The Businessman Eng. Khaled Sabawi in an Interview with Al-Quds Newspaper

The Businessman Eng. Khaled Sabawi in an Interview with Al-Quds Newspaper

August 5, 2013

-TABO” is UCI’s  largest leading projects

-We have offered the Palestinian people a parceled land, 1 dunum in area to be used for residential purposes with affordable prices financed directly with UCI.

-We are proud because we have created a practical way to register the Palestinian lands and protect them from Israeli settlement construction.

-We are not only registering land, but also implementing infrastructure works and building new Palestinian cities.

By Mohammad Khudeir

Economic projects play a major role in the economic and social development of any country. In Palestine, the hard political and economic situation didn’t prevent our people from creating economic projects that are creative and leading while at the same time combine between investment and national responsibility to become as a form of challenge and resistance of an unforgettable success story. One of these creative projects is “TABO” by UCI.

Al-Quds newspaper had an interview with Eng. Khaled Al Sabawi, the General Manager of UCI, to stand on this leading project that is distinguished not only in its content, but even in its name.

Al Sabawi started the interview talking about the goal of investment in “TABO” saying: “Our investment in Palestine is national and social that serves the Palestinian people. Throughout our work at UCI which is one of the first Palestinian companies that deals with real-estate development and construction in Palestine, We discovered a major problem in the Palestinian lands which is the essence of our case and the basis for our resistance. After studies about the ownership of lands in Palestine, we have found that the high prices of lands inside the major Palestinian cities such as Ramallah deprive the Palestinian citizens from owning  in their  home land. For instance, the prices per Dunum in Al masyoun area in Ramallah range between $800,000 - 1 Million Dollars. In Abu Qash near Ramallah prices per Dunum range between $200,000-$250,000. It is doubtless that  this growing rise in land prices is also in Bethlehem and other Palestinian cities”.

Al Sabawi explained: “Outside the major cities, in the beautiful villages, there is a bigger problem: land is not registered, has no titled deed and unclear borders . Its owners have the limitation of succession, ikhraj Qaid and powers of attorney only which make the investor afraid of purchasing this unregistered land. In addition, it is well known that the first thing Israel did upon occupying the West Bank and Gaza Strip in 1976 was surveying the entire lands of Palestine in order to know the registered lands and the unregistered ones to occupy them and build settlements. Unfortunately, Israel exploits the Ottoman law that states if the land is not registered and unused, then the state could confiscate it and consider it part of its lands. Since 70% of the West Bank lands are not registered then Israel could implement all its plans easily. Thus, we were determined to look for  practical and legal solutions to these problems”.

Al Sabawi added: “Therefore, we have decided to invest in the lands outside the Palestinian cities and work on registering them and solidify their ownership through the new registration procedures in areas A and B and implement infrastructure works and parcel them”.

The beginning of the project and how it works

Al Sabawi mentioned concerning  the beginning of “TABO”, how it works and its legal procedures: “when we went to purchase these vast lands around the cities, the citizen we bought from, had a limitation of succession and ikhraj qaid only which doesn’t show the land’s location. The owners are also ususally heirs with 20 or 30 other heirs. At the times of the Ottoman rule people did not register land or intended to reduce the area of their lands to prevent paying taxes. Thus, in order to sign an purchase agreement with the citizen selling us his land, he has to bring a Power of Attorney from each heir in order to ensure that each heir has approved the sale of the land and will receive his right from the selling transaction. The one who has the Power of attorney from all heirs shall  sign with us, after that we go to the land with the Head of the Village Council, all neighbors of the plot and the surveyor to mark borders and then each neighbor sign on these borders and then prepare for the first time a Survey master plan. This master plan is sent for objection and is published in official newspapers, the Village Council and the mosque, where the citizens have the right to object on it and we receive an initial approval (m.m) and finally submit the file to the Palestinian Lands Authority in order to continue a long process that passes many committees and audits until the  title deed “Tabo” for the land” is issued.

He continued talking about the procedures saying: “after all this, the survey committee takes the signature of all neighbors, then the file is sent to the judge in order to issue a Tabo decision in the name of the company. After all this, we then start the parcellation procedures  with the Ministry of Local Government. In order for the land to be parceled, a main road must be designed to  reach our  land and of course we shall design the main road. Definitely this roads passes from the people’s lands, therefore it shall be approved by 5 governmental ministries and sent for objection for 60 days. If anybody objects on it, we shall change its direction. After the road that reaches the land is accredited, where this process lasts from 6-8 month, then the internal roads are designed. According to the Palestinian law, 30% of the land’s area is for green and public areas and internal roads. The master plan and designs of internal roads shall be approved by 5 governmental ministries also and then we wait for 30 days for objection and after authentication it is sent  to the technical committee, regional committee and the higher authority at the Local Government and signed by the minister. After that it is sent for objection again and then the regional committee approves on it with parcellation and finally to the  Registration Department for parcellation and issuing a Registration certificate “Tabo.

Al Sabawi pointed out that the registration procedures are too long and last for 2 years or more and requires great effort and continuous follow up while confirming at the same time the importance of these procedures to ensure the validity of information.

Al Sabawi added : “ thus, we have offered to the Palestinian people for the first time, a Dunum of land for residence with affordable prices through direct installments with UCI for 3 years without any interest”.

Naming the project and its launch

Al Sabawi answered to our question about the reason behind naming the project  saying: “ it was intended to name it “TABO”, the word “TABO” is originally an ottoman word that means  title deed. All Palestinians shall realize the importance of this legal deed that protects our Palestinian lands and solidify its ownership, as well as the importance of the land Department at the Palestinian land Authority”.

