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    DUBAI (AFP) — A cluster of articifial islands inspired by the "wonders of the solar system" is to be built off the coast of the booming Gulf emirate of Dubai, developers Nakheel said on Sunday.


    "The Universe" project will feature islands in the shape of the sun, moon and other planets.


    "The development will create new luxury living space, commercial opportunities and additional coastline," Nakheel said, without stating the cost of the project or its planned completion date.


    The Western-oriented emirate of Dubai, one of seven that make up the United Arab Emirates, is a leisure hub in the oil-rich Gulf and draws millions of visitors every year.


    Several other similar mega-projects are already being developed by Nakheel in the wealthy city-state, including three huge palm-tree shaped islands.

    One of these islands, the Palm Jumeirah, is more than one and a half times the size of New York's Central Park and will eventually house thousands of

    luxury apartments, beachside villas, upmarket hotels and restaurants.


    Environmental groups have warned the heavy dredging involved in creating the islands could damage marine habitats while other experts warn of increased pollution and strains on the local environment.


    But Nakheel says it goes to great lengths to ensure sustainability and to minimise ecological damage across all its developments.


    (Courtesy of AFP)



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    • 8 months later...

    Boomtown Feels Effects of a Global Crisis


    A visitor at the new Atlantis resort in Dubai, where rooms cost as much as $25,000 a night. Now, some expensive projects under construction may be in jeopardy.


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    Published: October 4, 2008

    The New York Times


    DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — On the surface, this glittering Arabian boomtown seems immune to the financial crisis plaguing the global economy.


    Feverish speculation in Dubai is yielding to apprehension.


    The skyline still bristles with cranes — an estimated 20 percent of the world’s total — and the papers are full of ads promoting spectacular new building projects. On Sept. 24, tourists from around the world flocked to the opening of Atlantis, a gargantuan, pink, $1.5 billion resort hotel built on an artificial, palm-shaped island. There was no shortage of people willing to pay as much as $25,000 a night for a room, to gaze at the sharks and rays in a vast glass-lined aquarium in the lobby and to dine at marquee restaurants like Nobu and Brasserie Rostang.


    But as recession looms in the West, cracks are appearing in the oil-fueled boom that has made Dubai, with its futuristic skyscrapers on the turquoise waters of the Persian Gulf, a global byword for unfettered growth.


    Banks are reining in lending, casting a pall over corporate finance and building plans. Oil prices have been dropping. Stock markets across the region have been falling since June. After insisting for days that the oil-rich Persian Gulf region was fully “insulated” from financial troubles abroad, the Emirates’ Central Bank made about $13.6 billion available on Sept. 22 to ease credit problems, in an echo of bailout measures in the United States. Already, some bankers are saying it is not enough.


    Some of Dubai’s more extravagant building projects — the ever-bigger malls, islands and indoor ski slopes — are likely to be dropped if they do not already have financing lined up, bankers say. The credit crisis could also reduce demand from buyers, who will have a harder time getting mortgages.


    The shrinkage will be more severe if the financial crisis worsens in the West. Property prices and rents, which have remained steady until now, are widely expected to start dropping soon.


    At the same time, investor confidence has been harmed by a long string of high-level corporate scandals, jeopardizing Dubai’s long-term ambition of becoming a regional financial capital.


    “Plenty of people are worried,” said Gilbert Bazi, 25, a real estate broker from Lebanon who moved here a year ago. “They are waiting to see if what happened in the United States will happen here.”


    When he first arrived, Mr. Bazi said, making money was almost absurdly easy. “Iranians, Russians, Europeans — everybody was buying,” he said. “I didn’t have to call people; they were calling me.”


    Now, Mr. Bazi stalks the lobbies of hotels, trying to find clients.


    “The market is sleeping,” he said.


    In fairness, Dubai still looks rosy when set against the financial turmoil elsewhere. Although it lacks the oil wealth of its sister emirate Abu Dhabi, Dubai has huge budget and current account surpluses, and the government of the Emirates federation is able and willing — like its Persian Gulf neighbors — to inject an almost unlimited amount of money into the system to ease credit problems.


    The governments of Saudi Arabia and Qatar have reaped so much profit from oil and gas in recent years that they are more worried about how to spend it than about managing any downturn. But the Persian Gulf’s governments face real economic challenges, albeit ones that are profoundly different from those in the West.


    Until recently, credit in Dubai was growing by 49 percent a year, according to the Emirates’ Central Bank — a rate almost double that of bank deposits’ growth. That unnerved some bankers here, who felt it could lead to a collapse.


