Reasons To Be Cheerful!

Reasons to be Cheerful!                                                 21 April 2022

By any benchmark, Dubai real estate sector posted stunning Q1 figures with its total transaction value of US$ 42.77 billion, 80.5% higher than the same period in 2022; volume wise, the number of transactions, totalling 26k, was up 40.9% on the year. In 2022, Dubai’s real estate sector registered a 76.5% increase, to US$ 143.87 billion, worth of transactions and a 44.7% increase in volume. The number of new investors entering the real estate market, in Q1 2023, rose to 13.3k, up 25.0%, and a 12% growth, year on year. Non-resident investors accounted for 45% of total acquisitions. Speaking at a meeting of Dubai Economic Agenda D33, Dubai’s Deputy Ruler, Sheikh Maktoum bin Mohammed, noted that “as one of the most important pillars of the economy, the sector is a vital contributor to the emirate’s efforts to achieve the goals of the Dubai Economic Agenda D33. We remain committed to further raising the investment attractiveness of Dubai’s real estate sector and its emergence as one of the world’s pre-eminent real estate investment destinations.”

Some of Dubai’s new projects have noticed a buyer nationality change in that Russians and other Europeans, (including French, German and Swiss), are taking a larger share of the market than they had in the past; two of the main drivers behind this trend are the ongoing war in Ukraine and the fact that the cost-of-living crisis has had a seemingly smaller impact in Dubai than in parts of Europe. The traditional market drivers – Indians, Pakistanis, British and GCC nationals – are still present but to a lesser extent, as the “property cake” grows larger. Furthermore, latest statistics confirm that the bullish local market is a lot more attractive than overseas ones when it comes to capital appreciation and rental returns, averaging 8% in some locations. On top of that, there are other considerations, including a low tax regime, attractive lifestyle, and a cheaper entrée into the sector, as well as political and economic stability and safety.

A CBRE study concludes that residential properties, located close to Dubai Metro stations, have seen their properties returning higher returns and increased rentals than the wider real estate market.  The global real estate consultancy analysed the development of average prices and rents per sq ft for over three hundred residential or mixed-use properties since the 2009 inauguration of the Dubai Metro. It found that on average, over the thirteen years to December 2022, those properties within a fifteen-minute walk of a Red Line metro station recorded price increases of 26.7%, compared to Dubai’s 24.1% average increase; rental increases of 5.7% easily outperformed the minus 4.1% sector’s average.

As Dubai’s hospitality sector continues to be one of the leading global destinations, the bounce back sees hotel occupancy rates in January and February rising 4.4% to 84.4% on the year and now higher than the 84.0% 2019 comparison. Emirates NBD noted that although the average daily rate declined by 0.3 night to 4.0 nights, (2.0%), to US$ 170, average revenue per available room, (RevPAR), jumped 6.0%, year on year, to US$ 140 and 19.0% higher on 2019 returns. Following a 7.0% 2022 growth, the number of total available rooms grew to 148.45k, with five stars accounting for 34% of the total, four star – 29%, and three star – 20%. The sector is expected to add a further 8k keys this year, with the 5.4% increase bringing the total portfolio to over 155k.

In 2022, Dubai welcomed 674k medical tourists, (7.0% higher than a year earlier), with the three main source markets accounting for 82% of the total, being Asia, Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States, equating to 39%, 22% and 21% respectively; it is estimated that medical tourists spent US$ 270 million during their stay in the emirate. According to the DHA report, dermatology, dentistry and gynaecology, received the highest number of patients. Those from Asia accounted for 35%, 29% and 54% of the dermatology, dentistry and gynaecology totals, from Europe, 26%, 19% and 18%, and from the CIS 20%, 37% and 13%. There is no doubt that Dubai has become a leading hub in this sector, being ranked by the Medical Tourism Index as the number one Arab destination for medical tourism and was sixth on a global scale of forty-six medical tourism countries.

