The Economic and Financial Commission of Bahrain’s Shoura Council has approved amendments to the Kingdom’s Commercial Companies Law. The amendments to Bahrain Decree-Law No. 21/2001 are contained in Bahrain Decree No. 57/2017. The Commission has referred the amendments to the Council Office Authority to present to the Council at its next session. The aim of these amendments is to improve the Kingdom’s international business rating.
According to a report on Kuwaiti TV, it has been stated Kuwait will deport any foreigner caught for a second time not wearing their seat belt or using a cell phone while driving. Articles within the Kuwaiti Traffic Law give the interior minister the right to deport those who do not comply with public order and break the laws. Kuwait has recently stiffened penalties against traffic violations including impounding cars for months if motorists are caught not wearing seat belts or using their cell phones while driving or parking in prohibited areas. (Although, following an initial spate of activity this week it was stated the changes would be taken more slowly.) Critics have warned deportations for these reasons could lead to equivalent steps being taken in other countries against Kuwaitis who break traffic laws abroad.
Oman’s Manpower Ministry has extended the professional visa ban for expatriates in various sectors for an additional six months. The relevant Decisions were issued on 21 November and apply to construction workers, cleaners, sales and marketing professionals. However the ban does not apply to visa renewals for these workers, companies registered excellent or of international grade, consultancies or those implementing Government projects. Companies managed full-time by their owners, registered with Riyada and insured with the Public Authority for Social Insurance will also not be affected. The ban first came into force in November 2013. The ban on sales and marketing professionals comes into force on 30 November whilst the ban for cleaning and construction workers comes into force on 1 December. The ban on carpenters, metallurgists, blacksmiths and brick kiln workers comes into force on 1 January 2018
Saudi Arabia’s King has issued a Royal Order to establish a Supreme Anti-corruption committee. It will be chaired by the Crown Prince and the Chairman of the Monitoring and Investigation Commission, the Chairman of the National Anti-Corruption Authority, the Chief of the General Audit Bureau, the Attorney General and the Head of State Security will be members. The Committee will be responsible for identifying offences and people and entities involved in public corruption cases. It will also have investigatory powers and issue arrest warrants as well as travel bans, disclosures and freezing of accounts and portfolios, track funds, assets and prevent their remittance or transfer by relevant persons and entities. The committee will have the right to take any precautionary measures until cases are referred to the investigating authorities or judicial bodies. It may take whatever measures it considers necessary to deal with those involved in public corruption cases. It may seek the assistance of those it considers necessary and may set up teams for investigations or prosecutions and may delegate some or all of its powers to these teams. The committee will submit detailed reports on its findings and what action it has taken. The competent authorities will be informed of this Royal Order and all relevant parties will cooperate fully to enforce it.
This week the spotlight is on education, employment, and immigration developments in the United Arab Emirates, where Ministerial Decision No. 46/2017 has been issued changing the payment terms of substitute teachers in public schools. Nominees with the required specialisations and qualifications will be selected to be a part of a substitute teacher incentives system. Highest priority for this programme will be given to Emirati nominees, followed by children of Emirati women, and then Gulf citizens. The decision has also stated substitute teachers at nurseries will be paid 500 AED per day (for a maximum of five days per week). Substitute teachers will also be paid 100 AED per school periods taught, up to a maximum of 30 periods per week. However, rates will be different for those teaching certain subjects The decision states that the Ministry of Education must include mechanisms for establishing a database of substitute teachers, from which the minister has the right to add, remove or update subjects in this resolution’s third article, in addition to the value of fees paid for specific school activities and subjects. The decision states substitute teachers will be called on to cover for an absent regular teacher, and that human resources procedures set by the Federal Authority for Human Resources must be followed when choosing these teachers.
Elsewhere, a fake story doing the rounds on social media that visas for Pakistani nationals had been suspended has been officially denied by the UAE General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs. The story was even picked up by TV channels who quoted officials from the Travel Agents Association of Pakistan, who said the visa service has been suspended until further notice, although those who already had a visa would still be able to travel. It was claimed the suspension was temporary and would possibly be changed in the new year.
Saudi Arabia Prince Sultan Bin Salman, Head of the Commission for Tourism and National Heritage has announced the first Saudi tourist visas will be issued in the first quarter of 2018. It is understood all necessary government approvals are in place for the launch of electronic visas next year to all nationals whose countries allow their citizens to visit Saudi Arabia. The authorities are currently preparing regulations on who is eligible for the visas and how they will obtain them. Saudi Arabia currently grants tourist visas to those from a limited number of countries, but even those applications have restrictions, including requirements to travel through accredited companies and stay at designated hotels. The cost of the new tourist visa has not yet been settled, but is expected to be as low as possible to help encourage tourism.
