How the UAE passport has conquered the world

The UAE passport has become the world’s most powerful, according to the latest Passport Index, an interactive online tool that compares passports from around the globe.

The ranking by Arton Capital, which is based on freedom of movement and visa-free travel to passport holders, represents a meteoric rise for the UAE which ranked 27th in the index just two years ago.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation launched the UAE Passport Force initiative to place the Emirati passport on the list of the five most powerful passports in the world by 2021, but the goal has been achieved three years ahead of schedule, state news agency WAM reported.

Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the UAE’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, said: “This achievement is a true reflection of the legacy of Sheikh Zayed, the founding father of the UAE. It also underscores what can be achieved through positive diplomacy, reflecting the UAE as a confident and engaged force at the global stage.”

The UAE passport was ranked first by Passport Index which said its holder can now travel to 167 countries without the need for pre-visa requirements, which is 84 percent of the number of countries listed in the index.

WAM said the strength of the passport does not only represent the identity of the citizen but also an important factor affecting its access to global opportunities, ease of movement and quality of life.

The Passport Index issued by the Arton Capital, ranks countries’ passports based on the number of countries a passport holder can enter without obtaining a visa or obtaining it at the time of entry.

Armand Arton, founder and president of Arton Capital, said that the Emirati passport has witnessed unprecedented progress globally in the past few years, reflecting the international stature of the country.

“We congratulate the UAE on this great achievement, and are pleased to work with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation since the launch of the UAE Passport Force initiative,” he added.

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US sports giant Nike opens largest MidEast shop in Dubai

US sportswear giant Nike, in partnership with its local distributor Sun and Sands Sports, has opened its largest store in the Middle East at The Dubai Mall.

Sprawling across 3,290 square metres, Nike Dubai serves as a platform for consumers to celebrate sports and collaborate through creative workshops, the retailer said in a statement.

The store has a customisation space that provides the opportunity to personalise Nike items all year round, with customers invited to design their sneakers and apparel with a variety of tools and accessories such as laces, straps, buttons, markers and tongue labels.

With a revolutionary UV printing technology, consumers will also be able to print artwork on their Nike sneakers the statement said.

Nike Dubai also has an area that is designed specifically for women and features an intimate lounge area where women can hang out, play their own music and shop in full privacy along with their friends.

It also includes a flexible trial space which is designed as a small basketball court, inspiring Dubai youth to try out their new gear.

Nike Dubai will have a full agenda of sport and cultural events, varying from Nike+ Training Club and Nike+ Training Club sessions to athlete talks, artist sessions and stylist workshops.

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French majors eye Oman economic zone for investment

Four leading French companies have announced plans to explore investment opportunities in the Special Economic Zone of Duqm, Oman.

CMA CGM, EDF Renewables, FIVES and SUEZ announced the creation of the French Business Syndicate with the goal of assessing various investment possibilities.

In response to the recent visit to France of Yahya Al Jabri, chairman of the Special Economic Zone Authority of Duqm (SEZAD), the companies said the syndicate will further strengthen the business relationship between Oman and France.

The syndicate has showed interest in a global approach to cement factory ecosystems and related facilities including solar power generation plant and the production of alternative fuel.

The companies have also proposed to implement an educational programme to enhance the integration of young Omanis in the projects.

Al Jabri welcomed the French investments in Duqm saying the agreement reached by the four companies to study investment opportunities in the zone is in line with its aspirations.

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Abu Dhabi adopts new maximum speed limit of 140km per hour

Abu Dhabi Police has announced the adoption of new speed limits on certain roads in the emirate, as well as a new maximum speed limit of 140 kilometres per hour.

The roads subject to the new speed limits include Suwaihan Al Heir, E20, from the Zayed Military City roundabout to the intersection of the E75 Truck Road, the intersection of the E75 Truck Road to Al Heir, Al Ajban Al Sad Road, E16, to Al Sad, and the road from Al Ain to Al Qaw, E95.

The Traffic Safety Committee in Abu Dhabi urged drivers to commit to the new speed limits on these roads, to protect themselves and other road users, state news agency WAM reported on Sunday.

The speed limit changes do not apply to all roads, but certain parts of them, it said, adding that police will work with local partners to highlight speed limits on traffic signs along the roads.

