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Egypt to launch tender for airport expansion

Egyptian Airports Company (EAC) is preparing a tender for the expansion of Sharm El Sheikh International airport, said a report.

EAC plans to expand terminal 2 and increase its capacity by two million passengers per year, thus taking the total capacity of the airport to 9.5 million, reported Daily News Egypt, citing a source.

The Ministry of International Cooperation has signed a loan agreement worth $457 million with the Islamic Development Bank (EDB) for funding the development of the airport by adding a new passenger terminal, it stated.

This also includes the construction of a new runway with a width of 60 m for large aircraft and 40 new airsides.

The planned expansions would increase the airport’s capacity to 18 million passengers annually, the report added.

The government has agreed with the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) and the African Development Bank (AFDB) to finance the construction of a new terminal at Sharm El Sheikh International airport.

Egyptian developer Azmeel eyes GCC foray

Egyptian property developer Azmeel Group has announced plans to enter the lucrative Gulf property market with a major focus on tourism projects, said a report.

The Cairo-based group had recently developed Selena Bay project in Hurghada, one of the major leisure projects in Egypt, aimed at activating and promoting the country’s tourism industry, reported Amwal Alghad.

Egyptian real estate is one of the most powerful and active sectors attracting foreign investments, notably after the increase of dollar to the Egyptian pound, said the report, citing its chairman Ahmed Shaheen.

The group is boosting its presence with participation in several major projects and making promotional tours in Elite Real Estate Exhibitions' (Ereex 2016) editions in Qatar and Kuwait, stated the report.

Both were organised by Kuwaiti Eskan Group which is specialised in planning and managing international events, it added.

Bahrain to start work on $1bn medical city in June

Bahrain is set to start work on its $1-billion King Abdullah Medical City project in June. The mammoth project, to be operated by Arabian Gulf University, will employ more than 700 medical staff, said a report.

The Medical City will be a multiple phased mixed use development comprising academic and medical facilities, a research centre, on-site accommodation and other communal facilities to create a self-sustained campus.

Under the first phase, a 288-bed hospital supported by on-site staff housing and other communal facilities will be developed followed by the setting up of medical clinics, medical services building, specialized research centers in the prevailing diseases in the GCC region, including cancer, diabetes and obesity in the next phase, reported the BNA.

The completion of the development will see the capacity of the hospital increase to over 500 beds complete with academic school, research facility, medical hotel, rehabilitation hospital, on-site accommodation for both students and staff, it stated.

Tenders have already been invited for land clearing on Bahrain's east coast, where the new medical city will be located, reported the Gulf Daily News, our sister publication

Bahrain launches two new visas for 114 countries

Bahrain has launched a new single entry visa and one-year multiple reentry e-visa for a total of 114 countries including the GCC.

The new single entry visa will allow up to a two-week stay while the one-year multi-entry visa will allow for a stay period of up to 90 days.

Furthermore, Bahrain’s three month multiple reentry visa will now allow for a one month stay as opposed to the previous two weeks stay. Citizens of the US, Canada, UK and Ireland and holders of the five-year multiple reentry visa will also be able to stay for 90 days instead of 30.

The new visa changes is in line with Bahrain’s aim to become an accessible destination for leisure and business tourists, according to undersecretary of nationality, passport and residence affairs (NPRA) Shaikh Rashid Al Khalifa.

“These developments further aid Bahrain’s standing as a regional hub, which is why so many tourists and businesses are looking to the country as the ideal Middle East destination,” he said.

Visas to Bahrain can be applied for online via www.evisa.gov.bh while GCC citizens and the citizens of 67 countries can apply for visas on arrival.

Kuwait completes key studies on $3.3bn metro project

Kuwait has completed the initial studies on its ambitious metro project, which is estimated to cost KD1 billion ($3.3 billion), according to a report.

Work on the project, which is likely to see strong private participation, will begin in 2018 and is scheduled to be completed by 2023, reported Arab Times, citing a senior official.

Member of the board of directors at the Public Authority for Roads and Transportation Mohammed Al Hediba said a tender for consultancy firms will be raised within two months and the winning firm will oversee the evaluation of technical offers essential to the project.

The metro system was vital for the future of Kuwait, and also a key factor that will contribute to solving the traffic issue in the country, he added.

