Israelis, Emiratis meet in Dubai to discuss investments

Israelis, Emiratis meet in Dubai to discuss investments
Israel's ambassador to the UAE, Eitan Na'eh talks with an Emirati official during the Global Investment Forum in Dubai. (AP)
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Updated 02 June 2021

Israelis, Emiratis meet in Dubai to discuss investments

Israelis, Emiratis meet in Dubai to discuss investments
  • Since the UAE and Israel formalized ties in September, tens of thousands of Israeli tourists have come to the UAE — mostly to Dubai or in targeted visits to the capital of Abu Dhabi

DUBAI: At the luxurious Armani hotel inside the world’s tallest skyscraper in Dubai, Israelis in kippas and Emiratis in long white robes and kanduras gathered Wednesday to discuss investment opportunities. They aimed to make the most of deepening ties nine months after the two countries agreed to formalize relations.
There was extremely little mention of the Palestinians or the fact that barely two weeks ago, Israel was a country still at war.
Rather, the conversations were laser-focused on business. Several Israeli and Emirati speakers opened their remarks with both the Hebrew greeting of “Shalom” and the Arabic greeting of “Salam.” They spoke about boosting tourism, creating jobs, technology sharing, diversifying economies and tackling issues of water scarcity.
Since the UAE and Israel formalized ties in September, tens of thousands of Israeli tourists have come to the UAE — mostly to Dubai or in targeted visits to the capital of Abu Dhabi.
Trade between the two countries has already exceeded $354 million. The two countries have signed around 25 agreements in more than 15 sectors, said Minister of State for Foreign Trade, Thani bin Ahmed Al-Zayoudi, the highest-level Emirati official at the event.
There has been no indication the 11-day war in Gaza, which ended with an inconclusive cease-fire May 21, has slowed down budding Emirati-Israeli ties.
The war killed 254 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, including 67 children and 22 people from the same family, aged 6-months-old to 89-years-old. Hamas, which rules Gaza, says 80 of its fighters were killed. Eleven civilians, including two children, were killed in Israel, along with one soldier in the conflict.
The investment forum was worlds away from the war’s devastation. In the lavish and tightly secured Armani ballroom at the Burj Khalifa tower, there was no visible worry or concern on the faces of eager and excited Israeli delegates and speakers, many of whom expressed their astonishment at how rapidly ties have flourished with the United Arab Emirates.
“It’s happening and it didn’t happen before. If you would have spoken to me a year ago, I wouldn’t have guessed that (we) will speak here today in Dubai about all of these things that are happening,” said Israeli Ambassador Eitan Na’eh, who is based in Abu Dhabi.
Na’eh spoke to The Associated Press on the sidelines of the summit, which was billed as the first face-to-face investment conference in the UAE between Israelis and Emiratis since the US-brokered diplomatic pact was signed in September.
The director general of the Abu Dhabi Investment Office, Tariq Bin Hendi, told the audience his country has “helped Israeli companies set up in the UAE.” The office is responsible for attracting foreign investment into Abu Dhabi and diversifying the private sector.
“We want the people of Israel, the people of the world to come and join us, help us on that journey, work with us, learn from us, allow us to learn from you, and ultimately build a strong relationship,” he said.
There were no high-level speakers from Israel at the event, though that may be a result of Israel’s political uncertainty. The list of speakers had also changed quite significantly to exclude several of the original speakers listed on the agenda before the recent conflict.
Last month, the United Arab Emirates issued a rare public rebuke of Israel for heavy-handed police measures in Jerusalem and violent scenes captured by Palestinians of Israeli security forces storming the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, a site sacred to both Muslims and Jews.
The violence, which erupted in the final days of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, angered citizens across Gulf Arab states, some of whom expressed support for Palestinians and opposition to Israel on social media or in limited street protests.


Saudi Central Bank extends SME deferred payment program another 3 months

Saudi Central Bank extends SME deferred payment program another 3 months
Updated 59 min 35 sec ago

Saudi Central Bank extends SME deferred payment program another 3 months

Saudi Central Bank extends SME deferred payment program another 3 months
  • Program aims to support small and medium-sized enterprises still struggling due to the pandemic
  • More than 106,000 contracts have benefited since it was launched in March 2020 with a value of approximately SR167 billion

RIYADH: The Saudi Central Bank (SAMA) announced on Tuesday that it is extending a deferred payment program for a second time to help support small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that are still struggling during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
SAMA said the program — one of the bank’s initiatives to support private sector financing — will be extended for another three months from July 1 through Sept. 30.
The move is part of SAMA’s role in maintaining the stability of the financial sector, enabling it to promote economic growth and maintain employment levels in the private sector, especially within micro enterprises and other SMEs.
More than 106,000 contracts have benefited from the program since it was launched in March 2020 while the value of the deferred payments for those contracts has amounted to approximately SR167 billion ($44.5 billion).
SAMA has also offered a secured financing program for SMEs as more than 5,282 contracts have benefited from that program with a total financing value of more than SR10 billion, the bank said in a statement.
These programs are meant to support the private sector and the levels of liquidity in the financial sector. They enable financing agencies to provide support while mitigating the economic and financial effects on the SME sector, the bank said.
This is the second time SAMA has extended the two programs to support SMEs. It renewed the deferred payment program for three months last March, while it also extended the guaranteed financing program for an additional year until March 14, 2022.


