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Middle East Edition
12th February 2024
Residents warned of severe penalties for helping illegal residents
Saudi Arabia has arrested nearly 19,000 individuals in a series of raids across the kingdom, targeting residency, border security, and labor law violations. Among those apprehended, over 1,000 were caught attempting to enter the country illegally. The Ministry of Interior has warned against aiding illegal residents, stating that such actions could result in up to 15 years of imprisonment, a fine of up to SR1 million, and the confiscation of vehicles and properties used in these activities. The public is encouraged to report any suspected violations to the designated hotline numbers. Currently, over 57,000 expatriates are undergoing legal procedures for violations, with many being directed to their respective diplomatic missions to secure travel documents. Offenders may also face the additional penalty of having their names published in the local media.
New online service for registration of non-Saudi legal advisors
The Ministry of Justice in Saudi Arabia has launched a new online service for the registration of non-Saudi legal advisors for legal firms. The service aims to raise the efficiency of legal practitioners and support professionalism in the legal profession. The registration process can be completed through the Najiz platform by filling out designated forms, attaching required documents, and fulfilling other requirements. The Ministry of Justice has recently granted licenses to 15 foreign law firms and is considering 15 other applications. The licenses aim to improve the legal profession and enhance the business and investment environment in Saudi Arabia. The Najiz platform also provides advantages for lawyers, including separating personal data and cases, as well as offering judicial, implementation, and documentation services.
Advisers flag regulation fears as a cause of stress
Fears of tighter regulation keeps a third of advice firm owners awake at night, according to the Lang Cat's State of the Advice Nation report. The poll of 400 members of the advice profession found that advisers are concerned about the pace and volume of regulation. Steve Nelson, director and co-author of the report, said: “The burden of regulation continues to be a massive headache for firms and it’s a real concern to see this driving some to breaking point.  Many respondents from smaller firms talked about the disproportionate impact on them.” It was also found that one in ten advisers are concerned about failing to meet client expectations, while 9% flagged fears over managing workloads. For 8%, the rising cost of doing business linked to regulatory fees and increase in tech budgets is a source of stress. While 14% of advice business owners are considering selling their business to a consolidator in the future, this rises to a third for advisers aged 65 and over.
Saudi minister chairs Abu Dhabi dialogue meeting
Saudi Minister of Human Resources and Social Development, Ahmad Al-Rajhi, chaired the seventh ministerial consultative meeting of the Abu Dhabi Dialogue in Dubai. The meeting brought together 16 Gulf and Asian nations, as well as representatives from international organizations, private sector institutions, and civil society groups. Al-Rajhi commended the Kingdom's efforts to strengthen cooperation between Asian countries in sending and receiving laborers. He also discussed the exchange of experience and best practices to support labor markets and develop skills. The meeting focused on the vocational accreditation initiative and shared lessons learned to address labor market challenges.
Petrobras in talks with national oil companies in China, India, and the Middle East
Brazil's state-run energy giant Petrobras is in talks with national oil companies in China, India, and the Middle East, including Kuwait Petroleum and Qatar Energy, to collaborate on energy projects. Petrobras is also keen to work with neighbouring Venezuela. Jean Paul Prates, CEO of Petrobras, stated that it is building relationships with Gulf countries, India, and China. The company plans to discuss refurbishing and upgrading of Brazilian refineries, projects in petrochemicals, fertilisers, and energy transition with Kuwait Petroleum. Petrobras is also looking at working with Qatar on liquefied natural gas (LNG) projects, possibly in West Africa or Brazil.
Blue Owl Capital partners with Lunate to buy stakes in mid-size asset managers
Blue Owl Capital has announced a partnership with Lunate, an investment manager backed by Abu Dhabi sovereign wealth fund ADQ, to acquire minority stakes in mid-size asset managers. Lunate will contribute $500m to the effort, while Blue Owl aims to raise $2.5bn. The joint venture will focus on firms with less than $10bn of fee-paying assets under management. Blue Owl Co-President Michael Rees stated that the venture will complement its existing strategy focused on larger managers. Lunate, with $105bn of assets, has previously worked with Blue Owl as a co-investor. The venture will compete with other institutions such as Hunter Point Capital, Bonaccord Capital, and RidgeLake Partners. Blue Owl had previously announced plans to raise $2bn for a new fund dedicated to buying stakes in mid-size asset managers.
