Bahrain tops Middle East for work-life balance – survey

Bahrain is the second best country in the world for expat work-life balance, behind only Denmark, according to a new report from InterNations.

In its “Expat Insider” survey – which queried over 12,500 respondents in 188 countries – InterNations found that 46 percent of expats cited work-related reasons for moving to Bahrain, while 69 percent said they were satisfied with work-life balance.

Additionally, 72 percent of respondents in Bahrain reported being satisfied with working hours, which averaged 42.9 hours a week, compared to the global average of 44.3 hours.

Of the respondents in Bahrain, 73 percent said they were “generally satisfied” with their work, while 36 percent said they were “completely satisfied”.

Denmark was ranked first for work-life balance, followed by Bahrain, Norway, the Czech Republic, New Zealand, Sweden, Costa Rica, the Netherlands, Oman and Malta.

In Oman, 43 percent of expats reported moving to Oman for work-related reasons, and 60 percent said they were generally satisfied with their job.

U.A.E. Backs 100% Foreign Ownership of Local Companies

The United Arab Emirates is abandoning decades of restrictions on foreigners owning companies and settling in the Gulf country to help lure money and talent in a slowing economy.

The new rules, reported by the state-run WAM news agency, include allowing non-Emiratis to control a company outright and offering residency of up to 10 years to specialists in medical, scientific, research and technical fields and top students. The changes will take effect by the end of this year.

It’s the biggest recognition yet that the second-largest Gulf economy is more reliant than ever on foreign investment and an expatriate workforce at a time when the oil-dependent region faces challenges rarely seen since the 1990s.

It follows legislation in neighboring Qatar last August that granted some foreigners the right to remain indefinitely as it adapts to a yearlong embargo on the country led by Saudi Arabia and other Arab nations including the U.A.E.

Like in most other Persian Gulf states, a majority of the U.A.E.’s population of 9 million consists of foreigners who are expected to leave once their employment ends and many send earnings abroad. In 2017 alone, expatriates remitted 164 billion dirhams ($45 billion), according to WAM.

“There seems to be a clear shift in policy to supporting economic activity, boosting investment and putting in place a framework to future development,” said Monica Malik, chief economist at Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank. The measures could help by increasing “investments levels, population inflows, development of new sectors especially in the technology front and reducing remittances out of the country,” she said.

While Abu Dhabi and especially Dubai have thrived on tourism, financial services and as airline hubs, the U.A.E. government is turning to science and technology to ensure the country can keep growing. The growth rate in the economy has slowed to levels last seen in 2010 and the real estate market has a glut of empty apartment blocks.

Changes to ownership rules are a significant departure from the policy of restricting foreign ownership outside so-called free zones such as the Dubai International Financial Centre. Foreigners seeking to establish businesses outside those zones, which are exempt from most local rules, must seek partnerships. U.A.E. citizens have to own 51 percent of the ventures.

“We expect a significant positive effect on foreign direct investments,” said Jaap Meijer, managing director and head of equity research at investment bank Arqaam Capital Ltd. in Dubai. “The decision should also help net immigration, which should significantly alleviate the current pressure on housing markets.”

The benchmark stock index in Dubai climbed as much as 1.4 percent, the most since April 15, before trimming the gain to 1 percent at the close. The gauge in Abu Dhabi rose 0.7 percent.

By Abbas Al Lawati, May 20, 2018,

Bahrain opens giant residential town, to house 90,000

His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa last night opened the biggest residential town in Bahrain – the Northern Town – in the presence of HRH Prime Minister Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa and HRH Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, Crown Prince, Deputy Supreme Commander and First Deputy Premier.

He announced that the new housing project would be named “Salman Town”, in tribute to HRH the Crown Prince for his dedicated efforts and outstanding contribution to the nation’s progress and prosperity, reported BNA.

The new housing town will boast all major amenities including health, educational, religious and sport and transportation facilities in addition to modern road network and developed infrastructure for more than 90,000 residents.

UAE-based Abu Dhabi Fund for Development (ADFD) has allocated Dh2.6 billion ($700 million) towards the project. It has been developed as part of the Dh9.175 billion ($2.5 billion) UAE grant for Bahrain being managed by ADFD within the GCC development programme for Bahrain.

HM the King was greeted by school students on his arrival at the site of the ceremony. He was also welcomed by Housing Minister Basim bin Yacoub Al Hamer and Northern Governor Ali Abdulhussein Al Asfoor.

Speaking at the inaugural ceremony, HM the King said he was delighted to launch the landmark model Northern Town, taking pride in Bahrain’s successive development achievements.

