The Dubai 2020 budget estimates record spending of AED 66.4bn (USD 18.1bn), up 17% yoy; infrastructure spending is set to decline for a 2nd consecutive year, ahead of the Expo this year. Salary and wage allowances account for 30% of total expenditure in the year’s budget while grants and support account for 24%. State revenues are expected to surge by 25% to AED 64bn, with non-tax revenue at 60% of the total. The overall deficit, projected at AED 2.4bn, is lower than the budgeted AED 5.8bn last year.
Net investments of non-Arab foreign investors in UAE’s financial markets surged to AED 12.5bn last year – the highest in 5 years. Non-Arab foreign investors trade in the two financial markets amounted to AED 100.5bn, or 46.1% of the total trades of foreigners in 2019.
Abu Dhabi’s new road toll system went live from January 2: motorists will be charged AED 4 every time when they pass through during peak hours (7-9am and 5-7pm from Saturday-Thursday).
Abu Dhabi government employees were moved onto a new salary scale from January 1. Pension payments will now be calculated on almost 80% of gross salary versus only basic salary previously.
UAE ranks 5th globally in the World Competitiveness Ranking 2019 published by the IMD Business School, from 15th in 2016.
Dubai Duty Free clocked in record annual sales of AED 7.406bn (USD 3.029bn) in 2019. There were an average 66,500 sales transactions on average per day, with over 64.6mn units of merchandise sold. Perfume sales (+2% to AED 1.124bn) accounted for 15% of total sales.
Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, has directed the Khalifa Fund for Enterprise Development to allocate $200 million to support small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Pakistan.
In a bid to promote tourism, Bahrain reduced the fees imposed on pre-entry visas: a fee on 1-year valid entry visa was lowered to BHD 40 from BHD 85 previously while the fees on five-year valid entry visas were slashed by almost two thirds to BHD60 (from BHD170).
FDI into Egypt surged by 71.4% yoy to USD 2.4bn in Q1 of the 2019-20 financial year – the highest since 2017 – thanks to the rise in net inflows for greenfield investments to USD 1.5bn. The trade deficit narrowed by USD 1bn to USD 8.8bn during Q1 of the current financial year, thanks to the 18% increase in non-oil exports.
Egypt’s tourism revenues rose by 6.7% yoy to USD 4.2bn in Q3 2019 – only the 4th time that quarterly revenues exceeded USD 4bn – according to the Central Bank.
FDI into Kuwait amounted to KWD 960mn (USD 3.2bn) during the period January 2015-March 2019, according to the Commerce and Industry Minister.
The cost of insuring against a Saudi bond default, with CDS rates spiking to 65 bps on Friday following the killing of Qassem Soleimani.
Revenues of SMEs in Saudi Arabia touched SAR 879.32bn in Q2 2019, according to the General Authority for Statistics. Small enterprises operating in the private sector (i.e. with a workforce of 6-49 employees) accounted for 18.6% of the total revenue generated.
The Saudi Youth Development Survey, conducted in Q2 2019, disclosed that 67% of the population were less than 34 years of age. Of the 15-34 age group, which accounted for 36.7% of the population, 51% were male.
Shops in Saudi Arabia can now open for 24 hours a day: pharmacies, wedding halls, rest houses, medical activities, education activities, fuel stations (to fill fuel only), hotels, hotel suites and resorts are exempt from the fees charged to hold a 24×7 license.
US-Iran tensions flared up in the New Year, with the killing of Iran’s top military leader – the Eurasia Group estimates a 28% likelihood of a short, limited conflict. Any such conflict will act as a further dampener on global growth – not that there is any dearth of uncertainty already, with geopolitics and trade being major headwinds in the year ahead. Global manufacturing PMI fell to 50.1 in December (November: 50.3), dragged down by weak international trade flows. This week sees the return of the Brexit drama, with Parliament back to vote on the bill Thursday. January 15th will be the next date of importance when, according to Trump, the US-China phase 1 deal will get inked – the details of the deal are still unknown. The rally across global equity markets paused on Friday following the killing of Iran’s top military commander by the US. In the region, equity markets closed positive on Thursday (prior to the attacks) and are likely to mirror global patterns when they open today. As tensions flared in the Middle East, all asset classes were affected: the dollar slipped to a 9-week low versus the yen, safe-haven bonds rallied, gold hit a near 4-month high, and Brent jumped to more than USD 68 a barrel.
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