Apr 09 -
Riyadh to attract foreign investment in gas sector
Saudi Arabia and the other states in the region are
increasingly looking at gas as an economically interesting product. This clean
fuel is taking on an increasingly prominent role in the Saudi economic strategy.
The recent Saudi initiative to attract foreign investment in
the energy sector is revolving around up and downstream gas projects. The clean
fuel is gradually assuming a pivotal position in the Saudi strategy. It is being
estimated here that some $45 billion over a 22-year period will be invested in
upstream gas production and processing facilities.
Prince Saudi Al-Faisal who is heading the Saudi team, in
negotiations with the major oil companies of the world, has been reported as
saying that the initiative will yield a foreign investment to the tune of $100
billion over the coming years.
LNG exports could also assume the role of the engine for
growth for the region. The market prospects are however, at present limited to
mostly the Gulf region. In Asia there is competition from the South East Asian
producers that have a geographical advantage. Pakistan, which until recently was
considered a natural destination, has discovered its own reserves of natural
gas, many in the industry here believe.
Analysts therefore, here say that in the short to medium
term, Pakistan may not need to import gas. India, where gas usage is expected to
increase by an average of 8% per year until 2020, thus provides the only viable
market for LNG. Hence agreements are in place for LNG imports in India from
Oman's RasGas and discussions are also under way for imports of natural gas from
Energy analysts here in Dhahran are also keeping a close eye
in this respect on the outcome of Indian Prime Minister's upcoming visit to
Tehran. However, gas remains the focus of attention here. Saudi Arabia has
proven gas reserves of 204.5 trillion cubic feet; most of which are currently in
the form of associated gas mainly from the Ghawar and Safaniyeh fields.
Syria wants EU help for $5.66 bln plan
Syria will need to spend $5.66 billion in a decade to make
its manufacturing industries competitive after signing a free trade agreement
with the European Union, a senior official said on Wednesday.
Dr Mohammed Tawfiq Simaq, head of Syria's Industry Committee
who is on the team negotiating the Association Agreement, expressed hope that
the 15-nation bloc would provide generous help to finance the plan.
It would be implemented during a transitional 10-12-year
period after the signing of the deal, he told Reuters in an interview.
Simaq said financial assistance and other subjects would be
discussed at the next round of negotiations in Damascus on April 23.
"We expect the EU to provide generous assistance to
allow us to implement this important industrial rehabilitation plan costing
$5.66 billion," Simaq said.
Damascus would call for agricultural products to be among
commodities included in the deal, he added. It did not want tariff-free
commodities exchanges restricted to industrial commodities as the EU demanded.
Damascus would also urge a "more fair" distribution
of EU aid to the Middle East to give Damascus "a share that goes in line
with its important role in the area," Simaq said.
Syria received 1.2 per cent of the EU's $24.4 billion aid to
the region in 1990-1998, while Israel received 32 per cent, Turkey 28 per cent,
Tunisia 11 per cent and Egypt 8.5, he noted.
Syria began negotiating in 1998 for an Association Agreement
that would create free trade between Damascus and the EU.
The deal, which will replace bilateral agreements between
Syria and EU members, also will include political, economic, educational and
Egypt seeks free trade pact with the US
Egypt is seeking a free trade agreement with the United
States that could offer US companies "a doorway" to Africa, the Middle
East and Europe, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak announced on Tuesday.
The Egyptian leader, in a speech prepared for delivery to the
US Chamber of Commerce, said such an accord would consolidate a decade of
reforms in Egypt that have expanded the role of the private sector, reduced
government regulations and opened the economy to greater foreign investment.
Mubarak is currently in the United States on an official
visit, and on Monday became the first Arab leader to confer with President
George W. Bush.
Palestinian budget faces $526 m 2001 deficit
Palestinian lawmakers on Wednesday approved the 2001 budget
with a deficit of $526 million, which they said might rise to $605 million by
year-end if Israeli restrictions persisted.