UAE cabinet issues directive for unstable weather
The UAE Cabinet has issued a directive declaring Monday, February 12, 2024, as a remote work day for all federal government employees, excluding those who need to be physically present at the workplace. Government schools will also operate remotely on this day. The decision comes in response to the unstable weather conditions, with convective clouds, rainfall, lightning, and thunder expected on Sunday and Monday. Temperatures may drop as low as 2 to 4 degrees Celsius in some regions. The sea conditions in the Arabian Gulf and Oman Sea will range from moderate to rough. The move aims to ensure the safety and well-being of employees and students. "This move to remote work and learning is aimed at ensuring the safety and well-being of federal employees and students amidst the forecasted adverse weather conditions," said the National Center of Meteorology.
Accountants demand more DEI efforts, ACCA survey finds
A new survey from the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) reveals trends in diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), artificial intelligence (AI), employee retention, hybrid work, and mental health for accountants. The survey, which polled nearly 10,000 professional accountants from 157 countries, found that a strong diversity and inclusivity culture is a key attraction factor for accountants when choosing an employer. However, some accountants feel that existing diversity initiatives focus too heavily on certain facets, potentially neglecting other types of differences that could enhance creativity and innovation. The survey also highlights concerns over unequal career advancement prospects, favoured networks, and a lack of psychological safety. Additionally, it shows that hybrid work is preferred by most employees, but many employers still insist on full-time office arrangements. The report emphasizes the need for employers to prioritise diversity, inclusivity, and mental health support to attract and retain talent in a competitive market.
McKinsey puts about 3,000 staffers on review
McKinsey & Co. has given a "concerns" rating to about 3,000 of its consultants, indicating unsatisfactory performance. These employees have about three months to improve, or they may be counseled to leave the company. While the proportion of employees receiving this rating is consistent with previous years, the increase in headcount has resulted in more employees receiving the rating. The consulting industry is facing a downturn as clients are delaying investments due to an uncertain macroeconomic environment. Other consultancies, such as Accenture and Ernst & Young, have already announced job cuts. McKinsey itself eliminated 1,400 roles last year. The company says it aims to help employees learn and grow, whether they stay at McKinsey or pursue opportunities elsewhere.
Qatar Ministry of Labour celebrates national sport day with sports events
The Ministry of Labour in Qatar is organizing a series of sports events at the Museum of Islamic Art Park to celebrate National Sport Day. The events include various sports activities for children and adults, such as obstacle courses, sack races, soccer, volleyball, and more. The Ministry invites the national workforce, business owners, employees, and the public to participate in these events. The Ministry's commitment to National Sport Day aligns with the objectives of Qatar National Vision 2030 and aims to promote a healthy community. The Ministry also focuses on promoting sports in workplaces and workers' housing areas, collaborating with joint Labour committees. The sports activities have a positive effect on societal health.
Qatari designers showcase exceptional craftsmanship at DJWE
The Qatari Designers pavilion at the Doha Jewellery & Watches Exhibition (DJWE) is set to showcase the exceptional craftsmanship of 10 local designers. This exclusive showcase will unveil a curated collection of distinctive pieces that embody each designer's unique philosophy and influences. The pavilion, established in 2017, brings together local talent with international jewellery and watches brands. The initiative has served as a platform for designers to elevate their businesses and attract interest from visitors and media.
Australians cheer proposed 'right to disconnect' laws
Australians are celebrating new proposed laws that would give workers the "right to disconnect" from calls and messages outside of work hours. The laws, part of a parliamentary bill introduced by the federal government, have already been passed in the Senate. Similar laws are already in place in France, Germany, and other EU countries. The bill also includes provisions for clearer pathways to permanent work and minimum standards for temporary workers. While many Australians support the idea of being able to switch off after work, some business leaders have criticized the legislation as anti-business. The chambers of commerce and the Business Council of Australia have called for careful reconsideration of the implications of the laws. However, supporters argue that the "right to disconnect" is a reasonable measure to ensure work-life balance.
Australia's tax office accuses PwC of hiding report on scandal
Australia's tax office has accused consulting firm PwC of deliberately hiding a report on the company's actions during an ongoing scandal. The agency expressed frustration with PwC for not releasing crucial details about an internal investigation into PwC conduct. An investigation by law firm Linklaters cleared overseas PwC partners of using confidential Treasury information for commercial gain. However, the report revealed that six international operatives from PwC were disciplined for not asking questions about the nature of the data. ATO senior executive Jeremy Hirschhorn criticised PwC for refusing to provide information on the individuals mentioned in the report. Tax Practitioners Board chair Peter de Cure also expressed his disappointment in not receiving the list of names mentioned in the report. The board is currently conducting nine investigations into PwC's conduct. Representatives from PwC, as well as other big four consulting firms, are scheduled to appear before the Senate inquiry. The tax office expects PwC to implement cultural changes, but acknowledges that it will take time.

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