He has been conferred dozens of awards such as the
Indira Gandhi Priyadarshani Award, the K L Saigal Award, the
Outstanding Artistic Achievement Award and Honorary Citizenship of
Texas — USA.
Instead of an extravagant program to commemorate
the silver jubilee, the singer has decided to embark on a 25-city
performance tour with the intention of supporting social causes.
The Doha Bank Ghazal Nite is part of the tour and
is being held to support the Indian Community Benevolent Fund (ICBF).
The event's title sponsor is Doha Bank while the
prime sponsor is Al Ali Singhco.
The program is being organized at the initiative of
a few philanthropist businessmen like Ganesh Srinivasan, Sanaullah A
R, Moti Shroff, Harish Kanjani, Bhupender Singh and the group headed
by Azim Abbas. It is supported by the ICBF advisory council, headed by
DUBAI WORKERS STAGE DEMO FOR SALARY PAYMENT
Nearly 1,000 Asian workers, the bulk of them
Indians, staged a demonstration in Dubai in protest against
non-payment of salaries, prompting the minister of labor to order
their employer to settle their dues or lose the workers and face legal
The workers, employed by a construction company,
marched from their work site at the huge Palm project and blocked
traffic on Sheikh Zayed Road, the UAE's main artery connecting Dubai
with Abu Dhabi, for nearly two hours. Thousands of vehicles were held
up, causing a massive traffic snarl.
Police rushed to the scene but it took some time
before they could persuade the workers to return to their "labor
camp" living quarters. No violence was reported.
The protesters, who included Pakistanis,
Bangladeshis, Nepalese and Sri Lankans in addition to the majority
Indians, complained that they were not paid for between four and six
months. Their employer is a contractor on the multibillion dirham Palm
Island project of Nakheel, one of Dubai's two biggest real estate
companies. Nakheel has no direct connection with the workers, who are
hired and paid for by the contractor.
Company officials said the contractor employed over
15,000 workers and pays them on rotation since they are employed at
different construction sites, with the main project promoters setting
different timings for settling their bills. The dispute involved about
2,000 workers who are owed about three million dirhams in wages dating
back from May, according to representatives of the protesters.
The workers' contract pay ranged between 600 and
900 dirhams per month.
Minister of Labour and Social Affairs Ali Abdullah
Al Kaíabi, who has repeatedly issued warnings to local companies
against failing to pay workers' wages on time, took immediate action
by ordering the contractor to settle the dues within 24 hours. The
minister's decision also said that failure on the part of the company
to settle the dues would free the concerned workers to take up
alternate employment and their visas would be transferred to their new
employers without an otherwise mandatory no-objection certificate from
their present employer, who will also face punitive action from the
Ministry of Labor.
The minister's decision is unprecedented in the UAE,
where at least 800,000 Asians work on massive construction projects
across Dubai, and it also sets an example for employers who default on
wages to be paid to their employees.
KUWAIT PLANS MINIMUM WAGES
Kuwait's Minister of Social Affairs and Labor
Faisal Al-Hajji has proposed the introduction of a minimum wage for
hundreds of thousands of expatriate workers.
Al-Qabas newspaper quoted Hajji as saying he has
submitted recommendations to the cabinet calling for a 50-dinar ($170)
minimum monthly wage for foreigners hired by private companies
involved in government contracts. He also proposed a 70-dinar ($240)
minimum wage for expatriates working as security guards for private
companies. Monthly salaries of many expatriate menial workers, like
cleaners, are as low as $70 a month. Hajji said that after the
recommendations are approved, no private company will be awarded a
government contract before guaranteeing it will pay the minimum wage.
More than 1.8 million foreigners live in Kuwait, which has a
population of 2.8 million. About 900,000 work in the private sector,
including about 60 percent from the Indian subcontinent. Kuwait also
employs about 450,000 domestic workers, mostly from India, Sri Lanka
and the Philippines. Asian workers have staged a series of strikes in
recent months, claiming they had not been paid wages in several
months. The government intervened and threatened action against
employers if they did not pay.