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UAE announces new extension to visa amnesty initiative

The UAE, a major hub for migrant labourers, has announced a second extension to an amnesty for workers who entered the country without a visa or overstayed their work permit.

The Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship said the “Protect Yourself by Adjusting Your Status” initiative is being extended to December 31, as part of the 47th National Day celebrations.

The extension aims to provide new opportunities for those who qualify but have not been able to adjust their status by either voluntarily leaving the country or obtaining legitimate residency, state news agency WAM reported on Monday.

The authority initially launched the three-month initiative on August 1 but was first extended to November 30 and will now end on the last day of 2018.

Brigadier Saeed Rakan Al Rashidi, acting director-general of Foreigners and Ports Affairs, said that the authority has received many calls from those who were not able to benefit from the initiative, due to being unable to complete the required procedures.

These calls were directed to the country’s leadership, who immediately responded and extended the initiative, he added.

The authority said it has allocated nine centres to serve those covered by the initiative, which includes the Al Shahama Centre in Abu Dhabi and the Al Owair Centre in Dubai, as well as other centres in Sharjah, Ajman, Fujairah, Ras Al Khaimah, Umm Al Quwain, Al Ain and Al Dhafra in Abu Dhabi.

The government previously said those who entered the UAE illegally or overstayed their visas and who come forward before the deadline will not be fined or charged if they choose to leave the country voluntarily.

The amnesty also grants those looking for employment a six-month visa to find a job. It excludes, however, those who are “blacklisted” or with legal cases pending.

The UAE, the fourth largest oil producer in the OPEC oil cartel, is home to a huge workforce from Asia and Africa.

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Apple co-founder to be keynote speaker at GCC Financial Forum

Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple, has been announced as the keynote speaker of the eighth annual GCC Financial Forum.

Co-hosted by Euromoney and the Bahrain Economic Development Board, the event will focus on the reinvention of financial services.

Set to be held on February 26-27 2019, the two-day conference will feature speeches and interviews with international financial and technology leaders, and present an opportunity for over 800 global participants to meet, network and exchange ideas, a statement said.

Steve Wozniak, one of the heavyweights of the global tech industry, founded Apple with Steve Jobs in 1976 and was instrumental in the launch of the company’s first personal computers.

He is also a leading and vocal expert on AI, blockchain and the financial technology industry at large. Wozniak is particularly active in advocating the benefits of cryptocurrencies, an area that several Bahraini start-ups are exploring.

David Parker, executive director – Financial Services at the Bahrain Economic Development Board, said: “With Bahrain rapidly becoming the FinTech hub of the Middle East, we are eager to welcome Steve Wozniak to speak at next year’s GCC Financial Forum.

“He is well-known for his insight into the latest FinTech trends, and we look forward to hearing his thoughts on the new developments in global finance.”

He added that the forum comes at a time of exponential growth in the FinTech industry, particularly in Bahrain. Recent steps, such as the launch of the Bahrain FinTech Bay, the largest FinTech hub in the Middle East, have put the country on the map as a destination for designing, developing and testing innovative FinTech products.

In addition to Wozniak, the event will feature speakers representing regulators, FinTech entities, global banks and policy makers from the GCC region and around the world.

The forum will take place as part of the second annual Fintastic Bahrain Week.

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Dubai’s DEWA waives charges for new commercial, industrial connections

Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) has announced that it will waive charges for new connections of up to 150kW for commercial and industrial customers for the next two years.

The state utility company said in a statement that the move is aimed at boosting Dubai’s economy, without saying how much an average business could save as a result.

The waiver follows success achieved by DEWA in the World Bank’s Doing Business 2019 report when it achieved 100 percent in all criteria of the Getting Electricity indicator.

DEWA achieved 100 percent in the procedures required to obtain an electricity connection and making it easier for customers. It also achieved 100 percent in the time required, by reducing the time needed for electricity connections.

It also achieved the lowest customer minutes lost per year in the world of 2.68 minutes, compared to 15 minutes in Europe.

“We have ambitious initiatives and sustainable development projects that support the vision of our wise leadership and the objectives of the UAE Centennial 2071. The strategy aims to make the UAE the best country in the world,” said Saeed Mohammed Al Tayer, managing director and CEO of DEWA.

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Dubai tests new bus shelters powered by the sun

Dubai’s transport authority has started a pilot project to build bus shelters that run on solar power.

The Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) said work has started on the construction of a model for two shelters powered by solar energy as a solution for shelters in locations off the electric power grid.

