BIRD FLU: SAUDIA RESTRICTS
BIRDS, EGGS IMPORT
Saudi Arabia has imposed a
temporary ban on the import of live birds and eggs from Turkey,
Romania and Iran as part of precautionary measures to keep bird flu
out of the country.
Muhammad Al-Sheiha, deputy
agriculture minister for animal resources, said the action was taken
on the basis of World Health Organization reports, which confirmed
that the deadly strain of H5NI avian flu had appeared in Turkey and
"The ban on bird imports
from Iran was based on a WHO report of Oct. 14 following the deaths of
large numbers of ducks which were affected by an unknown disease in
the country," the official said.
Scores of migrating birds
have been dying in northwest Iran but Iranian State veterinary
officials yesterday ruled out the presence of bird flu in the country
although the cause of the deaths has not been determined.
The Gulf region is at risk
from the threat of bird flu, a Bahrain official warned , following an
emergency meeting of the Gulf Cooperation Council in Riyadh, which
drew up joint strategies to combat the deadly virus.
Individual GCC states have
adopted measures to prevent the spread of avian flu, including banning
the import of birds, poultry and their products from countries in Asia
and Europe where cases are known to exist.
Dr. Yaaqub Al-Mazroue,
assistant deputy health minister for preventive medicine, said the
Kingdom had taken all precautions to prevent the outbreak of bird flu
in the country and had allocated SR25 million for the purchase of
"The agency for
preventive medicine has developed a comprehensive plan to deal with
the problem," Mazroue said, adding that the ministry's labs and
blood banks have taken measures to ensure quick detection of avian flu
Experts fear the H5N1 virus,
which has killed more than 60 people and caused the deaths of millions
of birds in Asia since 2003, could mutate and spread to humans,
creating a pandemic that would kill millions of people. Fears of a
bird flu outbreak this year have forced Saudi officials to take extra
precautions ahead of a large influx of pilgrims from around the world
Meanwhile Thousands of UAE
falcon hunters, who traditionally travel to Asian and North African
countries, are giving up the sport following the outbreak of bird flu
in Asia and parts of Europe.
The hunters are being advised
to forget about the sport at least for this year, as the birds may be
carrying the deadly avian virus.
The Environment Agency-Abu
Dhabi has advised falcon-hunters not to hunt the houbara bustard and
other birds during the hunting season, which began last month and
would last until late April.
The migratory birds mainly
come from the affected parts of Asia and could carry the bird flu
virus without showing any apparent symptoms. UAE falconers were
initially thinking about going to Iraq, Libya, Morocco, Algeria,
Tunisia or Mauritania during the falcon-hunting season.
Earlier, Pakistan and
Kazakhstan were on top of the list of Asian destinations for
falcon-hunters from the Gulf region. UAE falconers are banned from
hunting in the country due to fauna-protection rules.
CROSS BORDER GAS PIPELINE
The second meeting of
Iran-India working group for the construction of Iran-Pakistan-India
gas pipeline was held in Tehran last week.
Speaking at the end of the
session, Iran's deputy oil minister for international affairs Hadi
Nejad-Hosseinian said that Indian oil and gas officials were willing
to finalize the construction of the Iran-India gas pipeline as soon as
Nejad-Hosseinian added that
the Indians offered a report of their negotiations with the Pakistani
side. The report points out new agreements between the two states,
including an agreement over gas prices.
The deputy oil minister said
that if India and Pakistan reach an agreement over the transit fee,
many problems would be solved.
PTI reported that India's
22-billion dollar deal to import 5 million tons of LNG from Iran is in
trouble after General Electric of U.S. is believed to have refused
supply of crucial equipment needed to make LNG to Tehran.
GE has refused to supply
compressors, a crucial link in converting natural gas into liquid for
transportation in ships, to Iran, industry sources said.
German firm Linde had also
refused liquefaction technology to Iran. As such Iran cannot access
commercially proven LNG liquefaction technologies due to U.S.
sanctions on Tehran. The only two commercially proven LNG liquefaction
technologies are of U.S. origin and the sanctions preclude U.S. based
firms to associate with projects in Iran.
Sources said Iran was banking
on yet to be commercially tested 'MFC' process of Linde and 'Liquefin'
process of Axens (a wholly owned subsidiary of IFP of France) for
liquefaction of natural gas produced from gigantic South Pars fields
in the Persian Gulf.
