GULF VIEW

 

July 25 - 31, 2005

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PAK CRICKETERS GET ROUSING WELCOME IN S. ARABIA

A rousing welcome was accorded to Pakistan cricket heroes when they landed at Riyadh to participate in a three one-day matches between Pakistan XI and International XI to be played during the next 10 days in Jeddah and Riyadh.
Being the first time high-profile cricket matches organized in the Kingdom, the event has generated a lot of interest among the cricket lovers to watch Pakistan's cricket giants in action for the first time in the Kingdom.
The first two one-dayers will be played in Jeddah at the Prince Abdullah Al-Faisal Stadium. The third will be played in Riyadh on July 29 at the King Fahd Stadium.

 

 

Al-Jawad Group, are the organizers of the cricket bonanza while other sponsors include Hanco, Radisson Hotel, La Sani and Arab News.

Led by Inzemam ul Haq, the Pakistan squad is comprised of flamboyant Shahid Afridi, Yousuf Youhana, Abdul Razzaq, Younis Khan, Shoaib Malik, Kamran Akmal, Salman Butt, Muhammad Sami and offspinner Arshad. Pakistan side, it is learnt performed Umrah before entering into the arena.

SAUDI CHANNEL WINS GOLD

Saudi Television's sports channel has won the golden prize at the international festival for sports media and television in Iran.

Prince Sultan ibn Fahd, chief of the Youth Welfare Presidency, has congratulated Culture and Information Minister Iyad Madani on the victory.

The channel won the prize for a program on the organization of the Islamic Solidarity Games in Saudi Arabia in April this year.

Prince Sultan also congratulated all staff of the Culture and Information Ministry, especially those of the Sports Channel for their outstanding performance at the festival.

"It reflects the high standard achieved by the Saudi media with its various branches as a result of the government's generous support.

E-GOVERNMENT

CrimsonLogic, which has been working with regional enterprises for the past five years, says it is currently involved in e-government projects in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) and Iran.

V. Mathivanan, CEO of CrimsonLogic has said that they were actively exploring other nationwide projects relating to the judiciary, trade processing, e-government initiatives and security in Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Syria and the UAE. Singapore has secured a strategic partnership with Kuwait to assist the country in developing e-government strategies and formulate a technology master plan for its public sector agencies. While the parties concerned are not in a position to disclose the details of the agreement, Singapore says it is providing consultation support on e-government initiatives.

Jordan is another country that worked with Singapore during the launch of its e-government initiatives. In 2004, the two nations used the World Economic Forum as the platform to sign the Singapore-Jordan Free Trade Agreement (SJFTA) and the Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT). The SJFTA is Singapore's first government-level agreement with a Middle Eastern nation and Jordan's first such initiative in Asia. The agreement aims to provide a platform for economic negotiations and partnerships between Singapore and Jordan.

The partnership covers a broad range of economic activities and it forms part of a broader framework on closer economic ties between the two nations. It also includes a technical support agreement that was signed in October 2003. Singapore is keen to share ideas and work on e-government projects in the Middle East. As part of the year-long technical support agreement, the two countries have exchanged know-how on the planning and delivery of e-government systems, said, Samantha Fok, deputy director, enterprise development industry group at Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA). "In the IT realm, Singapore is renowned for its speed of adoption and robust technology infrastructures, fueled by the combination of close public and private sector co-operation. Many Singaporean ICT companies have demonstrated their expertise in vertical sectors like e-government, healthcare, logistics and financial services both locally and across other Asian countries.

Through our talks with government officials from the Middle East, such expertise coincides with their vision of narrowing the digital divide and goals to develop vibrant business communities beyond traditional oil exports," Fok adds.

 

 

Kuwait and Jordan are not the only regional countries the Asian IT hub wants to work with. Global research firm IDC claims the MENA region is now the third fastest-growing IT hotbed in the world, behind only China and India. It also forecasts the region's technology market to grow from US$6.9 billion in 2003 to US$13.4 billion by 2008 and Singapore is keen to secure a piece of the burgeoning market.

Singapore's senior minister Goh Chok Tong, who recently visited the Middle East, says the region has a significant business potential for his country's ICT companies in their bid to expand beyond local shores.

"As proven in more developed countries, technology can undoubtedly serve as a key enabler for governments and businesses to achieve greater operational efficiencies. Evidenced by optimistic projections for IT spending in the next five years, the Middle East is no exception," he adds.

The Middle East and Singapore share many similarities in their goals and plans to improve access to ICT, bridging the digital divide and empowering local communities to use ICT for their own development, according to Fok.

"Through such shared vision, we see strong commonalties to work together, to establish collaborative links and develop global alliances. More importantly, we are committed to incorporating ICT into the government sector, as well as businesses because we believe this will help to spur socio-economic development and will build a competitive edge for the countries," she enthuses.

