On many fronts, the Gulf posed optimistic about 2009, with 2008 fourth quarter losses sponged by the prior three quarters’ gains. But while Dubai Investment joined the crowd of positive-spinning paeans to Dubai’s health, voicing its “strong liquidity position,” Moody’s Investors Services reveal its considering to downgrade six major Dubai companies, including DIFC Investments, DP World and “master developer” Emaar; “liquidity tightness” is becoming more mentionable.
City planning as bailout directive became more apparent in Kuwait, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Kuwait’s bailout plan is linked to its 2030 urban plan. One headline projects “Qatar’s time in the sun has come” as the country plans to “take advantage of the market scenario” with construction costs dropping 30 to 40 per cent. Despite a projected $17.3 billion deficit for 2009, Saudi Arabia has directed $400 billion to infrastructure projects to stimulate the $600 billion worth of projects under way or planned in the Kingdom until 2030. Bahrain announced a $1.8 billion in Morocco “to promote tourism and foreign direct investment.” HH the Saudi King Abdullah Al-Saud announced that Saudi Arabia will donate $1 billion to help rebuild Gaza.
A research group reports world’s skyscrapers are getting taller, despite the global recession, but ultra-high projects are expected to tail off soon. Saudi Arabia put its mile-high tower on hold. Burj Dubai will remain the world’s tallest until 2017. Mercedes-Benz readies to open the largest automobile showroom in the world in Abu Dhabi. Dubai World Central, billed as the world’s largest airport, has delayed its opening until 2010. Nakheel delayed indefinitely Worlds of Discovery Theme Park, a theme park island in the shape of a killer whale.
An Iraqi artist unveiled a “sofa-sized shoe statue” in Tikrit. Iran launched the first Iran-made satellite as a symbol for “expanding monotheism, peace and justice;” opened the country’s largest cinema complex in Tabriz, and inaugurated 900 development projects in 30 Iranian provinces.
Opposition is building to plans for a man-made peninsula off the coast Lebanon, in the form of a cedar tree and uncannily similar to Dubai’s Palm Jumeirah projects. Saudi Arabia announced winning construction bid (a Saudi-French-Chinese team) for the $1.8 billion high-speed railway project connecting the holy cities Mecca and Medina.
HSBC estimated $75 billion worth of projects have been suspended or cancelled in the UAE. Morgan Stanley put the figure at $263 billion. Construction contract volume has dropped 75% in the UAE. Dubai rental costs have dropped up to 33% in the last eight weeks. The first phase of 1570-unit project for low-income nationals and expatriates opened in Dubai; renters must meet certain conditions in regard to salary, marital status and proximity to work. Former residents of Jumeirah, once evicted as a result of the “one villa, one family” rule continue to return to their homes. Doha Bank Group executive forecasts, “Banks will be hesitant to fund luxury mega-projects. Low-cost housing is the most crucial area.” Saudi Ministry of Social Affairs reported that 35,160 beggars (85% non-Saudis) were detained in 2008 by the 12 anti-begging offices.
Abu Dhabi Judicial Department hires its first female judge, lawyer Kholoud Al Daheri, age 31. Saudi Arabia will recruit 5,000 doctors from India, Pakistan and the Middle East.