According to the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation, “more than 10.5k Emiratis joined the private sector in Q1, bringing the total number of Emirati employees in the sector to over 66k.” Over the first quarter, there was a 14.3% hike in private sector firms hiring Emiratis, bringing the number of such companies to 16k. The main growth sectors were construction (14%), commerce and repair services (13%), manufacturing (10%), business (10%) and financial brokerage (4%). Under the Nafis programme, private sector firms, with at least 50 employees, must ensure Emiratis form 2% of their workforce.

In Washington, and on the coattails of the recent 2023 Spring Meetings of the IMF and the World, Bank, the UAE was represented by Mohamed Hadi Al Hussaini, Minister of State for Financial Affairs. The MoF participated in the meeting of finance ministers, central bank governors, and heads of regional financial institutions in the ME, N Africa, Afghanistan and Pakistan (MENAP) region. At the meeting, the Minister confirmed that the UAE outlook for this year sees growth reaching 3.9% and inflation declining by a third to 3.2% by December 2023, driven by prices becoming more stable and the receding effects of imported inflation globally.

In the latest Nation Brand Value index, the UAE maintained its first place globally; it was also ranked tenth globally in the Nation Brand Strength index, and first in the Mena in Nation Brand Value index, worth US$ 957 billion. The index surveyed more than 100k from 121 nations. Some of the factors behind this success include its strategic location as a hub and a destination, a strong economy, and its ongoing and successful strategy in implementing economic diversification policies.

After investors had brought a case against KPMG Lower Gulf, claiming that they had lost money, because of the poor quality of its Abraaj Group’s audit, on an infrastructure fund they had invested in, a Dubai court has ordered the firm to pay them US$ 231 million. The court decided that KPMG had broken international auditing regulations by approving financial records of the fund it had been auditing, and that it was “confident that the auditing company had committed many violations when it audited the financial statements of the investment fund.” The firm is to appeal the decision in the Court of Cassation. Only last year, the DFSA had fined the audit firm and its principal partner, US$ 1.5 million and US$ 500k, for failing to follow international standards during audits of Abraaj Capital Limited (ACLD) for a number of years up to October 2017. The DFSA noted that “senior management of Abraaj intentionally sought to mislead or deceive KPMG, the regulator, and investors over a period of years”. The Abraaj Group was managing some US$ 14 billion of assets, at its peak, but was forced into liquidation in 2018 after investors, including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, commissioned an audit to investigate alleged mismanagement of money in its US$ 1 billion healthcare fund.

The Board of Directors of Dubai Aerospace Enterprise has authorised an additional US$ 300 million for bond repurchases which will obviously build on its current US$ 1.13 billion portfolio; currently, DAE has US$ 370 million of available authority to repurchase bonds, having already repurchased approximately US$ 1.13 billion of principal amount of its publicly traded bonds under the previous authorisations of US$ 1.2 billion. As of now, DAE, which serves 170 airline clients in over sixty-five countries, has approximately US$ 3.5 billion of publicly traded bonds outstanding in the capital markets.

Following a restructuring plan, approved by both its creditors, (who account for 67% of the company’s total debt), and shareholders, Drake & Scull International is planning to write off 90% of its debts and convert the remaining 10% balance into mandatory convertible sukuk; the plan still needs regulatory approval and by the Court of Cessation. The expert, appointed by the court, confirmed that the company was in a position to carry on business, after completing the procedures that were submitted to the Financial Reorganisation Committee. In 2022, the embattled Dubai-based company posted a 4.6% increase in accumulated losses to US$ 1.39 billion, whilst revenue was 46.0% lower at US$ 22 million; its order backlog stands at US$ 124 million, driven by continuing operations in the UAE and overseas.

