE’s economy is viewed most favourably within the region, with 58 per cent of survey respondents believing that the economy is improving, while just 23 per cent believe the economic situation is deteriorating.

Pessimism is most concen­trated in Oman, where two- thirds [67 per cent] of respondents believe the economic situation is worsening.

“Confidence in markets such as the UAE and Qatar remains very strong and, when taking a longer-term view, HNWIs say they are optimistic about the Gulf region as a whole,” said Mr Sifri.

Of the 100 individuals interviewed, 77 per cent described themselves somewhat or very optimistic about prospects for the global economy over the coming five years, with 83 per cent hopeful about the region’s economic prospects over the same period.

HNWIs have been shifting funds to safer asset classes.

Average wealth allocations to gold and precious metals have nearly doubled to 9 per cent so far this year, compared with 5 per cent last year, with cash deposits increasing to 24 per cent from 17 per cent.

But while investors expressed grave concerns over falling oil prices and the wider geopolitical situation within the Middle East, changes in allocation were relatively marginal, said Mr Sifri.

“People feel they need to be a little bit more conservative, due to concerns about the economic environment,” he said.

“But in spite of the fall in oil prices and the geopolitical situation, the majority of [HNWIs] don’t really take these matters into account when making decisions about their investments, which is a bit contradictory.”

And despite concerns about the regional economy, Middle East HNWIs remain home birds, with 76 per cent saying they prefer to keep their assets closer to home, in line with the long-term development of asset management functions within the region.

“If you go back far enough you would have seen the majority of wealthy individuals from this region would book their assets overseas,” said Mr Sifri.

“Over time they started seeing more opportunities locally as the local environment became more capable of absorbing such investment and producing the kind of returns they expected.

“In the past decade, people started losing confidence in their ability to control and influence where they place their funds if they send them away from home.”​

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Company Profile

Name: Direct Debit System
Started: Sept 2017
Based: UAE with a subsidiary in the UK
Industry: FinTech
Funding: Undisclosed
Investors: Elaine Jones
Number of employees: 8

The specs

Engine: 2.3-litre, turbo four-cylinder

Transmission: 10-speed auto

Power: 300hp

Torque: 420Nm

Price: Dh189,900

On sale: now

UAE currency: the story behind the money in your pockets
The burning issue

The internal combustion engine is facing a watershed moment – major manufacturer Volvo is to stop producing petroleum-powered vehicles by 2021 and countries in Europe, including the UK, have vowed to ban their sale before 2040. The National takes a look at the story of one of the most successful technologies of the last 100 years and how it has impacted life in the UAE.

Part three: an affection for classic cars lives on

Read part two: how climate change drove the race for an alternative 

Read part one: how cars came to the UAE

The five stages of early child’s play

From Dubai-based clinical psychologist Daniella Salazar:

1. Solitary Play: This is where Infants and toddlers start to play on their own without seeming to notice the people around them. This is the beginning of play.

2. Onlooker play: This occurs where the toddler enjoys watching other people play. There doesn’t necessarily need to be any effort to begin play. They are learning how to imitate behaviours from others. This type of play may also appear in children who are more shy and introverted.

3. Parallel Play: This generally starts when children begin playing side-by-side without any interaction. Even though they aren’t physically interacting they are paying attention to each other. This is the beginning of the desire to be with other children.

4. Associative Play: At around age four or five, children become more interested in each other than in toys and begin to interact more. In this stage children start asking questions and talking about the different activities they are engaging in. They realise they have similar goals in play such as building a tower or playing with cars.

5. Social Play: In this stage children are starting to socialise more. They begin to share ideas and follow certain rules in a game. They slowly learn the definition of teamwork. They get to engage in basic social skills and interests begin to lead social interactions.

Other ways to buy used products in the UAE

UAE insurance firm Al Wathba National Insurance Company (AWNIC) last year launched an e-commerce website with a facility enabling users to buy car wrecks.

Bidders and potential buyers register on the online salvage car auction portal to view vehicles, review condition reports, or arrange physical surveys, and then start bidding for motors they plan to restore or harvest for parts.

Physical salvage car auctions are a common method for insurers around the world to move on heavily damaged vehicles, but AWNIC is one of the few UAE insurers to offer such services online.

For cars and less sizeable items such as bicycles and furniture, Dubizzle is arguably the best-known marketplace for pre-loved.

Founded in 2005, in recent years it has been joined by a plethora of Facebook community pages for shifting used goods, including Abu Dhabi Marketplace, Flea Market UAE and Arabian Ranches Souq Market while sites such as The Luxury Closet and Riot deal largely in second-hand fashion.

At the high-end of the pre-used spectrum, resellers such as, WatchBox Middle East and Watches Market Dubai deal in authenticated second-hand luxury timepieces from brands such as Rolex, Hublot and Tag Heuer, with a warranty.

Company Profile

Name: HyveGeo
Started: 2023
Founders: Abdulaziz bin Redha, Dr Samsurin Welch, Eva Morales and Dr Harjit Singh
Based: Cambridge and Dubai
Number of employees: 8
Industry: Sustainability & Environment
Funding: $200,000 plus undisclosed grant
Investors: Venture capital and government

Profile of VoucherSkout

Date of launch: November 2016

Founder: David Tobias

Based: Jumeirah Lake Towers

Sector: Technology

Size: 18 employees

Stage: Embarking on a Series A round to raise $5 million in the first quarter of 2019 with a 20 per cent stake

Investors: Seed round was self-funded with “millions of dollars” 

Milestones on the road to union


October 26: Bahrain withdraws from a proposal to create a federation of nine with the seven Trucial States and Qatar. 

December: Ahmed Al Suwaidi visits New York to discuss potential UN membership.


March 1:  Alex Douglas Hume, Conservative foreign secretary confirms that Britain will leave the Gulf and “strongly supports” the creation of a Union of Arab Emirates.

July 12: Historic meeting at which Sheikh Zayed and Sheikh Rashid make a binding agreement to create what will become the UAE.

July 18: It is announced that the UAE will be formed from six emirates, with a proposed constitution signed. RAK is not yet part of the agreement.

August 6:  The fifth anniversary of Sheikh Zayed becoming Ruler of Abu Dhabi, with official celebrations deferred until later in the year.

August 15: Bahrain becomes independent.

September 3: Qatar becomes independent.

November 23-25: Meeting with Sheikh Zayed and Sheikh Rashid and senior British officials to fix December 2 as date of creation of the UAE.

November 29:  At 5.30pm Iranian forces seize the Greater and Lesser Tunbs by force.

November 30: Despite  a power sharing agreement, Tehran takes full control of Abu Musa. 

November 31: UK officials visit all six participating Emirates to formally end the Trucial States treaties

December 2: 11am, Dubai. New Supreme Council formally elects Sheikh Zayed as President. Treaty of Friendship signed with the UK. 11.30am. Flag raising ceremony at Union House and Al Manhal Palace in Abu Dhabi witnessed by Sheikh Khalifa, then Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi.

December 6: Arab League formally admits the UAE. The first British Ambassador presents his credentials to Sheikh Zayed.

December 9: UAE joins the United Nations.

Director: Nag Ashwin

Starring: Prabhas, Saswata Chatterjee, Deepika Padukone, Amitabh Bachchan, Shobhana

Rating: ★★★★


Developer: SCE Studio Cambridge
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Console: PlayStation, PlayStation 4 and 5
Rating: 3.5/5

The years Ramadan fell in May