Beirut is the world’s third most expensive city for expats

Beirut is the world’s third most expensive city for expats
Updated 22 June 2021

Beirut is the world’s third most expensive city for expats

Beirut is the world’s third most expensive city for expats
  • Living in the Lebanese capital as an expat has now become more expensive than living in Tokyo, Zurich, or Shanghai

DUBAI: Beirut has become the most expensive city for expats in the Middle East and North Africa region, and the third globally, based on the latest “Cost of Living” survey by consultancy Mercer.
Jumping 42 places in global rankings, Beirut has been at the center of Lebanon’s economic and political collapse, aggravated by the COVID-19 pandemic and the port explosion last year.
Living in the Lebanese capital as an expat has now become more expensive than living in Tokyo, Zurich, or Shanghai. Turkmenistan’s Ashgabat ranked first, in the list of most expensive cities for expatriates, followed by Hong Kong.
Mercer comes up with the annual list by comparing the cost of more than 200 items in each city, including housing, transportation, food, clothing, household goods and entertainment.
Riyadh has become the most expensive city in the Gulf at 29th globally. Jeddah ranked 94th, the report showed.
Dubai dropped to 42nd in the list, down from 23rd last year, and Abu Dhabi ranked 56th from 39th a year earlier.
Other cities in the Gulf also became more affordable this year, the report revealed, with Bahrain dropping to 71st from 52nd, while Muscat fell to 108th from 96th. Kuwait City dropped two places to 115th and Qatar at 21 places to 130th.


Dubai government agency first to approve job titles for remote work

Dubai government agency first to approve job titles for remote work
Updated 22 June 2021

Dubai government agency first to approve job titles for remote work

Dubai government agency first to approve job titles for remote work
  • Remote work can now be done under normal circumstances, the department said

DUBAI: Dubai Municipality has become the first government agency in the UAE to approve job titles for remote work, state news agency WAM has reported.
Remote work can now be done under normal circumstances, the department said, parallel to its other work setups such as its shifting system.
The move comes as the COVID-19 pandemic has made private, and even public, workplaces rethink ways to continue their operations despite the crisis.
Workplace innovation is not new to Dubai Municipality, as it pioneered flexible work systems for government departments in the UAE in 2007.
The pandemic has also made the municipality accelerate its smart transformation, to make the remote work system effective.


Mubadala-owned GlobalFoundries invests $6bn amid worldwide chip shortage

Mubadala-owned GlobalFoundries invests $6bn amid worldwide chip shortage
Updated 22 June 2021

Mubadala-owned GlobalFoundries invests $6bn amid worldwide chip shortage

Mubadala-owned GlobalFoundries invests $6bn amid worldwide chip shortage
  • Tuesday’s expansion is in addition to the company’s previously announced plan to invest $1.4 billion in 2021 alone to expand its manufacturing capacity

SINGAPORE: Chipmaker GlobalFoundries said on Tuesday it will spend $6 billion to expand capacity at its factories in Singapore, Germany and the United States amid a chip shortage that is hurting automakers and electronics firms globally.
The US-based company, owned by Abu Dhabi’s state-owned fund Mubadala, said it will invest more than $4 billion in Singapore, and $1 billion each in the others over the next two years. The unlisted company’s Singapore operations contribute about a third of its revenue.
“I think the next five to eight years, we’re going to be chasing supply not demand as an industry,” GlobalFoundries CEO Thomas Caulfield told a media briefing. He added that the company was prioritising automotive customers.
Tuesday’s expansion is in addition to the company’s previously announced plan to invest $1.4 billion in 2021 alone to expand its manufacturing capacity.
The chip shortage, which began in earnest in late December, was caused in part by automakers miscalculating demand for semiconductors in the pandemic. It was aggravated by electronics manufacturers placing more chip orders as work-from-home practices fueled a surge in sales of computers and other devices.
Large chipmakers including Intel Corp. have warned that the shortage will last well into next year. Intel announced in March a $20 billion plan to expand its advanced chip making capacity, while Taiwan’s TSMC said in April it will invest $100 billion over the next three years.
As well, governments, including those of the United States and Japan, have intervened to urge faster supplies. Earlier this month, the United States approved $54 billion in funds to increase US production and research into semiconductors and telecom equipment.
Caulfield said funding for GlobalFoundries’ expansion plan included investments from governments and pre-payments from customers.
The $4 billion investment in Singapore is the first of a phased expansion program planned by the company for the next five to 10 years, the CEO said. He did not specify a total amount.
The new Singapore fab will add capacity of 450,000 wafers per year, taking the campus’s total to 1.5 million, and the company expects to begin production in early 2023. Most of the added production will come online by end 2023.
The factory will make chips for cars and 5G technology, with long-term customer agreements already in place. It will add about 1,000 jobs in Singapore.


Sudan to abolish official customs dollar exchange rate

Sudan to abolish official customs dollar exchange rate
Updated 22 June 2021

Sudan to abolish official customs dollar exchange rate

Sudan to abolish official customs dollar exchange rate
  • The customs dollar exchange rate has been problematic for importers historically as it has valued the local currency at a higher rate

RIYADH: Sudan has taken the decision to abolish the official customs dollar exchange rate, Asharq Business reported, citing unnamed sources.
Sudan’s Finance Minister Jibril Ibrahim earlier pledged that the government was committed to canceling the so-called customs exchange rate used to determine import duties. It comes amid ongoing fiscal reforms that have been encouraged by the International Monetary Fund and other donors.
The customs dollar exchange rate has been problematic for importers historically as it has valued the local currency at a higher rate than reflected by the black market.
Ibrahim said the government would press ahead with its liberalization program until the country’s economy recovered from previous distortions.
He also said that the subsidy for wheat, cooking gas and fuel oil that is used in the production of electricity will not be canceled this year.
Devaluing the currency is one of a number of economic reforms that Sudan hopes will help it emerge from an enduring economic crisis.