In 2008, the Dubai construction and engineering firm attracted US$ 33.8 billion in an IPO that was 101 times oversubscribed and attracted 45.k investors, with the company using the proceeds to expand in the region and acquire companies. DSI is still accusing its previous management of falsely inflating asset prices ahead of that IPO and has. filed a case in Dubai Courts to reclaim US$ 226 million from them. In 2017, a capital restructuring took place that resulted in US$ 463 million worth of shares being cancelled to expunge historic losses, with private equity firm Tabarak Investment committing US$ 136 million for a stake in the company.

At Tuesday’s Emaar’s Properties’ shareholders’ meeting, it was agreed that dividends, equating to 25% of the share capital, would be distributed; last year, the company posted a net profit of US$ 1.85 billion driven by a revenue stream of US$ 6.78 billion. In 2022, its real estate sales totalled a record US$ 9.56 billion, with a sales backlog of a mouth-watering US$ 14.50 billion. In addition, Emaar reported a sizable sales backlog of over Dh 53.2 billion. It noted that the dividend distribution “demonstrates Emaar’s commitment to maximising shareholder value”, with its founder, Mohamed Alabbar, saying the group sees 2023 as a promising year, “and it is dedicated to improving its operations, increasing its return on investment, and satisfying its clientele.” There is no doubt that 2023 will be another boom year for Emaar, and other major developers, who are in a unique position of “filling their boots” because in a cyclical industry, this “purple patch” cannot go on forever.

Amanat Holdings,’ shareholders have approved a 5% share buyback programme of the company’s outstanding shares as well as a US$ 27 million 2022 dividend distribution, representing 88% of profit and equating to US$ 0.011 per share. The leading healthcare and education listed investment company posted that its “shares are attractively priced and offer a compelling investment opportunity, highlighting our confidence in our business model and growth trajectory.”

Dubai Islamic Bank posted a 12.0% hike in net profit of US$ 410 million, on the year, as its total income jumped 46.9% to US$ 1.21 billion. Net operating revenues were 12.0% higher, at US$ 751 million, with net operating profit, 13.7% higher, at US$ 548 million. The largest Islamic bank in the UAE also registered a 1.0% rise in net financing and Sukuk investments to US$ 65.4 billion, with a Q1 40% increase, to US$ 5.7 billion, in new underwriting. Over the three-month period, the bank’s balance sheet expanded by 1.3% to US$ 79.6 billion, while customer deposits, that account for about 40% of the bank’s deposit base, stood at almost US$ 54.0 billion.  

The DFM opened on Monday, 17 April 2023, having gained 143 points (4.1%) the previous three weeks, lost 21 points (0.6%) to close the shortened week, (because of the Eid Al Fitr holiday), on 3,492 by Wednesday 19 April. Emaar Properties, US$ 0.24 higher the previous four weeks, shed US$ 5 to close the week on US$ 1.63. DEWA, Emirates NBD, DIB and DFM started the previous week on US$ 0.68, US$ 3.54, US$ 1.46, and US$ 0.39 and closed on US$ 0.65, US$ 3.60, US$ 1.45 and US$ 0.41. On 19 April, trading was at 183 million shares, with a value of US$ 113 million, compared to 144 million shares with a value of US$ 77 million on 14 April.

By Friday, 21 April 2023, Brent, US$ 17.96 higher (26.1%) the previous four weeks, shed US$ 4.87 (5.6%) to close on US$ 86.63.  Gold, US$ 39 (2.3%) lower the previous week, dipped a further US$ 24 (1.2%) to US$ 1,994 on 21 April 2023. Earlier, the IEA announced that global oil demand will rise by 2 million bpd this year to a record 101.9 million bpd, with non-OECD countries accounting for 90% of the total, as the big economies have been experiencing weak industrial activity which has seen OECD Q1 demand dip by 390k bpd. This year, global oil production growth will slow by 1.2 million bpd. When news filtered out of further potential interest rate increases, despite tight crude supply prospects, oil prices quickly headed south on Wednesday, with Brent down US$ 2.09 to US$ 83.00. 8

