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Uber lays off 400 marketing employees including UAE, Egypt, Jordan & Lebanon

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Uber has laid off 400 employees from its global marketing team on Monday (July 29) in efforts to cut costs and streamline its operations, The New York Times reported earlier this week. The layoffs were announced internally on Monday and include one-third of Uber’s marketing team that had 1,200 employees before the cuts. Uber did not share the specific details but said that the layoffs were made across its different global offices.

Tino Waked, Uber’s General Manager for MENA who manages company’s business across all its markets here, in a LinkedIn post confirmed that the layoffs were made in MENA as well. According to his post, the marketing staff from both Uber & Uber Eats in UAE, Egypt, Jordan & Lebanon was laid off. The people that were let go were working in social, content, strategy, campaigns, partnerships, and research teams across these markets in MENA.

These are the largest layoffs by Uber since it was founded in 2009 and come less than three months after Uber’s disappointing IPO. The company employs almost 25,000 employees around the world, nearly half of whom are based in the United States, according to NYT. The American company had reported a loss of over $1 billion on its $3.1 billion revenue in the first quarter of this year. Uber will be revealing its 2019 Q2 numbers on August 8. Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi in an email to employees (seen by New York Times), said, “These changes are incredibly difficult to make because they have a huge impact on people’s lives. Many of our teams are too big, which creates overlapping work, makes for unclear decision owners and can lead to mediocre results. As a company, we can do more to keep the bar high, and expect more of ourselves and each other. So, put simply, we need to get our edge back.”

In another email by Uber’s Senior Vice President of communications and public policy Jill Hazelbaker who leads company’s marketing team as well, said that the layoffs were taking place because [marketing] “team had grown bloated and decision making was not clear”. She also added that she planned to consolidate Uber’s regional marketing teams around the world “including in the United States and Canada, Latin America and the Middle East. The marketing team oversees ride promotions, advertising campaigns, and social media.”

Uber’s acquisition of Careem Mudassir Sheikha, CEO of Careem that is being acquired by Uber for $3.1 billion, in an email to his staff after the acquisition was announced had indicated that there won’t be any layoffs at Careem as a result of acquisition but with Uber tightening the screws on its spending, that may not be the case when Uber-Careem deal closes early next year.

Uber’s IPO filing earlier this year had confirmed that “Careem’s engineering, human resources, and operations teams will continue to operate independently and report to Careem’s Chief Executive Officer” but it had also noted that Uber will “integrate certain general and administrative functions at the Uber parent level” without sharing specifics.

banking

Restructuring plea on the burner as Lebanon’s Chances of Avoiding Default Dim

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The central bank bought 3 trillion pounds ($2 billion) of Treasury bills from the government at 1%, well below market rates, according to a person with knowledge of the matter. It’s expected to buy half as much again at the same rate by the end of the year to reduce the government’s rising debt costs, the person said on condition of anonymity because the issue is sensitive.

News as sensitive as this go unnoticed int he market as it seems that a lot of dealings with Eurobonds have plummeted last month – all are on march maturities awarding their investors hot speculative money!!!

Some foreign holders of Lebanon’s Eurobonds are expressing support for a government debt restructuring as the clamor grows among local politicians to skip a payment due in weeks.

Lebanon’s cash-strapped authorities are struggling to decide what to do about a $1.2 billion Eurobond maturing in March but are leaning towards repayment for foreign holders and a swap for local investors, political and banking sources said. Lebanon, which has never defaulted on its hefty debt, is in the throes of a financial and economic crisis that has shattered confidence in banks and ignited protests against a political elite blamed for steering the country towards collapse.

A government source and two senior political sources said big differences remained over options: pay in full, ask local holders of the issue to swap for longer-dated notes delaying payment by at least 10 years, or simply not pay.

Two of those sources and three senior bankers said a swap would ease pressure on dwindling foreign currency reserves and buy time. Three sources said the government has not initiated any steps for a default scenario. At a private meeting days ago with government representatives, a number of foreign funds that own Lebanese sovereign bonds, including a $1.2 billion note due March 9, argued that the crisis-ridden country would be better off restructuring rather than paying its debt, said a person familiar with the matter, declining to identify the investors.

