But the Supreme Economic Council, which is mandated
to form and implement economic policies, justifies the slow progress to
the nature of required structural changes. The council has focused its
efforts on developing the regulatory environment. Nevertheless,
privatisation is now taking shape; telecommunications, electricity,
industrial zones, ports, airports, airlines and a host of others are on
Privatising the telecommunication sector has the
priority. In late 1997, the cabinet authorised the formation of Saudi
Telecommunications Co (STC). It was corporatised in 1998 as a
joint-stock company and permitted to operate on commercial basis. In
2001, the government passed the telecommunications act and later set up
Saudi Communications Commission as the telecommunications regulator.
The authorities plan to sell off 30 per cent of STC
by year-end in the form of initial public offering. But foreign
investors are barred from investing in the telecommunications sector;
the infamous negative list prohibits foreign investments in some 20
Separately, unconfirmed reports have suggested that a
handful of investors plan to set up a private telecommunication company
to compete with STC. The planned privatisation of the telecommunications
sector will serve as a test for selling other public assets.
The authorities intend to seek local and foreign
investment in the electricity sector reflecting the prohibitive cost
involved in expanding power supply. The required investment for
producing 50,000 mega watts by 2023 is projected at $63 billion. The
planned expansion is essential to meet needs of industrial users and
US PLEDGES TO INTRODUCE NEW IRAQ RESOLUTION
The United States pledged to introduce shortly a new
U.N. resolution, which diplomats said offered compromises that could
delay any U.S.-led attack against Iraq. But the envoys said France,
which is leading the resistance to the original U.S. draft resolution,
has not signed on yet.
"It now all depends on Washington and Paris," said
one U.N. Security Council diplomat close to the negotiations.
U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte told the council
during a public debate that Washington did not want to use force but
would do so if Iraq did not give up weapons of mass destruction that
Baghdad denies it still has.
"We are considering the reactions we have received
and will be placing before the council, in the near future, a resolution
with clear and immediate requirements — requirements that Iraq would
voluntarily meet if it chooses to cooperate," he said.
The U.S. moves came as nation after nation lined up
before the Security Council to warn Washington against military action
and say weapons inspectors had to go to Baghdad first and do their job.
A key difference in the new U.S. proposals, aimed at
breaking a monthlong deadlock, is sending U.N. arms inspectors back to
Iraq to search for banned weapons and giving their report more weight,
as most nations want, the envoys said.
To this end, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, in
New York to address a Catholic charity dinner, spoke to U.N. weapons
inspector Hans Blix.
The United States softened language that gave it
explicit automatic authorization to determine when to launch a military
strike but the new U.S. draft is still expected to contain the threat of
ISRAELIS KILL EIGHT IN GAZA
Israeli tanks shelled houses in the Gaza Strip,
killing eight Palestinians and wounding 35.
The deaths in Rafah refugee camp were likely to fuel
tensions that are already high following army raids against militants in
which civilians as well as militants have been killed. The United States
has criticized such raids. Palestinian witnesses said the tanks opened
fire on a cluster of houses when militants shot at the bulldozers, which
were near the border.
"We have eight martyrs," said Ali Moussa, the
director of Rafah hospital. "We have 35 people wounded. Most if not all
are in critical condition."
Witnesses said the dead and wounded were civilians
who had been inside their homes, and that two women were among those
killed. They said they had seen dismembered bodies and that heavy fire
had prevented ambulances from reaching the injured.
YEMEN GETS FRESH $2.3BN LOAN
Yemen has won a $2.3bn loan from the World Bank and a
long list of donors to help it support a three-year anti-poverty
campaign and by extension, fight the causes of terror and insecurity.
The announcement of the money followed a meeting in
Paris to report on the country's development plans, and comes two weeks
after an explosion on a French tanker off Yemen which many believe was a
The new money will partly help redress what Yemen
sees as an imbalance in aid. Despite deep-seated problems, and a per
capita income of just $450 a year, Yemen said it received only a fifth
of the average support for low income countries.
The poverty many Yemenis face is inextricably linked
with security, Prime Minister Abdulkader Ba Jamal said.
ISRAEL ISSUES THREAT IN WATER ROW
Israel has warned that it reserves the right to
defend its water resources as Lebanon went ahead with a project on a
river near the two countries' border.
Foreign Minister Shimon Peres told parliament that
Israel did not and would not "tolerate unilateral measures".
His speech came just before Lebanon inaugurated a new
pumping station on a river a mile (1.6 km) from the border — a move the
Israeli Government has said could provoke war.
The installation will draw water for irrigation and
drinking from a tributary of a river that feeds the Jordan River and Sea
of Galilee Israel's largest freshwater reservoir.
LEBANON ASKS TO BORROW $5BN
Lebanon, already crippled by a $29bn (£19bn) debt
mountain, is seeking more loans to help service its existing debt.
The cash-strapped country will ask donors for a
further $5bn in long-term, low-interest loans at a meeting in Paris.
Finance Minister Fouad Siniora said the extra $5bn
could be used to pay-off existing, high-interest loans.
The massive public debt has been eating up most of
the government's cash and choking economic growth.
Lebanon's public debt — amassed during the rebuilding
phase after the 1975-90 civil war has now ballooned to the equivalent of
about 170% of the country's economic output.
Lebanon has been working hard to swap local currency
debt for cheaper, hard currency bonds.
