Saudi king issues decree allowing women to drive – state media

RIYADH/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Saudi King Salman on Tuesday ordered that women be allowed to drive cars, ending a conservative tradition seen by rights activists as an emblem of the Islamic kingdom’s repression of women.

The kingdom, the birthplace of Islam, has been widely criticized for being the only country in the world that bans women from driving, despite gradual improvement on some women’s issues in recent years and ambitious government targets to increase their public role, especially in the workforce.

Despite trying to cultivate a more modern image in recent years, the driving ban had been a longstanding stain on Saudi Arabia’s international image.

The royal decree ordered the formation of a ministerial body to give advice within 30 days and then implement the order by June 24, 2018, according to state news agency SPA.

38% of startups registered in 2016 are owned by Saudi women

“Since its establishment, the General Authority for SMEs has been working in two directions: Tracking the challenges faced by small enterprises and starting where others have left off,” he said.

“In the first direction, we have conducted several workshops for 2000 enterprises in order to identify their weaknesses, while in the second direction, we have studied the experience of almost 18 countries focused on excellent companies which are likely to have a bright future.”

UAE economic growth forecast to rise to 3-3.5% in medium term

Economic growth in the UAE is expected to increase to at least 3 percent in the medium term on the back of Expo 2020, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s GEMs Macro monthly report.

The bank’s MENA economist Jean-Michel Saliba said UAE real GDP growth is set to fall to 0.9 percent in 2017, from 2.2 percent likely in 2016.

The headline figure masks a likely contraction in the oil sector due to the OPEC deal, but Saliba said he sees non-hydrocarbon real GDP growth picking up to 2.7 percent in 2017, from 2.3 percent in 2016.

The report said Dubai remains committed to fiscal prudence but deficits are likely to widen modestly.

“The Dubai government is likely to have recorded a small budget surplus in 2016. Still, we expect the fiscal balance to shift to modest deficits (1-2 percent of GDP) from 2017 onward as capex associated with the new airport, new metro lines and Expo 2020 come on line,” noted Saliba.

He added that Abu Dhabi appears on track to record fiscal surpluses with oil prices at around $50 per barrel.

Over the next five years to 2022, Abu Dhabi authorities are planning to anchor spending at a flat level of AED250 billion and target increasing revenues through the passage of the introduction of VAT, crude oil production increases and a stabilisation in oil prices.


Saudi tax authority approves VAT Implementing Regulations

Saudi Arabia’s General Authority of Zakat and Tax (GAZT) has approved a set of implementing regulations for value-added tax, a press statement said.

The statement said that the authority’s board of directors, chaired by the Minister of Finance Mohammed Al-Jadaan, had approved the rules, which were were published on the official Saudi gazette Umm Al-Qura on 22nd September 2017. These detail how VAT will be implemented in the kingdom ahead of its official introduction on January 1, 2018.

The regulations build on the GCC Unified VAT Agreement as well as the Saudi VAT Law and they are available on the VAT website, which was launched last month. They are divided into 12 chapters and include 79 articles, covering all VAT-related areas.

The Saudi tax authority has already opened registration for VAT on its online portal and businesses are required to register by December 20, 2017.

“Businesses of all sizes have much to do to prepare for the introduction of VAT and GAZT is ready to support them through the process,” said Suhail Abanmi,  governor of GAZT. “Ensuring businesses understand the implications of VAT – and the steps needed to prepare – is a priority for GAZT. I urge all businesses to look closely at the regulations and their preparations for VAT, and the resources we have developed.”

The authority will impose a penalty of 10,000 Saudi riyals ($2,666) on companies or entities that do not register by the deadline, but it will allow the payment of value-added tax (VAT) charges in installments over a period of up to 12 months, with certain conditions.