Q1 saw JP Morgan Chase’s profit climb 52.0%, to US$ 12.62 billion, driven by higher interest rates boosting its consumer business; revenue, at its consumer and community banking unit, rose by 80% to US$ 5.2 billion, whilst its net interest income came in 49.0% higher on US$ 20.8 billion. On the flip side, the investment banking business posted a 24.0% decline in revenue, with equity trading revenue down 12.0%, but despite this, the market liked the news with its shares trading 5.0% higher on the day. Chief executive, Jamie Dimon noted that although the US consumer and economy remained healthy “the storm clouds that we have been monitoring for the past year remain on the horizon, and the banking industry turmoil adds to these risks.”

Another US iconic stock saw its share value dip more than 6%, after Boeing disclosed a manufacturing issue affecting its much-troubled 737 Max planes. The US plane maker confirmed that a supplier had revealed that the installation of fittings on the rear of the planes did not follow standards. Although this was not an “immediate safety of flight issue”, it could lead to delivery delays. Boeing said a “significant number” of undelivered 737 Max jets, and some already flying, would be affected by the new issue. Only last February, it was forced to halt deliveries of its widebody 787 Dreamliner due to a problem with its data analysis.

Japan’s Sega Sammy Holdings is paying US$ 773 million for Finland-based Rovio Entertainment, the maker of Angry Birds. The founder of Sonic the Hedgehog character is seeking to tap into Rovio’s experience in mobile gaming, since its iconic game became the first mobile game to be downloaded one billion times; it has also established eight global game studios and has claimed that its stable of games have been downloaded five billion times. The Japanese firm has estimated that the global market will reach US$ 263 billion, over the next three years, with the percentage of mobile gaming expected to increase to 56%, and it has seen the need to “strengthen its position”. Although Rovio’s revenues increased by 11.7% to US$ 347million, in 2022, its operating profit fell by 32.7% to US$ 31 million, compared to a year earlier. There was no surprise to see Its Friday closing stock market valuation of US$ 707 million jump 17% when the bourses reopened on Monday.

Nokia blamed slower consumer spending, and a volatile global economy for a 17.8%  decline in Q1 net profit, to US$ 375 million, with revenue, some 9.0% higher, at US$ 6.42 billion, on a constant currency basis. The Finnish company, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of telecoms equipment and electronics, was slightly bullish on future business, posting “looking forward, we are starting to see some signs of the economic environment impacting customer spending.” It expects that 2023 annual net sales will come in between US$ 26.95 billion to US$ 28.70 billion – indicating a possible increase of between 2% to 8%; Nokia has forecast margin of between 11.5% and 14.0% this year, against latest actuals of 10.9% and 8.2% in 2022 and 2021. Its share value on Helsinki’s Nasdaq Nordic Exchange dipped 3.0% when the news broke; over the past twelve months, shares have lost 12.0% and are flat YTD.

IBM posted a 26.0% hike Q1 profits to US$ 927 million, on the year, despite revenue only nudging up 0.4% to US$ 14.3 billion, as both its software and consulting divisions came in with impressive returns. About 50% of Revenue, equating to US$ 7.2 billion, was generated from the Americas region and the balance from EMEA (US$ 4.3 billion) and Asia Pacific (US$ 2.8 billion). Section-wise, the main contributors were its software business, consulting arm, infrastructure and financing – generating US$ 5.9 billion, US$ 5.0 billion, US$ 3.1 billion and US$ 0.2 billion respectively; t expects that this year, Revenue could be up to 5.0% higher. Its share value was 2.0% higher on the news in afterhours trading.

Those US clients, with an Apple Card, can now open a savings account and earn interest through an Apple savings account, by growing their Daily Cash rewards with a Goldman Sachs savings account, offering APY of a very generous 4.15%; this account requires no fees, no minimum deposits and balance requirements, and can be set up and managed directly from Apple Card. All future Daily Cash earned by the user will be automatically deposited into the account, and there is no limit on how much Daily Cash users can earn.

