This research project aims at finding out the real estate and construction sectors in Dubai. Currently Dubai is one of the emirates that form the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and currently it is the second largest emirate with massive economic opportunities after Abu Dhabi.
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Real estate sector in this emirate constitute the main economic artery that has resulted into transformation of the once desert country. Nevertheless evidence shows that with the change in property freehold rights, the emirate real estate sector experience boom until early 2008 before crashing and currently efforts are in gear to revive the sector.
More so, the contribution of major real estate companies to the economy of Dubai cannot be ignored and further studies shows that the companies are mega-economy boosters to Dubai economy. Therefore the conclusion of the research paper is that real estate sector is vital to Dubai economy and efforts to revive the sector from detriments of financial crises are necessary.
Many people all over the world, in most instances, find it difficult to recognize that Dubai is a city and not a country. In viewing, studying or researching about Dubai, what comes in mind is that this is an independent country. In essence, this is not true, as Dubai constitute a prominent city in a country known as United Arab Emirates (Hill 2010).
Geographically, Dubai is situated in a Persian Gulf country popularly known as United Arab Emirates (UAE), which, apart from having Dubai, has other six different emirates or principalities (Hill, 2010). The capital city of UAE is known as Abu Dhabi, and on large scale, the country is dominant in Islamic religion and culture. Population statistics from the country show that Dubai is the most populous of all the seven emirates with almost two million people (Hill, 2010).
UAE economy depends much on oil and energy but data shows that Dubai’s economy depend less on these resources, and instead, much of the city’s economy depend on real estate and financial service industries together with tourism and trade (Hill 2010). Moreover, Dubai continues to draw the attention of the world due to its “bold and innovative real estate projects” (Hill, 2010, p.1).
The emirate of Dubai experiences “hot climate, which is sometimes accompanied by humidity” (Hill, 2010). Notable warmest month is August that generally experiences a high temperature of 41.3 degrees; and the emirate is located inside the “Arabian Desert, and the landscape is dominated by sand, with wild grasses and some palm trees” (Hill 2010).
The official declared language of the emirate is Arabic though English has become another widely spoken language as a result of many non-Arabic foreigners in the emirate (Hill, 2010). The essence of this paper, guided by this brief history of Dubai, will be to investigate and evaluate the real estate in Dubai and the way it has contributed to the economy of the emirate and some of the real estate companies in this emirate.
The objective of this research will center on:
- The economy of Dubai and how it has benefited from the real estate and construction economy.
- How Dubai construction and real estate has developed through history.
- How recent financial crises has affected the sector.
- How change in law has seen foreign rights of property ownership.
Importance of investigating the subject
Dubai is a first growing economy that is viewed to be nearing that of Singapore. Such resources as oil and natural gas have been associated with UAE but in the case of Dubai, these resources contribute a meager portion. Therefore, an adequate understanding of real estate and construction sector is important in understanding how this particular sector is continuing to grow and impacting Dubai economy.
The major research objective of the paper involves investigating the role real estate and construction sectors play to the Economy of Dubai. Other related objectives will include how change in law has revolutionalized the sector, the impact and contribution of the major three real estate companies to the economy, and the impact of financial crises to the crises.
Dubai, which is one of the UAE’s emirates, has positively continued to contribute to the economy of the country where statistics shows that Dubai emirate account for almost 29.2 per cent of UAE’s GDP (Explorer Publishing, 2006).
Since its foundation, Dubai relied on oil revenues that initially formed 50per cent of the emirate’s GDP, but as time has elapsed, the role of oil in Dubai economy has decline (Explorer Publishing, 2006). By the year 2004, oil accounted for 6 per cent of the emirate’s GDP and by the start of the year 2010 contribution of oil to the economy of Dubai had further dropped to one per cent.
Authors describe Dubai as one of the unique and unusual regions of the world especially with regard to its economic structure. For instance, duties and imports have been eliminated on goods being imported to the Emirate, while at the same time numerous free zones exist such as Jebel Ali free zone, Dubai Maritime City, Dubai Internet City, and Dubai Media City (Caploe, 2010).
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The role of these free zones has been to attract foreign direct investment to the emirate. Currently, Dubai houses one of the largest buildings in the world known as Burj Khalifa and other notable buildings include Burj-al-Arab hotel (Caploe 2010).
