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Dubai villa prices decline 4 percent

he residential sale prices in Dubai witnessed a drop in the first six weeks of the third quarter with rates falling 4 per cent for villas and 0.6 per cent for apartments, compared to the previous quarter, according to a report.

However, the Q3 2014 apartment and single family home (SFH) or villa sale prices are still up 28.8 per cent and 14.5 per cent year-on-year, said the Phidar's House Price Index.

Apartment and SFH sale price performance varied across Dubai, it said. For apartments in The Greens, prices increased by 0.26 per cent, but Uptown Motor City decreased by 0.94 per cent. For SFHs,  Jumeirah Islands declined 8.4 per cent, but The Lakes increased 6.4 per cent, it said.

In Q2, average lease rates increased for both apartments (1.4 per cent) and SFHs (0.8 per cent), but inflation-adjusted rents declined in select apartment and SFH communities, it stated.

For example, average nominal lease rates in The Residences increased 0.76 per cent in Q2, but in real terms this equates to a 0.1 per cent decline. The Q2 rent stagnation in The Greens equated to a 0.8 per cent decline in real terms. In the Arabian Ranches, the modest nominal rent increase equated to a 0.01 per cent real decline, the report said.

During the first six weeks of Q3, preliminary data indicates that nominal lease rates declined 2.9 per cent for apartments and 5.6 per cent for SFHs. However, both are still up YOY: apartment average lease.

rates are up 14.9 per cent compared to Q3 2013 and nominal average SFH rents are up 0.9 per cent, it said.

Phidar's report said the premium for completed properties shrank considerably in the third quarter compared to off-plan properties in Q2.

For single family homes, the current off-plan discount is approximately 15.6 per cent, which is on the lower limit of the acceptable range of 15- 20 per cent, said the expert.

"Considering the preliminary Q3-14 data, if price attrition and/or stagnation continues for completed properties, then this trend should also lead to erosion of off-plan sale prices," it added.

The expert pointed out that although the market was technically undersupplied, rent inflation had slowed. "This is likely due to ambitious expectations in H1-2014 that pushed up asked rents beyond affordability constraints. Housing demand is relatively elastic, but alternatives, like sharing and relocation to other emirates, exist and form an - albeit pliable - ceiling," it stated.

According to Phidar, the emirate needs as many as 30,000 additional units through 2018 to maintain rent stability.

"Residential development opportunities are still ample in Dubai, but the market would benefit exponentially from developer specialization, particularly in the most under-supplied assets (middle income housing)," the report added.

The consultancy believes that over this period another 15,000 units could be reactivated from stalled projects thereby creating a viable supply gap of as much as 20,000 units.

"Clearly, residential development opportunities remain in Dubai, however, the market would benefit from developer specialization, particularly in the most undersupplied assets: middle income housing," the report added.-TradeArabia News Service

DUBAI - GCC states to pump $9.5bn into new hospital projects

Gulf countries are likely to invest about $9.53 billion on new hospital projects and for upgradation of the medical facilities by the year end, up 25 per cent over 2013, said a report.

Saudi Arabia is among the GCC countries forecast to triple healthcare expenditure across the region, reported the Emirati state news agency WAM.

The kingdom is spending more than $23 billion improving its hospitals and medical facilities. One of the most high-profile projects is the $1.7 billion King Abdullah Medical City in Makkah that will have 1,500 beds in total, 500 of which are allotted for specialist referrals, said the report, citing a Frost & Sullivan study.

Dubai plans to attract 500,000 patients for treatment by 2020 as part of its drive to become a medical excellence hub in the region and bring a new stream of visitor revenue.

In line with this plan, the Dubai Health Authority (DHA) will be constructing 18 new private and four public hospitals over the next few years.

According to the report, the UAE has doubled its healthcare budget since 2007 and currently ranks among the top 20 destinations for medical tourism.

The country spends 3.3 per cent of its GDP on healthcare, the third highest in the GCC, it added.

In neighboring Kuwait, the Ministry of Health has awarded a $938 million contract for the construction of three buildings making up a new hospital, including an ER facility.

The country is also investing in new facilities, including the $1.26 billion New Jahra hospital project, currently under tender for construction, said the report.

DUBAI - Dewa launches smart initiatives

Dubai Electricity & Water Authority (Dewa) has launched a number of schemes in line with the 'Smart Dubai' initiative which aims to transform the emirate into a 'smart city' over the next three years.

