Perpetual Traveller Overseas

Worldwide Security Alerts - Week 17

The most dangerous place in the world is where you are right now! Stay informed and avoid conflict with the help of Perpetual Traveller Intelligence:

29 April

Algeria: Business owners to stage general strike in Tizi Ouzou
Small business owners are to stage a general strike on 29-30 April in the northern Tizi Ouzou Province. The industrial action was prompted by grievances over the levels of social security contributions. The protesters will also organise a sit-in outside the social security fund's offices in the province on Boulevard Krim Belkacem, Tizi Ouzou town. The sit-in is likely to disrupt traffic in the area.

Algeria: University health workers to strike
Workers with the National Union of University Hospital Research Teachers (Snechu) called on its members in Algiers, Annaba, Bejaia, Blida, Constantine, Laghouat, Setif, Tlemcen and Oran to stage a strike to denounce the government’s failure to implement its demands over employment and benefits. The strike will not affect the availability of medical care, although isolated protests may take place in the affected cities.

France: National rail workers to hold nationwide strike
National rail workers are to hold a two-day strike. Train services are likely to be severely disrupted across the country with only 50 percent of TGV trains, two thirds of intercity trains and three out of five regional trains and buses running.

Sri Lanka: Increased security in Colombo for Vesak celebrations
Authorities have tightened in the capital Colombo ahead of Vesak Day celebrations on 29-30 April to mark Buddha’s birthday. About 3,000 additional police personnel will be deployed to Colombo where large crowds are expected to gather to observe festivities. Travellers to the country should also take care while driving, as Vesak celebrations see some of the worst road accidents, with at least 40 deaths reported in 2017 during the festive season.

30 April

Mexico: Teachers’ union to begin strikes, protests
The CNTE teachers’ union will strike between 30 April and 2 May in opposition to the government’s education reforms. The strike will be accompanied by protests on 1 May in state capitals, while the union plans to stage roadblocks on major highways on 2 May. The unrest is likely to lead to the cancellation of classes at public institutions and disruption to travel around protest routes.

1 May

Global: Protests to mark International Workers’ Day

Protests to mark International Workers’ Day are likely to take place in several Asian, European and Latin American countries. Demonstrations are expected in major cities in countries across the Americas, including Mexico, Venezuela and Argentina. In Puerto Rico, police will deploy 1,100 officers to mitigate the risk of violence and disruption, after last year’s protests saw vandalism and the establishment of roadblocks. In Spain, unions have called for protests in 80 cities across the country.

Algeria: Public-sector union calls for protest
A public service union, representing 12 organisations, called for a protest to denounce the high cost of living and falling purchasing powers. Around 10,000 people participated in a similar demonstration in May 2017. The demonstration could affect access to public services and cause traffic congestion in Algiers.

Germany: Security forces on high alert for riots in Berlin
Police have stated that they will be heavily deployed throughout the city as far-left groups have threatened to riot in the capital’s Kreuzberg area. Police added that although Berlin and Hamburg typically see large demonstrations on 1 May, they have been predominantly peaceful. This year, however, the so-called Revolutionary Demonstration has called for mass demonstrations in Berlin, and has not applied for permission, increasing the risk of clashes with security forces. The group is set to gather at Oranienplatz square in Berlin at 1800 hrs local time.

Iran: Religious gatherings to be held for birth anniversary of Imam Mahdi
Shi'a Muslims will mark the birth anniversary of their twelfth Imam, Mahdi. Religious gatherings are to be held across the country and could cause increased congestion in holy cities such as Qom or Mashhad. Government offices and some private companies will be shut for the occasion, which is a public holiday in the country.

South Africa: Trade union federation likely to continue strikes, protests
The South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU) threatened more protests and strikes over the planned introduction of a minimum wage. SAFTU did not disclose a specific date for the demonstrations, but the government is supposed to implement the policy on 1 May. Previous SAFTU action has led to thousands of people protesting in Gauteng, Durban and other cities on 26 April and saw widespread industrial action throughout industrial sectors. SAFTU is demanding the introduction of a USD 1,000 per month living wage.

