Saudi Arabia’s Health Insurance Council has confirmed it is scrapping the individual health insurance system for private sector employees. The Council added employers should provide insurance to employees and their families. This includes spouses, male children under 25 and unmarried daughters. The aim is to transfer responsibility for health insurance from employees to employers, regulate the health insurance market more effectively and eliminate fake insurance.
This week the spotlight is on arbitration developments in the UAE, where the country’s Federal National Council has approved a draft Arbitration Law. The UAE’s judicial authority will now consider the Law before it is considered by the Council of Ministers and the Supreme Court. It is likely the law will be enacted in the second half of this year. Under the draft law, parties will be able to choose the arbitrator they want to hear their case according to its subject, the legal system they wish to govern their case, be it the UAE, UK, Singapore or any other jurisdiction and where it is heard. The law will apply to all arbitrations in the country, provided the parties ‘agree to not be subject to another arbitration law’ and provided the case does not ‘contradict the UAE’s public order and morals’. It is expected to adopt many of the provisions in the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law, which is a model for international commercial arbitration and has been enacted successfully in many countries. It comes as the numbers of commercial disputes in the country are increasing, according to DIFC Court figures. According to the Courts they handled 520 cases in 2017, with Court of First Instance claims, which include arbitration cases up 17% compared to the previous year, at 54.
Oman’s Royal Police have announced the Sultanate’s new traffic laws have come into force today (1 March). The Police have introduced a black point system from today which will see black points issued against any drivers who violate the new laws. Under the system, motorists who get more than 12 points in a calendar year will have their licences suspended for six months. Drivers who accumulate another 12 points after this in the next year will have their licence confiscated for a year. Those who accumulate 12 points in a third year will see their licence cancelled. They will also have to pay 100 Rials and retake their driving test. Amongst the changes, new drivers will be issued with temporary licences and will have to complete a probation period. Drivers who get more than 10 points in this period will have to take additional lessons. If they get more than seven points in a year they will have their temporary licence extended for a year. Drivers who get up to six points during their probation will be able to obtain a ten-year licence while expatriates will get a two-year licence. Those who get a licence for ten years will only have to renew them after they expire. Seat belts for passengers and child seats for those under four are also now mandatory. There have also been changes to the penalties regime for 52 offences. Fines which have been increased include parking in disabled bays from 10 to 50 Rials and drivers who cover their faces, including women will be increased to 50 Rials.
From 17 June 2018, vehicles in Kuwait will have to meet a new requirement to get their registration issued or renewed. The General Manager of the General Authority for Environment, Dr Mohammed Alahmad made the announcement. In addition to other inspection requirements, vehicles will have to pass an environmental test which means they should meet the environmental standards.
This week the spotlight is on tax and finance developments in the GCC where Bahrain’s Finance Minister, Sheikh Ahmed bin Mohammed al-Khalifa has announced the Kingdom will introduce VAT by December 2018. This comes despite intense opposition which has seen the current plans shelved. Al-Khalifa was speaking on the sidelines of an investment conference in the country’s capital, Manama.
Elsewhere, Oman’s National Tobacco Control Committee has announced the excise tax which has already come into effect in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, will be introduced in the Sultanate in June. Tobacco products, alcoholic beverages and energy drinks will be taxed at 100%, while fizzy drinks will be taxed at 50%. The authorities are also considering increasing taxes on fast food.
KSA: Agencies working to tackle the increasing numbers of cases involving government purchase irregularities
Saudi Arabia’s Shoura Council has asked the Kingdom’s National Anti-Corruption Commission to work with other agencies to tackle the increasing numbers of cases involving government purchase irregularities. It comes as the country has recorded the highest ever number of bribery cases. The call came during the Council’s latest meeting.
Following a surge in off-plan sales in 2017, the authorities are planning regulatory changes. If approved, Dubai property developers would need to have hit 50% completion for their project, instead of 20% before they can start selling off-plan. Developers would also still need to pay off all land costs.
In a landmark decision, the Dubai International Finance Centre Courts have ruled a claim against Deloitte and Touche (Middle East) for negligence and deceit can go to trial as the judge considers it has a ‘real prospect of success’. The case has been brought against the auditing firm by Nest Investments Holding SAL who were an investor in the collapsed Lebanese Canadian Bank. The Lebanese arm of the firm acted as the Bank’s auditors from 1995 until its liquidation. The case was brought following charges by the US Drug Enforcement Administration and US Treasury. The judgment extends potential liability for Dubai International Finance Centre institutions, like Deloitte and Touche (Middle East) for acts or omissions of foreign agents in non-Dubai International Finance Centre jurisdictions.
Senior officials at Bahrain’s Transportation and Telecommunications Ministry have announced a new Commercial Maritime Law is being considered. The aim is to boost the country’s maritime transportation and logistics sector and user experience at its Khalifa Bin Salman Port. It forms part of the Ministry’s wider maritime transport strategy.
This week the spotlight is on legal and regulatory developments in Qatar, where the country’s Advisory Council has discussed a draft law to regulate the investment of non-Qatari capital in the country. The Council referred the draft law to the Finance and Economic Affairs Committee for further consideration and feedback. The Council also reviewed a request for a discussion on food security.
Elsewhere, the Advisory Council has reviewed several draft laws including a draft law on the organisation of business events. The Council also considered draft laws on establishing a national tourism council and a draft law to regulate tourism. The Council submitted its recommendations to the Advisory Council.