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Uber to roll out new safety measures for UAE, Saudi drivers, riders

Uber has announced a new Safety Toolkit which, over the next few weeks, will be rolled out to the thousands of riders, drivers and couriers using the app across the Middle East.

The toolkit will introduce new innovative features which aim to raise the bar on safety, and increase transparency, accountability and peace of mind for all users, the company said in a statement.

Since launching the app, Uber has provided millions of people with technology that allows them to get a ride at the push of a button, track every trip with GPS technology and report any issues 24/7 with a dedicated safety team.

With the introduction of new safety features, the company said it aims to double down on safety and help make the Uber community safer.

Features that will be introduced as part of the new rider and driver safety toolkit, include an emergency button where riders and drivers/couriers can connect directly to emergency assistance service when needed.

Speed alerts which reminds driver and delivery partners to maintain a safe speed within the posted speed limits is also featured as well as caller anonymisation where riders and drivers will be able to call each other while maintaining the privacy of their number while using Uber.

“Over the last year we’ve been working to develop innovative products that increase transparency, accountability and piece of mind for all users. The rollout of our new Safety Toolkit features across Europe, Middle East and Africa is the next step in making sure that we’re helping everyone stay safe and connected, wherever you might be,” said Sachin Kansal, Uber’s global head of safety product.

Uber launched in the UAE in 2013, making Dubai the first city in the Middle East and today, there are more than 5,000 active drivers, and 188,000 active riders on the app.

Over 200,000 Saudi nationals have joined the Uber platform in the last two years, beating its initial goal to reach 100,000 by 2020.


Saudi Arabia awards $14bn railway project contracts

The Saudi government has signed three landmark agreements worth nearly $14 billion for implementing mega railway projects on the sidelines of the Future Investment Initiative 2018 in Riyadh, reported state news agency SPA.

Minister of Transport Nabil Al Amoudi, who is also chairman of the board of the Public Transport Authority (PTA), signed the first agreement for the $10.6-billion Land Bridge project, which is aimed at linking the Red Sea and the GCC ports via the railways between the Saudi cities of Dammam and Riyadh

Another major deal signed at the "Davos in the Desert” meeting was for $3.6 billion, with a Spanish consortium to build Phase Two of the Haramain High Speed Train project, said the SPA report.

The third agreement, worth $267 million, was inked between Saudi Railway Company and the US group Green Bakery Corporation for the manufacturing of train wagons in the kingdom, it added.


New visa changes take effect today in UAE

Dubai: The major visa policy changes that took into effect this week will not just benefit expatriates, but boost the local economy as well, sources have said.

Starting Sunday, October 21, sweeping changes to visa regulations in the UAE are being implemented, and these include the extension of entry permits for visitors and visas for women.

The Federal Authority for identity and Citizenship (ICA) confirmed last week that it will begin extending the residency visa for widows and divorced women and their children for a year without a sponsor. The residency visas of students sponsored by the parents will also be renewed.

For foreigners in the UAE whose entry permits will expire, they will get an extension of 30 days without leaving the country at a cost of Dh600. The extension can be granted twice only, regardless of the main duration of the original visa.

Sources in the tourism industry, as well as those who specialise in talent and human resources, have welcomed the decisions, citing that they enable foreigners, especially jobseekers, and visitors who have come to the UAE on business, to conveniently extend their stay in the UAE.

Brigadier Saeed Rakan Al Rashidi, acting director general for foreigners affairs and ports at ICA had said earlier that the policy changes will reduce the need for companies to recruit employees from outside the UAE, thus saving time and expenses for hiring additional or new staff. It also grants “longer grace period” for job seekers to “find the suitable opportunities.”

“The decrees enhance labour market by providing chances for various establishments to utilize the competencies existed in the state and reduce the need for recruiting labour from outside the state,” a statement from ICA reads.

"There are a number of people who come on tourist visas and then start looking for employment opportunities in the UAE and it I this segment which will benefit from the new rules as they can now get a visa extension on their tourist visas without having to exit the country," Premjit Bangara, general manager for travel at Sharaf Travel Services, said.

And with more foreigners staying longer, local businesses can benefit from higher consumer spending.

At the same time, visiting families of expatriate workers will be able to spend more time with their loved ones in the country.

“The UAE is already a very attractive destination for tourism, business conventions and exhibitions. Added flexibility to allow visitors to stay longer will further enhance UAE’s position as a destination of choice,” said Harish Bhatia, regional director for Middle East and Africa at Korn Ferry, a talent consulting firm.

