Expat relocation Egypt Saudi Middle East ..
Mobility Management Middle East

Egypt to launch $5.6bn development project in Sinai

The Egyptian government is set to pump in more than E£100 billion ($5.6 billion) into infrastructure development projects in the insurgency-hit Sinai peninsula over the next two to three years, said a report.

The coast of the south of the Sinai peninsula is peppered with Red Sea tourist resorts, while the northern province is underdeveloped and lacks basic infrastructure and job opportunities, reported Reuters.

Security forces have battled Islamist militants in the mainly desert region, stretching from the Suez Canal eastwards to the Gaza Strip and Israel, since 2013. Militants have killed hundreds of police and soldiers, it stated.

Speaking at a ceremony to inaugurate a development project in the Suez Canal city of Ismailia, President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi said: "We have entrusted the ministry of housing and the engineering authority with a national project of comprehensive urban planning."

"The E£100 billion projects would be carried out whether I remain in power or not," he added.


Egypt's Zohr natural gas field kicks off production

Egypt’s Zohr natural gas field, the largest in the Mediterranean, has started production with initial output of 350 million cu ft per day, bringing the country closer to its goal of energy self-sufficiency, the oil ministry said in a statement.

Gas from one of the world's largest offshore fields is pumped to a facility in Port Said city, to be prepared for delivery to the national distribution network, Tarek El-Molla Egypt's Minister of Oil and Mineral Resources, was quoted as saying by Emirates news agency Wam.

He noted that the daily output is set to rise to about 1 billion cu ft in June and 2.7 billion by the end of 2019.

The field operated by the Italian oil giant Eni is estimated to hold 850 billion cu m of gas.

Production from Zohr will help the most populous Arab nation achieve "self-sufficiency of natural gas, ease the burden on the state budget and cut the imports bill," he added while addressing a conference organised in the Egyptian capital on the challenges faced by the country in areas of oil and gas and future prospects.


Egypt plans to build two monorail projects

Egypt has announced plans to set up two monorail projects - a 52-km-long line linking the new administrative capital with East Cairo and downtown and a 35-km-network connecting Sixth of October City with Giza, said a report.

The proposed monorail project, which will have 27 trains, will be able to transport around 48,000 passengers per hour in each direction, with a journey time of 35 minutes, reported Daily News Egypt, citing a senior minister.

"The first phase will have 108 railroad cars that can transport 24,000 passengers at speeds of up to 80 kilometres per hour," remarked Mostafa Madbouly, the Minister of Housing, Utilities, and Urban Communities.

He called upon both international and local companies to co-ordinate with the government and asked them to prepare engineering designs, finance, procurement, construction, operation, and maintenance proposals for the monorail project before January 15 next year.

The project will accelerate the development of the new administrative capital and will help meet passenger demand according to current and future development plans for the years 2020, 2030, and 2050, stated Madbouly, who is also the acting Prime Minister.

According to him, the project will be completed in three years. Once the monorail starts operating in 2020, it would be able to transport 250,000 passengers daily, he added.


Contractors 'must add VAT on Saudi govt deals'

All companies which are working on contracts with government departments in Saudi Arabia need to modify their bills to include the 5 per cent VAT (value-added tax), said a report citing a senior official.

The investors in the contracting and real estate sector have all been updated on this, remarked Hamoud Al Harbi, the project manager of VAT at General Authority of Zakat and Tax (GAZT).

"We have informed contractors that any supplier who issues an invoice or receives consideration before January 1, 2018 but the actual supply of goods or services takes place on or after the date must charge VAT based on the actual date of the supply," stated Al Harbi while speaking to Saudi Gazette on the sidelines of a VAT workshop.

"Since construction services are a continuous process, then VAT is due at the earlier of the due date or the actual payment and VAT becomes due for each progress payment at the earliest of the issue of the invoice or the date of actual payment," he said.

"All contracts that were signed without factoring in VAT rate may have zero VAT under three conditions: the contracts must be in effect before May 31, 2017, the customer should be entitled to deduce input tax in respect of the supply of goods and services and finally, the customer provides a written certification to the supplier that input tax can be deducted or refunded in full," explained Al Harbi.

Under the new rules, companies must also provide financial reports every three months, failing which they will incur fines, stated the Saudi Gazette report.

On the fines, Al Harbi said: "It ranges from SR10,000 to SR100,000 for violations such as not being registered in the VAT, providing fake financial reports, not saving financial documents, not paying the VAT rate and not being co-operative with VAT officials."

However, the official said, taxpayers have the right to appeal against decisions of penalties issued by GAZT within 30 days of the date of notification.

"If taxpayers disagree with the decision issued by the VAT First Instance Committee, an extra 30 days will be given to present an appeal to the VAT Appeals Committee. This committee will issue a decision that shall be final and non-appealable before any other judicial authority," he added.


Saudi Arabia to return VAT to tourists

Saudi Arabia’s General Authority of Zakat and Tax (GAZT) has announced they are working on a mechanism that will allow for the return of value-added tax (VAT) to tourists, according to local media reports.

“According to executive regulations, it is possible for companies to return the VAT to tourists on products they are taking to their countries,” Hamoud Al-Harbi, director of the GAZT’s VAT operations centre told Arab News.

“The mechanism will be decided later as we are still working on the process, mechanisms, rules and payment. Some countries, for example, specify what amount to return; if it is less than €100 ($134) it won’t be returned,” he added.

In a statement, Al-Harbi added that the implementation of the tax-free system for tourist purchases won’t be applied in early January, when VAT is widely adopted across the kingdom.

Additionally, he noted that expat tourists who live in GCC will not be included in the system. All other tourists will have to submit an application to have their VAT returned during their trip in Saudi Arabi


Saudi Arabia will issue its first tourist visas in 2018

Saudia Arabia is set to introduce tourist visas to attract more visitors from next year.

The country already welcomes millions of Muslims on pilgrimage to Mecca each year, however the country is now looking to attract a wider range of tourists, officials have said.

Visas have previously been restricted to people travelling to the country for work or for religious reasons.

