Dubai grants new business privileges to ‘Emiratis of determination’

Citizens who are deemed to be ‘people of determination’ will be entitled to business privileges in Dubai. (Reuters)
Updated 10 February 2018
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Dubai grants new business privileges to ‘Emiratis of determination’

LONDON: Dubai-based companies that are owned by people with disabilities, or ‘people of determination,’ are set to get new business perks from the government.
The local municipality will offer UAE nationals with disabilities ‘preferential’ treatment at the purchasing section in the Contracts and Purchasing Department of Dubai Municipality, said a report from Dubai’s state news agency WAM.
In April last year, Dubai’s ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum decreed that disabled people would be known as ‘people of determination’ in a move to recognize “their monumental efforts in overcoming all challenges.”
Those who possess the People of Determination card issued by the Ministry of Community Development, or Sanad Card issued by the Community Development Authority in Dubai, are entitled to the business privileges.
Mohammed Al Zaffin, Director of the Contracts and Purchasing Department at the Dubai Municipality, said: “The privileges include prioritizing people of determination who are UAE nationals with a bid price difference of five percent, exempting them from registration and renewal fees for suppliers and prioritizing their purchase orders for less than 10,000 dirhams.”
He added that the privileges also include exclusive offers, prioritizing the disbursement of financial payments to their companies, and accepting the receipt of documents by email, without the need to be present at the office.
Al-Zaffin said: “These privileges are part of the social commitment of the municipality, to support and empower people of determination and appreciate their efforts and potential. The municipality attaches significant importance to people of determination and is keen to establish and launch initiatives to support them,” he said.
The initiative is part of Dubai’s National Strategy for Empowering People with Disabilities, which revolves around six pillars including health and rehabilitation, education, vocational rehabilitation and employment, mobility and social protection.
At the time of the launch of the strategy, Sheikh Mohammed said: “Disability is in fact the inability to make progress and achievements. The achievements that people of determination have made in various spheres over the past years are proof that determination and strong will can do the impossible and encourage people to counter challenges and difficult circumstances while firmly achieving their goals.”


Can Lebanon’s next government rise to the economic challenge?

Updated 23 May 2018
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Can Lebanon’s next government rise to the economic challenge?

  • Before the May 6 vote, leaders from across the deeply divided political establishment sounded the alarm about the state’s finances and economy
  • Lebanon is the world’s third-most indebted nation with a debt-to-GDP ratio of more than 150 percent

BEIRUT: After Lebanon’s first parliamentary election in nine years, the dire economic situation and unsustainable public debt levels are top priorities for the next government.
Before the May 6 vote, leaders from across the deeply divided political establishment sounded the alarm about the state’s finances and economy.
They agree a new government, which is expected to contain the main parties, must be formed quickly, although wrangling over cabinet portfolios could take time, even months.
“The risk is if they really don’t form a government and don’t make any headway with policy in the remainder of this year,” Toby Iles of ratings agency Fitch said.
Why the urgency?
Lebanon is the world’s third-most indebted nation with a debt-to-GDP ratio of more than 150 percent. It climbed from around 130 percent in 2011, before war in neighboring Syria, and the arrival of more than a million refugees, depressed growth and paralyzed government decision-making.
The International Monetary Fund has said Lebanon’s debt trajectory is unsustainable and needs immediate action, otherwise debt-to-GDP could hit 180 percent by 2023.
Annual growth rates have fallen to between 1 and 2 percent, from between 8 and 10 percent in the four years before the Syrian war. Two former pillars of the economy, Gulf Arab tourism and high-end real estate, have suffered.
Outgoing Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri has said the unemployment rate exceeds 30 percent and UNDP says the number of people in poverty has risen by nearly two-thirds since 2011.
“I believe everyone has realized now that the ship might sink with everyone aboard,” leading Christian politician Samir Geagea said in a recent interview, describing the economic risks.
How has lebanon muddled this long?
Absent an effective government, the central bank has for years maintained stability using stimulus packages and unorthodox financial operations, made possible by the billions of dollars deposited into Lebanese banks by the large diaspora.
Attracted by high interest rates and confidence in the country’s resilience and banks, diaspora deposits have helped Lebanon’s finances survive shocks including the assassination of Rafik Al-Hariri — Saad’s father — and conflicts between Hezbollah and Israel.
But the risk of an increasing dependence on remittances became clear in November when Saad Al-Hariri resigned unexpectedly. Some Lebanese moved their money out of local currency or overseas.
Central bank foreign assets fell by $1.6 billion that month as it defended the Lebanese pound’s peg to the dollar, according to released data. The crisis was short-lived, but the increasingly poor state of national finances has increased the risk that Lebanon might not weather a larger shock so well.
The quicker the government is formed and gets to work, the more support this gives to vital financial inflows.
Despite losing more than a third of his MPs, Hariri is expected to lead the next government.
Central bank policies have kept growth ticking over and foreign reserves high, but they have increased risk in the financial system. The central bank and IMF say such policies should not continue long-term and government policymaking needs to step in.
The finance ministry has met its foreign currency financing needs for 2018 through a $5.5 billion debt swap with the central bank. The transaction will reduce debt-servicing costs and boost central bank reserves, the government said.
What next?
Sectarian politics and corruption have for years stalled reforms needed to boost growth and bring down debt. International donors want to see reforms to release more than $11 billion of investment pledged in April to boost the economy.
“It will be extremely challenging for the next Lebanese government to live up to these reforms. We know how hard it is to change the way things work here, and addressing the vested interests is hard. But there is no alternative way forward,” a western diplomat said.
Beirut hailed the money pledged in Paris as a sign of confidence in the government.
Donors want to preserve stability as war drags on in Syria, but say assistance depends on Beirut working to a credible economic plan and under international oversight to ensure reforms happen.
“We are going to be tough on this and I don’t see anyone else being less tough,” another western diplomat said.
In Paris, Hariri promised to reduce the budget deficit as a percentage of GDP by 5 percent over five years.
Reforming the subsidised power sector, widely seen as deeply corrupt, would be a big help.
Last year the government spent $1.3 billion subsiding the state power provider — 13 percent of primary expenditures. Meanwhile, most homes depend on expensive private generators because state provision is so patchy.
Hariri has led calls for reform since a years-long political deadlock was broken at the end of 2016 and parliament began to take decisions such as launching an offshore oil and gas exploration and passing the first government budget since 2005.