It is reported that, yet another tech company is slashing its payroll. This time, and in a bid to cut costs, online media outlet BuzzFeed is planning to terminate 180 employees – 15% of staff members – and closing its news unit which had been losing about US$ 10 million a year. This is the second round of layoffs – the first being last December, when the company posted that it was to cut its workforce by about 12%. The New York-based company, founded in 2006, advised the US Securities and Exchange Commission that “the reduction in workforce plan is part of a broader strategic reprioritisation across the company in order to accelerate revenue growth and improve upon profitability and cash flow.” Chief Revenue Officer, Edgar Hernandez, and Chief Operating officer, Christian Baesler, both exited the company. On news of the announcement, the shares of BuzzFeed were down nearly 23%, having already tanked more than 85% over the past twelve months.

Deloitte is planning to lay off 1.2k US staff – equivalent to about 1.5% of its workforce – amid growing fears of a minor recession or an economic slowdown in the world’s biggest economy. Most of the redundancies will be from its financial advisory business, which has been impacted by a marked decline in M&A activity. The global consultancy had seen payroll numbers jump 23.1% to 80k since 2021 but, in line with the likes of Ernst & Young, (3k or 5%), KPMG, (2%), McKinsey (2k jobs) and Accenture (19k jobs), it has started to unwind numbers because of declining demand and growing fears of a recession.

After culling 11k positions last November, Meta is reportedly preparing to undertake another round of mass layoffs, impacting some 10k jobs, involved in “low priority projects”; initial cuts would impact tech departments, (mainly in AI and VR), while next month’s redundancies would impact the business side. This is a continuation of the tech company’s wider restructuring referred to by CEO as the “year of efficiency”. As it moves its focus from developing games for the metaverse to marketing it to traditional gamers. Despite the billions of dollars ploughed into Horizon Worlds, its social VR platform, it has gained little traction, with only about 200k monthly active users.

Tesla reported a 24.0% fall in Q1 net profit, on the year, (and 30.0% lower on the quarter), to US$ 2.5 billion, not helped by the EV company cutting prices across all its models in the period. Total revenue, on the year, jumped 24.0% to more than US$ 23.3 billion, but was 4.0% down on a quarterly basis. The world’s biggest electric vehicle maker has made it known that there will more price reductions over the rest of 2023. During the quarter, Tesla produced more than 440k vehicles and delivered more than 422k, as vehicle production remained flat, but delivery was up by 4.2% on a quarterly basis. It plans to achieve more than 50% growth rate, and produce about 1.8 million cars, this year. A spokesman noted that “we expect ongoing cost reduction of our vehicles, including improved production efficiency at our newest factories and lower logistics costs, and remain focused on operating leverage as we scale”. Shares fell 6.0% in afterhours trading following the news but is still 67% higher YTD, valuing the company at US$ 565.87 billion.

In a recent interview, Twitter’s Elon Musk claimed that he was unaware that the US government had “full access” to users’ private direct messages on the platform, The tech billionaire, who founded the AI company, X.AI, expressed his worries that the technology has the potential to destroy civilisation. He also commented that “the degree to which government agencies effectively had full access to everything that was going on Twitter blew my mind,”

It is impossible to keep Elon Musk out of the news, with the latest being his threat to
sue Microsoft because he claims it has been using data from Twitter without permission; this comes after it was reported that it was planning to remove the app from its corporate advertising platform as from 25 April. The consequence of such action would see ad buyers unable to access their Twitter accounts through Microsoft’s social management tool, whilst others – such as Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn – will continue to be available.