Sri Lanka: Trade unions to defy curbs and hold Labour Day rallies

About 14 trade unions plan to hold rallies to mark the International Labour Day, despite restrictions by the government, which has designated 7 May as a replacement for the traditional 1 May celebrations. The change in date was announced following petitions by Buddhist groups who said that the Labour Day fell during Vesak week, which marks Buddha’s birthday and during which festivities are observed across the country. It is not clear where the unions plan to hold rallies, although in previous years, labour rallies have taken place in central Colombo and attracted thousands of people. There is potential for confrontation with police personnel, as the rallies will be held in defiance of government orders.

2 May

Argentina: Metal workers to strike, protest nationwide
Argentina’s Metalworking Workers Union (UOM) will hold nationwide strikes and demonstrations after failed wage negotiations. The main protest will take place from 1000 hrs local time in Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires, where disruption to travel is possible. Smaller protests will also be held in the main squares of other cities. There remains a possibility that the action will be called off after an emergency meeting was scheduled between the union and executives on 2 May.

Israel: Lag B'Omer festivities to cause increased congestion

Israeli Jews will mark the holiday of Lag B'Omer from the eve of 2 may until the evening of 3 May. Parades and bonfires will be organised throughout the country, leading to increased congestion. Additional police presence is expected due to the heightened risk of militant attacks during religious holidays.

Nigeria: Health workers in Kwara state to strike
The healthcare workers’ union MHWUN in Kwara is set to begin an indefinite strike at 0000 hrs. The union did not disclose whether it would allow for emergency services during the strike. The workers are demanding better working conditions and the payment of salary arrears.

Tunisia: Thousands of Jews expected to make pilgrimage to Djerba
Around 5,500 Jewish pilgrims are expected to take part in annual celebrations for the holiday of Lag B'Omer on the southern island of Djerba on 2-3 May. There will be a heightened risk of militant attacks during the festival, which was targeted by a 2002 al Qaeda-claimed suicide bombing that killed 21 people. Increased security measures and traffic congestion are expected throughout the island during the festivities.

3 May

Tunisia: State television, radio workers to strike
National television and radio workers are due to strike to denounce a lack of response to their demands, including calls for increased wages. The strike was initially postponed from 20 April following a meeting with the ministry of employment and other public officials and it may be delayed again if further talks take place.

5 May

India: Civil society groups to protest in Andhra Pradesh
Various civil society groups plan to stage protests across the southern state of Andhra Pradesh to demand a speedy trial for the individuals accused of raping and killing an eight-year-old in Jammu and Kashmir state. The activists are demanding measures to improve security for women and children. They have not disclosed details about where the protests will be held. The demonstrations could cause traffic congestion and result in road blockades.

Perpetual Traveller Political Security Watch - Week 17

Political Security Watch - Week 17

Government and Political Turnmoil can be dangerous if one is caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. As such, Perpetual Traveller will review the Political landscape each week to give it's readers the heads up.

Here is Week 17:

Australia: Canberra to send military aircraft to monitor Pyongyang’s ships
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said Australia will send a P-8A surveillance aircraft to monitor North Korean vessels suspected of transferring prohibited goods in defiance of UN sanctions, Reuters reported. Canada also plans to deploy patrol aircraft, and surveillance planes from both countries will be based in the US military’s Kadena air base on Japan’s southern island of Okinawa, according to the Japanese government. The announcements came despite an historic summit between North and South Korea on 27 April, during which both sides pledged to work towards “complete denuclearisation”.

