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Dubai Suspends Alcohol Tax as Regional Competition Heats Up

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While it remains to be the most well-liked regional destination for tourists and foreign staff, Dubai is facing increasing competition from Qatar and Saudi Arabia, where Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has been overhauling the dominion’s oil-dependent economy and rapidly loosening social restrictions in an effort to make Riyadh, the capital, a worldwide destination.

The Saudi government has reined within the religious police, eased a conservative dress code, sponsored concert events and raves, and offered its first tourist visas in 2019. Officials have also been deploying a combination of incentives and ultimatums to steer multinational corporations to locate their regional headquarters in Riyadh as an alternative of Dubai.

Last yr, Prince Mohammed said he desired to eventually increase the proportion of foreign residents to 70 percent of the dominion’s population, from around one third now. That may require making Saudi Arabia a more appealing place for foreigners to live. While alcohol remains to be illegal, rumors have been spreading for years that the policy could change, perhaps in restricted zones or hotels — because it once was in Dubai.

A semi-independent city-state within the Muslim-majority United Arab Emirates, Dubai has been loosening its alcohol regulations for years. Nominally, the federal government requires individuals who need to buy alcohol to acquire a license, that are only available for non-Muslims over the age of 21. But in practice, bars, clubs and restaurants almost never ask to see a permit.

Over the past few years, the United Arab Emirates has also eased immigration rules, decriminalized cohabitation for single couples, and adjusted to a worldwide business-oriented working week of Monday through Friday, diverging from its neighbors, which maintain a weekend of Friday and Saturday to accommodate Islam’s communal Friday prayers.

Those policy changes were intended to make the country a more attractive place for foreigners to work and live. As in neighboring Qatar, the complete economy hinges on foreigners, from the low-wage staff who construct skyscrapers and pump gasoline to highly-paid executives and Instagram influencers.

While some Emiratis are uncomfortable with the pace and direction of their country’s transformation, vocal dissent has been largely repressed.

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