The US State Department in its annual
"Trafficking in Persons Report" released in June criticized
Kuwait and three other Gulf states for not doing enough to halt human
trafficking and child labor. Washington has also stipulated improving
labor conditions and amending the labor law as two of several
conditions for starting free trade talks with Kuwait. Like other Gulf
states, foreigners working in Kuwait's private sector must have a
"sponsor," a regulation which restricts their movement and
puts them at the mercy of their employers. Officials have said Kuwait
has been cooperating with the International Labor Organization for the
past four years, and is considering ILO suggestions for changing the
sponsor requirement. In June, the labor ministry prohibited employers
from forcing laborers to work under the sun from noon to 4:00 pm
during the summer months when the temperature reaches 50 degrees
Celsius (122 Fahrenheit).
Dhahran International Exhibition Company has
announced that the eight International Gulf Exhibitions here spawned
many business deals.
The company said many local, regional and
international companies signed deals worth SR20 million. More than 200
companies and factories from different countries like Pakistan, UAE,
Jordan, Egypt, Syria, Iran, Bahrain and many other countries
participated in these exhibitions.
OPEC KINGPINS SET TO PUSH FOR HIGHER PRODUCTION
OPEC kingpins Saudi Arabia and Kuwait were set to
push the oil cartel toward higher production quotas even though crude
prices have come off their boil, pointing ahead to when the northern
hemisphere will head into winter. An increase would lend largely
symbolic support to industrialized economies where consumers have been
hit by sharply higher energy costs.
OPEC President Sheikh Ahmad Fahd al-Sabah
reiterated his proposal to raise the cartel's output by 500,000
barrels per day (bpd) despite a huge production surplus, in comments
published Sunday in Kuwait.
"There are fears in the oil market regarding
crude supplies despite huge surplus," Sheikh Ahmad told the daily
Al-Rai Al-Aam in New York where he attended the UN summit before
heading to Vienna for a crucial OPEC meeting.
"There are quantities that the market can't
take and have no buyers, but nevertheless prices are rising," he
said. The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries would
therefore play its role towards cooling prices and relaxing the
markets, the Sheikh said, adding that "we will do our best in
this meeting, including a proposal to hike output by 500,000
Saudi Arabian Oil Minister Ali al-Nuaimi, a OPEC
key figure and among the first to arrive for a two-day meeting that
starts Monday, gave unqualified support for increased production. When
asked if his country, the world's biggest oil producer, backed a rise
in the group's headline output figure, Nuaimi replied "absolutely
Sheikh Ahmad had already proposed that the official
quota be raised to 28.5 million bpd, which would be an all-time high
since its creation in 1987.
An increase has also been backed to various degrees
by the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Iran and Indonesia.
The decision must be made by all 11 OPEC ministers
expected to attend the meeting, but the Saudi position makes it likely
the others will go along. Yet analysts and OPEC officials maintain
that the real reasons for high oil prices lie elsewhere.
Nuaimi acknowledged there was no real demand for
more crude oil now, but added: "You have to look forward beyond
"Our next meeting is in December and things
can change between now and December," when winter begins in many
industrialized countries. In Abu Dhabi, UAE Energy Minister Mohammad
bin Dhaen al-Hamli told the official WAM news agency Saturday:
"Should crude prices remain at their current levels or rise, the
upcoming ministerial meeting might decide to increase production by an
adequate amount in order to calm world oil markets."
But he added that along with Iraq -- the production
of which is not included in OPEC's official quota -- the cartel was
already pumping around 30.2 million bpd.
The announcement of an increase therefore might not
put much more crude oil on the market. Crude oil prices eased further
last week, while remaining above the 60 dollar-a-barrel level some
analysts have tipped as a short-term floor.
Prices were nonetheless well off the record of
70.85 dollars hit in New York on August 30 after Hurricane Katrina
slammed into the U.S. Gulf coast.
Nuami reiterated the Saudi and market view that
responsibility for high prices lay further along the production line,
in particular with inadequate refining capacity, and pointed to
destruction wrought by Katrina.
