GULF IN REVIEW
22 - 27 March 2020
Arnold Koka and Veronica Del Torre
Kingdom of Bahrain
Monday, 23 March—Bahrain’s Minister of Finance and National Economy, Salman bin Khalifa Al-Khalifa, held a joint video conference with his counterparts from Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE as well as the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) representative to discuss and coordinate economic measures to minimise the impact of the Coronavirus on national, regional and global level.
Tuesday, 24 March—The Representatives Council of Bahrain approved several urgent proposals to contain the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19), including a partial curfew between 18:00 and 5:00, the creation of a new fund to cover the costs of COVID-19 and an economic incentive package to support small and medium-size companies, which have been negatively affected by the crisis. It was also announced that all non-essential business will be closed from 26 March until 9 April.
Wednesday, 25 March—Chairman of the Supreme Council of Health and Head of the Coronavirus Taskforce, Lieutenant-General Dr Mohamed Abdullah Al-Khalifa, announced that Bahrain began to treat Coronavirus (COVID-19) cases with Hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malaria drug.
State of Kuwait
Sunday, 22 March—Due to public non-compliance with the Ministry of Health’s instructions to stay indoors, Kuwait’s Deputy Premier and Interior Minister, Anas Khaled Al-Saleh, announced the imposition of a partial country-wide curfew between 17:00-4:00 and the extension of holiday for government departments and private companies for another two weeks, as well as strict penalties for violators. Measures were also toughened for individuals intentionally spreading the disease: they will now face 10 years in prison, a 30,000 Kuwaiti Dinar fine (approximately $95,000 USD) or both. Other violations can be punished with 3 months in prison, a 5,000 Kuwaiti Dinar fine (about $15,000) or both.
Wednesday, 25 March—President of the Italian Red Cross (IFRC), Francesco Rocca, during the reception of Kuwait Ambassador to Italy, Azzam Al-Sabah, thanked the State of Kuwait for the continuous support given to Italy during the current fight with Coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis.
Wednesday, 25 March—The Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development (KFAED) allocated 30 million Kuwaiti Dinars (approximately $95 million USD) to support the Government’s Coronavirus counter-measures. Additionally, the Government established a fund to support the efforts, where banks, institutes, companies and individuals will be able to contribute finances to contain the disease.
Sultanate of Oman
Thursday, 26 March—Oman’s Sultan Haitham bin Tarik Al-Said donated OMR 10 million as a personal support to halt the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19) in the country. The Sultanate officially reported 131 cases of COVID-19 in its territory and has activated national measures aimed at curb its diffusion and its negative economic effects.
Thursday, 26 March—The Supreme Committee tasked with addressing the spread of the new Coronavirus and its economic impacts announced the suspension of all domestic and international flights as well as the suspension of all public gatherings in the country and the limitation of staffing in state institutions as a new measure to curb the pandemic’s effects in the Sultanate.
State of Qatar
Thursday, 26 March—Qatar’s Government created a committee for the implementation of food security policies and has signed an agreement with 14 major food sector companies to increase strategic the country’s food stuff reserves. The committee will use an electronic system to monitor the strategic stock of food and consumer goods as well as the movements of internal trade and national production.
Monday, 23 March—The United States’ Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, flew to Qatar on his way back from Afghanistan to meet with Taliban’s officials, including chief negotiator, Mullah Baradar, in a bid to salvage the US-Taliban deal signed in February in Doha and push for a compromise prisoner swap plan to bring Taliban and the Afghan leadership to the table.
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Sunday, 22 March—The Saudi Social Development Bank, with the support of the National Development Fund, announced a SAR 12 billion worth program to economically support small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), emerging enterprises in priority sectors, such as health facilities and businesses that engaged in local value creation.
Wednesday, 25 March—The United States’ Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, discussed in a phone call with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman the need for cooperation between countries to face the pandemic and the need to maintain stability in the global energy market. The US Secretary of State also expressed his gratitude to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for the partnership in facing security issues in the region, mentioning namely Iran.
Thursday, 26 March—Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, chaired a virtual summit of the Group of 20 major economies (G20), in a bid to coordinate measures and policies to hinder the spread of COVID-19 and manage its effects on the global economy. During the summit, King Salman called on the G20 to finance the research and development of a vaccine, ensure wide availability of vital medical supplies and strengthen global preparedness for any future infectious diseases. The G20 leaders said in a communiqué that they are injecting over $5 trillion (USD) into the global economy as part of targeted fiscal and economic measures.
Friday, 27 March—The Saudi-led coalition intercepted and destroyed armed drones launched by the Iran-backed Yemeni Houthis against cities of Abha and Khamis Mushait in Saudi Arabia. The attacks came after both the Saudi-led coalition and the Houthis had welcomed the call by the United Nations for an immediate ceasefire in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
United Arab Emirates
Tuesday, 24 March—The Abu Dhabi Government announced the transformation of the Abu Dhabi Securities Market (ADX) into a public joint shares company, fully owned by the Abu Dhabi Developmental Holding Company (ADQ), one of the largest holding companies in the region. The company’s capital fund will consist of 500 million dirhams ($136.15 million) in capital funds divided into 500 million shares, as well as 100 million dirhams in export capital divided into 100 million shares.
Thursday, 26 March—The United Arab Emirates’ government announced the constitution of a National Committee, chaired by Sultan bin Saeed Al Mansouri, Minister of Economy, tasked with addressing the challenges posed by the spread of COVID-19. The announcement comes as a further measure against the negative economic impacts of the Coronavirus pandemic, addressed by the Central Bank of the United Arab Emirates with a $27 billion (USD) worth set of measures supporting the national economy.
Thursday, 26 March—The UAE Ministry of Health Prevention and the Ministry of Interior launched a “National Disinfection Programme” over the week that involves complete sterilisation of all public utilities and public transport to halt the spread of the new Coronavirus. The announcement comes as another step along with the suspension of all passengers flight for 14 days as a precautionary measure.