VAT to be imposed in Saudi and the UAE. What does it mean?

I'm curious to learn how the imposition of 5 per cent VAT from New Years' Day will affect the cost of living in Saudi Arabia and the UAE. I can't say I know what will happen in Saudi, since I have not lived there, but it won't be easy in Dubai. The governments have talked about introducing VAT for some years (Indeed, I wrote in July how the governments have been talking about introducing VAT for the past 10 years) but the fall in oil prices has meant that talk has now become reality.

 In Dubai, the cost of living is already expensive, especially rent and food. When it comes to utilities like electricity, the fee (bill) can vary widely from month-to-month and it doesn’t appear to be rooted in reality. When 5 per cent VAT is imposed, what will this mean for the actual bill? Of course, the higher the bill, the higher the VAT that will be imposed.

 I might be sceptical, but that sceptism is rooted in reality.

 I found this article about VAT, which does explain it all.

The value-added tax will apply to a range of items - including food and clothingDecision comes after collapse in oil prices 3 years ago caused fall in revenuesBut there will be some exemptions for likes of rent, medication and plane tickets

By ASSOCIATED PRESS and IAIN BURNS FOR MAILONLINE

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Best VPNs for Dubai and the UAE

VPNs (Virtual Private Networks) are popular, and big in places like Dubai. I lived there for some years and although a lot of my friends had one I never did. It was a mistake. I was tapped the whole time I was there, on my home landline anyway. A VPN would have prevented that. It would also have allowed me to use Skype, which the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) had banned.

So if you live in the UAE you probably already know how popular VPNs are as a means to access blocked websites and apps including Skype and WhatsApp or to connect to US Netflix and other streaming services.

This article (see below) takes a look at the best VPNs for Dubai or elsewhere in the UAE. It runs through some common concerns about using a VPN in the UAE and tries to clear up some misconceptions around legal issues with VPN use

As Comperitech (ctechemail.com) points out- which is a UK registered company and hopes to be opening its first US office soon- VPNs are popular with tourists and expats because it helps them to access apps like WhatsApp and Skype as well as streamingservices such as BBC iplayer, Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime Video., all of which are restricted by the TRA. (Arguably, that’s how the telephone companies, particularly Etisalat, make lots of money).

The Comparitech.com brand and website is owned and operated by Comparitech Limited.

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How social media affects decision making

Nowadays, social media affects all of us, in so many ways. It affects everything we do including our decision making and buying behaviour. This article from the Institute of Public Relations in the USA tells how.

One of its findings is that social media posts from close friends and family were the most influential source, but the degree of influence depended on the industry. Close friends and family were a critical source in the travel industry for all generations: Millennials (62%), Generation X (61%), Baby Boomers (48%), and the Silent Generation (48%). Close/friends and family were also an influential source for Millennials (51%) in the financial services industry and the retail industry (49%). Close friends and family were also an important source for the Silent Generation (42%) in the healthcare industry.

The link for the full report is here. http://www.instituteforpr.org/science-of-influence/.

The key findings are below with the executive summary first.

In a survey of 1,783 internet users, this study explored the level of influence social media has in four industries: healthcare, financial, travel (personal not business), and retail. The results were segmented by four generations: Millennials, Generation X, Baby Boomers, and the Silent Generation. Consistent with previous studies, the influence of social media continues to play a role in the actions and recommendations of consumers, and that influence continues to rise. This report dives into the results of the survey and gives recommendations for companies.

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NZ Superfund excludes recreational cannabis companies

Companies involved in the recreational cannabis industry have been excluded from the $37 billion NZ Super Fund. The exclusion does not include companies involved with licensed and authorised medicinal cannabis.

The move follows a growing global trend to decriminalise and legalise the recreational use of cannabis, which has led to share market listings of companies involved in the industry overseas.

I’m curious about sovereign wealth funds- having worked in private equity in the Middle East for years- and how they decide what to invest in and what not to. It can’t be easy. I’m sure most sovereign wealth funds invest in anything, including the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA). What they invest in is uncertain, especially given that many of the investment managers are ex-pats.

This report from the New Zealand Super Fund is informative in that it explains what the fund excludes and why it is leading the way.

