GULF VIEW

 

July 11 - 17, 2005

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Saudi Arab plans to cut unemployment

Saudi Kingdom's Minister of Planning, Dr. Khalid Al-Gosaibi, said that the focus of the eighth development plan is to achieve a growth in investment by 1.7 percent annually. During his presentation of the goals of the plan to the Shoura Council, Al-Gosaibi also pointed out that one of the major goals of the development plan is to reduce unemployment from 7 percent in 2005 to 2.8 percent by 2009.
The unemployment among men, as a result of implementation of the development plan, would decrease from 5.6 percent to 2.4 percent and among women from 15.5 percent to 4.3 percent during the same period.

 

 

SEEKS INVESTMENT

Saudi Arabia is currently seeking foreign investment to carry out a large number of projects worth SR2.34 trillion ($624 billion) in vital sectors, says Prince Turki Al-Faisal, the Kingdom's ambassador to the United Kingdom.

Addressing the Middle East Symposium 2005 titled "Commercial Diplomacy: A Force for Regional Prosperity" in London, Prince Turki said the new projects, which were approved by the government this year, would be implemented in the next 15 years.

"These economic projects are open to local, regional and international investors," the Saudi Press Agency quoted the prince as saying about the projects offered in petrochemicals, natural gas, electricity generation, water desalination, railway, telecommunications and other vital sectors.

It may be mentioned that the foreign trade development committee at the Council of Saudi Chambers of Commerce and Industry, infrastructure projects offer the largest investment opportunity of $140 billion. The petrochemicals sector comes second with $92 billion projects followed by electricity and water $88.9 billion, telecommunications $60 billion, tourism $53.3 billion, natural gas $50 billion, agriculture $28.3 billion and information technology $10.7 billion.

Prince Turki highlighted the significance of the land bridge project that aims at linking the Arabian Gulf on the Kingdom's east with Red Sea on the west, saying the multibillion dollar project would bring about a revolution in the country's trade and transportation.

In his keynote address to the symposium, which was attended by ministers, ambassadors and economists from Britain, the United States, Europe and Arab countries, Prince Turki emphasized the strength of Saudi economy, saying it is the largest in the Middle East in terms of revenues, banking, capital market and oil reserves and exports.

"Saudi Arabia is one of the 25 major economies in the world and its gross national product (GNP) accounts for one fifth of the total Middle East GNP," the ambassador said. The Saudi economy makes an annual growth rate of more than seven percent, which is the largest in the region.

Referring to the booming Saudi stock market, Prince Turki said about two million Saudis invest in the bourse, which is the 11the largest in the world as shares valued at about $1.7 billion are exchanged there daily.

The government has introduced a series of reforms and legislations to encourage local and foreign investment. "It has also taken a number of initiatives to ensure transparency of the economy.

The ambassador also referred to the Kingdom's efforts to promote its educational progress. "Efforts are under way to establish six new universities in addition to the existing eight universities. More than 100 technical and vocational training colleges have been established for both boys and girls," he explained.

New policies of the government would encourage Saudi women to invest their wealth in the market.

Saudi Arabia is the largest trading partner of Britain in the Middle East, Prince Turki said, adding that direct British investments in the Kingdom reached $3.5 billion. There are more than 150 Saudi-British joint projects.

Social Affairs Minister Abdul Mohsen Al-Akkas said Saudi Arabia had succeeded in competing with other countries in four areas: petroleum industry, petrochemicals, banking and health service. The Kingdom has fulfilled all requirements to join the World Trade Organization, he insisted.

MUSHAIRA IN DOHA

Doha-based India Urdu Society held its 12th monthly Mushaira (poetry session) at the residence of Ateeq Anzar, a literary figure and patron of Urdu poetry in Doha.

The session was followed by a dinner hosted by the founder president of the society, Jaleel Nizami. A large gathering of Urdu lovers attended the dinner and poetry session.

The program was presided over by businessman Azeem Abbas.

The chief guest was Undre Ahmed ba Aqeel who was on a visit to Qatar from Hyderabad, India. Hamid Saqqaf was the guest of honour.

The session started with a recitation of the Holy Qur'an by Hafiz Shahabuddin. Jaleel Nizami presented a Na'at before the commencement of the session. Ateeq Anzar compered the program. In his address Azeem Abbas congratulated the forum for organising the poetry session.

