Fingerprints of the people entering Kingdom will be
taken on arrival as a new law is likely to come into effect in the
near future. According to reports carried out in a section of the
press, the new law has been approved and will be implemented soon in
coordination with Saudi embassies.
Reasons behind the decision of fingerprinting is
said to be security-related.
The expatriates having criminal records in the
Kingdom sometimes return to the country under the cover of a different
name and passport. One may get a new passport, ID number to get rid of
the track records, however, it was not possible to get a new
fingerprint or get rid of your existing one.
Another problem faced by the government is that
some foreigners, especially from Africa, get rid of any form of
identity papers as soon as they enter the country. And when they are
deported without documents, their countries won't accept them and they
are sent back to the Kingdom.
Recently, a number of raids conducted at different
areas where thousands of expatriates were found over staying in the
Kingdom besides other criminals have been arrested.
Since Chadians were on top of the list of the
arrested, the Saudi government made a decision not to renew their iqamas
or grant them new visas.
FREE FLOW OF CAPITAL
Saudi Arabia has called for the elimination of
barriers that prevent free flow of capital and investment, and for
giving greater role to developing countries in the decision-making
process of global financial organizations.
"The Kingdom also stresses that the reforms
covering international financial systems must include adequate tools
to prevent and manage financial crises," Foreign Minister Prince
Saud Al-Faisal said at a summit of South American and Arab countries
"In the world of globalization and information
technology, we must take the opportunities to develop our joint
economic capabilities. This means in the first place, the elimination
of barriers that prevent the free flow of capital and investment
projects," the Saudi Press Agency quoted the prince as telling
In their first regional summit, ended last week,
South American and Arab leaders endorsed a declaration condemning the
Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory and calling for trade
liberalization to lift the planet's poor out of misery.
"For me, this meeting marks the beginning of a
new historical moment in our relations," said Brazilian President
Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, the summit's host. "The relationship
between South America and the Arab countries will never be the same
again," he said.
Banding together in an event aimed at dampening the
dominance of developed countries, the summit leaders voiced their
commitment to strengthening their political and economic ties. They
also condemned terrorism, denounced US sanctions against Syria and
supported moves to give developing countries greater weight on the
Prince Saud, in his key-note address, referred to
the Kingdom's economic and political reforms. The new foreign
investment law "provides a full list of assurances and incentives
that enable the investor to keep pace with all modern changes and
developments," he explained. The world financial system must be
changed in order to support the efforts of the developing countries to
achieve economic growth along with social equality. He also reiterated
Saudi Arabia's firm commitment to stabilize world oil market.
He said Saudi Arabia had provided about $83 billion
in foreign aid benefiting 73 developing countries around the world
including South American states. "Despite the fact that Saudi
Arabia is a developing country with increasing financial needs, it
still finances the developmental, economic and social projects in the
developing countries," he pointed out.
Saudi Arabia also took the initiative to contribute
its full share in the fund initiative for reducing the debts of the
poor countries that are burdened by debts to the International
Monetary Fund. The Kingdom waived the debts of a number of poor
countries before the launch of this global initiative, he said.
He expressed Saudi Arabia's appreciation of the
Brazilian government for playing host to the summit, adding that it
would help strengthen cooperation between the two groups. He
underscored the long-standing relations between South American and
Arab countries. "The history of the relations between the Arab
world and the Latin American countries goes back to more than 500
years," he said.
Prince Saud called for strengthening business ties
between the two regional groups. "Despite the intensive Arab
presence in this part of the world, the size of the trade exchange and
investment between the Arab countries and Latin American countries is
currently not up to the level of the available resources and
capabilities of both sides. In 2004, the volume of trade exchange
stood at $10 billion representing 1.13 percent of its total external
trade and this is not in harmony with the ambitions of our
peoples," he said and hoped the summit would help correct this
bleak scenario. "We should encourage and support the flow of
investments, exchange of expertise and the transfer of technology as a
response to global changes," the prince said.
Prince Saud also called for the settling of the
Palestinian-Israeli conflict, stressing on giving equal opportunity
for all Iraqi people in the political process and wished a bright
future for Lebanon, maintaining its "distinguished
relations" with its neighboring country Syria.