Saudi Arabia allocates land for Qunfudah airport

The Saudi government has allocated land for the new economic airport at Qunfudah in the north area of Makkah province, which will built on a Build to Order (BTO) system.

A team of airport planning engineers and Geomatics architects and surveyors for the General Directorate of Engineering Services Airport Sector at the General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) received the newly allocated site for the airport. Work will soon start on the planning and design of the project, it stated.

GACA said the move is in line with its plans to establish a new international airport in Taif region during the next phase, and an economic airport in Qunfuzah.

The new Taif airport will be considered the new gateway for Haj and Umrah and is consistent with the kingdom vision 2030, where it’s expected that the number of pilgrims to reach 30 million, it stated.

According to GACA, it is working on a project designed to meet the highest international standards, and to be built through Build to Order (BTO) system.

The civil aviation authority felt the need for the development of the new airport to cope with the increasing passenger traffic, especially after the GACA Board of Directors approved the transformation of Taif airport from a regional airport into international airport.

Also the increase in passenger numbers at Taif airport and an surging demand for international flights, especially haj and umrah flights, added to the pressure.

The project, which will be the kingdom's fifth international airport, will be located northeast of Taif province. It is located near Souk Okaz about 120 km from Makkah.

The new airport will include terminals that will able to receive five million passengers annually and will eventually reach eight million passengers in the future.

The airport will start with one runway measuring (4,300 m) in distant and will be able to accommodate code (F) aircrafts. Two runways will be taken into account during the design phase, in the case of an increase in passenger’s capacity in the future, said the statement from GACA.

A Request for Proposal (RFP) will be issued to determine the winning investor who will be in charge of building, operating and managing the new Taif International Airport next year.

GACA will soon sign a concession contract for the operation of the current airport. In addition to handing over to the winning investor the allocated site for the new airport with full service logistics to start the construction operations for the airport slated to be opened in the year 2020.

Tareq Al Abduljabbar, the assistant to the president for Airports, said both Taif and Qunfudah airport projects will dramatically boost the services for Makkah region.

Abduljabbar said several international consortiums are in the race for the Taif project contract which will based on Build–operate–transfer (BOT) system to raise operating efficiency and increase revenues through partnership with the private sector.

GACA has been co-ordinating with relevant government agencies to complete the project on schedule, he added.- TradeArabia News Service

Saudi Arabia’s new expat fees: What will it cost?

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia plans to introduce an “expat levy” from 2017, it was confirmed during Thursday’s budget announcement, with charges of up to SR800 per worker to be phased in by 2020.

Companies currently pay a levy of SR200 per month per expat employee, but only for expat employees that exceed the number of Saudi employees.

But that will be gradually increased from next year, the government’s “Fiscal Balance Program – Balanced Budget 2020” document shows.

From next year, the levy on expat workers will be gradually revised upwards, providing an additional impetus for employers to hire more Saudis.

For companies in which expats do not exceed the number of Saudi or GCC employees, the fee will no longer be waived, but will be charged at a discounted rate.

A fee on dependents of expatriate workers will also be levied. It will commence in July of 2017, in order to minimize impact on families with children enrolled in school.

Currently, neither Saudi nationals nor foreign laborers pay income taxes, and this policy will remain in place, the government says.

Here is what the new expat levy will cost:

In 2017

In 2018

In 2019

In 2020

No income tax

Saudi Arabia weighs 6% tax on expat remittances

Saudi Arabia’s Shura council was expected on Wednesday to discuss plans to impose a 2 to 6 percent tax on expat workers’ remittances.

Former Shura council member Husam Al Angari, who submitted the proposal, suggested a 6 percent tax in the first year of living in the kingdom, reported Arabic newspaper Akhbar24.

He said the tax would then drop to 2 percent following five years of the expat’s residency in Saudi Arabia.

Al Angari was quoted as saying that expats’ remittances had almost tripled since 2004, having increased from $15.1 billion(SR57 billion) to over $36 billion (SR135 billion) in 2013. The World Bank claims Saudi Arabia accounts for the second highest volume of remittances after the US, with $37 billion in 2015.

The kingdom first mooted a tax on expat remittances in June. At around the same time, the UAE was also reported to be considering the imposition of such a tax.

Saudi Arabia plans new e-network to regulate rents

The Saudi housing ministry has announced plans to launch a national e-network (Ejar or Rent) to regulate the real estate rental market, said a report.

