Cutting business costs to support businesses: Abu Dhabi lowered business set-up fees by 94% to reduce fees to AED 1000; new fees apply to 6 activities within business licenses while all federal fees will continue to apply. In Dubai, fees for 88 government services were either reduced or cancelled, in a bid to lower living costs: this includes fees at the Dubai Maritime City Authority, Dubai Municipality and Dubai Tourism among others.
Dubai’s property deals touched AED 61.97bn (USD 17bn) in H1 2021. Total sales transaction volumes increased by more than 40% (vs H2 2020) to 27,373 in H1.
Dubai Airport Free Zone Authority (Dafza) reported a 4.7% YoY increase in trade to more than USD 39bn in Q1 2021: this accounts for 11% of Dubai’s trade during the quarter. Trade with China – Dafza’s biggest trading partner (31% of total trade in Q1) – grew by 56.4%.
DP World shipping volumes increased by 17.1% YoY to 19.7mn TEUs in Q2 2021, led by growth in India and the Asia-Pacific region. Jebel Ali port handled 3.4mn TEUs, up by 4.2%.
Dubai is planning to build a USD 1bn waste-to-energy plant – one of the largest in the world – while a smaller plant in Sharjah will begin operations this year, reported Bloomberg.
Hotel occupancy in Dubai increased to 61.9% in June, surging by 139% YoY (when borders were closed), according to STR: the increase was supported by Eid staycations and regional travel. Revenue per available room (RevPar) declined by 17% MoM as hotels slashed rates to attract customers during peak summer.
Dubai-based Swvl (a mass transit and shared mobility services provider) with a USD 1.5bn valuation, will list on Nasdaq through a SPAC.
The IMF (International Monetary Fund), in its latest World Economic Outlook, forecasts the Middle East and North Africa region to grow at 4% this year and at 3.7% in 2022. Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, is estimated to grow by 2.4% (revised down due to subdued oil production) and 4.8% (revised up) this year and next respectively.
Bahrain plans to provide booster shots for 80% of those aged 40 and above.
Kuwait removed its 8 pm commercial curfew from Tuesday last week; further restrictions were eased as well, allowing for all activities to resume from 1st September except for large gatherings (conferences, weddings, social events). Vaccinated persons are permitted to take part in all activities from 1st August, whereas unvaccinated will be allowed only to pharmacies, consumer cooperative societies, and food and catering marketing outlets.
Lebanon’s Najib Mikati has been designated as Prime Minister-elect, after securing 72 out of 118 votes from the Members of Parliament.
Electricité du Liban warned that Lebanon may face a total blackout very soon if funds were not provided for the purchase of fuel oil for power plants, necessary spare parts and to carry out urgent maintenance work on all facilities.
Only vaccinated persons or those that have taken antibodies tests will be allowed entry to restaurants, cafes, pubs and beaches in Lebanon, according to the tourism ministry.
Businesses in Oman will need to provide cashless payment options to customers from 1st January 2022 onwards. Towards this end, PoS devices were issued for merchants free of installation fees or monthly/ annual charges.
The number of commercial activities registered at Oman’s Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Investment Promotion (MoCIIP) grew by 31.09% YoY to 5,811.
With a 7-day average of close to 1000 cases, Oman announced an extension of the nightly lockdown (from 10 pm to 4 am) until further notice. Capacity in shopping complexes and restaurants will continue to be restricted at 50%. Vaccination rates are relatively low, with only 7% of the eligible population having received 2 doses and 24% with at least 1 dose.
Many Gulf cities feature among the fastest 5G cities globally, according to Ookla: Abu Dhabi was the fastest Gulf capital and 3rd globally (with a median download speed of 26 Mbps), followed by Doha (413.40 Mbps) while Riyadh was 6th fastest globally (384.66 Mbps), in a list topped by Oslo (526.74 Mbps) and Seoul (467.84 Mbps).
Saudi Arabia is open to vaccinated tourist visa holders from 1st August onwards, according to the Tourism Ministry. Accepted vaccines include Pfizer, Astrazeneca, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson. Separately, a 3-year travel ban will be imposed on citizens who travel to ‘red list’ countries, according to the state news agency.
Equity markets had a tough week despite strong corporate earnings results, as concerns grew about global growth and China’s ongoing regulatory crackdown (on its education and tech sectors); Stoxx600 rose for the 6th straight month in July though staying flat compared to a week ago; MSCI’s (Morgan Stanley Capital International) global index was down by 0. 4%. Regional markets were mostly up, supported by good earnings results; Abu Dhabi’s equity index touched a record high on Thursday. The dollar hit a 1-month low on Thursday and posted its worst week since 9th May; the euro posted near a 1-month high after EU GDP data was released. Both oil and gold prices increased from a week ago.
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