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Only history will tell how the COVID-19 pandemic was handled, the damage it has done and the opportunities it has presented. For now, we are still a way away from putting the pandemic behind us and yet it seems that we have been navigating it forever. Welcome to the grind. Many articles have been written, including in this magazine, about those companies that were able to adapt to the new circumstances and those that were not. As the articles in this issue of Middle East Point of View will show, the issue is no longer about agility and quick response, now it is about endurance.
Alex Rankin, in his article The pandemic playbook, says: “it is clear that the vast majority of regional CFOs are firmly focused on the short term and keeping their companies financially afloat […] A select number of CFOs are pivoting to thrive, repositioning their business models and shifting strategies to prosper in a post COVID-19 world […] Time will tell whether the operational, tactical and strategic changes made in this time of crisis are retained, the extent to which efficiencies are realized or perceived risks crystalize.”
In his article Ready, set, elevate!, Jean Abou Assi discusses the impact of the pandemic on customer behavior, “one that is quick and merciless in its quest to reshape the landscape of nearly all businesses and trades […] If a business manages to successfully care for their customers, listen to their needs and concerns, and always meet them where they are, they are bound to thrive and prosper, provided they never ignore the human in Human Experience.”
Jude Rodrigues and Krishna Kumar, rightly point out in their article Impact of COVID-19 on the hospitality industry and its effect on audit, that the “impact of this pandemic varies by segment. Businesses heavily reliant on travel and human interaction are the hardest hit, while the indispensable segments (for example, pharmacy, food retail, essential services) remained resilient.” And cloud services. From his point of view, Zaid Selman in his article COVID-19 implications for data centers, notes that the productivity of employees working from home means that “large internet companies are likely to purchase and utilize more spaces in data centers, making collaboration between providers of enterprise software, network infrastructure and facilities more integral to their respective strategies.”
Rodrigues and Kumar, for their part see the effects of the pandemic as “an opportunity to do things differently, by using new, or flexing the use of existing technology. There could continue to be restrictions on travel to client premises and audits might need to be performed remotely.”
As travel restrictions ground planes and affect the travel and tourism industry, travel insurance policy sales have also plummeted, only one of the negative ripples on the insurance industry in the UAE. In their article, The business of uncertainty, Elias Ma’ayeh and Thomas Sam write that: “While it is still too early to assess the full financial impact of the pandemic on the insurance sector, the S&P Global Ratings’ report noted, as early as April 2020, that GCC insurers’ earnings were under threat.” They claim that, in the GCC, where the challenge of the pandemic has been “compounded by reduced oil prices, the effect has been mixed.”
As if the dealing with a global pandemic is not enough, some businesses are also having to adapt to new reporting standards. Abi Man Joshi, Marios Fokides and Fehar Jalluin, their article, Mandatory Disclosure Rules update (Why transparency is front and center) says: “this is the perfect time for intermediaries/relevant taxpayers with businesses in the EU to think about their DAC 6 compliance management programs.”
Talking of perfect timing, the Saudi Arabian Bankruptcy Law, introduced in August 2018 to provide entities in financial distress with a legal platform to facilitate the implementation of insolvency proceedings, is expected, according to Karim Labban and Rani Abou Hamdan, “to have an even more critical role in the turnaround of Saudi corporates in light of the more recent dual shock of the COVID-19 pandemic and the collapse of oil prices.” In their article A step in the right direction, they note: “this constitutes a very positive step in the right direction as it is critical to boosting investors’ confidence and, accompanied by other government-led transformation initiatives, seeks to improve the ease of doing business in the Kingdom.”
As countries impose more lockdowns, we trust that you will have more opportunity to pore over this most recent issue of Middle East Point of View. We hope, as always, that it will offer you different perspectives on the hot topics of the moment.
Read the full issue here.
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