    “In the U.S., the challenge is about keeping the banks going,” said Marios Maratheftis, chief economist for Standard Chartered Bank. “Here, the economy has been overheated, a correction is needed, and it’s about making sure the slowdown happens in a smooth, orderly manner.”


    If that sounds like an easy problem to have, consider the manic vicissitudes of Dubai’s real estate market. Speculators often got bank loans to put down 10 percent on a property that had not yet been built, only to flip it for a huge profit to another buyer, who would do the same thing, and on and on. That was easy to do when housing prices here were surging so fast that some properties multiplied tenfold in value in just a few years.


    But the Dubai authorities began getting nervous about this and imposed new regulations this summer to limit speculation.


    Many analysts say the slowdown in Dubai’s economy, assuming it does not worsen to a slump, will make the city’s growth more sustainable and healthy by reducing its dependence on loans and speculation.


    Similarly, the authorities hope that recent arrests in corporate scandals will root out the culture of corruption that plagues so many Arab countries. Some of those arrested have been Emiratis with connections to the ruling family, in a gesture clearly intended to send the message that no one is exempt.


    As Dubai’s frenzied growth slows, whether there is a hard or soft landing will depend in great part on the banks, the link between the region’s declining stock markets and its still-thriving property sector.


    “Banks will have to start lending to end-users,” said Robert McKinnon, a real estate analyst and head of equity research at Al Mal Capital here, referring to people who actually plan on occupying properties as opposed to trading them for profit. “There are some questions about how the banks will handle that transition.”


    At worst, if the global economy worsened and some Dubai banks failed, there would be a firm crutch to lean on. In the early 1980s, after several Dubai banks stumbled, the government rescued them and relaunched them as the Emirates Bank International. In the early 1990s, two more banks were rescued. At that time, of course, Dubai was far smaller. The repercussions of such a government bailout today would be far more damaging to Dubai’s image as the epicenter of Persian Gulf development.


    The government cushion appears to be part of the reason most local people do not seem anxious right now.


    “We don’t worry about it,” said Hassan al-Hassani, 26, a civil engineer and an Emirati citizen, who was drinking coffee late Wednesday night with relatives and friends at a faux-Bedouin-style tent, set up among Dubai’s hypermodern skyscrapers in honor of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. “Maybe it’s good for things to calm down.”


    A few yards away, guests admired a miniature model of a new residential and commercial Dubai development called the City of Arabia, which includes what will be — if it is really built — the biggest mall in the world.


    “Sometimes we wonder, will people really come to live in these places?” Mr. Hassani asked. But he quickly brushed off the thought with a smile, reminding his listener that native Emiratis — unlike the foreigners, who make up a majority of Dubai’s 1.3 million residents — have a different perspective.


    “Remember, 30 years ago almost nobody had phones here,” he said. “There was maybe one tall building. My family only had one car.”

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    • 3 weeks later...
    Saif Ahmed began living the Dubai dream five years ago. The University of Toronto business school grad moved to the Gulf city-state and quickly co-founded property developer Universal Canlink Inc. By 2006, the firm was turning over $15 million a year as its brochures lured foreign investors with tales of "meteoric" growth in the Dubai real estate market. Now, as the global credit crisis spirals from Wall Street to the Middle East, Ahmed is coming back down to earth. There's still interest, he explains, but the buying frenzy in Dubai is gone. "Before, people were buying blindly without asking much about the details," says Ahmed, a Canadian. "Now such risk takers have disappeared from the market."


    Among the harbingers of the changing mood: Nakheel, the developer of Dubai's proposed kilometer-high skyscraper near Jebel Ali airport, recently announced that it is reassessing its overall staffing needs in line with "predictions of a downturn in the global economy." Boardrooms and coffee shops alike are buzzing with talk about the coming fall. The Cairo-based investment bank EFG-Hermes recently predicted that Dubai property values could tumble as much as 20% in the next three years. Share prices of Emaar, a public Dubai company that has become one of the biggest real estate developers in the world, have fallen by two-thirds since January.


    To be sure, nobody's calling it a bust — not yet anyway. Midsized builders like Ahmed are still open for business. And a record 70,000 visitors attended Dubai's annual Cityscape property show this month, where mega-projects worth a total of some $180 billion were unveiled.


    Yet Dubai and its real estate market are vulnerable to an international economic downturn, especially compared with many of its Gulf neighbors. As the region's premier business, transportation and tourism hub, it is by definition more entwined with the global economy. And in tight times, Dubai lacks the windfall oil profits that have enabled sister emirate Abu Dhabi, for example, to amass a financial cushion in sovereign wealth funds totaling hundreds of billions of dollars.