However, Prince Sultan Bin Salman told CNN that the country plans to issue tourist visas in the next 12 months.

He said: “The targets are people who want to literally experience this country and the grandness of this country."

The move to up its tourism levels comes as the country plans to reduce its reliance on oil.

It aims to have 30 million visitors per year by 2030 compared to the 18 million recorded in 2016.

The country hopes that by 2020 tourist spending will hit $47 billion, CNN reported.

The economic overhaul is being driven by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman who unveiled plans for a $500 billion metropolis that will extend across Saudi Arabia’s borders to Egypt and Jordan.

However, Saudi Arabia faces obstacles in the form of security issues which were highlighted in the US State Department’s travel warning on Tuesday.

The warning said that Americans should “carefully consider the risks of travel to Saudi Arabia," citing threats from terrorist groups such as ISIS and missile attacks from Yemeni rebels on civilian targets.

"Terrorist threats persist throughout Saudi Arabia, including in major cities such as Riyadh, Jeddah, and Dhahran, and attacks can occur without warning anywhere in the country," it said.

The Crown Prince said that the government is looking to increase domestic tourism.

Prince Sultan told CNN: “Saudi tourists, who are seeping outside the country, are the biggest target for us".

Over 1.2 million Saudis have visited Dubai this year.

Prince Sultan said: “We were late, decisions were late, funding was late and other countries, especially in the Gulf, have risen to the challenge and started attracting more people from Saudi Arabia".


15% insurance discount for safe drivers in Saudi Arabia

RIYADH: To minimize car accidents, insurance companies have been ordered to keep offering safe drivers a discount of up to 15 percent for another six months, ending on June 30, 2018.

The discount will be offered to all comprehensive and compulsory insurance claimers who have not been in any car accidents for the past year, and those who were not qualified for the discount previously for the following reasons: they owned newer car models, they did not have an insurance policy or because their previous insurance policy expired a month before and was not renewed.

The Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority (SAMA), which instructed auto insurance companies to give the discount, had previously ordered a similar directive for a discount ranging between 10 and 15 percent for all accident-free drivers, from August till the end of December 2017. This aimed to encourage accident-free drivers to continue driving safely.

SAMA and the General Department of Traffic called on everyone to benefit from the offer and insure their vehicles. According to SAMA, if clients do not receive the discount they can raise their complaints with the Consumer Protection Department on its official website, or by calling the department’s toll-free number.


Jeddah international airport to open in May 2018

JEDDAH: The head of the General Authority for Civil Aviation (GACA), Abdul Hakim Al-Tamimi, has announced that the initial opening and pilot operations of the new King Abdul Aziz International Airport in Jeddah will be in May 2018.

The announcement came on the sidelines of the Reconstruction of Makkah Region Conference on Wednesday.

“Air transport is the preferred method for pilgrims of Umrah and Hajj, both from inside and outside the Kingdom. The number of Hajj pilgrims arriving by air in 2017 reached 1,648,906, while the number of Umrah pilgrims arriving by air in 2017 reached 5,664208,” Al-Tamimi said.

He said that the King Abdul Aziz International Airport was a mega project as it “includes 810,000 square meters of terminals. It also includes 200 counters designed for completion of travel procedures and 80 self-service counters as well. The number of aircraft that can be received simultaneously is 70 connected to the terminal as well as 28 aircraft on the tarmac.”

During his speech, the GACA president stressed the importance of the new Taif International Airport, which will support the King Abdul Aziz International Airport in Jeddah. “The GACA has assigned the new Taif (International) Airport to the private sector. The new airport will provide convenience for visitors, and Umrah and Hajj pilgrims. The airport is expected to open in December 2020,” Al-Tamimi said.

He also referred to the GACA agreement with the new developer of Taif International Airport to develop the existing terminals to accommodate pilgrims of Hajj and Umrah. “The coming season will see a larger number of Hajj and Umrah pilgrims coming to the Kingdom through Taif International Airport,” Al-Tamimi said.


Vision expands as Saudi cinemas reopen in 2018

JEDDAH: On Dec. 11, the Ministry of Culture and Information announced that commercial cinemas will be allowed to operate in the Kingdom as early as March 2018.

And the industry regulator, the General Commission for Audiovisual Media (GCAM), has started the process for granting licenses to cinemas in the Kingdom.

Officials from the board of GCAM stressed that all cinematic shows will be selected to match cultural and social values, and display entertainment content that is useful and purposeful and does not violate the Kingdom’s principles and ethics.

The historic announcement to lift the ban on cinemas in Saudi Arabia was celebrated by the public as they will no longer have to travel to Bahrain and the UAE to go to the movies.

Lack of cinemas in the Kingdom, according to one report, leads to 35,000 Saudis traveling daily to neighboring Bahrain where they spend an average of SR1,200 ($320) a day to see movies.

The move will create competition between cinema chains in the Middle East to control the Saudi cinema market as the Odeon chain will face stiff competition from Dubai-based VOX Cinemas, the leading operator in the Gulf and Middle East with more than 300 screens.

The world’s biggest cinema chains are coming to Saudi Arabia. AMC, which operates 11,000 screens mainly in the US and Europe, announced a joint venture with the Public Investment Fund (PIF), the Saudi sovereign wealth fund.

Saudi Arabia has the greatest malls in the Middle East offering all forms of entertainment, and after the announcement mall operators across the Kingdom began to create space and convert empty units into theaters to be ready for use within the next six months.

Saudi Arabia used to have cinemas to accommodate the influx of European workers at Saudi Aramco. Thirty-five years ago, due to religious activism, this changed due to strict religious bans.

The Saudi cinema market revealed that ticket prices are expected to start from SR30-45. Profits are expected to reach SR100,000,000 annually.

Many filmmakers and social media figures, directors, producers and actors are enthusiastic over the opening up of the Kingdom.

Many noted the importance of establishing institutions in the country to improve the skills of talented Saudi filmmakers, and how they could contribute and support the future of filmmaking and change stereotypical views about Saudi Arabia.


