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Saudi Arabia: Pedants and politics

Saudi’s mortgage law has been talked about for many years, and for many years talk was all there seemed to be – any more substantial progress seemed elusive.

"It should be no longer than the end of this year," said one mortgage industry adviser in September 2010. "It’s come to the point where the market is demanding it and needs it. I don’t see a reason for a delay."

One cap on progress has been the need to get all sides to agree. While the legal system in the kingdom is, in theory, one of top-down autocratic rule, in reality there is often a delicate game of negotiation that goes on behind the scenes.

"They had to have buy-in and feedback from a large number of government entities," says a Riyadh-based banker. "They also need to ensure it was Shariah-compliant and that the scholars were happy with the measures. Many people will say it has been a long time in coming, but better late than never."

The political games do not just include the government ministries and Shariah scholars. How the law might play out on the street has also been a factor.

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