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GULF

Oct 11, 1999

  1. International
  2. Finance
  3. Industry
  4. Policy
  5. Trade
  6. Gulf

Ahmed opens Index'99

Index '99, the Middle East's international furniture, shop fitting and interiors exhibition, was inaugurated by Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, president of Dubai Department of Civil Aviation and chairman of Emirates Group.

"The exhibition industry is extremely important to the UAE, and the Government of Dubai is doing all it can to support this sector through the building of new facilities and infrastructure, such as the new Dubai Airport Exhibition Centre. Without doubt, Dubai is now the hub for international exhibition industry in the Middle East," he said.

Present at the opening was Viscount Rothermere, chairman of UK's Daily Mail Group and General Trust.

Over 1,020 companies from 51 countries are taking part in the exhibition, which will run till October 10.

Meanwhile, the Italian Pesaro Chamber of Commerce (PCC) said it is keen on setting up joint ventures here with Dubai-based firms in the industrial and commercial sector.

Pesaro, known primarily as a centre for furniture production has several other industries.

Egyptian business pins hopes on new cabinet

Egypt's next government must encourage exports, investment, use of new technology and be more open about economic decision-making if it wants to build business confidence.

President Hosni Mubarak, starting a fourth six-year term, named privatisation chief Atef Obeid, 67, as prime minister, replacing Kamal Ganzouri. Obeid said he hoped to present a ministerial list to Mubarak on Saturday.

One of the government's first tasks must be to end months of uncertainty about the Egyptian pound.

"The first responsibility of the new government is to have transparency over the foreign exchange policy," said Amr elGanainy, treasurer at United Bank of Egypt. "There has to be an official statement. Will it devalue the pound? Will the Central Bank distribute reserves again? "

Mounir Abdel-Nour, a businessman and board member of the Egyptian Centre for Economic Studies, said the government must start by recognising the existence of a currency problem.

Officials in the last government alternated between denying that dollars were short and assuring everyone the crisis was past. The crunch reached its peak in August and then eased as the Central Bank dipped into reserves to inject dollars.

"There's still a shortage, even if it is not as chronic as it was in August, " said one banker.

The currency problem was not the only area where there was unwelcome secrecy over Central Bank decisions.

Tariff issue may top agenda at GCC-EU meet

Gulf states are expected to raise the issue of carbon tax and EU protective policies during the coming GCC-EU round of negotiations scheduled to be held in Riyadh on October 13 and 14.

"Gulf states dislike protective policies adopted by European countries, some procedures and taxes imposed on carbon and others," said Sheikh Fahim bin Sultan Al Qasimi, UAE Minister for Economy and Commerce.

He headed the 26th one-day meeting of the GCC Commerce Cooperation Committee, comprising Gulf ministers of commerce. Sheikh Fahim said the next round of GCC Economic negotiations will be held in the UAE on October 17 and 18. A U.S.-UAE businessmen meeting is also being organised.

Meanwhile, Dr. Mohammed Khalfan bin Kharbash, UAE Minister of State for Financial and Industrial Affairs, during Gulf Standards and Specifications Authority meeting, called on Gulf states to modernise their standards, laboratories and train efficient national cadres.

"The GCC commerce cooperation meeting reviewed removal of obstacles facing Gulf exports to the U.S. and its businessmen's reluctance to invest in the Gulf despite the facilities offered," said Sheikh Fahim.

He said the meeting reviewed obstacles hindering membership of some Gulf states into WTO, facilitating inter-Gulf trade exchange and Bahrain-based Gulf arbitration centre.

Sheikh Fahim said the customs union is important for the Gulf as it will help the six-member states benefit from its market and enhance its negotiating stance with economic blocs.

Kuwait: OPEC cuts beyond March 2000

Oil exporters will keep their production at current levels even after a global output cuts accord expires in March, Kuwait's oil minister said in an interview.

"In my view, there will be no desire to raise production in the future," Shaikh Saud Nasser Al-Sabah told Al-Seyassah in an interview.

"OPEC's output will remain around the current level, especially that after March producers will face summer when demand drops.

That is why I do not believe there will be an inclination to raise production," he added, reflecting Kuwait's position as a price hawk.

He reiterated that oil prices would range between $25-$28 a barrel with the start of the winter season in the northern hemisphere — a level which would allow Kuwait to wipe out its 1999/2000 forecast budget deficit of some $7.5 billion for the year which started in July.

IMF approves $15 mln credit to Jordan

The International Monetary Fund has approved a $15 mln credit for Jordan, hailing the commitment by the government to budget cuts but also urging stepped-up privatization.

The fresh funds, approved by the IMF executive board on Tuesday, are part of a three-year $178 mln facility the IMF arranged for Jordan in April. The country has already drawn about $77 mln.

IMF first deputy managing director Stanley Fischer welcomed what he said had been an improvement in economic conditions in Jordan this year, citing specifically a rebound in international reserves.

He said IMF directors "felt that these positive developments reflected the authorities' renewed commitment to both macroeconomic stabilization and structural reforms."

