Sep 04 -
outlines measures to kickstart economy
Egyptian Prime Minister Atef Obeid outlined a plan
to kickstart the economy, including curbs on imports and a programme
of support for "honest debtors" in arrears, in remarks
published on Tuesday.
Obeid said in interviews with the editors of
Egyptian newspapers that a key aim of the plan was to control the
unhealthy increase in supplies of goods, especially imports, whose
growth he said was "dangerous", having doubled in under 10
years. But he did not specify how imports would be controlled.
Obeid attributed the current market recession to
money frozen in unsold goods and unused production capacities.
"Most of these capacities and goods were
funded through borrowing...," said Obeid, adding that borrowers
failed to sell their excess goods or reactivate their unused
capacities and so they fell back on repaying their obligations to
Egypt has suffered an intermittent pound liquidity
crisis, as well as foreign exchange shortages, over the past year,
which have been accompanied in recent months by an apparent slowdown
in economic activity.
Corporate results have fallen short of
expectations, the stock market has recently dipped to lows not seen
for nearly four years, and the prices of core commodities like cement
and steel have been depressed.
Another objective of the plan is support for honest
investors who are falling behind on repaying their loans, so as to
help pull the market out of its current recession, he added.
The remarks appeared to indicate that the banks
would give some debtors more time to repay their loans, with
government help. Egypt's four biggest state banks still dominate the
banking sector. Analysts say some have problems with bad debts and
that may be one factor delaying bank privatisation.
Iran moves to spend oil windfall on job creation
Iran is rushing to invest billions of dollars in
surplus oil revenue to revive the stagnant economy and address chronic
unemployment, officials said on Monday.
But economists say structural reform, not a big
cash infusion, is the key to sustainable economic recovery.
President Mohammad Khatami's government has sought
parliament's approval to start at once using an estimated $6 billion
in extra revenue Iran has earned from oil exports in recent months.
Parliament, where a majority are allied with
Khatami, has agreed to give urgent reading to the bill, but has yet to
discuss the details.
Iran's current budget forecasts earnings of $15.7
from export of each barrel of crude, but Iranian crude has been
selling at an average of $25 per barrel in recent months.
The country already earned about $4.6 from crude
exports in the first quarter of the year which began on March 20.
Anticipating the rise in oil revenue, Khatami's
five-year economic plan, launched in March, calls for creation of a
special reserve account to save any oil earnings beyond budget
The accrued funds would be used to offset possible
budget shortfall after March 2002, a provision designed to protect the
oil-dependent economy against future crude price fluctuation.
To ease reliance on oil, Khatami's plan also limits
crude revenue spending to $56.6 billion over the next five years.
But, facing dire economic prospects and worsening
unemployment, the government seeks to invest surplus revenues in job
creation or lend them out to private businesses.
Khatami has been under pressure to shift attention
from his political and cultural reform programme to the ailing
Saudi expects economic growth above 3%
The Saudi cabinet Monday approved the country's
seventh five-year economic development plan running till 2005, which
predicts a 3.16 per cent annual growth rate in gross domestic product
(GDP), the official SPA agency reported.
The plan expects annual growth of 4.01 per cent in
the non-oil sector, whose proportion of GDP would rise to 71.6 per
cent by the end of 2005, against 68.4 per cent last year, according to
a report published by SPA.
The private sector should see annual growth of
nearly 5.04 per cent, thanks to the support of the Saudi government,
"The Saudi kingdom is working to encourage the
private sector in such a way as to allow it to take part in
development projects to diversify the national economy," the
In April, a new law aimed at attracting foreign
capital came into effect in Saudi Arabia. It gives foreigners the
right to own 100 per cent of industrial companies, while previously
they could only hold 49 per cent of companies established in the
Qatar economy to grow at nominal 20%
The economy of the Gulf Arab state of Qatar is
expected to post a nominal 20 per cent growth this year, mostly due to
high world oil prices, a senior banker said on Wednesday.
"Gross domestic product (GDP) growth will be
mainly generated by sharp increases in export volumes, centred on the
energy sector," said Fawzi al-Khatib, chief economist and senior
manager of the economic and planning department at Qatar National
"GDP is expected to rise by 20 per cent to
53.3 billion riyals ($14.64 billion) in 2000 from 44.4 billion
riyals," he told Reuters ahead of the publication of a report by
the bank, in which the government has a 50 per cent stake.
Qatar had said in July its economy grew by 8.9 per
cent in 1999 thanks to high oil prices and a rise in gas exports. The
rise in growth followed a 7.4 per cent contraction in 1998.
Fawzi said the oil and gas sector, the main source
of income for the OPEC member, would constitute 50 per cent of GDP.
The sector will grow by 33 per cent this year to $7.26 billion from
$5.5 billion in 1999, he said.
Oman discovers new oil and gas fields
Oman said on Wednesday it has discovered new oil
and gas fields in the south and central parts of the Gulf Arab state.
The Minister of Oil and Gas Mohammed bin Hamed Al Rumhy said in a
statement to Reuters the new sites, discovered by the state-run
Petroleum Development Oman (PDO), have a potential daily production of
12,200 barrels of crude and 63 million cubic feet of gas.