UAE electricity bills subject to 5pc VAT

Water and electricity bills in the UAE will be subject to the 5 per cent value added tax from January 1, 2018, a media report said.

Abu Dhabi Water and Electricity Authority (Adwea) has instructed its Abu Dhabi and Al Ain distribution affiliates to address consumers on the starting date of VAT application, reported Emirates news agency Wam.

Adwea said that it has taken all necessary measures to add the tax to January bills in line with Federal Law No 8 for the year 2017, which stipulates that water and electricity are among the commodities and services subject to the levy.

A 5 per cent VAT is set to come into force in the UAE and Saudi Arabia on January 1, with the rest of the GCC states following by the beginning of the following year.


Miral to open new beachfront community in Abu Dhabi

UAE-based Miral, which oversees the development of Yas Island in Abu Dhabi, said work has started on its beachfront community project, Al Bahar, which will be ready by the first quarter of 2018.

Al Bahar is the official name of the lagoon beach project that has been recently announced by Abu Dhabi Municipality, whereby Miral was appointed to undertake the design and development of the project based on its extensive experience in creating immersive destinations.

Announcing the development of a new, vibrant beachfront community space on Abu Dhabi’s Corniche, Miral said the project will help to deliver on the capital’s vision of offering unique experiences for residents and visitors, establishing the emirate as an entertainment and leisure destination of distinction.

Unveiling the project, Miral CEO Mohamed Abdalla Al Zaabi said the plan is to develop an 80,000-sq-m location into a dedicated beachfront space for leisure and wellbeing.

"Al Bahar project will create a vibrant and contemporary outdoor space to relax, eat, and shop. The integrated family beach will expand its offering to include over twenty F&B (food and beverages) outlets that cater to different tastes, satisfying those who seek the finest international and local food experiences from the best providers in the market," he stated.

The beachfront will boast basketball and beach volleyball courts, soccer pitches, an outdoor gym, kids play area, spaces for concerts and community events as well as an inflatable floating structure for fun-filled experiences. A promenade, stretching over half a kilometer in length, will also be set aside for walking.

"This project reflects our continuous efforts to make Abu Dhabi a top tourism and entertainment destination, even beyond Yas Island by expanding our expertise to create a new leisure experience on Abu Dhabi’s highly popular Corniche," remarked Al Zaabi.

Miral is opening up the opportunity for leasing the F&B and retail space at the beachfront project.

"With its inclusive atmosphere and authentic experiences, we’re excited and confident that the beachfront project will make a valuable contribution to the capital’s family appeal as from a wellness and entertainment stand point," he added.- TradeArabia News Service


Abu Dhabi completes key landscaping project

Abu Dhabi City Municipality has announced several of its infrastructure projects, including the revamping of internal roads, roundabouts and landscaping of vital areas in the emirate, were progressing well, said a report.

The Department of Urban Planning and Municipalities - Abu Dhabi City Municipality, ADM, has announced that it has recently accomplished a project for improving the landscaping of roads in the surrounds of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, Wahat Al Karama in Abu Dhabi, reported state news agency Wam.

The project involved landscaping of two roundabouts at Wahat Al Karama to the front of the entrance of Ritz Carlton Hotel, it stated.

The scope of work included installation of models at the R/As, construction of movable concrete pillars without impacting the view of the R/As, landscaping and decorative lighting, and carrying out road maintenance to step up the traffic safety in the area.

As part of the improvement works, the municipality installed solid tile in the area together with landscaping, and the installation of sculptures in the two R/As.

The upgrading of the two areas, which lasted for 30 days at a cost of Dh1.3 million, covered a 9967-sq-m area. The area was covered with greens, soil covering, tiles, sculptures and other decorative works.


Dubai rents down, yet yields remain strong

Rents in the property market of Dubai, UAE, for apartments are falling faster than sale prices and so the yields are declining. However they still remain very strong and are amongst the best in the world, said Propertyfinder Trends, in its third edition.

Apartments for sale in Abu Dhabi saw low single-digit declines in their asking prices over the past six months, stated the report, which is 20 per cent larger than the previous edition and covers all of the must-know data for investors, brokers, and property seekers in the UAE.

Coming to the end of 2017, the trend of decreasing prices across the market continues as observed since their peak in mid-2014, stated Propertyfinder, citing a gradual and uniform decline in Dubai.

Dubai villa rents have experienced the biggest decline of all the categories in this report, but the decline is shallowing for other categories when compared to January 2016.

This may be due to a significant amount of affordable villas released to the market in areas such as JVC and Al Furjan, said the report.

“We have all heard that data is the new oil. In a region working tirelessly to be less dependent on this commodity, data is even more precious,” remarked Michael Lahyani, CEO of Propertyfinder Group, in his opening letter of Propertyfinder Trends.

“We’ve invested heavily in our data technology in recent years, and this, combined with the UAE’s largest property audience and listings database, gives us unique insights into the UAE property market and its ongoing evolution, both at macro and micro levels,” he stated.

On the Abu Dhabi rental market, the report said it has seen the swiftest decrease, while the Abu Dhabi villa market was relatively stable over 2016, but has seen a step-down in 2017 so far, possibly due to a large number of handovers this year.

While Dubai and Abu Dhabi have seen declines on roughly a similar rate, there is a noticeable difference in the speed of decline for apartments to rent in Abu Dhabi vs Dubai. Abu Dhabi has declined much faster, it noted.

However, there is a silver lining. “Falling prices, as we’ve seen, makes buying more feasible for a larger percentage of the population,” explained Lahyani.

“We’re seeing the “forever renters” moving into the buyer category, preferring to pay off their own mortgage rather than someone else’s,” he added.- TradeArabia News Service


Abu Dhabi churches spread Christmas message of togetherness

Tens of thousands of Christians flocked to churches across the UAE this morning to celebrate Christmas.

At St. Andrew’s, the oldest Anglican church in Abu Dhabi, hundreds gathered for a family-oriented service on Christmas day morning. Children were invited to the front of the church to lead the congregation with the first verse of the carol Away in a Manger.

A nativity play featuring an overworked inn-keeper served as a reminder to appreciate the wonders of daily life – a theme of the Christmas service.