    But Dubai's biggest risk is its daring reliance on debt to drive its breathtaking building boom. Last week, Moody's estimated that in 2006, the most recent year for figures, Dubai's government and public-sector company debt was at least $47 billion, a staggering 103% of GDP. The investment-rating agency said it expected Dubai's debt to continue outpacing GDP for another five years, exposing Dubai to pronounced financing and geopolitical risks.


    Dubai officials insist that they can meet their debt obligations for the next two years. Analysts point out, however, that the credit squeeze compounds a growing challenge to Dubai's revenue streams. The most obvious is the halving of the price of oil from $147 per bbl. to $70 per bbl. since July, sending Middle East stocks tumbling and rendering regional investors increasingly cautious. Likewise, a global recession is likely to tighten the belts of the international investors and holiday makers that Dubai relies on for its real estate and tourism developments. Even before the global crunch, banks in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) were being hit this year by an outrunning stampede of billions of UAE dirhams — so-called hot money that one report valued at $55 billion — led by speculators giving up on hopes that the country would de-peg its currency from the U.S. dollar.


    All is not doom and gloom, however. The UAE government has funneled $33 billion into the country's banking system to calm the nerves of depositors and investors, promising coverage to foreign as well as local institutions. If the credit crunch shakes out speculators, known as "flippers," from Dubai's real estate market, that could help stabilize wildly inflationary conditions. "I am not necessarily thinking we are in a crash scenario," EFG-Hermes managing director Hashem Montasser tells TIME. "There is still genuine demand. Economies here are still growing. Overall, the economic situation is still very sound. We will see a deceleration of prices, and it's probably a good thing, as long as it's done in an orderly way and doesn't turn into a panic. The market has gone to where it is too quickly."


    An underlying reason for the relative lack of panic so far is that Dubai real estate remains a financial haven for wealthy individuals from riskier nearby countries like Iran and Pakistan. What's more, Dubai's real estate sector is dominated by a handful of major companies — collectively dubbed "Dubai Inc." — that are directly or indirectly owned and controlled by the government. This means, analysts say, that Dubai authorities could effectively stave off a bubble burst by keeping finished projects off-line until market conditions improved. In the event of a systemic threat, Dubai can probably rely on super-rich Abu Dhabi for a bailout. "We consider it highly likely that the authorities will step in at some level to support entities that are strategically important for the economy," Moody's analyst Tristan Cooper tells TIME.


    That kind of reassurance is what keeps Dubai property builders like Saif Ahmed plugging away. Believing that foreign interest in Dubai is alive, he's planning a major sales exhibition in Los Angeles in December. He acknowledges, however, that the days of the easy sell may be over. "People are more educated and calculated about their investments," Ahmed explains. "Now they are asking for a more detailed sales pitch. They want to know about the developer's track record." As it faces the most serious financial challenge in its history, Dubai Inc.'s reputation is now on the line too.


    (Courtesy of TIME, With reporting by Shadiah Abdullah)

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    • 5 months later...


    Dubai: From riches to rags


    Ben Anderson

    BBC Panorama reporter <!--E mvb-->


    Just say the word Dubai and the images appear: impossible glass structures glistening in the year-round sun, perfect man-made beaches, yachts, private helicopters, malls and spreads of food that would satisfy Roman emperors - all the things huge amounts of new money can buy.


    And yet for me these images are the opposite of what should come to mind.


    Having spent the last three months travelling there, I no longer think of the seven star Burj Al Arab hotel when I think of Dubai, but of emaciated, wretched men, lining up for buses before the sun has risen, resigned to the fact that their hard day's work wouldn't earn them enough to buy a round of coffee here. The branding of Dubai has to be one of the greatest PR triumphs of the past 20 years.


    It works out incredibly well for the developers - they can charge first world fortunes for the dream villas and apartments, but pay third world salaries to the men actually building them.


    Poor and illiterate

    Many in Dubai say that this is just globalisation working, and that while the lives of the workers, and the salaries they are paid, look bad to us, to them, where they come from, it's good.


    This excuse doesn't stand up to scrutiny.


    The story of Dubai's immigrant construction workers shocks and depresses in several different stages. The poor and often illiterate men, who come here in their millions from the Indian sub-continent, are getting exploited from so many different angles that it's sometimes hard to know who to be angry at.


    It all starts in their home countries - often India or Bangladesh, where local recruitment agents promise them high salaries and generous overtime payments.