"You know better than I do where the
constraints are, they are not on the supply side of crude oil,"
They were, he continued, on the so-called
downstream side that includes refining, where the hurricane damaged
infrastructure that converts crude oil into products such as gasoline
(petrol) and heating fuel. As for signs that growth of demand was
slowing in major oil consuming countries such as China and the United
States, the Saudi minister suggested that could also change within the
OPEC producers yesterday prepared to postpone
action on extra crude supply, falling short of expectations among some
consumer countries hoping for immediate relief from fuel price
The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting
Countries was near a deal to make available its remaining spare
production, but only when needed in a world market short of refined
product, rather than crude, ministers said. "We will collectively
make a pledge to have the spare capacity available if needed, but I
don't believe it is needed," said Nigerian Oil Minister Edmund
OPEC was likely to agree to a resolution that would
vow to release the spare 2 million barrels a day should it be
required, said OPEC President Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahd Al-Sabah. Official
output quotas for 10 member countries would be kept unchanged at a
ceiling of 28 million bpd, he said.
"We have the 2 million available if there is a
call for it ó there is no need for raising the ceiling," Sheikh
Ahmad said. Oil prices had eased from a record $70.85 a barrel in the
three weeks since Hurricane Katrina hit US Gulf oil facilities. But
crude rebounded sharply yesterday, rising $3.55 to $66.55 a barrel by
1620 GMT as another tropical storm threatened the region.
Analysts said OPEC appeared to be trying to tread a
fine line between reassuring consumer countries that spare capacity is
readily available without forcing unnecessary supply on to the market.
"OPEC wants to be perceived as part of the solution, not part of
the problem," said consultant Yasser Elguindi of Medley Global
"But they don't want to send the wrong signal
to the market. They want to continue a loose supply policy, meaning
that if there's a crude problem, which there isn't now, they can
supply it." Europe, rather than the United States, has led calls
for more oil from OPEC, even though there appears to be no way it can
sell more to refiners.
UK Finance Minister Gordon Brown, representing the
European Union, last week called for an extra 500,000 barrels a day.
Brown and his French counterpart Thierry Breton
said they wanted G-7 officials to visit producer countries to help
increase oil price transparency.
The call coincided with the conclusion by OPEC of a
long-term strategy plan that seeks to provide transparency about how
IRAN LOWERS BANKING RATES
The Minister of Economic Affairs and Finance said
here Saturday that one of the government's important priority is to
lower banking loan rates.
Davud Danesh-Jaffari told reporters that policies
have been devised to counter inflation and lower banking loan rates.
To achieve these aims, it is essential for the government to opt for
fiscal discipline. "Unless discipline is infused in the system,
there will be no opportunity to rein in inflation."
He said that this requires that plans would be
implemented within a comprehensive economic framework. The government
has also been barred from running budget deficits and is to fulfill
its obligations to the banking system due to previous borrowings.
Also, there would be solutions laid out to strike a
balance between demand and supply in using banking facilities so that
some of the larger banking customers, who primary hail from the state
sector, have access to varied sources in meeting their financial
needs, the Economic Affairs and Finance Minister added.
These steps will reduce pressure on the banking
sector and customers could tap into financial markets which are all
helpful in lowering inflation. Danesh-Jaffari also reiterated the need
for interaction with world economy in a way to ensure mutual
interests. He alluded to several ways to revive the stock markets. The
law on support and promotion of foreign investments in the stock
market has been approved which would pave the way for inflow of
foreign capital into the market.
Other officials have sounded alarm on the potential
negative effects of lowering banking rates on the economy. An economy
official said here in May that the bill on reduction of bank's lending
rates would have many negative ramifications on demand deposits,
lending ability and structure of banks.
Former Deputy Economy and Finance Minister for
Banking and Insurance Affairs Seyyed Hamid Purmohammadi said that
since the volume of liquidity is important for industrialists, banks
should strive to attract deposits and expand pay-out of loans to the
industrial and manufacturing sector. "If the demand for loans
increases and their price drops, then it will create a conducive
atmosphere for corruption and damage to banking funds." †Higher
demand will create a shortage of supply of banking resources and
banking clients including industrialists and entrepreneurs will be
forced to look outside the official markets for funds which,
invariably, carry higher rates.