“It also gives the large expatriate workforce a chance to bring in their extended family for longer periods. This is strategic step in the positive direction to boost the economy and further bolster the positioning as one of the top cities and countries in the world,” added Bhatia.

A huge proportion of the UAE’s workforce are expatriates and many of the professionals who have moved to the UAE for employment have left their families behind in their home countries.

“People extending their tourist visas for various reasons would then spend more money locally on hotel stays and retail which would also contribute to the economy along with the fees levied on these visa extensions,” noted Bangara.

“The new visa policy [will also] benefit women who have been divorced and widows to stay longer and put their lives back in order, as they will be given a one-year visa extension. It will also benefit students sponsored by their parents… and [they] can study locally in the UAE which in turn would benefit colleges and [other schools],” he added.

During the first six months of the year, at least 8.1 million tourists visited Dubai alone, up from 8.06 million in the same period of 2017. The emirate’s top source for visitor traffic remained India, Saudi Arabia and the UK.

Indian visitors during the same period accounted for more than one million, registering a 3 per cent increase over a year earlier.

What are the visa changes taking effect today?
For widows and divorced women:

The government will grant a one-year residency visa extension without the need for a sponsor starting from the date of spouse’s death or divorce.

The extension also covers the applicant's children living in the UAE. Those who don’t have children can avail themselves of the extension.

Fees: Dh100 for one-year residency visa; Dh100 to cancel previous visa Some caveats to keep in mind:

The application for extension is subject to conditions and regulations. For example, the applicant should have the residency visa sponsored by the deceased or former husband at the time of death or divorce.

The residency visa should also be valid at the time of death or divorce, and the children’s residency period does not exceed that of the mother.

There should also be proof that the woman has been divorced or widowed, and that she has a residence and the financial ability to provide for the family.

For visitors and tourists:
Both visitors and tourists can apply for a new visa after the expiry of the first one without the need to leave the country.

Expatriates living in the Gulf Cooperation Council countries and those accompanying citizens of Gulf countries do not qualify.

Special entry permits and 96-hour special mission entry visas are not included.

Each extension will be for 30 days. The 30-day extension can be availed of only twice.

Fees: Dh600 per renewal; Dh100 per day fine for violators which will take effect ten days after visa expiry

For students:
Children sponsored by parents after completing their university or high school, or those turning 18 years of age, will be given a one-year residency visa that can be renewed for another year Fees: Dh100 visa fee; Dh100 renewal fee


Construction on Abu Dhabi's hyperloop to begin next summer

Construction work on the first hyperloop transport system will begin next summer in Abu Dhabi, the company behind the project said on Wednesday.

Hyperloop Transportation Technologies said it would build a commercial line on the border of Abu Dhabi and Dubai at developer Aldar’s Seih Al Sderieh landbank, close to the Expo 2020 site and Al Maktoum International Airport.

The company has yet to outline the exact route and the location of the terminals, but the line would be close to a major new housing development around the existing commuter town of Al Ghadeer.

“We are bringing the future of rapid transportation technology to all those living in the UAE,” said HyperloopTT chairman Bibop Gresta.

“Today’s announcement is a testament to the continued commitment and determination of all our partners, both within the UAE and abroad. As we move forward with the system we invite other interested organisations in the region and around the world to join us in making history.”

On Wednesday HTT appointed design and engineering firm Dar Al Handasah to assist in bringing the Abu Dhabi commercial system to reality.

Dar Al Handasah’s team includes Dar Group members and architects Perkins+Will, American engineering firm TY Lin International, Spanish engineers GPO Group and British cost management company Currie & Brown.

“With today’s announcement of the appointment of Dar Al Handasah, Perkins+Wills, and Currie & Brown, we have achieved a significant milestone towards the construction of the world’s first commercial Hyperloop system in Alghadeer,” said HyperloopTT chief executive Dirk Ahlborn.

“We are looking forward to working with all of our regional stakeholders to build this historic piece of transportation infrastructure.”


Electric dreams: vehicle charging station launched in Dubai

Dubai's Road and Transport Authority is helping to drive the emirate towards an eco-friendly future – after announcing plans for a new mobile charging station for electric vehicles.

The transport authority says the move is all part of Dubai's long-term bid to build a green economy that is sustainable for years to come.