IRAQIS VOTE FOR SADDAM IN REFERENDUM
Iraqis voted massively, some with their blood, in a
referendum which ushers in seven more years of President Saddam
Hussein's rule and keeps Baghdad on a collision course with the United
"Turnout was absolute and the yes vote was absolute,"
the government's number two, Ezzat Ibrahim, said.
"The people are voting unanimously for their leader,"
he told state television as the 1,905 voting centres closed around the
UAE VOICES CONCERN OVER IRAQ SITUATION
The UAE voiced concern at the delay in settling
ensuing questions of the Iraqi case since 12 years and pleaded with the
international community to activate pre-emptive diplomacy to avoid a
third Gulf war that will have grave consequences.
The remarks were made by the UAE's Permanent
Ambassador to the UN Abdul Aziz Al Shamsi before the Security Council
special session on Kuwait-Iraq issue.
WATER MISUSE GROWS SHARPLY
The excessive extraction of water and its improper
use is a pressing problem and needs to be addressed immediately, a
senior official of the Environmental Research and Wildlife Development
Announcing a two-day symposium in Al Ain on Water
Resources Management: Recent Developments in the UAE and the
Netherlands, Majid Al Mansouri, the agency's Secretary General, said the
emirate is faced with a situation where aquifers (layers of rock or soil
able to hold or transmit water) have been over- exploited for about 20
DWTC TO TAKE MORE SHOWS OVERSEAS
The Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC) is studying
expanding some of its shows abroad, after taking Gitex to Riyadh, Cairo,
Beirut and Hyderabad.
The gold and jewellery and foodstuffs shows are
expected to be among the prospective exhibitions. Madras and Kerala also
proposed hosting the Indian Gitex edition but DWTC has no plans to move
it from Hyderabad.
BAHRAIN BUSINESS TO HAVE SAY IN POLICY
Bahrain's business community will have an important
input in all future economic decisions, the Bahrain official news
agency, BNA, quoted Prime Minister Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa,
as telling members of the Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
"The government will take into consideration the
views of the chamber and the private sector prior to any decision or
legislation related to the national economy," Sheikh Khalifa said during
a visit to the chamber.
ADSB, HALMATIC SIGN PACT
Abu Dhabi Ship Building (ADSB) and UK-based Halmatic
Ltd, have signed a strategic cooperation agreement under which ADSB will
soon be producing a range of composite vessels using Halmatic designs
and technical support.
The pact was signed in the presence of HRH Prince
Andrew, Duke of York, who visited ADSB and toured the Mussafah shipyard.
DIB TO LAUNCH MOBILE ATM NETWORK
Dubai Islamic Bank will launch a network of mobile
ATMs, by which a client can have his banking requirements met at a
location where he can derive maximum convenience.
These mobile ATMs, initially to be introduced in
Dubai and later in the other emirates, will be placed at strategic
locations where there is a very high possibility that DIB's clients will
be in the vicinity.
MID-EAST OIL 'TOO COSTLY' FOR EUROPE
The cost of protecting the West's Middle East oil
supplies is about a dollar a gallon, a UK Government minister says.
Peter Hain, the Europe Minister, said this cost
should be reflected in transport and other domestic policies.
Ultimately, he said, no amount of money could
guarantee secure oil supplies, especially in the next few decades.
He urged a rapid effort to develop renewable and
low-carbon replacement fuels.
FAMOUS EGYPTIAN LIBRARY REOPENS
The formal opening of the Library of Alexandria in
Egypt, rebuilt on the site of the original destroyed by fire in the 4th
Century AD, has taken place.
The ceremony was attended by the Egyptian President,
Hosni Mubarak, and some 3,000 dignitaries from around the world,
including France's President Jacques Chirac, President Carlo Ciampi of
Italy and Greece's President Costas Stefanopoulos.
MIXED FORTUNES FOR SAUDI BANKS
Results from banking groups in Saudi Arabia have
revealed mixed fortunes in the kingdom.
While the kingdom's largest bank, National Commercial
Bank (NCB), reported a leap in profits of almost 30%, Al-Rajhi Banking
and Investment Corporation (Arabic) saw a 22% fall.
Arabic, the kingdom's second largest bank, blamed
unfavourable world conditions for the drop in profits.
The bank has experienced difficulties this year after
becoming involved in the Enron collapse in the US, and being named in a
lawsuit filed by victims of September 11.
DCA AWARDS DH600M DEALS THIS YEAR
The Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) has awarded
Dh600 million worth of contracts to firms this year under its ambitious
$2.5 billion expansion plan for Dubai airport's Concourses 2 and 3 and
Terminal 3, said a senior DCA official.
UAE FA LAUNCHES GOLD MEMBER CARD
Defending their controversial decision to impose a
fee on local media, thereby giving them the honour of covering the local
league matches and press conferences, the UAE Football Association
launched its Gold Member Card at a press conference held at the
YEMEN AND GCC SIGN PROTOCOL
Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh sponsored the
signing of a protocol following which relations between Yemen and the
GCC took an official form. He confirmed Yemen's resolve to develop
relations with the GCC countries to serve their common interests.
The UAE and Sudan signed an MoU under which they will
exchange expertise and encourage joint investments in the oil and gas
sector. Sudanese Oil Minister Ahmed Al Jaz, who is here for the energy
conference in Abu Dhabi, also called on UAE businessmen to invest in
Sudan, especially in view of the changes that occurred in legislation
Sharjah will develop a masterplan aimed at easing investor norms and
attracting foreign direct investment. The plan will include seeking
acreage from the government for development under its supervision and
subsequent parcelling off to project promoters.