In a suggestion that the fallout can be contained, they said Lebanon’s bonds were already discounted on their balance sheets, according to the person, who asked not to be named because the information isn’t public. Most of Lebanon’s bonds maturing beyond this year trade at between 35 and 40 cents on the dollar. The March notes fell around 2 cents to 87 on Thursday, still above their low of 76 on Jan. 29.

Central bank Governor Riad Salameh has told officials including the new prime minister, Hassan Diab, that he is willing to pay the debt if instructed by the government, people familiar with the talks said. He’s already helped repay nearly $5 billion of bonds in the past year.

While Diab is in favor of meeting Lebanon’s debt obligations this year, according to a local media report, he hasn’t yet made a final decision.

Lebanon's debt may approach 200% of GDP in next years

The decision will come down to a choice of who should bear the cost of easing one of the world’s biggest debt burdens, estimated at over 150% of gross domestic product last year, as hardships mount after months of protests. Lebanon is enduring its worst financial crisis in decades, with the central bank rationing dollars and nationwide unrest over what many fear could be an imminent collapse.

Despite a spotless record of servicing international debt, consensus is fraying in Lebanon as almost $3.5 billion in Eurobond principal and interest payments come due by June.

Payment Options

Bankers say local lenders, which hold most of the country’s Eurobonds, favor a repayment to avoid blowing a hole in their balance sheets. The most recent payment of $1.5 billion, made by the central bank in November, was criticized by some local politicians who said Lebanon should instead use what’s left of its reserves on buying much-needed imports.

A group of lawmakers aligned with a majority in parliament is lobbying the government to seek technical assistance from international institutions before making a final decision. They’re trying to convince the premier and others that Lebanon risks a crisis and violence similar to Venezuela, which defaulted on its debts in 2017.

Legislators present at a committee meeting last week almost unanimously agreed — albeit in private conversation — that the government shouldn’t pay, a lawmaker said. The debate is playing out against a dire backdrop, with Lebanon’s reserves stretched thin and the economy succumbing to a recession as currency shortages worsen.

An ex-economy minister, Nasser Saidi, has called for a restructuring of public debt, while also saying Lebanon would need a bailout of as much as $25 billion that could require support of the International Monetary Fund. Former Minister of State for Information Technology Adel Afiouni has said paying off the March bond would be “wrong.”

-Paying #March20 EBs from reserves is WRONG
-We don’t earn markets’ trust by paying EBs from reserves
-We earn markets’ trust & support with credible debt sustainability & financial plan 
-Restructuring is not a stigma
-Orderly restructuring is the fair & courageous decision
(1)— Adel Afiouni (@adelafiouni) February 5, 2020

The decision rests with the government, formed last month with the backing of Lebanon’s most powerful military force, the pro-Iranian Hezbollah, and its allies. “The issue should be finalized next week,” a Hezbollah Member of Parliament, Ali Fayyad, said in an interview in Beirut. “We need to look at all the options and study their impact and there should be a conclusive plan that doesn’t only focus on paying or not paying but also a larger plan.”

The central bank’s net foreign-currency holdings are sufficient to pay for the near-term import bill and debt redemptions, while local lenders have enough in reserve to cover deposit outflows, according to Morgan Stanley.

“What is more important to watch is the political sentiment on the trade-off of using reserves to cover debt servicing versus imports,” Jaiparan Khurana, a London-based strategist at Morgan Stanley, said in a report. “Market focus should remain on the cabinet decision.” A repayment of Eurobonds may entail a controversial proposal by the central bank to get local holders of the March notes to swap into longer-dated instruments and pay foreign creditors. Salameh has told bankers that a foreign fund was interested in buying the bonds coming due next month if Lebanon proceeds with the swap.

Bonds Up

Lebanon needs to pay about about $3.5 billionthis quarter on Eurobonds

Around a third of Lebanon’s roughly $30 billion of Eurobonds are held by outside investors, with the rest owned by the central bank and local lenders, according to Oxford Economics. Foreigners owned about 40% of the March bond in early December.

