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GULF STATES: ECONOMICS & FINANCE
Over 11m pieces of fine chocolate fly on Emirates every year

Every year, at least 11 million pieces of gourmet chocolate are sourced from around the world to be served in Emirates’ premium cabins, in addition to a variety of chocolate desserts and treats in all classes. These sweet treats complete the Emirates fine dining experience prepared by award-winning chefs.

In First and Business Class, Emirates lets its customers sample pralines and bonbons from 8 gourmet chocolatiers from 6 chocolate loving nations, the airline said in a statement.

The brands were selected to give Emirates customers a variety of premium chocolates from around the world including local home-grown brands from the UAE, where the airline is based. Each chocolate brand is on board for 3 months before a new selection is introduced to delight frequent flyers.

GCC gold market to benefit as India set to hike import duty

The shine of gold and jewellery markets in the GCC is to get added sparkle in the form of increased demand from Indian expatriates going on summer vacation following a proposal in the Indian budget to increase custom duty on gold and other precious metals from 10 per cent to 12.5 per cent.

“The proposal to increase the custom duty on gold and precious metals will spike gold prices in India, where prices are already at multi-year highs on the back of a weak rupee and higher international prices. However for Gold markets in the GCC, it will prove to be an unexpected boon during the holiday season,” said Joy Alukka, Chairman of Joyallukkas Jewellery Group.

Alukka said in India gold attracts a GST of three per cent. The proposal to hike the impart duty from 10 per cent to 12.5 per cent will there bode bad for India’s jewellery trade and buyers alike.

Fish price hike sting residents

This summer, a number of residents have had to give up their favourite fish dishes, as prices of fish are reportedly rising and stocks are plummeting.

“Over the past six months, we’ve noticed a considerable increase in the price of certain types of fish and seafood. As a result, we’ve had to swap our favourites with other types of fish, or just add in more vegetables and chicken meat into our diet,” said Dubai resident Myra Fernandes.

Usually, price-conscious residents would drive their way to the wholesale fish market even if supermarkets are nearby. However, with the market prices rising, some said they now opt to buy goods from the grocery.

Marilyn Sajol, a Sharjah resident, said: “We regularly buy seabream, milk fish, salmon, tilapia and squid in the market. But since the prices of these items have increased, we have reduced our fish market trips from four to just two trips every week.”

Traders are saying the price hike can be associated with the summer season.

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Dubai holding outlines six-month growth plan

Dubai Holding said on Thursday that its focus for the rest of the year would continue to be on achieving strong financial success “underpinned by the performance of its recurring income business, delivery of existing pipeline projects and executing prudent operational efficiency.”

“With Expo 2020 around the corner, we look forward to Dubai Holding playing an important role in this landmark event, and welcoming millions of visitors to the emirate,” said the diversified company with a presence in over 10 countries.

Dubai Holding’s companies include Jumeirah Group, Tecom Group, Dubai Properties, Dubai Asset Management, Arab Media Group, and Dubai Retail.

On the company’s performance in the first half of 2019, Abdulla Al Habbai, Chairman of Dubai Holding, said the group continues to deliver on the vision of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, to further position the emirate as a preeminent business and leisure destination.

UAE-India bilateral trade reaches $60b in 2018-19

The UAE has become India’s third largest trading partner after the US and China as bilateral trade hit $60 billion during financial year 2018-19, said Navdeep Singh Suri, Ambassador of India to the UAE.

While addressing a forum in Dubai, the ambassador said that exports from India to UAE totalled $30.2 billion while exports from the UAE to India reached $29.8 billion. He was of the view that the numbers are poised to grow significantly in coming years.

Bilateral trade between the UAE and India had grown from $52 billion in 2017 to $57 billion in late 2018. The two nations have set $100 billion trade target by 2020

The ambassador noted that trade is growing satisfactorily but called for an increase in bilateral investments. “Investment side is something that I worry about. Trade has been rising but let us get the investment moving as well. Now is good time to look at India as it has moved up 65 places in ease of doing business space in the last three years. No country has moved up that much that fast,” Suri said.

 

Salam Air launches three weekly flights from Abu Dhabi to Salalah

Abu Dhabi International Airport has welcomed three weekly flights between Abu Dhabi and Salalah, the holiday destination on the south coast of Oman.

The inaugural flight operated by the Omani airline, Salam Air, commenced on Tuesday and will continue running until September 7, allowing travellers from the UAE to visit Salalah.

Speaking of the seasonal arrangement, Chief Commercial Officer of Abu Dhabi Airports, Maarten De Groof, said: “Salalah is an ever popular destination for those in the UAE seeking a cooler and nature driven destination during the summer months. With Salam Air, travellers looking to visit the Omani destination will be able to take advantage of three weekly cost-effective flights.”

