Chairman of Damac Properties believes safety and security of Dubai represents significant draw for crisis-hit countries
'Dubai always benefits from good and bad news of the region'
Turmoil in the wider Middle East has benefited the UAE as wealthy individuals flee crisis-hit countries to the Emirates, a leading Dubai businessman said.
Hussain Sajwani, the chairman of Damac Properties, said the country’s reputation for safety and stability, compared with that of its neighbours, was a significant factor in its continued success.
He cited the Iraq-Iran war during the 1980s, Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in the early 1990s and the collapse of Somalia as events that had led to positive outcomes for the UAE.
Mr Sajwani said that, while other countries in the Middle East had been hit by unrest and war, Dubai’s growth as a global tourism and transport hub remained on track.
“Dubai always benefits from good and bad news of the region because it is a hub,” he told CNBC, the US business news network which has just opened new studios in Dubai.
"It's a free trade centre. So I'm not worried, I'm not concerned about things. I wish the region can be better you know and [have] lower risk, but the region has been volatile for the last 50 years since I've seen it.
“Dubai always benefited from the instability. I remember eight years of Iraq-Iran war and Dubai benefit from that.
“The trade with Iran increased and then we saw the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, and Dubai benefited from a lot of Kuwaitis [that] came here and stayed here," said Mr Sajwani.
When Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, Sheikh Zayed, the Founding Father, offered protection, shelter and even a monthly stipend to Kuwaitis fleeing the country. Around 70,000 arrived in the UAE.
Abu Dhabi was recently ranked as the safest city in the world by a website that collates crime data from across the world. Dubai also performed well, coming 11th of more than 300 cities, according to Numbeo.
Mr Sajwani, whose company was the first real estate business to be listed on the London Stock Exchange in 2013, said: “Dubai is one of the most unique cities in the world … [it’s] very safe, [has] the largest number of hotels in the world, fourth or fifth tourist destination globally, the largest airport. Dubai ticks all the boxes.
“[It has] extremely good leadership … they take decisions quickly and they move fast. I don’t see any other city that can compete with Dubai for another 10 years.”
Speaking about the current property market in the UAE, he said investors from China, India and beyond continued to look to the country for new business opportunities.
“We have more people coming from China, people coming from India, Syria, Africa, Europe, Middle East,” Mr Sajwani said.
“The buying mix hasn’t changed. Yes, there are more Chinese, maybe less Saudis, maybe less Iranians, but the mix remains.
“You live in a part of the world surrounded by a lot of political, economic problems.
“So a lot of those countries’ nationals want to take money … to a safe place, and Dubai is very safe. The currency is pegged to the dollar.
“That’s a major advantage. All the components are there for Dubai to be growing and attracting more and more foreign investors,” he said.
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