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70% RESIDENTS NOT AWARE OF ‘FINANCIAL GOALS’

Around 70 per cent of the UAE residents are not sure what steps to take to achieve their financial goals, says a new survey released on Monday. The Financial Planning Survey, conducted by investment firm National Bonds, said nearly half – 53 per cent – were most interested in receiving advice relating to retirement planning.

This was the case across the 4 audience segments surveyed including Arab (53 per cent), Asian (57 per cent) and Western (64 per cent) expats. UAE Nationals, however, were more concerned with advice pertaining to financial health (48 per cent) followed closely by retirement planning (41 per cent).

“It is not surprising to see retirement planning is a key concern for UAE residents. While people save for a multitude of reasons including weddings and travel, retirement planning is unavoidable. This is why this campaign is so important, it is absolutely vital people understand what it is that is preventing them from saving so they can overcome it. The next step is to create a savings goal and put a plan in place to achieve it,” said Mohammed Qasim Al Ali, CEO of National Bonds.

The UAE has become a dream destination for many, but the transient nature of the emirates makes it easy for residents to forget about saving. Lured by the tax-free salaries, many expatriates move with every intention of putting money away each month, but as with all good intentions, this is often quickly replaced by the desire to enjoy everything the market has to offer.

MEDIA’S TECHNOLOGY ADAPTATION IS NATIONAL DUTY

Adapting to technology has become a national duty to bridge gaps that enemies can use in distorting the country’s image, a UAE minister has said.

Speaking at the Emirati Media Forum, Dr Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, Minister of State and Chairman of the Board of the National Media Council, said a strong media infrastructure needs to be formed to deliver messages internally before moving to communicating the country’s image abroad.

He said as the media proved successful in adjusting and dealing with the latest tough changes and conflicts, the focus should now be on smart content and empowering the youth who can adjust best with technology.

“The situation now has changed and it isn’t as it was before. We have to adjust to changes or else there will be a gap through which enemies of progress can get to us through. We have to fill this gap ourselves,” said Al Jaber.

The media, he said, has played an integral role in reflecting the country’s progress and its contribution to the war in Yemen.

He emphasised that news agencies must adopt innovation in its form and picture and give tools to empower the youth as to create strong and maintain strong infrastructure.

“The youth are more capable than anyone in grasping technology. As media agencies, I cannot stress enough how important it is for us to provide them with the tools to empower and help them excel in what they do,” said Al Jaber.

He noted that for the media to deliver its messages globally, education and awareness need to be spread to ensure the correct message of the UAE’s progress is delivered. That is why, he said, media needs to focus on innovation in stating the facts to different cultures and languages before moving globally.

Al Jaber emphasised that the UAE media succeeded in uniting with neighbouring countries to combat extremism and terrorism and fight hatred speeches through its traditional and new platforms.

“Our response to the past challenges has been quick, credible and transparent, and it wouldn’t have happened if we didn’t work together as one unified team that was quick to step on its feet during crises,” said Al Jaber. “This is a step we need to keep and take forward when adjusting to the fast-paced changes.”

And while integrating media platforms is essential, Al Jaber emphasised that diversity is a critical success factor that makes media reflect the country’s progress.

COMING SOON, AN E-BUS FOR UAE SCHOOLCHILDREN

Emirates Transport (ET) has launched the final phase of testing for the first electric battery-powered school bus in the region.

The 45-seater bus, manufactured in cooperation with the Shanghai Sunwin Bus Cooperation, is dubbed as “one of the first projects of its kind worldwide”.

Speaking at the launch ceremony, Mohammed Abdullah Al Jarman, general manager of Emirates Transport, said: “The launch of a zero emission school bus comes as part of our efforts to achieve the government’s vision for a green economy and puts the UAE in the forefront of such initiatives, regionally and globally.”

