Jan 29 -
Feb 04, 2001
Kuwait ups spending in new budget
OPEC member Kuwait will boost spending by an
annualised 10 per cent in the 2001/02 fiscal year, raising net
expenditure in a new draft budget to a projected 5.274 billion dinars
Finance Minister Sheikh Ahmad Al-Abdullah Al-Sabah
disclosed some figures of the proposed April/March budget after
presenting a detailed report to a parliamentary committee.
The committee reviews the draft budget before
sending it to the full elected parliament for approval.
Sheikh said oil revenue, the main source of income,
was calculated at an OPEC quota of 2.141 million barrels per day and
an average price of $15, compared with $13 for the current fiscal
period and $10 a barrel in the 1998/99 fiscal year.
Kuwait's output quota drops to 2.021 million bpd as
of February 1 as part of an effort by OPEC to shore up prices.
Kuwait has said OPEC could cut output further if
Sheikh Ahmad said the budget was calculated at a
barrel production price of 400 fils and an exchange rate of 305 fils
to the dollar. There are 1,000 fils to the dinar.
The minister put oil income in the new budget at a
projected 3.263 billion dinars and non-oil revenue at a forecast 568.5
million dinars, a total of 3.8315 billion dinars.
The projected net deficit, which officials expect
to disappear if Kuwaiti crudes stay above $21 a barrel, is projected
at 1.4425 billion dinars, rising to a gross 1.8257 billion dinars
after allocations are made to a foreign investment fund.
By law, Kuwait must deposit 10 per cent of its
total budget income with the state's Kuwait Investment Authority (KIA)
which runs a global portfolio worth some $60 billion.
The measure, Sheikh Ahmad said, raises projected
gross expenditure to 5.6572 billion dinars.
Jordanian parliament approves $3.2 bln budget
Jordan's parliament has approved a
3.2-billion-dollar budget for 2001, with spending up 14 per cent from
a year earlier and a deficit representing six per cent of gross
The 2.3-billion-dinar budget (3.243 billion
dollars) was approved late Thursday by a vote of 52 out of the
80-member lower house, and with eight abstentions, after three days of
debate and a fist fight between two deputies.
Deputies had threatened to vote against the budget
if the government went ahead with plans to raise the cost of petrol at
the pumps to make up for a shortfall in revenues.
Last week, Prime Minister Ali Abu Ragheb said
petrol prices would remain unchanged "for the moment",
justifying the turnaround by the fact that crude prices had dropped
since November, when the 2001 budget was planned.
The bulk of the 14 per cent spending increase will
be devoted to capital investments.
The deficit of 380 million dinars (around 535.8
million dollars), which excludes grants, is unchanged from 2000 in GDP
On Thursday Abu Ragheb told parliament the
government would try to implement a 12 per cent cut in expenditures
across the board in response to a recommendation made by parliament's
Most of the 67 deputies who spoke during the debate
also asked the government to fight "nepotism and
corruption". There were also renewed calls for a cut in relations
As the debate came to an end Thursday, two MPs
traded blows and insults, after accusing each other of making
statements undermining national unity.
State television interrupted its live coverage of
the session as independent MPs Khalil Attiyeh and Ahmad Al-Abbadi
clashed briefly before being separated by their colleagues.
The pair was strongly chastised by Speaker Abdel
Hadi Majali, who accused them of "injuring democracy" in
Jordan and ordered them to kiss and make up.
Armenia-Iran pipeline project to begin
The construction of a gas pipeline that would
transit Iranian gas to the former Soviet republic of Armenia will
begin this year, Armenian Energy Minister Karen Galustyan said
The 140-kilometre (48-mile) pipeline should cost
some 138 million dollars and should be completed within months,
Armenia will begin the construction by building a
section of the pipeline between its southern towns of Megri and
Kadzharan, a project worth some 26 million dollars.
The exact price for Iranian gas supplies was not
yet determined, the minister said.
An international consortium — including Russia's
gas giant Gazprom, France's Gas de France, Iran's National Gas Company
and Armenia's energy ministry — will be created for the building of
Jordan, Iran discuss water project cooperation
Jordan decided Sunday to send a delegation to
Tehran to discuss Iranian participation in a water project, as the two
countries pledged to boost their commercial exchanges, an official
source here said.