Literatures concerning Dubai postulate that for a long time, the rulers of the emirate knew that a time would reach when oil would run out and as a mitigation measure, there was need to diversify the economy (Explorer Publishing 2006). Today, Dubai prides itself in having a diverse economy that incorporates new sectors such as trade, manufacturing, transport, construction, and real estate as the main contributors to Dubai’s strong and growing economy (Explorer Publishing, 2006).
Property and construction sectors contribute 22.6 per cent of the emirate’s economy; trade 16 per cent; shipping, warehousing and logistics account for 15 per cent; tourism contribute 11.6 per cent; financial services account for 11 per cent; and oil and natural gas account for 6 per cent (Caploe 2010).
Further, Dubai’s vibrant and growing economy is seen to be benefiting from the strategic location of the emirate, which acts as the prime location for re-exporting center in the Middle East. This is compounded by the fact that Dubai’s costs of operations and logistics are relatively low; the emirate has an international outlook due to numerous citizens of different countries who reside or conduct businesses in the emirate.
Starting early this year, statistics showed that the economy of the emirates grew by 2.3 per cent during the first six months of the year where it was noted that trade and manufacturing improved a lot (Dubai Statistics Center 2010 cited in Reuters, 2010).
At the same time, it was noted that the property sector again contributed greatly to the economy of the emirate by injecting about 11 per cent of its revenue to the economy although this was a reduction of 3 and 6 per cent as compared to 14 per cent and 17 per cent for 2009 and 2008 respectively (Reuters, 2010).
According to the emirate’s economic predictions, they have placed economy to grow at 2.3 per cent by the end of this year although the International Monetary Funds (IMF) had made its earlier predictions of 0.5 per cent (Reuters, 2010). Even with slight prospects in the economy appearing to be positive, there are still concerns about Dubai’s liabilities that are estimated to be about $115 billion.
Nevertheless, these concerns appear to have been “eased after Dubai World reached a deal in September to restructure almost $25 billion of debt” (Reuters, 2010). Other worries prevalent in the emirate revolves around a huge debt owed by vital firms in the emirate such as the Dubai Holdings that has a debt of almost $30 billion which will be maturing in the financial period of 2011-2012 (Reuters 2010).
Real Estate Economy of Dubai
Actual economic development of Dubai is believed to have gained momentum as from 1950s when the late Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum dredged the Dubai Creek, which in turn led to the expansion of the emirate and the loan he borrowed to expand the emirate repaid immediately to the Emir of Kuwait (United Arab Emirates 2004).
Towards the end of 1959, Sheikh Rashid further established Dubai airport and built the pioneer hotel in Dubai in the same year. As a result of these actions by Sheikh Rashid, the first Dubai construction boom started in early 1960, which in turn prompted increase in population of the emirate to about 120,000 people by the end of that decade (United Arab Emirates, 2004).
The construction boom that was being experienced included the construction of Port Rashid which main feature was presence of five berth container terminals for big ships during the time and the discovery of oil in Dubai propelled these construction intentions (United Arab Emirates 2004).
Further, property construction in Dubai continued in late 1990s as more notable and huge buildings were put up in the emirate that elevated the emirate to a global scale. Such new buildings included a seven-star Burj Al Arab hotel which is rated to be the tallest hotel in entire world while the Emirates Towers constructed during the same period tops as the tallest building in Europe and the Middle East (United Arab Emirates 2004).
Sheikh Mohammed as the ruler of the emirate put more emphasis and facilitated development of real estate through the establishment of the publicly quoted Emaar Properties in 1997, which has evolved to become the biggest real estate company in Dubai; and in the same league, is the Nakheel Company, which is a Dubai government-owned company (United Arab Emirates 2004).
In essence, Dubai’s property construction was greatly influenced by Sheikh Rashid that despite his death in 1990, his policies with regard to Dubai property construction remained a live.
Size of Dubai’s real estate sector
In 2002, Dubai property market was opened to foreigners and the property sector in the emirate started to experience growth and expansion.
The initial road map for real estate boom was started by the launch of first phase of Emaar Properties Emirates Hills plan, which, within a short time had been grabbed by foreign investors (2 Day, Dubai n.d, p.1). The result of this is development of huge and new property eco-system in the emirate of Dubai account for 13 per cent of the emirate’s GDP in the prospering construction sector (2 Day Dubai n.d, p.1).