Lebanese banks also have billions of dollars of foreign-currency deposits tied up at the central bank.

Lebanese lenders and the government have already agreed on a plan to relieve some of the debt this year. Bankers who met with the new finance minister earlier this week agreed to lower interest rates they get on local-currency sovereign bonds, a person who attended the meeting said.

The central bank also said it would waive interest payments on the government’s local debt this year. Authorities want to use the saved funds, amounting to about 2.9 trillion pounds ($1.9 billion), to reduce the budget deficit. A plan to impose a one-time tax on banks’ profit to generate $400 million fell through.

…The deal helps offset higher interest rates incurred by the Finance Ministry, which last month sold $3 billion in Eurobonds to the central bank at as much as 12

Lebanon's default risk has surged since protests broke out in October

It’s the latest sign of how the government, effectively shut out of bond markets amid a crippling political crisis, is increasingly relying on the central bank to prevent a financial meltdown. The country has been without a functioning government since Prime Minister Saad Hariri resigned in late October in the face of mass protests against corruption and inequality

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UAE Telco Encourages Customers to Volunteer for Expo 2020

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Etisalat has announced that it will launch an awareness campaign to encourage millions of its customers to volunteer in the lead-up to and during the largest event ever held in the Arab world.

As the Official Premier Partner of Expo 2020 Volunteers, Etisalat seeks 30,000 people who will have the unique opportunity to play an essential role in Expo 2020 and to give back to the country, by welcoming the world to the UAE and helping to showcase the renowned Emirati culture and national values.

The Expo 2020 Volunteers programme has already made a number of stops on a nationwide tour in its search for the talented people who will help deliver Expo 2020 from 20 October 2020 to 10 April 2021.

Abeer Al Hosani, Director, Expo 2020 Volunteers, said, “We look forward to working with Etisalat to connect with the volunteers who will play a crucial role in ensuring that Expo 2020 Dubai is the World’s Greatest Show. We have created meaningful roles that will lead to work-ready skills, as well as an exceptional experience that will remain with volunteers for life.”

The UAE-based telco had been previously confirmed as Expo 2020’s Official Premier Telecommunications Partner and Official Digital Services Partner (jointly with Accenture). Through its partnership, Expo 2020 Dubai has become the first major 5G commercial customer in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia (MEASA) region, making it one of the fastest, smartest and best connected places in the world.

Dr Ahmed Bin Ali, Group Senior Vice President, Corporate Communication, Etisalat, said, “We are delighted and indeed honoured to extend our partner relationship with Expo 2020 Dubai in encouraging 30,000 ‘faces’ to be part of this prestigious programme, giving them an opportunity to participate in the largest global event ever held in the Arab world. This is also in line with our brand direction, ‘Together Matters’, which embodies the power of technology in connecting and enriching people’s lives, reflecting the UAE’s Leadership’s principles of promoting co-existence, voluntary work and generosity.”

During Expo 2020, there will be more than 30 volunteering roles – including welcoming guests, guiding visitors around the Expo site and supporting events – with more than 16 million volunteering hours spread across 173 days. Some of these opportunities are already available in the lead-up to Expo.

The Expo 2020 Volunteers programme is open to all adult UAE nationals and expat residents, including university students, graduates, homemakers, employees, retirees and people of determination.

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Sheikh Mohammed: Dubai has become the ‘Silicon Valley’ of the Middle East

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Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and ruler of Dubai, associated Dubai to Silicon Valley saying that “Dubai has become the Silicon Valley of the Middle East” in a meeting with Divyank Turakhia, founder and CEO of Media.net, a company based in Dubai Internet City.

Over the last few years, Dubai has been a staging ground for deals worth billions between tech companies such as the acquisitions of Souq.com by Amazon and Careem by Uber. Whilst talking about these landmark deals, Sheikh Mohammed assured that Dubai will continue to facilitate such deals and act as an incubator for local talented and promising entrepreneurs.

The Sheikh recently launched a platform called ‘Youth Hub’ which aims to provide free open spaces to the youth looking to work on their own projects and form a startup. This incubator deals with trade centers, airports, cultural facilities, markets and tourist facilities.