Before entering court for a much-awaited six-week trial, Fox News agreed to pay US$ 787 million to settle with the voting machine company, Dominion, in a defamation lawsuit from its reporting of the 2020 presidential election. The Murdoch flagship Fox was accused of spreading false claims that the 2020 Presidential vote had been rigged against Donald Trump, with Dominion arguing its business was harmed by Fox spreading these false claims, whilst noting that Fox had “admitted to telling lies, causing enormous damage to my company”. Some consider this a win for Fox who were staring down the barrel of a US$ 1.6 billion pay-out, after the judge had commented, even before the case, that claims against Dominion had already been proven false, emphasising that the falsehoods were “crystal clear”. However, Fox still face another day in court, with election technology firm Smartmatic brining a US$ 2.7 billion case against the media giant. Meanwhile, Dominion still has litigation pending against two conservative news networks, OAN and Newsmax.

This week, Commonwealth Bank of Australia posted that property rentals were only moving in one direction and that is upwards. CBA said the vacancy rates are “extremely low” across most of Australia, and rental inflation is still moving higher, as a throwback from the impact of Covid. Some of the factors that have had a direct impact on the current situation, and have led to a “dislocated market”, include:

  • reduction in average household size
  • a massive and “rapid” increase in demand for rentals
  • rising interest rates
  • less building activity
  • more short-term accommodation

Even if circumstances do change, renters will continue to be financially hit for the rest of 2023.

Last week, this blog touched on the global disconnect when central banks raise interest rates, with banks benefitting, at the expense of their customers. Banks tend to move the full rate hike onto their customers almost immediately but tend to offer their savers a lot less – if anything at all. Now, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has got into the act by launching a probe into the savings rates offered by banks. it will be looking at how banks pass on changes to their deposit rates in line with the RBA’s cash rates increases, noting that, “while banks have generally increased variable rate home loans interest rates in line with the cash rate increases, increases to the savings interest rates that banks pay their customers have often been smaller or conditional.”

March retail sales dipped by 1.0% on the month – a sure indicator that the US economy is also heading in the same direction; compared to March 2022, sales were up 2.9% at US$ 691.7 billion. This points to the benefit of the Fed belatedly starting to raise rates at the beginning of 2022 to dampen demand and so to start to rein in inflation. Food sales only declined slightly, whilst there were marked contractions in sales of motor vehicles and parts, electronics and appliances, as well as in general merchandise stores. However, the Fed still has a long way to go before rates go south and inflation is put back in its cage.

A UNESCO report indicates that a further US$ 97.0 billion is required to fund its Goal 4 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which aims to ensure inclusive and equitable education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all. If the money is not forthcoming, countries would be unable to meet their targets, with those nations in sub-Saharan Africa, worst impacted, as students have the furthest distance to travel, with 20% of primary school-age children and almost 60% of upper secondary school-age youth not in school. It is estimated that a third of the required funds could be filled if donors fulfilled their aid commitments and prioritised basic education in the poorest countries. Furthermore, more teachers are required – the current number of pre-primary teachers in low-income countries needs to triple and double in lower-middle-income countries by 2030.

A recant Deloitte’s report, involving UK CFOs of large companies, noted that there were 25% more of them feeling better about the future than worse, compared to 17% more feeling the opposite three months ago – its sharpest rise since 2020. The improvement came in tandem with a dip in energy prices and an easing in the Brexit impasse. The twelve-day survey ended on 03 April and was just after the Silicon Valley Bank implosion and debacle of Credit Suisse having to merge with UBS. The study has its merits but only reflects the views of CFOs of the UK larger companies, that will not be in tandem with those employed in smaller entities, where the going is a lot harder. Interestingly, those surveyed were still feeling risk averse with many saying their priorities were cutting costs and building up cash reserves – a move that will not see much economic growth. However other studies point to an improvement in the national economy – the IMF forecast a 0.3% contraction this year, half of its January figure, whilst the EY Item Club amended its previous 0.7% contraction to 0.2% growth. Although still dismal reading, it does point to the economy turning a corner.