He described terrorism as the most dangerous
phenomenon the international community was facing. "In order to
fight this phenomenon, which does not have a religion or nation or
nationality, Saudi Arabia took the initiative to hold an international
counterterrorism conference in Riyadh last February," he said.
Prince Saud emphasized the importance of cultural
exchange between the two groups. "There is a need to enhance
programs of cultural exchange and the interaction between
intellectuals," he said and stressed the importance of protecting
the cultural diversity of countries.
QATAR FINANCIAL CENTRE
A financial and business centre, the QFC has been
designed in Qatar to attract and provide a business platform for
international banks, financial institutions, insurance firms and
multinational corporations. HH the Prime Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin
Khalifa al-Thani inaugurated the QFC at a ceremony held at the
Ministry of Economy and Commerce.
QFC will be temporarily located at the ministry and
will move to its own building at the West Bay this summer.
It will focus on project finance, private wealth
management, insurance, Islamic finance and wide range of investment,
corporate and private banking products.
Businesses operating in the QFC will be entitled to
a 100% ownership and full repatriation of profits. They will enjoy a
three-year tax holiday until May 1, 2008, after which a corporate tax
of 10% will apply. Qatar issued legislation on March 9 enabling the
establishment of QFC. It will have a commercial authority (QFC
Authority) and an independent regulatory body (QFC Regulatory
The QFC Authority will be the commercial and
administrative body responsible for driving the commercial strategy
and for developing relationships with the international corporate
community and key institutions within and outside Qatar.
A fully independent Regulatory Authority will
oversee business conduct and grant licenses to operate in the QFC. It
has a broad range of regulatory powers to authorize, supervise and if
required, discipline regulated firms and individuals. Both the QFC
Authority and the Regulatory Authority will have their own boards of
Speaking after the QFC opening, the Minister of
Economy and Commerce Sheikh Mohamed bin Ahmed bin Jassim al-Thani said
the independent QFC Regulatory Authority had confirmed it was ready to
receive license applications from businesses who wish to take tenancy
at the centre.
He said the QFC would comply with the global best
practices and deliver high standards with minimum bureaucracy. The
regulatory framework and the commercial intent will provide
opportunities for institutions to do international, regional and local
"There is an extensive breadth of business
that may be undertaken at the centre, but the strategic and commercial
focus will be to encourage institutions that can develop new and
genuine revenue streams, thereby creating value for themselves and
bringing complementary assets and skills to Qatar and the
region," Sheikh Mohamed said.
Qatar Financial Centre Authority's chairman and
chief executive officer Philip Thorpe said the QFC will follow a
unique model, wherein it is built around the quality of institutions
"We are not concerned about the number of
institutions that are coming in. All applicants will be under close
scrutiny. We will be focused on bringing in the right institutions and
businesses," he told Gulf Times. Thorpe said QFC legal and
regulatory regime had been designed to deliver high quality regulation
and certainty in operation and to generate confidence in QFC licensees
and users alike.
Asked whether institutions at the QFC would be
allowed to sell retail products within Qatar, he said: "Retail
products will not be considered now. But they can do corporate
business within the QFC framework". With the launch of the QFC,
Qatar has reinforced its intention of providing an open yet robust
financial environment that will prove attractive to institutions and
investors alike, Thorpe added.
Deriving strength from a successful three-year
restructuring plan launched in 2002 Doha Bank has now launched a
five-year strategy aimed at positioning itself as a regional leader in
all segments of modern commercial banking. In line with that strategy,
Doha Bank said it is augmenting its resources, setting up a balance
core card system besides drawing up financial objectives.
"We clearly understand globalization,
regulations and local competition. We are now reinventing and
redefining our bank to attain maximum efficiency which in turn
benefits the national economy, bank's customers and shareholders
alike," says Doha Bank acting general manager R Seetharaman.
He said the bank had done a clear asset allocation
model with a view to maximizing its resources, returns, operational
efficiency and productivity.
The three-year bank restructuring kicked off in
2002 was finished in 2004 one year ahead of schedule after meeting all
the declared objectives. "This has prompted us to launch a
five-year strategy aimed at taking Doha Bank forward," he said.
Doha Bank, Seetharaman said, did not believe in size. The bank's
concern is to maximize the return on its assets.
The bank has had the best performance ratios among
commercial banks in the entire region in 2004 and in the first quarter
of this year.
