The UAE plans to make the digital economy a priority for the country: the contribution of the digital economy to GDP was 4.3% in 2019.
About 14,000 residential units were completed in Dubai in H1 2020 – this accounts for just 30% of the 45,700 units scheduled for handover this year.
UAE’s First Abu Dhabi Bank’s commitment to offer a 50% discount on the merchant service fee charged to SME customers for credit card transactions (for the period April-June 2020) is estimated to have benefitted more than 6,000 firms to the tune of AED 3.97mn.
Assets of UAE’s listed banks increased by 8.2% YoY to around AED 3trn in H1 this year. Deposits picked up by 13% YoY and loans by 8% to AED 1.629bn during this period. First Abu Dhabi Bank and Emirates NBD together account for 51.9% of total assets.
A senior GDFRA (General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs) official disclosed that more than 20k travellers pass through the Dubai Airport daily since doors were opened to tourists on 7th July.
Dubai issued a new law to regulate family-owned businesses: this law allows for new family ownership contracts to be formed setting out the rights and responsibilities of family members. For it to be legally binding, all parties of the contract must be members of the same family and have a single common interest. Exceptions to the law are family ownership in public joint-stock companies and movable and immovable property.
Sharjah Airport became the first carbon-neutral airport in GCC and second in the Middle East to attain Level 3+ Neutrality accreditation from the Airport Carbon Accreditation programme. The certificate is given when net CO2 emissions over a full year are zero.
Separate surveys from Visa and Mastercard highlight the ease of consumers and businesses in moving online and adoption of digital payments: Visa’s survey revealed that business models 94% of small and micro businesses in the UAE have evolved following the COVID-19 outbreak versus 67% globally. Although almost 44% have initiated contactless payments (more than double global average), more than 90% of UAE merchants have concerns about moving their business online (vs. 74% globally). Mastercard highlighted that online shopping gained traction in the UAE, with 54% of UAE consumers expecting online shopping trend to continue post-COVID-19, and that users were moving away from cash payments.
A memo by Bahrain’s Finance and National Economy Ministry showed a number of improvement signs across the economy in June & July: sales of non-essential goods grew by 12% in June and 28% in July, sales at food outlets increased by 9% and 15%, exports were up by 2% and 12%, visitors to shopping malls surged by 20% and 30%, petrol sales rose by 15% and 13%, real estate transactions jumped by 55% and 19%, and building permits more than doubled, increasing 124% in June.
Compulsory PCR tests will be conducted at Bahrain Airport, but mandatory 10-day quarantine will be lifted on those that test negative.
All MPs in Bahrain have backed the proposal to defer bank loan instalments owed by Bahrainis till the end of the year. The original reprieve period finishes this week.
About 120k corporates and 1mn individual borrowers have benefited from the Central Bank of Egypt’s SME Initiative (funding of approximately EGP 180bn).
Egypt’s 18 commercial and logistics zones and projects have attracted EGP 49bn in investments, and created 400k+ jobs, as per the assistant minister of supply and internal trade.
Jordan extended the closure of the Jaber border crossing (Syria) for another week.
Private school enrolments in Jordan has declined by 50%, with parents opting for public schools given financial pressures and the possibility of remote learning.
About 2,500 claims amounting to USD 425mn have been submitted to insurance companies for damages incurred by the 4th August Beirut blast, revealed the caretaker economy minister.
According to UN ESCWA, about 55% of Lebanon’s population lived in poverty as of May this year, up from 28% last year. It estimated that the middle class had shrunk from 57 to 40% of the population and that those in extreme poverty had risen to 23% (from 8% last year).
A partial lockdown has been imposed in Lebanon for two weeks to counter the rise in COVID-19 infections.
Saudi Arabia’s nationalization program was extended to 9 new categories in the wholesale and retail sector; these outlets should employ 70% locals. Should targets not be met, the firms will have to pay additional tariffs.
More than 87,000 Indian nationals (out of a total 162k applicants) have been repatriated from Saudi Arabia, according to the Indian Ambassador.
Global stock markets were weaker last week, as new economic data pointed to a muted recovery, with flash PMI (Purchasing Managers' Index) pointing to slow recovery (especially in the services sector) while Brexit talks proceeded with “little progress”. In the Middle East, financial stocks supported gains. The dollar dropped to a two-year low against a basket of currencies, while the pound had a rollercoaster ride, posting both its biggest one-day drop in 2 months and largest daily gain since 1st June last week. Brent prices fell, as did gold. Global COVID-19 confirmed cases have crossed 23mn, with numbers in the US inching closer to 6mn and India crossing the 3mn mark. As the global economic recovery remains muted (with continuing declines across trade and FDI indicators amid higher unemployment rates), and gloomy Brexit talks continue, on the immediate horizon are the Jackson Hole meetings, a potential step-up in US-China tensions ahead of the US Presidential elections in just over 2 months. The outlook and waters are very choppy for markets.
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