The bus will operate in accordance with the specifications and regulations of school transport in force in the country. In addition to the usual structural safety tests, the bus underwent operational tests for three months, followed by several preliminary operational tests in the UAE. The series of tests will be concluded in the coming period under climatic and operational conditions similar to the usual conditions during the school year.

During the pilot phase, the bus will operate on full routes in conditions that accurately simulate the normal school bus’s daily journeys and daily operating conditions.

Amer Al Harmoudi, executive director of ET’s auto services division, said one of the most important technical factors during the manufacturing phase was adjusting the efficiency of the air conditioning system to suit the specific climatic conditions in the country and the nature of operation in school transport. In terms of supporting infrastructure, there will be two fully integrated bus power stations, one at Al Naboodah Group Enterprises (ANGE), and the other at the Emirates Transport bus terminal. The current system is capable of fully charging the bus batteries in just four hours.

Fadil Atallah, manager of ET’s technical development department, said the current distance travelled by the bus is 100km, and that is under harsh and optimum operating conditions; the distance travelled under normal operating conditions is 150km.

NO CHANGE IN EXPAT DEPENDENTS’ FEE: SAUDI ARABIA

Denying social media reports, the Saudi Ministry of Finance stated on their website that there will be no changes in fee on expat dependents. “Expatriate dependent fee will remain as was announced earlier. No amendments have been introduced,” the ministry clarified in the statement.

The statement also mentioned that no announcement regarding any postponement of dependent fee has been made nor the Ministry has issued any statements in this connection.

The Finance Ministry appealed to all media to refrain from blindly following social media reports and stated that only the official channels should be considered in receiving statements and publishing them. Also, any such information that is not announced officially should be verified with the Ministry.

ONLINE TICKETS FOR LOUVRE OPENING SOLD OUT, BUT THERE’S HOPE

Come 11/11, the world will get to ‘see humanity in a new light’! After more than a decade of waiting, when Louvre Abu Dhabi finally opens its doors to public on November 11, the day will go down in history as the capital city’s gleaming tribute to the evolution of art spanning the entirety of human life.

Rising from the sandy shores of Saadiyat Island, and housed under the ‘rain of light dome’, the Arab world’s own Louvre will entice and inspire generations of art lovers, much like the famed Mona Lisa preserved inside a climate-controlled, bulletproof glass frame at the original Musee du Louvre in Paris, France.

As the countdown begins, with just four days to go for the world to catch its first glimpse of Louvre Abu Dhabi, online entry tickets are already sold out.

According to the museum’s helpline, around 4,000 tickets have already been bought online for the much-anticipated opening.

To cater to the demand, Louvre management said 1,000 more tickets will be available on the day at the museum’s entrance.

Abu Dhabi residents who have seen the making of the spectacular structure that appears like a floating galaxy on the shores of Gulf waters are eager to step into the ‘universal museum’ in their hometown.

“I cannot wait to get in to the museum. It will be like a moment I have waited forever,” said long-time Abu Dhabi resident Claire Richard from Australia.

Resident artist couple B’lu and Ashvin said it was special to watch Louvre rise right in front of their eyes as they drove past the Saadiyat each time.

“We live just 15 minutes away from Louvre. When they first lit the roof during this Ramadan, it was simply spectacular – like a new moon rising from the ocean,” said B’lu.

Sven Hagenberg from Germany said he would definitely visit Louvre Abu Dhabi. “I am looking forward to it. I think it is a great opportunity for Abu Dhabi to present its soft power,” said Hagenberg.

TRUMP PRAISES SAUDI CORRUPTION CRACKDOWN, VOICES CONFIDENCE IN KING, CROWN PRINCE

US President Donald Trump on Monday endorsed a move by Saudi Arabia’s future king that tightened his grip on power through the arrests of royals, ministers, and investors in an anti-corruption purge.

The endorsement cemented a US-Saudi relationship that has improved dramatically under Trump’s presidency, partly because of both leaders’ vision of confronting Riyadh’s arch-rival Iran more aggressively in the region.