Dewa's strategy to achieve a qualitative shift in the services offered to partners and customers is in line with the Expo 2020 theme, 'Connecting Minds, Creating the Future' and the three subthemes of sustainability, opportunity, and mobility, a report said.

"In support of the wise vision of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, we have laid out a clear strategy to support Dubai's efforts in hosting Expo 2020. Our plans and preparations include launching smart and pioneering initiatives that create opportunities to support sustainability, which is a main theme on the Expo's agenda. We will focus on diversifying energy and water resources with special focus on smart services and systems," a Wam report quoted Saeed Mohammed Al Tayer, managing director and CEO of Dewa, as saying.

Dewa has also outlined its 10-year plans for raising its production capacity and is currently upgrading the efficiency and capacity of its infrastructure to generate, transmit and distribute electricity and water to meet the increase in demand and satisfy requirements for Expo 2020.

Qatar- Call for law to curb increase in house rents

(MENAFN - The Peninsula) With authorities intensifying efforts to strictly implement the ban on illegal partitioning of villas, calls have been made to find a mechanism to prevent a possible hike in house rents following the move.

A Central Municipal Council (CMC) member has called for a new law to curb a prohibitive hike in rents while some real estate experts have said partitioning of villas should be allowed with some regulations.

The real estate sector is expecting a steep hike in house rents following the government move which could aggravate the existing shortage in residential space.

According to Mishal Al Dahnim, Councillor from Al Hilal, the government should control rents. "Earlier, there were laws which effectively controlled rents. Rents should not be left to supply and demand. Supply is much less compared to demand and will lead to an unprecedented crisis," Al Arab daily quoted Al Dahnim as saying

Until 2022, demand will continue to increase and supply cannot cope with it with the rising number of expat workers, he said. "There must be a law to control rents and any increase should not be more than 10 percent every two years."

Expansion of residential space in Al Khor and Al Wakra will be a future solution if undertaken by a government-backed developer. If it is left to private investors and developers, exploitation will continue, he said.

Real estate expert Zayed Al Khayarin said a temporary solution to the rents issue is to allow partitioning of villas and other residential spaces but the government has to put in place a mechanism to regulate it. "The government cannot fix or control rents because it cannot impose prices on private real estate owners. The only thing the state can do is provide additional residential units through its real estate firms to influence prices and subsidize construction materials to reduce costs."

Hamad Ali Al Merri, another expert, said the government's development plans had had a negative impact on the market since old residential areas had been demolished and reconstruction needed years to complete.

The decision to implement the ban has also pushed up prices because real estate owners are exploiting the situation. "Partitioning of villas should be allowed after getting guarantees from real estate owners and tenants on the use of electricity and facilities."

Qatar traffic department to begin towing cars parked illegally

In response to a rising number of complaints about parking obstructions, Qatar's traffic department has announced that it will crack down on the practice by towing vehicles belonging to motorists who park illegally.

Violations that could result in fines and the towing of one's vehicle include parking behind/beside already parked cars in front of government and non-government buildings, at the gates of large warehouses and the entrances to private homes.

These actions have long been illegal, but not very strongly enforced, as Qatar has an ongoing parking crunch problem.

QNA states that Article 78 of Law No. 5 of 2010 prohibits motorists from parking their vehicles in unauthorized places, or in a way that may create an obstacle or hindrance for other cars.

Article 81 of the same law gives the traffic department the authority to tow the cars and recover transportation costs and applicable fines from violators.

The fee for parking illegally was not specified, but according to a list of traffic violations posted by MOI, parking-related citations carry a QR300 fine and three points on one's driving record.

Tow trucks are a rare site on Qatar's roads, but authorities have recently said they plan to step up their use of them. In June, police threatened to impound the vehicles of motorists who repeatedly illegally pass cars on the right or park in spots reserved for those with disabilities.

A month later, traffic department officials said that some 100 vehicles had been seized daily for illegally overtaking others on the road - which comes out to roughly 3,000 vehicles a month.

Changes to Qatar's labor law 'drawing near,' foreign minister says

Qatar will be revamping its kafala sponsorship system soon, but not just because of the upcoming 2022 World Cup. Rather, it wishes to correct errors, if there are any, as it develops itself further as a nation, the country's foreign minister has said.

Speaking at a joint press conference with the visiting German Foreign Minister yesterday, Dr. Khalid Al Attiyah has affirmed that labor law changes are "near," saying:
"The State of Qatar has a vision until 2030 and not just until the hosting the World Cup 2022. We are serious and if there are errors, we will correct them and that's what we've done actually when we appointed an international consultant to study what is possible to develop the relationship between the employer the worker.
We have taken steps that preceded the result of the report on the improvement of the legal procedures and we are now on the process of developing the labor law and have made serious steps, including drawing near to the amendment of the law."