“I think we’re in danger of living a life where we live in a bubble, a cultural bubble, and now in a digital bubble,” said Rev Canon Andrew Thompson, chaplain of the church, after the service.

“We’re communicating more than ever before, but we’re more lonely than ever before. I want to encourage people to remember God created us to be relational beings, to relate to one another and relate to God and not forget that. In 2018, we really should work hard to build closer relationships with our families, with our work colleagues and to make space for one another.”

It was a poignant message for those expatriates pressured to work long hours.

Benon Ruranga, a taxi driver from Uganda, took time off his shift to attend the Christmas service. Mr Ruranga works seven days a week. The service will be the only time he dedicates to celebrations this year. “If I spend an hour without being on the road looking for customers, it’s a big loss to me,” he said. “But if I’m at the church, I feel comfortable because I know I’m serving God.”

Swapna Chacko, 45, and her husband Dr Joseph Simon, 50, attended the service with their two children. After nine years in the capital, the UAE now feels like home at Christmas. “There is such love around, you can see that,” said Ms Chacko, who is originally from Kerala.

“I mean we miss home, but it makes up for it here,” said Dr Simon.


Careem to match Dubai's RTA taxis in price with new low-cost service

Local ride-hailing app Careem is to match the basic price of Dubai's government-run taxis in price when it rolls out a new service next year.

Starting at Dh6 and with a minimum charge of Dh12, the new service Go will be 30 per cent cheaper than a standard Careem ride, which starts at Dh16.

It will also take on UberX, which has been trialled in recent months.

Bassel Al Nahlaoui, managing director of the Gulf at Careem , said: “We captured our first results and the RTA was very happy with them – the appetite was definitely there. We saw a lot of customers using it even though it launched with a limited supply of 300 cars.”

Go has been operating as a pilot scheme since April.

Although the service’s minimum fare will be Dh12, prices will raise by 10 to 50 per cent automatically during peak times when demand increases.

“This dynamic pricing works in the favour of everyone because instead of the service being unreliable, you let the market decide who gets what,” Mr Al Nahlaoui said.

“We launched it because our mission is to simplify the lives of people and the way you do that is to make sure everyone has the choice of getting in a car and moving from A to B. At every price point, you capture a different type of customer.”

The most common trips recorded during the pilot were for short distances. Mr Al Nahlaoui said: “There are a lot of people who can’t afford the price point of the [standard ride], so once you introduce a product that is 30 per cent lower you open [the service] up to a different customer.

“[The results] suggest people are using it for the first and last mile of trips – there’s a lot of trips to the metro station so maybe you can’t afford a Dh60 to Dh80 trip, but a Dh10 trip to the metro can save the walking distance. It’s convenient.”

Another reason for the introduction of a more accessible car type is to introduce innovative ideas like car-pooling, which Careem have already launched in Jordan and aim to introduce in Dubai next year.

“I think it’ll be popular here because Dubai is designed in a way where pooling can actually work,” said Mr Al Nahlaoui. Careem is currently working with the RTA to find ways to introduce the service. “Reducing the number of cars so there’s less congestion makes life happier for everyone in the city and studies have shown that during peak hours, the number of cars can be reduced by 50 per cent.

“Given the ambition of the RTA to introduce autonomous vehicles and innovative modes of transport, it’s just a natural step and a stepping stone,” he said.

The company is also working with regulators in Abu Dhabi to introduce the standard Careem service, hopefully in the first quarter of next year, which will be 30 to 50 per cent lower than the limousine service it is providing today. “The minimum trip in a limo is Dh40, so we’ll get the [new service] closer to Dh15 or Dh20,” he said.

“Unlike the west, who spent centuries and billions of dollars building transport infrastructure, we haven’t. We hit the pause button a couple of decades ago, which leaves us with a lot of white space when it comes to the transport landscape.”


Working part-time in the UAE: All you need to know

Part-time jobs are always a subject of doubt in the minds of UAE residents. The visa processes and requirements can be confusing but we want to answer some of your burning questions here;

1. Can a UAE resident do part-time jobs?

Yes, but only if the said resident has a temporary work permit specifically for part-time jobs that is issued by the Ministry of Labour or Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation (MOHRE).

2. Who can work under this scheme?

Any UAE resident (employed or unemployed) above 18 years can start applications for a part-time work permit. Juvenile work permits for youngsters (15 to 18 years of age) can be applied for where parents act as work sponsors. For employed residents, the employer must be registered with MOHRE.

3. Who cannot avail of this facility?

A person on visit or tourist visa cannot work part-time legally as he or she would not have a legal sponsor (husband/father/employer) in the country. Any resident over the age of 65 years cannot get the permit.

4. What would you require?

A No Objection Certificate (NOC) from your full-time employer who is your sponsor and registered under the MOHRE is required for people who are already working in the UAE. For residents sponsored by family, such as father or husband, a NOC from them is required. Your residency should be valid for more than 6 months at the time of application.

5. What would the prospective employer have to submit?

The prospective part-time employer should also issue a NOC ensuring that all parties know the exact work or residency situations of the applicant.

6. Who applies for the work permit?

The prospective employer collects all the NOC statements and applies for the work permit.

7. Does the permit apply to trading or business?

No, any trading and business activity has to go through appropriate channels of licensing and government approvals. This permit only allows residents to work for companies registered under the Ministry of Labour on a part-time or weekend basis.

8. How long is the validity of this permit?

Six months

9. How much does it cost and who bears the cost?

The company (prospective part-time employer) has to bear the cost of application. The application costs Dh100 and the permit costs Dh500, both of which are borne by the employer recruiting the part-time employee. The Tasheel processing fees haven't been included.

10. Where should I go to get more information?

Kindly address all your queries to the Ministry of Labour, now known as MOHRE. Their website has all the information required and the permits can be applied for online by the prospective employers, or through Tasheel centers.


Qatar opens Lusail Expressway project

Qatar has opened its ambitious Lusail Expressway project following the completion of all its main work including the arches at Interchange 5/6, the biggest and tallest monument in the country.

