Jan-28 - Feb-03, 2002
Arabs may invest $29b in refining, petrochemicals
Arab states are expected to pump at least $29 billion to set
up new refining, gas and petrochemical projects and expand existing plants as
they push ahead with plans to develop their industrial sector and diversify
The investments do not include mega projects to boost crude
oil production capacity, which could double to around 44 million barrels per day
in 2010, according to the annual Arab economic report for 2000, prepared by the
Abu Dhabi-based Arab Monetary Fund, Organisation of Arab Petroleum Exporting
Countries and Kuwait-based Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development.
The report estimated Saudi Arabia, the UAE and other oil
giants in the Middle East will pump nearly a quarter of the world's projected
investment of around $950 billion to maintain their existing oil output and
expand capacity, which is estimated at around 23 million bpd.
Investments in the other sectors cover around $2.5 billion in
refining, $17.2 billion in petrochemicals and over $9.3 billion in LNG and other
The funds do not include investments by Qatar to expand its
Ras Laffan LNG plant by around 3.5 million tonnes to more than 10 million tonnes.
But oil industry sources estimated the project's cost at about $2 billion.
Qatar said last month it would pump as much as $15 billion to
upgrade the production capacity of its LNG projects and tap the giant North Sea
field, the biggest single gas reservoir in the world, with more than ten
trillion cubic metres.
Qatar has already spent more than $10 billion to set up LNG
ventures and fresh investments will turn the Gulf state into the world's top
exporter of LNG by overtaking Indonesia. Officials have said their target is to
reach 30 million tonnes per year within 15 years.
Arab states post strong growth
The economies of Arab countries galloped by nearly 12.5 per
cent in 2000 and most of the increase was achieved in the Gulf due to strong oil
prices, according to official and independent estimates.
The combined gross domestic product of the 22-nation Arab
League leapt to $709 billion in 2000 from around $629 billion in 1999, said the
annual 2000 Arab economic report, prepared by the Abu Dhabi-based Arab Monetary
Fund, the 10-member Organisation of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries and the
Kuwaiti-based Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development.
"There was a growth of around 12.6 per cent mainly
because of expansion in industries and other sectors and higher exports, mainly
crude oil," it said.
Experts said it was the highest growth rate since early 1980s
and Gulf oil producers recorded the largest growth in the region as oil sales
account for more than 80 per cent of their income and a third of their GDP.
They estimated that the GDP in the six-nation GCC jumped more
than 15 per cent in 2000 to around $330 billion, nearly 45 per cent of the total
An Arab League study presented to an economic conference in
Abu Dhabi last week showed the total Arab oil export earnings swelled to about
$180 billion in 2000 from around $118 billion in 1999. The growth was due to a
sharp increase in crude prices to nearly $27 from $17.50 a barrel.
Economists said they expected the Arab GDP to have slowed
down in 2001 as crude prices lost nearly $4 with output also lower.
GCC in talks to check hawala deals
Monetary authorities in the GCC have begun discussions to
devise a common system to ensure that the hawala system is not abused for
illegal purposes, according to UAE Central Bank Governor, Sultan bin Nasser Al
"If hawala is being misused by some people, it cannot be
countered by the UAE alone. It has to be tackled at the GCC level and all our
countries are making efforts to come out with a common system to make sure
hawala is not misused," Al Suwaidi added.
"Many Asians use it to remit money in all GCC
countries," he pointed out.
"The GCC can pick up the UAE anti-money laundering law
straight away. The GCC can unify their approach to fight money laundering,"
Al Suwaidi said.
Bahrain is the only other GCC country to have such a law in
place and complies with the criteria set by the global Financial Action Task
UAE likely to record Dh16b trade surplus
The UAE is expected to record a trade surplus of Dh16.04
billion, equivalent to 7 per cent of the GDP in 2001, according to a study.
The trade surplus is set to decline to Dh9.68 billion in 2002
with the expected weakening of oil prices, said the latest country report on the
UAE by Business Monitor International (BMI).
The UAE posted a trade surplus of Dh33.8 billion in 2000,
according to provisional official figures. The Central Bank is yet to update
provisional balance of payments figures released earlier in 2001.
The trade surplus will continue to be the dominant
contributor to a healthy current account surplus and BMI expects the current
account to record a Dh20.3 billion surplus in 2001.
For 2002, the current account will stand at Dh14.9 billion.
Again, this marks a sharp fall on the 2000 surplus, which provisionally stands
at Dh33.7 billion, equivalent to 15.1 per cent of the GDP, noted the report.
Anti-money laundering law signed
President His Highness Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan
signed a federal law, criminalising money laundering in the country.
The 25-article law will come into force from the day of its
appearance in the official gazette. The law defines a money laundering offence
as any act involving transfer, conversion or deposit, or concealment and
disguise of property derived from any of the offences stated in item (2) of
article (2) of the law.
The offences include, narcotics and psychotropic substances,
kidnapping, piracy and terrorism, offences committed in violation of the
environmental law and illicit dealing in firearms and ammunition. Offences of
money laundering, according to the new law, also include bribery, embezzlement
and related offences, fraud, breach of trust and other related offences.
Saudi current account positive despite lower oil prices
Saudi Arabia basked under another year of current account
surplus in 2001 although it lost at least $8 billion in oil export revenue,
The kingdom had a current account surplus of around SR31.3
billion ($8.3 billion) last year.
The surplus is sharply lower than the SR53.7 billion ($14.3
billion) recorded in 2000 but is in contrast with the situation in 1999, when
the current account suffered from an estimated $1.7 billion deficit.
Saudi Arabia's oil export earnings were estimated at around
$50 billion in 2001 compared with $58 billion in 2000 as the average price of
North Sea Brent crude declined by nearly $4 last year.
Warlord death 'link with Sharon case'
Israel and Lebanon are at loggerheads over the death on
Thursday of former militia leader Elie Hobeika who was killed with five others
in a massive car bomb in east Beirut.
Lebanese officials have implicated Israel in the
assassination, saying it wanted prevent Hobeika from testifying against Israeli
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in a Belgian court case about the Sabra and Shatila
refugee camp massacres in 1982.
Palestinians seek $10m for radio attack
Palestinian broadcasters say they plan to sue Israel for at
least $10m compensation for destroying their headquarters and transmission
Israel said it blew up the five-storey Palestinian
Broadcasting Corporation (PBC) building in the West Bank city of Ramallah on
Saturday in retaliation for the killing of six people by a Palestinian.
But despite the attack, the main Palestinian radio station,
the Voice of Palestine, has continued to broadcast from other transmitters.
Saudi-U.S. ties ar