Data from the HCOB Flash Eurozone PMI showed that the eurozone’s April economy accelerated to an eleven-month high expanding 0.7 to 54.4 on the month; any figure above 50 indicates growth, and under 50 points to contraction. Whilst the results seemed to show overall improvement, recovery was patchy and growth was unevenly distributed around the bloc, as seen by the widening gap between the partly booming services sector, (notwithstanding inflation remaining high in the eurozone and incomes that have not kept up with rising consumer prices), compared to the weakening manufacturing sector. Year on year, although inflation has declined to 6.9%, it is still some way off the ECB’s longstanding 2.0% target and comes at a time when the IMF has warned of a “sharp downturn” in Europe’s 2023 economic growth. To the surprise of many, Germany is the only euro area country the IMF now forecasts will enter recession in 2023, (attributable to the ongoing economic impact of the war in Ukraine), whilst a sharp decline in output in France’s manufacturing sector is expected this year.

Despite most analysts predicting UK inflation rate would finally head down into single digit territory, reality took over with March figures dipping 0.3%, on the month, to 10.1%, attributable to soaring food prices – rising at their fastest in forty-five years. It is a common fallacy that falling inflation will result in falling prices but that is not the case – it is an indicator that the rate of price rises is slowing. The Office for National Statistics noted that globally food prices were falling, but that they had not yet led to price cuts. Furthermore, UK inflation remains higher than in other Western countries, including the US, Germany and France, with new figures showing eurozone inflation 1.6% lower, having eased to 6.9% last month, from 8.5% in February. The usual suspects behind UK’s inflation problem remain increased exposure to rises in wholesale gas prices, its reliance on imports of certain foods, worker shortages and wage rises.

On becoming Prime Minister, following a disastrous – and thankfully short – period when Liz Truss strutted on the world stage, Rishi Sunak made several pledges, one of which was to restore trust and integrity after the web of scandals that brought down Boris Johnson, and a bold commitment to govern with “integrity, professionalism and accountability at every level”. Since then, he has had to deal with several scandals that have left many thinking that sleaze is endemic in the corridors of power that has already seen the departure of two of his very senior staff – Nadhim Zahawi and Dominic Raab – and a near miss for his current Home Secretary, Sueella Braverman. To the outsider, it seems that, after thirteen years in power, the Conservatives have become more of an old boys’ club. Greg Hands replaced Zahawi whilst Oliver Dowden took over the Deputy PM mantle from Raab and Alex Chalk became Lord Chancellor. Five of the six went to Cambridge and one to Oxford, the same university the Prime Minister attended.

Rishi Sunak has also promised the electorate that inflation would be halved by the end of 2023, with his Chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, saying, this week, he was still confident that inflation would fall sharply by the end of the year, adding “we have a plan and if we’re going to reduce that pressure on families, it’s absolutely essential that we stick to that plan, and we see it through so that we halve inflation this year as the Prime Minister has promised.” There is more chance of success for Blackadder’s “Baldrick, I have a very, very cunning plan”. Inflation in the UK remains higher than in other Western countries, including the US, Germany, France and Italy. On Wednesday, new figures showed eurozone inflation eased to 6.9% last month, from 8.5%, whilst the UK’s inflation remains in double-digit territory.

The Office for National Statistics posted that “26% of adults experienced shortages of essential food items that were needed on a regular basis” for much of March – an increase of the 18% who reported similar problems in February. The UK has witnessed its worst year-on-year drop in living standards since 2009 – and over two years, the worst since the 1950s – as the price of food and soft drinks – the fastest such inflation since 1977.  When the minutiae of this week’s economic data have been analysed, it is all but certain the BoE will nudge interest rates 25 bp higher, for the twelfth time over the past eighteen months, to 4.50%, because it has yet to get to grips with inflation that is proving “more persistent than it expected”. The UK is in the midst of so many strikes that it is causing not only economic turmoil but a great deal of social unrest. which can only get worse under the present regime. The only problem is that a change in government will not see much improvement for the general public. Having seen the UK slowly becoming a banana republic, for many Dubai expatriates there are so many Reasons to be Cheerful!

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