This past week in the Gulf region, business was as usual and . . . life generally carried on unperturbed by the now well settled in lower price of oil and the well publicised blockade of Qatar by its nearest neighbours. Here are some snapshots amongst the very few of importance as compared to those coming out of the rest of the MENA’s and the Arab World.
Indeed, Saudi Arabia appears now to be failing on its 2 open fronts of Yemen and Qatar. In the latter, it failed to entirely bring its geopolitical rival to heed by cutting off its access to food, funding and fuel. It even managed to effectively turn Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund from a globe-trotting buyer to a domestic defender. The Qatar Investment Authority has so far injected almost $40 billion out of total reserves of $340 billion to support its domestic economy, according to Bloomberg News.
Meanwhile, Qatar’s national carrier Qatar Airways as adamant as ever in its ambition to expand worldwide would be the first of the Gulf countries airlines to operate a direct flight to Cardiff, capital city of Wales with a first departure from Doha on May 1, 2018.
This will also be Qatar Airways’ fifth destination within the United Kingdom, in addition to existing routes to London Heathrow, Manchester, Birmingham and Edinburgh.
In the UAE, Mashreq Bank, a Dubai-based and Al Ghurair family owned service local bank, is understood to be shedding 10% of its workforce of over 4,000 in the next 12 months as investments in artificial technology are lessening its reliance on human resources, its chief executive said to The National before adding :
“The know-how of artificial intelligence did not exist before, more and more of it is becoming available,” Abdul Aziz Al Ghurair (pictured above) said in an interview with The National on Wednesday. “Once used, it will replace simple, repetitive jobs at the bank. By using artificial intelligence, employment at the banks will shrink over time,” he added.
Still in the Emirates and on a more practical day to day life, the State’s Federal Tax Authority recently announced that it will open online registration starting on September 17. 2017 for the upcoming excise tax on soft and energy drinks and tobacco products.
The UAE will start taxation on all drinks and tobacco products in October 2017 with rates announced to be 50% for all soft drinks and 100% for energy drinks and tobacco products and these will be implemented from October 1 with prices anticipated to increase by the same percentages.
But despite all that, the latest study by citizenship planning firm Henley and Partners on Quality of Nationality Index (QNI) found that the UAE jumped up the global rankings for countries with the highest ‘quality of nationality’.
The index, which measures the quality of life and opportunities for personal growth within the country and the external value of nationality, found that the average value of GCC nationalities has improved from 35.05% in 2015 to 37.02% in 2016.