Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

After Years of Madness | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
Select Page

300 square-metre villas for 400 thousand Riyals and 180 square-metre apartments for 200 thousand Riyals, all paid for in comfortable instalments. This is what the report of the Saudi Credit and Savings Bank (SCB) has revealed, and proposed to the Shura Council. These figures highlight the outrageous discrepancy between prices offered by this national project, and those advertised by real estate developers. The glaring discrepancy between both sets of prices makes a bald man like me wish I had hair on his head, so I could tear it out in disbelief at the sheer disparity!

The reality is that you cannot find a villa anywhere in Saudi Arabia that is valued at 400 thousand Riyals. Today, any concrete box fit it for human accommodation, in any Saudi city, comes at an exorbitantly high price. So when the Saudi Credit and Savings Bank puts forth a project based on these figures, we are face with two possibilities: Either the bank’s project is simply unrealistic, or some current developers in the real estate market are ‘blood sucking vampires’!

If the SCB project ever comes into fruition, it would represent a radical transformation in the lives of people. The overwhelming majority of Saudi citizens live in rented apartments. Most of the Saudi youth have the bulk of their modest monthly salaries absorbed by rent. A project such as this would bring fresh hope to those who have almost given up, with regards to acquiring their own private accommodation, which would free them from the clutches of the real estate developers.

That is why many are not even stopping to think about the specifications of the villas and apartments that the SCB are offering, and instead are just holding on to their dream [of owning their own home], and dispelling the nightmares. I hope the bank doesn’t ruin the dreams of ordinary people. If such a vast national project ever sees the light, not only would it secure housing units for those in need, but it might also restore balance, reason and a sense of realism to the real estate market. This would come after years of madness, and irrational and gratuitous behaviour, during which many have been struck by real estate fever. They buried their money in the sand amidst a crazy property game. We all know how it started, but have no idea how it is going to end. Today, real estate offices on our streets are as popular as food stores and restaurants.

I hope the younger generation – which constitutes the largest segment of Saudi society – will be lucky enough to have their own private accommodations, where they can establish a family, away from the financial pressures they face today.