Ahmed ba Aqeel said this was the first time he had participated in the society's mushaira at Doha and was impressed by its high standards. Hamid Saqqaf also lauded the services of the society.

Those who recited poems and ghazals were Naseem Kazmi (President Bazme Urdu Qatar), Jaleel Nizami, Ateeq Anzar, Abul Hasan Qabil, Aatir Siddiqi, Dr Shams Madani, Maqsood Khan Maqsood and Shareef Perwaz.

The India Urdu Society is affiliated with the Indian Culture Centre under the aegis of Indian Embassy in Qatar.

 

 

UMRAH FIRMS

Umrah service firms operating in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will be converted to tourism companies by the end of this year, according to Prince Sultan ibn Salman, Secretary-General of the Supreme Commission for Tourism (SCT).

"We have reached an agreement with the Haj Ministry to change the license of Umrah firms to become tourist companies by the end of this year. We don't consider Haj and Umrah as tourism products. At the same time, we believe pilgrims could make use of our huge tourism potential when they come for Haj and Umrah," he said.

Prince Sultan said his organization would launch a nationwide school tourism program this month, targeting at least 1.45 million students and 6,000 teachers. This is part of SCT's efforts to prepare the nation for tourism. The process of building an industry from bottom to top, in terms of setting out regulations, training a national cadre and preparing citizens to welcome tourists.

Asked about media campaigns being launched by neighboring Arab countries to attract Saudi tourists, Prince Sultan acknowledged that Saudi Arabia's tourism industry was not yet ready to compete with other countries.

However, he emphasized that the Kingdom's tourism strategy, which was prepared with the support of 7,000 public and private institutions and consultancy offices proved Saudi Arabia could gradually become one of the preferred tourist destinations in the world.

"We are presently focusing on Saudi tourists, who go to foreign tourist centers like other people. We are targeting to achieve a five percent growth rate annually in order to realize our strategy," he pointed out.

He said the SCT was thinking of promoting Umrah to encourage pilgrims coming for the lesser pilgrimage to visit the country's tourist resorts. "We would like to promote business, conference and medical tourism shortly in connection with Umrah," he explained.

FISH PRICES STAY HIGH

FISH prices at the Doha Central Market continued to stay high, belying expectations of the market players. The wholesale traders attributed the high prices to reasons ranging from a low catch to unfavorable weather conditions.

Wholesalers were of the view that the resumption of fish exports by road to Saudi Arabia and low availability of some varieties of fish were the main factors for prices remaining considerably higher.

Most fishermen who had ventured into the 'high catch' zones , returning the same evening due to rough sea, said fishermen.

Though the wholesalers had expected prices of Hamour and Safi popular varieties of fish to come down considerably soon, yet there was virtually no decline in prices. Chenat, another variety which was available in the market after an eight-day gap, was traded in the QR20-25 range.

Likewise, local favourite Hamour too was costlier at prices ranging between QR20 and QR22/kilo. Safi was being sold at QR25 and above per kilo.

"Very little quantity of Safi was avaialable in the market ," said a wholesaler .

Though other varieties of fish like Kafour, Sardines and Rubian were also available, prices were marginally higher compared with their usual average rates.

Only the smaller type of shrimps (Iran) was being traded commonly in the market.

Retail price of sardines was in the QR7-8/kilo range.

GAS VENTURE

Qatar Petroleum has joined hands with Qatar Nitrogen Company and Air Liquide Middle East (AL) to form a joint venture - Qatar Industrial Gases Company - that would set up oxygen and nitrogen production and distribution facilities at Mesaieed and Ras Laffan.

QP and Qatar Nitrogen Company will have a 60% stake in the new joint venture while the remainder will be held by France's Air Liquide.

At the concluding of the joint venture agreement at the Ritz Carlton, the Second Deputy Premier and Minister of Energy and Industry, HE Abdullah bin Hamad al-Attiyah said the production facility would be ready by 2007.

This, he said, would help Qatar save millions of riyals as industrial gases including oxygen and nitrogen were being imported now.

Currently, oxygen and nitrogen are being used in large quantities by Qatar Steel Company, Qatar Petrochemical Company, RasGas and Qatargas.

The proposed GTL plants at Ras Laffan would also require huge quantities of oxygen and nitrogen. Hence the local production was fully justified, the Second Deputy Premier said.