During the year 2005, construction sector was the highest developed with a growth rate of 29 per cent followed closely with real estate sector at 22 per cent and currently the diversification projects in the emirate sees real estate as the main driver of Dubai’s economy.
During the same period, as construction economy boomed, property prices were predicted to decrease due to slow down in the rush for building. But the same predictions indicated that the sector’s investment of “$50 billion of residential projects will be built in the next four years, including at least 85,000 new homes, according to research by EFG-Hermes, an Egyptian investment bank with offices in Dubai” (Hanware, 2005, p.1).
The real sector further continues to experience growth in the emirate due to establishment of real estate companies such as Emaar Properties, Al-Nakheel, A-Ittihad, and Jumeirah both of which receive government support in their activities (Hanware, 2005). For example, according to Emaar, it had awarded a “$735.1 million contract to a consortium to build a shopping mall it says will be the world’s largest” (Hanware, 2005).
The company had earlier, in January, won another contract to put up “a multi-billion dollar Dubai Waterfront real estate project which will be open to private and foreign investors” (Hanware 2005, p.1). On the other hand, another government supported Real Estate Company; Nakheel offered 49 per cent through Dubai Waterfront Co. “to develop the 8,100-hectare residential, tourism and commercial project” (Hanware 2005).
Performance of real estate sector in Dubai
Key factors have contributed to the success of Dubai’s real estate market, which include turbulence in the Western markets combined with low interest rate thus boosting Dubai property by making it attractive to investors; growing investments from Russia in the emirate and continued expansion of the tourism sector, which is pushing demand for hospitality real estate (Oxford Business Group 2008).
Demand for real estate in Dubai has primarily been stimulated by expansion of economy which in turn has triggered growth of the emirate’s population.
At the same time, real estate sector has been boosted by the rising demand for properties from foreign investors especially after the partial liberalization of the sector in 2002, where property market has turned to be a popular investment among majority of investors (Oxford Business Group 2008). Another reason has to do with abundance of liquidity in the market which has contributed to the success of the sector. Liquidity of the market has further been supported and encouraged by high oil and gas prices in UAE.
According to J. D. Raadt, author of ‘A Method and Software for Designing Viable Social Systems’, slight differences exist between method and methodology but in most cases, they are used interchangeably. According to the author, methodology refers to the study of scientific thought; that is, it is the science of sciences (Raadt 2001).
On the other hand, method is guided by methodology but in its capacity method deals with handling of information, that is collection of information, its organization, and manipulation for scientific purposes (Raadt, 2001). According to Morley D. Glicken, author of ,A Guide to Writing for Human Service Professionals’ methodology represent that part of research process concerned with description of how data collection is carried out, how sampling process progress, and also data collection procedures (Glicken, 2008).
Methodology process to be employed in the research will largely be used to investigate the goals of the research study that include: how economy of Dubai has benefited from the real estate and construction economy; how Dubai construction and real estate has developed through history; how recent financial crises have affected the sector; how change in law has seen foreign rights of property ownership.
The last three objectives have been answered through literature review and the methodology to be utilized will essentially answer the first question.
Population and sample
Nancy Burns and Susan K. Grove, authors of ‘the practice of nursing research: conduct, critique, and utilization’ defines population as totality of all elements, objects or substances that meet certain inclusion in a given universe (Burns and Grove 2005, p.40). A study may be conducted on firms, people and so on.
On the other hand, sample has been defined as subset of the population selected for a particular study, while sampling represents the process and technique used for selecting a group of people, events, or other elements with which to conduct a study (Burns and Grove 2005). For this study, the population includes all companies in the real estate and construction economy of Dubai while the sample constitutes the three main large real estate companies in Dubai.
Research instrumentation is regarded to be a component of measurement where measurement is defined as, “the process of assigning numbers to objects or events or situations in accord with some rule” (Burns and Grove 2005, P.40).
As a result instrumentation refers to, “application of specific rules to the development of a measurement device or instrument” (Burns and Grove 2005, P.40). Generally selection of an instrument should be to examine a specific variable in a study and normally data generated with an instrument are at the nominal, ordinal, interval or ratio level of measurement (Burns and Grove 2005).