Under the Guardians' Responsible Investment Framework, decisions about ethical exclusions take account of New Zealand law and international conventions to which New Zealand is a signatory. Recreational use of cannabis is currently illegal in New Zealand under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975, and contrary to New Zealand's commitments to international drug conventions.*

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New New Zealand CEO Governor of Reserve Bank

Today’s announcement that the New Zealand Reserve Bank has appointed a new governor came as a surprise not because it was unexpected but because of whom it is. It is the CEO of New Zealand Superannuation Fund, Adrian Orr, who, by all accounts, has done a great job. I suppose I never imagined him moving.

 It seems that I’ve had associations with the last two governors of the Reserve Bank, and of that I’m surprised. I’ve interviewed Adrian Orr, as CEO of the Super Fund, when I’ve been working with the Private Equity International, then the outgoing Governor, Graeme Wheeler, was my former boss at Treasury.

Here’s an article about Adrian Orr’s appointment.

NZ Super Fund CEO Adrian Orr has resigned to take up the position of Governor of the Reserve Bank of New Zealand.

Catherine Savage, Chair of the Guardians of New Zealand Superannuation, the Crown entity that manages the NZ Super Fund, thanked Mr Orr for his service.

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Hospitals and the Middle East

Hospitals. They’re exhausting, probably because there are so many sick and dying people. On top of that, there’s all that equipment designed to monitor people and make them well again.

 

It’s because I’ve been visiting the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at the local hospital, where it is known as the Critical Care Unit (CCU) that I haven’t written anything for a few days.

 Travelling up and down to the hospital, and sitting there for a few hours each time, three times a day is, to say the least, exhausting. It’s hard to believe that’s the case when you’re doing nothing- but all those sick and dying people sap the energy. I now believe in energy chakras.

 The surgeons, doctors and nurses are great. They seem to come from all over the world- from Scotland, India, England, the US and Saudi Arabia.

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Gaw and Consortium Partners win bid to acquire 17 Shopping Centres in Hong Kong

News of the private equity firm, Gaw Capital Partners, keeps coming. But I guess that's what happens in the fast growing Chinese market.  And real estate is often the asset of choice.

November 28, 2017, Hong Kong – Real estate private equity firm Gaw Capital Partners today announced that the firm, through a fund under its management, and consortium partners, including Goldman Sachs, have won a bid to acquire a retail portfolio comprising 17 shopping centers in Hong Kong from Link Asset Management Limited at HK$ 23 billion and an average price of around HK$7,922 per sq. ft. excluding parking.

The portfolio is comprised of a number of strategically-located properties across Kowloon and the New Territories that sit in the heart of densely-populated communities and in close proximity to MTR stations. The GFA of the portfolio totals 2.2 million sq. ft. of prime retail space and comes with over 8,000 parking spaces that are connected to highly-convenient transport links. Their excellent accessibility and holistic shopping environments have made them attractive destinations for retailers and hubs of community life for residents.

The shopping centers included in the portfolio are: Cheung Hang Shopping Centre, Kai Yip Commercial Centre, Kam Tai Shopping Centre, Lei Cheng Uk Shopping Centre, On Ting Commercial Complex, Shek Lei Shopping Centre I & II, Tai Wo Hau Commercial Centre, Tsz Ching Shopping Centre, Yau Oi Commercial Centre and Yung Shing Shopping Centre, Kwai Fong Plaza, Kwai Shing East Shopping Centre, Lai Kok Shopping Centre, Lee On Shopping Centre, Retail and Car Park within Shun Tin Estate, Tsing Yi Commercial Complex and Lions Rise Mall.

Goodwin Gaw, Chairman and Managing Principal of Gaw Capital Partners, said, “We and our partners strongly believe in Hong Kong’s future, and believe these malls, which Link REIT has done an excellent job in upgrading and maintaining, will continue to serve important functions in the community. We hope to utilize our experience to evolve these malls into refreshed and renewed centers of local life. To be successful, we will need the support of the community, and we look forward to working with them to understand the gaps that could be filled and how we can support them to make their neighborhoods better homes.

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Jared Kushner comes under the spotlight

There are two magazines, the November issue of Vanity Fair and the Fall issue of Columbia Journalism Review, which have articles about Jared Kushner, the US President's Trump favourite son-in-law. Actually, the title of the latter publication is entitled "The Trump Issue, Takeover, The Year that changed journalism" and contains a series of enlightening articles about how journalism has changed in the Trump era.