If banks cut their loan rates by 4.5 percent in the
next 18 months, as the bill stipulates, then they should either make
alternative revenues from other sources, reduce expenditures or incur
losses. This is because the revenues and profits generated by banks
are lower than the level at which they might otherwise be able to
afford the costs inherent in the provisions of the bill, Purmohammadi
BMI OPENING BRANCHES IN PAKISTAN AND IRAQ
In its bid to gain a foothold in the region, Bank
Melli Iran (BMI) is planning to open branch offices in Iraq and
"After the necessary negotiations were carried
out with Iraqi officials from the Central Bank of Iraq, they will most
possibly issue the license to establish the BMI branch office in that
country within the next month", a fax report quoted Mohsen Qadimi
He added that BMI's long-term strategy is to
develop banking system in the region and, in line with the very same
goal, the Future Bank of Bahrain as well as the Aryan Bank of
Afghanistan have started to work during the past two years.
Following the opening of a branch of BMI in Iraq,
the bank has on its agenda to open another branch office in Pakistan,
the bank official also explained.
Currently, the BMI has 12 branch offices outside
the country as well as 4 independent banks in different countries
across the world.
IRAN'S NEW PLAN FOR RESOLVING NUCLEAR STANDOFF
After President Mahmud Ahmadinejad presented Iran's
new plan for resolving the nuclear standoff with the West on Saturday,
diplomats in Vienna reacted in various ways, which shows that each of
the supporters and opponents of Iran's nuclear activities have become
more determined in their positions. The new stance adopted by Iran has
created a new atmosphere in Vienna, which can be called the "New
According to the Mehr News Agency correspondent in
Vienna, even though Vienna-based diplomats have been holding
negotiations on Iran's nuclear dossier for several days in preparation
for the Monday meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency Board
of Governors, the spirit of the talks will be affected by
Ahamdinejad's speech to the UN General Assembly.
Although Western delegations in Vienna had taken a
more cautious view of Iran's nuclear dossier until recently, under the
influence of the United States, they began preparing to draw up a
tough draft resolution on Iran's nuclear program for the IAEA Board
meeting after the Iranian president's speech and the announcement of
the latest positions of Britain, France, and Germany.
The European Union trio, along with traditional
allies like Canada and Australia and some small EU states, are
adopting a tough position in response to Iran's strong stance on its
right to possess the complete nuclear fuel cycle and its insistence
that its cooperation with the IAEA is conditional on the agency not
deviating from its legal and technical course. On the other hand, the
Non-Aligned Movement members of the board, along with Russia, China
and some other developing and independent countries, welcomed Iran's
principled position and emphasized Iran's transparent cooperation with
the IAEA. They stated that the extension of an invitation to the
public and private sectors of their countries to participate in Iran's
nuclear activities is in line with Iran's legal right and expressed
their opposition to any threats against Tehran.
Currently 12 countries, the United States, Canada,
Britain, France, Germany, Australia, the Netherlands, Sweden,
Slovakia, Portugal, Belgium, and Poland, will definitely support a
resolution that calls for restricting Iran's uranium
enrichment-related activities. Mexico will probably join them.
However, Japan, South Korea, Italy, and Argentina could adopt
positions closer to those of that group under certain circumstances.
However, the MNA correspondent says Iran's active
diplomatic efforts in recent days have gained momentum, and its
position has been consolidated in the IAEA. Now, about 11 countries,
China, India, Algeria, South Africa, Ghana, Tunisia, Yemen, Vietnam,
Venezuela, Nigeria, and Sri Lanka support IAEA-supervised peaceful
nuclear activities by Tehran and the settlement of the remaining
ambiguities about Iran's nuclear program with the agency. Singapore
and Pakistan will probably join this group. Russia can also be added
to the supporters of Iran. Meanwhile, Brazil, Ecuador, Peru, and
Argentina can be regarded as swing votes, but they will not abstain.
An abstention would be equivalent to voting against the resolution.
If no country switches sides during the IAEA Board
meeting, the fate of any resolution will be unclear. If Russia and
India strongly support the NAM grouping, the advocates of a resolution
against Iran will most likely face defeat for the first time.
Along with China, NAM plans to demonstrate a
stronger position on Iran's nuclear dossier, which can be interpreted
as a new development in the IAEA.
Vienna-based diplomats believe that the recent
insistence by Tehran that its cooperation with the IAEA will remain
dependent on respect for its nuclear rights within the framework of
the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty is a new warning to the IAEA to
refrain from taking politicized decisions.