UAE is resuming “normal” activities: the curfew timing has been reduced to 10 pm to 6 am (Dubai from 11 pm to 6 am); beaches, parks, cinemas, museums and tourist attractions (Dubai Frame, Ski Dubai etc.) have reopened, with social distancing rules in place. All public sector employees will return to their physical offices starting 14th June, starting with smaller numbers from 31st May (35% and 50% respectively in Abu Dhabi and Dubai government offices). Emirates airlines opened bookings for 16 destinations in 12 Arab nations starting from 1st July.
According to the UAE Central Bank, total loans provided to SMEs grew by 4.3% QoQ to AED 93.4bn in Q1 this year. This accounted for 8.1% of total credit to the private sector.
Real estate transactions in Abu Dhabi rose by 34% YoY to AED 6.3bn in April, from 2617 property deals.
Abu Dhabi DED introduced a new programme to support import and export companies negatively impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak: this includes help with facilitating procedures, improving the efficiency of local export activities and addressing logistical constraints. Abu Dhabi DED is also implementing a new initiative encouraging SMEs to promote locally-made products, especially in the healthcare sector.
Abu Dhabi’s private sector benefitted from the cancellation of fines: within 2 weeks of the announcement, more than AED 246mn of fines on expired licenses were cancelled from close to 50k firms; penalties of over AED 5.6mn were written off for other violations including improper storage of goods or misuse of commercial facilities.
Dubai SME allocated AED 20mn to a capital guarantee scheme backing peer-to-peer loans made to SMEs. The scheme by Dubai SME and lending platform Beehive allows Dubai-based SMEs to seek funding – of up to AED 420k (firms that are 50% owned and managed by Emiratis) and up to AED 780k (fully owned by Emiratis) – backed by a 50% capital guarantee.
Inflation in Dubai fell for the 17th consecutive month, down 3.34% YoY as costs of clothing, utilities and transport sector dropped by 6.44%, 6.3% and 12.34% respectively.
A senior Mashreq Bank official stated that close to a quarter of the bank’s retail customers have availed the support packages provided as a relief measure during the pandemic.
Bahrain will invite companies to support national firms in its oil exploration plan: the ministry will be holding a virtual roadshow enabling companies’ access to its virtual data room (which includes information about a few appraisal wells and deep gas resources).
Bilateral trade between Saudi Arabia and Bahrain grew by 15.3% YoY to USD 819mn in Q1 this year. Saudi Arabia was the largest trade partner, accounting for 49.1% of total trade, followed by the UAE (33.81% share, USD 550.4mn). The value of non-oil exports from Bahrain to the GCC stood at USD 1.126bn.
Egypt will deduct 1% from public salaries and 0.5% from state pensions for a year beginning 1st July, to support state coffers during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.
Jordan’s request for emergency financial assistance from the IMF (Rapid Financial Instrument) amounting to about USD 396mn was approved. This is expected to cover about a quarter of Jordan’s external financing needs.
Public sector employees in Jordan began a phased return to work last week, after a state of emergency was declared mid-March. About 60% are expected to return to work in this phase.
Jordan plans to reopen the aviation sector gradually: initial operations will cover cargo transport and resuming passenger travel will be the next stage given “appropriate conditions”.
Kuwait eased its full-time curfew to a 12-hour one (from 6 pm to 6 am) and will last 3 weeks before the next phase of easing is introduced.
Real estate deals in Oman increased by 24% YoY to OMR 629.2mn (USD 1.63bn) in January-February this year. The number of plots issued however declined by 5.7% to 36,523
Saudi Arabia will lift bans on domestic travel, holding prayers in mosques and workplace attendance in both the government and private sector from this week. Sixty domestic flights are expected to resume each day in the first phase. The public sector will resume normal operations as of 14th June. It is expected that the curfew will be fully phased out by 21st June (except in Mecca).
Foreign investor licenses in Saudi Arabia increased by 19% YoY to 348 in Q1 this year, according to the minister of investment. This included 37 US companies and 32 UK firms.
The Saudi Program for Social Development in the Regions (Tanmiah) began procedures of disbursing financial compensations to owners of real estate properties located within the first stage of the NEOM project.
Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Umrah and Hajj enabled the return of as many as 450k Umrah performers safely to their countries amid the COVID-19 outbreak and preventive measures.
Airlines globally continue to be affected adversely by the pandemic: in the GCC, Kuwait Airways laid off 1500 expats of a total 6000; Etihad Airways slashed salaries and laid off hundreds of employees across various departments.
Global stock markets had a good week (MSCI World Index was up around 3.6%) and a better-than-expected month of May (S&P gained 4% this month). A few regional markets were closed for the Eid holidays, while the others were mostly up. The euro hit a 2-month high on optimism after the EU recovery fund was announced while the Japanese Yen rose to a 2-week high. Oil prices rose to above USD 35, touching the best levels since early March. Gold price continues to be supported by its safe-haven status.
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