By: ME POV editorial team

The world waits eagerly to get out of its enforced slumber as the roll-out of Covid-19 vaccines gathers pace around the world. And while some countries are reopening faster than others, the general sentiment, if I may be so bold as to generalize, is that the worst is now behind us. That said, it may take a bit of morning stretching and mobility work for our affairs to fall in order. Dunia Joulani and Manika Dhama in their article on Dubai’s real estate market in 2020 and emerging trends ask if this is indeed The end of the tunnel? “There is an opportunity to showcase Dubai during 2021 in a post-Covid world to both visitors and residents,” they write. However they do caution that “the market recovery to 2019 levels is not expected until the end of 2023, or later.”

So what world will we emerge into? Bart Cornelissen, Carmen Hamze, Abdellatif Smairi and Tatiana Ibrahim examine the changing paradigms of the fuel retail business in their article Future-proof: Fuel retail businesses and changing landscapes. They note that “the landscape in which GCC fuel retailers operate is being reshaped by certain macro-forces […] These forces are also coupled with a change in fuel retailer customer behavior.” As such: “Players in the GCC fuel retail market need to fundamentally reimagine and update ways of working to appeal to the customer base which […] is experiencing a shift in their preferences and behaviors.”

Damian Regan says: “The recent Covid-19 pandemic serves as an example of how something largely beyond our short-term control can have a devastating impact globally. It has also highlighted that interconnections between countries, businesses and nature cannot be ignored.” In his article on The coming of age of ESG corporate reporting he focuses on the role that companies in general, and the Middle East in particular can play in ensuring sustainability. It is time, he concludes, for Middle eastern firms to step up their game.

Holly Byrnes and Abi Man Joshi in their article Sovereign and special talk about a different kind of sustainability, that of the global economy and the role that sovereign wealth funds (SWF) play in it. With four of the top ten SWFs in the world based in the Middle East, they examine the importance of Section 892 of the U.S. internal revenue code on this group of investors and what to watch out for.

Rana Shashaa, Waqas Ahmed, Tom Howitt and Paul Huck, for their part, say: “As the global and regional economy starts to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic, large corporates will arguably need access to credit as never before.” That said, “with the number of high-profile cases of alleged widespread fraudulent activity in the Middle east, lenders will naturally be cautious, calling for enhanced due diligence for lenders and financiers.” They offer a three-pronged approach in their article An uncomfortable truth.

In their article on the future of public health in a post-Covid world, Elsy Maria Dumit, Abdelhamid Suboh and Rohan Sawhney write: “As we progress through [the pandemic] and the subsequent global mental health pandemic we are likely to face, a future of public health that is personalized, participatory, predictive, and precise will help us navigate changed public health principles and how we deal with ourselves.”

Zaynah Vohra writes about Inspiring trust through enhanced governance. “Effective implementation of internal control over financial reporting will surely help shield capital markets from the impacts of uncertainty and support investor confidence in the region to thrive,” she says.

The last article in this issue is by Fernand Rutten and Shaimaa Husseiny in which they assess the risks and opportunities offered by free zones in the Gulf region. “While companies operating out of free zones in the GCC benefit from a lot of facilitation of the goods clearance and movements in addition to the customs duty suspension, they do face a maze of complex import, export and border security regulations. These,” they say “must be carefully navigated in order to maintain compliance.” You have been warned.

And while we wait? Dunia Joulani and Manika Dhama say that many companies are using this downtime to revise their business strategy and build resilience towards the new normal. The world has forever changed. Only history will judge whether it was for the better but here at the Middle East Point of View, we are always looking forward! 

Read the full issue here.

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