Dubai announced the establishment of a “Dubai Future District” dedicated to the new economy, with ten initiatives to support it including an AED 1bn fund to support companies operating from the district, the setting up of a third stock market for such companies, as well as legislative licenses to innovate and experiment the technologies of the future economy.
Dubai’s PMI fell to a 4-month low of 52.3 in Dec (November: 53.5), as new orders rose at the slowest pace in nearly four years. While output growth accelerated among construction and travel and tourism firms, the wholesale and retail sector recorded the weakest expansion in output since Feb 2016.
Dubai issued 38,400 new business licenses in 2019, up 90% YoY, revealed Dubai Economy, aiding the creation of 184,437 jobs. Overall, 324,773 business registration and licensing transactions were recorded in 2019, while the rental value of units leased to companies in Dubai amounted to AED 26.2bn.
The use of advanced blockchain technology will help the UAE government save more than USD 3bn, tackle fraud and accelerate the move towards a paperless economy, according to a WEF report. Non-technical issues were identified as the biggest challenges in blockchain deployment: including difficulty to bring the required stakeholders together, unclear regulatory implications, educating and raising awareness of stakeholders as well as addressing governance.
UAE has grown its renewable energy portfolio by over 400% in the last ten years, and “is on track” to double it in the next 10 years, revealed the Minister of State and Adnoc Group CEO.
Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality are forecast to contribute USD 4.1bn to the UAE economy and add more than 40k jobs in the next decade, according to a PwC Middle East report. Healthcare, retail, construction, logistics, staff development and training are likely to be the most impacted by AR and VR technologies, as per the report.
Bahrain plans to terminate the contracts of foreign advisors in the public sector by end of this month, reported Akhbar Al Khaleej citing a government source.
A microfinancing programme called “Nano finance” has been launched in Egypt: it will rely on digital technologies, and the terms and conditions for granting nano loans include a maximum of approx. USD 190 per individual to be reimbursed in three months. The Financial Regulatory Authority requires active microfinancing companies to insure loans against non-payment risk, and also to update client and loan data every two weeks.
Jordan’s Lower House passed the 2020 state budget draft law after 4 days of discussions. Separately, the Income and Sales Tax Department confirmed that the sales tax cut (by 50%) on all 76 goods announced by the government would be reflected on commodity prices.
Tourism revenues in Jordan increased by 10.2% YoY to JOD 4.11bn, thanks to the 8.9% rise in tourists to 5.36mn.
Qatar eased restrictions on the exit of migrant workers, in its latest labour move to liberalise the market and end discriminatory practices. Under the new system, exit permit requirements will remain in place for members of the armed forces and for a limited number of workers in key company posts.
Saudi Aramco used its “greenshoe option” to sell an additional 450mn shares, raising the IPO size to USD 29.4bn. Investors were allocated the additional shares during book-building.
A report from GlobalData disclosed that Aramco is currently planning for launching five major oil expansion projects, including four crude and one natural gas.
Saudi Arabia emerged as the top reformer in the World Bank’s Women, Business and Law 2020 report. The nation, which scored 70.6 out of 100, ranked first among the GCC and second (behind Morocco, which scored 75.6) in the Arab world.
More record highs across global equity markets, as last week saw the signing of the US-China Phase 1 trade deal and the release of China’s GDP numbers. Regional markets also ended last week higher on global trade optimism and supported by financial stocks. The yuan strengthened to a 6-month high versus the greenback, the dollar touched an 8-month high against the yen while the pound sterling was down on weak data and expectations of a rate cut. Both oil and gold prices dropped last week. The US-China Phase 1 trade deal was signed last week: however, much uncertainty and scepticism remain as the wording and amount of China’s purchases sowed doubts (and saw prices of corn, soybeans dip) and critical issues like cyber theft, state-owned enterprises and industrial subsidies are not addressed in the current deal, while higher tariffs of 20% are the new normal. If the deal is to be implemented properly, there is likely to be a significant amount of trade diversion (from EU, and countries like Brazil). The next question is whether Trump will turn his attention to the EU, now that a truce has been reached (for the time being) with China. This week sees the first central bank policy meetings across many countries including Japan, EU and China (expected to result in no changes), at a time when major central banks’ balance sheets are irrefutably stretched.
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