Dec 25 - 31, 2000
announces SR215 billion budget
Saudi Arabia has announced a balanced national budget for the first
time in seven years, with both expenditure and income during the fiscal 2001 projected at
Saudi Riyal (SR) 215 billion (US $57.33 billion approximately).
The budget was endorsed by the Council of Ministers at a meeting
chaired by King Fahd.
The budget projects an increase of 16.2 per cent (SR30 billion) in
expenditures over last year. For new development projects SR67 billion were allocated. It
has set an staggering SR53.3 billion, almost 25 per cent of total outlay, for education
and manpower training, eight per cent higher than the allocation for this sector during
the last fiscal year, 14.2 per cent of the total outlay was earmarked for health services,
2.7 per cent for transport, 5.2 per cent for industrial and agricultural sector and the
remaining 53.2 per cent are allocated under other heads.
The budget envisages to create more than 27,000 jobs in the health and
education sectors to absorb the swelling number of unemployed among the Saudis.
Due to buoyant oil market throughout last year, the kingdom's GDP has
recorded an impressive growth of 15.5 per cent during the previous fiscal year, King Fahd
noted with satisfaction during the cabinet meeting. The GDP last year was recorded at
SR618 billion against SR535 billion in 1999. The growth was attributed to increase in oil
prices and domestic production. The petroleum sector was expected to make a growth of 39.4
per cent at current prices. Growth in private sector was estimated at 3.13 per cent,
industry by seven per cent, construction three per cent, electricity and gas sector four
per cent and transport, storage and communications sector grew by three per cent.
According to preliminary data provided by Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency
(SAMA), current account is estimated to have recorded a surplus of SR55.6 billion during
2000. Non oil exports were estimated to have grown by 10.2 per cent in 2000, reaching a
figure of SR24 billion.
Bahrain heads towards monarchy
The Gulf Arab state of Bahrain took a step towards democracy, with a
high-level committee approving a plan to restore a directly elected parliament suspended
25 years ago and form a constitutional monarchy.
The committee, appointed by Bahrain's Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Issa
Al-Khalifa, approved the national charter as part of a modernisation programme aimed at
adapting to the country's "principles, foundations and values," the official GNA
"We have made our first steps on the road to democracy,"
declared a committee member, Ibrahim Beshmi, after the charter was adopted.
The committee assigned to examine the changes, presided over by Justice
Minister Sheikh Abdallah Ben Khaled Al-Khalifa, had been meeting overnight Monday, and
"unanimously approved" the project before it is submitted for final approval
Saturday by the emir, the agency said.
A text of the plan, cited by GNA, stipulates that the executive power
will be an elected parliament and a Majlis Al-Shura, or consultative council.
The committee also outlined plans to "adapt the constitution to
transform the state into constitutional monarchy," the report said.
It said the committee had underlined the necessity to consider the
"principles, foundations and values upon which society is built."
After approval by the emir, the reforms are set to be subject to a
referendum, official sources said without giving a date for a vote.
Bahrain's emir had announced Saturday that his Gulf Arab state, a close
ally of the neighbouring kingdom of Saudi Arabia, was to restore a directly elected
parliament, after the house was dissolved in 1975.
Bahrain could declare itself a kingdom without any change in the ruling
system, a senior official said on December 6, reacting to Arab press reports that the emir
planned to declare himself king.
Dialogue to resume in Washington, says Arafat
Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat said on Sunday that Israeli and
Palestinian delegations would hold separate talks on the peace process with US officials
in Washington in the coming days.
"Two delegations will go to Washington in the next few days to
examine with the US administration the ways of supporting and safeguarding the peace
process and confirming what has already been concluded," Arafat told reporters.
It would be the first major effort to revive negotiations since the
collapse of the Camp David peace summit in July and the explosion of Israeli-Palestinian
violence in September.
Palestinian information minister Yasser Abed Rabbo said earlier that
the Palestinian delegation would leave for Washington on Tuesday.
Mideast 2000 economies grew 5.1% on high oil
Economic growth in the Arab countries of the Middle East, excluding
Iraq, averaged 5.1 per cent in 2000 thanks to higher oil prices, a UN report said Tuesday.
