Economists predicted the economic crisis would render a fall this year in the UAE’s soaring inflation rates. Dubai was ranked the most expensive city in the Gulf, 53rd in the world; Abu Dhabi 80th in the world. With negligible change in the number of guests, Dubai hotel revenues rose 15% last year.
With recently announced projects, Saudi Arabia’s tourism program now comes in at $38bn. Existing infrastructure, economic crisis notwithstanding, is cited as the current hindrance to Saudi tourism growth. Bahrain-based IIB committed to a $500 million housing project in Saudi Arabia, seeing promise in the kingdom’s 100 million unit shortage. Governor of Saudi Arabia General Investment Authority: “Our mega-economic cities are being seen as ways to compensate for diminishing sales and shrinking markets.”
Dubai and Abu Dhabi were ranked in the world’s top 10 commercial property locations. Developer Memon Investments predicted a UAE real estate recovery within the year as material costs plummet. CEO of Reidin.com: “A second boom can be expected to start just after September.” IMF forecasted soaring growth (29%) for Qatar in light of its LNG exports. Qatari officials announced plans to buy local investment portfolios, worth about $6 billion.
Abu Dhabi’s Urban Planning Council (UPC) approved three master plans, including Capital City. UPC’s Saood Al Junaibi: “Abu Dhabi will be a contemporary expression of an Arab city.” Organizers of Cityscape Abu Dhabi insisted on Abu Dhabi’s continuing development stamina. Some UAE realtors suggested Dubai and Oman were becoming a bedroom communities for Abu Dhabi.
The French state-owned nuclear company pursued Middle Eastern investors “to reinforce [France’s] political influence and the company’s business prospects in the region.” Fujairah’s port, the world’s second largest refuelling station, reported no effect from the economic slowdown, only seeing growth with next year’s completion of a pipeline from Iran. Dubai developer Emaar announced continuation of its “pan-India” campaigns. Bahrain and the Philippines signed a $500 million contract for a “food sufficiency” program to feed Bahrain and other GCC states and to employ 100,000 Filipinos. Karbala investors signed with a Lebanese contractor to build 15,000 residential units and continued plans for an “agricultural airport.” Iran, the Russian Federation and Azerbaijan Republic agreed on a railroad linking Iran and Azerbaijan Republic.
Executive director of Qatar Investment Authority, a sovereign wealth fund: “For the next six months, we will be basically doing nothing. … We should all go for a long holiday and come back in 2010.” A carpenter in Abu Dhabi: “We have been arriving at our worksite for the past 20 days and have just been asked to sit it out.” Nakheel rebutted rumors of discounts at The World islands, sticking to its annual invitation to 50 people to join the exclusive development.
Adding to the previous one-year postponement, Nakheel announced further delay on the ± kilometer-high Nakheel Tower, with foundation work needing three years. India’s Kingfisher Airlines delayed service to Dubai. Dubai’s new metro might not have all stations online by opening, as reports of unpaid contractor bills surfaced. Dubai Property Courts instituted a mediation center as a means to lessen court loads. A new UAE bill proposed to require credit checks for all new loans.
Not including laborers, Stanton Chase estimated between 100,000 and 150,000 job losses in the UAE since last October. The UAE accepted parts of a UN Human Rights proposal, considering the legal establishment of labor unions “but in line with national interests.” Saudi Arabia’s Shoura Council proposed greater protection for domestic workers in their contracts with employers. Bahrain’s labor minister said a minimum wage policy would hinder the economy.
Dubai’s department head from Naturalization and Residency: “Everyone in the world wants to know how Dubai has become so pretty, so they can copy our ideas. But it is not easy to copy, and this is the problem. So they become jealous and they write what is complete nonsense.” A Dubai delegation of financial and economic leaders flew to London to consult some world communications consultants, as a result to the emirate’s harsh treatment in international press of late.
Preceding the GCC foreign ministers’ objection of the ICC arrest warrant for the Sudanese president, the speaker of the UAE Federal National Council suggested international prosecution against Israel for its attack on Gaza. Dubai’s Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Charity and Humanitarian Establishment committed $17 million toward Gaza reconstruction projects, swelling the UAE’s Gaza contribution to more than $190 million. Qatar Charity and the Norwegian Refugee Council signed a $10 million agreement to help rebuild Gaza. UAE Project to Support and Build Lebanon announced completion of a hospital in Shaba.
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