Emaar Properties hopes to create 45,000 jobs from its debut project in the Kurdish region of Iraq, the US$3 billion Downtown Erbil development.
The developer aims to create an economic hub and capitalise on an economic boom in the region.
“Emaar’s decision to invest in Erbil is a perfect fit to our global strategy,” Mohamed Alabbar, the chairman, said in an interview in the Kurdish capital of Erbil. “The Kurdish region of Iraq is among the fastest growing economies in the Middle East, recording double-digit growth rates.
“We are quite confident that Downtown Erbil will be a true hub for business in Erbil, promote the local economy, bring in investments and create hundreds of jobs for youth.”
Downtown Erbil is a mixed-use project featuring twin towers, residential and commercial space, hotels, malls and parks, covering 541,000 square metres.
Work had already begun, Mr Alabbar said. Emaar would use a combination of its own funds and bank financing, he added.
The project is expected to last for five years over three phases.
The “business friendly approach of the Kurdish Regional Government, and especially its legislation policies” had fulfilled the requirements for investors from the Arabian Gulf, Mr Alabbar said.
The Kurdish region is one of the world’s last oil frontier regions. Granted semi-autonomy under Iraq’s post-Saddam Hussein constitution, the KRG has welcomed in international oil companies to develop its vast resources.
Smaller companies have followed the lure of the lucrative contracts offered by the Kurds, and the oil majors ExxonMobil, Total and Chevron have recently followed suit.
The region’s increased oil wealth, coupled with improved stability and security, has attracted significant amounts of foreign investment across all sectors.
Emaar’s project is the first property development carried out by a UAE firm in Erbil, the regional capital and a market that has been mostly penetrated by Turkish developers. In June, Emaar was understood to be reviewing a $2bn contract to build a touristic city project in the Kurdish city of Suleimaniyah, a government official told Bloomberg.
“We more than ever have witnessed destruction and demolition of our homes, cities and country and because of this reason we highly value reconstruction,” said Nechirvan Barzani, the prime minister of the KRG. “It will be a source of pride and income for thousands of families and create 45,000 job opportunities.”
The prime minister appealed to Kurdish youth to consider opportunities in the private sector. “Unfortunately people think the government should be doing everything and this may affect our development,” Mr Barzani said. “It is time for you, our dear youth, to consider different prospect and get in touch with companies and jobs in the private sector.”
Kurds living under the poverty line in Iraq stand at 3.5 per cent, Mr Barzani said, compared with 4.7 per cent in 2007. That compared with 19 per cent for the rest of Iraq, the prime minister added.