Banks need to send feedback on the UAE Central Bank’s proposed property lending caps to limit exposure to the Real Estate sector by October 31. Real Estate and Construction accounted for about 20% of gross loans at the end of Q1 this year.
The UAE will levy an excise tax on electronic smoking devices and tools and sweetened beverages from December 1. The minimum standard price for a pack of 20 cigarettes has been set at AED 8 and the excise price cannot be set under AED 0.4 (40 fils) for one cigarette. About 10 fils excise tax will also be levied on every gram of ready-to-use tobacco.
The Financial sector accounts for 14.3% of Abu Dhabi’s Non-Oil GDP, as per a senior UAE official. Banks have reported an 8% increase in customer deposits last year while domestic credit rose by 3.9%. The Dubai Free Zones Council discussed proposals related to long-term rental agreements for investors in Dubai’s free zones as well as the one free zone passport i.e. a unified license that allows businesses to operate across the Emirate’s free zones.
The Shanghai Stock Exchange will set up a “Belt and Road” international exchange in ADGM, according to the Chief Executive of the Financial Services Regulatory Authority, to meet the financing needs of investors and participants in the Belt and Road Initiative.
Mubadala Capital unveiled USD 250mn in tech funds to invest in growing startups in the region. This includes a USD 150mn “fund of funds” programme which will invest in 15 venture funds committed to supporting Abu Dhabi’s Hub71 ecosystem.
Bahrain’s government deems the postponement of VAT as illegal as it would represent a violation of the provisions of the Constitution. This answer was provided in response to a proposal tabled by an MP to scrap VAT for a year.
A new oil discovery in Egypt will add an expected daily output of 5,000 barrels, revealed the Italian Energy Company Eni. The new resources were discovered in the Abu Rudeis Sidri development lease in the Gulf of Suez.
Jordan is planning to roll out a new digital payment system by the beginning of 2020 to enable all government payments to citizens (including National Aid Fund payments and bread subsidies) to be made using bank accounts or digital wallets. Additionally, to prevent corruption, direct cash payments to government institutions will not be accepted from 2020.
Lebanon’s anti-government protests continued over the weekend in spite of the President’s speech inviting protestors for a dialogue, amidst hints of a government reshuffle. Banks remained closed for a 7th consecutive working day on Friday: this will negatively affect businesses, grow the LBP black market and create depositor panic. The Association of Banks announced that banks would stay closed till normal conditions return and that month-end salaries would be paid through ATMs.
The catalysts for Lebanon’s unrest include deep economic-financial-fiscal crisis, environmental & health crisis, and lack of governance, widespread corruption and lack of trust in politicians and government. Hence, it is little surprise that around 85% of comments on social media were negative about the PM’s 18-point reform plan. The 2020 budget was also passed by the government with the budget deficit reduced to an unrealistic 0.6% of GDP (2019: ~9% of GDP), and banks, including the Central Bank, set to participate in the deficit-reduction through an amount of LBP 5.1trn (USD 3.4bn).
Oman is planning to make travel insurance mandatory for all inbound tourists.
Saudi Arabia’s shisha tax: the 100% tax on shisha tax is applied on all tobacco products; a ruling issued by the Ministry of Rural and Municipal Affairs states that the tax would apply to “the total invoice of the business serving tobacco products”.
About 133,000 expats left private-sector jobs in Saudi Arabia during Q2 2019 (averaging 1468 persons on a daily basis); an average 492 Saudis joined the private sector daily during the period, according to the National Labour Observatory.
Saudi women holding government jobs increased to 40.3% from 39% in 2 years, according to the Ministry of Civil Service for the empowerment of women. It was also disclosed that the employment gap between men and women declined to 37.8% in Q2 this year from 50.3%.
A new “Host Visa” is being planned in Saudi Arabia: this will allow citizens and expats in the country to host people under their personal sponsorship for up to 90 days. This is expected to cost SAR 500 per person for a year.
The Virgin Hyperloop One Centre of Excellence project, if approved, is expected to raise Saudi Arabia’s GDP by USD 4bn by 2030 and create 124,000 high-tech local jobs.
The much anticipated and tentative “phase one” US-China trade deal, likely limited to purchases of US farm goods by China and small concessions on currency, generated a fair share of optimism in the global markets. Equity markets were up – S&P 500 was near record highs, the pan-European stocks index rose to its strongest close in over 20 months and the MSCI All-World Index gained as well – bond yields and the dollar index strengthened. Among regional markets, Egypt’s stock market rebounded towards the end of the week, while in the GCC, Qatar witnessed its biggest intraday fall since March and weak earnings hit Saudi. The pound sterling dipped after the EU failed to confirm a date for the UK’s departure from the EU amid renewed calls for fresh elections. Oil prices gained on trade optimism, inventory drawdowns and rumours of OPEC+ cuts and gold prices climbed higher.
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