He added: “we launched “TABO” in 2011 under the slogan “own in your land, for you and for your child” and “Tabo and the land is ours”. We offered the project’s master plans for sale after 3 years of hard works. The master plans provides one parceled and registered Dunum  with roads at affordable prices. The prices of lands ranged from $13,900 to $22,000 per Dunum with installments for 2 or 3 years without interest. The average price of one Dunum is around $20,000”.

Great results

As for the results and achievements of “TABO” accomplished after years of effort and hard work, Al Sabawi commented : “ TABO has received great success, we were able to sell the first master plans which contains 90 plots in Kufar Ein, 94 plots in Farkha and 44 plots in Broqeen, in less than one year. Most of the people who bought these lands are Palestinians living in Palestine. In addition, Palestinians living abroad were able fulfilled their dream of owning a land in Palestine when they visited our website:  that allows them to the choose the land they want to own and provides them with all detailes related to it as well as to view lands as if they are actually on land”.

Al Sabawi added: “ in the second year of TABO in 2012 we have made several promotional tours in the Arab gulf and the neighboring countries. We offered the project to the Palestinians in the diaspora through organized  and continuous events in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Riyadh, Jeddah, Bahrian and Kuwait. Currently, 30% of customer that purchased land through TABO are Palestinians living abroad. The project has a very high economic effect. Therefore, after selling the master plans of stage one of the project , we offered for sale other master plans in Farkha in Salfeet Governorate and master plans near Ramallah as per the request of the customers of Kobar and Qarawa Bani Zeid”.

Implementing Infrastructure Works

Al Sabawi said concerning infrastructure: “TABO” is a developing project and our target now is to provide  infrastructure”.

Al Sabawi added: “ we face great difficulty in extending electricity. When we sent a request to Salfeet Municipality to extend electricity to the project in Farkha, we received a letter from them indicating that the lands of Farkha are located outside Salfeet Municipality. Then we sent the same request to Jerusalem District Electricity Company and their reply was that the lands of Farkha are outside the of District of Ramallah and out of their authority. It was also sent to the North Electricity Company and they responded that the lands of Farkha are outside their authority. We didn’t give up and we requested from Jerusalem Electricity Company to allows us to use the same high voltage that will be extended to the project in Qarawa Bani Zeid to serve the lands in Farkha since it is near Qarawa Bani Zeid. We currently submitted a request regarding this to the organizing committee of electricity companies  in order for Jerusalem Electricity Company to allow us extend electricity to Farkha through the same high voltage used in Qarawa Bani Zeid where  this method is more economical. They informed us that our request is under study. We sincerely hope that they will cooperate with us in extending electricity”.

Regarding construction and pavement of roads, Eng. Sabawi said: “ we constructed and paved roads on our own expense and we have built model villas on these lands because our goal is not only registering land but also building new Palestinian cities. We also offer additional services such as planting and fencing land, planting olive trees and send its oil to our customers to any place in the world as well as offers the service of building residential homes for customers in their land”.

Al Sabawi added: “ in my point of view, economy is built when the citizen has the right in his land. We focus on the neglected villages’ lands that require development and construction. We don’t offer a conventional project, but a leading project that serves all the Palestinian people”. Al Sabawi confirmed that this project will spread wide around all areas in the West Bank.

“TABO” Branch in Jerusalem

Al Sabawi commented concerning the opening of “TABO” in Jerusalem  saying: “we have recently launched a branch for “TABO” in Jerusalem in order to serve the Jerusalemites people and allow them to invest their money in the West Bank and support the Palestinian Economy. Whereas the project allows every Palestinian to own even if he/she doesn’t hold a Palestinian identification document and this is through the buyer’s permit that is checked by the intelligence, preventive security and the council of minster sin order to have the approval and in return we follow up all these procedures and get the buyer’s permit and the title deed for the customer”.

Unfair Competition

Al Sabawi said: “ the real estate sector in Palestine suffers from unfair competition. For example, when we built the Etihad Villas which is an investment and residential project of a cost 11 Million Dollars, nobody helped us in the infrastructure works and it was on our own expense from electricity, roads, water and purification station. We were surprised  of a project called “Alreehan” by the Palestinian Investment fund, which is owned by the Palestinian Authority, which is a competitive residential project, where its infrastructure is paid for by donor countries. They started competing us and took a very big percentage of the real estate market which is totally unfair since they receive infrastructure for free whereas we were forced to pay over $1million infrastructure costs. In addition, another by PIF called “Madinat Alqamar” attempted to literally copy our TABO project  and shockingly tried to sell land that were  originally owned by  the Palestinian Authority’s  for the benefit of the Palestinian people. This is an unaccepted imitation by government. I have sent a complaint to all members of the PIF, but nobody responded, however at the advertisements for this project stopped. Moreover, Rawabi received a road paid for by USAID and receive financial support from the Qatar Government while we pay for infrastructure on our own expense and the other projects are funded by the government and the donor  countries”.

AL Sabawi concluded by saying: “ we don’t need funds but we ask for a fair competition between everybody. We are proud of initiating the process of registering Palestinian lands in a financially sustainable and independent way while simultaneously protecting them from the growing Israeli settlement construction”.

About UCI

UCI was a coming together of a group of distinguished Palestinian and Arab business leaders, underpinned with decades of experience and united by a vision of an established and prosperous Palestine. Established in 2005, UCI embarked on a mission to advance the development of Palestine. UCI has grown to be one of the country’s largest and most reputable real-estate development and investment companies. It was the first to establish residential communities with unique architecture represented in UCI headquarter building in Almasyoun, Ramallah. It is the first environmentally friendly in Palestine as well as Arcadia residential complexes and Etihad Villas which is considered the first residential community in Palestine.

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