Jordanian Trade Minister Wasef Azar, meeting with
his Iranian counterpart Mohamad Shariatmadari, said a Jordanian team
would soon go to Tehran "to look at Iranian participation"
in pumping water from the underground basin at Disi in the south of
Shariatmadari said he hoped Jordan would
"decide quickly on Iranian participation in this project."
The Iranian minister was in Amman with parliament speaker Mehdi Karubi,
the highest-ranking Iranian official to visit Jordan since the 1979
The Iranian and Jordanian trade ministers also
looked at "ways to encourage joint investments and increase
bilateral exchanges, which did not go over 13 million Jordanian dinars
(18 million dollars) in 2000." They also stressed the need to
sign agreements to prevent double taxation and promote joint
Iraq to sign free trade agreement with Syria
Iraq will soon sign a free trade agreement with
Syria similar to that signed with Egypt last week, Iraq's Deputy Prime
Minister Tareq Aziz said on Sunday.
"We are going to sign a similar agreement with
the Syrian leadership," Aziz told reporters.
Iraq, still under UN sanctions for its 1990
invasion of Kuwait, signed a free trade agreement with Egypt on
Thursday during a rare visit to Cairo by Iraqi Vice-President Taha
The agreement, which needs to be ratified by
Egypt's parliament, was expected to boost Egyptian exports to Iraq to
$1 billion a year.
Aziz did not say whether he or other Iraqi official
would travel to Syria to sign the agreement or if Syrian officials
would come to Baghdad.
Ties between Syria and Iraq, ruled by rival
factions of the Baath Party, were broken because of differences over
Iraq's 1980-1988 war against Iran and invasion of Kuwait in 1990.
Saudi seeks $160 bln investment
Oil-dependent Saudi Arabia needs to invest up to
$160 billion over 20 years to turn the kingdom into a
"semi-industrial" country, a senior Industry Ministry
official said in remarks published on Sunday.
Saleh al-Hosseini, undersecretary at the Ministry
of Industry and Electricity, told the pan-Arab Al-Hayat daily that an
unspecified per centage of those investments could come from foreign
Hosseini said ministry studies showed the kingdom
"needed to invest about 30 billion riyals ($8 billion) annually
over 20 years to turn the kingdom into a semi-industrial state",
the London-based newspaper said.
Hosseini said the kingdom planned to double the
contribution of the industrial sector to its gross domestic product
(GDP) to 20 per cent by 2020.
Saudi Arabia, the world's largest exporter of oil,
is trying to reduce its dependence on crude which provides the kingdom
with more than three quarters of its revenues.
Oil prices trickle down to $26
The price of oil eased back to $26 a barrel on
Thursday morning, when traders awaited fresh inspiration from the US
Reference Brent North Sea crude for March delivery
was selling for $26 a barrel, from 26.26 at the previous close.
In New York, the benchmark light sweet crude March
contract closed down 52 cents at $29.05 on Wednesday.
The basket price used by the Organisation of
Petroleum Exporting Countries to help set output quotas edged up to
$25.39 a barrel on Wednesday, from $25.33 Tuesday, the OPECNA news
Egypt shares seen booming
Egypt's equity market, which has seen share prices
halved over the last year, is set to soar as soon as uncertainty over
currency policy is removed, analysts said on Wednesday.
Many foreign equity investors are calling for the
pound to be floated and for greater clarity and transparency in
macroeconomic policy, especially on the currency.
Saudi bourse dips nearly 2%
The Saudi stock market lost 1.8 per cent in the
week ending Thursday as oil prices continued to ease despite OPEC's
decision to cut output to stabilise the market, Bakheet Financial
Advisors (BFA) reported.
The NCFEI all-shares index in the world's top oil
exporting and producing country closed the week at 2,297.15, down from
2,339.07 points the previous week.
The National Bank of Bahrain (NBB) said Wednesday
it posted a net profit of 44 million dollars in 2000, up slightly from
42.4 million dollars a year earlier.