Bangladesh: BNP to hold countrywide protests to demand Zia’s release
The opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) plans to hold protests across the country to demand the release of party chief Khaleda Zia, who was sentenced to 5 years in prison in February on graft charges. The party has not specified where it will stage demonstrations. BNP also plans to hold a rally at the Suhrawardy Udyan in Dhaka on 1 May, which coincides with Labour Day celebrations. The rally could result in significant travel disruption with a high chance of violence at BNP protests; noting the possibility police using force to disperse demonstrators.
India: Beijing, New Delhi vow to maintain peace at border
China and India have pledged to resolve differences over a contested border peacefully through talks, India’s Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale said. The statement came after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the Chinese city of Wuhan for informal meetings with President Xi Jinping. The meeting came months after an extended standoff between both militaries in the Doklam plateau along the Bhutan border in 2017. Despite the statements, cooperation between both sides will mean overcoming significant hurdles such as a disputed border with Tibet, China’s control over an uninhabited part of Kashmir and its plans to build infrastructure projects in that territory.

India: Security forces launch counter-insurgency operation in Assam
The Indian Army has launched a large counter-insurgency operation in the western Assam districts adjoining the border with Bhutan to find two National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB-S) militants. Over 1,000 personnel and helicopters have been deployed. The militants have been suspected to have shuttled between India and Bhutan forest areas, and have reportedly avoided security forces in numerous operations during the year.

India: Thousands to protest in Mumbai over “anti-labour” policies
About 50,000 people from various trade unions plan to hold a rally in Mumbai’s Azad Maidan to
denounce what they claim are anti-labour policies of the government. The unions are demanding higher minimum salaries, abolition of contract labour, and equal pay for equal work. There is potential for travel disruption due to the protest, which will also mark the International Labour Day.
Lebanon: Risk of violence, unrest over parliamentary vote
There is a risk of unrest and violence due to scheduled parliamentary elections. The previous parliamentary vote was in 2009 and tensions are high between supporters of rival political factions. On 17 April, armed clashes broke out in Dinniyah following a dispute over election posters, though no casualties were reported. Protesters may use the vote to draw attention to their demands. For example, relatives of jailed Islamist militants protested in Tripoli on 17 April to demand the introduction of an amnesty agreement before the vote.

Malaysia: Increased potential for rallies as nominations begin for general election
From 28 April till 9 May, campaigning rallies are expected to take place across the country due to the upcoming general election. A recent state corruption scandal involving high-ranking government officials is likely to fuel tensions during the elections. Campaign rallies may cause disruption in major urban areas, especially in Kuala Lumpur.

Nepal: Transporters to protest new government policy
Members of the Federation of Nepalese National Transport Entrepreneurs Association (NNTEA) plan to hold sit-ins outside government transport offices across the country. The move followed the government’s decision to not renew the registration of existing transport bodies, which will effectively end the monopoly of transport bodies along different road routes. The NNTEA is demanding a roll-back of the policy and has threatened to not operate vehicles on 4 May. The body also warned of an indefinite transportation strike from 10 May, if its demands are not addressed.
Russia: Activists to stage days of protests in various cities
Several opposition groups are due to hold several protests on 1, 5 and 6 May in the lead up to President Vladimir Putin’s inauguration on 7 May. Authorities typically block unauthorised demonstrations and some protests in the lead-up to the March presidential election saw tens of arrests and some scuffles with riot police. On 1 May, trade unions are set to hold five approved protests in Moscow’s Kaluzhskaya Square, Bolshaya Yakimanka, Bolshaya Polyanka, Mokhovaya, Maly and Bolshoi Kamenny Most bridges, Okhotny Ryad, and Theatre Square between 1100 hrs and 1500 hrs local time. The communist party is also set to hold a protest in Vladivostok’s Central Square. On 5 May, opposition activists are due to hold an unauthorised demonstration along Moscow’s Tverskaya Street. On 6 May, opposition supporters are due to stage an unauthorised protest at Moscow’s Revolution square.

Tunisia: Military to vote in municipal elections
The military and members of other security agencies will vote in municipal elections a week before the public vote. There is a heightened risk of militant attacks on this day and security measures may disrupt travel. However, militant capabilities in Tunisia remain limited and the likelihood of any successful attacks is low.