In one article, written by a former editor of the New York Observer, Kyle Pope, he talks about how his relationship with Kushner unravelled and how the Observer ended up a shadow of its former self, with an on-line edition only. He maintains that Kushner knew nothing about world affairs, and had never read the Observer before he bought it for $10 million in 2006. He writes: "..his interest in turning the business side of the Observer around seemed rooted more in bragging rights than in any commitment to the paper itself. He also made it clear that, compared to this day job of buying and selling real estate in New York City, this journalism stuff wasn't exactly heavy lifting; he treated it as sort of a hobby."

He also writes: "Other former editors of the paper have weighed in with their own stories about Kushner's attempts to use the paper to settle scores or reward cronies.." https://www.cjr.org/

Jared Kushner's life is explored further in the November issue of Vanity Fair (https://www.vanityfair.com/magazine/november2017) in an article that talks about his powerful father going to prison and that, as a consequence, he was given the keys to the family real-estate kingdom, at the age of 24. The fact that Charlie Kushner had disgraced the family and lost status meant that Jared was trying to acquire it. The purchase of the Observer was one way of doing this; the other way was the purchase of a 41-story office tower on Fifth Avenue between 52nd and 53rd Streets in Manhattan. The building was purchased in January 2007 for the huge sum of $1.2 billion, the plan being that the rents would cover the mortgage payments. They didn't. The tower is still 30% vacant.

As the author, Rich Cohen, writes: "Jared Kushner's life can be seen as a lark, an inheritance, a goof. Or it can be seen more grandly as an attempt to get back what was lost..."

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China Outlet Mall Fund raises USD 550 million

Florentia Mall, China

 

November 21, 2017, Hong Kong - Real estate private equity firm Gaw Capital Partners acted as co-capital sponsor in the successful first close of US$550 million for the ERES APAC II – China Outlet Mall Fund.

This fund is backed by Allianz, Gaw Capital Partners, and TIAA General Account, a Frankfurt-based German asset management company, among others.  Allianz is the largest investor with a 30% stake in the platform, TH Real Estate is the fund manager, RDM is the asset manager while Gaw Capital acted as co-capital sponsor and advisor, as well as a substantial investor (through its Gateway Real Estate Fund V), to the fund.

 ERES APAC II is seeded by two leading designer malls, Florentia Village Jingjin in the city of Wuqing (located near Beijing and Tianjin) and Florentia Village Shanghai.  The developer and seller of the two seed assets is a joint venture between Gaw Capital’s Gateway Real Estate Fund III, RDM, Waitex Group, and another institutional investor. RDM is part of Fingen Group of Italy and has built up a strong track record in operating premium outlet malls in Europe. In 2012, Gaw Capital invested in this venture which developed the six Florentia Village outlets in Jingjin, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Wuhan, Chengdu, and Hong Kong.

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Journalism and business go hand in hand

My eye was quickly drawn to this headline: “Why we need to teach more business skills in the J-school classroom.” Journalism and business

in the same sentence and this was being endorsed.

I had studied a different discipline from everyone else in my year at post-graduate journalism school at the University of Canterbury in New

Zealand. I had completed a post graduate degree in economics, worked at Treasury for three years and then studied at journalism school

for one year. Although I had an Arts degree everyone else had studied all the Arts subjects- languages, anthropology for example-and

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Exploiting labour in the GCC

Workers’ rights in the Arab Gulf countries often come in for criticism, especially from organisations like Amnesty International and the International Labour Organisation. It’s true. The rules are abhorrent but often the criticism that is lurched at say Qatar is almost as true of the other Gulf countries.

 But with the ongoing dispute between Qatar and four other states- Saudi Arabia, UAE, Brain and Egypt- Qatar has even more interest in ridding itself of the “kafala” system. Under this system a local citizen or local company (the kafil) must sponsor foreign workers in order for their work visas and residency to be valid. This means that an individual's right to work and residence in the host country is dependent on the employer, rendering millions of workers from South Asia and elsewhere vulnerable to exploitation.

 Even though Qatar is in the line of fire, mainly because it is hosting FIFA 2022, other Gulf countries also use this system. In the UAE for example you must have a sponsor to reside in the country and you can change employer (without permission) if you are in, or are going, to a free zone. That wasn’t always the case.

 And when I was living there, the employer still took an employee’s passport; if not (as was the case with me since I refused to hand over my passport) the employer takes the employee’s ID card instead. I was also know of one person who had to finish her contract (she was Swedish) before she could leave the country. This happened in September.

