Qatar’s Shoura Council has approved an amended version of the draft press regulation law. It also includes provisions on media, publishing houses, circulating and distributing publications, cinemas and theatres, artistic productions, private broadcasting stations, advertising and public relations activities and media services offices. They discussed the report of the Joint Committee which consists of the Legal and Legislative Affairs Committee and the Information and Cultural Affairs Committee and recommended five articles be amended. They have referred it to the Government to consider further.
Oman’s Supreme Anti-Coronavirus Committee has called for the fines on those who don’t wear face masks to be increased from 20 Rials. It follows the Committee’s latest meeting. The suggestion was made by the Sultanate’s Transport Minister. He also called for the names of violators to be published and monitoring to be intensified.
According to local newspaper reports, Kuwait is preparing to end the services of all expatriate Government employees. This will apply to employees in various administrative, technical, legal, education and other roles and will be rolled out over the next two years. By the end of the programme, the numbers of expatriate Government employees will have returned to 2017 levels. Medical and nursing jobs are exempt from this.
According to sources in Dubai, bank guarantees could have to be provided by property management companies acting on behalf of homeowners associations. They could have to be provided for each of their projects. This could equate to 20% of the annual service charge budget for a building. It is envisaged as being similar to the escrow account developers have to maintain on all off plan projects. There has always been a provision for this type of guarantee but it has never been fully implemented before.
Weekly Spotlight: The DIFC Data Protection Law Enacted; VAT in Saudi Arabia VAT Increased from 5% to 15%
This week two important regulatory developments have come into force.
The Dubai International Financial Centre has enacted its new Data Protection Law. DIFC Law No. 5/2020 replaces DIFC Law No. 1/2007. It came into force on 1 July 2020 but entities who are covered by it will have until 1 October 2020 to comply.
Elsewhere, over in Saudi Arabia, increases to the Kingdom’s VAT rate from 5% to 15% came into force on 1 July. The Kingdom’s General Authority of Customs said all sales and purchases online which include products being imported to Saudi Arabia through customs will be taxed at this rate if their import or consignment arrives on or after the same date.
Oman’s Environment and Climate Affairs Ministry has announced it is investigating a video showing a driver destroying wildlife during a mountain drive. The destruction of the wildlife is a violation of the wildlife rules and the Environmental Protection Law. It was reported on the Ministry of Environment and Climate Affairs (MECA) in cooperation with the Royal Oman Police (ROP) had arrested a motorist for causing environmental damage. The Ministry has confirmed it will take legal action against anyone who tries to destroy the environment or harm the wildlife and violate Environment Protection Law.
Bahrain’s Supreme Administrative Court has upheld a decision to dismiss a civil servant who had been referred to the criminal court with a charge of receiving a bribe. The civil servant was acquitted of the charge, however, a disciplinary decision was still taken against him. The Supreme Court has said that the decision to acquit the employee in the criminal case did not prevent him from being subject to disciplinary measures and did not lift the suspicion completely. The Supreme Court added disciplinary measures were independent of other cases because each of them had its own legal system. The employee requested the Supreme Court to cancel the decision to dismiss him. He was dismissed because he had requested money from one of the service providers he was working with on some projects for a government ministry.
Following the publication last week of Ministerial Decision No. 279/2020 on employment of non-citizen employees in the private sector during the COVID-19 crisis which changed rules on transfer of employees, salary payments and recruitment, the UAE’s Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation has published an addendum to the Decision. This addendum was referred to in Article 5 of Ministerial Decision No. 279/2020. Article 5 says companies looking to reduce the wages of a non-citizen employee temporarily during the relevant period have to conclude a ‘temporary additional appendix’ to the labour contract between the two parties, provided it expires with the expiration of the term of the contract or the period of validity of this Decision, whichever is earlier. It goes on to say the appendix can be renewed with the approval of both parties and two copies must be prepared. Both the employer and employee should keep a copy. The employer will have to submit it to the Human Resources and Emiratisation Ministry when asked to do so.
Saudi Arabia’s Finance Minister has announced they have amended the Implementing Regulations of Saudi Arabia Cabinet Decision No. 649/1440. The amendments include is a clause on extraordinary circumstances which include pandemics like Coronavirus. It will ease the procurement process during times like this. They will come into force on 24 April 2020. The amendments include allowing the committee for opening the bids to open the financial bids and allow for confiscating a guarantee and revoking a contract if the contractor left before they signed the contract and following issuing a notice to them. Previously the charter only allowed for cancelling the award decision. Under the amendments, prior qualification procedures can be done for work over 50 million Riyals in value. Previously the charter permitted performing post qualification procedures if a prior one had not been completed.
We have launched a public COVID-19 News Blog, https://www.c19lexismena.com/ which provides free access to the latest legal and tax updates related to COVID-19 in the MENA region in both English and French. It has been produced by Lexis® Middle East and Lexis® Maroc.