Mattar Al Tayer, director-general and chairman of the board of executive directors of the RTA, launched the station, which is on display at the Water, Energy, Technology and Environment Exhibition (Wetex 2018), being held at Dubai’s World Trade Centre from Tuesday until Thursday.

The launch of the mobile charging station is described as a key component of the nationwide UAE Green Development Strategy.

“It is part of a long-term national initiative for building a green economy in the UAE under the theme Green Economy for Sustainable Development,” said an RTA spokeswoman.

“It will also encourage people to own environmentally friendly electric vehicles.”

The initiative aims to help reduce carbon emissions from the transport sector and to support the response to emergency cases.

“The vehicle can travel to recharge the customer’s vehicle on demand to enable the client to continue the journey to the destination or the nearest electric recharging station,” said the spokeswoman.

“The initiative will boost public confidence in the use of electric vehicles as a reliable alternative to fuel-powered vehicles.”

The RTA is also supplying the Dubai Taxi Corporation with 200 Tesla electric vehicles, some of which are equipped with self-driving technology, which has yet to be activated.

The RTA said that 50 of these electric vehicles have already started operation and 75 others will be added before the end of this year.

The remaining 75 vehicles are expected to be on the road by 2019.

There are already 13 electric charging stations situated throughout Dubai.


Abu Dhabi's Masdar City launches self-driving shuttle service

Sustainable eco-neighbourhood Masdar City has launched a self-driving shuttle bus in what transports bosses have called a key moment in the history of transport in the region.

The Navya Autonom Shuttle can transport up to 12 people at a time and has a top speed of 25 kilometres per hour.

It will provide a continuous, all-day service between the parking area and the main podium for the 4,500 people who live and work in Masdar City.

Ibrahim Sarhan Alhmoudi, acting executive director of the Abu Dhabi Department of Transport’s Surface Transport Sector, who said he expects self-driving transport such as this to become a staple of everyday life by the end of the next decade.

He also said that reducing road fatalities is a priority for the Department of Transport and that “more than 94 per cent of car accidents and fatalities are due to human error”.

“We believe if we can eliminate the need for drivers we will eliminate the risk and improve the quality of life for all of us,” he said.

One of the benefits of self-driving vehicles is that, as they become more of a normal part of life, commuters will be able to free up the time they spend concentrating on the road to do other things.

“You could spend that quality time with your kids on the way to school or preparing for a meeting,” he said.

“This technology will provide huge social benefits.”

The new shuttle uses on-board cameras and sensors to create “perception maps” to detect obstacles and their position relative to the vehicle. GPS technology further allows the vehicle to define its precise location, as well as communicate with traffic lights.

“Masdar City is built on the three pillars of economic, societal and environmental sustainability and the introduction of our first Navya vehicle perfectly illustrates this philosophy in action,” said Yousef Baselaib, executive director for Sustainable Real Estate at Masdar.

“Masdar is building on its legacy as a catalyst for clean-tech innovation to bring cutting-edge and commercially viable autonomous mobility to the streets.”

Mr Badeslaib said the shuttle was the natural follow-up to Masdar City’s Personal Rapid Transport System, driverless pods that have carried more than two million passengers around the city over the last eight years.

“The introduction of our first Navya shuttle represents the next exciting phase of the city’s mobility journey,” he said.

French firm Navya was selected as the winner of a global competition at Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week in January in 2018 to supply Masdar City with the latest models of autonomous electric vehicles.

There plans for there to be seven shuttles out on the roads from next year and the shuttle route map will be expanded over time to connect the Etihad Eco Residence complex above Masdar City’s car park with the headquarters of the International Renewable Energy Agency and Majid Al Futtaim’s My City Centre Masdar shopping mall, due for completion in the first half of 2019.


Dubai Creek Harbour to see 40pc uplift in property prices

Leading UAE property developer Emaar said its 6-sq-km mega-development, Dubai Creek Harbour, is set to record an uplift in residential property prices by an average of 30 to 40 per cent in the short term, thanks the presence of several iconic projects.

Dubai Creek Harbour, located only 10 minutes from Dubai International Airport and the iconic Burj Khalifa, features top attractions such as the Dubai Creek Tower and Dubai Square, the newly-unveiled retail metropolis of the future, the prestigious waterfront development by the historic Dubai Creek is well-positioned to set new benchmarks in value appreciation and returns on investment (ROIs).