Solar power generated would be used to operate lights, air-conditioners and billboards, said Mattar Al Tayer, director-general and chairman of the RTA.

He also announced that the RTA has started the construction of a further 48 air-conditioned shelters in Dubai, with another 10 in the pipeline, which would bring the total number to 884 in the city.

“The Air-Conditioned Bus Shelters Project is part of RTA’s continuous efforts to enhance excellence and leadership drive through undertaking flagship projects in Dubai. It is also part of a master plan for improving public transport, and providing smooth services to bus riders, especially during the blazing summer,” Al Tayer said in a statement.

He added that more than 1.2 million people current use bus shelters every month.

The new shelters cover Dubai Investment Park, Dubai Academic City – Aviation College, Higher Colleges of Technology, Dubai Industrial City, Dubai Internet City, and JLT.

Over the next few months, RTA will start the construction of 10 more with each having eight seats and catering to the needs of people of determination.

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Qatar says to quit Saudi-dominated OPEC in 2019

Qatar will leave OPEC next month in order to focus on gas production, the Gulf state’s new Energy Minister Saad al-Kaabi announced in a surprise move on Monday.

Qatar has been a member of OPEC since 1961.

“Qatar has decided to withdraw its membership from OPEC effective January 2019 and this decision was communicated to OPEC this morning,” Kaabi told a Doha press conference.

Kaabi, who also heads state-owned Qatar Petroleum, denied however that the move was linked to the feud with Saudi Arabia and its allies.

Qatar would continue to produce oil and seek deals in countries including Latin America’s top oil producer Brazil, said Kaabi.

Despite the Qatari denials, some analysts saw it as a “political decision to oppose Saudi Arabia”.

Kaabi said gas production would remain the top priority for Qatar. 

OPEC had been informed of the decision on Monday ahead of the announcement, Kaabi said, adding he would still attend the organisation’s Vienna meeting later this week, his “first and last” as energy minister.

That meeting is expected to set a policy for 2019 and despite Qatar’s announcement, oil prices soared on Monday after Russia and Saudi Arabia renewed a pact to cap output on the sidelines of a G20 summit.

While there was no announcement on how much would be cut and for how long, the pact between the world’s two biggest crude exporters was cheered Monday by oil traders, with Brent jumping $2.60 to $62.06 and West Texas Intermediate up $2.42 to $53.35.

Amrita Sen, chief oil analyst for Energy Aspects consultants, argued the move would have limited impact.

“Quitting OPEC is largely symbolic for Qatar,” he told Bloomberg. “Its oil production has been steady with limited prospects for increases.”

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One of India’s largest consumer mergers announced

FMCG major Hindustan Unilever Ltd (HUL) announced on Monday it would merge with GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Health (GSKCH) in a deal worth Rs 31,700 crore ($4.52 billion).

In one of the largest MA deals in India’s consumer goods market, the all equity merger will involve 4.39 shares of HUL being allotted for every share in GSKCH India.

The deal also envisages transfer of GSK’s entire operations of nutrition business and contract to distribute the latter’s over-the-counter and oral care brands such as Sensodyne, Eno and Crocin to HUL

“With this proposed strategic merger with GSKCH India, we will be expanding our portfolio with great brands into a new category catering to the nutritional needs of our consumers,” Sanjiv Mehta, chairman, HUL, said in a statement.

The statement also said the merger will create significant shareholder value through both revenue growth and cost synergies for HUL.

“The turnover of our food and refreshment business will exceed Rs10000 crore ($1.42 billion) and we will become one of the largest FR businesses in the country,” Mehta said.

GSK Consumer India business had a turnover of about Rs 4200 crore ($600 million) in the year ended March 2018, primarily through its Horlicks and Boost brands.

GlaxoSmithKline chief executive Emma Walmsley announced in March a strategic review of Horlicks and its other consumer healthcare nutrition products, adding that the company was exploring a partial or full sale of its stake in Indian subsidiary GSK Consumer Healthcare by the year end.

Horlicks is by far the market leader in the malt-based beverages segment with 43 percent market share, followed by Mondelez International’s Bournvita, which has around 13 percent share.

Growth of malt beverage segment has been witnessing a slowed down over the past few years in India, with the market seeing a shift in consumer preference to specialized products made by nutraceuticals companies

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