The ‘Youth Hub’ is a joint initiative between the UAE government and Federal Youth Authority to support the youth and encourage entrepreneurship within the region. It will facilitate the populace aged 18 to 35 to launch their companies within 6 months. The facilities provided by the Launchpad will help align projects against the global standards and ensure global success.

Sheikh Mohammed’s comments come after a number of partnerships that the Federal Youth Authority has initiated to support the spirit of entrepreneurship in the UAE. These partners include the following departments: economic developments, Chamber of Commerce, urban planning, property investors, municipalities, culture and tourism and investors.

In a whitepaper published by Dubai’s Chamber of Commerce under the name of ‘Validating a Startup Business Idea’, the UAE startups require improved access to open data and such platforms will provide young businesses the required knowledge, skills and tools to operate in a competitive global community.

At the conclusion of the incubation period, the Federal Youth Authority will provide spaces to new businesses in the Youth Hub with the help of its partners. These spaces will be located across the major malls and trade centers of Dubai and wider UAE, including Yas Mall, Union Museum, Flag Park, Dubai Mall, Al Hamra Mall, City Walk etc.

To avail a chance for incubation, the idea should be unique and something never done before in the market of the region. In order to earn a space, applicants must come up with a proper plan and a clear goal in mind.  

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Saudi Arabia to launch a new tourist visa on September 27

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The validity of the visa is for one year from the date of issuance, and the duration of stay in the Kingdom is three months JEDDAH — Saudi Arabia is set to launch a new tourist visa on Sept. 27, which will allow the citizens of 51 countries to visit the Kingdom, a government source told Saudi Gazette.

The source said that the visa fee would be SR300 ($80 or 70 euros), with the applicant paying an additional SR140 for medical insurance fee thus bringing the total cost of SR440 paid by each applicant for the tourist visa.
The validity of the visa is for one year from the date of issuance, and the duration of stay in the Kingdom is three months for each visit and not more than 180 days during one year.

The visa will be obtained through an electronic platform, within 30 minutes, or through the “visa on arrival” process when the tourist arrives in Saudi Arabia.

A return ticket or hotel reservation is not required to obtain the visa; In this case, the tourist address is only sufficient. A paper copy of the visa is not needed, and a digital copy is preferred. It is also required that the passport be valid for at least six months.

The Muslim visitor will benefit by performing Umrah during the non-Haj season, entering Makkah, visiting Madinah and any of the Saudi cities as a tourist. The applicant is required to be at least 18 years of age. Those below the specified age require a companion above that age to be the guardian.

The Saudi ports that receive visitors holding a tourist visa includes King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh, King Abdulaziz Airport in Jeddah, King Fahd Airport in Dammam, King Fahd Causeway, Prince Muhammad Bin Abdulaziz Airport in Madinah, and Al-Batha land crossing.

The sources said that this move would open the way for the world to see the beauty of Saudi Arabia and increase non-oil revenues to contribute to its prosperity. It is also in line with Kingdom’s Vision 2030 aspirations.

The sources stressed that the tourist must issue a signed pledge prior to obtaining the visa. The most important of which is to endorse that the information documented in the application is correct, abide by all Saudi laws and regulations, and to respect the Islamic customs and traditions of its people.

In case of any violation, the authorities have the right to stop the visitor from entering the Kingdom and send the visitor back to the country from where he had come. The number of countries benefiting from the visa is expected to increase in the first quarter of 2020, while some of the current countries are the United States, Canada, Britain, New Zealand, South Korea, Italy, Iceland, France, Norway, Spain, Greece, Netherlands, Romania, Croatia and Sweden, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Singapore, Malaysia, Kazakhstan, Russia, Austria, Belgium, Poland, China, Hong Kong, South Korea, and Bulgaria.

Paris Verra, a foreign tourist who recently visited the Kingdom, said that the Saudis are the nicest, most accepting and welcoming people.

“I love the people here, and I can’t express that enough. I especially love the way they live and how important family is to them. I find life in Saudi Arabia to be extremely safe and respectful — which is very important to me as a foreign woman traveling. Saudi Arabia feels like home to me,” she said.