The Sakhia field in the south would have a
production capacity of 6,200 barrels of oil a day and Ghafeer, which
is also in the south, was expected to have an output of 6,000 barrels
a day, the statement said. The statement added that gas was discovered
in Makarim in central Oman with an expected daily production of 46
million cubic feet.
OPEC crude scores year high
The price of OPEC's basket of seven crudes rose
further on Tuesday to a year high of $31.37 a barrel from $31.22 on
Monday, the OPEC news agency said on Wednesday, quoting the OPEC
That left the price above the group's target
$22-$28 price band for the twelth consecutive working day.
Under an informal mechanism agreed between OPEC
producers in June, if the basket stays above the $22-$28 band for 20
working days or below the range for 10 working days, crude production
will be adjusted by 500,000 barrels a day either way to try to bring
the price back into the range.
The OPEC basket comprises Algeria's Saharan Blend,
Indonesia's Minas, Nigeria's Bonny Light, Saudi Arabian Light, Dubai
of the UAE, Venezuela's Tia Juana and Mexico's Isthmus.
Iran to build cement plant in Syria
Iran is planning to build a $200 million cement
plant in Syria with a capacity of 1.5 million tonnes per year,
Industry Minister Gholamreza Shafei said on Thursday.
"We are in the final stages of negotiations on
signing a contract to build a $200 million cement plant in Syria and
we hope to conclude the agreement soon," he said.
Shafei was speaking to Reuters after inspecting
Iran's pavilion at the 47th Damascus International Trade Fair along
with the Syrian Minister of Economy and Foreign Trade Mohammed Imadi
and Planning Minister Issam al-Zaim.
Bashar meets Lebanese leaders
Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad held talks on
Wednesday with two Lebanese government ministers ahead of the second
round of elections in neighbouring Lebanon where Syria is the main
foreign power broker.
Presidential spokesman Joubran Kourieh said that
Bashar held separate meetings with Najib Mikati, minister of public
works and transport and Suleiman Tony Franjieh, minister of
agriculture, housing and cooperatives.
There has been speculation in Lebanon that Mikati,
who won a seat in the first phase of the parliamentary election on
August 27, would be among candidates to head Lebanon's next
President Bashar has already met several Lebanese
leaders including parliament speaker Nabih Berri, Prime Minister Selim
Al-Hoss, and former Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri as part of efforts
described by diplomats as aiming at reducing tensions which proceeded
Egyptian exports to Iraq
Egypt's exports to Iraq will reach 1.2 billion
dollars this year, compared with 400 million dollars in 1999, Egyptian
Economy and Foreign Trade Minister Yussef Butros-Ghali said Wednesday.
"Egyptian exports will reach two billion
dollars next year," Butros-Ghali added at a meeting with his
Iraqi counterpart Mohammed Mahdi Saleh, the official Egyptian news
agency MENA said.
Egypt's main exports to Iraq include cereals,
sugar, medicines, medical equipment and cars.
Libya-Lebanon in trade deal
Libya is to give Lebanon 5,000 tonnes of oil under
an agreement aimed at strengthening relations between Tripoli and
Beirut, Libyan foreign ministry spokesman Hassuna Shaush told AFP
The deal also provides for Lebanon to buy Libyan
fertiliser, while Libya will purchase 15,000 tonnes of Lebanese apples
and an unspecified quantity of tobacco.
In June Libya lifted a six-month suspension on
visas for Lebanese visitors to the north African country, while its
ambassador offered Tripoli's help in rebuilding southern Lebanon after
Israel ended its 22-year occupation.
Many Lebanese hope the new parliament that emerges
from current elections will redress a stumbling economy, fight
corruption and reform a sectarian political system little changed
since the 1975-90 civil war.
"We want the new parliament to bring activity
to the country. We need to live. We need money and our weak economy
drags us down," said Saeed, a taxi driver and father of four.
Walid Shoukair, an analyst for the London-based
Arabic-language newspaper al-Hayat, said the new parliament should
work on legislation to attract much-needed foreign investment, create
jobs and boost industry.
Syria to issue banking secrecy law soon
Syria will soon issue a law on banking secrecy,
Economy and Foreign Trade Minister Mohammed Imadi said on Monday.
"We will take the necessary action to issue a
law on the banking secrecy soon and continue to work to improve the
investment climate in Syria," he said in a speech at the opening
of the Damascus International Trade Fair.
Banks in Syria, which were nationalised when the
ruling Arab Socialist Baath Party took power in 1968, are all owned,
operated and managed by the government. There has been no law on
banking secrecy in the country.
Saudi Arabia hikes permits fees
Saudi Arabia has decided to increase the fees for
renewing residence and work permits for those foreigners living and
working in the kingdom.
The charges for new permits and for their renewal
have been increased by 100 and 50 Saudi riyals, respectively per
According to a royal decree, to be promulgated
soon, copies of which were made available to the local press, SR600
will be charged, against SR500, for renewing the residence permits and
SR150 will be charged for work permit against the current SR100.
Iran develops radar detector
Iran has successfully developed an electronic radar
detector, defence minister Ali Shamkhani announced on Saturday. The
development is the most significant of eight military research
programmes that have recently been successfully concluded, the
minister said in comments quoted by IRNA.
Algerian PM resigns
Algerian Prime Minister Ahmed Benbitour on Saturday
presented his government's resignation and was replaced by President
Abdelaziz Bouteflika's chief of staff, Mr Ali Benflis.