The scheme, which is also aimed at supporting poor Saudi nationals who are unable to pay their rents, will be implemented in two stages, reported Saudi Gazette.

The real estate brokers will be first required to register in the coming two weeks with the national e-network which will be operative from next month. Registration will be open for up to three months.

The second stage will be to legalise and standardise contracts between tenants and landlords through registration to prevent any manipulation in rent prices and ease transactions which will be made only through the Sadad payment system, stated the report.

Once the shceme gets operational, the online portal will provide a database and a platform where landlords, brokers and tenants can meet and finalise deals.

The ministry said that it will create a new center for real estate dispute redressal that will try to find solutions through reconciliation between the parties involved to reduce pressure on courts.

The system will regulate and monitor the relation between the three parties involved, it added.

Damac unveils luxury townhouses collection

Damac Properties, one of the leading luxury real estate developers in the region, has announced the launch of Mod, a collection of townhouses in the heart of the golf community Akoya Oxygen in Dubai, UAE.

Akoya Oxygen is a 55-million-sq-ft master development that will showcase one of the greenest living spaces in Dubai. Home to the 18-hole championship golf course by Tiger Woods Design, the eagerly anticipated development boasts easy access to Dubai’s major highways; yet is far enough away from the bustle of the city to offer a tranquil pace of life in a beautiful green setting.

The homes in this community, with a contemporary expression of luxury, have been priced to be accessible to a diverse mix of buyers of all nationalities, said the statement from Damac.

Each Mod townhouse features a bedroom, a living room and study, with the added-value feature of a private garden space that buyers will enjoy with these properties, it stated.

Priced at Dh595,000 ($161,960) with payment over three years, the units present a rare opportunity to own a home in an international golf community, at prices that are less than an apartment elsewhere, it added.

Niall McLoughlin, the senior vice-president at Damac Properties, said: "We are excited to bring to market yet another innovative residential offering within a green community. Mod townhouses uniquely provide first-time home buyers and investors alike with the opportunity to climb onto Dubai’s lucrative property ladder and enjoy the benefits."

"These Mod townhouses will go on sale on December 21 at Damac Maison Cour Jardin (first floor) in Business Bay, Al Abraj Street from 4pm to 10pm," he stated.

"At this price point, Mod townhouses are accessible to all customer segments, who can fulfil their dream of owning a home and enjoying the luxury and lifestyle of living in an international golf community, rather than buying an apartment," noted McLoughlin.

For investors, he stated, these properties present a stable real estate asset that can boost and diversify one’s investment portfolio.

"With the scenario of an ever-growing population in Dubai that require quality homes in greener spaces, capital appreciation and preservation are practically assured," observed McLoughlin.

"Another compelling reason to make this type of investment is the steady and high-yielding income. Dubai’s typical annual rental yields are currently anywhere from six to 10 per cent, outperforming other popular investment cities, and due to its lower price in comparison to the anticipated annual rent, we expect Mod to reap returns at the highest end of this scale," he added.- TradeArabia News Service

Skai to open $1.17bn flagship Dubai project in March

Skai, the Dubai-based real estate and hospitality group, said it has completed its flagship Viceroy Palm Jumeirah Dubai hotel and residences project and will officially open its doors in March.

The Dh4.3-billion ($1.17 billion) development was awarded its building permit and completion certificate (BCC) from Trakhees on November 14, more than two weeks ahead of schedule, said a statement from the UAE developer.

Featuring a striking amphitheatre design, the Viceroy Palm Jumeirah Dubai comprises 477 spacious rooms and suites and 221 signature Viceroy Residences as well as 10 restaurants and nightlife settings, spa, beach, pool, “Kids Only” club and health and wellness areas.

Each Mod townhouse features a bedroom, a living room and study, with the added-value feature of a private garden space that buyers will enjoy with these properties, it stated.

Guests and residents will get to enjoy breath-taking views of the Arabian Sea, Dubai Marina and Downtown Dubai through the use of innovative architecture and design, said the developer.

The handover of 221 signature Viceroy Residences to owners has also begun.

Kabir Mulchandani, Group CEO, commented: "The completion of our flagship project, Viceroy Palm Jumeirah Dubai, ahead of schedule is testament to Skai’s commitment and confidence in Dubai’s growing hospitality sector."

