New UAE employee fees and visa scheme set to aid private sector

Jobseekers will be able to avail of a six-month visa while they look for work in the UAE. Above, Dubai Airport. (Shutterstock)
Updated 14 June 2018
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New UAE employee fees and visa scheme set to aid private sector

  • The UAE introduced a string of business reform measures late on Wednesday, including the reworking of business fees to hire private sector workers and more flexible visa regulations.
  • Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum: “The UAE is among the 10 most competitive countries in the world and our goal is to remain a top destination for ease of doing business, through an agile economy based on flexibility and openness.”

LONDON: New measures introduced by the UAE to encourage business competitiveness are set to provide a boost for private sector growth, as the country eases back on spending restrictions following a recovery in oil prices.
The UAE introduced a string of business reform measures late on Wednesday, including the reworking of business fees to hire private sector workers and more flexible visa regulations.
“With oil recovering, the UAE is in one of the best positions to loosen fiscal policy as it has massive savings and sovereign wealth,” said Jason Turvey, Middle East analyst for Capital Economics.
A key measure introduced is the scrapping of fees businesses pay to hire private sector workers, many of whom are expats. Fees have been replaced by an insurance system.
Businesses will now pay an annual tariff of 60 dirhams ($16.34) per worker instead of a deposit of 3,000 dirhams, according to the state-owned WAM news agency.
Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the UAE’s prime minister and ruler of Dubai, tweeted that the move would save billions.
“In a cabinet meeting today, we approved reforms including replacing the bank guarantee system for private sector employees with a low-cost insurance scheme. This will release 14 billion dirhams back to the private sector companies and will further lower the cost of doing business,” he tweeted late on Wednesday.
The latest announcement comes on top of a recently announced stimulus package worth $13.6 billion for the emirate of Abu Dhabi, including plans to ease restrictions on full foreign ownership of UAE businesses and to let some foreigners stay longer, thereby reducing the amount of earnings sent out of the country.
The latest batch of measures is also linked to tourism and hospitality with a pledge to exempt transit passengers from entry fees in the first 48 hours. A transit visa extension will be made available for up to 96 hours for a fee of 50 dirhams.
“Tourism should be supported by this and other measures at a time when the industry has faced headwinds such as the strong dollar,” Monika Malik, chief economist of Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank, told Arab News.
Other measures include the introduction of a six-month visa for jobseekers who overstay their visa but want to work in the country, and a temporary visa to enhance the UAE’s position “as a land of opportunities, a destination for talents and professionals,” according to Sheikh Mohammed.
Lower oil revenue and weaker regional economies have hurt growth in the UAE, where expatriates make up about 80 percent of the population. Last year, growth slumped to an inflation-adjusted 0.5 percent after OPEC nations agreed to production cuts, down from 3 percent in 2016.
“Visa reforms are part of overall measures to improve the business environment and boost economic competitiveness,” said Malik.
An immediate lift to employment was unlikely, she said, but the measures would improve company liquidity and profit margins, and possibly lead to increased capital expenditure.
Sheikh Mohammed said: “The UAE is among the 10 most competitive countries in the world and our goal is to remain a top destination for ease of doing business, through an agile economy based on flexibility and openness.”
“Gulf countries want to encourage new industries and attract foreign capital. The rebound in crude prices has given them more room for spending,” Turvey told Arab News.
“Saudi Arabia has also announced plans to revive growth as austerity is reined back,” he said.
“With oil recovering, UAE and others can afford to loosen fiscal policy.”
Measures taken recently by Dubai have included a one-year freeze on school-fee hikes, and a waiving of some fees on aviation and real estate transactions that will help cut the cost of living and doing business.
A research note from Emirates NBD said the latest UAE measures should offer some relief for businesses across all sectors, boosting the key transport and logistics sector.
“The measures were broader in scope than we had expected following the instructions to reduce the cost of doing business in the emirate,” the bank said.


Japan’s SoftBank invests in US office space-sharing WeWork

Updated 15 November 2018
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Japan’s SoftBank invests in US office space-sharing WeWork

  • SoftBank confirmed the investment but referred queries to WeWork
  • WeWork has opened 11 locations in Tokyo, and has a few more in other cities in Japan
TOKYO: American office space-sharing company WeWork has obtained $3 billion in funding from Japanese technology conglomerate SoftBank Group Corp.
The new funding comes in addition to the $1 billion raised from SoftBank last quarter, WeWork spokesperson Kumiko Hidaka said Thursday.
WeWork, which targets startups, is operating not only in the US but also India, China, Peru, Israel and other nations, as well as Japan, where real estate is relatively expensive, allowing WeWork an opportunity to grow.
SoftBank confirmed the investment but referred queries to WeWork.
In a sign the company has other sources of funding, SoftBank is carrying out an initial public offering of its Japanese mobile subsidiary, set for Dec. 19. It’s likely to be one of the world’s biggest IPOs. The Tokyo Stock Exchange approved the listing of 1.6 billion shares this week at ¥1,500 ($13) a share, which would potentially raise more than ¥2 trillion ($20 billion).
In addition to WeWork, SoftBank has been investing globally, including in US wireless company Sprint, British IoT company ARM, Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba and US ride-sharing service Uber.
WeWork has opened 11 locations in Tokyo, and has a few more in other cities in Japan. The buildings are spacious, although they are broken into smaller cubicles for lesser paying clients, and have nice interiors.
The spaces come with wireless and other office services, and have communal areas for networking and meetings, designed to make renting attractive to ventures.