On Thursday 20 July, Jersey Finance’s Director – Middle East, Africa and India, Faizal Bhana, hosted a breakfast roundtable at Gateley in London, which was attended by several London-based intermediaries.

Key highlights from the discussions at the roundtable:

  • The event opened with a regional update on Saudi Arabia, which had seen a 9% GDP growth in 2022. 
  • The Sovereign Wealth Fund has recorded a loss for the first time and VAT is the highest in the region at 15% but the economy is booming. In excess of one million businesses have been set up. 
  • The DIFC equivalent in Riyadh is underway with 90% occupancy already secured. The civil transaction law comes into effect in December, which will underpin the free zone. 
  • The PIF is the largest employer, with around 30,000 employees, and there are lots of new employment opportunities being created by tourism, Formula 1 and the film festival. 
  • Project HQ is attracting foreign direct investment but is causing some tension between Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Some large businesses have ended up with head offices in each area as a result. 
  • There is still more work to be done to bring Saudi Arabia up to Dubai but the signs are positive. 
  • The UAE has become a hub for globally-focussed businesses and families. The five-year targets for the DIFC have been achieved in 18 months. 
  • In the GCC, there has been a change of leadership in Oman. Laws have been refreshed, which are closely aligned to the UK’s. There is also the possibility of personal tax being introduced. 
  • Bahrain is the only country with no corporate tax in the region and Qatar is trying to rebuild after the World Cup – many business are now very quiet. 
  • Private Wealth is the main focus in the region, with more families settling there. Jersey is now the top jurisdiction for the Middle East, with an increase in Jersey funds being used – especially from Saudi Arabia.