    But often they also charge a "visa" or "transit" fee, averaging 200,000 taka, or £2,000 ($2,980).


    This is supposed to be illegal.


    The workers pay the fee because they believe the figures they've been promised. In most cases, it will take them the entire two-to-three year contract for them just to pay back that fee and break even.


    It often takes that long because many developers, or their sub-contactors pay shockingly low wages - often less than £120 ($178.83) a month, for, on average, a 10-hour a day, six-day working week.


    Rivers of stinking waste

    We followed dozens of workers back to their "labour camps" where they cooked rice and potatoes (they can only afford meat or fish two-to-three times a month) in filthy rooms equipped with the most basic gas hobs.

    In one camp sewage had leaked out from toilet blocks, and there was so much of it that the workers had built an entire network of stepping-stones just to get to their accommodation blocks.


    "The dream," as one Indian recruitment agent told me "soon turns into a nightmare the moment they arrive."


    Upon arrival, they are then bussed to their labour camp, where they will share a room with at least six other workers for the duration of their time in Dubai.


    If they are given contracts, they are often not worth the paper they are written on, and collective bargaining and trade unions are illegal in Dubai anyway.


    The developments we investigated are both enthusiastically endorsed by a long line of celebrities, who allow themselves to be described as "ambassadors."


    England footballer Michael Owen, cricketer Freddie Flintoff and golfer Sam Torrance endorse developments by the First Group in Dubai's Sports City.


    British celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, golfers Greg Norman, Vijay Singh, and Sergio Garcia are all ambassadors for Jumeirah Golf Estates, which will be home to the $20M "Race to Dubai," the richest tournament in the golfing world.


    The master developer of Jumeirah Golf Estates is a company called Leisurecorp, which owns Turnberry and has a stake in Troon.


    'Like a prison sentence'

    We looked hard for a single example of good practice on two different developments, interviewing dozens of workers employed by many different companies - some British, some owned by the Dubai government.


    But I didn't find a single exception, not one worker who hadn't paid a visa fee, not one who was being well paid (the highest monthly salary I heard of was being paid to a skilled crane operator- approximately £220 ($327) a month), not one who could eat well or was free to go home if he chose to.


    They all said they were much worse off than they had been back at home.


    "We are doing slavery," said one worker, "we feel we are in jail, it's like a prison sentence. This is how I feel. I am helpless. What can I do?"


    Nick McGeehan, who runs Mafiswasta, one of the few NGOs working on behalf of the immigrant construction workers, is not surprised. I asked him what role we were playing in this, as property buyers, or as one of the million plus British tourists that visited Dubai last year.


    "You're contributing, directly or indirectly, to the enslavement of a migrant workforce. That's a difficult pill to swallow, but when you look at the evidence that's a fact."


    And what about the celebrities who endorse these developments, some of whom told us they sought, and got, re-assurances that the workers were being treated well.


    "It's not enough to say that. At best that's naive and at worst that's negligent."


    Panorama: Slumdogs and Millionaires is on BBC One, Monday 6 April at 8.30pm.


    Story from BBC NEWS:



    Published: 2009/04/06 06:19:36 GMT


    © BBC MMIX

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    :( Tout dans ce dossier est scandaleux, on construit une ville totalement artificielle où le seul attachement que les gens auront sera d'y être vus dans leur villa qu'ils s'empresseront de vendre une fois la mode passée.


    C'est un désastre écologique, une dépense honteuse d'énergie fossile qui contribue largement à l'effet de serre et qu'il faudra ensuite dépenser pour simplement la climatiser 12 mois par année. Sans compter la destruction des fonds marins pour bâtir ces îles de sable vulnérables à la montée des eaux et qu'il faudra entretenir à grands frais et cela de façon permanente.


    Cette ville est une bulle immobilière qui risque d'éclater à tout moment, et les conflits régionaux ne sont jamais très loin. De plus ce pays est une dictature que les gens riches et célèbres cautionnent par leur présence en tant que résidents.


    Finalement le problème relaté dans cet article qui est à mon sens l'élément le plus honteux de tous, cette exploitation à la mode négrière des siècles passés, d'une population vulnérable que l'on maintien dans des conditions d'esclavages pour mieux enrichir les riches déjà trop riches et surtout sans âmes.


    Cette ville, sans passé et au milieu de nulle part représente à mon sens le plus beau témoignage de la démesure de l'égo qui un jour, j'espère fera sa perte. Elle est le symbole parfait de l'exploitation de l'homme par l'homme et la profonde inconscience de sa classe dirigeante qui étale son opulence sur la misère des plus pauvres de la Terre.