Trump tweeted on Monday that he had “great confidence in King Salman and the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia” following the mass arrests – the biggest such purge of the kingdom’s affluent elite in its modern history.

Trump also tweeted that “they know exactly what they are doing,” adding: “Some of those they are harshly treating have been ‘milking’ their country for years.”

The purge was the latest in a series of dramatic steps by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, or MbS as he is commonly referred to in Western circles, to assert Saudi influence internationally and amass more power for himself at home.

A US official who declined to be named told Reuters that MbS “has become the primary driver of Saudi policy-making. He has moved aggressively to sideline opponents, concentrate decision-making authority, and establish himself as the undisputed heir to the al Saud legacy.”

“He seeks to reinvigorate the public’s confidence in the Saudi monarchy by diversifying the economy, loosening religious restrictions, and carrying out wide-ranging social reforms,” the official said.

Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, the president’s senior adviser, who has cultivated a close relationship with MbS, recently returned from Saudi Arabia, fuelling speculation on whether he may have had wind of MbS’ plans.

The White House said at the time the trip was reported that it was within the context of Kushner’s efforts on Israeli-Palestinian peace conversations.

Among those arrested were billionaire investor Alwaleed bin Talal, who is one of the kingdom’s most prominent businessmen and whose investments in companies like Twitter make him the most recognized Saudi name on Wall Street.

“It’s an impressive feat to have basically neutered virtually all of the sources of potential opposition, dissent rivalry, whether it’s religious, media, political, military,” said Rob Malley, vice president for policy of the International Crisis Group.

“On the other hand… it’s always risky to make too many enemies at the same time. It’s not clear how those enemies can react,” said Malley, a former senior adviser on Middle East affairs under President Barack Obama.

Also detained was Prince Miteb bin Abdullah, who was replaced as minister of the National Guard, a pivotal power base rooted in the kingdom’s tribes. That recalled a palace coup in June that ousted Mohammed bin Nayef as heir to the throne.

A former senior U.S. intelligence official cautioned that given the National Guard’s loyalties, MbS could face a backlash.

DUBAI GARDEN GLOW: EDUTAINMENT IS THE MANTRA

There’s an epic scale that’s awe-inspiring to behold when encountering Dubai Garden Glow. The new season brings a unique experience where the real and the fantastical converge, where history fuses with innovation under a veneer of bright lights and ice.

The park trail brings a strong and distinct message of global warming and the stance we need to take to preserve our natural heritage.

There is no question that the new season of Dubai Garden Glow isn’t only an entertainment hub, it re-defines edutainment. Edutainment might sound like a mythical being but the result brings rich delights and profound learning. Education isn’t fun enough and entertainment isn’t serious enough. However, Dubai Garden Glow aligns these two and created the most unique experience for children and adults alike.

According to scriptures the universe was created in 7 days but it took 100 days to build the glow-in-the-dark park. More than 500 talented artists from around the world, approximately 10 million LED lights, and yards of recycled luminous fabric were utilized to create handmade artistic structures. During the day, you can view the extensive and minute details on each artistic venture. By night, the entire place glows. Several themes are showcased in the section, ranging from underwater wonderland, journey down Happiness Street, to My Dubai art installations.

SAUDI BANKS FREEZE ACCOUNTS OF SUSPECTS DETAINED IN PROBE

Saudi Arabian banks have begun freezing the accounts of suspects ensnared in an anti-corruption probe, banking and business sources told Reuters on Monday.

Dozens of people including royals, ministers and businessmen have been detained in an investigation by a new anti-corruption body headed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The central bank ordered banks to freeze the accounts of people under investigation in the probe, the sources said, declining to be named because he was not authorised to talk to media.

Two of the sources said the number of accounts affected could run into hundreds, but none of the sources mentioned the names of those affected.

“The freezing of accounts has already happened,” said another source. “The freezing is a precautionary measure that will end as soon as the suspects are either charged or pronounced innocent.”

A central bank spokesman was not immediately available to comment.

Eleven princes, four ministers and tens of former ministers are among those arrested, including billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, Saudi Arabia’s best-known international investor, according to Saudi officials.

The new anti-corruption committee has the power to seize assets at home and abroad before the results of its investigations are known.

RUNNING WITH THE BULLS: UAE POISED FOR GROWTH

A majority of UAE-based CEOs – about 70 per cent – are bullish on the UAE economy thanks to a strong infrastructure, a stable political environment, an increasingly stronger inflow ahead of Dubai Expo 2020 and diversification policies embarked upon by the government, according to the latest quarterly CEO Sentiment Survey conducted.

Around 25 per cent of the respondents believe the economy will remain stable while 5 per cent have a bearish outlook over the next six months.

Rizwan Sajan, chairman of Danube Group, is bullish on the country’s economic prospects on the back of its strategic location as a trading hub for re-exports, well-developed infrastructure, openness and transparency, politically stable environment, investment acceleration because of the build-up for Expo 2020, the rise in tourism and the timely introduction of value-added tax (VAT) and excise duties, which would diversify government revenues.

“I have always been bullish on the UAE economy. Currently, the UAE economy is the most versatile and dynamic economy as well as one of the largest national economies in the Arab world. The leaders have been truly visionary and have created a world-class infrastructure which ensures collective growth of all businesses,” he says.

Nawab Shaji ul Mulk, chairman of Mulk Holdings International, cites the policies introduced by Dubai’s government as key factors driving the country’s growth.

“I am quite bullish on the prospects for the UAE economy. Expo 2020, the growing UAE-India economic ties as announced recently at the forum in Dubai, policies of the government – all these will factors will contribute to boost the economy,” he says.

Global financial institutions have projected stronger growth for the UAE next year compared to 2017, with Euromonitor International and Moody’s Analytics forecasting 4.4 and 3.8 per cent, respectively, while both the IMF and Emirates NBD foresee 3.4 per cent growth. Citigroup and the World Bank have predicted 3.3 and 2.5 per cent GDP growth for the UAE, respectively.

Interestingly, most business minds that source picked for the survey are happy with the implementation of VAT as it diversifies UAE government’s revenue sources.

Most maintain that the prospect of VAT-imposition will boost consumption in pre-VAT months while consumption may get temporarily impacted once VAT is imposed.

“The first half is going to be a bit dull due to impact of VAT but will pick up in the second half,” believes Deepak J. Babani, CEO of Eros Group. “In addition, Expo 2020, improving global equity markets, increased tourist numbers to Dubai and higher oil price augur well for the economy. Oil is trading around $60 a barrel, and if it sustains this level, spending in the GCC should improve,” he adds.

Shailesh Dash, founder and board member at Al Masah Capital, said regional economies are recovering from lower crude price. As the confidence of retail investors improves and the spending cycle starts, the UAE’s economy will be on a much stronger footing and will see faster growth, he maintains.

Dash points out that recovery in crude prices, increased construction activity and public spending, growing consumer confidence and growth in non-oil economy will make the executives and investors bullish on the economy.

Nearly 75 per cent of UAE companies that participated in the KT survey say they will fully pass on VAT to consumers while the remaining 25 per cent will do it partially once it is implemented on January 1, 2018.

According to the survey, conducted over August and September 2017, 76 per cent of companies were not fully ready for VAT at the time of responding, but were confident of meeting the deadline. The remaining 24 claimed that they were ready ahead of the rollout of VAT.

Barring certain sectors and services, the UAE government has announced the imposition of a 5 per cent VAT – one of the lowest VAT rates in the world – on a host of goods and services as part of the GCC agreement.

“I think the benefits will outweigh short-term inconvenience as the economy continues maturing and the tax will allow continued government spending in infrastructures, while generating moderate level of inflation,” says David Godchaux, CEO of Core Savills.

He noted that smaller businesses that see their services/goods exempt from VAT will obviously be the most impacted, as they will have to absorb the whole VAT passed from their suppliers as non-recoverable cost increase. “As 5 per cent remains a moderate rate, I expect a lot of them to pass a partial to full amount of their cost increase to their customer,” he adds.

Results of the KT survey show that 86 per cent of companies that responded are looking to hire during the fourth quarter of 2017 while just while 14 per cent said they don’t plan to recruit in the current quarter.

Colm McLoughlin, CEO of Dubai Duty Free, revealed that the company plans to recruit additional staff in the fourth quarter including local hires and overseas, particularly, Chinese nationals.

Replying to a query about the outlook for crude prices, a majority – 37 per cent – of respondents believe that oil prices will be $50 or lower over the next few months. Around 26 per cent of executives forecast oil will be trading over $60 per barrel while 21 per cent see it priced at $60 or below. Around 16 per cent see it trading around $40 or lower per barrel.

Michael Lahyani, founder and CEO of Propertyfinder Group, says new suppliers and advanced technology, which makes shale oil economically feasible at much lower prices than in the past, are effectively capping oil prices. This, combined with improving technologies and demand for electric-powered cars, make $100-plus per barrel very unlikely within the next five years, if ever.

Most respondents see online as the best platform to advertise, followed by social media, outdoor, print, radio and TV.

Approximately 39 per cent of companies believe social media and online offer best returns to their businesses. These were followed by print and outdoor media with 34 per cent, followed by TV and radio at 27 per cent.

McLoughlin said: “We are constantly reviewing our print, digital and outdoor media including social media. The media scene is changing and we need to be seen in most of the forms.”

Walid Hanna, CEO of MEVP, said digital and social media are among the most important elements of a marketing campaign in today’s increasingly digital world. These channels represent a more cost-effective way of reaching a far wider audience, they have a higher rate of converting into sales, and they allow brands to interact with consumers in real-time, leading to higher customer retention.

Around 70 per cent of executives revealed in the survey that they shifted budget to online advertising from print, digital and outdoor in the last quarter. The remaining said there was no shift in their budget allocations.

“For the first time this year, our social and digital marketing budget exceeds our more traditional print budget, reflecting this gradual change of priorities,” said Godchaux.

UAE NON-OIL SECTOR GROWS AS MORALE HITS FIVE-MONTH HIGH

Non-oil activity in the UAE accelerated in October, supported by a surge in new export orders and a gain in output as firms became more optimistic about the next year.

According to Emirates NBD’s Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) for October, the fourth-quarter started on a stronger note as the index rose to 55.9 in October as against 55.1 in the previous month with business confidence index hitting five months high.

“Despite the pressure on margins, firms were much more optimistic in October about the coming 12 months, with the business confidence index reaching a five-month high of 61.2,” Khatija Haque, head of Mena research, Emirates NBD, said in the note released on Sunday.

Global financial institutions including International Monetary Fund, Moody’s Analytics and Euromonitor International have predicted stronger UAE growth for next year as compared to this year.

The headline purchasing managers’ index indicates a faster rate of expansion in the UAE’s non-oil economy than over the same period last year mainly due to increased government spending – particularly on infrastructure – as well as greater confidence on the back of higher oil prices, the bank said in its monthly PMI note.

Employment increased in October at a similar rate to September, but the overall rate of job growth remains modest with the index at 51.3 last month. But staff costs were also only marginally higher in October.

Among sub-indices, output index rose to 60.5 while the new orders index modestly increased to 59.9 in October as compared to previous month.

The strong growth in output and new orders reflects robust demand, according to the survey respondents.

However, demand has been supported by continued promotional activities and price discounting by firms. Output prices declined in October at the fastest rate in more than seven-and-a-half years.

Haque said the improvement in non-oil sector growth will probably be offset by lower crude oil production, in line with Opec-agreed production cuts. “We retain our forecast of real GDP growth of two per cent in the UAE this year,” she said in the note.

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