IRAN TO PRODUCE FOKKER PARTS

Managing Director of Iran Aircraft Manufacturing Industries Company (HESA) said that following the negotiations held with the Rekkof Aircraft Manufacturing Company, successor of the former Dutch aircraft manufacturer Fokker, his company will produce the aircraft parts in Iran. He added, "It was also decided that for the time being, the Dutch company sells Iran about 30 percent of the parts needed to manufacture the aircraft in the country."

Iranian experts are not facing any problem in producing the aircraft inside Iran; the country is even capable of manufacturing larger aircraft, the official also asserted.

He commented that currently Iranian experts produce some of the parts of the Iranian aircraft called Iran 140; whereas in the past, the country imported all the aircraft parts from its producer, Ukraine, for assembling only. However, right now, we are even manufacturing parts for the fuselage of the aircraft.

He further explained, "The central wing of Iran 140 (the connecting point of two wings) is in fact the most sophisticated part of building the aircraft as well as the attachments for engines are made by Iranian technicians.

Iranian Minister of Roads and Transportation Mohammad Rahmati had earlier said that Iran was negotiating with the Netherlands over the purchase of the Rekkof Aircraft Manufacturing Company, adding, "The aircraft will be produced in Iran by the Iranian experts and marketed under an Iranian name".

He had also stated that the company manufacturing Fokker planes was bankrupted in 1996 and is currently operating under the name of Rekkof. It is now looking for an Iranian partner to produce Fokker in Iran, he added.

NON-OPEC SUPPLY LIKELY TO RISE

Non-OPEC supply is expected to rise strongly next year, almost meeting world oil demand growth and meaning very little need for extra OPEC crude, OPEC headquarters said.

In a monthly report, OPEC's Vienna secretariat said a balanced world market next year would require 29 million barrels daily of the cartel's crude, only 100,000 bpd more than this year and a million barrels a day less than its latest estimate for the group's output.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries pumped 30.01 million bpd in June, the report said, up slightly from May.

OPEC blames refinery bottlenecks in consuming countries for high oil prices of now at $58 for U.S. crude, saying that it is pumping more than enough crude to meet world demand.

The group has opened up the taps to build up world oil inventories ahead of peak winter demand but refined product premiums have helped sustain high crude prices.

The report projected 2006 world demand growth at 1.54 million barrels a day or 1.9 percent, reaching 85.2 million bpd, from this year's growth of 1.62 million bpd, 2 percent.

The report downgraded OPEC's forecast for demand growth in 2005 by 150,000 bpd and cut the projected call on OPEC crude by 260,000 bpd to 28.9 million.

OPEC's estimate of the call on its crude during the peak fourth quarter of this year was reduced by 120,000 bpd to 30.49 million bpd.

The revisions were a result of lower-than-expected Chinese demand growth of 2 percent from January-May. Chinese oil demand in the first half of last year shot up 19.5 percent.

Non-OPEC supply, including OPEC gas liquids, next year is expected to rise by 1.43 million bpd to 54.76 million from 990,000 bpd of growth this year, the report said.

That means the net call on OPEC crude in 2006 is projected at 29 million bpd on average, a million barrels daily less than actual output last month.

BRUNEI REAPS OIL BONANZA

Brunei reaps oil bonanza amid diversification plans Brunei, Southeast Asia's third largest oil producer, is reaping a bonanza from soaring oil prices but the government is adamant this will not distract from long-term plans to diversify the economy.

While the oil and gas sector is likely to remain the main growth engine for the next several years, Brunei's absolute ruler, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, said last week he would implement wide-ranging reforms to attract foreign investments and develop other industries.

The Malay state on the northern tip of Borneo island posted a budget surplus of $750mn last year, thanks to oil prices surging above $50 a barrel, the regional business magazine Asia Inc reported.

And with prices skyrocketing this year to new records of above $60 a barrel, observers admit the windfall for the country will continue.

"As I see it, the oil and gas sector will continue to be the main driver of growth in the next several years," an Asian diplomat based in the Brunei capital of Bandar Seri Begawan told AFP, requesting not to be named.

"And oil prices rising to record highs will certainly boost Brunei's economy in terms of revenue. Having said that, this should not lure the government into complacency and slacken on its planned diversification."

The government, in Brunei's 2005 Yearbook, had the same view.

"Whilst Brunei enjoys benefits in the short term, the country needs to ensure the long-term sustainability of its business, and excessively high oil prices are detrimental to that," it said.

Sultan Hassanal, in a speech marking his 59th birthday on July 15, said the country can not ignore the changes brought about by globalization, and must develop new industries and attract foreign investors to be competitive.

He announced a series of financial reforms and ordered the government to cut down on bureaucratic red tape to ensure a conducive environment for investors.