The expressway was inaugurated by Minister of Municipality and Environment Mohammed bin Abdullah Al Rumaihi in the presence of Ashghal's president Dr Saad bin Ahmad Al Muhannadi and other senior officials of the consulting and construction companies besides the Ambassador of South Korea.

One of the most prominent architectural monuments in Doha, the arches of Interchange 5/6, was launched.

Boasting more than 9300 tonne of steel, the biggest and tallest monument in Qatar stands 100 m high and 147m wide, said a statement from Ashghal.

A documentary video was played during the launch event of Lusail Expressway, showing the journey of the implementation of Lusail Expressway and the engineering challenges that Ashghal overcame, in addition to the consecutive openings that this year witnessed for the complete parts of the project, until the completion of all main works including the main carriageways, tunnels and bridgesm, it stated.

Unveiling the details of Lusail Expressway, Al Muhannadi said: "With the launch, traffic was moved to the main carriageway of Lusail Expressway along the whole road from its start in West Bay area until its end at Lusail City, which includes four lanes in each direction."

One of Al Gassar Interchange tunnels opened, connecting Lusail Expressway for those coming from West Bay heading left to Onazia Street, and the tunnel includes two lanes in one direction, with a length of 600m.

Ashghal said eight tunnels are now open to traffic out of nine included in the project, where the main tunnel at Al Gassar Interchange opened in March.

Next week will witness the opening of the other tunnel at Al Gassar Interchange for those heading from Lusail City and the Pearl on Lusail Expressway left to Katara, said the top official.

Lusail Expressway is an iconic architecture with characteristics inspired by the Qatari marine heritage vocabulary, and forms a combination of Qatar’s past and future, given that it is the main expressway on the sea front that stretches over the northern coast of Doha City.

The blue wall panels that decorate the tunnels are inspired by the waves of the fishermen nets under the water, and all other design elements were chosen carefully, such as the lighting poles which will light in blue as well along the road.

The vast excavation and execution works of the multi-level tunnels and bridges in the project, as well as the construction of two marine bridges, was completely executed without interrupting traffic.

This is in addition to the excavation works that took place at a depth of 30 metres below ground surface along six kilometres, for integrated infrastructure to allow for electricity and drainage networks, and to allow for maintenance works without the need for more excavations in the future, said the statement from Ashghal.

In addition to building an underground metro tunnel which will cross under the marine bridge, it added.- TradeArabia News Service


Barr Al Jissah breaks ground on Oman 'smart homes'

Barr Al Jissah, the developer of a key luxury destination in Oman, has broken ground on its Al Mina Waterfront Residences and Yacht Club, a key 'smart' homes project in an area located outside capital Muscat, said a report.

The development includes a residential mix of apartments, penthouses and villas, retail boardwalk as well as the Al Mina Private Yacht Club, reported the Times of Oman, citing a top official.

"This development marks the newest phase for Barr Al Jissah, bringing with it a true marina lifestyle, an experience unlike any other in the country and one which will redefine the concept of luxury living in the sultanate," stated CEO Firas Matraji while speaking at the ground breaking ceremony.

The Al Mina villas offer three spacious floors of open plan living with the ground floor featuring a smooth transition from living space to a landscaped garden area with an infinity swimming pool and a dedicated BBQ area, he explained.

"The USP of this project is that these will be smart homes. Any device in your home that uses electricity can be put on your home network and at your command. You can switch your TV or video or manoeuvre your window blinds on your iPad," he added.

The Omani developer is also planning to launch an app wherein all the homes can avail concierge services.

"For example, before you enter your home you want your fridge to be organised, you want laundry to be picked up and dropped home, all will be done via this app. It will be a Barr al Jissah app," said the top official.

The architectural design of the residences is inspired by the latest international marina styles, with the penthouse apartments offering luxury linear living together with a dual level decking that incorporates a luxurious rooftop pool, he added.

The project will be officially handed over to the tenants in 2020.


Oman to delay VAT implementation until 2019, says local media

Oman’s Ministry of Finance has reportedly postponed the implementation of value-added tax (VAT) until 2019, according to Omani media reports.

Citing ministry sources, the Times of Oman is reporting that certain products – such as tobacco and energy and soft drinks – will be taxed from mid-2018.

According to the newspaper, the delay until 2019 is expected to provide businesses in Oman with more time to adequately prepare.

While the states of the GCC all originally agreed to implement VAT in January 2018, only Saudi Arabia and the UAE say they are prepared to do so, with the rest of the GCC’s member states expected to follow later.

In October, Jihad Azour, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) director for the Middle East and Central Asia, noted that “all” the countries of the GCC remain committed to the implementation of VAT, which he called “an important tax reform that requires preparation” and communication with the private sector “to be ready to help them.”

Additionally, Azour said that the varying timeframes for VAT’s implementation are unlikely to have much effect on trade in the region.

“Saudi Arabia and the UAE are the two largest economies, and both of them have re-iterated their commitment to introduce [VAT]. Other countries can follow suit,” he noted. “It’s a domestic type of tax. The impact of this tax on other countries will be fairly limited.”


Muscat festival begins January 18

Muscat: The Muscat Festival featuring cultural, sport, and heritage activities will run from January 18 to February 18 in 2018.

Muscat Municipality announced activities of the festival, which will be held in Amerat and Al Nassim public parks as well as Oman International Exhibition Centre.

Amerat Park will host the Omani Heritage Village, folk performances from different countries, entertainment Art Park, field shows as well as other activities.

Al Nassim Park will host a commercial exhibition, family village, children’s theatre, field shows, theatre and fireworks displays.

Oman International Exhibition Centre will host different art and cultural activities.

Further details will be revealed by the organising committee of Muscat Festival 2018 by the beginning of January.


Bahrain ranked top destination for expatriates—and they agree

Manama: When American teacher Melinda heard that Bahrain was voted as the top destination for expatriates, she simply smiled.

“We already know it. It is an amazing place and we love it here,” she said. “We have teachers who did not want to go home and have spent decades in Bahrain.”

