Qatar dedicated 2.8% of its 2008 GDP to academic research, exceeding the United States (2.7%) and the United Kingdom (1.8%). Baghdad’s secretariat approved plans for a luxury hotel, a “residential city” and a 30,000-seat stadium on the Tigris River.
Real growth rates in the GCC are not expected to exceed 2% in 2009. Standard & Poor’s further downgraded seven Dubai government-related companies, including Emaar, DP World, DIFC Investments, and Jebel Ali Free Zone. A new study valued delayed UAE projects at $355 billion, exceeding the total of projects underway ($254 billion). Financial Times: “For thousands of expatriates lured to Dubai by the promise of year-round sunshine and a tax-free lifestyle, the party is over.” Contractor Drake & Scull reported its turn to North Africa as a potential market with high population growth; its CEO: “Now is 100% the right time to move out of Dubai, although not completely….” Dubai authorities said they are reviewing the law requiring a non-GCC expatriate to leave the emirate within 30 days of losing his job. The UAE’s finance minister acknowledged the UAE economy may contract in 2009, with oil prices a key determinant.
Saudi Arabia’s petroleum minister: “Forty dollars [per barrel] is not enough. Today’s low prices are just as unsustainable as soaring prices.” King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia: “By the grace of God, we are going ahead with our investment and spending program for the various development projects.” Saudi Arabia’s finance minister: “We are satisfied investing in the country, however if there are investment opportunities [in developing economies] then we will not shy away from them.”
Dubai developer DAMAC neared release of its $15 billion master plan in Kurdistan and its $16.3 billion project in Egypt. Masdar announced it is taking its energy summit to Spain, advocating Abu Dhabi as the “global hub of renewable energy,” but hesitated on its investment in a British wind farm project. Kuwait responded to France’s search for investors in its state-owned nuclear power company. Heads of state from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Syria and Kuwait called for “protecting the interests of Arab nations and peoples.”
Ras al Khaimah’s Gulf Cement Company reported a 5000% increase in profits last year. Arabtec, UAE’s largest construction company, claimed the country is still “way ahead” in terms of development in the region. DAMAC anticipated contracts for ten new towers as it benefits from the current low construction costs. Meydan Commercial Sport project was relaunched in Dubai, with local Arabtec replaced by the China State Construction Engineering Corporation. Dubai Municipality approved the master plan for the $55 billion Bawadi development: 51 hotels (more than 60,000 rooms), 1,500 restaurants, and 40 million square feet of leasable space. Dubai Shopping Malls Group’s chairman warned against the emirate’s proliferation of malls, as mall retail space readies to increase by 263% in 4 years. Ski Dubai’s creators committed to opening Bahrain’s largest indoor water park, comparable to 22 football fields, later this year.
Abu Dhabi’s government announced it will build more than 50,000 homes for Emiratis in 20 years but has not decided whether new owners will have to pay for them. Abu Dhabi’s Mosque Development Committee said it will phase out mobile homes outfitted as mosques; roughly 180 of 436 mosques are temporary and used mostly by South Asian communities. A local store owner: “My shop is opposite the [temporary] mosque; I’ve been praying here for the past 20 years. I can’t close my shop for an hour to go to another mosque.” Dubai Municipality continued to inspect 150 villas a week for overcrowding. Seven property executives pleaded not guilty to taking illegal commisions in a Dubai court, claiming no existing law was violated.
Riot police quelled a protest in Dubai by Chinese construction workers angry over withheld salaries from the last three months; the contracting company said it was already about to pay them. Kuwaiti politicians and activists voiced concern about the dire conditions faced by many of the country’s bidoun, whose rights as citizens are at risk. UAE president Sheikh Khalifa of Abu Dhabi pardoned 329 people jailed for unpaid debts and relieved them of their debts totaling $817 million. A Saudi woman sentenced to death for murdering her abusive husband received a royal pardon, despite her eleven children’s support for the sentence. Saudi Arabia’s Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice launched a training program for its field workers to develop better relations with the media.
The National, March 19, 2009 / Zawya.com, March 16, 2009 / The National, March 18, 2009 / AME info, March 16, 2009 / Financial Times, March 17, 2009 / Zawya.com, March 16, 2009 / The National, March 17, 2009 / The National, March 19, 2009 / Arab News, March 17, 2009 / Arab News, March 17, 2009 / Business 24/7, March 16, 2009 / The National, March 19, 2009 / The National, March 16, 2009; Kuwait Times, March 16, 2009 / The National, March 15, 2009 / Arab News, March 17, 2009 / Zawya.com, March 17, 2009 / Zawya.com, March 18, 2009 / Zawya.com, March 16, 2009 / Zawya.com, March 17, 2009 / The National, March 15, 2009 / Zawya.com , March 21, 2009 / The National, March 16, 2009 / The National, March 19, 2009 / The National, March 16, 2009 / Zawya.com, March 16, 2009 / Zawya.com, March 21, 2009 / Kuwait Times, March 19, 2009 / The National, March 19, 2009 / Arab News, March 18, 2009 / Arab News, March 21, 2009.