Oman fiber optic on deal with Siemens

Oman Fiber Optic Company is in talks with engineering group Siemens AG to supply optical fibre cables to the German firm, a company official said on Wednesday.

Oman Fiber Optic Company General Manager Mahammed Hassan al-Atheeb told Reuters the company had already exported nearly 1,000 kilometers of cables throughout the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent since it started production in December 1998.

Earlier this year, the company bagged a $3.3 million contract to supply Marconi Communications for a project building a data communication link for the Oman Telecommunications Company (Omantel) — Oman's sole provider of telecommunications services.

"We have similar cable supply agreements being drawn up in the networking segment, which are expected to translate to business of $3 million per year under a single contract," Al-Atheeb said.

Iraq economist calls for cut in interest rates

A leading Iraqi economist and former minister, Hisham Hassan Tawfiq, has called for a cut in interest rates to revive the sanctions-hit nation's economy, a newspaper reported on Wednesday.

"We need a cut in interest rates to confront the stagnation. This would help private sector investment," Tawfiq, an MP who heads Iraq's association of economists, told the Al-Iqtissadi paper.

Iraqi banks charge 17 percent interest for business ventures, while offering 15 percent on savings.

Dubai $500 mln Theme Park put on hold

Dubai has put on hold a project to build a 1.9 billion dirham ($500 million) theme park which was due to open in late 2001, an official was on Wednesday quoted as saying.

Shaikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al-Maktoum, head of Dubai Civil Aviation, said the delay was due to "market reasons", but he did not elaborate.

"We have for the time being put a freeze on it. We have put it on hold temporarily for market reasons. We will consider the project once again when markets will look up," Gulf News daily quoted him as saying.

The Magic World theme park, which officials had said would include a 300-room hotel, is to be situated on 120 hectares of undeveloped land at the inward end of Dubai creek.

Development of the park, which was intended to rival the best parks in Europe and North America, is being overseen by US company Bechtel, which was contracted by the civil aviation acting on behalf of the Dubai government.

Dubai is trying to diversify from oil income and has launched a drive to attract tourists.

France, UAE firm bid for Jordan Telecom

France Telecom and a United Arab Emirates firm have each bid $508 mln for a 40 percent stake in Jordan's state-owned telecommunications company, officials said.

"France Telecom and Al Ein both bid at $508 mln exceeding our wildest expectations," Communications Minister Jamal Sarayreh told.

Jordan to sell 49 per cent stake in national carrier

Jordan detailed plans to sell a stake of up to 49 per cent in the national carrier Royal Jordanian as well as 100 per cent of the shares in Jordan Airports Duty Free (JADF).

Invitations to tender published by Amman newspapers said Jordan was looking for a "strategic partner with proven financial strength" such as an airline company or a consortium led by an airline firm.

British business delegation visits Libya

A delegation of 50 representatives of major British companies, including Anglo-Dutch oil giant Royal Dutch/Shell, began a visit to Libya Sunday to promote trade and economic cooperation, state television said.

The businessmen, some of whom represent banks, came "to study the outlook for cooperation and the promotion of economic relations and trade," a delegate said.

Another British businessman called for "solid, strong economic ties" with Libya and said he was sure the visit "will be crowned with success," the television said.

Kuwait Burgan buys 92 per cent of United Gulf Bank

Kuwait's Burgan Bank said on Sunday it had bought a 92 per cent stake in United Gulf Bank which was held by both banks' majority shareholder — Kuwait Investment Projects Co (KIPCO).

"We bought it at the end of last month for about $200 million," a senior Burgan official in Kuwait said. "The deal was completed and we have informed the Bahraini authorities of the transaction.

Saudi: No obstacles to joining WTO

Saudi Arabia's Commerce Minister Osama Al-Faqih said in remarks published on Sunday there were no obstacles preventing the kingdom joining the World Trade Organisation (WTO) although membership talks were tough.

The Arabic daily Al-Hayat said the minister denied there were any obstacles when asked by the newspaper and said that "joining demands the completion of the current negotiations".

He said the talks were "tough", which was indicated by the length of time they were taking, adding that the organisation needed details of trade and investment in the kingdom.

Saudi Prince, Ghadafi plan joint projects

Saudi billionaire Prince Al-Walid bin Talal said Saturday he has held talks with Libyan leader Moamer Ghadafi on joint economic projects.

Colonel Ghadafi invited the prince to invest in Libya at a meeting on September 29 in Sirte on the Mediterranean coast, the Saudi magnate's Kingdom Holding said.

His office said that Tripoli "wants to attract world investments following the lifting of international sanctions" linked to the 1988 Lockerbie plane bombing.

Prince Walid in turn asked Libya to join him in Middle East tourism and hotel projects as well as the South Valley agricultural project in Egypt.

Saudi Arabia helped resolve a standoff between Tripoli and the West over two Libyan suspects wanted for the December 1988 bombing of a Pan Am plane over Lockerbie, Scotland in which 270 people died.