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.
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.
Oman’s Telecommunications Regulatory Authority has announced it is lifting Skype restrictions for businesses. It is a landmark move and will allow Skype for Business, Google Meet and Zoom to be used. The aim is boost business continuity and enable communications to continue.
Meanwhile, in the UAE, according to local media reports, the country has lifted some restrictions on internet calls there. However, the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority has not been able to be reached for comment. Under the relaxed rules, businesses will be able to use Microsoft Teams and Zoom. However, the restrictions on Skype, WhatsApp and FaceTime will not be lifted.
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.
Dubai’s Ruler has issued Dubai Law No. 3/2020 on the Dubai Multi Commodities Centre. The aim is to improve Dubai’s position as a regional and international destination in trading commodities and commercial and Islamic financing. It is also aimed at attracting investment and local and international companies to make Dubai a centre for their businesses. The Law applies to the Centre in its capacity as a free zone and to the Centre’s authority in its capacity as a public authority. The Centre’s Authority will supervise the Centre and it will be able to establish and develop infrastructure and administrative services in the Centre together with the relevant bodies in the Emirate.
The UAE’s Insurance Authority has announced it is working with a number of other bodies to prepare a draft law on compulsory health insurance for visitors. They stated during a health insurance conference in Dubai that it was important to continue to develop the regulatory and legislative base for this sector. The Authority’s Chairman said it is important to bolster the role of the insurance industry in securing individuals, possessions, and responsibilities against risks in order to protect the national economy.
The UAE’s Central Bank has announced it has launched a public consultation on new financial consumer protection rules. The Bank is proposing a new Financial Consumer Protection Regulatory Framework. The aim is to help the Bank develop and implement new regulations in these areas. It will also enhance disclosure and transparency requirements, ensure timely responses to customer complaints and require financial institutions to provide consumers with effective dispute resolution services. In addition, the proposed framework covers regulatory supervision, corporate governance, market conduct, business conduct and protection of consumer data and privacy.
The aim will be to introduce more comprehensive regulations in this area for entities it supervises.
Bahrain’s Parliament is considering a draft maritime law, which if approved, will increase penalties for various offences. At 392 articles it is the second longest law to be considered in the Kingdom’s legislative history. Parliament will debate and vote on the draft law within three months.
Among other things, the law states fines of between 1,000 and 10,000 Dinars or jail terms of up too six months will be imposed on those who operate without a license, handle cargo without authorisation or fall short of the safety standards. Ship owners, managers, captains or agents who evade fees or taxes or cheat officials will be jailed for up to six months and/or fined 10,000 Dinars. Vessel owners or operators who cause pollution will be fined between 5,000 and 50,000 Dinars and the ship will be temporarily seized. If they commit the same offence again, the fine will be doubled.
Those who dump oil and chemicals at sea will be jailed for up to five years in jail and fined between 15,000 and 150,000 Dinars. If they commit the same offence again, the fine will be doubled. Captains who don’t report pollution their ships cause will be fined between 1,000 and 3,000 Dinars and captains whose ships carry unauthorised nuclear waste will be fined between 50,000 and 100,000 Dinars.
Saudi Arabia’s Monetary Agency has announced it has launched a draft law for updating the rules regulating money exchange businesses in the Kingdom. Those rules were issued by Saudi Arabia Ministerial Decision No. 1357/1432. The Agency has called on all interested parties to send in their comments and feedback before 20 February. The aim is to help the sector develop.
As part of these proposed changes, the Agency is also understood to be considering issuing money exchange service licenses to foreign companies. They will be licensed by the Investment Authority. A draft law to update the money exchange business rules highlights the Agency’s efforts to allow companies with no less than two million capital to offer the service.