This makes the residential launches in Dubai Creek Harbour a compelling purchase for investors, said the Dubai developer.

A comparison of the appreciation in property prices in Downtown Dubai with neighbouring developments gives strong evidence to the remarkable value that Dubai Creek Harbour investments will also deliver for customers.

Since the opening of The Dubai Mall and the grand inauguration of Burj Khalifa, residences in Downtown Dubai have recorded continued appreciation in property prices – in both the primary and secondary markets, it stated.

As the most sought-after residential location in Dubai, homes in Downtown Dubai that were developed by Emaar have continuously recorded a strong investor and market response.

Market reports for July 2018 show the average price per square foot of residential property in Downtown Dubai was 38 per cent higher than in residential developments in Business Bay.

Market estimates project that Dubai Creek Harbour is set for similar or greater appreciation in property prices.

Driving this is the Dubai Creek Tower, an iconic observation tower set to welcome millions of visitors annually.

Dubai Square is also expected to lend further traction to residential property in the mega-development. At 2.6 million sq m, it will be an astonishing retail, hospitality and residential district for the future.

The first homes in Dubai Creek Harbour will be handed over next year, with the progress in construction strengthening investor confidence. Dubai Creek Harbour will be the closest lifestyle destination for the millions of visitors passing through Dubai International Airport.

In addition to serving Dubai's three million-strong population, it will also be a preferred lifestyle destination for high-net-worth investors in a geographic catchment area within four hours' flight time of the emirate.-TradeArabia News Service


All Dubai taxis to offer free wi-fi service

Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) and du, from Emirates Integrated Telecommunications Company (EITC), are set to embark on a joint project to fit all taxis in Dubai (about 10,800 cabs) with free wi-fi service.

The step aims to bring happiness to riders and make clients mobility on board Dubai taxis an enjoyable experience. The two parties pronounced their commitment to support the efforts of ranking Dubai as the smartest and happiest city in the world.

In this regard, RTA and du have signed a cooperation agreement on the sidelines of their participation in Gitex 2018. Mattar Al Tayer, RTA’s director general and chairman of the Board signed on behalf of RTA. Mohammed Al Hussaini, chairman, EITC, signed on behalf of du.

“In line with our efforts to rank Dubai as the smartest and happiest city in the world, we are pleased to sign this agreement with RTA to provide smart services and wi-fi technology onboard taxis in Dubai,” said Osman Sultan, CEO, EITC.

“This initiative is an important step in our efforts to support the UAE Government’s Vision 2021 for providing accessible modern telecommunication services,” he added.

“According to the agreement, du will start fitting the required devices to taxis. All fleet vehicles of the six franchise companies operating in Dubai will be covered by the service within one year from the date of signing this agreement,” said Ahmed Hashim Bahrozyan, CEO of RTA’s Public Transport Agency.

“The wi-fi service enables taxi riders to browse the internet using their smart mobile phones, tabs or handheld devices. It saves them the time and enables them to do several tasks while on transit. RTA is always keen on using the state-of-the-art technology in collaboration with the service providers in the UAE,” added Bahrozyan.

“This service shall be subject to a continuous and accurate assessment and will be upgraded in conjunction with Du to enable riders to enjoy seamless internet connectivity. Du offers great services all over the UAE and has a high reputation across the community.

“RTA is keen to bring happiness to all community members including the clients commuting daily on taxis. Clients can avail fine services onboard modern and convenient vehicles driven by skilled and highly professional drivers who have the etiquette of dealing with residents, tourists and visitors,” continued Bahrozyan.

The wi-fi service is available at more than 400 hotspots in the UAE including the Dubai Metro, Dubai Tram, shopping centres, Emaar Boulevard Downtown, and the Global Village among others. This service provides customers smooth access to all government sites and apps as well as chatting apps, e-mail and social media channels.

The service aims to raise the happiness of the UAE residents through enabling them access to the internet through: the free wi-fi UAE Free, and wi-fi UAE Premium, which is a paid service providing users features such as unlimited downloading and uploading against very affordable rates. – TradeArabia News Service


Mövenpick set to open hotel apartment tower in Dubai

Mövenpick Hotels & Resorts is gearing up for the opening of a new hotel apartment tower in Downtown Dubai.

Expected to open by year end, the 244-key property, which will be within walking distance of the world's tallest building - Burj Khalifa - and the Dubai Mall, will become the operator’s sixth property in the emirate.