The Kingdom was given high marks by expats as a place to work and raise a family and for making foreigners feel welcome, an international survey said.

Nearly nine in 10 expats (87 per cent) said they are happy with their lives in Bahrain, a country that offers them everything they need, Expat Insider 2017 Survey Report said.

“More than 12,500 respondents representing 166 nationalities and living in 188 countries or territories answered our questions, providing unique insights into what it means to be an expat in 2017,” said Expat Insider, one of the largest surveys worldwide offering an in-depth analysis of expat life across the globe.

'Paradise Island'

Bulgarian Svetlana Prodanova, operations manager with a media company, has one major description for Bahrain: “The Paradise Island”.

“When I think Bahrain, it is always the Paradise Island,” she said.

“After 17 years in Bahrain, I feel Bahrain is my second home. As strange as it may sound, I love the weather in Bahrain; with its sunshine, easy-going, kind, and welcoming people, Bahrain is the place where my heart will remain forever. Bahrain changes you. It makes you a better person, more calm and tolerant — because that is the character of the people.”

Canadian-born Dr. Amy J. Bowzaylo, Clinical Director and CEO of InTouch Clinic, said she was thrilled about living in Bahrain, her “home away from home.”

“Having lived 10 years in Saudi and now seven in Bahrain and opened a business here, I can say, without a doubt, I have absolutely no regrets about moving to Bahrain,” she said.

Born and raised in Athabasca, Alberta, Canada, she worked in San Francisco and San Jose, went to Australia for one year and to Saudi Arabia before heading to Bahrain.

As a large percentage of her patient base in Saudi Arabia came from Bahrain, she decided to move to Bahrain and provide Chiropractic here.

“In Bahrain, you have the option of a fast-paced or laid back lifestyle. Bahrainis are a well-travelled, cosmopolitan bunch and expats are welcomed. It is inexpensive, relative to other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, and it is a great base to explore Europe and the Far East from. Most definitely my home away from home!”

Madeleine Whyte Doporto said that in the case of Bahrain, small is beautiful.” “Everything needed for a very comfortable and convenient life is generally only a short drive away - schools, shopping malls, world class hotels and restaurants, office buildings, medical facilities, salons, gyms and your friends’ homes,” she said.

Most important, Bahrainis are the most welcoming and tolerant race of people, she added.

“They accommodate and cater to all the religions, cultures and cuisines that come hand in hand with the vast numbers of expatriates who come from all areas of the planet.

In spite of the heat it is a very chilled place and it is very easy to get used to blue skies and sunshine almost every day of the year. It is a true testament to Bahrain that tens of thousands of people who came to work for a year or two can be found decades later, with many families that are second and third generations to make the Island their home.”

When Abdul Latheef Yusuf first arrived from his native village Thazhe Chovva in the southern Indian state of Kerala to Bahrain in 1994, he had plans to stay for only five years.

He felt blessed to be living near Muzhappilangad and its amazing beaches and evergreen trees in Kannur and said he would stay on the Gulf for some time to make some money then come home to get married.

Yet, six months into his contract, he decided he would do his best to extend his stay for as long as he could.

Today, 23 years later, he is happy he made the right decision by staying in Bahrain.

“After I witnessed the warmth of the people and the friendliness they displayed towards all, I felt I could ease myself into the culture and be integrated in the society,” he said.

“I have been fortunate to be working with people who appreciate me for who I am. They have no prejudice against Indians or foreigners in general. The feeling of being accepted despite my cultural, linguistic and physical characteristics is truly elating.”

Abdul Latheef, 52, said that he did miss his three daughters and one son, aged seven to 17, who were staying in India with his wife.

“One of the greatest merits here is the ability to communicate with them on social media. I communicate with them often and we get to see one another as we talk. We have come a long way since the days of the telephone and its high costs.”

He added that he did not think of leaving Bahrain for another country.

“I am really well-settled here, and I do not want to give up my way of life, even if there are more lucrative offers. At my age, I have learned that you should never try to exchange happiness for something else, no matter how attractive it may seem.”

For Idris, a Sudanese translator who has been in Bahrain since 1994, the kingdom richly deserved to be applauded.

“I would vote for Bahrain at any time. This is a country where I have been able to make many more friends and acquaintances than in my own country,” he said.

“Bahrain’s expat-friendly and stable business environment is suitable for an expatriate and that is truly remarkable. Some of my children were born, brought up and educated here since free basic education was available for them in the kingdom’s public schools.”

When she came from Morocco to Bahrain in 2013, Kawthar wanted to “see the world” and enrich her existence with rewarding experiences.

She had an opening in Bahrain and when she was offered a position as a journalist, she did not hesitate.

“Going to the Arabian Gulf about which we have heard so much and working as a journalist in a different environment was a highly attractive opportunity and I did not want to miss it,” she said.

As a fluent speaker of Arabic, French and English, she was able to communicate with various sectors of society.

“The feeling of living amidst a truly international community is really great,” she said.

“Bahrain is not just another country. It is a melting pot for so many cultures and civilisations. What is truly remarkable is that Bahrain itself has a rich history of civilisations and thus an impressive legacy.

"There are no complexes and Bahrain does not have to prove anything to anyone. In fact, Bahrainis are so accommodating that they encourage people to relax, settle in smoothly and come forth to enrich life in the island kingdom.”

She said several diplomats were upset at the end of their tenure in Bahrain because they would miss the easy life and smooth communication with a vast array of people from all cultures.

“For all the time I have spent here, I have never been bothered by anyone or ignored because I am not Bahraini. There is no invisible wall that separates nationalities or communities, and that is such a great feeling.”

Sandeep, another said he arrived in Bahrain 18 months ago on a contract as a driver.

“I was afraid I was going to suffer a cultural onslaught from a region that was new to me,” he said. “However, within weeks, I truly felt at ease. I did not feel the pressure I had expected in dealing with people. There was a lot of work, but it was not a serious problem. Outside work, I mind my own business and that means I do not have problems. I do not feel that Bahrainis are abusive or oppressive. They do not mind mixing with foreigners and communicating with them.”