“After seeing a few photos of Al Ula once getting my visa, I didn’t want to leave Saudi Arabia until I visited there. I was still traveling full time, but Al Ula became a priority must visit. After spending months in Saudi Arabia without seeing that region, I already ended up falling in love with this country. Al Ula was only a bonus to my experience,” she added.

“I have already recommended tons of people to KSA through my social media account. My recommendation is to go with an open mind, have coffee and dates with the locals, and to explore the towns as well as the beautiful landscapes. Once they visit, I highly recommend not leaving without seeing AlUla, Jeddah and Abha,” she said.

She described AlUla as “The vastest beautiful place I have visited in Saudi Arabia and probably in all of the world”. It’s breathtaking, so much history and beauty here that I visited two weekends in a row and would love to go back soon.

On Abha, she said, “This was the most recent place I visited, and I can easily say it’s unlike any of the other sites. Abha has a beautiful green mountainous landscape with incredible sunsets, rich culture, and the most kind, welcoming, vibrant people. In my experience, I think the people of this region are some of the kindest and inviting of all the areas.”On Jeddah, she added, “Another one of my favorite spots that I need to go back to explore more. I spent a weekend here, swimming in the Red Sea amongst the most colorful coral sea life I have ever seen. I have been snorkeling in tons of countries — even the Great Barrier Reef in Australia — nothing compares to the reef here. Another highlight is the historical Town of Jeddah.”

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Events

Bahrain to gather top Arab investors and businessmen later this year

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The third edition of WEIF (World Entrepreneurs Investment Forum) and the 18th ABIC (Arab Businessmen and Investors Conference will be held in Bahrain this year.

Organised with the help of the Arab League, BCCI, UN Industrial Development Organisation, Union of Arab Chambers and The Export Credit Guarantee Corporation, the conference is meant to lead the 4th industrial revolution and digital innovation in Arab countries.

The aim of the ABIC is to attract investors to start-ups and to highlight the world of entrepreneurship, by covering the challenges and opportunities that are present in the Arab world right now. The focus of the conference would be on both public and private sectors.

BBCI board member, Sonya Mohamed Abdulla Janahi commented “The 4th Industrial Revolution has made paradigm changes in the way society and businesses have been functioning and is about more than just technology-driven incremental change. It is an opportunity to help varied stakeholders, including leaders, policy-makers and the general population from all income groups and nations, to harness converging technologies in order to create an inclusive, human-centered future.”

1,500 participants from around the world are expected to attend the conference. In this one of a kind gathering in the region, experts from the fields of policy making, business investors, regulators, influencers and entrepreneurs will impart their knowledge to the participants.

The point of the 18th ABIC is to discuss the impact of the 4th Industrial Revolution in the region, and how businesses can benefit from this new wave of entrepreneurship. The participants can learn how to solve challenges in the most effective and efficient manner when it comes to businesses and ventures.

A major event at ABIC is the Entrepreneurship Rally, a competition structured to help Arab university students pitch their business ideas and have the opportunity to convert that idea into a startup. This competition will build the self-confidence and resilience in students so that they can face any challenges that their businesses might face in the future.

As for WEIF 2019, the theme for this year is “Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals through Entrepreneurship & Innovation” but with a special focus on “Investing in the 4th Industrial Revolution in a Digital Economy.”

The forum will focus on innovation, investment, economic development and achieving sustainable development goals. The discussion at the forum will focus on developing countries, such as North Africa and the Middle East, and the opportunities and challenges that are present in these areas. 

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Snapchat Short-form Video Takes Over TV Viewership in Saudi Arabia

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As Saudi Arabia has grown its entertainment options, Snap Inc. has released a new study that provides valuable insights into the evolution of video viewership, mobile content, and entertainment trends in the Kingdom.

