Gloss Comes Off Dubai as Oil Woes Spill Into Expat Promised Land

Job cuts and slowdown in economy take toll on foreign workers — Brexit is also expected to hit the Gulf city’s tourism sector.

Kier Riemersma and his wife sat down a few months ago to make a difficult decision. The American couple, who lived in Dubai for over a decade, would wind down his real estate business and move back home to Denver, Colorado.
“Frankly, we struggled in the past year and half,” said Riemersma, 46, who had to dismiss his five employees in March. “We probably chased 20 major assignments and got only one. Most of the others we didn’t lose. The projects never progressed and simply weren’t awarded.”

A dip in the construction industry is not new in the emirate, a desert metropolis hailed for developing the most diversified economy in the Middle East. But even as it’s forecast to weather a regional slowdown better than others, a combination of an oil crisis battering Gulf neighbors and weaker currencies affecting major overseas property investors risk taking the gloss off a city that has been a promised land for at least two decades.

“Dubai is exposed to developments in the rest of the Gulf economies, where we think growth will slow and remain sluggish in 2016 and 2017,” said Jason Tuvey, an economist at Capital Economics in London.
Although official data on jobs isn’t publicly available, stories of moving trucks and farewell parties are increasingly common in the city, the United Arab Emirates’ business hub. Banks in the U.A.E. may have cut as many as 1,500 jobs, according to financial recruiters and Bloomberg calculations earlier this year.