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 5. TRADE  6. GULF



Dec 31, 2001 - Jan 06, 2002

Oil prices soar on output hopes

Oil prices gained more than $1.50 before slipping back to close about $1 up on the day as hopes mounted of a cut in crude oil output before the end of the year.

The $20.40 dollars per barrel closing price was close to the lower end of the price range targeted by the oil cartel Opec.

A meeting of Opec leaders is expected to bring the week to an end with a decision to cut output sharply in a fresh attempt to prop up the sagging price of oil.

The cartel is "100% certain" to agree to cut 1.5 million barrels a day on Friday, according to Saudi Arabian oil minister Ali al-Naimi.

The cut was initially announced in November, but was conditional on co-operation from non-Opec countries including Russia, Mexico and Norway.

It has taken this long to get them on board with guarantees that their producers would not take up the slack.

Crude oil prices hit a 29-month low in November, and the cartel has put considerable pressure on non-member countries to co-operate in combating the price fall.

The non-Opec producers have now pledged cuts totalling about 462,500 barrels a day close to the 500,000 barrels Opec members had demanded before cutting their own output.

Russia and Norway have pledged to cut output by 150,000 barrels a day apiece, with Mexico promising 100,00 barrels, Oman 40,000 and Angola 22,500.

But the effect of the cut might still be limited. Russia, one of the biggest non-Opec producers, may have made a promise, but its powerful and oligarchic oil companies may well ignore government strictures.

Not to mention the tendency by Opec members themselves to forget their promises and overproduce by up to 500,000 barrels a day, according to some figures.

Summit will promote Arab solidarity: Sabah

Kuwait has expressed hope that the 21st GCC summit opening in Muscat on Sunday would produce results in promoting Arab unity and establishing just peace and security in the region.

Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmed Al Jaber Al Sabah, Kuwait's acting premier and foreign minister, who will head his country's delegation to the December 30-31 summit, said the meeting would be an opportunity to stress the GCC's firm stance towards several issues. "We are confident that this blessed meeting will succeed in achieving its goals," he said.

Sheikh Sabah, who will be representing ailing Emir His Highness Sheikh Jaber Al Ahmed Al Sabah at the summit, also hoped the U.S. would exert pressure on Israel to end violence and atrocities in the region in the wake of President George W. Bush's recent declaration for the establishment of an independent Palestine state.

"We noticed optimistically the international change, particularly the recent remarks of President Bush and his Secretary of State as well as what was said the at the EU Summit."

Referring to the September 11 attacks on the U.S., he said:"Our countries denounce terrorism and co-operate to eradicate its sources and causes ...In this context, we have to demonstrate maximum support for just Arab causes, notably the Palestinian cause."

He said the time has come for the GCC states to assert with full force the growing need for security and stability in the region.

Sheikh Sabah said it was very important to project the tolerant image of Islam in the face of an endlessly biased and prejudiced Western propaganda, hoping that the Gulf media would rise to the occasion.

He said greater economic, political and social co-operation within the GCC remained a top priority.

Sheikh Sabah praised His Majesty Sultan Qaboos, who will chair the summit, the fourth to be hosted by Oman, saying the Omani monarch's efforts have ensured the success of all those meetings.

UAE exchanges brace for euro launch

While the euro banknote is scheduled to be launched on January 1, 2002, the UAE is expected to see a 'volume presence' of this much-awaited currency from January 3, 2002.

Around 14.5 billion euro bank notes and 50 billion euro coins will be ready throughout the euro area prior to January 1, 2002.

According to reliable sources, the money exchange houses in the UAE have already made arrangements to physically import euro through their agents.

"January 1 being a bank holiday, euro bank notes denominated in 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200 and 500 will reach here by January 2, and will most probably be available from the next day.

"We have made all arrangements and our staff are already trained to deal with this European currency, which represents the 'money' in 12 European countries," pointed out Niyaz Ali, manager, UAE operations, Thomas Cook Al Rostamani.

Capital inflow registers growth

Foreign investments in the UAE have not been affected in any way by the September 11 incidents and, on the contrary, capital inflow into the country has increased, said a senior Central Bank official.

"The flow of capital has recently increased after the UAE implemented some precautionary banking procedures which did not have anything to do with the September 11 attacks on the U.S.," said Abdul Rahman Mohammed Al Awadi, chief of the anti-money laundering committee.

The recent freezing of some bank accounts by local authorities was a result of UN resolutions in this regard, and as the UAE was a member of the UN, those resolutions have been implemented by the country, he explained.

Russian senate ratifies nuclear cooperation pact with Iran

Russia's upper house of parliament unanimously ratified a new partnership treaty with Iran which includes cooperating in developing nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

"Iran remains a strategic partner of Russia," said Mikhail Margelov, head of the foreign affairs committee of the Federation Council, following the vote by 127 senators.

The Duma or lower house ratified the treaty last week in a near-unanimous vote.

Intrernational concern has risen in recent months in the United States over military links between the two countries, particularly over Russia's controversial construction of Iran's Bushehr nuclear power plant.

The United States and Israel fear that Iran could acquire nuclear arms technology through its partnership with Moscow. Russia, though, has tried to dismiss these fears.