Snapchat commissioned the National Research Group, an independent market research company, to conduct a nationally representative study of 869 Saudi Nationals. The data shows that daily:

  • Saudis watch online videos more than traditional TV with more than five in six (85 per cent) viewing a short-form video (any video under 10 minutes) – by people they know at least once per day.
  • 80 per cent view premium short-from videos (professionally produced short video content) daily, while just 70 per cent of Saudi Nationals say they watch traditional TV every day. 
  • Premium short-form videos in Saudi Arabia are watched most during the traditional prime-time TV slot between 17:00-23:00 and on average last 53 minutes.
  • Of those surveyed, 93% believe mobile video helps them discover new and unique content and teaches them something new, while 91% agree it stimulates their mind, puts them in a positive mood, and gives them a chance to take a break from their daily lives.

The rise of these short, digestible professionally produced videos is both in response to, and a driver of, an increasingly “snackable” media culture in the Kingdom. It gives Saudi viewers the same high-quality experience in sessions of varying length whenever and wherever they desire.

Andy Pang, Head of International Marketing Science at Snap, said: “Saudi Arabians are some of the most avid short-form video consumers in the world. With one of the highest levels of mobile internet penetration in the world, and one of the highest social messaging and media usage rates in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia is poised for a mobile-optimized, short-form expansion that may even eclipse more established markets.”

These mobile video viewership trends make Snapchat a popular video entertainment destination in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Snapchat’s video-driven Discover platform is seeing robust growth, with three out of every four Snapchatters watching Discover feed content every day.

“Snapchat’s Discover’s great success in Saudi Arabia stems in large part from the fact that, in collaboration with established broadcasters, publishers and content creators, we are developing innovative content that’s made for mobile, while retaining all of the storytelling and emotional benefits of linear TV,” added Pang.

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economy

Kuwait’s crude oil exports decline 5% in May

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Kuwait posted a monthly rise of 0.71% in oil production in May
Kuwait – The exports of Kuwait’s crude oil reported a 5% month-on-month (MoM) decline during May, according to the data revealed by the Joint Organisations Data Initiative (JODI).

Crude oil exports from Kuwait recorded 1.986 million barrels per day (bpd) in May 2019, versus 2.090 million bpd in the previous month. On an annual basis, Kuwait’s exports of oil registered a 1.68% fall when compared to 2.020 million bpd in May 2018.

As for oil production, Kuwait posted a monthly rise of 0.71% to 2.709 million bpd in May 2019, versus 2.690 million bpd in the prior month.Moreover, Kuwait generated an increase of 0.33% in oil production during May this year, when compared to 2.700 million bpd in May 2018.

Kuwait owns the sixth largest oil reserve globally that amounts to 101.5 billion barrels, with Kuwait’s economy depending on crude oil as a main source to achieve 80% of governmental revenues, in addition to its contribution with more than 50% of the Gross domestic product (GDP).

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Industry

Positive views on KSA – Residents 81% believe the country is in the right direction

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Ipsos, a research company in the Middle East and North Africa, has announced its Saudi Arabia Primary Consumer Sentiment Index (PCSI) for June 2019. Results reveal that the majority of consumers in the Kingdom (81%), still believe that the country is heading in the right direction. However, consumers’ views on different current financial states have become more neutral in comparison to findings published in April 2019.

Consumer sentiment is a key predictor of purchase trends in the market. Despite it being a lagging indicator, if consumer confidence is high, people will make more purchases and the economy will expand.  Today, consumers are less confident with their personal financial situation with only 28% viewing it to be strong in comparison to 38% in April 2019. On the other hand, only 9% of the consumers view the current economic situation of KSA as weak, compared to 11% in the last wave, which is the lowest recorded level in recent years.

After the slight drop in consumers’ confidence on their ability to make a major investment or purchase in April, confidence levels in June have placed KSA in the top 3 highest around the world following China and India, with an index of 62.1 compared to the global average which is 43.3. With that, top 2 concerns for consumers in the Kingdom remain the same, with unemployment (34%) and taxes (31%) topping the list. However, moral decline has joined the top 5 concerns list in June with 21% of consumers in KSA worrying about this issue.

The Primary Consumer Sentiment Index is a global index conducted monthly by Ipsos across 24 countries in collaboration with Thomson Reuters, and measures consumer attitudes towards the current and future state of the local economy, consumers’ personal financial situation, as well as confidence to make large investments and ability to save. The survey has been running monthly in Saudi Arabia since 2010. 

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