Kingdom leads GCC in nonoil production

Updated 17 July 2013
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Kingdom leads GCC in nonoil production

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries are strenuously working to diversify income sources and minimize reliance on oil through investment in leading industrial activities, local media reported.
Saudi Arabia, in particular, is leading the GCC region to develop nonoil sector where the value of the ongoing nonoil projects is estimated at $ 17 billion (SR 63.7 billion), Al-Riyadh daily said quoting a report by Gulf Investment Corporation (GIC).
The Kingdom has reportedly occupied the 12th rank among the world's biggest 40 countries concerned with renewable energy sources.
In other GCC countries, the UAE has spent $ 5 billion in solar energy projects, currently under construction, whereas the value of nonoil projects is estimated at $ 2.1 billion, which are mostly concentrated in Abu Dhabi Emirate.
The Kingdom recently announced four solar energy projects, notably the solar energy project in Makkah, announced in the last quarter of 2012, whereby the holy city will become the first area to use an alternative energy source in the Kingdom, the local media said.
In Qatar, meanwhile, nonoil projects captured some $ 2.8 billion, mostly in iron and steel industries. Cement industry is predicted to lead business sector in the next five years at the growth rate of 11.2 percent followed by consumer industry sector at 7.7 percent.
On the other hand, the GCC countries will continue to achieve high rates of economic growth in the current year despite a slight decline in the oil prices and lower exports, which dropped by 5 percent compared to last year’s figures, the local media said.
Based on the above situation, levels of personal incomes have steadily increased, which led to the expansion of bank deposits, particularly in Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar, and encouraged the banks to expand banking credits.
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia has topped the MENA countries in terms of solar energy projects where it got 4.1 points out of 5 points, according to a report released by VtM, a US solar research firm.
Turkey came second at 3.9 points, followed by Abu Dhabi and Morocco jointly at 3.6 points in the third rank, Jordan in the fifth rank (3.2 points), Dubai in the sixth rank (3.1 points), Algeria and Egypt jointly in the seventh rank (3 points), and Qatar in the ninth rank (2.4 points).
The MENA region has the biggest solar energy potentials globally whereas Saudi Arabia and Turkey will lead the regional countries in terms of the highest energy demand and will become the first two countries to use the electric scale of GigaWatt (or billion watts) by 2015, according to the VtM report.


Jordanian cabinet approves new IMF-guided tax law to boost finances

Updated 25 min 55 sec ago
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Jordanian cabinet approves new IMF-guided tax law to boost finances

AMMAN: Jordan’s cabinet on Monday approved major IMF-guided proposals that aim to double the income tax base, as a key part of reforms to boost the finances of a debt-burdened economy hit by regional conflict.
“When only 4 percent of Jordanians pay (personal) income tax, this may not be the right thing,” Finance Minister Omar Malhas said in remarks after the cabinet meeting, adding the goal was to push that to eight percent. The draft legislation was submitted to parliament.
The IMF’s three-year Extended Fund Facility program aims to generate more state revenue to gradually bring down public debt to 77 percent of GDP in 2021, from a record 95 percent.
A few months ago Jordan raised levies on hundreds of food and consumer items by unifying general sales tax (GST) to 16 percent — removing exemptions on many basic goods.
In January subsidies on bread were ended, doubling some prices in a country with rising unemployment and poverty among its eight million people.
The income tax move and the GST reforms will bring an estimated 840 million dinars ($1.2 billion) in extra annual tax revenue that will help reduce chronic budget shortfalls normally covered by foreign aid, officials say.
Corporate income tax on banks, financial institutions and insurance companies will be pushed to 40 percent from 30 percent. Taxes on Jordan’s phosphate and potash mining industry will be raised to 30 percent from 24.
The government argues the reforms will reduce social disparities by progressively taxing high earners while leaving low-paid public sector employees largely untouched.
“This is a fair tax law not an unfair one,” said Malhas, who shrugged off criticism the law is lenient on many businesses connected to politicians whose transactions are not subject to tax scrutiny.
Husam Abu Ali, the head of the Income and Sales Tax Department, said a proposed IMF-recommended Financial Crime Investigations Unit will stiffen penalties for tax evaders. Critics say it will not tackle pervasive corruption in state institutions.
Abu Ali said the government could be losing hundreds of millions of dollars through tax evasion, which is as high as 80 percent in some companies.
The amendments lower the income tax threshold and raise tax rates. Unions said the government was caving in to IMF demands and squeezing more from the same taxpayers.
“It is penalizing a group that has long paid what it owes the state,” the unions syndicate said in a statement.
“It imposes injustice on employees whose salaries have barely coped with price hikes rising madly in recent years.”