More so, choice of any particular instrument requires wide examination of the instrument’s reliability and validity. Reliability is essentially concerned with how constantly the measurement technique measures a concept while validity of an instrument is the extent to which the instrument in reality reflects the theoretical concept being examined (Burns and Grove 2005).
This research will employ case study strategy and instrumentation. According to an online article titled, ‘Research Methodology’ case studies are generally linked with qualitative research but in some instances can be used as a method of inquiry utilizing a positivist epistemology and ontology (Anonymous n.d).
Yin (1994) observes that researchers involved in carrying out case studies sometimes may not necessary have to visit the organization they are researching on instead they can collect their data by consulting secondary sources or conducting interview of respondents through telephone or by email (cited in Anonymous n.d).
Yin (1994) defines case study as, “an empirical inquiry that investigates a contemporary phenomenon within its real-life context, especially when boundaries between phenomenon and context are not clearly defined” (Anonymous n.d, p.83). Case study has been hailed and been found useful in situations where contextual conditions of the events being studied are critical and where the researcher has no control over the events as they unfold (Anonymous n.d).
Advice given by numerous authors is that case study as a research strategy should include specific techniques for collecting and analyzing data, guided by precise stated theoretical assumptions. At the same time, data need to be collected from different sources and its integrity to be verified. The case study strategy is favored due to its usefulness for practice-based problems where the experience of the actors is important and the context of action is critical (Lee 1989; Galliers 1991 cited in Anonymous n.d).
The selection of firms’ cases was based on two major reasons. First, the three firms are relative large in terms of asset and financial as compared to other firms therefore there contribution to Dubai economy is big; second, in the three firms, the Dubai government has shares in the firms hence there presence and operation in the market is seen to be directly linked to the economy of the emirate. Therefore compared to other methods, case study is seen to be suitable for this kind of research on Dubai real estate and construction sector.
Analysis and Research Finding
Data generated through case studies is largely qualitative in nature. Therefore, qualitative techniques of analysis will be employed. According to Ian Dey, author of ‘Qualitative Data Analysis: A User Friendly Guide for Social Scientists’ states that data analysis involves the act of breaking data down into small bits and the process can be defined as the process of resolving data into its constituent components, to reveal its characteristic elements and structure (Dey 2003).
Most techniques employed in qualitative analysis are based on description and according to the author, “the core of qualitative analysis lies in these related processes of describing phenomena, classifying it, and seeing how our concepts interconnect” (Dey 2003, p.31). The first step in qualitative analysis is to generate and develop thorough and comprehensive descriptions of the phenomenon under study.
Popular known as ‘thick’ description, qualitative analysis generally involves description of information about the context of an act, the intentions and meanings that organize action, and its subsequent evolution (Denzin 1978 cited in Dey 2003). Within this pretext description includes is normally carried out involving the context of action, the intentions of the actor, and the process in which action is embedded thus in most cases qualitative analysis usually aims to produce thorough descriptions in each of the above outlined cases.
Dubai’s real estate economy
Contribution of real estate sector to the economy has been evident through establishment of real estate companies, which today dominate property and construction projects in the emirate.
Dubai’s Number of Real Estate Businesses by the year 2003
Source: Roumi et al. 2004
Expected Growth Revenue for Real Estate firms between 2003-2004
Source: Roumi et al. 2004
Emaar Properties Limited
Emaar Properties Limited was established in 1997, and since then, it has established its presence in Dubai as a local property giant, which in 2005 became the number one real estate company in the whole world in terms of market capitalization (Dubsky 2006).
A part from having heavy presence in real estate industry, the company has expanded its activities and invested in other industries such as hospitality, leisure, retail, education, finance, and healthcare (Dubsky 2006). Currently, the company is listed on the Dubai Financial Market as a Public Joint Stock Company and the growth of the company reflects the strong demand of residential properties in Dubai and the resultant increase in associated prices.
With regard to revenue reports, in 2005 the company had a revenue base of $2,276 million which increased to $3,813 million in 2006 and in 2007 the revenue increased to $4,782 million and this represented a growth rate of 48 per cent in three years for the revenue (Al-Abed, Vine and Hellyer 2004). As part of its real estate projects, the company has ten major real estate projects that it has been developing.