"Over the last two years the Skai team and our partners, China State Construction Engineering Corporation (Middle East), have been on site overseeing more than 4,000 staff to ensure its completion," he stated.

"With the official opening in March 2017, Skai will not only redefine the concept of an urban destination but also cement our reputation for unsurpassed quality," he added.

Bill Walshe, the chief executive of Viceroy Hotel Group, said: "The completion of the Viceroy Palm Jumeirah Dubai marks the opening of our first hotel in Dubai and is an important milestone in our continued growth in the region."

“We are extremely privileged to work with the Skai team to create a hotel that will offer exceptional and inspiring experiences for guests, setting a new benchmark for luxury hospitality in Dubai,” noted Walshe.

The property’s attractive location at the base trunk of The Palm Jumeirah makes it easily accessible from the mainland of Dubai.

The hotel is a short drive from a number of leading business and tourist attractions such as Dubai Marina, Dubai Media City and Mall of the Emirates and Downtown Dubai

The Viceroy Palm Jumeirah Dubai was also one of the first in Dubai to offer an investment model that enabled buyers to purchase hotel rooms in order to participate in the city’s growing hospitality segment.

"Inspired by the amphitheatre-like design of the hotel, we have embraced the concept of theatre," remarked Mikael Svensson, general manager of Viceroy Palm Jumeirah Dubai.

"Our guests will discover a unique experience where they may become both actor and audience during their stay with us. Each Viceroy colleague will undertake training with a theatrical troupe to enhance our level of guest engagement, and service spontaneity," he added.

Skai said construction work is also on track at its second hospitality and residential project, the Viceroy Dubai Jumeirah Village. The luxury five-star tower, which is set to commence operation in 2018, is currently 32 per cent complete.

The Dh1.28-billion ($348.4 million) tower will feature 247-hotel rooms and suites as well as 221 one and two-bedroom hotel apartments and 33 four-bedroom hotel apartments all with private pools.

The Viceroy Dubai Jumeirah Village is strategically located in close proximity to three of Dubai’s arterial roads (Al Khail Road, Sheikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Road and Hessa Street) and a short drive from Dubai’s new Al Maktoum International Airport and Expo 2020 site.- TradeArabia News Service

Dubai to ease rules for property leasing contracts

Dubai Land Department (DLD) plans to implement complete and easier procedures for leasing contract registration in Dubai, UAE, in a bid to increase customer comfort and satisfaction.

DLD will collaborate with other government departments to achieve improved synergy across governmental services, which will significantly contribute towards the Dubai government’s smart services vision.

Mohammed Yahya, deputy executive director of the rental affairs sector at Dubai Land Department, said: “Based on our commitment to continuously update and improve procedures and services to facilitate customers, Dubai Land Department has developed a range of means to coordinate with other government departments. To implement this, DLD has provided ease of leasing contract registration for customers to deliver a more effective service. Our goal behind this coordination is to aid greater synergy between government services and stay true to our leadership’s vision of keeping citizens content. We aim at achieving this by reducing the number of requirements, saving time and effort required.”

“Dubai Land Department has recorded approximately 409,088 active tenancy contracts in Ejari System since 2016 started and another 388,268 active tenancy contracts in 2015 - the average number of leases has reached 2,000 registrations per day.

“These are carried out by authorised tenancy companies and facility management companies in Dubai, through registration channels that have been developed by DLD. Such companies have been authorised to register all rented properties that they manage, with the service enabling the tenant to obtain the registered tenancy contract from the company immediately upon signing the contract. Up to 1,292 companies have been registered, rendering the unauthorised ones with a sum of fines,” Yahya explained.

Due to these proactive steps, customers will be able to accomplish more by registering their leasing contracts through the Ejari system. Examples of such cooperation include that between Dubai Land Department and Dubai Electricity and Water Authority.

A significant increase in applications for lease registrations by landlords or their representatives has been noted, with more than 809 requests received. As for the properties that are not managed by real estate companies, tenants can register their contracts with the department’s accredited real estate service trustees. Contracts registered through real estate companies form a majority of 75 per cent of total registrations, compared with 25 per cent conducted through third parties.

The Ejari smart application that has recently been launched by the Dubai Land Department is currently one registration channel for rental/lease agreements, and aims to facilitate the registration process amongst other services.

