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VALUE OF EXPO 2020 DUBAI-LINKED PROJECTS HITS DH122B

The value of all projects related to Expo 2020 Dubai has touched Dh122 billion as the UAE begins the countdown for the mega global showcase that will kick-off on October 20, 2020.

Project research and intelligence provider BNC Network said the projects underway include transport infrastructure, such as the expansion of road networks, several highways, roundabouts, interchanges and expansion of the Dubai Metro line to connect to the Expo 2020 site and Al Maktoum International Airport to the rest of Dubai. Also under contract are mixed-use projects, residential, commercial, hospitality and golf courses.

BNC Network said most of these projects, located at Dubai South, the 145-sqkm mixed-use development with Al Maktoum International Airport as its centrepiece, are expected to be completed before the six-month-long Expo 2020, while creating 500,000 jobs.

Al Maktoum, the world’s largest greenfield airport development with a design capacity to handle 220 million passengers and 16 million tonnes of cargo per annum, will have five runways and six terminal buildings.

“As it stands, Dubai is getting ready to host the Expo 2020 and the emirate is way ahead in terms of its readiness to host the mega event – taking place in the Middle East for the first time in the event’s more than 150 years of history,” said Avin Gidwani, chief executive officer of BNC Network.

“While driving past some of the major highways, one would notice the hectic construction activities on both sides, reflecting the pace of developments. Most of the hotel projects are on a fast-track basis, intended to expand the room inventory,” he added.Dubai South has been divided into separate functional districts, such as the Logistics District, linked to the airport – to create a mega cargo hub – which along with Jebel Ali Port and Jebel Ali Free Zone, created one of the world’s largest sea-to-air logistic corridors. The 21-sqkm-long Logistics District is designed to enable fast-cycle businesses and provide value-added services such as manufacturing and assembly.

The Logistics District also will host Dh25 billion residential districts – with a building capacity for 1,100 low- to mid-rise buildings that covers a 715 hectares area and expected to accommodate 250,000 residents, when complete, said BNC Network.

The Commercial District is expected to provide employment opportunities for an estimated 150,000 people. It will consist of over 850 commercial towers with three to five star hotel lodging and is divided into eight zones – Urban Village, Lake District, The Seven Towers, Central Park, Creative Commercial District, Grand Central, Business District and Residential Crescent.

The mega development features an Exhibition District that will host the World Expo 2020 site, a 6.7-sqkm Aviation District that is being developed adjacent to Al Maktoum International Airport; a Business Park Free Zone, located at the gateway of Dubai South; and a Humanitarian District, which is envisioned to become a leading regional hub for the coordination of emergency response and relief operations.

NO VAT ON SALE AND PURCHASE OF SHARES IN UAE

Value-added tax (VAT) will not be applicable on the sale and purchase of share transactions conducted by investors in UAE stock markets, said a senior government official.

Khalid Al Bustani, director-general, Federal Tax Authority, pointed out that there would be no tax on profit margins as well.

On Tuesday, Dubai Financial Market saw 451.2 million shares changing hands worth Dh525.2 million. Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange witnessed 62.8 million shares trading worth Dh100.6 million.

As part of the wider Gulf Cooperation Council agreement, the UAE has announced to implement 5 per cent VAT on certain goods and services from January 2018.

The Federal Authority is finalising the executive regulations for VAT, which will offer all inquiries about the tax, Al Bustani was quoted as saying in an interview with Arabic daily Al Bayan.

The executive laws will be published on the authority’s website once approved, he said.

In previous statements, Al Bustani confirmed that financial brokerage firms, whose annual revenues reach – or cross – Dh375,000 will be subject to taxation and they will have to register for the VAT.

HOW TECHNOLOGY WILL CHANGE THE BANKING INDUSTRY

The fast-paced technological innovation in the GCC financial sector will benefit bank customers and money remitters with reduced service costs, but will impact the profitability of the region’s banks by slashing money transfer fees and commissions, analysts said. For the banks that normally generate around one-quarter of their revenues from fees and commission and foreign-exchange gains – particularly from transfer fees involving more than $102 billion in outward remittances made by the GCC expatriate population – fintech revolution will have major impact on their profitability, analysts at S&P Global Ratings said.

The ratings agency said fintech would change the way banks operate over time. “While we don’t expect major disruption of lending activity in the GCC, which remains concentrated on the corporate sector and by individual corporate borrowers, we think that fintech could impinge on retail banking, particularly money transfer and foreign-currency exchange,” said Mohamed Damak, S&P’s Primary Credit Analyst.

As a result, some banks will have to adjust their operations through increased digitalisation, branch network reduction, and staff rationalisation, he said.

Fintech companies focus on lowering transfer fees and reducing transfer time. “In our view, fintech could disrupt GCC banks’ money transfer operations. The World Bank estimated the global average transfer cost at a hefty 7.2 per cent in the third quarter of 2017 (for a transfer of $200, the global weighted average was estimated at 5.5 per cent),” Damak said in a report titled “The Future Of Banking: Could Fintech Disrupt Gulf Cooperation Council Banks’ Business Models?”

