2016 is drawing to a close, and the year has been quite eventful from a ‘financial’ standpoint. Here’s a quick recap, in case you’ve missed some of the biggest financial headlines of the year, or are wondering how these will affect you in the coming year.
Lower oil prices in 2016 a mixed blessing
2016 got off to a rocky start with oil prices plunging to their lowest levels – below $30 per barrel – in over a decade in January. While the move roiled global financial markets, it had a silver lining for consumers in the UAE. The liberalization of fuel prices in August 2015 meant that lower crude oil prices were passed on to consumers, with the average price for ‘special’ petrol (95-octane) falling to 1.63 dirhams per litre this year from 1.78 in 2015. Lower petrol prices helped to bring overall UAE inflation down to under 2% in November 2016, from 3.6% in December 2015.
While lower oil prices might have been good for many households, they were not so good for government budgets. As a result, several new initiatives were announced to raise non-oil revenues, including a new VAT (coming into effect in January 2018) and higher fees for some services. The 3% municipal fees for expats renting homes in Abu Dhabi and the 35 dirham Dubai Airport fee are two examples which come to mind.
Interest rates rise and the dollar beats most other currencies
The US Federal Reserve raised its key Fed Funds rate for the first time since the global financial crisis in December 2015. After waiting a full year, the Fed Funds rate was hiked by another quarter percent earlier this month. As the UAE’s currency is pegged to the US dollar, the official interest rate in the UAE was increased in line with the Fed Funds rate. However, most loans and mortgages are priced off the UAE’s interbank rate (EIBOR), which can reflect other things besides the official central bank rate.
[Related: Are interest rates rising in the UAE?]
With the Fed expected to increase interest rates at least another half percent in 2017, it’s safe to expect your mortgage costs will rise next year as well.
On a more positive note, as US interest rates rise, the US dollar should continue to strengthen against most other currencies, particularly those where the central banks remain in ‘easing’ mode such as the EU and Japan. If you are an expatriate, you should be able to get more for your dirham in your home country in 2017.
Long-awaited bankruptcy law passed
The new law should ultimately make it easier for businesses to access bank credit more easily and at a better price, as it provides a framework for restructuring debt when things go wrong or insolvency in the worst case scenario. This is critical for attracting investment and supporting entrepreneurship, which ultimately boosts economic growth and employment.
[Related: What to expect from UAE’s new Bankruptcy Law]
Car insurance benefits boosted
In September, the government announced new rules that bring the UAE’s car insurance market more in line with global best practice. Mandatory benefits have been improved, including the use of a courtesy car for up to 10 days after an accident. Unfortunately, the cost of these additional benefits may be passed on to consumers, with the recently published schedule of minimum and maximum car insurance premiums suggesting most drivers will pay more in January 2017.
However, the new rules should allow insurance firms to offer discounts for safer drivers while charging more to those who submit more claims. So perhaps the best way to keep your car insurance costs low is to become a better driver.