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 3. FINANCE  4. POLICY
 5. TRADE  6. GULF

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GULF

July 08 - 14, 2002

RAPID DEVELOPMENT SEEN IN ARAB WORLD

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) officially launched its first annual report on Arab human development.

The Arab Human Development Report (HDR) 2002 was launched by Nadir Hadj Hammou, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative, in his office.

Hammou said although the report shows rapid development in various fields, the Arab world needs to work harder to be on a par with other developing countries.

He added that it is the first collective UNDP human development report for the 22 Arab League member countries.

"The report was officially launched at the League Secretariat in Cairo (Tuesday). And this is the official launch of the report in the UAE," the UN official said.

The report noted that Arab women have made considerable progress over the decades.

"The Arab region shows the fastest improvement in female education of any region, with female literacy expanding threefold since 1970, and primary and secondary enrolment doubling," the report said.

However, according to the report, the region's performance is weak in terms of empowering women to seek benefits from opportunities for economic and political participation.

In 1995, the Global HDR introduced the Gender Empowerment Measure (GEM) to measure the participation of women as reflected by income per person, women's share of professional and technical positions, and their share of parliamentary seats.

The report said the Arab region's ranking is lower than any region except sub-Saharan Africa.

CAPITAL FLOW TO GCC STILL WEAK

Reforms announced by GCC states to stimulate their oil-reliant economies have failed to lure enough investment and the problem has been compounded by tension in the Middle East and the September 11 bombings in the U.S., according to the United Nations.

In 2000, the six GCC countries, along with Iraq, Iran and other states in the region, attracted only $3.6 billion which accounted for just 0.3 per cent of total direct investment in developing nations, the UN's Economic and Social Commission for West Asia (ESCWA) said.

ESCWA, which groups most Middle East states, cited several obstacles for direct foreign investment in the region, including tension in the occupied Palestinian areas, the suicide attacks in the United States, flaws in investment laws and policies in some countries, absence of sufficient incentives for investors, and curbs on foreign capital.

"The flow of direct foreign capital into the GCC and other ESCWA members has remained very poor compared with other regions," it said in a report.

"While ESCWA states attracted 0.3 per cent of the total direct capital in developing countries, around 20 per cent of the worldwide investments was pumped into other developing nations. As for 2001, no exact estimates for investment have been obtained but the general picture does not present any optimism."

Most GCC states have announced reform programmes to restru-cture their economies which have sharply slowed down over the past 15 years as a result of lower crude prices.

The reforms concentrate on ending the state's domination of the economy through privatisation of public institutions, attracting capital and expanding non-oil revenue. But such reforms have been slow as privatisation programmes have remained mostly on the shelf while investors are still disheartened by restrictions on foreign ownership.

GCC STATES MAY INTRODUCE JOINT VISIT VISA

GCC states are considering introducing a joint visit visa that allows foreigners to enter any member state in a bid to activate tourism and business among them, a senior UAE immigration official was quoted as saying.

Brigadier bin Khalaf Hadher Al Muhairi, Director General of the General Directorate for Naturalisation and Residency, said immigration officials from the six member states had agreed to make such a proposal to their Interior Ministers.

"During our recent meeting in Kuwait, we agreed to present this recommendation to the Ministers of Interior at their next meeting," he told Al Khaleej newspaper.

"We believe the joint visa is very important as it will play an effective role in boosting business among members and promoting the GCC as an international tourism centre."

IRAQ GRANTS TURKISH COMPANIES OIL CONTRACTS

The government of Iraq is reported to have approved the development by Turkish companies of an oil field in the south of the country.

Iraqi Oil Minister Amer Rashid made the announcement after an Iraqi-Turkish co-operation commission met in Baghdad.

He did not identify the oil field concerned, or give details about how much oil it was expected to yield.

Correspondents say that despite the strong trade ties between the two countries, the Iraqis are still at odds with the Turks over their hosting of American and British planes which enforce an air-exclusion zone over northern Iraq.