Al-Attiyah said Qatar Industrial Gases Company would set up the oxygen and nitrogen production and distribution facilities at Mesaieed and Ras Laffan simultaneously. The funds required for the project will be met by the joint venture. Air Liquide had been drafted as the JV partner after a worldwide search.

Air Liquide is world's leading producer of industrial gases. Its experience and technical expertise will do the JV a world of good. Al-Attiyah said the joint venture had been set up under instructions from HH the Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani who wanted Qatar's rapid industrial and economic development for the benefit of its citizens.

Air Liquide executive vice-president Pierre Dufour said the production of industrial gases was a "clean business" as its feedstock was nothing but air.

As in the case of steel, air is used during combustion. Hence it is a clean and non-polluting process.

Qatar would require huge quantities of industrial gases, especially oxygen and nitrogen, as several worldscale GTL projects were being developed at Ras Laffan. GTL plants rely heavily on oxygen and nitrogen.

Qatar Nitrogen Company chairman Eid bin Mubarak al-Mohannadi, senior advisor to the Second Deputy Premier, Abdulla Salatt and French Ambassador Alain Azasou were also present.

SUMMER WONDERS

A symphony of sights and sounds representing cultures from across the world is in store for the people of Qatar this summer with an International Village opening in a few days at the Exhibition Centre.

'Around the World in 30 Days' is the theme for this year's Qatar Summer Wonders, being organized by Qatar Tourism Authority and formally opened on July 10.

"The QTA proudly announced that this key venue for the festival will bring to audiences some of the world's best shows from all corners of the globe". The event is to be staged on 8,000 sqm of floor space at the Exhibition Centre. Acts from Asia, North America, Europe and Africa will perform under one roof at the Exhibition Centre, QTA acting director general Gary Mason said .

"We are very proud to bring together such an eclectic mix of performers from around the world," he said. Some of the upcoming performances include a show for children from Universal Studios which will present Pinocchio, The Jungle Book, Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves, and Beauty and the Beast.

Other acts include South African folk dances, a martial arts display by Shaolin monks, a clown act, and a Wild West cowboy show.

South African folk dance star Vusi Musi Matola heads the cast of the country's leading dancers that will have audiences swaying to rhythms from the heart of Africa, officials said.

The Shaolin Show features some of the world's best martial arts experts. Their secrets, handed down from generation to generation, enable these Wushu warriors to move with lightning speed and perform incredible feats of strength, they added.

The Crazy Clown Show promises to be a crowd-pleaser with Join Alexi and his zany friends engaged in hilarious antics.

The Double J Medicine Man Western Show will bring alive the spirit of the Wild West with Jeff Jay as a whip-cracking, knife-throwing, rope-spinning medicine man.

Each of the productions will be staged twice every evening, beginning at 5pm, until August 10. Tickets cost QR20 for adults and QR10 for children.

QATAR ACQUIRES 34.9% OF NBO

In the first cross-border alliance between two GCC banks, the Commercial Bank of Qatar has bought a 34.9 per cent stake in the National Bank of Oman.

Commercial Bank signed the agreement for the acquisition, as well as a deal on raising shareholders' equity in NBO by 44.5 million Omani riyals (Dh422.75 million) from 105.5 million riyals (Dh1.02 billion).

NBO issued 10 million new shares to Commercial Bank, which will also purchase 17.92 million shares from existing NBO shareholders in the secondary market.

NBO has agreed to a Management Services Agreement with Commercial Bank, which has been approved by both boards and also by the Central Bank of Oman and Qatar Central Bank.

According to Abdullah Bin Khalifa Al Attiyah, chairman of Commercial Bank, it is necessary for regional banks to join forces to leverage local knowledge and competencies in the current climate of globalization and consolidation within the banking sector

Shaikh Suhail Salim Bahwan, chairman of NBO, says that the alliance provides a means for both banks to support the strengthening of economic development and bilateral economic exchange, which symbolize the trust-based relationship between the two countries.

NBO is the first local bank in Oman which was set up in 1973. Today its paid up capital of 70 million riyals (Dh669 million) Commercial Bank was established in 1975 as the first private sector bank in Qatar. Its value of assets is 14.07 billion Qatari riyals (Dh14.01 billion).