Israel and the UAE conclude historic peace deal
Israel and the United Arab Emirates reached an agreement on 13 August for a full normalisation of diplomatic relations between the two nations, as well as a shared commitment to promote stability through diplomatic engagement, increased economic integration and closer security coordination.
A joint statement said that delegations from Israel and the UAE will meet in the coming weeks to sign bilateral agreements regarding investment, tourism, direct flights, security, telecommunications, technology, energy, healthcare, culture, the environment, the establishment of reciprocal embassies, and other areas of mutual benefit.
Bahrain ranks among top five MENA start-up ecosystems
Bahrain was ranked among the world’s top five fastest-growing start-up ecosystems with fewer than 1,000 start-ups, according to the 2020 Global Startup Ecosystem Report (GSER), which also placed Bahrain among the top 10 Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Ecosystems for Funding in 2020.
The report, by Startup Genome and the Global Entrepreneurship Network, said Bahrain created USD164 million in ecosystem value over the last two-and-a-half years, and cited wage subsidies and a liberal tax regime as reasons a start-up should move to Bahrain. It also praised Bahrain’s strength in FinTech and noted the success of its stimulus programme in response to COVID-19.
Bahrain is first MENA country to ratify UN treaty on electronic communications
Bahrain has become the first country in MENA to ratify the UN Convention on the Use of Electronic Communications in International Contracts (2005), helping to facilitate a new wave of digital business across the region and enhance investor protections. The convention will enter into force for Bahrain on 1 January 2021.
Demand for the Portuguese residency programmes surges in the Middle East
The rise of second passports in the Middle East continues. In light of the coronavirus pandemic we have observed a significant increase in residency and citizenship programme applications from both GCC nationals and expats in the region, with a particular uptick in interest in the Portugual’s Golden Visa Residency Permit (GVRP) programme.
The GVRP, which offers residency in return for investment, has become an increasing popular investment opportunity due to it’s diverse range of investment options. Another significant factor in this rise in interest has been the Portuguese government’s effective response to the pandemic, which has resulted in a relatively low number of cases.
Saudi announces plan to transform Riyadh into cultural hub for the Middle East
Saudi Arabia is launching a SR3 trillion (USD800 billion) plan to double the size of Riyadh in the next decade and transform it into an economic, social and cultural hub for the region.
The ambitious strategy for the capital city was unveiled by Fahd Al-Rasheed, president of the Royal Commission for the City of Riyadh, ahead of key meetings of the U20 – the arm of the G20 leaders’ summit that deals with urban development and strategy.
Saudi e-commerce takes off in lockdown
E-commerce in Saudi Arabia saw record growth of 74% during the months of March and April this year, while the direct retail trade dropped by 30% over the same period, according to Saudi Payments, which is wholly owned by the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority (SAMA).
Ziyad Al-Essa, vice president for business sector at Saudi Payments, said the increase was directly attributed to the heavy reliance of consumers on e-commerce due to the Covid-19 outbreak. Likewise, it was natural for the growth in retail trade to shrink given the precautionary measures taken to stem the pandemic.
Saudi Arabia issues new guidance on mutual agreement procedure
Saudi Arabia’s General Authority of Zakat and Tax (GAZT) published, on 9 June, new guidance on making requests under the mutual agreement procedure (MAP) in tax treaties. As a member of the Inclusive Framework on Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS), the issuance of the MAP guidance is in line with the Saudi Arabia’s commitment to meet the minimum standard under BEPS Action 14.
The guidelines aim to set out the process through which taxpayers can resolve tax treaty disputes by way of requesting assistance from the competent authority in Saudi Arabia. They cover a number of topics and steps concerning the MAP process, including an overview of the MAP, conditions for requesting a MAP, how to request a MAP, timeframes for resolving a MAP case and the MAP stages.