Joint efforts between Pakistan and the UAE are advancing in a variety of industries. One particular area is business, with dual efforts being made in the food, textile and service regions, as will be witnessed in two days’ time at Karachi’s 10th Annual Expo Pakistan. There will be around 50 UAE delegates there from both the public and private sectors. The Pakistan Business Council will also be participating and business council members are expected to arrive from Africa, America, Australia, Jordan and the UK.
Figures for 2015-16 Pakistan-UAE bilateral trade stood at $7bn (with $1.06bn exports from Pakistan). but this increased in 2016-17 by 9.4 percent, reaching $8.3bn. During the show alone, it is anticipated that there will be in excess of $1bn trade transactions taking place. As Dubai’s Consul-General of Pakistan, Syed Javed Hassan noted:
“The climate of investment in Pakistan is very conducive for investment as red-tapism and regulations have been eased to quite an extent to attract foreign direct investment. The government has also created certain tax free zones for a period of four to five years for investors from abroad. Besides that, the CPEC [China-Pakistan Economic Corridor] is another milestone for investors to invest. When this rail linking through Gwadar becomes operational, the commodities would be transported to China, Central Asia and most of European countries, benefitting about 40 per cent of the population of this [Gulf] region.”
Just a few weeks ago there was the Pakistan Property Show in which over 50 exhibitors showcased their real estate options at the Dubai World Trade Centre, offering Pakistanis from overseas an opportunity to purchase properties in their home countries. At the show, foreign investors were able to increase exposure of their portfolios.
The financing ($17 million) for the project is coming from a Chinese company and is indicative of strong and advancing Afghan-Pakistani relations, which were echoed at the ground-breaking ceremony with Nasir Ahmad Andisha, Deputy Foreign Minister of Afghanistan, Sun Weidong (Pakistan’s Chinese Ambassador) and Omar Zakhilwal (Islamabad’s Afghan ambassador).
It is hoped that the building will be complete by 2020.
In this movie – filmed, edited and produced by Hannah Gaber (who has interests in Middle Eastern matters) – Oman is viewed through its youth. Through this we learn of some of the severest challenges the region is encountering, as depicted by the youth of the nation.
It’s an interesting thing to go down in history for…having your very own font. Well, for Dubai it has to be better than other topics people discuss. The Dubai Font (a combination of both Latin and Arabic texts) can now be accessed around the world via Microsoft Office 365.
The project – which took 18 months to process – was supervised by Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Dubai’s Crown Prince. He worked with six people from Monotype (an American firm that has made specialty typefaces for large grands such as Vogue). Once completed he instructed government agencies to use it in all official correspondence. Meanwhile, the rest of the world can feel free to use the simple, Arabic/Latin San Serif typeface, since it is available in 23 different languages. Indeed, anyone of the 100 million Microsoft Office 356 software owners will be able to download DubaiFont.com in multiple formats.
As Maktoum (who is also chair of the Dubai Executive Council) said: “The launch of the Dubai Font to the world is a very important step for us as part of our continuous efforts to be ranked first in the digital world. We are confident that this new font and its unique specifications will prove popular among other fonts used online and in smart technologies across the world. I have personally overseen all the stages of the development of this font, from the first design sketches to the execution phase.”
Chief designer, Nadine Chahine added: “It is a mean of expression, it is not the expression itself. “It’s a sans serif with a lot of humanist influence.” Ultimately it has been said to fill a gap in the market of high-quality Arabic fonts.
The economy of Saudi Arabia has definitely had its fair share of hits, most notably the drop in oil prices. But it seems that this is not stopping the region as we look at the recent governmental statement comprising the budget for this year, including its plan to significantly decrease its (record) budget deficit. We learn more in this interview with Azhar Sukri.
An additional 1,000 jobs will soon become available in Oman’s hotelier industry. Together with Omani developers, Omran (the Oman Tourism Development Company) will be requiring more staff to operate three new hotels. And this will be expanded over the next 5 years, according to James Wilson, CEO of Omran. He said that there will need to be the training of around 10,000 people who will be working in the hospitality, tourism and real estate industries. This will ultimately move employment away from just being reliant on oil.
Furthermore, Omran recently started work on Muscat’s Mina Al Sultan Qaboos Waterfront Project, featuring a multi-use waterfront. It is hoped that this will span 64 hectares and will be ready by 2020.
Meanwhile, Oman’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry has also been working toward escalating employment in the area. Via the Human Resource and Job Market Development Committee, the Chamber recently held a seminar on ‘Creating opportunities in the job market,’ for SME owners, entrepreneurs, representatives from OAMC and Orpic and more. OCCI’s Human Resource and Job Market Development Committee Chair, Mohamed Hassan al Ansi inaugurated the event and Orpic’s Ibrahim al Mamari delivered a presentation on how companies could support SMEs.
It appears – from a global bird’s eye view – that Pakistan could be the next hub of innovative business. Over the last few weeks, three different regions have announced upcoming partnerships or collaborations in Pakistan that they plan on undertaking.