"In a world characterized by globalization and intensive competition, efforts to strengthen the national economy and make it more competitive should be enhanced from time to time," he said.

"The government is not complacent, it is implementing measures to nurture local entrepreneurship, intensifying industrial activities and expanding opportunities for foreign investments into Brunei."

Among Brunei's plans are to build a deep-water port capable of handling bigger, next-generation oil tankers, and developing the Sungai Liang Industrial Park that would use the country's proven gas reserves to establish downstream and manufacturing industries.

The government is negotiating with potential investors for an ammonia/urea and methanol petrochemical plant at Sungai Liang, as well as with interested parties for the proposed port project.

The government also plans to develop tourism, transportation and logistics and financial services as complementary growth areas.

To strengthen the financial sector, Sultan Hassanal said the Insurance Act, Banking Act, Financial Companies Act and Pawn Broking Act are being amended to align local practices with global standards.

He also endorsed a recommendation to merge two local Islamic banks.

Meanwhile, Brunei's oil and gas sector will continue to provide a comfortable base.

Petroleum exports totalled 1.4bn Brunei dollars ($800mn) in the fourth quarter of 2004, up 2.6% from the third quarter, a special supplement on the oil and gas sector by the English language daily Borneo Bulletin said.

The exports were up 36.6% compared with the fourth quarter of 2003, said the report, which was timed for release on the sultan's birthday.

With total production of more than 200,000bpd as of end 2004, Brunei ranks behind Indonesia and Malaysia as Southeast Asia's third biggest oil producer.

It is also the world's fourth largest producer of liquefied natural gas (LNG).

The oil and gas sector accounts for 93% of Brunei's total exports, which totalled $8.56bn last year.

The sector received a boost in October when Brunei Shell Petroleum - a joint venture between the Brunei government, the Royal Dutch Shell Group and one of two oil producers in the country - made a new discovery in the Seria North Flank.

Brunei Shell Petroleum estimates total recoverable oil from the Seria North Flank at up to 100mn barrels.

Natural gas, however, should take on a larger profile in the future as demand for cleaner fuel increases, the government said, citing sharply rising demand from China, India, Japan and the US in the next 10 years.

IRAN'S N-ENRICHMENT

The nuclear issue has nothing to do with the formation of President-elect Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's cabinet, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said.

Commenting on the possibility that the European Union would postpone the presentation of its plan on Iran's nuclear program until the formation of Ahmadinejad's government, Asefi told reporters at his weekly press briefing, "As the EU deadline approaches, we enter a critical situation, so we have arranged informal negotiations with the Europeans to expedite the matter."

The nuclear issue has nothing to do with the formation of Ahmadinejad's cabinet because continuing the negotiations is incumbent upon the next president, he added.

Iran will resume nuclear activities if the results of the negotiations with the EU are not satisfactory, he explained.

However, Asefi expressed hope that the EU's plan would clearly recognize Iran's legal rights and thus prevent the negotiations from reaching an impasse.

The EU is supposed to present its plan between August 1st and 6th, but if it does not recognize Iran's right to enrich uranium, that would be unacceptable and Iran would then resume enrichment activities at the Isfahan Uranium Conversion Facility (UCF), the Foreign Ministry spokesman said.

Asefi stated that Iran had no plan to negotiate with the United States on the nuclear issue, adding that the members of the Iranian nuclear negotiating delegation were appointed by the Supreme National Security Council and not by the president and therefore they would not be replaced.

 

 

The Foreign Ministry spokesman stated that the recent visit of Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari was a response to the visit of Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi to Iraq and said that satisfactory negotiations were held on oil, commercial cooperation, industries, pilgrimages, and other topics.

Iran will not send pilgrim caravans to Iraq at this point in time because of the security situation in that country, Asefi explained.

Iran's close relations with Iraq have nothing to do with the United States and will not have a negative impact on Iraq's relations with the U.S., he added.

He went on to say that Iran had always sought friendly relations with Muslim and Arab countries and had established close relations with these countries during the presidencies of Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Mohammad Khatami.

The expansion of Iran's relations with Iraq will also have a positive impact on its relations with other Arab countries, Asefi added.

The Foreign Ministry spokesman also criticized the U.S. and the EU for interfering in Iran's domestic affairs by meddling in the legal case against imprisoned Iranian journalist Akbar Ganji.

The U.S. should not speak about the human rights situation in other countries because it is itself guilty of institutionalized human rights violations, he observed, adding that the Ganji case is a domestic affair of the Islamic Republic and hopefully an appropriate solution will be found.

The Judiciary is an independent organization and Iran will not let any foreign country interfere in its domestic affairs, Asefi emphasized.

Inputs from PAGE sources as well courtesy Tehran Times