27 - Sep 02 , 2001
High oil revenues spur Bahrain construction boom
Political stability and higher oil revenues have
spurred a construction boom in Bahrain after years of stagnation,
officials and economists said on Wednesday.
They said the government and the private sector
planned to pour billions of dollars into tourism, infrastructure and
housing projects across the tiny Gulf Arab island state over the next
"The government is spending more on
construction projects because of high oil prices," said Finance
Ministry official Mahmoud Al-Khoohaji.
He said Gulf Arab investors planned to build three
tourist projects worth around $2 billion, taking advantage of the
social freedom and political stability in Bahrain following landmark
reforms by Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa.
The island's proximity to Saudi Arabia, the Arab
world's wealthiest country, makes it a popular destination for
thousands of Saudis lured by its more permissive society.
A government body chaired by Crown Prince Sheikh
Salman bin Hamad Al-Khalifa has been set up to oversee construction
Bahrain has recently awarded several projects to
local and international firms, including a $300 million deal to
France's Alstom Power to build a 700 megawatt power station.
It also plans to modernise its ageing oil refinery
at a cost of around $1 billion, and expand the production capacity of
the mainly state-owned Aluminium Bahrain (Alba) at a cost of $1.7
Economists say the projects are part of an
ambitious plan unveiled by the government in June to spend 2.0 billion
dinars ($5.31 billion) on housing and infrastructure projects over the
next few years. The government gave no time frame.
"It's part of a long-term programme to boost
the standard of living because Bahrain, with limited resources, cannot
afford to spend such huge money in a couple of years," said
economist Jasim Hussain Ali.
Gulf optical, ophthalmic products sales pegged at
An estimated US$2 billion (Dhs 6.5 billion) is
spent annually on sunglasses, contact lenses, frames and eye-care
products in the Gulf region where harsh climatic conditions and high
purchasing power keeps the demand forbranded optical and ophthalmic
products high throughout the year.
The Middle East International Optical and
Ophthalmic Exhibition, the biennial exhibition of the eyewear,
eye-care and ophthalmic industry organised by the Dubai World Trade
Centre (DWTC) is the largest trade show of its kind in the whole of
Middle East. The 5th Middle East International Optical and Ophthalmic
Exhibition (Optical Middle East 2002) will be held at the DWTC from
February 14 to 17, 2002.
According to industry estimates the eyewear and
eye-care industry business in the UAE accounts for an annual turnover
of US $ 300 million which is about 15 per cent of the total demand
from the GCC region. Saudi Arabia is the biggest market for optical
products in the Gulf with annual sales turnover of more than US $800
million. The other GCC countries such as Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and
Qatar sell in the range for US $ 120 to 150 million annually.
"The Middle East region is a very huge market
for optical products and demand for eyewear and eye-care products has
been growing steadily. There are a large number of companies who
manufacture optical products locally. Besides, almost all the leading
international brands are represented in the market. Optical Middle
East 2002 provides the trade with an opportunity to interact under one
roof and also expand and explore business opportunities in the Middle
East and the neighbouring regions," said Vijay Menon,
international project manager, Optical Middle East 2002.
Optical Middle East 2002 targets a large number of
multinationals and regional players in the optical and ophthalmic
business who are looking at expanding their market presence in the
Qatar's central bank cuts interest rate to boost
Qatar's central bank said Thursday it cut interest
rates by 0.25 per centage points to 4 per cent to give a boost to the
Gulf State's economy, the official QNA news agency reported.
The bank said the cut would stimulate the economy,
as well as acting as a boost for the bourse and the real-estate
market, QNA said.
The move followed closely on the heels of the US
Federal Reserve's quarter-point interest rate cut to 3.25 points on
Tuesday to stimulate the economy.
The last reduction in Qatari rates was by a quarter
basis point in July.
Kuwait cut its discount rate by a quarter basis
point to 5.25 per cent on Wednesday, maintaining its policy of staying
line with measures implemented by the Federal Reserve.
Iraq says it received only $13 bln of its oil
Iraq has received only 13 billion dollars out of a
possible 47 billion dollars generated through oil revenues in a
UN-supervised humanitarian programme, Oil Minister Mohammad Mehdi
Saleh said Thursday.
The United Nations had deducted 16 billion dollars
from revenues generated by sales of oil under the oil-for-food
programme introduced in December 1996, Saleh said, quoted by the
official INA news agency.
The deductions go towards financing UN activities
in Iraq and paying compensation to the victims of the Iraqi invasion
of Kuwait in 1990.
Saleh said the remaining 12 billion dollars
represent unrealized revenues from contracts Iraq signed with foreign
companies but blocked by the US and British representatives on the UN
Natural gas to help dispel Cairo's fumes
With more than a million cars spewing exhaust fumes
into the air each day, the Pyramids and pollution have become the twin
hallmarks of this ancient city in the Arab world's most populous
But some scientists say there is light on the
Advocates of natural gas promise to dispel the
dreary haze that blankets Cairo with a new technology they say is
safe, cheap and clean. They say compressed natural gas, or CNG, is the
"CNG is a fully combustible, non-sulphuric
fuel which is completely safe and environment-friendly," said
Salah el-Hagaar, professor of mechanical engineering at the American
University in Cairo.
Over the past five years, Egypt has become one of
the main countries using CNG as a transport fuel.