Mövenpick Hotel Apartments Downtown Dubai's rooms range from 38-sq-m deluxe rooms to 265-sq-m three-bedroom apartments, and feature amenities such as fully-equipped kitchens with induction cooker and oven, microwave, washing machine, dishwasher and cooking utensils, fast and free wi-fi and LED HD TVs

The hotel also offers an all-day-dining restaurant and a pool lounge, as well as an outdoor swimming pool, gym and sauna.
Bien all-day dining restaurant

Great food throughout the day is what one can expect in the hotel's all-day dining restaurant at Mövenpick Hotel Apartments Downtown Dubai. Natural light fills up the airy interiors where creatively prepared feasts are enjoyed. Along with an à la carte menu, the restaurant features an extensive salad bar with wonderful variety.

Fresh honeycomb and on-demand freshly juiced concoctions are favourites during breakfast, while evenings are ideal to try regional specialties. The restaurant also serves coffee and fragrant teas alongside an indulgent assortment of freshly baked pastries, cakes and savoury treats throughout the day. Check out our Power Bites kids menu and Mövenpick’s popular ‘Go Healthy’ options.

Mövenpick Hotels & Resorts is ideally situated in Downtown Dubai, one of the city’s most vibrant and central districts. It is in close proximity to business areas such as Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC, Business Bay and City Walk, which are all inside a 5 km radius. Close landmarks include Dubai Aquarium & Underwater Zoo, KidZania Dubai, Souk Al Bahar and many others. - TradeArabia News Service


VAT refund procedures simplified for UAE home buyers

The UAE's Federal Tax Authority (FTA) has simplified the procedures to reclaim value added tax (VAT) for Emirati nationals who are building new residences, according to a report.

The FTA stressed the need for citizens who apply for VAT refunds from the construction of new housing to ensure that all forms related to the request for recovery are completed accurately and that all the required information is included in the requests, to allow the commission’s specialists to process applications within the set time limits. It also called on UAE nationals to view the user guide, which is available on its official website.

Announcing the new measures, director-general Khalid Ali Al Bustani said: "The FTA is committed to adhering to the vision of the UAE’s wise leadership to develop a modern housing system and to deliver the best standards of life and well-being within the framework of care that the state provides, as the focus of development plans and as part of the basic objectives of all initiatives and projects carried out by state institutions."

"For us at FTA, the happiness of UAE citizens is the top priority. We are committed to implementing our services through the most advanced, innovative, and easy-to-use digital systems," he stated.

"The FTA is introducing tax legislation that reflects the government’s directives to ensure the well-being of UAE citizens. With this in mind, we have provided a clear and transparent set of standards and criteria to facilitate VAT recovery on the building of new residences by UAE nationals," he added.

Given the leadership's keenness on ensuring housing stability for all segments of society, the UAE legislator said he has taken special care not to raise the burden on the UAE's citizens and residents. The supply of commercial real estate (sale or rent) is subject to the basic rate of VAT five per cent, except during the first three years of construction, when it is subject to 0 per cent.

He pointed out that supplying a housing unit for the first time within the first three years of construction is subject to zero-rated VAT. All subsequent supplies of the same unit are exempt from tax, even if the supply is also made within the first three years of completion, said the top official.

This is meant to equalise VAT treatment for home builders, as a result of which UAE nationals can now refund VAT incurred in the construction of new residential units, he noted.

Al Bustani also said the authority has identified specific criteria and documents that must be attached to requests to reclaim VAT, to ensure that the recovery from the construction of new housing is provided only to citizens who meet the conditions. He added that accurate procedures were being implemented to prevent any attempts to evade taxes.

Al Bustani said the refund procedure, which can be completed on the FTA website, has three key conditions: The applicant must be an Emirati national, the monetary cost in question must have gone towards financing the construction of a new home to be used exclusively as a residential unit for the applicant and/or their family, and the VAT refund only includes the money spent on constructing the unit, such as the amount paid for building materials.

The FTA also reiterated that the request must be submitted within six months of the date of completion of construction, which precedes the date of occupancy of the building, it added.-TradeArabia News Service


Dubai floats tenders for largest airport substructure package

Dubai has invited bids for the largest substructure package in the world for its second airport, Al Maktoum International Airport, which is set to become the primary airport for Dubai, as well as the home to Emirates Airline from 2025.