The budget, administered by the Palestinian Authority, runs
from January 1 to December 31 and covers about three million people in the West
Bank, Gaza and Arab East Jerusalem.
Lawmakers said it was approved after taking into
consideration harsh economic conditions experienced by the Palestinian Authority
and its people since the outbreak of their uprising against Israeli occupation
more than six months ago.
Daoud Al-Zeer, head of the Palestinian Legislative Council's
budget committee, told Reuters the Authority's revenues in 2001 were expected to
drop to $758 million from $1 billion last year.
He said the decrease was the direct result of an Israeli
blockade on Palestinian areas. Israel said it imposed the restrictions at the
start of the uprising for security reasons.
Kuwait finances strong as GDP expands by 27.7pc
The finances of small Opec member Kuwait are at record
strength mainly due to a sharp rise in oil earnings, but the state-dominated
economy is still suffering from a slowdown as the country mulls major economic
Kuwait, which depends almost solely on oil income, reported
on Tuesday a 27.7 per cent growth in nominal GDP for 2000 while economists
expect the net budget surplus in the fiscal period to end-March 2001 to come in
at $3.9 billion.
According to Planning Ministry figures obtained by Reuters,
Kuwait's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) at current prices soared in 2000 to a
provisional 11.59 billion dinars from nine billion the previous year and 7.74
billion dinars in 1998.
The 27.7 per cent growth follows a GDP rise of 17.2 per cent
in 1999 when the average price for Kuwaiti crudes rose to $16.73 a barrel from
$10.62 in 1998. The average in 2000 was $25.7.
GDP fell 15 per cent in 1998 to 7.742 billion dinars.
Growth from oil in 2000 GDP was 66.4 per cent following a
41.5 per cent gain in 1999 and a drop of 34.7 per cent in 1998.
Riyadh extends meat import ban
Saudi Arabia has extended a ban on beef and mutton imports to
include several Arab, African and Asian states to prevent a spread of
foot-and-mouth disease to the kingdom.
A trade circular issued by the Saudi trade ministry on Sunday
said the temporary ban covered all mutton and beef products from Gulf Arab and
African states, in addition to Pakistan, China, Syria, Jordan and Yemen.
The circular said the decision was taken in light of reports
by the International Epizootic Office (OIE) the world's animal health
organization — and recent media reports on cases of foot-and-mouth disease in
Saudi Arabia banned imports of beef and mutton from Turkey
and Lebanon last month due to concerns over the disease, which is not harmful to
humans but can cause severe weight loss in livestock.
Israel hits Palestinians post with mortars
The Israeli army fired mortars on a position of Palestinian
leader Yasser Arafat's elite Force 17 on Wednesday, saying it was the first time
it had used such weapons against the Palestinians, while scattered clashes broke
out in the Gaza Strip and West Bank.
The army said the strike at a Force 17 post in the northern
Gaza Strip was in response to a Palestinian mortar attack on a nearby Jewish
settlement of Netzarim in the early hours of Wednesday.
"It is the first time that the Israeli Defence Forces
has fired mortar shells. however the other side has fired them many times,"
an army spokeswoman said.
A Palestinian security source and witnesses said at least
five bombs were fired on the post, leaving several rooms damaged but no one
Syria to recognize Palestinian passports
Syria has begun to admit holders of passports issued by
Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Authority, amid improving relations between Arafat
and the Damascus government, former Palestinian parliament speaker Khaled Al-Fahum
Several Palestinian officials and ordinary citizens have
travelled to Syria recently on Palestinian Authority passports, said Fahum, who
heads the Damascus-based National Palestinian Salvation Front, opposed to
Sudan plane crash
Sudan's deputy defense minister and 14 other military
personnel were immediately buried after a plane crash which has thrown the
capital into mourning, newspapers and state television said on Thursday.
They were laid to rest in the oil-producing area of Adar Yiel,
about 500 km (300 miles) south of Khartoum, after the crash in war-torn southern
Sudan on Wednesday, the independent Al-Ayyam paper said. The daily Alwan said 16
survivors were flown to Khartoum.