Users are able to register contracts anytime, anywhere, and can access all data including leasing contracts and property status that is related to their assets/properties, as well as staying up-to-date with lease indicators and maintenance reports. The app is currently undergoing phased development to cover all remaining services. – \TradeArabia News Service

Emirates ID to replace health cards in Dubai by Q1 2017

Dubai Health Authority (DHA) has extended the deadline for replacement of health cards with Emirates ID cards to first quarter of 2017.

The authority had previously announced early 2016 as the deadline.

“We are moving all insurance cards to Emirates ID in the next few months, say by the first quarter of 2017,” Dr Haidar Al Yousuf, director of Health Funding at the DHA, told Gulf News.

He added the authority was pushing the insurance companies to comply with the new deadline but some companies were facing technical difficulties.

Nearly 3.4 million residents have already registered for insurance coverage in Dubai and expected to achieve the 100 percent by year-end.

Dubai launches new health insurance payment system

The Dubai Health Authority (DHA) is adopting a new health insurance payment system aimed at improving the transparency and quality of healthcare services, it announced on Tuesday.

The executive council said it decided to adopt the new system following a series of meetings with insurance provides and after studying the benefits of the existing insurance policy in place for the past two years, including benchmarking it against international practices.

The pilot phase will begin in 2017 for hospital accommodation and last until the end of 2017. At the start of 2018, the pilot phase for outpatient clinics will begin, with the full system in place by 2019, according to the DHA.

Humaid Al Qatami, chairman of the board and director general of the DHA, said the system would simplify payment processes, encourage administrative efficiency and base payments on the health of patients and hospital resources, rather than length of stay.

He added that the new system was an important step in developing health services in Dubai, because adopting a clear pricing method allows hospitals and clinics to offer fair prices and allows for investment opportunities based on approved standards.

No visa issuance, renewal in Dubai without health insurance, says DHA

Dubai Health Authority (DHA) is urging sponsors who haven’t provided their employees and dependents with insurance to complete the process before December 31.

While the last and final phase in the three-year rollout ended on July 31, DHA gave a five-month grace period for individuals. Penalties are already in place for companies who fall into the phase 1 and 2 and haven’t complied with their deadline.

According to DHA, 88 percent of the population with Dubai visas have mandatory health insurance.

“Those who have not complied with the law are already in violation and the penalties on individuals with begin after the year ends. However, we urge the public not to wait until the last day,” said Dr Haider Al Yousuf, director of health funding, DHA.

The authority has partnered with the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs (GDRFA), and no new visa will be issued or an existing one renewed where the individual concerned does not have health insurance coverage in place at the time of visa application or renewal.

“The cooperation with GDRFA is to ensure compliance but people who fall under phase three need to understand that the fines will apply after December 31 so they cannot wait until their visa renewal date unless it is earlier than December 31, because they will accumulate fines,” Al Yousuf said.

The fine is $136.24 (AED500) per employee per month and will be applicable from January 1, 2017.

“The cost of the essential benefit package (EBP) itself is almost the same for the full year, so it is much cheaper to insure your employee/dependent than to pay the fine,” he said.

The premium for the EBP - the bare minimum package which every sponsor has to provide employees/dependents ranges between $154 (AED565) to $177 (AED650).

EBP is designed to ensure that maternity, emergency, specialist referrals are all covered as part of this package. For $177 (AED650) a year, the scheme provides patients with all their essential insurance needs.

Out of the 46 health insurance companies that are licensed to provide insurance, nine companies have been licensed to provide the EBP for anyone who earns less than AED4000.

“These nine companies cannot deny providing the EBP to anyone who falls in this category,” he said.

The DHA also provides SAADA health insurance to Emiratis and so far over 108,000 Emiratis have this insurance.

Mall of Qatar opens door to public

Mall of Qatar, a brand new shopping concept with 500,000 sq m of innovative shopping, top-notch recreation and remarkable leisure options, has officially opened its doors to the public.

On December 10, Mall of Qatar welcomed a slew of visitors who came to experience its offerings during the soft opening. Media personnel were among the first to be welcomed by Mall management, who held a special breakfast for them at Al Rayyan Hotel, before embarking on a tour of the premises and its anchor tenants including beauty, fashion, department stores, homeware, and restaurants.

