Construction cranes tower above the Dubai skyline in 2008, at the height of the recent construction boom World Trade Center with Deira skyline in the background. Dubai has established itself as the preeminent regional hub for finance, trade, tourism, and shopping.Dubai’s gross domestic product as of 2008 was US$ 82.11 billion. Although Dubai’s economy was built on the back of the oil industry, revenues from oil and natural gas currently account for less than 6% of the emirate’s revenues. It is estimated that Dubai produces 50,000 to 70,000 barrels (11,000 m3) of oil a day and substantial quantities of gas from offshore fields. The emirate’s share in UAE’s gas revenues is about 2%. Dubai’s oil reserves have diminished significantly and are expected to be exhausted in 20 years. Real estate and construction (22.6%), trade (16%), entrepôt (15%) and financial services (11%) are the largest contributors to Dubai’s economy. Dubai’s top exporting destinations include India (US$ 5.8 billion), Switzerland (US$ 2.37 billion) and Saudi Arabia (US$ 0.57 billion). Dubai’s top re-exporting destinations include India (US$ 6.53 billion), Iran (US$ 5.8 billion) and Iraq (US$ 2.8 billion). The emirate’s top import sources are India (US$ 12.55 billion), China (US$ 11.52 billion) and the United States (US$ 7.57 billion). As of 2009 India was Dubai’s largest trade partner.
Historically, Dubai and its twin across the Dubai creek, Deira (independent of Dubai City at that time), were important ports of call for Western manufacturers. Most of the new city’s banking and financial centres were headquartered in the port area. Dubai maintained its importance as a trade route through the 1970s and 1980s. Dubai has a free trade in gold and, until the 1990s, was the hub of a “brisk smuggling trade” of gold ingots to India, where gold import was restricted. Dubai’s Jebel Ali port, constructed in the 1970s, has the largest man-made harbour in the world and was ranked seventh globally for the volume of container traffic it supports. Dubai is also a hub for service industries such as information technology and finance, with industry-specific free zones throughout the city. Dubai Internet City, combined with Dubai Media City as part of TECOM (Dubai Technology, Electronic Commerce and Media Free Zone Authority) is one such enclave whose members include IT firms such as EMC Corporation, Oracle Corporation, Microsoft, and IBM, and media organisations such as MBC, CNN, BBC, Reuters, Sky News and AP.
The government’s decision to diversify from a trade-based, oil-reliant economy to one that is service and tourism-oriented made property more valuable, resulting in the property appreciation from 2004–2006. A longer-term assessment of Dubai’s property market, however, showed depreciation; some properties lost as much as 64% of their value from 2001 to November 2008. The large scale real estate development projects have led to the construction of some of the tallest skyscrapers and largest projects in the world such as the Emirates Towers, the Burj Khalifa, the Palm Islands and the world’s fourth tallest, and most expensive hotel, the Burj Al Arab. The Dubai Financial Market (DFM) was established in March 2000 as a secondary market for trading securities and bonds, both local and foreign. As of fourth quarter 2006, its trading volume stood at about 400 billion shares, worth $95 billion in total. The DFM had a market capitalisation of about $87 billion.
Dubai’s property market experienced a major downturn in 2008 and 2009 as a result of the slowing economic climate. Mohammed al-Abbar, Chief Executive Officer of Emaar told the international press in December 2008 that Emaar had credits of $70 billion and the state of Dubai additional $10 billion while holding estimated $350 billion in real estate assets. By early 2009, the situation had worsened with the global economic crisis taking a heavy toll on property values, construction and employment. As of February 2009 Dubai’s foreign debt was estimated at approximately $80 billion, although this is a tiny fraction of the sovereign debt worldwide.
Dubai is also known as City of Gold, a major part of economy based on Gold trades in Dubai, Dubai’s total gold trading volumes in H1 2011 reached 580 tonnes (average price US$1,455)
A City Mayors survey rated Dubai as 44th among the world’s best financial cities in 2007, while another report by City Mayors indicated that Dubai was the world’s 33rd richest city in 2009, in terms of purchasing power parity (PPP). Dubai is also an international financial centre and has been ranked 37th within the top 50 global financial cities as surveyed by the Mastercard Worldwide Centres of Commerce Index (2007), and 1st within the Middle East.