First off is France. Thierry Pfimlin, the President of the Pakistan-France Business Council and VP of the (Asia Pacific Region) TOTAL contacted Parisian Senator Ishaq Dar, the Finance Minister. Pflimlin made him aware of an upcoming business delegation from France. This is because there are currently quite a few companies in France that are considering the possibility of establishing partnerships in Pakistan while bolstering the business relations that already exist there. The main industries that would be engaging in such collaboration are: food processing, gas, infrastructure development, mining, oil and railways.
In Bahrain the Pakistan Embassy there set up the first conference focusing on Pakistan Bahrain business opportunities that took place three days ago. Participants included over 350 delegates from the GCC region, Bahrain and Pakistan. Overseas Pakistani businessman that work in Gulf countries (along with delegations from Qatar Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and UAE) also took part in the conference.
China is likewise looking at Pakistan for investor relations. It is Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. that – given the upgraded Pakistani security situation – is looking into business expansion. This Chinese multinational networking and telecommunications firm plans to develop five safe cities in Punjab while providing services in execution of CPEC-based projects, primarily for placing data cables for improved telecom connectivity at home and abroad.
With the improved security situation as well as the most recent signing of the multilateral convention on tax co-operation, the region is becoming an attractive one for FDIs.
Tourism to Oman is increasing substantially. As such plans have been announced by the Oman Tourism Development Company for the creation of three new hotels, providing an additional 900 rooms for 2017/18. The address of one of the hotels is the Madinat Al Irfan Urban Centre, in a new development area. In addition, Sheraton Oman – which has been closed for the last 10 years – is due to reopen in October. Having been a landmark in Muscat for many years, this hotel is one of the tallest buildings in the country, with 14 floors. That hotel alone is offering the bourgeoning tourist industry an additional 230 rooms (including 27 suites).
Of the new developments, Said bin Mohammed Al Qasmi (head of the Oman Convention and Exhibition Centre development and CPO) explained that:
“The new business hub at Madinat Al Irfan Urban development is going to be a new urban fabric introduced into Muscat, offering a multitude of opportunities in Oman for residents and visitors alike. The opening of both JW Marriot and Crowne Plaza next year will continue the initial stage of phase one of this development, adding another dimension to the Oman Convention and Exhibition Centre.” By having these fantastic hotels on-site to complement the world-class OCEC facility, it means there are already assets on the ground at the Madinat Al Irfan Urban development. Projects of this size often focus on doing a lot off-plan, but this is not the case with Al Irfan. We’ve begun phase one, and investors can see progress and tangible facilities already in place.”
In addition, a few months ago, ‘Tourism Horizons’ an academic engagement program was developed as part of a “strategic vision of developing Oman’s top urban and tourism destinations, including the ‘Madinat Al Irfan’ and the ‘Mina Sultan Qaboos Waterfront’.” Targeting various students from select academic institutions in engineering, marketing and tourism, this event was held at the Oman Tourism College, in an effort to find ways for the students to “contribute to the growth of the [tourism and hospital] sectors.”
Furthermore, the National Business Center just organized a discussion session as part of the monthly Reyooq initiative for the incubated companies and SMEs. At the event, the country’s Undersecretary at the Ministry of Tourism, Maitha bint Saif Al Mahrouqi, spoke of the investment opportunities SMEs in the Sultanate can access and how they can use its tourism strategy for job growth which will ultimately contribute to growth of the national economy and SME advancement in the industrial sector.
The event also highlighted the vision of NBC, which is to become the premier platform for Omani entrepreneurs by providing business development support and guidance, training and mentoring, access to markets and industry experts and state-of-the-art, fully equipped, office space, meeting rooms and presentation facilities.
The UAE is doing very well with following the midday break rules. According to the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation, out of 29,000+ companies subject to the law that was launched last month, a mere 47 have not been following it. This translates into a staggeringly positive 99.8 percent compliance level.
The law is that people are not allowed to work under direct sunlight between the hours of 12.30 to 3.00 pm. Between June and September to “ensure the safety and health of the workers.” Those who violate the law will be fined AED5,000 for each worker found working during those hours and up to AED50,000 for a large amount of workers.
That’s great news but how will the UAE deal with the changes in the upcoming VAT law? At least – according to an announcement by the UAE Government – bicycles, education, 100 food items, health and social services will not be subject to the change.
GCC countries will be expected to follow the VAT changes, a year from their January 1, 2018 implementation. The regions will be given flexibility to introduce VAT within that time frame and according to CEO of Barjeel Geojit Securities, C. A. Krishnan Ramchandran:
“There is still speculation on whether the VAT regime will add to inflation. At the ground level of the common man, the impact will be minimum. However, at the high end and luxury segment, the impact could be much higher (cars, real estate etc.).”
The consumer won’t be impacted too much either as IQI Holdings Malaysia Chief Economist, Shan Saeed said: “It would contribute merely 1-2 per cent in price inflation. It won’t make any impact on the consumer spending.”
Hopefully the law will be followed as well as the midday breaks one is currently being upheld.