“We also look forward to welcoming travellers from the south of Oman to the city of Abu Dhabi, and sharing with them the wide range of cultural, entertainment and retail destinations the city has to offer,” added De Groof.

Captain Mohamed Ahmed, CEO of Salam Air said, “Salalah is proving to be an extremely popular destination, with GCC residents in particular keen to escape the summer heat. Our new Abu Dhabi to Salalah flight operating three times a week will be a boon to UAE residents looking for the perfect staycation this summer, especially as Khareef [monsoon] season is now upon us.”

“In line with our expansion plans, we recently took delivery of our third A320neo aircraft, ensuring a more comfortable experience for our guests. Oman’s world-class aviation structure, with the new Muscat International Airport and Salalah International Airport, means key sectors such as tourism and aviation will be now driven forwards, this is key to boosting the Sultanate’s economic diversification strategy,” he added.

Outbound flights will depart on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, the flights will depart Abu Dhabi International Airport at 21:35 local time, landing in Salalah International Airport at 23:25 local time. Return flights will depart on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, leaving Salalah International Airport at 19:00 local time and landing in Abu Dhabi International Airport at 20:50 local time.

Happier times: Dubai unveils loyalty programme for govt services

Dubai will launch a loyalty programme for government services that will benefit residents, visitors and companies, with the aim of helping the emirate become the happiest city in the world.

“The Dubai Loyalty Programme is part of the 10X initiative, which is all about disruptive innovation and ideas whereby the emirate can retain businesses in Dubai. Slated to be operational in the first quarter of 2021, this programme will initially be launched by five government entities and later it will be expanded to all,” said Edris Ahmed Behzad, director of the Client Happiness Department at Dubai Customs.

“This unique loyalty programme will be adopted by all government entities. We will touch upon the life of each individual or a visitor to Dubai. We are at the early stage of this programme.”

Currently, the UAE government runs a loyalty programme for federal government employees called Imtiyazat, available in both Android and iOS platforms. Generally, a loyalty programme allows people to earn points on spending on services, which can be redeemed while also availing other services.

Meanwhile, Dubai Customs also reduced fees on export declaration by courier companies with effect from July 1.

“There will be no customs declaration fees on goods going through courier companies with a value of up to Dh3,000. However, declaration forms will still be submitted by the couriers. While Dh10 will be charged on export declarations on goods between Dh3,000 to Dh15,000 to help the e-commerce to grow faster in Dubai,” Behzad said.

Earlier, there was no fee on export declarations up to Dh1,000, but Dh120 fee was charged on declarations above this amount.

In addition, Dubai Customs is also launching a virtual stock guarantee for free zone companies and customs warehouses that utilise their standing guarantee – whether bank guarantee or cash – for their operations and expansion.

Instead, Dubai Customs will facilitate customers with virtual account which can be used in this kind of transactions which requires customs duty deposit, he said.

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Pension fund for UAE expats: why it’s necessary

Pension, retirement benefits, health insurance and gratuity all represent forms of compensating employees after several years of service. Although current labour legislations recognise the importance of mandatory end-of-service benefits (EOSB), there remains a need to create a pension fund that will ensure continued benefits for retiring employees, experts have said.

Lawyer Barney Almazar, a director at Gulf Law, said this is particularly important in the case of the UAE, where around 90 per cent of the workforce are expatriates.

“For an employee working in his or her own country, where the employer is mandated to contribute to one’s social security services, the employee may rely on the state for healthcare benefits. But for an expatriate – unless the person opts to contribute voluntarily to his home country pension fund – there is no secured source of income after retirement,” Almazar told.

“In this regard, a viable framework is geared towards prefunding. The company and the employee can both contribute to a retirement fund, including post-employment healthcare coverage,” he pointed out.

Almazar said employers can provide a graduated contribution during the employees’ working years. Contributions can be channelled into a trust fund. Then, upon retiring, employees can access the savings in their accounts.

“As majority of the workforce are expats, relevant investment and portability provisions should be in place, giving the employee the ability to manage their individual ‘savings’ accounts. This also minimises the risk of employers not having set aside enough money to pay for the promised benefits,” Almazar added.

Legal experts, financial analysts and medical professions also underlined that gratuities should not be considered as “a nice leaving bonus” because these are not sufficient to cover an employee’s retirement expenses.

Prasanth Manghat, CEO and executive director of NMC Health, said: “Majority of UAE residents depend on their end-of-service gratuity payment to fund their retirement, and the new system stands to help fund the retirement gap between the gratuity payment and retirement costs. Such plans would also provide support for an individual’s healthcare needs during his or her twilight years.”

Early this year, the UAE government has announced that it will enhance and improve the end-of-service gratuity scheme.

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