The United Arab Emirates’ central bank announced on Thursday current account surplus quadrupled to AED112.7 billion ($30.7bn) in 2011 thanks to an increase in crude and non-oil exports.
According to a Reuters calculation, the surplus soared to 8.5% of gross domestic product (GDP) last year from 2.4%, or Dh26.6bn ($7.24bn) in 2010.
The wire service based its 2011 calculation on a GDP estimate by the International Monetary Fund since the UAE’s statistics office has yet to release GDP data for last year. The GCC member’s 2010 balance of payments data has been revised.
Analysts suggest last year’s outcome is lower than the IMF estimate for a 9.2% GDP surplus which was released following regular consultations with the country in February and March.
UAE’s hydrocarbon exports surged nearly 50% to AED409.9bn ($111bn) last year, helped by robust oil prices and increased output by the leading OPEC member to plug gap due to a civil war in Libya.
UAE’s crude exports accounted for 81% of its current account surplus while the rest almost evenly divided between gas and petroleum products.
A Reuters poll in March showed analysts expecting the UAE’s hydrocarbon export revenue to hit $110bn in 2012.
Non-oil exports jumped 22% to AED228bn ($62.07bn), while re-exports rose 23% to AED396.5bn ($107.94bn), Reuters data showed. The second largest Gulf economy imported goods worth AED742.4bn ($202.11bn), up 23% from last year.
The central bank report said net balance on the UAE capital and financial account turned negative in 2011, reaching AED60.4bn ($16.44bn), which indicates a net outflow of capital from the country.
“This was due mainly to a net outflow of capital by the public sector, in the amount of Dh95.0bn, while the net inflow of private capital was in the amount of 34.6bn in 2011,” it said.
Direct investment increased 40% to AED28.2bn ($7.68bn) in 2011, the highest level since 50.4bn in 2008, when the global crisis pierced Dubai’s property bubble.
The report showed remittances sent home by UAE nationals working abroad rose to AED41.2bn ($11.22bn) last year from AED38.8bn ($10.56bn) in 2010.
The UAE enjoys one of the highest incomes per capita globally and prospered as a safe haven for foreign capital seeking a refuge from the wave of social unrest hitting the Middle East and North Africa during last year.
The central bank’s foreign currency assets increased to AED169.4bn ($46.12bn) in 2011 from AED153.4bn ($41.76bn) during the previous year. The UAE’s investments abroad into highly rated securities, government bonds and treasury bills rose to AED72.3bn ($19.68bn) from AED68.4bn ($18.62bn) in 2010, the report underlined.
The central bank did not disclose further details on the nature of its investments. The top Emirati financial institute keeps the majority of its reserves in dollar-denominated assets due to its currency peg to the US dollar.
A Reuters poll showed in March, the UAE’s economic growth is expected to ease to 3.1% this year, from the IMF estimated 4.9% in 2011.