According to the DLA Piper report that Al Attiyah referenced, changes were supposed to be completed by the end of May.

However, when officials announced plans to revise the current sponsorship system, they warned it would take time and have to go through the country's Chamber of Commerce and gain approval from the Advisory (Shura) Council.

Proposed changes include making it easier for expats to leave the country and change jobs. However, they stopped short of abolishing the exit permit system and no objection certificates required to switch employers, disappointing many expats.

Al Attiyah also said that "Qatar welcomes all who want to visit the open spaces where there are large-scale projects to inspect the safety standards and criteria for dealing with the workforce in Qatar," QNA reports.

PHOTOS: The face of New Musheireb

Qatar's downtown area of Musheireb is changing rapidly, as older developments such as shops and residential areas are demolished to make way for more upscale projects.

That includes the Msheireb Downtown Doha project, which was supposed to see the completion of its first phase of development last year.

However, the Diwan Amiri Quarter - made up of a Diwan Annex, National Archive and Amiri Guard building - as well as the Heritage Quarter, which features four restored heritage houses that will serve as a museum, as well as an Eid prayer ground, have yet to come online.

There are also several new residential developments in the works. Last month, hundreds of low-income expats were forcibly evicted from their homes in the downtown area.

Many were given weeks to months' notice to vacate the premises, as the buildings were being razed so that new, more modern ones can go up in their place.

Photographer Fadhu Clicks on Flickr took these photos of the busy area a few weeks ago, saying:
"We are going to miss this type of view from sofital and we can see the porch life style in mushireb."

Bahrain to launch hi-tech online visa system

Bahrain will launch a hi-tech visa system on October 1, making it possible for visitors from 102 countries to secure their entry visas online.

The scheme will be launched by the Nationality, Passports and Residence Affairs (NPRA) in co-operation with the Central Informatics Organisation (CIO), said a report in the Gulf Daily News (GDN), our sister publication.

The new electronic system will enable Bahrain's embassies abroad to issue visas directly.

A batch of Foreign Ministry employees attended a workshop as part of NPRA's efforts to train them on the new cyber system. The streamlined e-visa issuance system has so far been restricted to 38 countries.

'The new system will expedite visa services for people wishing to visit Bahrain for tourism or business purposes,' e-exits division chief Thabit Al Shoroqi said.

He said the system will ease business and tourism visa issuance at embassies to enhance the development of Bahrain.

It will also enable the Foreign Ministry to monitor performance of Bahrain embassies to ensure fast processing of visa applications. - TradeArabia News Service

Egyptair to operate from London Heathrow's Terminal 2 in September

As of September 17, Egyptair passengers flying from London Heathrow Airport will be granted the opportunity to enjoy the facilities of the newly introduced Terminal 2.

Designed to satisfy the needs of the contemporary traveller, the terminal offers state-of-the-art technology and facilities, as well as a new level of service for Egyptair passengers.

Business Class and Egyptair Plus Gold passengers will be granted access to the terminal's new lounge, equipped with all comforts and amenities and offering views of the runway.

Oman Rail to begin the 1st phase of Sohar-Buraimi stretch 

(MENAFN) Under instructions from the Sultanate's government, Oman Rail Company has drawn up plans to implement the Oman National Railway project, Times of Oman reported.

The plan envisions the construction of a number of passenger stations, maintenance depots, and freight terminals centers at key locations along the Sohar-Buraimi stretch currently underway.

Upon its construction and being brought into operation in 2018, the first phase will connect Port of Sohar with the GCC rail network at Oman's border with the UAE.

KSA - Two-day weekend proposal stays: Saudi ministry

The Saudi Labor Ministry has clarified that it has no plans to withdraw a proposal for 40-hour work week and two-day weekend system in the private sector, a report said.

The ministry said the revised labor law has already been presented to higher authorities for approval, the Arab News report said.

Two-day weekends and 40-hour work weeks remains part of the new draft labor law, Tayseer Al-Mufarrej, ministry spokesman was quoted as saying following reports about moves to withdraw the proposal after pressure from businesses.

The rumors being circulated on social media sites are not true, the spokesman said.

The Council of Saudi Chambers (CSC) had objected to the two-day weekend, saying such a move would lead to huge losses among construction, operation and maintenance businesses.

The council had also argued that the private sector would be forced to recruit at least 30 percent more expats to stay on schedule.

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