    Tout dans ce dossier me fait vomir, cette ville est le digne monument de la bêtise humaine et de tout ce que le monde a de plus corrompu :flamed:

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    • 7 months later...

    Vent de panique à cause de Dubaï

    Olivier Schmouker . les affaires.com . 26-11-2009



    Les richesses de Dubaï n'étaient-elles qu'un mirage? Photo : Bloomberg.


    C’est l’affolement général sur les marchés financiers de la planète, au lendemain de l’annonce de Dubaï de son incapacité d'honorer à temps une partie de sa dette.


    Les marchés en Asie ont été les plus touchés, les obligations islamiques (soukouks) ayant dégringolé d’un seul coup de 15%. Et en Europe, Londres, Paris et Francfort ont tous perdu 3%. Les marchés américains sont fermés aujourd'hui, Thanksgiving oblige.


    Des répercussions encore inimaginables


    «Les investisseurs ne redoutent rien de pire que ce genre de nouvelle. Car personne ne peut prévoir quelle solution sera trouvée, la pire étant probablement une faillite du géant de l'immobilier Nakheel, qui est au coeur du problème», dit Norval Loftus, directeur, obligations islamiques, de Matrix Group, une firme londonienne qui gère pour près de 2,5 milliards de dollars américains en actifs, dont une partie à Dubaï.


    «Dubaï est symbolique du boom des liquidités qu'a connu la planète ces derniers temps, et maintenant que la bulle semble sur le point d'éclater, on a du mal à imaginer les répercussions que cela peut avoir un peu partout dans le monde», ajoute Nick Chamie, directeur, études sur les marchés émergents, de RBC Marchés des capitaux.


    Même le pétrole a été affecté. Le baril de brut lâchait à midi 1,80 dollar, à 76,16 dollars américains, à New York. Quant au baril de Brent de la mer du Nord, échangé à Londres, il perdait 1,42 dollar, à 77,02 dollars américains.


    Qui est Dubaï World ?


    L'émirat arabe a annoncé hier son intention de demander aux créanciers de son conglomérat Dubaï World, le plus large et le plus endetté, de surseoir de six mois au paiement de la dette arrivée à maturité.


    La dette totale de Dubaï était estimée à 80 milliards de dollars américains en 2008, dont 70 milliards à la charge des compagnies publiques. Dubaï World accaparait, à lui seul, 59 milliards de ce montant.


    Mais, Qui est Dubaï World? C’est le groupe qui contrôle Nakheel, célèbre pour son île artificielle destinée à être occupée exclusivement par des millionnaires. Il croule maintenant sous les dettes, le marché immobilier local ayant vu sa valeur s'effondrer de 50% depuis que sévit la récession mondiale. Nakheel se doit de régler en décembre quelque 3,5 milliards de dollars américains de dettes, sous forme d'obligations islamiques.


    «Dubai World s’apprête à demander à ses créanciers de repousser au 30 mai 2010 au moins le règlement des dettes arrivées à maturité», a indiqué par voie de communiqué le Fonds de soutien financier de Dubaï, organisme chargé de gérer les retombées de la crise sur l'économie de l'émirat.


    Le hic, c'est que Dubaï World détient des intérêts un peu partout dans le monde. Cela va de parts dans des casinos de Las Vegas, à d'autres dans des banques en Europe (Standard Chartered, à Londres, etc.), ou encore dans des boutiques de luxe (Barneys, à New York, etc.). Une faillite de sa part mettrait en difficulté nombre d'entreprises d'importance, et ce à un point encore imprévisible.


    Moody’s et S&P rétrogradent six compagnies majeures


    Du coup, l'agence de notation financière Moody's a immédiatement réagi en rétrogradant six importantes compagnies du gouvernement de Dubaï. Elle a notamment passé DP World, relevant de Dubai World, de «A3» à «Baa2», et le géant immobilier Emaar Properties, de «Baa1» à «Ba2».


    «Un rééchelonnement de la dette indiquerait que le gouvernement se prépare à permettre à une firme qui lui est liée de ne pas honorer ses obligations», a expliqué l'agence.


    Idem, Standard & Poor's a rétrogradé la notation de cinq compagnies de Dubaï, dont DP World et Emaar Properties, en raison de «l'échec du gouvernement de Dubaï à apporter un soutien financier opportun à une compagnie de premier plan».


    Avec AFP et Bloomberg.

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