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Thu 18 Mar 2010 04:00 AM

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Dubai in numbers makes great reading

Damian Reilly says they paint a fascinating portrait of the city during the horror year that was 2009.

Dubai in numbers makes great reading
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If it is not the first time they have been officially released, then it is the first time anyone Arabian Business knows has ever seen them: official demographics and vital statistics for Dubai, compiled by the government, have just been made public.

They paint a fascinating portrait of the most famous city in the Middle East during the horror year that was 2009. In fact, if they are accurate, they show both the severity of the financial crisis upon the emirate, but also indicate the worst may have passed.

According to the stats, Dubai is an emirate comprising 1.3 million men, and 400,000 women. It isn’t then, as any single man there would tell you, the place to find a wife — although one suspects that if you are an expatriate, at least, your chances in Dubai will be considerably better than they would be in, say, Doha or Riyadh.

However, should you find a wife and successfully marry her, as 3,619 men did last year, you’ve also got a good chance of divorcing her, as 720 couples did in the emirate in 2009.

Those 1.7 million residents possess a total of 3.05 million mobile phones. Almost two per person.

In 2009, a total of 2,197 buildings were completed, worth, according to the statistics at least, some $548bn. Interestingly, while the number of commercial buildings completed decreased during the year from 92 in the first quarter to 50 in the final, the number of residential buildings increased from 423 in Q1 to 506 in Q4.

There are no stats regarding occupancy of residential buildings, but one would infer from these figures that there is a disconnect between corporate and residential which might not augur well for 2010.

That said, commercial licences issued rose from 2,146 in the first three months of 2009 to 2,407 in the final three. The corresponding numbers of cancelled licences was 434 and 660, respectively.

Dubai International Airport handled 280,476 flights last year, and processed some 41 million passengers — with over 300,000 more coming through the airport in the final quarter than in the first.

Some 6.1 million of those passengers stayed in the emirate’s 42,000-odd hotel rooms, which reported average occupancy rates of around seventy percent throughout the year. (It is worth bearing in mind that when Dubai’s 2015 Vision plan was unveiled in 2007, it was expected fifteen million tourists a year would be visiting the emirate by now. The world was, of course, then a very different place.)

The stats reveal there are more five-star hotel rooms (circa 16,500) in Dubai than there are four-star ones (9,000). Or three-star ones, for that matter. Licences to operate tourist premises were granted with a marked increase in frequency over the course of the year: in Q1, 23 were issued, in Q4, 46. Symmetrically, the number cancelled in the same periods also doubled from seven to fourteen.

There are a few strange anomalies in the statistics. For example, collected waste decreased by about 1.3 million tonnes per quarter between the start and the end of the year (Q1: 6.2m. Q4: 4.9m). That’s a lot less waste. Dubai’s population also seemed to get markedly more ill at the end of the year. Visits to one of the emirate’s five hospitals or 22 health centres leapt from 341,952 in Q3 to 476,468 in Q4.

Dubai has positioned itself as a global trade hub. It is the statistics then that relate to imports and exports which make for the most interesting reading, both in terms of the emirate’s health, and the health of the global economy. And the prognosis is good. There is a clear upward trend, sustained over consecutive quarters, in the value of direct foreign trade in imports, exports and re-exports. Added together, imports, exports and were worth some $133bn.

Without 2008 stats for comparison, it is of course impossible to wring the full value from 2009’s. But their release is a massive step in the right direction for transparency, and we look forward to seeing 2010’s.

Damien Reilly is the editor of Arabian Business English.

Arabian Business: why we're going behind a paywall

John 10 years ago

This is a very useful piece, and there are some startling realities hidden in it. By putting all the data together, instead of the drip feed that diffuses the bad news, this shows that Dubai is in a much deeper hole than anyone could have seen. But the transparency in the numbers will help us make business decisions not based on hype, which thankfully is being toned down completely.

Fred Flyer 10 years ago

I thought the article was interesting. The first par is a veiled disclaimer that the information may have been available before, but this was the first time Arabian Business had got it. 'Unacceptable' is quick to judge, but all news and information has usually been around for a while before it is picked up by the press. Furthermore, there is no harm on revisiting important or interesting information. Furthermore, he talks of laziness but doesn't mention one nugget of 'real gold'. I think some people need to deal with anger issues rather than venting their own frustrations through lambasting people under anonymous names (does that count as self censorship?)

ZeTallGerman 10 years ago

Did anyone notice that at Dubai Airport, departures outweighed arrivals?.......

Jack Murphy 10 years ago

They were also available previous years but as Winston Churchill used to say: "I only believe in statistics I have manipulated myself".