 In Qatar it can be impossible to change jobs, if the current employer doesn’t allow it. I know one person- a Canadian citizen- to whom that happened. She had to flee the country. This was in 2013.

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Why do we age? Dunedin studies this and more

Recently I went to a talk by Dr Sandhya Ramrakha on the internationally recognised Dunedin Study- the longest multi-disciplinary, longitudinal study in the world, which is carried out by Otago University. It is known formally as the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Research Unit (DMHDRU). The study tracks the lives of about 1000 babies born in Dunedin between 1972 and 1973. Now in its 45th year, the study is ramping up, particularly as people are beginning to age.

 Since most ageing research is done on the elderly, little is known about biological aging in young humans. The study aims to fill this gap.

 “We know that the aging process starts right from the beginning of life and our people are at a critical point in their life course. They’ve now reached the point where they are starting to go down the aging pathway. We want to figure out what lies ahead, because this is one race you don’t won’t to win,” the October 17 magazine of the University of Otago states.

 This year the study has also re-introduced studies of hearing and sight, not done since childhood; muscolosketal health, including pain and body composition; dietary biomarkets; investigative oxidative stress cellular health and chronic kidney injury; and brain imaging research.

 Other aims of the study include understanding the reasons for people’s behaviour over time. It is used to inform health, education and social policy in particular. For example, it also presents new findings on domestic violence that shows that women are just as likely to commit domestic violence offences as men. http://www.stuff.co.nz/timaru-herald/news/81025573/domestic-violence-study-presents-challenging-picture

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Digital story telling: AR, VR and

Technology in the media is moving so fast. It's all about ensuring that people have a good media experience and this article by Carolyn Morgan tells how.

This article is in a series exploring key themes in technology from the Web Summit in Lisbon and how they may impact on media brands.

Video already drives engagement on mobile and social: media brands need to adapt to this form of story telling and engaging audiences. But the gaming and entertainment industry, in search of more immersive experiences, are already developing augmented reality (AR), volumetric video and virtual reality (VR). As mobile devices evolve to be capable of handling these forms of content, consumers will become used to the visual experiences, and media owners will need to develop new ways to present content.

Video drives traffic on mobile and social

60% of time spent online by US consumers is watching video, and mobile makes up 23% of total online video viewing, growing at an annual rate of 30%. Currently video only accounts for 5% adspend, but this is growing at 58% pa. Social platforms dominate video viewing – 47% of referrals traffic to video content come from social, overwhelmingly from Facebook.

Volumetric video portrays people most realistically

Cartoon avatars can’t express genuine emotions, and CGI is prohibitively expensive, so there’s growing interest in volumetric video, filmed using an array of cameras, creating a file small enough to be shared to a phone, and an image that can be viewed from all sides. Applications could include museum hosts, virtual retail assistants or personal trainers.

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Lebanon: caught in the mangle again

The war in Yemen wages on, seemingly without end. And if the Saudi-led coalition doesn't let humanitarian aid into the country there will be a huge famine. Saudi Arabia is fighting the Houthis, which dominates the government and is Iran backed. Saudi Arabia, which is Sunni, wants to be the dominant force in the Middle East. At the moment, it is waging a proxy war against Iran and is failing. It has not achieved the gains it hoped it would by backing the rebels in Syria; Bashir Assad, who is backed by Iran is still in power. The next country on the cards is Lebanon and in a delicately balanced government between about 14 different religions, where the Prime Minister is always a Sunni, Saudi Arabia has caused chaos by insisting that the Prime Minister, Saad Hariri, resigned. Saudi Arabia wants to wage war against Iran-back Hezbollah which certainly dominates in the South of Lebanon. (The photos are from there). This article in Arab Digest explains well what is happening in Lebanon.

Summary: resignation of Prime Minister Hariri less a Lebanese affair than part of the Saudi obsession with Iran (backed by Israel but not the US). Poor Lebanon will pay the price.

On 4 November the Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri announced his resignation. He made the announcement in Riyadh, saying that there were covert plans against his life. In language more characteristic of Saudi than of Lebanese politics (he is a dual Lebanese/Saudi national) he accused Iran of creating in Hizbullah a state within a state; “I say to Iran and its allies – you have lost in your efforts to meddle in the affairs of the Arab world... [the region] will rise again and the hands that you have wickedly extended into it will be cut off.” An AP report comments that “Saudi fingerprints were seen all over Hariri's resignation.”

