Oct. 12, 2015

Arif Obaid Al Dehail

UAE, Dubai

Arif Obaid Al Dehail

CEO, the Department of Planning and Development – Trakhees

"I always see trade going north for Dubai, and it will never go below double digits."


Arif Obaid Al Dehail is the Chairman and CEO of P&O Ports, a Dubai based company specialized in Ports industry in emerging market. Also, he is the CEO of the Department of Planning & 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. He has also held several leading positions in DP World as Senior Vice President Global Operation & Engineering and Acting Senior Vice President & Managing Director for Africa region at DP World Head office, and prior to this he was the COO and Asst. Managing Director of DP World UAE Region.

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

Trakhees' most important achievement is that we have already put our footprint in Dubai's Special Development Zone (SDZ). Prior to that there was no such thing as an SDZ here; everything was under the Dubai local government, but to distinguish these areas and to support the real estate investment and master developers, a decree was issued in 2009 by HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Ruler of Dubai, assigning the Ports, Customs & Free Zone Corporation and its companies with its jurisdiction areas identified as a special development zone with its own rules and regulations. The SDZ enjoys certain features and facilities that are not available in Dubai, including a form of Free Zone Companies. Trakhees has set up policies, processes, and procedures that encourage investment in the SDZ. We have created a substantial base for investment in Dubai, of course with the support of the master developers that have created the construction and real estate aspects, including the iconic 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. These are some of the many development areas that have created, to a large extent, the image of Dubai.

Trakhees' mission is to provide state-of-the-art support and the development services needed to enhance and ease the investment process. What would be your assessment of the opportunities for investors now in Dubai?

The government of Dubai has put in considerable effort and has 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, Dubai has managed to create and maintain investor confidence. The most important value-add 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 happy customers, and we always working hard to understand our valuable customer expectations and trying our best to exceed them. We are always accessible and our customers appreciate the smooth and seamless flow of any transaction and we keep building on this trust toward keeping up with the dynamic system of the city Of Dubai. Also , we are heavily involved in Dubai SMART Gov. initiatives and glad to say that Trakhees was awarded the flag of HH Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohammed for the SMART Government for year 2014, which was a big boost to continue the successful SMART journey and have a large number of online services now as well as automating the internal process with a one-stop window and multi-skilled staff and a dynamic team.

In 2014, Trakhees signed a strategic service-level agreement with the Dubai Maritime City Authority (DMCA) for the development of residential and civil engineering permits. What is the significance for Trakhees and for Dubai of this agreement?

The DMCA is not new to us; it was part of our Group, and we have SLA with them in managing the activities of civil engineering activities as well as the environment, health, and safety activates. This signals that people trust us as a service provider. The DMCA has a plan to develop the DMC further and Trakhees is committed to extending its support and facilitation to the success of our sister company DMCA.

Even with the current global economic slowdown and low oil prices, Dubai recorded a 3% growth in foreign trade in 1Q2015. His Excellency, Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem, Chairman of the Ports, Customs, and Free Zone Corporation said, “The Emirate's foreign trade is leveraged by its world-class infrastructure and the trading and customs service put in place to cater to the needs of traders and investors." What is the importance of Trakhees' contribution to the local economy?

Trakhees' contribution is highly recognized whether locally of globally; you can see it and feel it. Our contribution will be supported by the development in the SDZ. If you compare 1H2015 with 1H2014, we have witnessed an almost 37% increase in building permits. These permits are for a mixture of new projects and those that were frozen over the last couple of years due to the economic slowdown. This gives an indication that Dubai's economy and investment base is healthy and confidence is strengthening. I am sure this is happening in Dubai in general not just in our SDZ. 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 north for Dubai, and it will never go below double digits. I think we will see at least a 12-13% increase in 2016. In 2015 we have worked a very optimistic budget and we 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, I think the trend will continue and construction will be number one, and retail as well. A good number of projects within the SDZ are due to open by 4Q2015, and also during 1Q2016.