KSA improves real estate transparency

Jamil Ghaznawi, national director and country head of JLL Saudi Arabia.
Updated 29 June 2016
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KSA improves real estate transparency

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia has moved up the rankings to finish in the ‘semi-transparent’ category for the first time in the JLL and LaSalle Investment Management’s 2016 Global Real Estate Transparency Index (GRETI).
Strong advances over the past two years have seen Saudi Arabia (63rd) and Egypt (65th) move into the dynamic ‘semi-transparent’ group, which is largely dominated by large emerging markets, including the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) and all four of the fast-growing MIST economies (Mexico, Indonesia, South Korea and Turkey).
Dubai (48th) has retained its position as the most transparent real estate market in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, with Abu Dhabi (59th) following closely behind, according to the report.
“This is very good news for Saudi Arabia,” said Jamil Ghaznawi, national director and country head of JLL Saudi Arabia.
“Moving into this category for the first time shows the advances the Kingdom is making and is an indication of the focus the country has on strengthening corporate governance, transparency and market data.”
The 10 countries identified as ‘highly transparent’ by GRETI account for 75 percent of global investment into commercial real estate, highlighting the extent to which transparency drives real estate investment decisions.
A number of key factors are driving progress and frame the broader issues raised by both high and low transparency:
l Capital allocations to real estate are growing. JLL forecasts that within the next decade in excess of $1 trillion will be targeting the sector, compared to $700 billion now. This growth means investors are demanding further improvements in real estate transparency, expecting standards in real estate to be on a par with other asset classes.
l There is a growing recognition that transparent real estate practices play a significant role in capital formation, municipal finance, and as a foundation to improve the quality of life in many communities. This foundation includes security of property ownership, safe housing and workplaces and the ability to trust agents to act honestly and professionally.
l Technology is both a driver of the digitization of all kinds of real estate data and also an enabler in disseminating and analyzing this data; improvements in data capture techniques are allowing a more granular and timely assessment of real estate markets.
The formation of real estate committees in Saudi Arabia’s chambers of commerce has highlighted the issue of low transparency in the market and encouraged more action toward addressing the issue.
As a result, there has been some mild improvement in ‘open data’ platforms such as registering property transactions with the Ministry of Justice which is then shared publicly on its website.
“Saudi Arabia is now positioned in a very dynamic tier, which is considered the most improved transparency group, and a category which is seeing growing middle classes mobilizing against corrupt practices,” added Ghaznawi.
The JLL report highlights a number of factors which will influence real estate transparency in the next several years:
l Revelations of the Panama Papers in early 2016 have led to mounting pressures for greater real estate transparency and put the fight against corruption decisively on the international political agenda.
l New data capture techniques get adopted, the pressure mounts for real estate to raise the bar and achieve even higher levels of transparency.
l The mounting intolerance of corruption within the world’s growing middle classes will force the pace of change, especially among the Semi-Transparent countries, and social media will help people mobilize around this issue.
l Technology will continue to advance and will allow some countries to leapfrog the traditional route to transparency; we are already seeing this happen in places like Kenya, Ghana and Ecuador.
l There will be greater emphasis on regulatory reform, but also on enforcement, particularly in semi-transparent markets where the greatest disconnect currently exists.


US says conserving oil is no longer an economic imperative

Updated 19 August 2018
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US says conserving oil is no longer an economic imperative

  • Fears of oil scarcity no longer driver of US energy policy
  • Surging shale production brings energy abundance

WASHINGTON: Conserving oil is no longer an economic imperative for the US, the Trump administration declares in a major new policy statement that threatens to undermine decades of government campaigns for gas-thrifty cars and other conservation programs.
The position was outlined in a memo released last month in support of the administration’s proposal to relax fuel mileage standards. The government released the memo online this month without fanfare.
Growth of natural gas and other alternatives to petroleum has reduced the need for imported oil, which “in turn affects the need of the nation to conserve energy,” the Energy Department said. It also cites the now decade-old fracking revolution that has unlocked US shale oil reserves, giving “the United States more flexibility than in the past to use our oil resources with less concern.”
With the memo, the administration is formally challenging old justifications for conservation — even congressionally prescribed ones, as with the mileage standards. The memo made no mention of climate change. Transportation is the single largest source of climate-changing emissions.
President Donald Trump has questioned the existence of climate change, embraced the notion of “energy dominance” as a national goal, and called for easing what he calls burdensome regulation of oil, gas and coal, including repealing the Obama Clean Power Plan.
Despite the increased oil supplies, the administration continues to believe in the need to “use energy wisely,” the Energy Department said, without elaboration. Department spokesmen did not respond Friday to questions about that statement.
Reaction was quick.
“It’s like saying, ‘I’m a big old fat guy, and food prices have dropped — it’s time to start eating again,’” said Tom Kloza, longtime oil analyst with the Maryland-based Oil Price Information Service.
“If you look at it from the other end, if you do believe that fossil fuels do some sort of damage to the atmosphere ... you come up with a different viewpoint,” Kloza said. “There’s a downside to living large.”
Climate change is a “clear and present and increasing danger,” said Sean Donahue, a lawyer for the Environmental Defense Fund.
In a big way, the Energy Department statement just acknowledges the world’s vastly changed reality when it comes to oil.
Just 10 years ago, in summer 2008, oil prices were peaking at $147 a barrel and pummeling the global economy. OPEC was enjoying a massive transfer of wealth, from countries dependent on imported oil. Prices now are about $65.
Today, the US is vying with Russia for the title of top world oil producer. US oil production hit an all-time high this summer, aided by the technological leaps of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing.
How much the US economy is hooked up to the gas pump, and vice versa, plays into any number of policy considerations, not just economic or environmental ones, but military and geopolitical ones, said John Graham, a former official in the George W. Bush administration, now dean of the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University.
“Our ability to play that role as a leader in the world is stronger when we are the strongest producer of oil and gas,” Graham said. “But there are still reasons to want to reduce the amount we consume.”
Current administration proposals include one that would freeze mileage standards for cars and light trucks after 2020, instead of continuing to make them tougher.
The proposal eventually would increase US oil consumption by 500,000 barrels a day, the administration says. While Trump officials say the freeze would improve highway safety, documents released this month showed senior Environmental Protection Agency staffers calculate the administration’s move would actually increase highway deaths.
“American businesses, consumers and our environment are all the losers under his plan,” said Sen. Tom Carper, a Delaware Democrat. “The only clear winner is the oil industry. It’s not hard to see whose side President Trump is on.”
Administration support has been tepid to null on some other long-running government programs for alternatives to gas-powered cars.
Bill Wehrum, assistant administration of the EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation, spoke dismissively of electric cars — a young industry supported financially by the federal government and many states — this month in a call with reporters announcing the mileage freeze proposal.
“People just don’t want to buy them,” the EPA official said.
Oil and gas interests are campaigning for changes in government conservation efforts on mileage standards, biofuels and electric cars.
In June, for instance, the American Petroleum Institute and other industries wrote eight governors, promoting the dominance of the internal-combustion engine and questioning their states’ incentives to consumers for electric cars.
Surging US and gas production has brought on “energy security and abundance,” Frank Macchiarola, a group director of the American Petroleum Institute trade association, told reporters this week, in a telephone call dedicated to urging scrapping or overhauling of one US program for biofuels.
Fears of oil scarcity used to be a driver of US energy policy, Macchiarola said.
Thanks partly to increased production, “that pillar has really been rendered essentially moot,” he said.