“By good fortune, the opening of this modern milestone comes as part of a massive urban and civilisational stride that meets the needs of all region and consolidates the standing of each governorate to play its role in supporting the national economy for Bahrain to be a model of modernism and development.” he remarked.

He lauded the Bahraini nationals for their crucial contribution to the landmark march of development, hailing citizens’ enlightened thinking and firm belief in their ability to brave all challenges and seize all opportunities for positive change – all for the sake of he nation’s progress and prosperity.

“These lofty qualities, which long marked the people of Bahrain since olden times, is now leading them towards more security and stability”, said HM the King, commending all enterprises for supporting the completion of the project – adding that the Northern Town would rank among the cities of the future. At the end of the ceremony, HM the King handed over the first two units to eligible recipients.

In his address, Al Hamer paid tribute to HM the King for patronising the inauguration of the landmark development. The housing minister hailed the string of remarkable achievements and outstanding strides in the prosperous era.

Al Hamer cited the royal order to construct 40,000 units, describing the move as a quantum in the housing momentum which spans up to 60 years, during which towns and blocs were construction countrywide.

He underlined various stages in constructing the model town, ever since HRH the Crown Prince laid the foundation stone, including reclamation, engineering blueprints in cooperation with the French Urban Authority, reported BNA.

He said work on more than 3,000 housing units had already been completed, pointing out that the Northern Town would have eventually the capacity to accommodate more than 90,000 people.

The Northern Town features all amenities, including health, educational, religious and sport and transportation facilities and services, in addition to modern road network and developed infrastructure.

He commended the support of the government, chaired by HRH the Premier, as well as HRH the Crown Prince through the Executive Committee. He also commended the ministerial committee for urbanization and infrastructure, chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Shaikh Khalid bin Abdulla Al-Khalifa, said the report.

ADFD Director General Mohammed Saif Al Suwaidi said: “We have actively supported Bahrain government over the past years in achieving its sustainable development objectives. These ADFD funded projects have translated into profound benefits for Bahraini society and accelerated the country’s economic growth.”

ADFD, he stated, is committed to stepping up collaboration with the Bahraini government and moving ahead with the implementation of several vital development projects in the country that serve key sectors including housing, water, health, transport and communications.

Spanning an area of nearly 740 hectares, the city was built after filling about 37.5 million cu m of land in the shallow part of the Bahrain Island with a depth ranging from half a metre to two and a half metres over the past two years.

In addition to housing, the project involves the construction of roads and two dedicated pedestrian and vehicular bridges, as well as the provision of sewage services.

Later a documentary film which showcases the construction of the multi-phased Northern Town was shown, highlighting cooperation between all parties and different amenities and facilities – including beaches, mosques, schools, universities, and nurseries, in addition to hospital, health centres and clinics and sport city which includes a football stadium, it added.


UAE’s VAT move has gone well, inflation to moderate- IMF official

DUBAI- The United Arab Emirates’ introduction of value-added tax has gone smoothly and inflation, having jumped in response, will moderate, the head of the International Monetary Fund’s mission to the country said on Thursday.

Natalia Tamirisa said the 5 percent VAT rate imposed at the start of this year was a big cultural and administrative shift in a country that has traditionally had minimal taxation.

“Given the challenges, VAT introduction has been well managed and relatively smooth,” she told Reuters after a visit to the UAE for talks with authorities.
Annual consumer price inflation jumped to 4.8 percent in January, the highest since 2015, but dropped back to 3.4 percent in March. Tamirisa said the latest data suggested the impact of the tax would be short-lived, partly because inflation had dropped in areas of the economy not covered by VAT.

Slumping real estate markets in Abu Dhabi and Dubai have pulled down residential rents, which are heavily weighted in consumer price indexes.
Inflation is expected to average 3.5 percent this year, up from 2.0 percent last, but will ultimately settle around 2.5 percent, Tamirisa predicted.

She said the new tax was expected to lift revenues by 1.5 percent of gross domestic product in the long run.

Tamirisa said property market weakness was having a significant economic impact and authorities needed to monitor this carefully. Average rents sank 10.2 percent in Abu Dhabi in 2017 and 5.2 percent in Dubai, according to the central bank.

“There is persistent supply coming into the market so at least for this year, the balance between supply and demand is likely to keep prices soft,” Tamirisa said.

But partly because authorities had taken steps to limit speculation, the weak property prices did not pose a systemic threat to the economy as they did almost a decade ago during the Dubai financial crisis.

Tamirisa said it was too early to assess the impact on the UAE of the U.S. pullout from the Iran nuclear deal, partly because the impact on Iran itself was not yet clear.

The UAE could benefit if Iran found it harder to sell its oil, giving Arab oil producers more room to boost their crude exports at higher prices. But Dubai has close business links with Iran and these could suffer, economists say.