Speaking about the first official day at Mall of Qatar, Ahmed Al Mulla, CEO, said: “After working towards a goal for many years, seeing it come to life is one of the most incredible experiences – and I am grateful to the entire team responsible for this momentous occasion. Mall of Qatar marks a new era of shopping in Qatar- merging shopping and entertainment at our regional super mall.”

“We are pleased to announce that the Mall is 99 per cent leased- and 92 per cent currently in the fit-out phase. We are opening over 220 stores on our first day, which is 60 per cent of the gross leasable area,” Al Mulla added.

At Mall of Qatar, MOQ Live, a free entertainment programme will take visitors on an incredible adventure on the world’s first 360-degree in mall revolving stage. The stage is located at MOQ`s dazzling Oasis, a 5,000-sq-m lush, green, landscaped entertainment arena featuring dancing interactive fountains and waterfalls and hosting all year long shows.

Al Mulla concluded: “Mall culture plays a large role in Middle Eastern, and especially GCC society. We are pushing the boundaries and elevating the Mall experience with our brand new, and innovative offering. Today, we are setting super-regional standards for shopping malls, and bringing the concept of retailtainment to life.” – TradeArabia News Service

Qatar said to clarify rules on expats changing jobs

Companies in Qatar will be allowed to hire expats only if the candidate matches the exact demographic profile approved by the government, local media reported.

Expats hoping to change jobs can be recruited only by those companies that already hold a visa to hire someone from their nationality and profession, under the country’s newly introduced employment legislation.

So, for example, if an expat accountant with an Indian passport quits his job, his role will only be able to be filled by another Indian accountant.So, for example, if an expat accountant with an Indian passport quits his job, his role will only be able to be filled by another Indian accountant.

The Ministry of Administrative Development, Labour and Social Affairs (MADLSA) said in a notice that the change will be effective only if a proper vacancy is available despite the new employment law that took effect from December 13 permitting“migrant workers who have completed the stipulated tenure with their current employers to be eligible to change jobs,” according to a report in Gulf Times.

The ministry said the new regulations were intended to apply to private sector job vacancies, with those employees on fixed-term contracts required to submit a 30-day notice before their contract ends if they wish to switch jobs.

The ministry also clarified that where an employment contract is open-ended, the worker must have spent a minimum of five years at the company to be eligible for such a change.

In such cases, a 30-day notice must be served if the service duration is five years and 60 days if the duration is over five years. It added that this was subject to the new employer not having any restrictions on recruitment, such as a hiring ban.

Meanwhile, expats aged over 60 will be forbidden from changing jobs, as the ministry plans to stop renewing their employment contracts.

Qatar sets up appeals committee for 'exiting' expats

An appeals committee will be set up in Qatar for expats whose exit permits have been rejected by their employers, the government announced on Monday.

Qatar’s Ministry of Interior (MOI) set up the new committee as part of the introduction of the country’s new sponsorship law, which comes into effect on Tuesday and replaces the old ‘kafala’ system.

The reforms are intended to make it easier for expats to change jobs and leave the country as and when they wish.

Under earlier drafts of the legislation, Qatar was expected to set up an automated exit permit system, but under the final version expats still need their employers’ permission to leave the country.

However, the new grievance panel has been set up to help those finding it difficult to secure such permissions from their employers.

The MoI announced the appeals committee during a press conference in Doha on Monday night.

It outlined details on its Twitter feed, including that the committee would start work from Tuesday at the former Traffic Department office from Sundays to Thursdays.

An expat can approach the committee if their employer is not allowing them to leave the country on holiday or in emergency, the MoI said.

Once a complaint is filed, the committee will contact the employer, which must justify why they denied the exit permit.

The committee must make a decision within three working days of receiving the complaint, the MoI added in a series of tweets.

The committee can back the employer in cases when the expat has committed fraud or is attempting to escape prosecution of a crime.

If the employer is unreachable, the employee will be granted an exit permit anyway. If the appeal is rejected, the expat has 24 hours to appeal the decision.

Initially, grievances are to be submitted manually using a written form, the MoI said. An electronic system is to be introduced at a “later” date.

In a statement to media on Monday announcing the implementation of the new sponsorship law, Qatar’s Government Communications Office said: “Freedom of movement is explicitly guaranteed [in the new law].

