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Real estate and raffles

Iranian "nukes" may be giving the jitters to many. The Bush administration is burning midnight oil to find ways to ?check? Tehran from going nuclear, writes Rakesh Kombra.

india Updated: Jan 18, 2007 15:31 IST

Iranian "nukes" may be giving the jitters to many. The Bush administration is burning midnight oil to find ways to “check” Tehran from going nuclear. Israel, The Sunday Times of London has claimed, has already set its targets on Iran for pre-emptive strikes.

But real estate agents in Dubai, one of the fastest growing cities in the world, are rubbing their palms in glee. Why would they not? After September 11, 2001, many Muslims from the West started seeking safer pastures in West Asia as they felt threatened under the overtly anti-Islamic sentiment building up in the western hemisphere. As one of the few peaceful - and liberal to boot! - spots in the region, Dubai gained, and its real estate companies gained with it.

The United States started bombing Afghanistan in quest of Osama Bin Laden (whom it is still searching for). Anti-Muslim feeling in the West rose higher. Many among the wealthy in Afghanistan too felt threatened. And many more arrived in Dubai to buy freehold properties that came with residence visas.

George Bush then began the campaign to oust Saddam Hussein. And this time it was the turn of Iraqis who felt unsafe in that land. Many liquidated their investments and life’s earnings to buy property in Dubai and nearby emirates in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Now that there is  strong apprehension that the US or Israel, or both, might strike Iran’s nuclear installations, real estate wallahs are once again waiting. Property prices are  soaring in the UAE, and the sky will not be the limit if another crisis situation is created in this region.

Fortune seekers

Dubai has made a name as a city of 'lucky draws' (lotteries), which here are called 'raffles'. Businesses in this city offer anything from mobile phones to Roll Royce cars in these lucky draws. And Indians usually win the bulk of every genre of raffles in this country. What with almost every second resident here being an Indian, this may well be a matter of simple mathematical probability.

Most winners of the $1 million ( Rs 4.5 crore) raffle of Dubai Duty Free, the biggest prize ever by any airport duty free shop in the region, are Indians. While the better paid Indians go solo shelling out the Dhs1,000 (approximately Rs12,000), others pool in, mostly in tens to buy a single ticket together and share the proceeds if they happen to hit the million dollar pot.

It is the same at Dubai Shopping Festival draws. But for some strange reason fewer Indians have been winning here this year. And, hold your breath, an Arabic daily ran a story on the ill luck plaguing raffle-seeking Indian nationals this time!

They say in this country that no raffle can be a hit without Indians patronising them. Be it the ones run by supermarkets, banks, duty free outlets, or the national postal service, the success of every raffle depends on the participation  of Indians.

A few years ago, an Indian national (need we say he was from Kerala?) who won the first ever Rolls Royce car raffled during the Dubai Shopping Festival lottery, faced a strange predicament. He hit the headlines for a second time because he failed to find takers for the car. Why would he want to sell it? He had no other option since using it would have then cost him the equivalent of Rs 6 lakhs to cover road tax and insurance!

That one, much reported incident tempered the popularity of raffles. There were fewer takers for the tickets. With one or another car raffle almost every day for a whole month, winners were left holding their winnings with little idea of how to get something out of them, until the organisers scrambled to offer buy-back schemes at discounted rates. 

Indians being the top players in raffles, it is said that more than half the prizes won in raffles in the UAE are now in India!

Jet setting

As the raffle saga continues, it is now time to tighten your seatbelts. A real estate developer called Damac, that recently unveiled its latest project of luxury apartments, is in fact offering a private jet to one buyer.

While everyone who goes for an apartment stands to get a Jaguar S-Type luxury car in a no-questions-asked-or-answered offer, the name of one among them will be picked in a draw for the executive jet.

While there could be parallels for such opulence even in raffle draws, it is certainly another first for Dubai and this region where dream merchants have never been in short supply.