The substructure package consists of construction works related to the foundations, basement walls, tunnels, columns, slabs on grade and apron slabs of the first 2.7-km-long concourse, the West Terminal Building, the short-term car-park and the staff car-park, said a statement from Dubai Aviation Engineering Projects (DAEP), which has officially embarked into the tendering of the mega substructure project.

The expansion contract for Al Maktoum, which is expected to become the world’s largest airport, will be awarded during the first quarter of 2019, stated the emirate's aviation planning and development facilitator.

"DAEP commenced this week interviewing all joint ventures and consortium formed by leading local and international contractors specifically for this job, in order to shortlist those who are prequalified to be invited for the tender which will go out soon," said a company spokesman.

"We are fully committed to deliver a large-scale airport designed with the capacity to serve the long-term demands of the aviation sector of Dubai while providing the highest level of services and incorporating the most up-to-date innovative technologies, with a vision for Dubai to become the aviation capital of the world," he added.-TradeArabia News Service


Abu Dhabi begins work on two new school projects

Abu Dhabi General Services Company Musanada has started work on two school projects - the Mohamed bin Zayed School in Abu Dhabi and the Jebel Hafeet School in Al Ain.

The schools, which are being built at an investment of Dh288 million ($78.3 million), will come up over a 117,000-sq-m area and accommodate a total of 4,040 male and female students in 147 classrooms.

"The execution of these two projects forms part of Musanada’s efforts to realise the vision of President HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan and implement the directives of Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, towards delivering projects that provide facilities aligned to the emirate’s advanced educational level and providing a stimulating educational environment to both students and teachers," remarked Saleh Al Ali, Musanada’s education portfolio director.

Unveiling the details, Al Ali said that the Dh170-million C2 and C3 Mohamed bin Zayed School for boys forms part of Abu Dhabi Future Schools Programme (ADFSP), Phase Seven, Package One, and that Musanada plans to handover the school to Abu Dhabi Department of Education and Knowledge (ADEK) in December 2019.

"The school will be constructed on an overall area of more than 25,900 sq m within the total area amounting to 78,912 sq m allocated to the project," said Al Ali.

Set to be completed within 16 months as per the agreed delivery schedule, the Mohamed bin Zayed School will comprise three floors (a ground floor plus two storeys), and will accommodate 2,550 students (1,500 C2 students and 1,050 C3 students), and will include 85 classrooms (50 for C2 and 35 for C3).

It will also include a library, science, arts and computer labs, a multipurpose hall, administration offices, an equipped sports hall, a cafeteria, a dining hall, a prayer room for students and the administration, external playgrounds, parking spaces and external landscaping," he explained.

As for the Jebel Hafeet School, Al Ali said that this school also forms part of ADFSP, Phase Seven, Package Two. The Dh118-million C1 and KG school will be constructed on a plot at the northern part of Jebel Hafeet area in Al Ain city on an overall area of 38,422 sq m, including 12,505 sq m dedicated for the buildings.

"The school will comprise two floors (a ground floor plus one floor), and will accommodate 1,490 male and female students (1,250 C1 students and 240 KG students), and will include 62 classrooms, including 12 for KG. The school will also include two classrooms for arts and music, a library, administration offices, a multipurpose hall, a cafeteria, a dining hall, external playgrounds, parking spaces and external landscaping. The total built-up area of the facility (ground floor plus first floor) will be 17,596 sq m," said Al Ali.

According to him, these projects will boast latest electromechanical systems, including air-conditioning and fire-fighting systems, in line with Adek’s Design Manual and requirements, and in accordance with the regulations and requirements of the concerned authorities.

The scope of work includes the school construction and supply of the furniture, fittings and equipment (FFE), he added.-TradeArabia News Service


Bahrain on course to implement VAT from January 1 2019

Bahrain’s parliament has approved the introduction of 5 percent value-added tax (VAT) in the kingdom from January 1 2019, it was announced on Sunday.

According to the state-run Bahrain News Agency (BNA), the country’s House of Representatives voted on the introduction of VAT in an extraordinary session ordered by royal decree.

The bill, which would see Bahrain join the UAE and Saudi Arabia in implementing VAT, must also be approved by the parliament’s Upper House, which is expected to hold a similar session later this week.

“The introduction of VAT will be a big challenge for the local Bahrain market,” said Michael Camburn, Bahrain Indirect Tax Leader at Deloitte Middle East. “Businesses now have less than four months to be prepared for these changes.”