As we commented in a posting of 3 November 2016 the Lebanese political game is played by rules laid down over seventy years ago in the National Pact. Since Ottoman times the population has consisted of a wide palette of minorities, Maronite Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Sunni Muslim, Shia Muslim, Druze, not to mention Armenians, Kurds and others. The president is a Maronite, the prime minister a Sunni, the speaker of parliament a Shia, the army commander a Druze, and so on. Minority communities include differing political or tribal elements, so that both the governments and the oppositions have been mosaic coalitions. This unique system has given Lebanon prosperity and stability, interrupted from time to time by external forces and events, Palestinian (refugees in 1948, PLO from Jordan in 1970), Syrian (multiple intervention from 1976 to 2005, now 1.5 million refugees), Israeli (various wars, occupation of the mainly Shia south from 1982 to 2000).

In 2005 the long serving Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, father of Saad, was assassinated. Hizbullah was accused (not only Hizbullah), but the investigation got nowhere. After long conflict and confusion the present government under President Michel Aoun was formed a year ago. As we commented on 17 March it resulted from a deal with Hizbullah. Originally formed to resist the Israeli occupation, Hizbullah represents the Lebanese Shia community as well as being the most powerful military force in Lebanon. Supported by Iran it has played a major military role in the Syrian civil war in support of the regime.

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Iwi/Maori direct investment fund receives commitments of $100mill

Maori Iwi have come together to form a NZD 100 million fund, so that they can each make more and better investments. Here is the press release.

Indicative commitments of up to $100 million have been made by iwi, pan-tribal organisations, Māori land trusts and Māori incorporations to a proposed Iwi/Māori Direct Investment Fund.

The Fund, which will help the Māori groups further diversify their portfolios and access larger scale direct investment opportunities than they can achieve on an individual basis, will see the groups pooling capital for collective investments. Iwi and Māori groups have an increasing economic base, with potential to grow land, capability and capital. 

Over 35 Māori groups have made indicative commitments to the Fund and are now working together to finalise legal documentation and internal governance approvals.  Organisations that have made indicative commitments to the Fund include various Tūwharetoa organisations aggregating together as a single investor, Te Tumu Paeroa, and various Taranaki iwi entities.

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More M&A expected

For anyone interested in mergers and acquisitions (M&A), here is a good round up of what's going on. I followed the ups and downs of the M&A market for years, when I was head of a newswire service, Mergermarket, looking at M&A in the middle East. Ernst & Young produce a good round up every year. 

The digital transformation race and rising economic confidence to drive more M&A

- Near-record number of companies (56%) plan to acquire in the next 12 months

- 51% of executives expecting increased M&A competition see PE as biggest competitive threat  

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What next for the Lebanon and Saudi Arabia?

I’ve been following the government changes in Saudi with much interest, having lived in the region and covered it journalistically for 8.5 years. It is no surprise that there are changes in the Saudi ruling family; those changes are rumoured to have been happening for years.

However, this time is different. The changes are swift and dramatic and several events have combined at the same time. While not directly linked, they could bring more instability to an already volatile region.

But whether it is a purge against corruption or a move by the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) to consolidate his power is another matter.  

First, there is the resignation of Lebanon’s Sunni Prime Minister, Saad Hariri, who is also the son of the Syrian-murdered former prime minister Rafik Hariri in 2005. Saad Hariri, who has joint Lebanese and Saudi citzenship, evidently feared for his life and had just had a meeting with Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayotollah Ali Khamenei.

Evidently, he was summoned from Beirut and sacked by his Saudi “allies”. I’ve also been told by my source in Saudi Arabia that Hariri’s bodyguard was told to leave Saudi Arabia Monday night. What will happen to him?

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The Balfour Declaration: how 100 years was marked

There's been a lot of talk recently about the Balfour Declaration since November 2 was the centenary of that document.  This date was when Israel obtained land in Palestianian territory. The outcome depends on whether you are an Israeli or a Palestianian. Here 's what was written in the Arab Digest.

Summary: debate in Parliament produces nothing new. Among many comments on the centenary a new Balfour Centenary Declaration supported by MPs from all parties and many others.

