Expo 2020 opened for the public from 1st October with 60 live events each day and more than 200 pavilions at the event. Dubai government employees have been granted 6 days of paid leave to attend the Expo, to be used anytime during the 6-month period. EXPO 2020 is a confluence of 200-plus countries and entities bringing business and family interactions with robots, food served by Michelin-star chefs, treks with gorillas and live shows and singers.
The Central Bank expects UAE growth to rebound by 2.1% this year (2020: -6.1%), supported by a recovery in the non-oil GDP (+3.8% from -6.2% in 2020). Growth is expected to increase further to 4.2% next year. Earlier in June, GDP was forecast by the Central Bank at 2.4% this year and 3.8% next.
The Dubai Department of Economic Development forecasts Dubai’s GDP to increase by 3.1% YoY in 2021, with recoveries fastest among COVID-19-affected sectors like accommodation and food services (+8.5%) and wholesale & retail (4.7%). This is underscored by the 5 stimulus packages announced by the emirate’s government since the pandemic that amounted to AED 7.1bn, or 1.6% of Dubai’s GDP. Dubai Statistics Centre preliminary estimates for GDP growth stood at an estimated 1% QoQ in Q1 2021.
India and the UAE plan to conclude a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement by the end-2021: this is aimed to increase bilateral trade in goods to USD 100bn within five years of the signed agreement (current trade value stands at around USD 60bn), in addition to supporting job creation and investments.
The UAE Central Bank warned of increased risks of illicit financial flows in the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic – including money-laundering and terrorism financing, via the use of unlicensed money service providers as well as use of e-commerce.
Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority disclosed that AED 15bn had been spent on more than 15 road and infrastructure projects related to Expo 2020; this includes the completion of Dubai Metro’s Route 2020, as well as roads including 9 flyovers and organizing public transport access & parking spots.
The minimum amount required to obtain a 3-year visa through property investment in Dubai has been reduced to AED 750k from AED 1mn previously. The Dubai Land Department’s official sales price index shows that the number of sales transactions in August was the 2nd highest since December 2013: August saw 5,780 sales transactions worth AED 97bn.
About AED 65bn (USD 17.6bn) has been allocated to the Emirati housing program in Dubai, to be spent over the next two decades. Directives were issued to quadruple the number of Emiratis benefitting from the housing program from next year.
Damac Properties have received regulatory approval to take the firm private. The firm, with a market cap of over USD 2bn plans to offer USD 595mn for outstanding shares of the company.
Visa’s “Back to Business” study finds that 64% of SMEs in the UAE are very optimistic about their long-term success – the highest among all surveyed markets. About 92% of consumers stated that their payment habits have been permanently changed by COVID-19 (vs 68% globally) and a third of UAE consumers had not used cash in the past week (2nd highest among all markets).
Egypt’s state-controlled payments firm e-finance for Digital and Financial Investments is planning an IPO in Q4 2021, offering up to 14.5% of its capital.
Iraq climbed up 5 places to 137th place (out of 167 nations) in the 2020 Legatum Prosperity Index, scoring higher thanks to economic quality, market access and infrastructure as well as social inclusion.
Kuwait is undertaking a government restructuring process in 2022: the ministries of electricity, water and oil will be merged to form the “Ministry of Energy” while a ‘Ministry of Economy and Trade’ will also be created, reported Al Qabs. The roadmap also includes new strategies like reviewing investment laws, foreign ownership, bankruptcy and public-private partnership among others.
Lebanon’s PM stated that talks with the IMF were a “necessity” and not a choice. The French President urged the implementation of reform measures and to proceed with talks with the IMF while guaranteeing the country’s support. Separately, the President, in his speech at the UN, underscored the nation’s need for international support to revive the economy.
A total blackout by the end-September is a possibility in Lebanon, according to the state electricity company, given diminishing fuel oil reserves. The company revealed that less than 500 megawatts could be generated from the fuel oil secured from the Iraq deal.
Lebanon raised gasoline prices again by 16% on Wednesday (following a 37% hike on Friday); new fuel prices were based on an exchange rate of LBP 14k to the dollar versus an official rate of LBP 1,500 to the dollar.
Qatar’s energy minister attributed the current high gas prices to a lack of investment alongside a shortage of supply. He also stated that “we want to have a reasonable price that is sustainable”. Separately, UAE’s energy minister said the current spike reflected “market fundamentals” and a lack of investment, while also stating “the market will drive the price”.
Research by LinkedIn shows a 50-70% increase in employment levels in Saudi Arabia and UAE, thanks to a surge in retail sector jobs (as they emerge from COVID-19 restrictions) as well as in healthcare.
Asian markets were further affected by China’s announcement of a crackdown on cryptocurrencies – Asia ex-Japan ended the week down by 1.3% and Hong Kong’s index by almost 3%. Regional markets were mixed with Bahrain and Egypt the best and worst performers in the week. Among currencies, the euro and pound were down while the Japanese yen weakened. Oil prices increased to the highest in almost 3 years while gold slide to a 6-week low.
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