Habib Al Mulla says 'suggested' ownership law in 1997

Chairman of law firm Baker & McKenzie says he received harsh criticism for proposing foreign ownership and longer expat residency
Dr Al Mulla, chairman of Dubai law firm Baker & McKenzie, took to his Twitter account to share an article he wrote in 1997 that suggested the regulation.
By Lubna Hamdan
Wed 23 May 2018 10:22 AM

In line with the UAE’s approval of a long-term visa system and 100% foreign ownership law, prominent Emirati lawyer Dr Habib Al Mulla revealed he received harsh criticism for proposing the same law over two decades ago.

The chairman of Dubai law firm Baker & McKenzie took to his Twitter account to share an article he wrote in 1997 that suggested the regulation.

“In 9/1/1997, I wrote an article in [a Gulf newspaper] where I suggested altering our laws to allow some expats 100% ownership and longer residency for certain investor classes,” he said.

“I came under harsh criticism at the time. [Thank God] I saw my theory become reality thanks to our wise leadership and its pioneering initiatives,” he added.

Dr Al Mulla particularly advocated for foreign ownership of real estate, a highly disputed topic at the time.

“The article is one of the most important articles I wrote, despite tackling controversial issues such as foreign ownership of property. It became the talk of the boards. It acted as the mind-set that paved the way to changing property ownership laws...”

While freezones were introduced as part of the UAE’s strategy to allow ownership and boost investment, they did not eliminate existing limitations in certain aspects, such as exports.

“…exports from freezones were not treated in the same way as exports from non-freezones,” he said.

Dr Al Mulla praised the new regulation and called it a ‘pioneering’ step for the UAE.

“A great, pioneering step by the Council of Ministers. Every day, the UAE proves that it is capable of achieving excellence and outperforming even itself,” he said, adding that the law’s introduction has already affected the country’s economy.

“Yesterday, trading at the Dubai Financial Market exceeded AED500,000,000 in response to the decisions of the Council of Ministers to encourage investment. It is proof that the legislation strongly affects the economy positively (and negatively),” he said.

The UAE also introduced a ten-year visa which will be made available to investors, scientists and innovators in the UAE, as well as to specialists in medical, scientific, research and technical fields.

A separate five-year residency visa will be made available to students studying in the UAE, and 10-year visas for "exceptional students".

The UAE’s Ministry of Economy, which will coordinate the implementation of the new rules, will follow up on the development of both laws with a report due to be submitted to cabinet in Q3 this year - which is when the UAE will enforce the cabinet's decision.

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Last Updated: Wed 23 May 2018 11:41 AM GST

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