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Dramatic contrast

Middle East thrives on new rules of the game

The situation today is a dramatic contrast to the start of the decade when there was nothing that could be identified as a western-style property market. The trigger for the rapid development of a sector that has grown exponentially in the last five years and is set for further years of rapid expansion was the decision by the Dubai government to allow foreigners to buy freehold property. "The growth is amazing when you consider that the freehold property law was only passed by Dubai in 2001," says Blair Hagkull, chief executive of Jones Lang LaSalle in Dubai.

Even though some in the Emirate were doubtful about the legality of this step as it appeared to conflict with federal law (Dubai is one of the seven states that make up the United Arab Emirates), the ruling Makhtoum family pressed ahead with a massive construction programme that has already resulted in the completion of dozens of developments combining resorts, hotels, shopping malls, villas and flats.

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