Dubai’s Executive Council projected 2% economic growth for the emirate in 2009. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum: “Our dear state is capable of shaking off the global economic crisis and rising again.” Deutsche Bank released its 2009 MENA growth projections: UAE, 0.5%; Saudi Arabia, 1.5%; Kuwait, 1.8%; Oman, 1.2%; Bahrain, 1.5%; and Qatar, 10%. A report estimated a “wintery market” for Dubai: more than 50% of projects planned through 2012 are cancelled or postponed. Regional real estate investor: “There is a tough summer ahead and it will be a miracle if the sector sees any surge in real estate prices by then.” In Ajman, buyers’ lack of confidence has made it impossible to appraise the value of off-plan homes. Abu Dhabi received glowing credit ratings in time for its plans to borrow $10 billion, the same amount as the recent Dubai bailout.
Analysts warned that the UAE’s flexible labor policy could backfire and that the national population could decline over the next two years, affecting consumer spending, causing a rise in delinquent personal loans, and hampering recovery. A quoted economist: “If you leave, you leave, and you’re probably not coming back.” Luxury retailer Cartier affirmed its optimism in the region: “We’re putting the money where the business is. Women and the younger generation in the region are serious luxury product buyers right from the age of 20, compared to 40 years in the West.” Global Banking Corporation launched a waterfront development in Bahrain with an “elite target audience.”
IATA increased 2009 projected losses for Middle East airlines to $900 million, over four times the estimated amount three months ago. Nakheel confirmed delays on five mall expansions plans. City of Arabia’s developer insisted plans are moving forward on the Dubai development, including the one million square meter mall. The project’s executive director: “We conceptualized a city where replicas of the world’s best places would be built. Wadi Walk is themed on Venice, while Restless Planet is modeled on Disneyland.” An economist recognized reverse migration patterns away from cities in Saudi Arabia.
Abu Dhabi Accountability Authority instructed all government agencies and state-owned enterprises to appoint auditors. In response to the the UAE national council’s consideration of a federal property market watchdog, one national federal council member: “A number of developers started their business here without having any capital. After the [financial] crisis a number of them left their projects unfinished.” Dubai’s Property Court ordered a local developer to pay $2 million, plus interest, to an investor after it failed to follow regulatory procedures. Speculation began that the courts would continue to “take a literal interpretation of laws.” Palm Jebel Ali investors petitioned Nakheel to reschedule payment plans in light of the four-year construction delay. Residents in Abu Dhabi complained about lax laws on raising livestock in residential areas. Dubai municipality approached immigration authorities about a new ban on betel leaf – a stimulant and mouth-freshener chewed by many South Asians – with deportation as the recommended penalty.
Abu Dhabi National Energy pursued a $320 million purchase of power plants and lines in the Caribbean, a few months after buying a New Jersey power plant. Abu Dhabi-based Aabar bought a $2.65 billion stake in Daimler, with electric-car manufacturing now an option for the emirate. Recent reports revealed that UAE-based companies are the largest investors in Iraq, with $31 billion or half of all investments in the country. Saudi Arabia reached a deal with Indonesia to allocate a minimum of 2 million hectares of farmland for joint ventures. A Kuwaiti developer announced plans to develop his construction sector shopping complexes, inspired by Dutch artist Piet Mondriaan, throughout the Middle East.
Abu Dhabi authorities announced plans for “taxi villages” to house drivers, their training centers and their parking spaces. Jeddah Municipality provided details on its 25-year, $4 billion strategic plan, which includes economic studies, flyovers, underpasses, cleaning services and environmental preservation. Recent reports addressed Jeddah’s looming environmental issues, including a sewage lake whose barrier between its 10 million liters of raw sewage and the city is at risk of collapsing. Abu Dhabi was preparing coastal development guidelines. A water plan for Abu Dhabi warned that groundwater supplies would not last more than 50 years, with water consumption 2400% higher than replenishing capacity. Dubai’s parks department will plant one million trees by 2011 for “a greener Dubai.” Ras al Khaimah created four nature reserves to be managed by their respectively adjacent developers. The Union Railway Company was launched in the UAE to oversee inter-emirate railway plans and to coordinate with a GCC railway plan. Dubai’s transportation authority foresaw 100 automobile lanes across Dubai Creek, and 500 km of main roads and 580 km of bicycle routes in the emirate by 2020.
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