Arab Spring fund flows to UAE exceed $8 billion: PM

About 30 billion dirhams ($8.2 billion) of funds have flowed into the United Arab Emirates over the past two years from countries hit by the Arab Spring uprisings, the UAE's prime minister said on Monday.

"We received 30 billion dirhams from the Arab," Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, who is also Dubai's ruler, said in answer to a question by a member of the public at an open forum of government officials.

Large amounts of capital fled Egypt, Tunisia, Syria, Yemen and other Arab countries in search of safe havens after political and economic turmoil erupted in those countries in early 2011.

Because of its political stability and Dubai's status as an international business centre, the UAE attracted a large share of the capital. Sheikh Mohammed's figure was believed to be the first public estimate of the amount by a top official.

He insisted, however, that it would be wrong to think the UAE was benefitting from the Arab Spring, as stability in countries hit by the unrest would benefit the whole region including the UAE.

"If we had peace and stability, we would have more than 30 billion coming from those countries," Sheikh Mohammed said.

He did not specify in what forms the money had entered the UAE; part is believed to have come in the form of short-term bank deposits, and part as direct investment in businesses and real estate.

Dubai's real estate market began to recover last year from a crash in the previous few years, partly because foreign investors saw the emirate as a safe haven, property analysts said.

The UAE attracted $7.68 billion of foreign direct investment from all countries in 2011, up from $5.50 billion in 2010, according to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development.

Sheikh Mohammed also said the UAE had invested much more than 30 billion dirhams in countries hit by the Arab Spring.

The oil-rich UAE has pledged billions of dollars in aid to help stabilize cash-strapped Arab states since the uprisings began, and UAE companies have shown interest in investing in North Africa.

(Reporting by Martin Dokoupil, Amena Bakr and Mahmoud Habboush; Editing by Andrew Torchia)