As expected (our posting of 20 October) the approach to the centenary of the Balfour declaration, today 2 November 2017, has produced much comment. The British and Israeli prime ministers are expected to speak at a commemoration banquet tonight. The Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson made a statement in Parliament on 30 October which was followed by a brief debate. Emily Thornberry, Shadow Foreign Secretary, argued that “With the empty vessel that is the American President making lots of noise but being utterly directionless, the need for Britain to show leadership on this issue [Palestine] is ever more pressing”. Johnson stuck to the well worn position of using the USA as a human shield: “the US Administration have shown their commitment to breaking the deadlock, and a new American envoy, Jason Greenblatt, has made repeated visits to the region. The Government will of course support these efforts in whatever way we can… we need them to be in the lead… we see the most fertile prospects now in the new push coming from America… ”

All parties represented in Parliament are now committed to recognition of Palestine as a state except the governing Conservative party (and presumably their coalition partner the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party), whose intention is clearly to wait for America.

On 31 October a Balfour Centenary Declaration, see below, was launched in Parliament by Richard Burden MP (Labour), Lord Cope of Berkeley (Conservative), Dr Philippa Whitford MP (Scottish National party), and Rt Hon Tom Brake MP (Lib Dem), signed by over 60 distinguished people including members of Parliament from the four main parties. We are grateful to Vincent Fean, former British ambassador and former consul-general in Jerusalem, for the text from which he spoke to an audience of over 1000 at Westminster Central Hall.

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Built on sand

There is so much happening in Saudi Arabia right now, and not just the meetings with Donald Trump and his clan. Oil, the Saudi ruling family and Islam are all showing signs of cracks. Certainly, Saudi Arabia is not how it used to be. Explaining this is Andrew Critchlow, who spent a long time in the Middle East, (when I was there). He went to the UK and was working with Thomson Reuters.

Three main pillars bind Saudi Arabia together: oil, the ruling Al Saud family and Islam. Reforms are preparing the Middle East’s largest economy for the end of a reliance on the first. But they could have a destabilising knock-on effect on the other two.

Saudi as a modern nation was founded in 1932 by a powerful regional overlord known as Ibn Saud. Since then the family has monopolised power by doling out its vast petroleum wealth in the form of handouts and preferential business deals while maintaining an uneasy pact with an ultra-conservative domestic religious establishment. But a 62 percent slide in the price of crude since 2012 has forced the kingdom to cut benefits such as energy subsidies for the average Saudi. Buying support is about to get tougher.

The radical restructuring of the economy now being managed by Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman – one of Ibn Saud’s many grandsons – is ambitious and not before time. The prince, widely known as ‘MbS’, last month presented the details of his Vision 2030 and short-term National Transformation Plan, with the aim of weaning Saudi off oil, which still accounts for over 70 percent of budget revenues. But although it’s a financial necessity for Riyadh to rein in a record budget deficit, politically the strategy is risky – it could prove unpopular in poorer rural tribal areas of the desert kingdom.

That would be okay if the 1000-plus princes of the Al Saud family were a unified bunch. But they are not immune to disagreements. After the death of the incumbent King Salman bin Abdulaziz, power will pass for the first time outside the direct line of Ibn Saud’s sons, which itself implies a less harmonious succession. The sudden elevation of the 31-year-old MbS, the current king’s son, looks a threat to his cousin Mohammed bin Nayef, who as crown prince is the official heir to the throne. It could also kindle resentment among the sons of previous rulers who were passed over, including those who don’t descend from the offspring of Ibn Saud’s most influential wife, Hassa bint Ahmed al-Sudairi.

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The Qatar dispute blunders on; no end in sight

The Gulf Co-Operation Council (GCC) dispute over Qatar is going on and on. Neither side-  four countries- Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain and Egypt, versus Qatar, are willing to give in.

The dispute has certainly highlighted the issue of food security- something that GCC countries are trying to resolve by reducing their dependency on imported food. Qatar has not achieved this (no one has) and is throwing money at the problem by bringing into the country 4,000 Irish dairy cows with reportedly 10,000 more to follow. The country can then feed all its population. Is this an attempt to destroy Qatar by starvation?

There are also reports that the GCC Summit due to take place in Kuwait in December is likely to be postponed to mid 2018 and that the US is pulling out of some military exercises planned with GCC countries. Qatar has also taken formal steps in the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to escalate a compliant it lodged in July against the UAE.

Also, in some comments made to Arab Digest, it seems that the GCC is now more receptive to some approaches from Israeli countries. It seems that being Israeli is no longer a hindrance to doing business in the GCC.