Mix required for Dubai economic recovery

Dubai's economy is at risk as too much of the emirate's exports are gold headed to India, says a government economist.

Dubai's economy has undergone a rapid transformation in recent years, branching out into new areas from transport to tourism.

But now the emirate is being urged to make similar steps in diversifying its export strategy.

Officials are worried too narrow a range of commodities are being shipped to too few countries.

"In [the] future, Dubai should try to diversify its exports as it has done with its economy," said Mohamed Lahouel, the chief economist of the Dubai Department of Economic Development.

Gold accounted for as much as 60 per cent of the emirate's total exports in 2010, up from 4 per cent in 2001, he said.

Gold prices have rallied over the past year as investors have viewed the yellow metal as a haven from the global crisis. But analysts have warned prices may start to soften once the global economy strengthens.

Mr Lahouel also said the emirate needed to open new export markets outside of its main destinations of India and Iran.

"The intensity of trade with India might not last forever. What if India starts internalising demand for gold?" he said. "Diversification of exports should be on the agenda over the next few years."

India is traditionally the biggest buyer of gold in the world. But the country's gold imports in the last quarter of last year, usually peak consumption season, fell 44 per cent to 157 tonnes.

Iran accounts for a quarter of Dubai's total exports and re-exports. But the volume of goods heading to the country is already sliding, said Hamad Buamim, the director general of the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

In an effort to offset any risk of slowing growth in Dubai's main markets, the chamber is encouraging its members to tap new destinations such as Africa.

"Now we have problems with Iran, but overall we have positive growth," he said. "Most of that is going to new markets in Africa, mainly Eastern Africa, in fact Libya started to do quite well."

Machinery, consumer products and cars were among the goods headed to the continent, he said.

tarnold@thenational.ae

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Published: February 17, 2012 04:00 AM

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