Construction Week Newsletter 2nd April 2005

  • E-Mail
By  Eudore Chand Published  April 2, 2005

Editorial Leader|~||~||~|

Forced nomads could finally be given a home here

Over the past few days, my wife has been sitting at the computer looking at sites that list properties for sale in Dubai. I have begun to fear the whoop of delight at her finding the ‘perfect’ place. Either I have to drop everything and go rushing off to see the place, or I have to drop everything and revive the dear lady when she scrolls down and sees the price of the perfect home. It has now been a couple of years since people began moving into their own ‘freehold’ homes in Dubai. More and more properties are becoming ready for occupation, and more and more proud house owners are expected to take up residence in the near future. There is talk of freehold homes numbering 400 000 over the next few years. Owning property has a special meaning to everyone: it crosses boundaries, continents and oceans. A man’s home is his castle, according to the British saying. The first priority for an Indian in the Gulf is to save up enough money to build their own residence “back home”. As the former Soviet Union found out too late, people everywhere are driven by a desire to own property, and will eventually reject any form of social or political structure if they are prevented from doing so. The urge to sink roots and to settle down is so overwhelming that nomadic lifestyles are now vanishing from most parts of the globe, including here in Arabia. Expatriates in the Gulf have been living in a kind of a transit state, sometimes for decades. These are people whom I refer to as ‘forced’ nomads; they have a home somewhere but are living elsewhere, travelling back and forth on an annual journey in a manner similar to most nomadic annual migrations. One point worth noting here is that expatriates have been allowed to own homes in the Gulf, but these were mostly GCC nationals and/or of Arab origin. There is substantial cross-border GCC individual investment in homes in Gulf states; lesser from other Arabs, and almost non-existent from non-Arab nationalities. The Government of Dubai was the catalyst for two significant changes in recent years; in one move, it allowed expatriates “of any nationality” to buy a home in special communities, thus boosting real estate development and, consequently, the construction sector. The second was to create cross-border, large-scale investments, again for upscale real estate developments with reclaimed and waterfront elements. However, one thing that has been niggling — especially from a critical comfort factor angle — is the clarity regarding the legal rights of ownership of property by foreign individuals. There is no federal law in the United Arab Emirates that guarantees the rights of ownership of freehold property by foreign individuals. What happens in such cases? The fact that foreign ownership of property is now on such a massive scale (Emaar Properties delivered 8000 homes to owners by the end of 2004) is now a fait accompli; a precedent has been set and there doesn’t seem to be any turning back. The mood in the Gulf is towards freehold ownership by foreigners. Oman is at it, Saudi says it has it, Bahrain and Qatar are doing it and so is the UAE. In Issue 64 of Construction Week, we reported that the emirate of Abu Dhabi will allow real estate transactions from 5th May 2005. Since Abu Dhabi holds the presidency of the UAE, this new and bold step gives hope that a federal law may be possible, even before the end of this year. After all, Abu Dhabi should also be able to attract substantial investment in its burgeoning real estate sector, as is already the case with other Gulf projects such as the Pearl in Qatar, the Durrat Al Bahrain and the Palms in Dubai. But more importantly, if the UAE is to be counted among the advanced nations of the world offering a lifestyle that is equal to or better than any place else on Earth, then it must also have systems in place that guarantee rights — such as land ownership — that are basic and fundamental in the other nations that it wants to stand in rank with.||**||

Add a Comment

Your display name This field is mandatory

Your e-mail address This field is mandatory (Your e-mail address won't be published)

Security code