Tunisia: Municipal elections pose risk of disruption
Municipal elections are scheduled to take place, presenting a risk of disruption, particularly in towns and cities. Major unrest over the vote is unlikely, although some isolated anti-government protests may take place over access to services and a pensions agreement. Increased security measures for the elections could also mean travel in urban areas will take longer than anticipated.

Perpetual Traveller's International Travel Warnings - Week 17 - 30 April 2018

Greetings Perpetual Travellers!

Here below is our advanced weekly round up of international travel warnings to help you avoid unnecessary flight disruptions and chaos. In particular be aware if travelling to France, India or Poland!

Don't say you haven't been warned!

France: Potential for disruption due to strike by Air France pilots
Three Air France pilots’ unions have announced plans to strike on 3, 4, 7 and 8 May over pay. The action is expected to cause significant disruption to flights across the country, although previous strike action has largely affected short-haul flights. It is likely that cabin crew and ground staff will join the strike.

France: Air France unions to decide on pay dispute by 4 May
Air France said that workers striking over pay would have until 4 May to reach a deal, as the company attempts to end a strike that has led to an estimated USD 366 million in losses. Air France’s offer of a 7 percent pay rise over four years has yet to receive majority backing from the unions. The strike coincided with industrial action at the SNCF state rail company, leading to widespread travel disruption.

France: Rail, aviation strikes cause nationwide disruption
French rail and aviation workers will observe separate strikes over 23-24 April, causing widespread disruption to travel. Industrial action by pilots, cabin crew and ground staff in a dispute have forced Air France to cancel 35 percent of flights from its main hub at Paris Charles de Gaulle airport. At state rail company SNCF, employees have held a series of strikes to protest government-backed reforms of the body. The latest action has forced SNCF to cancel around two-thirds of train service in France, while international services, including Eurostar, will also face some disruption.

India: Air India workers to protest privatization in Mumbai 

Employees of national carrier Air India plan to hold a protest in Mumbai’s Flora Fountain area to denounce the planned privatisation of the loss-making airline. The workers fear job losses as a result of the government’s move to sell its 76 percent stake in the airline. It is not clear how many employees with participate in the protest, which could also result in delays and disruption to air travel.  

Poland: National airline staff to commence indefinite strike
Unionized airline staff at national airline LOT are due begin an indefinite strike, which could lead to flights being delayed and cancelled, particularly at Warsaw’s Chopin airport, according to the head of ZZPPiL trade union. The union said its members at LOT will strike until the demands on pay are met. A LOT spokesperson said such a strike will be illegal, as all six labor unions have not backed the action.

Will VAT in the UAE backfire and put Dubai back up the creek?

-->Dubai Financial Center
The modern variety of VAT was first implemented by France back in the 1950s. It was Maurice Lauré, Joint Director of the French Tax Authority (Direction Générale des Impôts) that first implemented VAT on 10 April 1954 to be precise, although German industrialist Dr. Wilhelm von Siemens proposed the concept in 1918. So, in short, we have the French and the Germans to thank for VAT!

Today Value Added Tax (VAT) described by some as “Various Added Things” is essentially an indirect tax. You may have heard it referred to as a type of general consumption tax. Countries that adopt VAT, impose it on most supplies of goods and services that are bought and sold.

Sadly, today over 150 countries have already implemented VAT (or its equivalent, Goods and Services Tax), including all 29 European Union (EU) members (mindful that the UK will leave), Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Singapore and Malaysia. The EU is generally the most aggressive with VAT Tax; the force of implementation is extremely strong and many SME’s have either long since closed down or relocated out of the EU to get away from it, as VAT by its process, favours large multinational companies that have the resources to administrate VAT and the cash flow to handle fast payments out to the Government and typically slow payments back in. Moreover, SME’s struggle to pay for the Accountants and Lawyers that charge for advice and to process. Therefore, it’s not surprising that to quote the words of the UK’s Foreign Secretary Boris Johnston “The only continent with weaker economic growth than Europe is Antarctica”.

