Implementing guidelines issued by the Emir of Qatar on countering the spread of the COVID-19 including the decision to cancel customs fees, the Qatari Customs Department has cancelled fees on certain products. Customs fees on food and medicine will be cancelled for six months. The list of exempt items includes 905 items such as meat, dairy, fish, oils, juices, facial masks, sanitizers, soap products, detergents, wipes, and other products.
The Kuwaiti Health Ministry has decided to withdraw all medicines containing the anti-malarial drug Hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine from private pharmacies and limit them to hospitals and health centres according to the state news agency. According to Undersecretary of Health for Drug and Food Control Affairs the decision has been made to tighten control over the distribution of these medicines and to prevent their misuse or monopoly. Plaquenil which is the brand name for hydroxychloroquine has recently been mentioned in the media as a possible treatment for COVID-19. However, doctors have said it can cause serious side effects or there is a risk of overdose without proper medical guidance.
The Central Bank of Bahrain has issued a circular to banks and finance companies directing them not to calculate any interest on the postponement of loans for six months starting from March to August 2020. The circular said original loan repayments should be stopped for six months and that no additional interest or fees should be imposed on customers. In addition, interest rates and repayment amounts should remain the same throughout the credit term and as they were before the postponement.
The Abu Dhabi Judicial Department has issued Abu Dhabi Circular No. 7/2020 on the work of judges and postponement of trial during the COVID-19 crisis. All courts in Abu Dhabi will postpone trials and appeals which currently have pending decisions for no less than 30 days. In addition, all judges in the urgent courts (including civil, commercial and labour) will work remotely and issue judgments on urgent cases and old cases where the decisions have already been made. Pending judgments will be postponed for no less than 30 days. The Circular also states case registration for initial hearings and appeals will be postponed for no less than 30 days starting from 26 March. Existing judgments will be given without the presence of the parties.
The UAE’s Health Prevention Ministry and the Interior Ministry have announced, there will be a ‘National Disinfection Programme’ which will involve a complete sterilisation of all public utilities, public transport and metro services during the weekend. The programme began at 8:00 PM on 26 March 2020 and ended at 06:00 AM on 29 March 2020 but has been extended.
During this period, the movement of traffic and the public will be restricted and public transportation and metro services will be halted. The public have been urged to stay at home during the disinfection period and not to go out unless it is absolutely necessary to get essential supplies or because they work in vital sectors, including energy, telecommunications, health, education, security, law enforcement, military, postal service, shipping and logistics, medicines, water, food, civil aviation, airports, passports, banking and financial services, government media and the service sectors, including petrol stations and construction. During this period workers’ personal or work identity will be checked and verified.
Qatar’s Central Bank has announced it is finalising a trial for a regulatory Sandbox environment to boost FinTech innovations and tackle possible cyber risks using Blockchain strategies. The Bank is using FinTech strategies to boost financial innovation which is the second objective of its strategic plan for developing the financial sector by 2022. The Sandbox will be an experimental lab enabling for testing programme software and financial and commercial services in an experimental environment to be evaluated later.
Oman’s State Council is considering a draft hidden trade law. If approved, it will help companies identify loopholes and boost Omanisation across various sectors. Hidden trade occurs when a company is owned on paper by an Omani national but, in practice is run by someone else. This person does not create employment for the company’s employees but instead makes them find their own jobs while still being employed by the company. Under the new law, those found guilty of engaging in hidden trade will be punished. The State Council will review the draft law and then refer it back to the Council’s Economic Committee.
Saudi Arabia’s Shoura Council has approved a draft Commercial Courts Law and their procedures. Under the law, if approved commercial departments will be established in public courts in all areas and provinces which don’t have commercial courts. Appeals against decisions issued by these courts will be before the appeal courts located in the nearest commercial court until a commercial court is established in the same area. The law is aimed at reducing litigation time and giving lawyers and other relevant parties’ bigger roles. It also aims to provide an environment for commercial cases which understands commercial conventions and conditions.
The UAE’s Securities and Commodities Authority has announced it has approved an initiative to unify the templates used for listed company disclosures. The unified templates have been circulated to all the listed companies and financial markets with the aim of unifying procedures and disclosure requirements in the country’s financial markets.
The Authority’s CEO said the new initiative aims to improve services for investors and traders in the market and ensure the quality of the disclosures published. He added the initiative is also aimed at increasing transparency and ensuring no important information is overlooked.
The new real estate ownership law in Saudi Arabia allows for an independent ownership deed for each individual unit to be issued. It also allows for associations to manage the property affairs if the number of the allocated units in one joint property is more than three to be established. The association can be a representative of the owners in the matters related to communal areas. In addition, landlords who have a deed which meets the Sharia and legal requirements can also construct buildings and allocate them into independent units and issue an ownership deed for each unit.