Time to migrate to the Middle East?

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There's more to the Middle East than sovereign wealth funds.

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries have made headlines in the past few weeks, thanks to the hyperactive investments of their sovereign wealth funds, which have helped several international banks out of a sticky sub-prime situation.

But there's more to the region than state investments. International banks are also present - and hiring.

Macquarie opened a Dubai office around two a half years ago with just three to four staff; it now has 50. Babcock & Brown has an established presence, and ANZ is also about to launch itself into the Middle Eastern market.

Australia's trade commissioner and deputy consul general, James Wyndham, says there are between 12,000 and 15,000 Australians in the United Arab Emirates, up from 3,000 five years ago.

It's a story of development and debt financing and most banks want starring roles.

Australian banks there focus on advisory, acquisitions, and both infrastructure and property funds. Macquarie, for example, is playing a major role in financing the development of utilities and infrastructure in the region.

But the plum is property funds, says Chris Cook at recruiter Jon Michel, and Australia is a prime hunting ground because its property funds and managers are leading edge. "Australians are also value for money, as they're cheaper than UK equivalents but of equal quality."

Salaries are similar to Australia's but Dubai's zero tax rate bumps them up by 50%.

Andrew Banks, MD of Talent2, says any Australian working in finance in Dubai will be on at least AU$200k.

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