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UAE changes its weekend to align with West

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(Last Updated On: December 8, 2021)

The United Arab Emirates will shift to a working week of four and half days with a Saturday-Sunday weekend from the start of next year to better align its economy with global markets, but private companies will be free to choose their own working week, Reuters reported.

The oil-producing Gulf state, the region’s commercial, trade and tourism hub, currently has a Friday-Saturday weekend. From Jan. 1, however, the weekend will start on Friday afternoon, including for schools, a government circular said.

“Each company, depending on the sector they operate in and what suits and serves their business best, can choose the weekend they decide for their employees”, Minister of Human Resources and Emiratisation Abdulrahman al-Awar told Reuters.

According to Reuters over the past year, the UAE has taken measures to make its economy more attractive to foreign investment and talent at a time of growing economic rivalry with Saudi Arabia.

Addressing any religious sensitivities in the Sunni Muslim-ruled country, where expatriates make up most of the population, the government said work on Friday would end at 12 noon before Muslim prayers, which would be unified on Friday across the UAE, read the report.

It said the longer weekend would improve employees’ work-life balance and noted that several majority-Muslim nations, such as Indonesia and Morocco, have Saturday-Sunday weekends.

The UAE said the move would “ensure smooth financial, trade and economic transactions with countries that follow a Saturday-Sunday weekend, facilitating stronger international business links and opportunities” for UAE-based and multinational firms.

According to the report the change will impact state entities like the central bank, which would communicate details about the new working hours to commercial banks, said al-Awar, adding that UAE stock exchanges would also be more integrated with global markets.

“This change will enhance the integration of the banking sector in the UAE with the banking community internationally… it will eliminate the gap that existed in the past,” he said.

Mohammed Ali Yasin, chief strategy officer at Al Dhabi Capital, said the financial sector would benefit from being able to make simultaneous payment settlements with developed markets and the tourism industry would also be a beneficiary.

“It could be a good experiment for other countries in the region,” he said.

Friday is a weekly holiday in the other five Gulf Arab states and many predominantly Muslim countries.

Monica Malik, an economist at Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank, said she expects many private sector companies in the UAE to follow the Saturday-Sunday weekend, describing the move as a “very meaningful development” alongside other recent reforms.

The UAE has liberalized laws regarding cohabitation before marriage, alcohol and personal status laws in addition to the introduction of longer-term visas to lure businesses and talent, Reuters reported.

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Kazakhstan puts unrest death toll at 225

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(Last Updated On: January 16, 2022)

The bodies of 225 people killed in unrest in Kazakhstan last week, including 19 members of the security forces, were delivered to morgues throughout the country, Reuters quoting prosecutor general’s office said on Saturday (January 15).

The figure included civilians and armed “bandits” killed by security forces, Serik Shalabayev, the head of criminal prosecution at the prosecutor’s office, told a briefing.

He did not provide an exact breakdown of the figures and said numbers could be updated later, Reuters reported.

Violent protests began in the oil-producing Central Asian state this month after a jump in car fuel prices. The toll provided by Shalabayev confirmed the violence was the deadliest in the country’s post-Soviet history.

Shalabayev said 50,000 people joined the riots throughout the former Soviet republic at their peak on January 5 when crowds stormed and torched government buildings, cars, banks and shops in several major cities.

President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev turned to a Russia-led military bloc for help during the unrest and sidelined his former patron and predecessor Nursultan Nazarbayev by taking over the national security council.

According to the report after complaints about beatings and torture of those detained in the aftermath, Tokayev ordered police on Saturday to avoid abuses and told prosecutors to be lenient to those who have not committed grave crimes.

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Massive cyberattack hits Ukrainian govt websites amid Russia tensions

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(Last Updated On: January 15, 2022)

A massive cyberattack warning Ukrainians to “be afraid and expect the worst” hit government websites on Thursday night, leaving some websites inaccessible on Friday morning and prompting Ukraine to open an investigation.

Ukraine’s foreign ministry spokesperson told Reuters it was too early to say who could be behind the attack but said Russia had been behind similar strikes in the past.

The cyberattack, which hit the ministry of foreign affairs, the cabinet of ministers and the security and defense council among others, comes as Kyiv and its allies have sounded the alarm about a possible new military offensive on Ukraine.

Russia has previously denied being behind cyber attacks on Ukraine.

“Ukrainian! All your personal data was uploaded to the public network. All data on the computer is destroyed, it is impossible to restore it,” said a message visible on hacked government websites, written in Ukrainian, Russian and Polish.

“All information about you has become public, be afraid and expect the worst. This is for your past, present and future.”

The United States warned on Thursday that the threat of a Russian military invasion was high. Russia said dialog was continuing but was hitting a dead end as it tried to persuade the West to bar Ukraine from joining NATO and roll back decades of alliance expansion in Europe – demands that the United States has called “non-starters.”

“It’s too early to draw conclusions, but there is a long record of Russian assaults against Ukraine in the past,” the foreign ministry spokesman told Reuters.

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North Korea fires unidentified projectile, says South Korea

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(Last Updated On: January 15, 2022)

North Korea fired an apparent missile on Friday, just hours after criticizing a U.S. push for new sanctions over its recent missile launches as a “provocation” and warning of strong reaction.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said North Korea launched an unidentified projectile, without elaborating, Reuters reported.

Japan’s coast guard also said the North fired what could be a ballistic missile.

North Korea defended its missile tests as its legitimate right to self-defense and said the United States was intentionally escalating the situation by imposing new sanctions, state media reported earlier on Friday, citing the foreign ministry.

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