BAHRAIN LEGISLATORS TO HAVE WIDE POWERS

Bahrain's legislators, to be elected in October, will have the power to question and vote out ministers, according to the long-awaited Political Rights Law issued late Wednesday by His Majesty the King of Bahrain, Sheikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa.

In another decree, Sheikh Hamad paved the way for setting up a powerful independent body to monitor government spending and investigate financial mismanagement.

The first law, issued in two Royal Decrees 14 and 15, regulates the election process and the functions of the two chambers of the National Assembly the appointed Shura Council and the elected House of Representatives. Each house will have 40 members and possess equal legislating powers.

SYRIA STANDS BY HEZBOLLAH

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has rejected pressure from the US to cut ties with Lebanon's Hezbollah group.

US President George W Bush had also called on Syria to expel radical Palestinian groups that Washington regards as "terrorists" when he made his uncompromising Middle East policy speech last week.

OMANTEL EXPANSION

Oman Telecommunication Co (Omantel) is considering an investment of 252 million Omani riyals (about Dh2.5 billion) during the next five years to introduce new technology, according to the company's executive president, Mohammed bin Ali Al Wohaibi.

ANOTHER QUAKE

Another earthquake, 4.1 on the Richter scale, shook the Qazvin Province, 130 km northwest of Tehran) on Wednesday night. There have been no reports of casualties or damages so far.

The June 22 quake which hit the provinces of Qazvin and Hamedan inflicted damages of 2,500 billion rials ($312 million), Mohammad-Hossein Moqimi, deputy interior minister for development affairs told reporters on Wednesday.

ARIG TO RAISE $100M

Arab Insurance Group (Arig) announced that it has secured "an overwhelming support" from its shareholders for a recapitalisation initiative that is aimed at restoring its financial strength.

The group will shortly commence a capital increase initiative with the aim of raising $100 million through a rights issue.

JORDAN TELECOM

Jordan Telecom expects to float 10-15 per cent of its shares during the initial public offering (IPO) in October.

EMNEX ENDS MARGINALLY LOWER

The Emnex finished the week with a further marginal decline of 1.75 points to close at 2,004.49. The market capitalisation was Dh104.41 billion.

The financial services index was affected to the tune of 6.32 points to be 2,171.08 by the end of the week. The sectoral capitalisation was Dh48.25 billion.

FUJAIRAH WATER FIRM POSTS PROFIT

Fujairah Fresh Water Corp has recorded a net profit of Dh1.045 million in the first four months of operations from September to December 2001 after producing more than 138,274 tonnes of fresh water.

IRAQ-UN TALKS SET TO CONTINUE

Talks between United Nations and Iraqi officials on the return of weapons inspectors to the country are set to resume in Vienna.

During talks on Thursday, Iraq is said to have requested answers on when UN sanctions against it could be lifted if inspectors were allowed back in.

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan described Thursday's meeting as positive but there is no sign of a major breakthrough.

AID AGENCIES CONDEMN ISRAEL

More than 30 international aid agencies working in the West Bank and Gaza Strip have accused Israel of obstructing their operations to the point that they can no longer fulfil their mandates.

Their joint statement comes as concern mounts about the humanitarian impact of the Israeli-imposed curfews.

US QUAKE AID ARRIVES IN IRAN

A plane carrying US Government aid for earthquake victims has landed in Iran in an unusual gesture by Washington to a country it has branded a member of the "axis of evil".

The offer of aid from US President George W Bush and its acceptance by Iran has raised hopes of an easing of tensions.

But the delivery was kept deliberately low-key in the light of political sensitivities between the two countries which cut diplomatic ties more than 20 years ago.

GAMBIA WOOS FOREIGN INVESTORS

Gambia has tried to woo foreign investors after upgrading its infrastructure and clarifying a major renationalisation in the peanut industry.

The West African country's economy has been largely reliant on two main industries agriculture and tourism.

THIRD THURAYA SATELLITE TO COST DH551M

Thuraya's third satellite acquisition and launch will be financed fully from internal resources, according to a senior official. The bill for the new satellite, to be delivered by U.S. aerospace giant Boeing, is estimated to be over Dh550.5 million ($150 million).

Plans for the launch date, coverage area and orbital location are being worked on.