“Technological innovation in the financial sector is a global trend, reaching developed and developing economies alike,” said Damak, adding that fintech alone will not have a significant influence on S&P’s GCC banks ratings in the next two years.

“That’s because we consider that banks will be able to adapt to their changing operating environment through a combination of collaboration with fintech companies and cost-reduction measures.”

Damak said some banks are starting to realise the extent of the threats and opportunities that fintech poses, and are putting in place measures to adjust to the new realities of their operating environment.

Ian Johnston, chief executive of the Dubai Financial Services Authority (DFSA), said the authority’s fintech regime is developed to enhance and improve access to finance and the efficiency of markets.

“Our fintech regime is developed to enhance and improve access to finance and the efficiency of markets. We also want to encourage innovative financial services and solutions,” Johnston recently said after signing an agreement with Securities Commission Malaysia to cooperate in the development of financial technology.

“Fintech companies and banking institutions can be seen as complimentary, and should work hand in hand. Although there are times when both are seen competing to own customer relationships, working together they can provide modernised and harmonised services for consumers,” said Habib Hanna, managing director, Diebold Nixdorf Middle East.

The main differentiation between the two in the region today is their regulatory frameworks. For fintech companies to progress in the region, the proper regulatory frameworks need to be developed, said Hanna.

While fintech will increasingly become a force to be reckoned with, its eventual impact on bank ratings will depend not only on how banks respond to the new competition and the particular vulnerabilities of their business models, said Damak.

According to EY’s GCC FinTech Play 2017 report, only 42 per cent of GCC banks that participated in EY’s survey were familiar with the fintech industry, while 93 per cent of GCC banks doubted that fintech players could disrupt their businesses in the short term. In the same survey, 86 per cent of GCC banks estimated that no more than 15 per cent of banks’ business could be lost to fintech in the next five years, believing fund transfer and brokerage to be the main business lines most likely to be disrupted.

UAE UNIVERSITY RANKED IN WORLD’S ‘TOP 3.5%’

Al Ain: UAE University (UAEU) has been ranked in the top 3.5 per cent in the 2017 list of the world’s top 1,000 universities by the Centre for World University Rankings (CWUR).

The rankings, revealed recently, also placed the Al Ain-based government university at top position in the UAE. CWUR says it is the publisher of the largest academic ranking of global universities.

“In addition to its high-quality research output, the two key factors that were fundamental to UAEU’s success were alumni employment and research innovation and technology transfer,” it said.

Dr Nadim Mahassen, president of CWUR, said: “For the 2017 edition of the rankings, 27,770 degree-granting institutions of higher education worldwide were evaluated, among which the top 1,000 research-intensive institutions received rankings based on eight objective indicators covering education, alumni employment, and research.”

Mahassen added: “It is fantastic to see the UAE represented among the world’s best in education and research. More funding for research will increase the country’s competitiveness on the global stage.

“This year, 61 countries — more than ever before — feature in the top 1,000 list, which represents the top 3.7 per cent of degree-granting institutions of higher education globally. The US remains the dominant force in higher education worldwide, claiming the top three spots, eight of the top 10, and 54 of the top 100. It leads with 225 universities represented in the top 1,000, followed by China (97), Japan (71), the UK (65), and Germany (57).”

Other Arab universities that appear in this year’s rankings are King Saud University, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, and King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals from Saudi Arabia, American University of Beirut from Lebanon, and Cairo University, Ain Shams University, Alexandria University, and Mansoura University from Egypt.

The rankings show Harvard is the world’s leading university for the sixth consecutive year.

DECLUTTER YOUR HOME AND JOIN THE DUBAI FLEA MARKET

Dubai: If you’re in the habit of decluttering your home and want to make some extra cash, then you can rent out a table at the Dubai Flea Market’s next event on October 27, at Al Barsha Pond Park.

The market, which takes place every Friday and Saturday all year round in different locations around Dubai, allows residents to sell and buy second-hand items — from home appliances, furniture, textile, electrical equipment and ceramics, to toys, games, books, DVDs, clothes, antiques and accessories.

The Dubai Flea Market was introduced in April 2008 when the first public Second Hand Market took place at Al Safa Park. “Since then, we kept on growing and expanding the Dubai Flea Market concept into different areas and communities around Dubai,” Melanie Beese, founder of the Flea Market concept, told Gulf News.

She pointed out the market has a summer season, which takes place at Zabeel Park and Jumeirah Lake Towers during the night hours from May to September, and a winter season, which takes place during the day time in several venues from October to April. The first market in the winter season took place at Jumeirah Lake Towers Park on Friday.

Along with the two locations, the flea markets also take place in Barsha Pond Park, Al Nahda Pond Park, and Dubai Motor City — with more locations to be announced soon.

Beese described the Dubai Flea Market as an event “with different facets”.

It supports the ‘Dubai Goes Green’ initiative, as people participating at the market are selling used belongings instead of throwing them — while making some cash at the same time.

“People at the flea market can easily socialise. The laid-back atmosphere invites people from different cultures to chat and interact with each other, even making new friends,” said Beese.

She pointed out that over the past nine years, the market has developed a strong community where everyone knows each other, forming a Flea Market family.

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