GULF IN REVIEW
15 - 20 March 2020
Arnold Koka and Veronica Del Torre
Kingdom of Bahrain
Tuesday, 17 March—Bahraini Government announced special economic measures in an attempt to enhance economic stability and limit the negative impact of Coronavirus (COVID-19). The Government will release an emergency financial package of 4.3 billion Bahraini dinars ($10 billion USD) from April 2020 to pay the salaries of all private sector employees for three months. At the same time, the Central Bank of Bahrain will delay for six months the payment of loan installments for Bahraini nationals. All Friday sermons and prayers in mosques were suspended.
Thursday, 19 March—Bahrain, along with Argentina, Canada, France, Iran, Norway, South Africa, Switzerland, Thailand and Spain, will participate in the “Solidarity Trial” experiment of the World Health Organisation (WHO), that seeks to stimulate the research for a treatment to eliminate Coronavirus (COVID-19). In addition, WHO’s Regional Office for the Eastern Mediterranean commended the Kingdom’s efforts in containing and preventing the spread of Coronavirus.
State of Kuwait
Sunday, 15 March—Amid the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19), Kuwait’s Government decided that Bedouins with expired identity cards can benefit from health services, buy rations and receive banking services.
Tuesday, 17 March—Kuwait’s Prime Minister Sabah Khaled Al-Hamad Al-Sabah authorised additional 500 million Kuwait Dinar ($1.6 billion USD) funding to Ministries and state agencies to fight the Coronavirus (COVID-19), while the Emir Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah authorised a $40 million donation to the World Health Organisation (WHO). Additionally, Kuwait’s Government offered aid provision to Iran, Iraq and Palestine to contain the COVID-19.
Thursday, 19 March—The Kuwaiti Government announced new measures to curb the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19), including the closure of all schools and universities until 4 August. Education Minister Saud Al-Harbi guaranteed the payment of the teachers’ salaries in full for these months. Moreover, social gatherings are banned, including diwaniyas, weddings and receptions.
Sultanate of Oman
Tuesday, 17 March—Oman’s Telecommunications Regulatory Authority announced that it will allow VoIP use of Skype for Business, Google Meet and Zoom to facilitate distance working, education and communication amid Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. On Monday, the Oman Research and Education Network (OMREN) launched a new video conferencing service. Similarily, the UAE lifted restrictions on the use of Microsoft Teams and Zoom to allow voice calls over the Internet for companies.
Tuesday, 17 March—Oman’s Financial Affairs and Energy Resources Council announced that the country’s Ministries and civil, military and security government agencies will have to reduce their 2020 budgets by 5% to mitigate the negative effects of Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak and oil prices’ decline. On Thursday, Oman’s Government announced a series of new measures, notably some temporary tax, fee and loan exemptions for industries and businesses, as part of a wider economic plan to curb the pandemic’s economic effects.
Wednesday, 18 March—Oman participated in the Executive Council of the Arab Bureau of Education for the Gulf States (ABEGS) videoconference of the Member states’ Undersecretaries of Ministries of Education, who discussed and reviewed new procedures, measures and solutions to improve the distance education on all levels and its impact due to the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19).
State of Qatar
Sunday, 15 March—Qatar’s Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani received a message from President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Hassan Rouhani, thanking Qatar for the delivery of 6 tons of medical equipment and supplies, provided by Qatar Fund of Development (QFFD) to the Iranian Ministry of Health and Medical Education.
Monday, 16 March—Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Crisis Management has adopted new measures to combat the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19), including the halting of all incoming flights to Doha, all public transportation for 14 days and closure of all schools and universities. The Supreme Committee also allocated 75 billion Qatari riyals ($20.5 billion USD) to the private sector and banks to limit economic effects of COVID-19.
Wednesday, 18 March—In the global effort to combat the Coronavirus (COVID-19), Qatar’s Emir, Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, authorised $10 million (USD) in urgent financial assistance to Palestine amid the Coronavirus outbreak (COVID-19).
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Tuesday, 17 March—Saudi Arabia, which currently holds Presidency of the Group of 20 major economies (G20), called for a virtual summit of the G20 next week to discuss ways to coordinate policies and measures to confront the outbreak of Coronavirus (COVID-19) and its global effects.
Tuesday, 17 March—Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Energy announced an increase of the crude oil exports to more than 10 million barrels per day (bpd) from May 2020. The decision came a week after OPEC and non-OPEC members (OPEC+) failed to agree on oil production cuts to face low oil demand amid global pandemic. Saudi Aramco previously said that it planned to increase its crude oil production to 12.3 million bpd in April.
Friday, 20 March—Saudi Arabia temporarily suspended prayers in the outer courtyards of the Grand Mosque (Masjid al-Haram) in Mecca and the Prophet’s Mosque (Masjid al-Nabawi) in Medina, Islam’s two holiest places, to contain the spread of COVID-19. Earlier on Tuesday the Kingdom suspended congregational prayers in all mosques except the two aforementioned.
Friday, 20 March—Saudi Arabia announced the implementation of a 120 billion Saudi riyals (SAR) financial stimulus package to curb the Coronavirus’ impact on its economy and private sector. Mohammed bin Abdullah Al-Jadaan, Minister of Finance and Acting Minister of Economy and Planning, said that the 70 billion SAR financial stimulus, consisting of exemptions and postponements of government dues, will provide liquidity to the private sector. Additionally, the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority (SAMA) announced a 50 billion SAR package to support the banking sector, financial institutions and small and medium-sized companies (SMEs).
United Arab Emirates
Sunday, 15 March—The Central Bank of the United Arab Emirates announced a $27 billion worth set of measures aimed to limit the negative economic effects caused by the spread of COVID-19. The package will support UAE’s banks as it will be assisted by the temporary easing of regulatory limits on loans.
Monday, 16 March—Mohamed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, issued a series of directives aimed at promoting investments in the UAE and curbing the effects of COVID-19, focusing notably on supporting local startups and small and medium sized enterprises as well as further easing regulations and limits to investment. Furthermore, he established a new committee, headed by the Department of Finance, that will review plans to support local companies and businesses.
Tuesday, 17 March—The UAE sent 32 tons of medical supplies to the Islamic Republic of Iran to assist it in containing Coronavirus (COVID-19). According to official data, the number of COVID-19 positive cases in Iran amounts to nearly 20.000 and more than 1.400 deaths, making it the fourth country in the world with the most cases. The UAE also previously provided medical supplies support to the Chinese city of Wuhan and to Afghanistan.
Tuesday, 17 March—The UAE announced that prayers in all worship locations across the country will be suspended for one month to curb the spread of COVID-19. The measure will be then reviewed and might be renewed.