The bank grew 158% in the first quarter. The asset
expansion was around 27%, he said. And in 2004 the bank's earnings per
share (EPS) of QR8.96 was the highest in the Qatari market. The rate
of return on assets of 3.66% posted by Doha Bank in 2004 was also
among the best in the Gulf region.
The return on average equity of 38% achieved by
Doha Bank in 2004 was way ahead of the competition. Doha Bank's return
on assets last year increased to 3.66% from 2.61% in 2003, up 40%.
This compares very well with the best competing commercial banks,
which averaged less than 3.1%.
The return on average equity was 38% in 2004, an
improvement of 19% over previous year. "Our principle commitment
is to grow organic — not over do or under do. This will lay the
proper foundation to take the bank to a very professional level,"
Seetharaman said one of the factors behind Doha
Bank's success was its correct priority vis-a-vis asset allocation.
The bank lends money to virtually every sector- not just real estate.
"We have brought in a very balanced mix into asset allocation. We
are in retail and syndication as much as we are in real estate,"
he said. Besides asset allocation, the bank has also been prudent in
providing adequate asset coverage, which now stands at around 104%.
This has brought down the risks to the bare minimum.
He said Doha Bank had also reduced the cost-income
ratio to well below 30%, an industry standard.
Commenting on why Doha Bank and other banks did not
figure in the financing of major projects including the
multi-billion-dollar New Doha International Airport (NDIA) Seetharaman
said even the combined capacity of the local banks would not be
sufficient to take care of them.
"We don't have that kind of finance. We cannot
venture into a project that outweighs our basic equity. Also, we have
the single borrowing limit set by the Qatar Central Bank," he
He said Doha Bank was not concerned about the entry
of specialized financial institutions into Qatar with the opening of
Qatar Financial Centre today. They have a specific role to play,
especially in project financing. "The retail market is ours. We
have a loyal customer base, which was built over a period of 26
years," Seetharaman said.
Seetharaman said Doha Bank would eye both the
regional and international markets for expansion. "We do have
clear plans on this. We have been successfully running a branch in New
York for the last 20 years. It is a successful model. We may replicate
it elsewhere," he said without giving more details.
Doha Bank, he said, would come out with the Islamic
banking division this year itself.
"My chairman has already declared our
intention to design and market Islamic banking products. I believe the
market is ripe enough to take them. I also believe they can optimize
my resources," the acting general manager said. Doha Bank,
Seetharaman said, would open eight more branches this year. Six of
them will be e-branches.
SAUDI STUDENTS IN THE US
The US Federal Bureau of Investigation has denied
reports that Saudi students in the US were grilled by security agents
in their homes and deprived of access to legal aid. Replying to a
question from Arab News, FBI Director Robert Mueller denied that there
were any such cases.
The FBI chief was addressing a press conference at
the Riyadh Air Base following his audience with Crown Prince Abdullah,
deputy premier and commander of the National Guard.
Mueller said the US travel advisory concerning the
Kingdom might be reviewed in the wake of significant progress in
disabling Al-Qaeda over the last few months. However, he insisted that
the terrorist threat was real and that no country was immune to
Mueller said he and the crown prince had discussed
joint measures taken by their countries to combat terrorism in the
Kingdom, the Middle East and around the world.
"We also discussed the exchange of terrorists'
fingerprints and also better ways of identifying those who have
crossed borders," he said, stressing the need for speedy exchange
of information on terrorists.
On the question of US visas for Saudis, he said the
issuance of visas is being streamlined to minimize inconvenience. He
pointed out, however, that there have been cases in which "the
persons were interviewed. But they are isolated."
The FBI chief's statements seemed to contradict an
earlier report published in Arab News (July 12, 2004) according to
which Saudi students spoke of shocking treatment at the hands of FBI.
They complained of discrimination once they had identified themselves
The FBI chief paid tributes to the Saudi security
forces for their crackdown on terrorists. Mueller attributed the
success in the war on terror to the ongoing cooperation between the
two countries. "We understand that addressing terrorists is not
just the function of one agency or the function of a single country.
It is a necessity for every civilized nation in the world today."
Mueller reserved his special thanks for the Saudi
people who, he said, understand that the killing of innocent men,
women and children serves no legitimate purpose. He called on them to
extend their continued cooperation to the security forces that have
made significant progress in the war on terror.
(Inputs from PAGE sources & Press reports)