Hazem Biblawi, secretary general of the Beirut-based United Nations
Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), said the estimated 2000 growth
compared with only 2.6 per cent in 1999 and 1.7 per cent in 1998.
Presenting an ESCWA report, Biblawi said the growth was due
"principally to the improvement in petroleum revenues due to rises in production and
prices." The ESCWA is made up of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates (UAE),
Bahrain, Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Syria and Yemen, as well as the Palestinian
Total oil revenues rose 70.8 per cent from a year earlier to 166
billion dollars, the report said.
Consequently, the six members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (Saudi
Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar and Kuwait) posted the strongest growth, averaging
5.8 per cent.
Egypt, Jordan and Yemen posted 3.2 percent growth rates, Syria was at
1.5 per cent growth and Lebanon at a rate of 1.0 per cent.
Oman's 9-month net income up
Oman's net revenues in the first nine months of 2000 rose by 37 per
cent to 1.5 billion rials ($3.9 billion) compared to the same period a year earlier thanks
to the firm oil price, a finance ministry official said on Saturday.
He put total net revenues in the first nine months of 1999 at 1.096
billion rials. "Net oil revenues accounted for 75 per cent of the total net revenues
in this period since Oman earned $11.24 per barrel of oil more than the previous nine
months when it sold its crude at an average price of $15.27 per barrel," he told
Reuters. He put net oil revenues in the year to September at 1.13 billion rials up from
676.8 million rials and natural gas income 45.5 million rials from 38.8 million rials.
Other revenues like custom duty and corporate taxes dropped due to a slow down of the
private sector's economy, he said without giving specific figures. The Gulf Arab state's
economy heavily depends on oil revenue that made up 65 per cent of its income in 1999.
Lebanon, Egypt, Syria signed $1b gas deal
Lebanon, Egypt and Syria signed on Friday a memorandum for an agreement
to build a regional gas pipeline worth $1 billion, Egyptian Oil Minister Sameh Fahmy said.
The pipeline, which would market Egyptian and Syrian gas, would start
near Arish in northern Egypt, run under the Mediterranean to Lebanon and then on to Turkey
and Jordan via Syria.
The agreement stipulated the establishment of two companies to build
and operate the pipeline within three to four years.
Two firms will be set up by the three countries and the private sector
to build and run the pipeline.
Al-Sharq (Orient) company will build and operate a 400 km (250 miles)
sea pipeline, running outside Israeli territorial waters, and market Egyptian gas.
The second firm, The Arab company, will build and operate a 400 km (250
miles) land pipeline and market the Syrian and Egytian gas.
Syria plans incentives for industrial sector
Syria plans to revitalise its industrial sector with an expected
package of tax breaks and cuts in raw material import duties, officials said.
The leadership of the ruling Baath Party met on Wednesday under the
chairmanship of President Bashar Al-Assad and agreed to reform both the private and state
industries, a presidential spokesman said.
Spokesman Joubran Kourieh said the meeting of the Regional Command (RC)
of the party discussed the status of the industrial sector and how to direct it to
serve the economic development of the country.
Decisions would be adopted in the next few days, he told Reuters
Kuwait bourse slips
Kuwaiti stocks fell 1.08 per cent in the week to Thursday in more
active trading as investors brushed off government promises of econonic reform, traders
The Kuwait Stock Exchange (KSE) index ended the week at 1,340.7 points,
down from 1,355.4 a week earlier. It has lost some seven per cent this year.
"The economic situation in the country is sluggish. We hear
nothing but words.
There are no reforms," a trader told Reuters.
"The government is lost and doesn't know what to do anymore.
People have lost confidence in their statements," another trader
Iraq to help reopen oil pipeline with Lebanon
Iraq will send technicians and experts to Lebanon to rehabilitate a
branch of the Iraqi-Syrian oil pipeline which used to carry Iraqi crude through Syria to
the Lebanese northern port city of Tripoli, an Iraqi newspaper said.