Emirati GDP grows 20% in 2000
The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the United Arab
Emirates (UAE) soared by 20.4 per cent in 2000 on the back of hiked
crude prices, the central bank announced in report published Monday.
The report, quoted by the official WAM agency, said
the oil and gas sectors of the UAE generated 22.3 billion dollars in
revenue in 2000, up 64 per cent from the previous year.
Non-oil sectors generated 43.3 billion dollars in
2000, accounting for 66.1 per cent of GDP, against 41.1 billion in
1999, the report said.
The bank also said per capita GDP increased by 13.8
per cent over the same period to reach 21,253 dollars.
The UAE's balance of payments for 2000 boasted a
2.83-billion-dollar surplus in 2000, the report added.
The bank also said the federation's population
jumped by 5.8 per cent in 2000 to reach 3.1 million inhabitants.
According to official estimates, 80 per cent the
UAE's population are expatriates, mainly Asians.
Iraq-Egypt free trade agreement in force
The free trade agreement between Iraq and Egypt,
which calls for the end to all customs barriers between the two
countries, is now in force, Iraqi Trade Minister Mohammad Mehdi Saleh
"The free trade agreement, signed between Iraq
and Egypt on January 18, came into effect in mid-August," Saleh
said, quoted by the official INA news agency.
Iraq will also organise a trade fair in Cairo from
September 15-25, a ministry official told Al-Rai weekly newspaper.
Relations between Baghdad and Cairo, which was part
of the US-led coalition that ousted Iraqi forces from Kuwait, have
greatly improved over the past two years.
Saudi bourse keeps rising
The bullish Saudi bourse climbed a further 0.9 per
cent to close the week Thursday at its highest level since 1985 on the
back of gains in the banking and cement sectors and high crude prices,
Bakheet Financial Advisors (BFA) reported.
The NCFEI all-shares index closed at 2,570.51
points, up from 2,546.94 last Thursday. It is now 13.8 per cent higher
than at the beginning of the year, Bakheet said.
Israel fires missiles at Gaza police post
Israel fired two surface-to-surface missiles at a
Palestinian police station near the Khan Younis refugee camp in the
Gaza Strip on Wednesday, wounding seven policemen, Palestinian police
and medical officials said.
A police spokesman said the station belonged to
Palestinian civil police.
The Israeli army confirmed the strike and claimed
it followed "the launch of mortar bombs at the Gush Katif
(Jewish) settlements" in Gaza.
Palestinian National Security Forces chief
Abdel-Razek Al Majaydeh denied that mortars had been fired recently
and branded the Israeli claim "completely false."
African countries launch Internet news agency
Seven African countries and Malaysia late on Monday
launched a web-based news service which, they said, would help counter
alleged misrepresentation of Africa in the international media.
The Smart News Network International (SNNI) was
launched at a ceremony attended by the presidents of Uganda, South
Africa, Tanzania, Burundi, Sudan, Malawi and Mozambique and the prime
minister of Malaysia.
The leaders are in Uganda to attend a meeting of
presidents, government officials and business people dubbed Global
2001 Smart Partnership Dialogue.
Kuwait's stock market raced to a new year high in
the week to Wednesday, rising 3.4 per cent as investors flush with
cash tested new upper limits.
On Wednesday, the Kuwait Stock Exchange (KSE) index
closed up 1.28 per cent at 1,784.8 points. It had crossed above the
1,700 mark for the first time in 2-1/2 years in early July.
Iraq, Yemen sign accord
Yemen and Iraq signed an agreement on Tuesday to
set up a free trade zone, during a visit to Sanaa by Iraqi Vice
President Taha Yassin Ramadan, an official said.
Ramadan, who later left Sanaa for Damascus, signed
the accord with Yemeni Prime Minister Abdul Qader Bajammal following a
meeting of the Iraqi-Yemen joint commission.
Bajammal said on Monday that a free trade agreement
would broaden cooperation between the two countries and be part of
wider efforts to create an Arab common market.
AAME Dubai show
Next year's seventh edition of Automotive
Aftermarket Middle East Exhibition (AAME), Dubai's annual
international trade show for automobile parts, accessories, tyres,
batteries and garage equipment, will introduce a range of
sophisticated B2B initiatives, in its drive to expand its reach and
exceed this year's book orders of US$ 5 million.
Iraq claims 10 mln barrels a day oil capacity
Iraq could increase oil output to 10 million
barrels per day (bpd) from its current capacity of three million bpd
with the development of new fields, Oil Minister Amer Rashid said
"Iraq could boost production capacity to 10
million bpd as soon as it starts to develop its new oilfields, which
are on top of the 74 fields already in operation," Rashid told Al-Rafidain weekly.
Rashid said on August 4 that Iraq was looking to
raise output to six million bpd, a plan it says has been scuppered by
the ongoing international sanctions imposed on Baghdad for invading
Kuwait in 1990.
OPEC grants Sudan observer status
The Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries
(OPEC) has given Sudan observer status at meetings of the oil cartel,
Sudanese Energy and Mining Minister Awad Ahmed Al-Jaz said on Monday.
Jaz hailed OPEC's invitation to attend meetings
from October as recognition of Sudan as an oil-producing country by an
influential oil body.
Sudan started exporting oil in mid-1999 from oil
fields in the centre of the country, which has been wracked by civil
war, mainly in the south, for the past 18 years.
The minister said more oil had been discovered
across the country and invited more companies to invest.