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UAE growth to accelerate in 2018

The UAE economy is geared to grow at an accelerated pace at 3.9 per cent in 2018, the Ministry of Economy said on Tuesday. Citing a forecast by the UAE Central Bank, Abdullah Al Saleh, Undersecretary for Foreign Trade at the Ministry of Economy, said government investment in infrastructure projects and growth in foreign trade would spur gross domestic product (GDP) growth in 2018. He was speaking at the UAE Economic Outlook Forum. The fifth edition of the forum, organised by Departments of Economic Development in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, focused on the role of foreign direct investment and trade in encouraging innovation and productivity.

In December, the UAE Central Bank estimated GDP growth in 2017 at only 1.6 per cent, partly because of cuts in oil output under a global deal among producers. This year, oil output is not expected to be cut further.

In October, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) projected the UAE economy would grow 3.4 per cent in 2018 while overall GCC growth is poised to rebound to 2.2 per cent.

The UAE’s non-oil private sector ended 2017 on a strong note with business conditions improving at the sharpest pace in 34 months in December.

“Steep expansions in output, new orders alongside solid export demand growth underpinned the most recent upturn. In terms of inflation, input cost pressures softened during December, while selling prices fell for the fourth month running,” Emirates NBD said in a recent report.

Analysts believe that while diversification will better place the UAE to entrench itself from further volatility in oil fortunes, a five per cent value-added tax introduced from January will help boost state revenues by Dh12 billion.

A joint report by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales and Oxford Economics said after outpacing the rest of the GCC in economic growth in 2017, the UAE is set to almost double its expansion rate in 2018. According to the report, the UAE will record an accelerated growth in 2018 to 3.6 per cent from 1.7 per cent in 2017. The momentum will further gain pace in 2019 to post 3.6 per cent growth.

According to the IMF, while consumer price inflation in the UAE will edge up slightly from 2.1 per cent in 2017 to 2.9 per cent in 2018, the UAE will record current account balance at 2.1 per cent this year and next.

Most forecasts show that Abu Dhabi’s GDP growth is expected to pick up in 2017 to 3.9 per cent and 4.7 per cent in 2018 – outpacing the overall UAE’s GDP growth rates over the same period respectively.

UAE leads growth path

The World Bank predicted that the global economy would grow 3.1 per cent this year – best showing in seven years – as the UAE is poised to rebound with a 3.1 per cent upswing in 2018.

The pace of world growth was expected to moderate to three per cent in 2019 and 2.9 per cent in 2020, the Washington-based bank said in its latest forecast, which it described as a clarion call for public action to prevent growth from slowing.

The bank affirmed that the outlook for the global economy is better than expected – rather than worse – with all regions seeing improved growth.

“The global economy is set to expand by 3.1 per cent in 2018, slightly up from three per cent last year and marking the first year since the 2008 Great Recession that it will near or achieve full growth potential.”

“A broad-based cyclical global recovery is underway, aided by a rebound in investment and trade, against the backdrop of benign financing conditions, generally accommodative policies, improved confidence, and the dissipating impact of the earlier commodity price collapse. Global growth is expected to be sustained over the next couple of years – and even accelerate somewhat in emerging market and developing economies thanks to a rebound in commodity exporters,” the bank said.

The 189-nation lending organisation cautioned about some risks it sees to the international economy.

While the UAE will be growing at the fastest pace among the GCC countries, in the Middle East and North Africa, the growth is forecast to pick up over the medium term, as reforms across the region gain momentum and as fiscal adjustments ease amid a projected rise in oil prices, the bank said.

In Mena, improved competitiveness and external conditions are expected to further support growth in oil importers. Key risks to the regional outlook are tilted to the downside, including continued geopolitical conflicts and weakness in oil prices,” the bank said.

The forecast said China, the world’s second-largest economy, would grow 6.4 per cent this year. And it foresees growth of 2.1 per cent in the eurozone.

In India, GDP growth is expected to reach 7.3 per cent in 2018 before strengthening slightly in 2019-20 to 7.5 per cent, the World Bank projected.

The United States saw a smaller upgrade to 2.3 per cent last year and 2.2 per cent this year, while Japan rebounded to 1.7 per cent in 2017 and an expected 1.3 percent this year.

The fastest-growing region in the world is East Asia and the Pacific, according to the report.

In poorer countries in Africa, Latin America, the Middle East and Asia, economic growth is expected to expand to 5.4 per cent in 2018 as commodity prices firm but not as much as previously expected.

10,000 women to drive taxis in Saudi Arabia

Ride hailing applications in Saudi Arabia are preparing to hire Saudi female chauffeurs, months ahead of lifting a ban that prevents women from driving or owning driving licenses in the country, a CNN report said.

The ride hailing applications Uber and Careem recruited their first female drivers in Saudi Arabia, after the Kingdom announced plans to lift the ban on women driving by June 2018.

Female customers currently represent 80 per cent of Uber’s Saudi rider base and 70 per cent of business for its Dubai-based counterpart Careem, according to statistics shared with CNN by both companies.

The apps are a lifeline to women with no independent way to get around the Kingdom.

All drivers employed by the two firms are male — mostly Saudi nationals driving their privately-owned vehicles.

Following the ground-breaking royal decree that announced plans to lift the ban on women driving in September 2017, both companies have been preparing to hire their first female drivers.


Nakheel, AccorHotels sign agreement for ibis hotel at Jumeirah village circle

Nakheel and AccorHotels have signed a management agreement for ibis Dubai Jumeirah Village Circle, further strengthening their strategic partnership for Dubai hospitality projects.