They include: Dubai Marina; Arabian Ranches; Emirates Hills; The Meadows; The Springs; The Lakes; The Greens; and Emaar Towers (Al-Abed, Vine and Hellyer 2004). At the same time the company owns and manages the Gold and Diamond Park with high prospects accrued to the company as a result of “construction of Burj Dubai – the tallest skyscraper and largest shopping center in the world” (Al-Abed, Vine and Hellyer 2004).
A part from pursuing its expansion of business ventures plans and taking part in high-quality real estate development, the company “owns and manages four subsidiaries: Dubai Bank, Amlak Finance, Emrill Services and Sahm Technologies” (Al-Abed, Vine and Hellyer 2004).
Emaar Properties has not just concentrated in Dubai market but it is expanding its operation to other Middle East and Asian countries especially after the launch of its Vision 2010 which postulates the company’s ambition to become one of the most valuable companies in the world through geographical expansion and business segmentation.
Therefore the contributions of Emaar Properties to Dubai’s economy are enormous. Currently this company with large capitalization than any other company has become an effective driver of Dubai Economy through growth and progress and today Dubai has transformed its status to one of the globe’s most vibrant and cosmopolitan cities.
In Dubai Emaar’s growth is associated to success stories of lifestyle communities, effective established suburbs in the desert, and re-shaped Dubai’s map of skyline by offering the emirate’s growing population urban cosmopolitan lifestyle. In short Emaar’s developments and properties have been integral to the economic growth and prosperity of Dubai and the contribution of the company continue to expand the economy of the emirate (Boermeester n.d).
Another giant real estate company in Dubai, Al Nakheel Properties also known as Nakheel Corporation, has been rated to be among the popular and resource-endowed real estate companies in Dubai. The company mainly deals in freehold properties in the emirate and the company’s “real estate development ranges into residential, tourist, commercial and retail property” (Ten Real Estate, 2010, p.1).
The company, since its inceptions, operates under the Corporate Office where it is mandated with the responsibility of managing numerous real estate projects on the behalf of the Dubai government.
Real estate properties under the management and development of the company include: “Palms Island that comprises Palm Jumeirah, Palm Jebel Ali, and Palm Deira; The World Island; Dubai Waterfront; The Gardens; Jumeirah Lake Towers, Discovery Gardens, Lost City, Jumeirah Islands; Jumeirah Village; The International City; Jewel of the Palm; The Palm Golden Mile; Palm Trump International Hotel and Tower, and the Ibn Battuta Mall” (Ten Real Estate 2010, p.1).
In accordance to the first growing and developments taking place in Dubai, Nakheel has become a critical player in ensuring the emirate achieves its vision in the 21st century by creating a world-class destination for business operations and tourism activities.
Due to crashing of the real estate and hence the economy of Dubai, the company early this initiated a program of pumping Dh 4 billion into the local economy of Dubai. And as Mena would state later, “the effect of Nakheel, having played an important role in the evolution of Dubais and indeed the regions real estate market, getting back into the action is good news” (Anonymous 2010, p.1).
Further, Mena observes that, “Dubai has continued building its infrastructure over the last two years and the city now can accommodate significantly more economic activity and Nakheel has played an important part in this” (Anonymous, 2010, p.1). Today, Nakheel’s creditors involves over “1,000 contractors, suppliers, designers and all other related consultants involving more than 4,000 contracts” (Anonymous, 2010, p.1).
As a government owned company, Al Nakheel Properties will continue to be an essential arm to the economy of Dubai. Following the financial crisis and real estate crush the company was faced with financial woos a scenario that prompted the government of Dubai to bail the company from this menace.
The government commitment was that it would inject about $ 9.5 billion into the Dubai World with the aim of rescuing the company since the company had become through its many projects in the emirate, a chief conglomerate that had changed and recaptured the image of Dubai as a hub for business activities and tourist destination (Surk and Schreck 2010, p.1).
Stating and commending on this move by the government, Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, the chairman of Dubai’s supreme fiscal committee noted that, “the support for Nakheel aims to ensure Dubai World and property development company gets back to normal as it has been a key contributor to the strong economic future of the Emirate of Dubai and the wider United Arab Emirates” (Surk and Schreck 2010, p.1).