Bahrain boosts real estate sector

Manama: Bahrain’s cabinet has approved a draft decree establishing the Real Estate Regulatory Authority (Rera) to develop the real estate sector in the kingdom and enhance the investment environment in accordance with the provisions of the Real Estate Regulatory Law.

The cabinet session, chaired by Crown Prince and First Deputy Prime Minister Salman Bin Hamad Al Khalifa, also called on Monday for the institution of four workshops to develop initiatives in line with the government’s action plan ahead of the next legislative term, 2018-2022.

The decisions to boost the real estate sector and to hold special initiative workshops were announced one day after the Prince Salman emphasised the government’s commitment to ensure sustainable economic growth and the delivery of opportunities for all.

Setting out the progress the government has made in implementing the initiatives within the 2015-2018 Government Action Plan (GAP), Prince Salman said that an increased role for the private sector in driving economic growth, supporting greater innovation and competitiveness and enhancing citizens’ living standards were three economic and socioeconomic priorities that are being pursued across government.

The crown prince was speaking at the Bahrain Government Forum 2017 that brought together Bahrain’s government officials to assess the 2015-2018 Government Action Plan.

In a presentation to the audience, the Crown Prince detailed the government’s delivery of priority programmes, while highlighting that Bahrain’s Economic Vision 2030 principles of sustainability, competitiveness, and fairness must continue to inform every aspect of the nation’s development.


He said that through continuous collaboration with the Bahrain Economic Development Board, Bahrain has seen an increase in inward investment of 158 per cent in 2016-2017.

Government initiatives outlined by Prince Salman included the launch of a National Strategy for Tourism, a sector which has seen a 12.8 per cent increase in visitors last year, the adoption of a national plan to revive Bahrain’s historic pearling industry and the implementation of the National Renewable Energy Plan, which aims to provide 5 per cent of the country’s electricity from renewables by 2025.

The reforms also include regulatory changes in the kingdom’s health care and education systems and the introduction of the National Strategy for Healthcare designed to transform the role of the Ministry of Health from an operator to the main regulator of the sector, a countrywide 25,000 housing unit programme, which has already delivered 15,655 units in different parts of Bahrain in close collaboration with the private sector while 4,800 additional units were announced at the Forum.

The figures reflect the government’s commitment to delivering projects that help further improve citizens’ living standards.

Significant progress

In addition, a far-reaching programme of $32 billion (Dh117 billion) infrastructure projects is undergoing significant progress and driving growth across the country’s oil and gas, logistics, manufacturing, ICT, financial services, and tourism sectors.

In a post-event statement, Prince Salman said that the government’s efforts, based on the principles of Bahrain’s Economic Vision 2030, sustainability, competitiveness, and fairness, are laying the foundations for economic prosperity and stability.

“The next phase of the Kingdom’s development features ambitious targets,” he said. “We are continually building upon our programme of development and launching new projects, as witnessed today with the announcement of 4,800 additional housing units, the development of a highly modernised power plant, the construction of a 100MW solar power plant, and targeted national strategies to boost key sectors,” he said.


Kuwait seeks to promote safer driving culture

Traffic authorities in Kuwait said they will remain committed to taking strong action against dangerous offences if the current drive to impound vehicles for some violations is found to be unconstitutional.

The authorities this month started impounding vehicles for months when drivers fail to wear seat belts, talk on hand-held cell phones while driving or park on pavements and no-parking zones.

Some lawmakers and lawyers criticised the move, insisting the penalty for traffic offences should be implemented gradually, and threatened to take legal action.

However, traffic authorities said they would not back down from their drive to make Kuwait’s roads safer for everyone and to hold irresponsible drivers responsible.

“We will naturally respect the decision of the competent authorities if they find that the current decision to impound vehicles is illegal or unconstitutional,” traffic sources told Kuwaiti daily Al Rai. “However, we will not hesitate to proceed to issue any resolution or legislation to stop flagrant violations and dangerous offences on our roads, and will not allow any disregard for human life.”

The sources added the main objective of the decision to impound vehicles was to save lives and that the interior ministry would embrace any legal or constitutional move to protect people.

“The ministry has been listening to the views expressed by lawmakers and common citizens, both supporting and criticising the issue. What really matters is that people become used to respecting laws,” the sources said.

Despite strenuous efforts by traffic authorities to instill a better driving culture and bring down an infamous world ranking in accident averages, official figures indicate that the task remains formidable.

Traffic figures show that 917,447 accidents have occurred since 2012. There were 86,271 accidents in 2012; 89,527 in 2013; 99,047 in 2014; 77,961 in 2015; and 71,582 in 2016. The figure was 23,529 in the first four months of this year.

Deaths by accident in 2012 were at 454, going down to 445 in 2013, but increasing to 461 in 2014. In 2015, there were 429 deaths while the figure was 153 up to April 2017.

Jumping red lights, speeding and the use of mobiles topped the causes of the accidents that occurred in 2017.

Recklessness and lack of responsible behaviour were also cited among the major causes of road crashes.

According to the National Traffic Strategy, the money spent by Kuwait to deal with accidents represents around 6 per cent of its annual gross domestic product.

More than 25,000 Kuwaitis, mostly relatives of those involved in accidents, are affected every year, the strategy prepared by an international expert said.


Under-30 expat ban put on hold in Kuwait

KUWAIT - Minister of Social Affairs and Labor Hind Al-Sabeeh said the ministry has delayed the implementation of a decision to ban the recruitment of expatriates who are under 30 years of age. The decision was supposed to go into effect on Jan 1, but the minister said it was decided to delay it for further considerations and in order to study objections by some ministries and government departments.

Meanwhile, opposition MP Adel Al-Damkhi said yesterday that a debate on the jailing of two sitting lawmakers who enjoy parliamentary immunity has been set for Jan 9. The announcement came after opposition lawmakers threatened to grill the prime minister if the issue was not debated. He said the government should come prepared and should submit the legal justification for jailing the two MPs while they still enjoy immunity.