Saudi Arabia’s Shoura Council has approved the draft bankruptcy law. If approved, it will regulate bankruptcy procedures in the Kingdom. The draft law covers bankruptcy procedures in terms of preventive settlement and financial restructuring, especially of minor debtors and administrative settlement. It will apply to anyone involved in business or commercial activities in the Kingdom, including non-Saudi commercial and vocational companies and investors.
Abu Dhabi’s Urban Planning and Municipalities Department has announced it has launched a new registration system for all engineers in the Emirate. The ‘Become an Abu Dhabi Registered Engineer’ is aimed at ensuring all engineers in the Emirate register their qualifications at https://eservices.adm.gov.ae/engineers/public/secure/login. To register, engineers must present a valid ID card and a bachelor’s degree in engineering or equivalent qualification. Authenticated certificates issued by the relevant authorities and established universities will also have to be presented when registering. In addition, they will have to submit a Human Resources and Emiratisation Ministry employment card or a valid investor card if they are working in the private sector and a continuation letter of employment within one month of its issued date. Once approved, they will get an official card which allows them to work in the Emirate.
This week the spotlight is on regulatory developments in Bahrain where the Kingdom’s Central Bank has announced it has launched the Bahrain FinTech Bay. The Bank and the Bank’s FinTech & Innovation Unit will work with Bahrain FinTech Bay to support and develop the Kingdom’s FinTech framework and encourage more companies to invest in FinTech. It will be the first dedicated FinTech hub and corporate incubator in the Middle East & Africa region. It will be based at the Arcapita building overlooking Bahrain Bay and have 10,000 square feet of facilities. It will be operated by FinTech Consortium who are a global FinTech ecosystem builder and operator.
The Bank has also issued directives for offshore and locally domiciled Exchange-Traded Funds (ETFs). Exchange-Traded Funds are effectively funds which are traded like stocks on a stock exchange and mainly track index, a commodity, bonds or a basket of securities and therefore divide ownership of those assets into shares. These shares can be bought or sold throughout the day on an exchange at a market-determined price. They generally provide price transparency, higher liquidity and lower fees than mutual fund shares, making them an attractive alternative for individual investors. By owning this type of fund, investors get the diversification of an index fund as well as the ability to easily trade the shares on the licensed exchange. They will expand the categories of locally domiciled mutual funds to include Exchange-Traded Funds as another type of Collective Investment Undertaking which may establish in the Kingdom and be listed by banks and other financial institutions on licensed exchanges. The registration of listed offshore Exchange-Traded Funds will also be allowed. Conventional and Sharia-compliant Exchange-Traded Funds are also recognised.
Weekly Spotlight: KSA long-term supply contracts which meet certain conditions will be treated as zero-rated for VAT
This week the spotlight is on VAT developments in Saudi Arabia, where the Kingdom’s General Authority of Zakat and Tax has announced long-term supply contracts which meet certain conditions will be treated as zero-rated for VAT purposes. The aim is to provide companies with a grace period to renegotiate contracts which did not anticipate the introduction of VAT in the Kingdom on 1 January 2018. The grace period applies only to contracts which did not anticipate VAT in advance and not to contracts which include a term on VAT or a mechanism to amend prices to account for the tax. To benefit from the grace period, a contract needs to have been signed before 30 May 2017 and a customer has to be fully entitled to deduct input tax in respect of the supply of goods or services. A customer should also provide a written certification to the supplier that input tax will be deducted or refunded in full. The Authority added the first year of VAT implementation will be considered to be a transitional phase which is why it has announced this grace period. All supply contracts continuing after 31 December 2018 will be subject to VAT at the rate set by the Implementing Regulations.
The Authority has also issued more VAT guidance ahead of its introduction in the Kingdom on 1 January 2018. The Authority has clarified the invoicing obligations in this latest guidance. The Authority confirmed two types of invoices are outlined in the Implementing Regulations to the VAT Law. The first is a simplified tax invoice for the supply of goods or services which total less than 1,000 Riyals. In these types of transactions the invoice must include the issue date, the name and address and VAT identification number of the supplier. It must also contain details of the goods or services supplied, the consideration to be received for the goods or services and a clear statement of the tax payable or indication of the total payment (consideration) includes the tax in respect of the supply of goods or services. A simplified tax invoice may not be issued for an internal supply or exports. The second is for transactions exceeding 1,000 Riyals, which require a more detailed invoice under Article 53 of the Implementing Regulations. This invoice, which must be in Arabic as well as any other language, must include the date of issue of the invoice, the serial number identifying and distinguishing the tax invoice, the supplier’s VAT identification number and the customer’s VAT identification number (if the customer is responsible for the calculation of the import tax and a statement thereof). It must also include the date the supply was signed, the name and address of the supplier and the customer, the amount and nature of the goods supplied and the scope and nature of the services provided. Finally it must contain the amounts subject to tax or specifically exempt, the unit price excluding tax and any discounts or rebates if not included in the unit price, as well as the applicable VAT rate and amount due in Saudi Riyals.