Camburn added that “if organisations have so far not yet started, they should start immediately assessing the impact of the tax on their operations.”

The implementation of VAT was one of a number of reforms announced by Bahraini authorities, which also includes changes to its pension system and a new subsidy programme.

Last week, Bahrain announced a fiscal overhaul meant to balance its budget by 2022, backed up by a $10 billion economic support package from Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Kuwait.

The plan aims to $2.1 billion a year as Bahrain looks to curb its debt after years of lower oil prices.


Swiss-Belhotel unveils new aparthotel complex in Bahrain

Hospitality chain Swiss-Belhotel International has announced the soft opening of its new hotel-apartment complex in Juffair, Bahrain.

Swiss-Belresidences Juffair welcomed its first guest on October 1.

The stunning property is centrally located in the heart of the dynamic Juffair district – a popular hub for dining and shopping venues – and is merely 17 minutes away from Bahrain International Airport. In close proximity are Juffair Mall and the Grand Mosque.

Making the announcement, Gavin M. Faull, chairman and president of Swiss-Belhotel International, said: “We are delighted to open our second hotel in Bahrain which also marks the debut of our lifestyle brand ‘Swiss-Belresidences’ in the kingdom. We look forward to a long-term partnership with our valued owners and associates and are committed to delivering strong commercial success.”

Laurent A. Voivenel, senior vice president, operations and development for the Middle East, Africa and India, Swiss-Belhotel International, stated: “We are very excited to grow our presence in Bahrain and other parts of GCC. We are confident Swiss-Belresidences Juffair will enhance our offering in Bahrain with its distinctive concept and high-end facilities and is well equipped to meet the growing demand for quality upper midscale accommodation in the country. It has been designed to give business and leisure travellers a compelling experience in the heart of the city.”

Swiss-Belresidences Juffair is an upper midscale hotel-apartment complex boasting 129 spacious (one-, two- and three-bedroom) apartments and penthouse with superb amenities. Designed in modern and contemporary style, the complex features an array of leisure and entertainment facilities for families ranging from a business lounge to a fabulous spa and health club, an outdoor swimming pool, a playground, cinema and a games room for all ages.

Bahrain welcomed a total of 12.7 million tourists in 2017 and is targeting 15.2 million visitors in 2018. Continued investment in tourism infrastructure with solid increase in arrivals, particularly from the region, is contributing to this massive growth in Bahrain’s tourism sector.

Tourism investment is set to rise further with the Bahrain Economic Development Board (EDB) forecasting total foreign direct investment (FDI) in the sector to increase from the current $300 million to $500 million in the next few years. As part of these developments, Bahrain International Airport is undergoing a $1.1 billion modernisation programme, set to increase passenger capacity from nine to 14 million per year by 2020. Other infrastructure investment projects include the development of shopping malls such as Dilmunia Mall and the Marassi Galleria shopping complex, to join the recently-opened $159 million Avenues Mall at Bahrain Bay. - TradeArabia News Service


Swedish retail giant Ikea plans to expand into Oman

Ikea plans to expand into Oman as part of plans to enter about a dozen new markets in the coming years, as the Swedish furniture giant aims to reach a total of 3 billion potential customers by 2025.

The company will open stores in Chile, Columbia and Peru through a new Ikea franchisee called Falabella as part of its first foray into South America, Inter Ikea said in an emailed statement on Wednesday.

Inter Ikea, which owns the Ikea concept and is the worldwide franchisor, also said the company plans to start selling its products in Oman, Mexico, Estonia, Ukraine, Puerto Rico, Luxembourg, Macau and the Philippines.

No further details were given about the Oman store but it would follow the launch of a Bahrain outlet last month.

"By 2025, we have the potential to reach and interact with 3 billion people," Inter Ikea CEO Torbjorn Loof said in the statement. "We will offer new and different ways to shop the Ikea product range - online, in remote locations and in city centers. We will introduce smaller store formats and offer a wide range of flexible and affordable services."

Ikea is in the midst of a transformation where it’s shifting resources toward emerging markets and alternative shopping experiences such as e-commerce and city center stores to better cater to customers’ changing needs. The new expansion plans were laid out as Inter Ikea reported a 4.5 percent increase in retail sales in the 12 months through August, adjusted for currency impact, at the franchisees that operate its more than 400 stores across the world.

