Richer on the Map

When it comes to countries in the Middle East, the debate about which is wealthier—Saudi Arabia or Dubai—is a heated one. On the map, Dubai is a much smaller emirate than the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, yet the city-state punches way above its economic weight. In terms of land size, population and cultural influence, Saudi Arabia overwhelmingly takes the lead. However, when it comes to the sheer wealth of the government, Dubai holds its own, taking the lead in certain areas.

Economic Factors

The economy of Dubai is highly intertwined with the activities of its oil and gas sector, as well as real estate, tourism and trade. By comparison, Saudi Arabia has an economy that is more broadly diversified, with an emphasis on petroleum, real estate and trade, in addition to larger sectors such as banking, agriculture and tourism. What sets Dubai apart from other Middle Eastern countries is its high GDP per capita, which averages around US$42,178. From an investment perspective, Dubai has a high potential for growth, as evidenced by its 12% GDP growth in 2018.

Oversized Industrial Sectors

What truly seals the deal when it comes to which country is richer is Dubai’s oversized industrial sector, which makes up the majority of its GDP. Industries such as airline services, financial services, manufacturing, tourism, real estate and construction dominate the country’s economic landscape. This diversity allows Dubai to leverage its strengths in different sectors to generate growth. In addition, its strategic location and tax-free environment attracts a great deal of foreign direct investment, further enhancing its economic strength.

Government Health

When it comes to the finances of the government, both countries have been able to manage their budgets responsibly, with Saudi Arabia boasting a balanced budget for 2019, and Dubai showing a surplus. Dubai stands out as the only country out of the Middle East’s six major economies to have its government debt rated by a major credit agency. This component of government health demonstrates the strong fiscal policies of Dubai and helps bolster their case as the wealthier country.

Domestic Development

Saudis have seen remarkable progress in recent years when it comes to domestic development. Under the Saudi Vision 2030 program, a number of initiatives have been implemented to increase investment and diversify the economy beyond its reliance on oil and gas production. This has helped boost the country’s infrastructure, strengthen its economy, and provide greater opportunities for its citizens.


While both countries have strong economic ties, it would appear that Dubai is richer than Saudi Arabia. Thanks to its high GDP per capita, robust industrial sector and high potential for investment, the emirate packs quite a punch economically.

Furthermore, Dubai’s government debt rating and efficient fiscal policies are further proof that it is the more prosperous of the two countries. Ultimately, Dubai is emerging as a vibrant and modern hub of finance, trade and commerce in the Middle East.


Is Dubai richer than Saudi Arabia?

According to the IMF (International Monetary Fund), Dubai is not richer than Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia has a generally higher GDP and per capita GDP, compared to Dubai.

What is the main source of income for Dubai?

The main source of income for Dubai is trade and tourism, though it is also an important hub for finance, transport and communications.

Is Saudi Arabia an oil-rich country?

Saudi Arabia is indeed an oil-rich country, as its economy is largely dependent on the export of oil and petroleum products. In 2018, the industry accounted for 45.5% of the country’s GDP, employed 12.6% of the labor force, and contributed 85% of the government’s total revenues.

What is the GDP of Dubai compared to Saudi Arabia?

According to the IMF World Economic Outlook, the GDP of Dubai was $101.3 billion in 2018, while the GDP of Saudi Arabia was $717.5 billion. Therefore, the GDP of Dubai is roughly 14 percent of the GDP of Saudi Arabia.

What is the standard of living in Dubai compared to Saudi Arabia?

The standard of living in Dubai is generally higher than that of Saudi Arabia. Dubai has a more sophisticated infrastructure and a higher per capita GDP than Saudi Arabia, and it offers its citizens more economic opportunities. Its infrastructure includes a world-class transportation network, a rapidly growing financial sector, and state-of-the-art healthcare services. In addition, Dubai provides its citizens with cheaper goods and services than Saudi Arabia, making it a more attractive place to live.