Opposition criticises Bahrain's political reforms
The exiled Bahraini opposition charged Wednesday
that the political reforms planned in Bahrain would transfer powers to
a king at the expense of parliament, which is to be restored after 26
"The government wants to force the people to
sign a blank check transferring all the powers of parliament to the
king," Mansur al-Jamri, spokesman of London-based Bahrain Freedom
Movement, told AFP.
"What use is parliament if, from a
constitutional point of view, all the power lies in the hands of the
king?" he asked.
The emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Issa Al-Khalifa, said
Tuesday that a national charter to create a constitutional monarchy
and restore parliament would be put to a referendum on February 14 and
"All Bahrainis, men and women, are invited to
go to polling places to give their opinion on the proposed national
charter," he said in a decree.
US oil firms
Despite Washington's entrenched hardline stance
towards Baghdad, US oil companies are filling up to the rim with Iraqi
oil as their European counterparts stand in the cold and watch as
"It's astounding. Washington is making the
loudest noise over Iraq and yet the US remains the principal
destination for Iraqi barrels," said an oil executive.
"And most European oil majors whose
governments have the most liberal attitude towards Iraq are refusing
to touch the stuff."
A leading Kuwaiti opposition lawmaker on Monday
launched a bitter attack in parliament against a controversial
government plan to allow oil majors to produce in the OPEC member and
said it was a "sell out" deal.
MP Ahmad Al-Saadoun, a fomrer three-time parliament
speaker, told the government "the 'Kuwait Project' should be
renamed 'Project to sell Kuwait'".
Emirates bans European beef imports
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has banned all beef
imports from the European Union, Scandinavia and eastern Europe
because of fears of "mad cow" disease, according to a decree
The Agriculture and Fisheries Ministry said the ban
also covered imports of fodder from the same countries.
The UAE, which imports about 30,000 tonnes of meat
a year, is the first Gulf state to ban Scandinavian and east European
Earlier this month Qatar urged the Gulf oil
monarchies to reach a consensus on meat imports after Saudi Arabia
banned EU beef and mutton. A week ago Bahrain banned EU beef imports.
Egypt's OT wins
A subsidiary of Egyptian-based regional cellular
operator Orascom Telecom (OT) has won a bid for a Syrian GSM mobile
phone licence on a 15-year contract, it said on Sunday.
Oman-India urea project
A planned Indian-Omani urea plant has faced a new
delay and the decision to build the $969 million project will be
decided by the Indian cabinet next week, diplomats and project
officials said on Sunday. "The future of the project is in the
hands of the Indian cabinet," said Sanjiv Kohli, first secretary
at the Indian embassy in Muscat. He would not elaborate.
In June, an official from Oman India Fertiliser
Company said the construction of the plant was due to start early this
Algeria signs $2 bln oil and gas deal
Algeria's state oil and gas giant Sonatrach on
Saturday signed a $2 billion investment deal with Malaysia's Petronas
and France's Gaz de France (GdF) for the exploration and development
of an oil and gas field over the next 25 years, company officials
Under the terms of the agreement, Petronas will
take a 45 per cent share of the project located in southern Algeria,
Gaz de France 25 per cent and Sonatrach 30 per cent.
The three companies will work together on finding
new oil and gas fields and build a 380-km (240-mile) pipeline.
The deal covers "the exploration, development
and exploitation in partnership of hydrocarbon resources, particularly
gas resources estimated at around 140 billion cubic metres (5 trillion
cubic feet) in the Ahnet region 1,400 km (870 miles) south-west of
Algiers," a Sonatrach statement said.
Oman to invite investors
Oman plans to invite private companies to bid for
three of the largest operational power plants in the Gulf Arab state,
an Electricity Ministry official said on Saturday.
"Unlike the previous power privatisation
projects, we are now going to privatise existing plants which are
fully operational. The plants will be managed by private companies
which will relieve the ministry's responsibility of running the power
stations," the official said. He said it would be the first time
Oman had opened an existing plant to private investors.
The official said the three plants have a total
power capacity of 1.6 gigawatts.
Arab banks set for good profits
Arab banks are poised for another year of
significant growth after their combined 2000 net profits rose 12 per
cent to $9.3 billion on the back of improved oil prices, the Union of
Arab Banks said on Friday.