The Accounting and Auditing Organisation for Islamic Financial Institutions has introduced new Islamic Finance guidelines. The new guidelines cover competitions and trophies in Islamic Sharia, including their modern applications, investment, gold transactions-regulating criteria and re-purchase standards. The aim is to help scholars decide whether financial activities and products conform with Sharia law.
This week the spotlight is on legal and regulatory developments in free zones in the GCC where Qatar’s Cabinet has called for a draft law specifying regulations for economic zones in the country to be issued. The call follows a review by the Council of Ministers of the Advisory Council’s recommendations regarding the law. If approved, the Council of Ministers, following a proposal from the board of directors of the Economic Zones Company (Manateq) will be able to establish one or more economic zones. All types of companies, partnership contracts or other legal entities, owned by one or more natural or legal persons will be able to be established in the zone. It will not matter if they are foreigners or nationals. They will be exempt from having to obtain any other licence, approval, permission or registration in the country. They will also be free to transfer any of their capital, income, profits or investments outside the State without restrictions.
Elsewhere, Dubai’s Land Department has announced it is preparing an action plan to regulate lease registrations in the Emirate’s free zone areas. The regulatory system will be implemented in phases by Dubai Investments Park. It will include updating relevant data for all properties under their jurisdiction and registered in the Land Department’s Ejari system.
Qatar’s Financial Centre has announced it has introduced legislation to allow Investment Clubs and Foundations to be set-up. Foundations will be established under the QFC Foundation Regulations and Rules and will have their own legal personality. Their structure will be flexible and will be able to be used for succession planning, asset protection and employee share plans. Their constitution needs to be provided to the Financial Centre’s Authority but will remain a confidential document. Investment Clubs will be companies limited by shares and will be incorporated under the QFC Investment Clubs Regulations and Rules. To ensure they do not have to be authorised, Investment Clubs should not be carried on ‘by way of business’. They will be able to pool funds by up to 15 members and investing in a portfolio of assets and securities. In certain circumstances, a member will be able to exit by selling their shares back to the Investment Club. The Regulations also provide for the Investment Club’s assets to be valued and for disputes over valuations to be resolved. Both entities will be able to be 100% foreign owned and will be able to trade in the currency of their choice. They may also benefit from unlimited repatriation of profits.
Sources at Kuwait’s Public Authority of Manpower have announced employees who entered the country with an employment contract for the public sector then transferred to work with the private sector then went back to the public sector can transfer back to the private sector without the intervention of the Supreme Committee. The sources added the implementation of Administrative Decisions cannot be backdated. The transfer requests which are related to employees who have been moving in and out of the public sectors before the relevant Administrative Decision was issued should not be subject to the prohibition.
Saudi Arabia’s Council of Ministers has approved new power regulations to expand the Saudi Water and Electricity Company’s (WEC) remit. The amendments mean WEC, as the Kingdom’s main water buyer, will be able to purchase desalinated, purified, treated and untreated water. The aim is boost water and electricity distribution in the country.
Lebanon’s Environment Minister, has announced new hunting regulations are on the way. Hunting any animal was banned in the country in 1994. New legislation was agreed in 2004 but has never been enforced. Prospective hunters will have to pass physical and mental health exams. In addition they will have to pass reading and practical exams on hunting laws, before receiving a license. They will have to be able to identify bird species which can be hunted as well as annual hunting quotas. Those who cannot read or write will be able to take an oral exam. Hunting will also now be limited to certain areas and hunting in nature reserves will be banned. This year’s official hunting season will run from September 2017 to January 2018.
Qatar’s Cabinet has approved a draft VAT Law and its Executive Regulations. The Cabinet also approved a draft income tax law and its draft executive regulation. If approved further, the amendments will replace Qatar Law No. 21/2009 and Qatar Law No. 17/2014. In addition, a draft Ministerial Decision issuing the Executive Regulations to the selective tax law were approved. It include provisions on tax entitlement, declarations of loss or damage of selective goods, inspection of damaged goods, registration, tax declaration, rules of payment of tax for locally produced goods, maintenance of accounting systems, accounting records and control and inspection rules.
The Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister, Sheikh Saif bin Zayed Al Nahyan has announced a new Ministerial Decision amending the Executive Regulations to the Federal Traffic Law has been published in the Official Gazette. Under the new rules, driving licences issued for the first time will be valid for two years, while renewed licences will be valid for 10 years for citizens and five years for expatriates. Expatriates will also need to have a valid residence permit to renew licences. The new rules also cover registration and licensing rules, stopping distance rules, driving in residential areas, who can sit in the front of a car and traffic routes for buses.
This week the spotlight is on legal and regulatory developments in Dubai, where the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) has signed an agreement with Dubai Economy to allow companies operating in the DIFC to obtain operating licences onshore in Dubai. Under the agreement, a central database will be established to allow data exchange between the bodies to improve oversight of commercial activities in the DIFC. Joint inspections will also ensure better compliance, fraud prevention and consumer protection. The agreement was signed for the DIFC by its Governor, Essa Kazim and for Dubai Economy by its Director-General, Sami Al Qamzi.
Elsewhere, Dubai’s Ruler, HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum has issued a maternity and childcare leave Decree for female employees of the Dubai Government. It came into effect on 1 March and has been published in the Official Gazette. The aim is to promote a better work-life balance, support working women’s rights and enhance gender balance. The Decree will apply retroactively to current maternity leave and nursing breaks of Dubai Government female employees. Any full-time or part-time employee in a permanent position will be entitled to 90 days’ maternity leave from the delivery date. Employees can also apply to start their maternity leave 30 days before their due date on the condition the leave is taken continuously. Employees can also combine maternity leave, regular annual leave and leave without pay, for up to 120 days. An employee who has suffered a miscarriage before the 24th week of pregnancy is entitled to sick leave based on an approved medical report. If the employee had a stillbirth or a miscarriage after the 24th week, she is entitled to 60 days of maternity leave after providing an approved medical report. An employee who gives birth to a child with a disability is entitled to childcare leave for one year, which can be renewed for up to three years based on an approved medical report and approval from the relevant senior official in the Government entity. During the maternity leave and childcare leave, the employee will only receive her basic monthly salary. Weekends and official holidays will be considered part of the maternity leave and childcare leave.
Dubai Government entities must establish a nursery for employees’ children under four if the total number of children of all female employees in the entity is more than 20. If the total number of children is less than 20, two or more Government entities can jointly establish a nursery. Government entities may also contract nurseries close to their headquarters if the entity does not have adequate space for a nursery.
The UAE’s Cabinet is considering a new Public Health Law, which if approved will upgrade occupational safety management systems, especially for workplace injuries. It will also ensure good health and safety standards are laid out for all employees. Article 22 of the Law focuses on health and safety, including preventive treatments to improve employees’ health.