Battling Covid-19’s Impact: the Ministry of Economy reduced Fees of 94 Services including commercial registration services, trademarks, origin, and intellectual properties (businesses are estimated to save AED 113mn from the fee reduction); labour movement between the emirates has been banned; those with residency visas that expired in March can stay in the country legally till the end of the year; the jobless can search for other opportunities and a visa transfer will be facilitated; waived/deferred rents for mall tenants (Majid Al Futtaim and Emaar malls); 3-month basic rent waivers to DIFC-based retailers from April to June; Dubai extended closure of all inbound tour operators, hotels, restaurants, venues and event organisers until further notice; the Ajman-DED announced a three-month renewal for trade licenses without lease contract.
Since the UAE Central Bank launched the AED 256bn Targeted Economic Support Scheme on March 14, about AED 10bn was provided to banks with zero-interest funding while over AED 61bn was released given the lowered cash-reserve requirements. In a meeting with the banks’ CEOs, the central bank urged the disbursement of these funds to support private companies, SMEs and retail clients affected by the pandemic.
UAE’s Federal Tax Authority extended the excise tax payment period: the extended payment period of March 1 to April 30 is due on May 17.
The UAE Central Bank has postponed the Emiratisation target in the financial sector this year, while requesting banks not to terminate citizens’ jobs.
Non-oil foreign trade of Abu Dhabi edged up by 0.5% YoY to AED 19.3bn in January 2020. Exports of non-oil commodities were up 0.4% to AED 5.49bn while imports accelerated by 5.8% to AED 10bn. Saudi Arabia, China, the USA were top trade partners.
Inflation in Dubai declined to 1.82% YoY in March, after a 6% dip in housing and utility prices more than offset the 4.56% rise in food and beverages costs.
The International Monetary Fund, in its latest Regional Economic Outlook, forecast a dip in economic growth to 3.3% this year in the MENA region, before rising to 4.2% in 2021. The GCC region will see a sharper decline in 2020, with growth falling by 2.7% from 0.6% in 2019.
The tourism ministry in Jordan waived the fees and fines for renewing licenses for 2020. In addition, JOD 10mn would be redirected to support local tourism activities and another JOD 5mn will be designated after the end of the crisis.
About 250k low-paid expat workers have lost jobs in Kuwait following the Covid-19 outbreak, reported Al Qabas daily quoting government sources.
Oman’s Finance Ministry directed all ministries and civilian government units to reduce approved liquidity for development budgets by 10%, including review of salaries and benefits.
Saudi Arabia approved an additional set of measures to support the economy during the ongoing Covid-19 outbreak: this includes SAR 50bn (USD 266mn) to accelerate payment of private sector dues, provide liquidity to several sectors and cover wages of those working in passenger transport while a further SAR 47bn was set aside for the health sector.
Saudi Arabia has extended the curfew measures to combat the Covid-19 outbreak “until further notice” while SAMA has directed banks to extend the validity of expired ATM cards till June 2, 2020. Separately, at least 4 shopping malls in Saudi Arabia have granted a rent exemption to “eligible” tenants until these establishments reopen.
Online payments in Saudi Arabia surged by more than 400% in Q1 this year: the number of online payments reached 7.3 million, valued at SAR 1.79bn (USD 475.81mn).
G20 chair Saudi Arabia pledged USD 500mn to support global efforts to combat the spread of Covid-19
Investments into MENA-based start-ups dipped by 22% YoY to USD 277mn in Q1 this year, according to Magnitt’s 2020 MENA Venture Investment Report. The strong January-February fundraising start was dragged down by the Covid-19 outbreak, resulting in a 67% drop in March.
Stock markets in the US continued their weekly gain streak for the second consecutive week despite weak macroeconomic numbers; plans were announced to gradually lift lockdowns (in China, Germany, Italy, Spain and some other parts of Europe); markets across Europe and Asia closed higher as well, also supported by reports of a hopeful experimental drug for Covid-19. Regional markets remained under pressure, as oil prices continued their downward trend, and with IMF predicting an economic contraction this year across most major MENA countries. Among currencies, US Dollar edged up to a 10-day high on the Euro, and the Yen weakened against the Dollar. Oil markets continued to remain under pressure on low demand (OPEC now sees a contraction of global demand of 6.9 million barrels per day), with prices dropping to an 18-year low this week.
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