State radio said the plane carrying Colonel Ibrahim Shams
Al-Din, state minister in the ministry of National Defense, had overshot the
runway at Adar Yiel and crashed, killing the colonel and 14 others.
Israel, Palestinians hold talks
Israel and the Palestinians held their highest-level meeting
in two months on Wednesday ahead of US-arranged talks on ending clashes.
Shortly after the meeting between Israeli Foreign Minister
Shimon Peres and Palestinian ministers Nabil Shaath and Saeb Erekat in Athens, a
fierce gun battle between Israeli soldiers and Palestinians erupted near the
West Bank city of Nablus.
Mubarak met US Donald Rumsfeld
Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak met US Defence Secretary
Donald Rumsfeld on Tuesday and a Pentagon official said they discussed bilateral
ties and violence that has stalled the Middle East peace process.
The two men talked for about 45 minutes at Blair House, the
official US guest residence across the street from the White House, according to
Pentagon spokesman Brian Whitman.
"They spoke of the strong bilateral relations between
our countries and discussed regional issues," Whitman told Reuters.
He said the two did not discuss any potential American arms
sales to Egypt. The United States is Egypt's biggest supplier of military
Kuwait bourse fell 2.2 pc
Kuwait's stock market fell 2.2 per cent in the week to
Wednesday, ending a rally which pulled the market up 12 per cent from five-year
lows in January.
The Kuwait Stock Exchange (KSE) index has been on a steady
weekly rise since mid-January but this week it fell 32 points to 1,430.9 points
after hitting a year high of 1,475.1 on March 28.
"The decline started on March 31, otherwise we would
have finished the month up maybe 8-9 per cent," said Sami Al-Hasawi of
Kuwait Finance Centre. "This is a healthy correction and the gains are
Some of the blue chips are still up 20-25 per cent for the
year." Traders said the decline was partly due to profit taking but also
the halting of a plan by the state to sell half of its 49.2 per cent stake in
Mobiles Telecommunications Co (MTC) for just over half-a-billion dollars.
Egypt, eager to secure a foothold in Iraq's promising market,
has organised a trade fair in Baghdad in a further step towards enhancing ties
with its Gulf War foe Iraq.
A total of 180 Egyptian firms exhibited products that
included food, medicine, construction materials, vehicles and electrical
appliances in the fair, the first by Egypt following the signing of a free trade
agreement with Iraq in January.
UAE exempts import duty
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has decided to exempt
Palestinian products from import duties in line with an Arab summit resolution,
newspapers reported Tuesday.
The move by the Emirati cabinet Monday "falls into the
framework of support from the UAE to the Palestinian people in the current
circumstances," Palestinian consul general in Dubai Salim Abu Sultan told.
Banks face tough times
Long considered the showcase of a glamorous economy, the
shine is coming off Lebanese banks as they face the possibility of another year
of declining profits.
Overall profitability fell 20 per cent to $348 million last
year, compared with $436 million in 1999 and $503 million in 1998. Returns on
assets and equity have been also declining.
The banking system is geared effectively to finance the
debt-ridden government with the central bank discreetly convincing Lebanon's 75
family-dominated banks to lend to the state when almost everyone else thought it
was too risky.
The banks have benefited handsomely by assuming Lebanon's
sovereign risk. The majority of their profits after the 1975-90 civil war came
from buying Lebanese pound treasury bills, yields of which reached around 40 per
cent in 1995.
Dmg Index Exhibitions, organisers of the annual Index
interiors and furniture show held in Dubai, has signed up the soon-to-open
five-star deluxe Dusit Dubai as the official Index 2001 hotel.
"As one of the closest hotels to the Dubai World Trade
Centre, Dusit Dubai has trade shows, their exhibitors and visitors as key
customer targets," said Steve Jones, Director of Sales and Marketing, Dusit
Dubai. "As Index is now the largest event to be held at the DWTC, it was
essential that we built a working relationship with the organisers."