DED denies penalising anyone for commenting on Dubai economy

Department says 'no government entity is empowered' to act against people making negative comments about the emirate's economy.

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Dubai’s Department of Economic Development (DED) has issued a statement denying that it had taken action against anyone for making negative comments about the emirate’s economy.

The DED said there was “no truth in rumours” that it had penalised any company or individual for commenting on economic matters, adding that “no government entity is empowered to act against expressing such opinions, nor any violation involved in such comments”.

It said, however, that members of the public should make sure that any information used concerning the national economy and commercial activity in the country comes from government authorities. It also urged people not to pay attention to what it described as “unconfirmed reports and hearsay”.

DED said that Dubai enjoyed “the trust of local, regional and international businessmen, investors and companies, which is reflected in the emirate’s growth across key indicators such as foreign direct investment, gross domestic product and the number of commercial licences issued”.

The Dubai Government introduced a law in late November that was intended to help the Dubai Statistics Centre (DSC) to “establish an advanced statistics system”.

Among the regulations was a requirement forbidding private companies from conducting surveys “without obtaining authorisation from the Dubai Statistics Centre”.

A number of companies to whom The National has spoken said that they had written to the DSC to obtain permission but had not received a reply.

Manika Dhama, the research manager for property consultants Cavendish Maxwell, said that it had not received any comments from either the Dubai Economic Department or Dubai Statistics Centre regarding its research methodology.

“When we provide macroeconomic data from government entities we include them with due credit and source it from publicly available information [on their website] or from emails channelled through the system set up by them,” Ms Dhama said.

“All other research provided by us is from our valuation teams working in the market as well as our Property Monitor tool that tracks real-time data.”

Craig Plumb, the head of research at property consultancy JLL, also made the argument that it only commented on the state of the overall economy in the context of the real estate market.

“Where possible, we already use government statistics including Land Department figures, but that is not always possible,” he said, citing the lack of official data on rent statistics as an example.

“In those cases, we source data from credible third parties.”

David Godchaux, the chief executive of Core UAE, an associate of international broker Savills, said: “We use mainly government statistics and when we don’t, we do our own research. And we are careful.”

The issue over the accuracy of data in surveys came to a head in summer last year when the Damac Properties’ managing director, Ziad El Chaar, hit out at brokers for forecasting excessive levels of supply, which he said had “a detrimental effect” on market sentiment.

However, brokers hit back by stating they relied on developers’ own overly optimistic completion forecasts.

JLL has subsequently pointed out in recent reports that “materialisation rates” – the rate of properties that actually come to market compared with those developers predict will be built – stands at about 30 per cent.

Of the 29,200 homes forecasted to be delivered in Dubai this year, it predicted that about 10,000 would actually be built.

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