UAE investment law to apply selectively, won’t hurt locals -officials

A picture taken on March 14, 2018 shows the skyline of Dubai with the Burj Al-Arab (R) in the foreground and Burj Khalifa (L) in the background. (AFP)
Updated 08 October 2018
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UAE investment law to apply selectively, won’t hurt locals -officials

DUBAI: A new law allowing 100 percent foreign ownership of companies in the United Arab Emirates will only apply to some sectors of the economy, limiting the risk that it could disrupt existing business, Dubai investment officials told Reuters.
The UAE cabinet, chaired by Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, said in May that it would permit 100 percent foreign ownership of some UAE-based businesses, up from the current 49 percent limit, by the end of 2018.
Few details of the law have been revealed so far. But Raed Safadi, chief economic adviser at Dubai’s Department of Economic Development, said on Monday that it would only apply to “strategic sectors” of the economy.
This means it will not damage the interests of UAE citizens who currently benefit from acting as silent partners in foreign-invested businesses, Safadi said.
In fact, the new law will create opportunities for UAE citizens because “they have a lot to offer in terms of knowledge of local markets, the networks and the connectivity,” he added.
Fahad Al-Gergawi, chief executive of the Dubai Investment Development Agency, said: “We are not targeting the sleeping partners’ businesses, because these are small businesses. We are targeting strategic, impactful businesses which will leave their fingerprints on the economy and create a meaningful impact on jobs, technology, and boost imports and exports.”
Special business areas in Dubai known as “free zones,” which already permit 100 percent foreign ownership, could also be affected by the new law, because they will lose one of their unique advantages.
Safadi said, however, that Dubai’s free zones had unique business models which made them individually attractive, and that they were adjusting to “structural pressures” presented by the new law.
Ahmed Bin Sulayem, executive chairman of the Dubai Multi Commodities Center, a free zone focused on commodities trade, said free zones were diverse enough to cope with the law.
“You are looking at a big market, representing over 15,000 businesses, and almost 100,000 people live and work there...People go there not just for the 100 percent ownership and the tax-free facilities that we provide; they go there to be connected to the market, to not miss out,” he said.
Foreign direct investment commitments to Dubai rose 26 percent from a year earlier to $4.84 billion in the first half of 2018, according to official data.


Davos organizer WEF warns of growing risk of cyberattacks in Gulf

Updated 57 sec ago
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Davos organizer WEF warns of growing risk of cyberattacks in Gulf

LONDON: The World Economic Forum (WEF) has warned of the growing possibility of cyberattacks in the Gulf — with Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar particularly vulnerable.

Cyberattacks were ranked as the second most important risk — after an “energy shock” — in the three Gulf states, according to the WEF’s flagship Global Risks Report 2019.

The report was released ahead of the WEF’s annual forum in Davos, Switzerland, which starts on Tuesday.

In an interview with Arab News, John Drzik, president of global risk and digital at professional services firm Marsh & McLennan said: “The risk of cyberattacks on critical infrastructure such as power centers and water plants is moving up the agenda in the Middle East, and in the Gulf in particular.”

Drzik was speaking on the sidelines of a London summit where WEF unveiled the report, which was compiled in partnership with Marsh and Zurich Insurance.

“Cyberattacks are a growing concern as the regional economy becomes more sophisticated,” he said.

“Critical infrastructure means centers where disablement could affect an entire society — for instance an attack on an electric grid.”

Countries needed to “upgrade to reflect the change in the cyber risk environment,” he added.

The WEF report incorporated the results of a survey taken from about 1,000 experts and decision makers.

The top three risks for the Middle East and Africa as a whole were found to be an energy price shock, unemployment or underemployment, and terrorist attacks.

Worries about an oil price shock were said to be particularly pronounced in countries where government spending was rising, said WEF. This group includes Saudi Arabia, which the IMF estimated in May 2018 had seen its fiscal breakeven price for oil — that is, the price required to balance the national budget — rise to $88 a barrel, 26 percent above the IMF’s October 2017 estimate, and also higher than the country’s medium-term oil-price target of $70–$80.

But that disclosure needed to be balanced with the fact that risk of “fiscal crises” dropped sharply in the WEF survey rankings, from first position last year to fifth in 2018.

The report said: “Oil prices increased substantially between our 2017 and 2018 surveys, from around $50 to $75. This represents a significant fillip for the fiscal position of the region’s oil producers, with the IMF estimating that each $10 increase in oil prices should feed through to an improvement on the fiscal balance of 3 percentage points of GDP.”

At national level, this risk of “unemployment and underemployment” ranked highly in Bahrain, Egypt, Morocco, Oman and Tunisia.
“Unemployment is a pressing issue in the region, particularly for the rapidly expanding young population: Youth unemployment averages around 25 percent and is close to 50 percent in Oman,” said the report.

Other countries attaching high prominence to domestic and regional fractures in the survey were Tunisia, with “profound
social instability” ranked first, and Algeria, where respondents ranked “failure of regional and global governance” first.

Looking at the global picture, WEF warned that weakened international co-operation was damaging the collective will to confront key issues such as climate change and environmental degradation.