It might have been years in the planning, but Dubai and UAE delivered a set of economic reforms that is proving the right antidote for a post-COVID-19 economic pathway. Image Credit: Virendra Sakhlani/Gulf News

Dubai is synonymous with a multiplicity of things. Chief among these, if we are candid, is probably the lifestyle that its diverse residents enjoy simply by virtue of living in the city.

Of course, though the same is true of the broader UAE, Dubai continues to enjoy - and expand - its merited allure in the international arena, not only for its high-life, but for prosperity in commerce, facilitated by a more favourable business climate. In terms of confronting the pandemic - a woe that so blights our times - the UAE has been an exemplar.

The impressive vaccine rollout is really but one element of the equation. All too little has been said of the country’s economic response, which has been nothing short of visionary by any metric.

It has been in the arena of real estate that these measures have been most apparent. Property in Dubai has always been in reliably high demand, but in the first-half of 2021, as the virus was brought under control, the UAE and particularly Dubai experienced a pronounced spike in demand.

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Property's bandwagon effect

During this period, there were 27,373 property sales concluded in Dubai, amounting to $16.89 billion. When compared with the annus horribilis of 2020, this was a 40 per cent increase in the volume of transactions and a 56 per cent increase in value.

Such is the market confidence that even offplan transactions are on the up, albeit at less of a rate, having seen an increase of 34 per cent on those of 2020. At a conservative estimate, some 2,000 millionaires have made Dubai their home in the last year and the Dubai Department of Economic Development issued 63 per cent more business licenses in 2021 than it did the year before.

The time to not only sell but buy is apparently now.

How, the world muses, was this near-miracle achieved? The shortest answer is that the approach has been a comprehensive one, the culmination of many years of savvy policy, comprising infrastructural expansion and home construction, combined with favourable terms for businesses and with everything being conducted in scale.

Once-in-a-generation changes

The Federal Government amended the Commercial Companies Law to allow the complete foreign ownership of companies in the UAE. At the same time, it announced new visa tiers, specifically the ‘Gold’ and ‘Green’ varieties, whose purpose is to attract the world’s best and brightest.

In this bid, the novel residency schemes have been a resounding success. Specifically targeted are CEOs, managers and more generally, the upper echelons of key sectors with emphasis placed upon the sciences, engineering, health and education. Particular consideration has been accorded people under the age of 25 due to their facility with technology, which, as we are all acutely aware, is undoubtedly the proverbial ‘future’.

In the final analysis, the fact is that the unduly critiqued Dubai doctrine of ‘Build and they will come’ has not only been validated, but vindicated. And more’s the happy irony, in the midst of the most significant economic downturn since the Great Depression.

All coming together

Due to a timely admixture of Expo 2020 (albeit in 2021), visa incentivisation granted to targeted industries and entrepreneurs of various stripes, an absence of income tax (the convenient priority for many) and not a little faith, the world’s wealthiest are once again making Dubai ‘one’ of their homes.

In short, the UAE has made the complementary relationship between economic liberalism and property development plain before the world. Davidson & Co. has seen a massive increase in legal work related to the uptick in the property market, ranging from helping investors and developers to quarterbacking huge villa refurbishments and redevelopments where the garden fountain alone and gold taps can cost more than the average European apartment.

Our construction and real estate guys are really earning their salaries. The market is increasingly sophisticated now where participants want their contracts to be robust and every T crossed and every I dotted…