MPs Jamaan Al-Harbash and Waleed Al-Tabtabaei were among 67 opposition activists sentenced by the appeals court to various jail terms for storming the National Assembly building during a protest in 2011. Opposition lawmakers are demanding why the two MPs have been arrested and sent to jail although the ruling is not final and will be looked by the court of cassation.

Member of the Assembly’s human rights panel MP Abdullah Fahhad said he visited the jailed MPs and activists in the case and expressed deep regret for the jailing of the activists while “MPs who took bribes are free in the Assembly”. Fahhad was referring to the to the issue that the activists were protesting against – a highly-publicized corruption case involving 13 current and former MPs who were accused of accepting millions of dinars in bribes for casting votes in the Assembly.

During the protests, activists entered the Assembly building and 70 of them were taken to court. The lower court acquitted them, while the appeals court convicted them. Fahhad said that he learned that police abused five of the activists in jail and complained to the interior minister, who promised to investigate the claims. Opposition MP Mohammad Hayef strongly lashed at some senior officers in the interior ministry “who are abusing both Kuwaitis and expatriates”, demanding it was high time to sack them.

Assembly speaker Marzouk Al-Ghanem said that it was agreed with the MPs to allocate two hours in the session of Jan 9-10 to debate the case of the jailed lawmakers. During the debate, opposition MP Shuaib Al-Muwizri clashed with pro-government MP Salah Khorshid when the latter objected to the raising of the issue, demanding that all MPs should respect court verdicts.

Also during the Assembly session, which was cut short because of a lack of quorum, MP Adnan Abdulsamad called on the government to treat Sunnis and Shiites equally with regards to issuing licenses for building mosques. Abdulsamad said that it is “illogical” that there are only 50 mosques for Shiites against as many as 1,800 mosques for Sunnis, and called for fair treatment. State Minister for Cabinet Affairs Anas Al-Saleh assured the lawmaker that the government treats all citizens equally without discrimination.


Kuwait to deport expatriates who break traffic laws twice

Kuwait said that it would deport any foreign driver caught a second time not wearing the seatbelt or holding a cell phone.

“The expatriate who breaks twice the law by not wearing the seat belt or using a mobile phone should be in his home country,” Brigadier Adel Al Hasshash, the head of public relations and security media, said.

“Article 207 of Traffic Law allows the impounding of vehicles while other articles give the interior minister the right to deport those who do not comply with public order and break the laws,” he said during a TV interview in Kuwait.

Al Hasshash said all Kuwaiti citizens and foreigners should fully comply with the law and cooperate with the public security in its application.

However, a legal expert said that deporting foreigners for breaking traffic was an exaggeration of the penalty.

“We have to be cautious about deporting foreigners for not wearing seatbelts,” Mudawas Al Rashidi, professor international law at the University of Kuwait, said. “We need to think whether other countries could take similar stances and threaten Kuwaitis, especially students, that they would be deported if they are caught breaking traffic laws abroad,” he said, quoted by Kuwaiti daily Al Seyassah on Thursday.

Several Kuwaitis have expressed anger at a decision to impound cars for months after drivers were caught not wearing seatbelts, using cell phones, or parking on sideways or in no parking areas.

The interior ministry started impounding cars last week, triggering a wave of protests.

One lawmaker, Riyadh Al Adsani, threatened to grill the interior minister if the new decision is not revoked, arguing that penalties should be gradual.

Other lawmakers said that the decision might not be constitutional and should be re-considered.

However, the ministry remained unfazed and insisted on the application of the new decision.

“The Traffic Directorate will not accept any mediation by anyone not to impound vehicles or to release cars,” Al Hasshash said.


Kuwait upholds fines for mobile use in cars

Kuwait’s interior ministry has indicated that it would not revoke a decision to impose fines and impound cars if their drivers are caught holding mobiles or not wearing seat belts.

The decision announced earlier this month was first applied on Wednesday and hundreds of cars were taken away to be impounded for up to months.

However, several lawmakers voiced their anger with the decision and threatened to escalate their protest and grill the interior minister.

While the ministry said that the decision has enormously helped reduce the number of fatalities on Kuwait’s roads, the lawmakers said that the campaign was not fair and that the action against violators should have been gradual.

Reports emerged that the ministry responded to the lawmakers’ demands and that the decision to impound cars would be shelved.

However, on Sunday, the ministry said that the impounding measures against drivers using mobile phones, not wearing seat belts, parking on pedestrian crossing or sidewalks and on motorcycle riders would be maintained.

The only exceptions to impounding cars would be humanitarian cases involving senior citizens or women, the ministry said.

“Our goal is to protect people from traffic accidents,” Fahad Al Showai, the ministry’s assistant undersecretary for traffic, said at a press conference. “The application of the decision had positive results since the first day since the number of accidents fell from 375 on Tuesday to 264 on Wednesday. The number of parking violations went down from 4,000 to 150.”

The official refuted claims that the impounding meant to help a towing company make more benefits with the increase of its activities.

“We had a tender for towing companies with ample parking space to keep the impounded cars and to ensure their security. It was all done within the state legal framework. The Ministry of Interior is fully committed to applying the law in every phase of the process,” he said.

Al Showai said the impounding was from two days to two months and depended on the type of violation.

“Each case is treated separately and the record of the driver is significant in deciding the length of the impounding,” he said.

The official added that 63,000 vehicles were impounded in 2016 and that there were no protests about the process.

However, MP Riyadh Al Adasani said that he would grill the interior minister if the decision to impound cars was not revoked.

“I have full respect for the minister, but I tell him ‘Buckle Up’ because the parliament did not grant any immunity to any minister. If [Interior Minister Khalid] Al Jarrah is re-appointed in the next cabinet, I will give a grace period of a few days and if he maintains the decision, I will quiz him,” the lawmaker said.

“We all support the application of the law to reduce traffic accidents, but the law should be applied in a civilised way and in line with the constitution. It should be applied gradually or through imposing fines or through court trials.”

A caretaker cabinet is now running Kuwait’s urgent affairs following the resignation of the government on October 30.


Mobility Management Middle East

Middle East:
Saudi Arabia

Ivory Coast

Other Countries: