Bahrain’s King has issued a Law adding a new Article 6 Bis to Bahrain Decree-Law No 1/1996 regarding electricity and water. The new article imposes fines up to 1,000 Dinars on those who erect electrical wiring extensions without the appropriate licenses or who don’t comply with the relevant safety requirements. Repeat violators will be jailed for up to three months and/or fined up to 2,000 Dinars. The Prime Minister and other Ministers will implement the Law and it will come into force on the day following its published date in the Official Gazette.
New Decree Amending Bahrain Law No 21/1989 – on Associations, Social and Cultural Clubs, Special Committees Working in the Field of Youth and Sports and Private Institutions
Bahrain’s King has issued a Decree amending Article 43 of the Law of Associations, Social and Cultural Clubs, Special Committees Working in the Field of Youth and Sports and Private Institutions (Bahrain Law No. 21/1989). The amendment reverses a previous amendment to the Law by allowing a member of the board of directors to enjoy all civil and political rights. The Decree amends the law to state no candidate for the Board of Directors of these organisations may belong to any political association. It also prohibits membership of more than one club or sports association. The changes will come into effect from the date of publication in the Official Gazette.
The Bahraini Government has issued a new law mandating health insurance coverage must be provided to all citizens, residents and visitors in the country. Proof of insurance is expected to be compulsory for the issuing and renewal of employment and residence permits in January 2019, when the law will come into force. The mandatory health insurance will be funded through the payment of an insurance subscription, covering benefits which are set out in a package relevant to each category of an insured person (e.g.: citizens’ package, residents’ package, etc). Subscriptions for citizens will be paid by the Bahraini Government. Employers will need to enrol foreign national workers (and their dependents, if this is stated in the employment contract). Enrolment for visitors will be covered by the visitors themselves. A list of approved health insurance providers is yet to be published.
This week the spotlight is on legal and regulatory developments in Bahrain where the King has approved the Protection of Personal Data Law. Bahrain Law No. 30/2018 sets out the responsibilities of the Personal Data Protection Authority. A Decree is to be issued to specify the administrative aspects of the Authority and establish its Board of Directors. Those found to access, disseminate, leak, or tamper with personal information will be jailed for up to one year, fined 1,000 to 20,000 Dinars, or both. Those receiving a bribe in relation to falsified information will be fined 3,000 to 20,000 Dinars.
The Authority’s Board of Directors will issue the necessary decisions to implement the law within six months of its publication in the Official Gazette. The law will come into effect one month following its publication in the Official Gazette.
Australia’s Federal Court rejected an appeal on 8 June 2018 against an issued but undisclosed tax assessment from the Australian Taxation Office for the 2011 income year.
The case revolved around whether or not an apartment in Bahrain was a permanent home for tax purposes on 8 June 2018 under the ‘domicile’ test.
The case involved a former aircraft engineer, Glenn Harding who lived in Bahrain for more than five years in the same block of fully-furnished apartments. He had appealed on the basis he was not a ‘resident’ in the 2011 income year, but the Federal Court rejected that partly because of the type of accommodation he lived in.
The ruling means renting out a fully-furnished apartment overseas may not be enough to convince the tax office an individual is a non-resident for tax purposes.
In a bid to boost foreign investment, the Bahraini authorities have announced they are planning on issuing ten-year residency visas to foreign investors.
The visas will be renewable and will enable foreign investors to self-sponsor themselves. It follows an announcement by the UAE authorities that they were going to relax their investment rules and introduce a ten-year visa for investors and innovators as well as medical, scientific, research and technical professionals.
This week the spotlight is on legal and regulatory developments in Bahrain, where the Shoura Council has approved the bankruptcy law. A member of the Council’s Financial Committee, Darwish Almanaie said the aim of the legislation is to remedy some of the shortcomings of the existing bankruptcy law. Another Committee member, Sadeq Rahma said the law has been approved because it includes new provisions which are in line with updated laws and regulations and the requirements of commercial businesses. The law is expected to update bankruptcy procedures and establish a law for financial restructuring for enterprises and companies who will be subject to it. The law also regulates cross-border restructuring and bankruptcy procedures.
Elsewhere, the Public Utilities and Environment Committee of Bahrain’s Shoura Council has approved a draft law which would establish a public food safety body. The Food Authority would have its own legal personality and have administrative and financial independence. The Food Control Section of the Health Ministry is currently responsible for the safety of food produced or imported in to the country. The Health, Industry, Trade and Tourism, Works, Municipal Affairs and Urban Planning Ministries as well as the Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry all approved the draft law.
Bahrain’s Batelco has been separated into two separate legal entities to enhance competition in the telecoms market. The Shoura Council has approved a Decree-Law amending the Telecommunications Law (Bahrain Decree-Law No. 48/2002). The move is part of implementing the fourth national telecommunications plan policy. One of the entities will be responsible for a national terrestrial cable network and the other for providing retail services. The Telecommunications Regulatory Authority will grant separate licenses for establishing and operating fixed national broadband networks and to offer wholesale services to licensed operators in Bahrain.
This week the spotlight is on legal developments in Bahrain, where a Bahraini MP has objected to the Bahraini Government’s urgent submission of the draft Bankruptcy Law to the Kingdom’s Parliament. The Government has referred the draft bankruptcy law to the House of Representatives to review in 15 days. The draft law would apply to natural or legal persons and provide legal protection during the bankruptcy process. It also covers bankruptcy procedures, fraud, preventive settlement, liquidation and the right to default until a decision by the Court. MP Ahmed Qaratah has objected because of the Law’s length and importance. It has been classed as urgent under Article 87 of the Constitution.
Elsewhere, Bahrain’s Shoura Council’s Foreign Affairs, Defence and National Security Committee has approved an amendment to the 1975 Passports Law. If approved, the new Article 18 to Bahrain Law No. 11/1975 will criminalise the tearing up or adulterating Bahraini passports with any signs, stickers, slogans, stamps or words. The fine for defacing a passport will be 400 Dinars but will not be imposed where damage is unintentional. Bahrain’s Cabinet Affairs Minister, Ghanim Al-Buainain said the aim is to stop Haj and tourism agencies defacing passports and preserve national identity. An Interior Ministry representative encouraged those with defaced passports to submit them to the Nationality, Passports and Residence Affairs department to issue a replacement. In a related development, Bahrain Law No. 7/2018 was ratified on 6 April. It adds a new clause to Article 9 of Bahrain Law No. 11/1975, granting retired military personnel the right to obtain a special passport.
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.