“Expats have the right to leave the country after notifying the employer, whether to take leave or for an emergency.

“Expats also have the right to permanently leave the country before or after completing the duration of their contract, after notifying the employer according to the terms of the contract.

“If the employer rejects a leave request, the migrant worker can appeal to the Exit Permit Grievances Committee, which has to respond to all requests within 3 days.

“The applicant will be able to leave the country unless he is wanted in connection to any active criminal proceedings, or has defaulted on any debt in Qatar that remains unsettled.”

Dr Issa bin Saad Al Jafali Al Nuaimi, minister of administrative development, labour & social affairs, said: “The State of Qatar is enormously grateful to the millions of workers who have come to Qatar to build our nation’s infrastructure during this period of rapid change.

“The new law is the latest step towards improving and protecting the rights of every expatriate worker in Qatar. It replaces the Kafala system with a modernised, contract-based system that safeguards worker rights and increases job flexibility.”

Open-air cinemas to be rolled out at parks across Qatar

A new open-air cinema at Dahl Al Hammam Park has been launched this month by authorities.

During the winter months, children’s movies will be screened there at 7pm and 9pm on Thursdays and Fridays, the Ministry of Municipality and Environment said in a statement.

If all goes well with this pilot project, such cinemas will be rolled out at parks across Qatar, it added.

The official opening of the Dahl Al Hammam cinema was over the weekend, though it was already being tested before National Day.

The initiative, called HawaScene – The Outdoor Movie Experience, is being brought to the park with the help of Vodafone, Smart Global and Kia Motors Corp.

Revealed: Oman plans mega tourism project in coastal city

National Development & Investment Company (ASAAS) has announced plans to build a 1.5 million square metre entertainment and leisure destination to be built in Barka, a coastal city in the north of the country.

The company said the project will feature an integrated theme park, a wildlife and waterpark, an equestrian centre and edutainment centre as well as several hotels, a residential zone and retail areas.

Khalid Al Yahmadi, ASAAS CEO said the project will "add new vitality and impetus to Barka and the surrounding area", adding that it will deliver "sustainable economic returns, attract investment, stimulate development and enterprise, and create a multitude of direct and indirect job opportunities".

He said ASAAS has identified a renowned American company based out of Orlando, Florida to operate the theme park and wildlife park.

Among the attractions planned will be an Interactive Science and Technology Edutainment Centre and an Equestrian Centre which will include a riding academy and show jumping and livery facilities along with dedicated shops and food outlets.

The project’s masterplanner is Surbana Jurong, one of Asia’s largest urban and infrastructure development consultants.

The Barka project is the latest to be launched by ASAAS following its establishment of SalamAir, Oman’s first budget airline, and the announcement of Hilton Garden Inn and of a multi-use facility in Al Khuwair.

ASAAS said over the next five to 10 years it will develop a diverse portfolio of projects worth approximately OR1 billion.

Oman allows three-month stay on multiple entry visas

Oman will reportedly relax rules on multiple entry visas for some countries in a bid to boost its economy.

As of July 20, people visiting from 38 countries can stay for three months, an increase from the previous rules which allowed a three-week stay.

It is hoped the extension will allow investors more time to get to know the country and giving tourists more time to spend money, reported Times of Oman.

Inbound tourism to Oman in 2015 generated $651.9 million (OR250.9 million), almost double that of 2005, according to statistics from the government web portal.

Tourists and investors faced fines under the old system, which allowed 21-day visits on a first trip under the multiple entry visa.

Some 38 countries’ citizens are eligible for the new visa, including, the UK, most of central Europe, Ireland and parts of eastern Europe. India, Bangladesh and the Philippines citizens can apply for the extended visa, but require a sponsor in Oman.

A spokesman for the Royal Oman Police confirmed the rule was introduced on July 20 and said anyone applying from a country on the list would be able to obtain it, at a cost of $129.90 (OR50).

“It was quite difficult for some visitors coming through multi-entry visa to finish their things in 21 days,” said the spokesman.

Mohammed Hassan Al Ansi, vice-chairman of the Committee for Logistics and Transportation Affairs at the OCCI, said: “It is an excellent decision but it has to have regulations. The decision also includes more countries than the 22 that are already determined. If you want to bring investors and experts, they have to visit the country, study the market and assess the situation. Three weeks wouldn’t be enough.”

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