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Sat 16 Feb 2008 04:00 AM

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Insight into the plan

Rakaa Properties head Mahmoud Naji believes the masterplan for Dubai will prove a success.

Mahmoud Naji, chief operation officer, Rakaa Properties, and former zoning specialist for Dubai Municipality, discusses how he believes the masterplan for Dubai, which he helped draw up, will prove a success.

Can you tell me about Rakaa Properties?

Al Rakaa is a Saudi Arabian family company, which deals in all kinds of sectors, including agriculture, energy, industry, equipment and real estate. We moved to the UAE a couple of years ago and have a number of projects in Abu Dhabi.

This company has very high standards and we want Rakaa to be distinguished and known for its excellence in terms of quality.

Recent research has found that 40% of projects in Dubai have been temporarily suspended because of rising costs. Do you think that there is a worry that the pace of development cannot be sustained?

I think investors should not have any worries about investing in the city. Some people say that some of these projects will not go ahead, but there will always be new ones launched.

If you look across the world and the GCC, everyone is looking to invest in Dubai because they know it is such a booming market.

You were a former zoning specialist in Dubai. Do you think the city is developing along the lines you planned?

I worked for Dubai Municipality for 14 years and we did a lot of coordinating with the planning and building departments, so I know that there are regulations and methods of supervising construction companies.

Dubai Municipality has so many regulations to assure the safety of residents and that everything follows the masterplan.

People have said that the method of building in Dubai is ‘build anything, anywhere'. Is this true?

When we were planning the city we based it on the vision of HH Sheikh Mohammed.

The planning department definitely had a vision and if the development does not go within the vision of the state's head then it will not be allowed.

Sometimes it is hard to see this vision when you are in the streets, but it is definitely there.

If you look at other countries, they have beautiful land and beautiful locations for many projects.

But when you go to these countries you don't feel that an overall vision is there.

Do you think Dubai Municipality is coordinating this vision?

Yes, there is coordination. It is wrong to say there is no coordination, this is not true.

You have to be in the middle of it, amidst all this to see that there is planning.

In planning, you have to have the three C's: coordination, continuation and comprehensiveness. The plan has to fit all of these.

To the untrained eye it could look chaotic, but to the trained eye you can see that it is very coordinated.

I believe HH Sheikh Mohammed has a vision. With some places it seemed crazy to develop there, but now it is nearing completion people are wishing they had bought property there.

Are there enough development controls in Dubai?

I have experience of a lot of countries and I know there is a much higher standard in Dubai.

When I was working for the municipality we drew up a plan for residential, commercial and infrastructure for the city and drew up the regulations.

If you look at what has taken place, this plan is being followed. Possibly, Dubai has the best development controls in the world.

If you go to any plot of land, you can get a print out with the information, the location, the size and everything that it is possible to build on it. You can find out the permitted uses, conditional uses and bulk regulations, telling you exactly how to build the building, and the number of car parking spaces needed.

The developer can then make his feasibility study right away.

Do you think mistakes were made in the masterplanning, after all Dubai is infamous for its traffic problems?

Most major cities in the world have bad traffic problems. Everyone complains about their town, and it is no different here.

You have to have a positive vision about the development of the city. In any fast development like this, you will have these issues.

The aim of the planners and engineers is to facilitate and solve problems.

Dubai Metro was part of our masterplan, and when finished it will make a huge difference to the transport situation in Dubai.

They are making the best of technology to solve the problems.

When you plan something as big as this city you have to have patience.

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