Total retail sales, which include sales of both products and services, rose to 38.8 billion euros ($44.7 billion) from 38.3 billion euros a year earlier. In its last fiscal year, India and Latvia became new Ikea markets as the company opened 19 new stores around the world.

In its fiscal year 2019, which runs through August, a total of 15 retail locations are planned. That includes a new store that was opened in Bahrain in September, Inter Ikea said.

Ikea’s stores, which can be found in more than 50 markets, welcomed 957 million visitors in the last fiscal year. The company now has online stores in 35 markets after its operations in Belgium, Romania and Malaysia introduced e-commerce. The company is also exploring selling its products on external online marketplaces and Loof said he hopes to introduce a collaboration with a digital shopping platform in the coming year.

Ikea’s foray into South America will see the company open nine stores and expand online in Chile, Colombia and Peru, through the Falabella franchise, in the coming decade.

"We’re very excited to open in South America," Loof said in a phone interview. "It will be a faster and bigger expansion than when we’ve entered new markets before."

The retailer will need at least 1 million cubic meters of store space in South America to break even, Loof said. Its first store is planned to open in Santiago in Chile in late 2020 and locations in Lima in Peru and Bogota in Columbia will then likely follow, he said.

Ikea’s transformation means franchisees like Falabella have a menu of options to choose from to jump start their expansion, including physical store formats and digital services. That means new Ikea franchisees should be able to "reach bigger volume faster with lower costs," Loof said.


Dubai's Careem resumes services in Oman with local partner

Dubai-based ride-hailing operator Careem has resumed services in Oman, launching its new operation in Muscat in partnership with local operator Marhaba Taxi.

Careem initially launched in Muscat in May 2017 on its own, but stopped when it was asked by the Government of Oman to reconsider their operating model and focus first on working with licensed taxis.

The new service will allow customers to book the GO+ car type on the Careem app for an on demand taxi. Prices will be in line with regular taxis, with fares starting at OMR1.25.

Careem said it will handle all components of the service from matching the customer to their ride, to dispatching taxis, to customer service, payment and marketing.

Currently the only ride-hailing operator in the Sultanate, Careem said it now plans to roll out full services across the country covering all major cities in Oman.

“Oman is a strategically important country for us as it completes our footprint across the GCC - we are now the only ride hailing operator to offer a service across all six GCC countries,” said Khaled Nuseibeh, general manager of Careem, GCC.

“With Marhaba Taxis on our platform, we can bring all the benefits of ride hailing to customers in Muscat at affordable and transparent prices.”

Yousuf Al-Hooti, special projects manager of Ingenuity Technologies LLC (Marhaba Taxi licence owner) said Marhaba is known for its new vehicles, the quality of its services and for its friendly team.

“Marhaba has gained a reputation over the last two years for its professional services it provides in the tourism sector. Our cooperation with Careem is the first step we are taking towards new initiatives in the local market for enhancing the taxi service experience in Muscat.”


Qatar exit visa reform to go in force Oct end

DOHA: Qatar’s decision to abolish its controversial exit visa system will come into force by the end of October, a leading global trade union official said yesterday. Sharan Burrow, head of the International Trade Union Confederation and once a prominent critic of the 2022 football World Cup host’s labor practices, was speaking in Doha after meeting Qatar’s prime minister and labor minister.

“We’ve seen significant progress, first of all we have seen the end of the exit visa law and that will be now implemented by the end of October,” she said. “Everybody’s aware that this is a big shift and that it will actually take a period of time but formally it will be implemented by the end of the month.”

Qatar announced in September it had approved legislation to scrap the visa system, which requires all foreign workers to obtain their employers’ permission to leave the country. Until now, no date had been given for when it would come into force. Under the landmark labor law, only a maximum five percent of each company’s workforce – thought to be those in the most senior positions – will still need permission to leave Qatar. There are some two million foreign workers in Qatar.

Scrapping the exit permit is the biggest announcement made so far since Qatar agreed last November to enter into a three-year agreement with the UN’s International Labor Organization to oversee reform. Other changes include the introduction of a minimum monthly wage, set at 750 Qatari riyals ($205), plus accommodation. Burrow added that research was underway on whether that amount should be increased. Critics have long argued for abolition of the exit visa – a lynchpin of the country’s “kafala”, or sponsorship, system which many liken to modern-day slavery. Research published last year by rights group Migrant-Rights.org found that around a quarter of all exit visa requests were denied by the government. – AFP

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