The agreement was signed by Nakheel chairman, Ali Rashid Lootah, and Olivier Granet, MD and chief operating officer for AccorHotels Middle East & Africa, and is the third collaboration between the two companies. A month ago, Raffles was announced as the brand for the luxury hotel and residences at Palm 360 on Palm Jumeirah, and Nakheel’s 251-room hotel at Dragon Mart, which opened in 2016, is also managed by AccorHotels, under the ibis Styles brand.

Located inside the eastern edge of the sprawling Jumeirah Village Circle community, the 252-room ibis hotel will provide an economy hospitality offering, with an all-day restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating, café, fitness centre, meeting room and car park. The hotel will span 126,000 square feet across 16 floors, and is expected to open in 2021.

Saudi royal handouts to cost about SR50 billion

A package of handouts to Saudi Arabian citizens to compensate them for cost of living increases will cost the government about SR50 billion ($13.3 billion) this year, the information minister was quoted as saying on Sunday.

“The allocation of SR50 billion for this decree indicates the leadership’s concern for the people’s comfort and quality of living,” Minister of Culture and Information Awwad bin Saleh Alawwad told the Saudi-owned Al Sharq Al Awsat newspaper.

On Saturday, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Salman bin Abdulaziz ordered a monthly payment of SR1,000 to state employees over the year in compensation for the rising cost of living after Riyadh hiked gasoline prices and introduced value-added tax. Pensioners and soldiers will also be given bonuses, while the government will bear the cost of VAT in some situations, such as the first purchase of a home.

Alawwad also repeated previous government statements indicating Riyadh would spend SR30 billion this year on the Citizens Account, a household allowance scheme designed to reduce the impact of austerity policies on low and middle-income Saudi families.

Saudi Arabia, the world’s top oil exporter, roughly doubled domestic gasoline prices last week as part of reforms aimed at diversifying its economy. A five per cent VAT on a broad range of goods and services came into effect on the same day.

DH68.5m my city centre mall now open in RAK

The emirate of Ras Al Khaimah now has its first ‘My City Centre’ at Al Dhait area, offering over 30 regional and international brands under one roof.

The new destination, under Majid Al Futtaim, caters for everyday dining, lifestyle and retail needs of Ras Al Khaimah’s fastest-growing communities.

Ghaith Shocair, chief executive officer of Shopping Malls at Majid Al Futtaim Properties, said that they will deliver a diverse retail offering in an accessible location within the expanding residential areas of Ras Al Khaimah.

“My City Centre Al Dhait will address the daily needs of visitors and the increasing number of tourists in the country’s Northern Emirates,” he said, adding that the Dh68.5 million mall has a gross leasable area of 5,494 square metres. “My City Centre Al Dhait is the third in the UAE, a neighbourhood shopping and dining destination created specifically for nearby residential and commercial communities.”

Dubai chamber to host Latin America forum in February

The Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry has announced that it will organise and host the secondnd Global Business Forum (GBF) on Latin America in Dubai on February 27-28, 2018.

Held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, the two-day forum brings together top-level decision makers, including heads of state, ministers, dignitaries, prominent CEOs, heads of private banks, sovereign wealth funds, private equity firms, business leaders, and entrepreneurs from the UAE, GCC, Latin America and beyond.

The event will be held under the theme ‘Connect – Collaborate – Grow’, and will provide a unique opportunity to listen to global thought leaders engage in inspirational, thought-provoking, and future-focused dialogues that shape the future of governments and business. Sessions during the forum will highlight key factors fuelling Latin America’s growth, explore potential to build new partnerships between the UAE and Latin America, and examine trade and investment opportunities that are opening up as the global economy evolves.

Whatsapp testing ‘demote’ feature for group admins

WhatsApp is reportedly testing a new button in group chats that will allow one administrator to “demote” other administrators, without first deleting them from the group and then adding again as normal participants.

Right now, when an administrator wants to remove a fellow administrator from the post, it is required to first directly remove the concerned administrator from the group and then add him or her again.

According to WABetaInfo, a fan site that tests new WhatsApp features early, the new option, present in the Group Info section as “Dismiss as admin”, allows an administrator to dismiss another one without removing him or her from the group. WhatsApp is testing the feature both for iOS as well as Android. “At present, WhatsApp is developing this feature for iOS and it will be available soon for all users, instead for Android it is already enabled by default in the newest WhatsApp Google Play beta for Android 2.18.12,” the report added.

The Facebook-owned app is also likely to give group administrators more powers where they would be able to restrict all other members from sending text messages, photographs, videos, GIFs, documents or voice messages.

Emirates, FlyDubai launch more connections in 2018

Emirates and flydubai will offer travellers even more connectivity and flight options in 2018, with new codeshare flights planned to Krakow in Poland from April 8, and Catania in Italy from June 13.

Both Dubai-based airlines currently offer customers a breadth of travel options across their complementary networks, with codeshares to 81 destinations and more to follow. The partnership initially began with codeshare flights to 29 cities, and this has quickly expanded to meet demand as customers realise the benefits of increased flight frequencies, expanded access to global destinations on a single ticket, the convenience of checking in their baggage through to the final destination, smooth transfers during transit in Dubai, and more.

In the two months since the first codeshare flights took off on October 29, over 165,000 passengers have benefited from the partnership. Emirates and flydubai will continue to offer travel experiences reflecting their individual brands. For bookings under the codeshare, Emirates passengers will receive complimentary meals and the Emirates checked baggage allowance on flights operated by flydubai in Business and Economy class.

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