VAT is charged at each step of the ‘supply chain’. Of course, it’s the poor consumers who are generally penalized to bear the VAT cost, while Businesses collect and account for the tax, in a way acting as a “Tax Collector” on behalf of the government.

A business pays the government the tax that it collects from its customers transactions, while it may also receive a refund from the government on tax that it has paid to its suppliers. The net result is that tax receipts to government reflect the ‘value add’ throughout the supply chain or more simply put, it’s a little messy.

For decades Dubai has enjoyed “Tax Free” status in terms of NO Corporate Tax or Income Tax and this freedom of tax collection inspired innovation and business has thrived, especially for SME’s. Any dream was possible in Dubai; this spirit constructed the world’s tallest building the “Burj Khalifa” some 828 M high making it some incredible feet of engineering, a reputation for the world’s only 7-star Hotel “Burj Arab” and a plethora of world’s best and world’s first. In 2015, according to the Washington-based Brookings Institution's Global Metro Monitor, "no metropolitan area grew faster relative to its national economy than Dubai, where the business and financial services sector helped drive 4.5 per cent growth in GDP per capita."

No-where on the planet in recent times has tax freedom and innovation thrived quite in the same way as Dubai, so one has to ask the question, why the negativity of VAT now? The UAE Minister of State for Financial Affairs, His Excellency Obaid Humaid Al Tayer, stated that the UAE will implement VAT at the rate of 5% on 1 January 2018.

The Minister was speaking in Dubai on 24 February after a joint press conference with Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). So, wow we begin to understand, the IMF is involved, represented by a French Lady; history repeats itself!

VAT will be introduced at a rate of 5% with some limited exceptions including basic food items, healthcare and education. In simple terms, VAT goes against all the freedom and innovation principles of Dubai as the Emirate succumbs to the demands of the IMF. For such a low 5%, it will cause havoc for SME’s to administrate the processing of VAT, many companies are expected to move away from the GCC and for those already complaining about pricing, it could be the last straw to relocate home.

Despite being Tax Free, Dubai is today exceptionally expensive and another 5% on top of the average $13 USD for a mere small glass of wine, will be too much for many Expats. Food, Shopping in general, property rental and most services are already at breaking point pricing-wise, hence another 5% may well be a bridge too far and Dubai’s once successful financial model could be up the creek!

There are winners of course, being the army of Accountants and Lawyers descending upon Dubai, that can hardly contain their enthusiasm to capitalize on the introduction of VAT. This will strike a major blow to SME’s already finding it tough, to pay high Accountancy Fees for advice and solutions to a complex VAT implementation that still lacks clarity with only a month to go (time of writing 26 November 2017).

The reason given is that The UAE Federal and Emirate governments provide citizens and residents with many different public services – including hospitals, roads, public schools, parks, waste control, and police services. These services are paid for from the government budgets. VAT is planned to provide the UAE with a new source of income, which they trust will contribute towards the continued provision of high quality public services into the future. It is also supposed to help the government move towards its vision of reducing dependence on oil and other hydrocarbons as a source of revenue.

I wonder however, if the number of companies that will close or how many new companies that be discouraged from opening has been factored in. Also, the cost to implement and the impact on the image of Dubai as a Tax free and innovative place to do business in. VAT is simply not innovative!

I sincerely hope that Dubai, the UAE and all GCC countries reconsider, but I doubt they will, so we should expect and plan for the worst. There are of course many other ways for the government to collect funds without the complication, which requires armies of VAT receipt collectors, enforcers and the like, all of which will discourage business and innovation, against the once great free principles of Dubai and the UAE.

All great empires came to an end when they started charging Tax! Check out this article:
A History of more than 4000 years of Taxes, when will we ever learn!

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