In short, Nakheel Company will remain as the backbone real estate company following Emaar in contributing and sustaining emirate’s economy through their numerous real estate projects and other related economic activities.
Dubai Holdings Company
Dubai Holdings was founded in 2004 and currently the company is comprised of some twenty companies that undertake diverse investment opportunities in energy, shipping, healthcare, media, finance, and real estate (Oxford Business Group, 2008). One of the company’s international subsidiaries is the Sama Dubai, which has a global net investment capacity in terms of revenue of almost $38 billions.
The subsidiary further manages local, regional and global real estate investments on behalf of Dubai Holdings. The Dubai government has considerable shares in the company. Dubai holdings have been attached to the Dubai’s dream of becoming a regional and international economic powerhouse.
In 2007, Tunishia’s president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and the ruler of Dubai Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum entered into an agreement that was to see Dubai Holdings initiate one of the biggest real estate investment in the history of Tunisia where the company would be granted the opportunity to develop an area of 830 hectares on the shores of Tunis’s Lac Sud (Oxford Business Group 2008).
Currently, operations being overseen by Dubai Holdings with regard to real estate investment include buildings of towers that are being facilitated under the Dubai Towers brand, large and huge resorts undertaken under the Salam brand, business investment and developments, jumbo malls and other high-profile projects (Agnew, 2006).
Further, the company has extended its real estate investments projects to Morocco where in 2007 it injected about $12 billion in Moroccan real estate that confined to constructing major cities in the country (Agnew 2006). The numerous real estate and other related investments by the company have promoted the company as one of the biggest real estate companies in that its activities have continued to give life to the economy of Dubai.
Conclusion and Recommendations
Real estate sector is the biggest income-generating sector and continues to service Dubai’s economy greatly. It has been described as Dubai’s dynamic and driving force for the emirate’s economy. The emirate of Dubai is today one of the world’s ‘super-place’ due to its excellent and magnificent sky-buildings.
The emirate which is largely a desert has transformed into a busy business hub, a one-stop tourist center and other high placed activities. Today some economists’ and political economists’ asserts that the economy of the emirate may soon be on the same pace with that of Singapore as more economic activities continue to take place in the emirate.
With exceptional, real estate sector remains the artery of Dubai’s economic growth and prosperity and the government recognized and boosted this sector when in2002 it passed partial property freehold rights that for the first time gave foreign investors partial rights to buy and own property. The growth of this sector has been promising until 2008 when it crashed and to extend slowed the pace of growth in the sector.
Nevertheless, given the importance all stakeholders in the emirate have attached to the sector concerted efforts in form of numerous recovery initiatives have been undertaken to rescue the sector, and though the sector is yet to note and experience full growth, numerous predictions indicate that it may not take long before the sector regain its earlier position and hence the contribution to the economy will be enormous.
In essence the prospects of the real estate sector are positive an will be boosted by the recent Land department initiatives which aims to registers all built and un-built property and this has been perceived to be putting back confidence among investors.
- In summary, it can be recommended that the emirate need to improve and better its legal system with regard to foreign investors where legal rights of foreign investors should be assured through appropriate legislations.
- Regulatory environment for real estate and construction sector should be improved to embrace policies that are more flexible.
Real Estate Research Sample of Interview Checklist/Questionnaires
Name of Company:
Type of activity:
- Purchasing and selling
Date of establishing the company:
- What is your evaluation for the real estate market as per quality and quantity?
- What is the volume of the real estate investment in Dubai and UAE?
- What are the market trends in the coming period as per quantity and quality?
- In consistence with the requirements of the coming period, what are the scopes of services you are ready to render?
- What are the most attractive areas in Dubai in terms of real estate investments?
- What are the factors behind stimulating customers in the real estate market (location, services, prices, others)?
- What do you think about the general environment of the real estates in Dubai as per the government legislations, finance instruments, labor and human resources, competition?
- What are the factors of influence in the real estates market and what is the extent of this influence?
- To what extent the real estates sector is affected with the other productive sectors?
- What are the effects of real estates projects that have emerged in the recent years upon the market in general?
- In your opinion, are there any specific obstacles facing the real estates market in Dubai? Do you suggest any solutions?
- What are the most prevalent finance methods and what are the problems facing the landlords in getting the finance?
- What are your recommendations to develop the sector market?
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