ZONE RANGER

Dubai 2016 | ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Arif Obaid Al Dehail, CEO of the Departmant of Planning & Development of Trakhees, on the achievement of the Dubai Special Development Zone, opportunities for investors, and his outlook for the year.

Arif Obaid Al Dehail
BIOGRAPHY
Arif Obaid Al Dehail is the Chairman and CEO of P&O Ports, a Dubai-based company specialized in the ports industry in emerging markets. He is also the CEO of the Department of Planning and Development, the regulatory arm of the Ports, Customs & Free Zone Corporation. He has more than 25 years of experience in the ports and shipping industry. Al Dehail has extensive experience in international ports and terminal operations and management and has worked on several key projects in the UAE and internationally within the portfolio of DP World.

What would you consider to be Trakhees' most important achievement since its establishment seven years ago?

Trakhees' most important achievement is to have made a footprint in Dubai's Special Development Zone (SDZ). Prior to that there was no such thing as an SDZ; everything was under the Dubai local government. To distinguish this area and support real estate investment and master developers, HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum issued a decree in 2009 assigning the Ports, Customs and Free Zone Corporation and its companies as an SDZ with its own rules and regulations. The SDZ enjoys certain features and facilities that are not available in the rest of Dubai, including a form of free zone company. Trakhees has set up policies, processes, and procedures that encourage investment in the SDZ. We have created a substantial base for investment in Dubai with the support of the master developers that built iconic developments such as Palm Jumeirah, Palm Jebel Ali, Discovery Gardens, Deira Islands, the International City, and Al Furjan, which is under Nakheel, as well as other developers such as Jumaira Real Estate, Limitless, and DMC.

What would be your assessment of the opportunities for investors now in Dubai?

The government of Dubai has put in considerable effort and overcome the negative effects of the 2008-09 recession period and the subsequent freeze in activity. Dubai has a commercial center that works well and, as a result, has managed to create and maintain investor confidence. The most important value-added that Dubai can offer investors is facilitating processes and procedures and quality of service because time is crucial for investors. Furthermore, entities are approachable and supportive in Dubai. One of the main values for Trakhees is to have a happy customer, and we work hard to understand our customers' expectations and try our best to meet and exceed their expectations. It is a business partnership that leads to success for both service providers and their clients. We remain accessible and our customers appreciate the smooth and seamless flow of transaction. We are also heavily involved in Dubai smart government initiatives; in fact, Trakhees was awarded by HH Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohammed for smart government in 2014.

What is the importance of Trakhees' contribution to the local economy?

Trakhees' contribution is highly recognized, both locally and globally. Our contribution is supported by development in the SDZ. If you compare 1H2015 with 1H2014, we witness an increase of almost 37% in building permits. These permits are for a mixture of new projects and those that were frozen in the last few years due to the economic slowdown. This shows that Dubai's economy and investment base is healthy and confidence is strengthening. This is taking place not just in the SDZ, but also in Dubai in general. Developers have restarted work on their sites, including a number of shopping malls and luxurious hotels. In fact, 2014 was also a good year, with a 16% increase over 2013 for building permits.

What do you expect from 2016?

I always see trade going up for Dubai, and it will never go below double digits. We will see at least a 12-13% increase in 2016. In 2015 we worked out an optimistic budget and have even gone beyond that in terms of both revenue and the number of transactions.

Do you see growth in 2016 being in a specific area, such as construction?

Based on the demand and available supply, and sensing the market, the trend will continue and construction will be number one, as will retail. A good number of projects within the SDZ are due to open. Also, the growth in licensing number within the SDZ is expected to continue growing.