"Iraqi oil experts will start soon to extend technical help to
their Lebanese counterparts to reoperate the pipeline," Al- Qadissiya newspaper said
It said rehabilitation of the pipeline was discussed during a visit
paid by Lebanese ministers of trade and finance to Baghdad earlier this month.
Emirates 'delighted' by superjumbo launch
The Dubai-owned airline Emirates, which in July placed the first order
for the Airbus superjumbo, reacted with "delight" on Wednesday to the production
launch of the European consortium's A380.
"All of us at Emirates are delighted, but not surprised, that the
supervisory board of Airbus has given the green light to build the A380," said Sheikh
Ahmad bin Said Al-Maktoum, the airline's chairman.
"With air travel set to double in 15 years, a move towards larger
aircraft such as the A380 is the practicable way to meet passenger demand," he said
in a statement, a day after Airbus Industrie announced the launch of production.
Kuwait plays down Saudi oil production dispute
Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah on Monday denied that
Gulf oil giants Kuwait and Saudi Arabia were in dispute over reducing production to halt a
slide in prices.
"Kuwait and Saudi Arabia have never been any day in dispute over
oil," Sheikh Sabah, who also heads the emirate's Supreme Petroleum Council, told
reporters in parliament.
Kuwaiti Oil Minister Sheikh Saud Nasser Al-Sabah said last week that
OPEC will likely reduce oil production by a million barrels a day starting in January if
crude prices continue to go down.
Kuwaiti royal says taxes may be in store
Kuwait's foreign minister on Saturday floated the idea of imposing
taxes on Kuwaitis, who pay nothing for cradle-to-grave government services.
"Is it reasonable for the government to continue spending when
citizens don't contribute?" said Sheikh Sabah, asked about the issue by journalists.
"Everything at its right time," he said, without more detail.
Sheikh Sabah recently said Kuwait was determined to implement economic
reform in Kuwait, where more than 93 per cent of the 220,000 active-population Kuwaitis
are generously paid by the government for relatively short work days.
The kingdom's private sector is dominated by foreign labor.
US: Syria is obedient on Iraqi oil supplies
The US State Department said on Tuesday it had Syrian assurances that
Syria would not break the rules on sanctions against Iraq, despite reports that Iraqi oil
is crossing the border through a pipeline.
Oil industry sources say that Syria is receiving 150,000 barrels a day
of Iraqi crude through the recently reopened pipeline. Syrian officials have denied the
oil is flowing.
A US State Department official, who asked not to be named, said:
"The Syrian government is continuing to tell us that it doesn't intend to break the
sanctions. To our knowledge they haven't reached a final agreement with Iraq."
"We would view a violation with great concern and note that it is the obligation of
all UN members to respect UN resolutions," she added.
Iraq calls for new 'realistic' US policy
The official press urged the next US administration Thursday to work
out a new "realistic" policy to deal with Iraq.
"It would be stupid for the new American administration to follow
the reasoning put forward in the early 90s," said Babel, which is run by President
Saddam Hussein's eldest son, Uday.
"That would show a deep ignorance of the radical changes which
have since taken place, particularly with regard to Iraq," the daily said.
Israeli officer admits 'shoot to kill' policy
A senior Israeli officer has admitted that the army has been operating
a "shoot to kill" policy against Palestinians it suspects of committing attacks
against settlers or soldiers, public radio reported Thursday.
The officer, whose identity and rank were not disclosed, said the
policy had "succeeded in thwarting terrorist attacks," the radio reported,
adding that most operations were carried out by snipers.
Palestinians have accused Israel of "state terrorism" over
the killings, with at least 10 activists were assassinated in pinpoint attacks in recent
State-owned Indian Oil Corp (IOC) is expecting to buy more crude from
Iraq in the first quarter 2001 and is cutting back on spot oil imports, an Indian industry
official said on Monday.
IOC was the first customer to begin loading Iraqi crude last week after
Baghdad stopped exports because of a row over pricing of its barrels in December.
India later said it had used diplomatic channels to avoid paying a
surcharge that Iraq was demanding for its oil over the price approved by the United