By Andrew Torchia, Reuters News
(Reporting by Andrew Torchia; editing by John Stonestreet) ((; +9715 6681 7277; Reuters Messaging:

King Salman launches Qiddiya project near Riyadh

Riyadh — Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman officially launched on Saturday Qiddiya, the entertainment, sports and cultural destination that will be the first of its kind in the Kingdom.

Spanning an area of 334 square kilometers, the new destination is just 40 kilometers west of the Saudi capital, Riyadh.

The ground-breaking ceremony was conducted in the presence of Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Defense and Chairman of the Public Investment Fund, as well as several princes and ministers and an audience of 300 dignitaries from around the world.

King Salman placed the last baton of the Qiddiya logo, triggering a spectacular firework show that lit up the sky outside the capital and dramatically illuminated the Tuwaiq Mountain cliffs overlooking the site.

The Public Investment Fund (PIF), which supports the project, affirmed that Qiddiya is a cultural, recreational and social achievement that strengthens the rich fabric of Saudi Arabia and meets the growing needs of Saudi citizens to develop their hobbies, test their talents and enjoy domestic tourism and leisure activities.

Qiddiya will also be a significant addition to the Saudi economy, and will enhance national income sources. More importantly, it is the center of a completely new economic sector that will also lead to the emergence of additonal sectors and services as it develops.

PIF has announced Qiddiya and other major projects aimed at diversifying the national economy to overcome oil price fluctuations and avoid relying on a single major source of income as outlined in Vision 2030.

The Ground-breaking Ceremony included the national anthem at the arrival of King Salman at the ceremony site, followed by a recitation from the Holy Quran, and then by an opening address from the CEO of Qiddiya, Michael Reininger.

Saudi rising talent then took the stage with Aa’ed Yousef performing a song with lyrics written by Prince Bader bin Abdulmohsen as a present to King Salman.

The display of Saudi talent highlighted the opportunity that Qiddiya will present to develop the abilities of young Saudis.

The Ceremony included a three-act show that took the audience through time, examining Saudi Arabia’s past, present and future growth.

The first act began with a story about an elderly man’s memories of Saudi Arabia as he reflected on what life was like for him as the country developed. He then moved on to his thoughts about the present day, the changes that are taking place, and then to the future, the country’s wise leadership and the direction the country is now moving in, as it realizes its potential and works to realize the goals of Vision 2030.

The second act featured a video focusing on the tourist attractions that visitors will find at Qiddiya, from theme parks and nature encounters to sporting activities. The audience was immersed, through a spectacular visual presentation projected onto the walls of the venue, in a display of what will be offered at Qiddiya.

The show ended with Act 3 as King Salman placed the last piece of the Qiddiya logo, which will be the inspiration guiding the project.

The CEO of Qiddiya, Michael Reininger, commented: “In creating Qiddiya, we are building a brighter future. One filled with culture, sports, entertainment, and the arts that responds to the Saudi people’s desire for new and accessible activities that enrich their lives.”

Reininger added: “Qiddiya will also create a self-sustaining ecosystem. Based on our five cornerstones, which are parks and attractions; motion and mobility; nature and environment; sports and wellness; and culture, arts, and education, our development will be supported by retail, residential, and hospitality offerings to form a fully-integrated entertainment destination.”

Reininger invited investors and operators from around the world to explore what a one-of-a-kind project like Qiddiya has to offer. He pointed out that the project will seek out the best as they create a new entertainment experience for all residents and visitors of Saudi Arabia.

“With nearly two thirds of the Kingdom’s population under 35 and over 7 million people residing within 40 kilometers of this location, international investors are taking note of this powerful, untapped market, right here, on the doorstep of Riyadh,” he said.

Reininger also noted that Qiddiya – with a land area that is 2.5 times the size of Walt Disney World, or 100 times the size of Central Park in New York – aims to attract 17 million visitors by 2030.

Visitors to Qiddiya will have access to groundbreaking entertainment, sporting, and cultural attractions across innovatively designed facilities focusing on: theme parks and entertainment centers; sports amenities capable of hosting international competitions, and training academies; desert and asphalt tracks for motorsport enthusiasts; water and snow-based recreation; outdoor and adventure activities alongside nature and safari experiences; and an array of historical, cultural and educational activities and events. There will also be malls, restaurants, cafes, hotels and real estate projects, and services to cater for all segments of society.

The project will allow the domestic economy to recapture billions of dollars spent annually by Saudis on foreign tourism, by providing world-class entertainment options to the Saudi people. These funds will remain in the Kingdom to be reinvested for the benefit of citizens.

Saudi Gazette report

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