Turkmenistan seeks ADFD funding for new projects

Senior officials of the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development (ADFD) led by the ADFD director general, Saeed Khalfan bin Matar Al Rumaithy, held a meeting with the visiting Turkmenistan Deputy Premier for Oil and Gas Affairs, Yuli K. Muradov.

During the meeting, they discussed avenues of co-operation between the two countries in the fields of economy and investment.

Al Rumaithy, who praised the strong ties between the UAE and Turkmenistan, said that the Turkmenistan official had briefed them about the completion of a number of health projects, which the ADFD funded in Turkmenistan, adding that the fund was financing various projects in that central asian country.

Zambia's economic travails

Zambia's economy has had a rocky road since independence in 1964.

At the time, the country was one of Africa's richest, with deep copper deposits and a healthy agricultural sector.

But mismanagement and corruption over the three and a half decades since have wrought their damage.

And, as the 10-year rule of President Frederick Chiluba comes to an end, Zambians will ask themselves who will put them back on the road to prosperity.

The problem for Zambians is that both the old nostrum nationalisation, state socialism and a strong leader and a later agenda of privatisation and liberalisation appear to have failed.

Emirates in pact with Dubai 2003

Emirates signed a Dh20 million partnership agreement with Dubai 2003, organisers of the annual meetings of the World Bank-IMF board of governors, scheduled during September 2003 in Dubai.

The MoU was signed by Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, President of Dubai Civil Aviation and Chairman of Emirates Group, and Qassim Sultan, director general of Dubai Municipality, and chairman of the Dubai 2003 Organising Committee.

ERSC to take up projects worth Dh83m

Owned by the Federal Government, Emirates Real Estate Corp (ERSC) is to build and manage the dedicated facilities coming up for the Ministry of Education and Dubai Educational Department in the Al Ghusais area of Dubai. Investments are estimated at Dh83 million.

There will also be a third building within the zone, which will used both by the Ministry of Education as well as local authorities.

Work on the project, spread over 26,000 square metres, is to start during the first quarter of 2002, with completion scheduled for March 2003. Designs of the facilities are being completed now. Turner International and Al Burj are project consultants.

In the turnkey project, ERSC will meet the full investment requirements, approve the contractors, and manage and maintain the facilities once they are commissioned. Tender awards are to be announced in coming weeks.

UAE banks set to net record profits

UAE banks are expected to boost their net profits by at least 10 per cent to more than Dh5 billion this year despite the fallout from September 11, bankers and economists said.

The country's 47 banks made record profits of Dh4.83 billion last year as they benefited from an upswing in the domestic economy following a surge in oil prices and private business.

Iran carmaker eyes expansion

Iranian automaker Kish Khodro said it had boosted production to 3,600 Sinad sport utility vehicles a year after initial tests and planned to set up more plants and introduce new models.

"In about six months we will branch out into mainland Iran and set up one or two smaller plants to assemble the Sinad," said Mohammed Saffari, director of Kish Khodro Company, based on Iran's Gulf island of Kish, one of three free-trade zones set up to draw much needed foreign investment.

He said the company had manufactured 500 Sinads in the nine months to mid-December, while it fine-tuned its production, before raising output to the 3,600 vehicles per year level.

A small group of private Iranian investors hold 52 per cent of the $38 million joint venture, while a state development bank owns 41 per cent and BMS Management, a British engineering group that designed the vehicle, holds a seven-per cent stake.

Tourism to get boost in Sharjah

Sharjah is in the process of developing a new tourism strategy for 2002 aimed at presenting the emirate as a tourist destination in its own right.

This will be the focus of the recently instituted Sharjah Tourism Advisory Committee, established under the auspices of the Sharjah Commerce & Tourism Development Authority (SCTDA), as per an official release.

The panel, which includes representatives from all entities in the emirate dealing with tourism including Sharjah Airport Authority, hotels and tour operators, held its first meeting recently under Mohammed Al Noman, director of marketing and communications at SCTDA.

BNP Paribas sells stake in Oman bank

France's BNP Paribas has sold its minority stake in Oman's Bank Dhofar Al Omani Al Fransi to a state pension fund for 4.23 million Omani rials ($11 million), a bank official said.

Emirates airline pledges $5.5 million

Emirates airline announced it would contribute 5.5 million dollars toward the cost of staging a joint meeting of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund in Dubai in September 2003.

"Emirates has pledged 20 million dirhams (5.5 million dollars) in support of its partnership with Dubai 2003," organizers of the World Bank-IMF meeting, said the airline's chairman Sheikh Ahmad bin Saeed al-Maktoum.

The Dubai government-owned carrier's contribution will include "helping to fly in delegates to Dubai from our 56 destinations," he told a news conference.

Anger as Iran MP is jailed

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called on to intervene Reformist MPs in Iran have been expressing their anger at the jailing of one of their colleagues.

Hossein Loghmanian is one of three reformist MPs sentenced to jail for insulting the conservative judiciary.

Mr Loghmanian was given 10 months in Tehran's notorious Evin prison.

More than 60 other MPs of the majority reformist movement have been summoned to court, but Mr Loghmananian is the first to be jailed.