Saturday, June 24, 2017

GULF NOTES, the week ending 11 April 2009

April 17 2009

A week after a group of British investors in UAE property markets appealed for their government’s help, the UK business minister sought reassurance from UAE rulers that British contractors will be paid. Prince Charles made a plea to the Emir of Qatar to reconsider designs of Qatari Diar’s Chelsea Barracks project in London. One British paper reported on the “dark side” of Dubai, and another on a “more pleasant” Dubai. A Bahrain-based investor told Bloomberg TV of its plans to invest in US real estate debt.

Richard Florida visited Abu Dhabi and said the city should pursue hiring highly skilled professionals. The Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Foundation announced its employment center to function as a regional platform to place “high-flying and certified professionals.” UAE police reported illegal residents are fleeing via the Omani border to avoid iris scans, and others are fleeing to avoid prosecution for unpaid debts. Oman considered a mandatory “exit permit” from an employer before an expatriate could leave the country. The UAE’s largest contractor Arabtec defended its holding employees’ passports, stating the policy was “from a security point of view.” A business paper predicted imminent changes in visa regulations might cause a rush of immigrants from South Asia to the UAE.

Prince Khaled Al-Faisal forecasted Mecca would be the “world’s most advanced city” and annouced a “comprehensive study” by international experts and the United Nations. Al Ain’s twenty-year master plan was revealed and calculated a three-fold increase in population. 70% of home-owning expats in Dubai have value-depreciating properties, a quarter of which are homes not yet occupied. Falling rents have spurred a population shift in Dubai, where residents in affordable developments are moving to once-exclusive properties. More than a third of Middle East expatriates prefer to remain in their current country of residence in spite of global economic crisis.

Over 8,000 mid-income units at Dubai’s Jumeirah Village are expected to be delivered at the end of 2009. Developers of Abu Dhabi’s Al Reef project were on track to deliver the emirate’s first properties for foreign owners. A Singapore-Abu Dhabi joint venture confirmed that Abu Dhabi Island’s largest project, a $6 billion mixed-use development with Emirati-only housing, was on schedule for completion in 2015. Bahrain concluded it needs 80,000 new houses by 2019. Kuwaiti property prices have sunk on average 20%. A Kuwaiti real estate agent: “Some new apartment buildings are virtually vacant.”

Iran’s first double-decker highway went online. The Qatar-Bahrain Causeway, or the Friendship Bridge, was back on schedule. Bahrain officials warned the King Fahd causeway, connecting Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, is deteriorating as truck traffic is expected to double in four years. The Saudi government announced, again, a railway linking GCC countries. A women-only bus service started in Dubai. Tehran transport officials called for significant investments in public transit, as the municipality considered limiting automobile traffic in the city. A report from the Wharton School of Business indicated a trend in the Gulf region to shift investments from towers to power/desalination plants.

Dubai World announced its joint project with MGM Mirage, the Las Vegas CityCentre, was still on. SmartCity Malta, a joint venture between the Maltese government and Sama Dubai, expected its first deliveries in 2010. Iran and Venezuela inaugurated a joint bank to finance their development projects. Emaar awarded the construction contract for its Islamabad “Canyon Views” project, an “exclusive gated community with a range of architectural styles,… and retail outlets, club houses, parks, schools and masjids.” Dubai master-developer Nakheel rescinded its bid for a $2.6 billion development plan for Sydney, citing illiquid markets as the reason.

Qatar promised to present its green building regulations “within a few weeks.” Bahrain’s Crown Prince announced the kingdom’s penal law will include a bribery clause. Abu Dhabi officials guaranteed realty laws by the end of the month. In the first 95 days of 2009, Abu Dhabi police handed out 1,843 fines for jaywalking. An Iranian businessman sued his UAE local sponsor for the return of his $2 billion company. Saudi Arabia’s ruling Shura council openly criticized the auditing board for “misappropriation” of $29 billion. Views from new high-rises in Mecca have revealed over two hundred mosques not correctly oriented toward the Kaaba.

Sheikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, promised to answer questions about “all fields and sectors” on his website. With Skype now available on iPhones, UAE telecommunications officials reiterated the ban on the VOIP. A US think tank ranked Kuwait as the most democratic country in the Arab world. Residents of Jahra, Kuwait, protested against the demolition of a forty-year-old temporary mosque. A 22-year-old Kuwaiti director presented Forget Hamlet, a reinterpretation of Shakespeare’s Hamlet; on Hamlet: “He knows he should do something. But he chooses not to. Just like our government.”

Imperial College of London was considering a new campus in either Abu Dhabi or Qatar; its rector: “[This] is a fifty-year project, not a five-year one.” The Emir of Kuwait donated $30 million for a cultural museum in Beirut. Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani provided funding for a $2.5 million low-income housing project in Karbala. The Lebanese developer responsible for the Dubai-inspired Cedar Island project in Lebanon was awarded Karbala’s first tourism and entertainment project, worth about $1 billion.

The 2nd Gulf Film Festival opened in Dubai. Jeddah Film Festival organizers sought spaces for its showings, as there are no cinemas in the city. Saudi agencies for the Haj and Umrah doubled pilgrim fees to about $130.

Financial Times, April 9, 2009 / Architects’ Journal, April 9, 2009 / The Independent, April 7, 2009; Financial Times, April 8, 2009 / AME info, April 9, 2009 / The National, April 8, 2009 / Business 24/7, April 6, 2009 / Gulf News, April 5, 2009 / Gulf News, April 5, 2009 / Arabian Business, April 9, 2009 / Business Intelligence Middle East, April 9, 2009 / Arab News, April 11, 2009 / The National, April 10, 2009 / The National, April 6, 2009 / The National, April 9, 2009 / Business 24/7, April 6, 2009 / Zawya.com, April 7, 2009 / The National, April 9, 2009 / Gulf News, April 9, 2009 / Gulf Daily News, April 7, 2009 / Zawya.com, April 7, 2009 / Tehran Times, April 6, 2009 / Arabian Business, April 7, 2009 / Arab News, April 7, 2009 / Arab News, April 8, 2009 / The National, April 7, 2009 / Iran Daily News, April 7, 2009 / The National, April 11, 2009 / The National, April 11, 2009 / Zawya.com, April 5, 2009 / Kuwait Times, April 5, 2009 / Zawya.com, April 7, 2009 / Arabian Business, April 9, 2009 / Construction WeekOnline, April 9, 2009 / Arabian Business, April 10, 2009 / Business 24/7 April 9, 2009 / The National, April 10, 2009 / Zawya.com, April 8, 2009 / Business 24/7, April 11, 2009 / BBC, April 6, 2009 / Gulf News, April 11, 2009 / The National, April 5, 2009 / Kuwait Times, April 7, 2009 / Kuwait Times, April 8, 2009 / The National, April 10, 2009 / Kuwait Times, April 5, 2009 / Zawya.com, April 5, 2009 / Zawya.com, April 8,2009 / Arab News, April 6, 2009 / Arab news, April 6, 2009 / Khaleej Times, April 5, 2009.

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