DUBAI — Two of the Middle East’s largest economies announced stimulus packages over the weekend to cushion businesses battered by the spread of the coronavirus.
The United Arab Emirates’ put together a $27 billion package late on Saturday with the central bank making the funds available to banks to extend loans to troubled businesses impacted by the virus outbreak.
The UAE bank regulator said banks were well capitalized and also noted that as of March the state had $110 billion in reserves. The last time the UAE mobilized such a package was after the 2008 financial crash when $27 billion was pumped into the economy.
Saudi Arabia has said it will make $13 billion available, also for loans to struggling companies. The stimulus packages also come as the oil-dependent economies in the region are battered by the recent plunge in oil prices.
The weekend also saw countries in the region intensify their measures to stem the spread of the virus by discouraging public mingling. Kuwait shut down malls and entertainment centers and encouraged people to pray at home.
In the UAE, where previously there was little sign of public measures to deal with the outbreak, the government closed cinemas, cultural attractions such as the Louvre museum, parks and beaches in the capital Abu Dhabi. The measures are expected to continue for the next two weeks.
In the commercial center of Dubai, all “entertainment destinations” have been ordered to suspend operations and hotels have been asked to postpone large gatherings, including wedding celebrations. Cinemas have not been officially closed, but all online bookings have been suspended.
While, flights continue from Dubai airport, one of the busiest in the world, the UAE will no longer issue visas from March 17 onward. Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, has suspended all international flights for the next two weeks.
While the UAE only has 85 confirmed cases of the virus so far and Saudi Arabia just 103, the two countries are just across the Persian Gulf from Iran where a major outbreak is underway with more than 12,000 cases and 1,400 deaths.