While the French liquefaction
technology is the only hope for Iran, Tehran is now talking to Ukrain
for their sourcing compressors. Ukrainian compressors are however not
very energy efficient and may push up liquefaction cost.
Trouble in sourcing
technology may delay the first LNG to India by at least two years to
2012, sources said. National Iranian Oil Co. (NIOC), which owns the
South Pars gas field, was to approve the LNG export deal to India
within three weeks of signing of the Sales Purchase Agreements (SPAs)
between Iran's gas export firm NIGEC and India on June 12 but is yet
to give its stamp of approval.
Sources said NIOC approval
for the 22-billion dollar deal was to come by July 5 but it has sought
more financial details of the proposal while considering it. Tehran is
pitching for the French technology by awarding a huge block in South
Pars field to French firm TOTAL for production of liquefied natural
gas (LNG) and export.
India wants to import 5
million ton per annum of LNG beginning 2009-10 from Iran to
supplements its domestic natural gas production, which barely meets
half the current demand.
In June, three separate SPAs
were signed between National Iranian Gas Export Co. (NIGEC) and GAIL
India LTD (2 million tons per annum), NIGEC and Indian Oil Corp (1.75
mtpa) and NIGEC and Bharat Petroleum Corp LTD (1.25 mtpa).
IRAN TO SET UP NATIONAL
OFFICE FOR ECONOMIC SECURITY
At a gathering of
high-ranking judiciary officials, Judiciary Chief Ayatollah Hashemi
Shahrudi said that a national office would be established to guarantee
both the soundness of investments and the security of assets.
The office, which is a joint
initiative of President Mahmud Ahmadinejad and the Judiciary chief,
will be tasked with dealing with measures that could harm the economic
security of the country, he added.
"We will no longer let
certain public organizations threaten the security of a competitive
investment in the country through the presentation of false reports.
The Judiciary will take measures to support free investments and the
security of assets in the region," Shahrudi explained.
He also expressed gratitude
for President Ahmadinejad's participation in the initiative and stated
that the new office would severely deal with anyone whose actions
threaten the economic security of the country and would also endeavor
to reduce hindrances discouraging economic investment.
Pointing to the fact that the
Judiciary is the forerunner in responding to economic corruption,
Shahrudi noted that many cases of economic corruption were
investigated and a great number of potential sources of tension were
dealt with at a recent meeting attended by the heads of the three
branches of government.
He added that creating
economic security and supporting legal investments are of great
significance, saying that Iran's economic structures and methods
should be reformed since their complexity and excessive red tape are
having a negative impact on national interests.
Elsewhere in his remarks,
Shahrudi said that the government should not monopolize all economic
affairs and, in allocating some economic affairs to the private
sector, should not act in a way to continue its monopoly over the
He expressed the view that
Iran has a vulnerable economic system, adding that after the eight
years of the Iraqi imposed war on Iran, some economic activities were
supposed to be privatized, but the plan was not implemented because
the government was actually reluctant to lose some of its resources
He went on to say that the
government should respect the assets of the people, adding that when
private assets and their development are neglected, the national
The government should
establish security for the private assets of individuals so that they
will be encouraged to invest in the country; otherwise, investors will
take their assets to foreign countries, which will not only inflict
damage on the national economy and resources but will also promote the
economic development of those foreign countries, Shahrudi said.
He called Iran's complicated
economic regulations in the banking and customs systems another factor
creating economic problems for the country and defined economic
corruption as the insecurity of the private sector, capital flight,
and excessive economic red tape.
In conclusion, Shahrudi said
that some of the reports in the media and elsewhere about embezzlement
by high-level managers are incorrect and thus will not only do nothing
to help fight economic corruption but will also create economic
insecurity and frustration, which may in the long run lead to capital
flight, which is the leading cause of the country's economic problems.
More than 10 domestic private
companies have taken the lead to invest in new and renewable energies,
acting director of Energy Ministry Hamid Chitchian said. The
activities in this field in Iran are focused on scientific and
research aspects, and research part is aimed at reduction of capital
required for exploitation of related resources, he added.
The second step is to work
research results into scientific dimension of this field for practical
means, i.e. establishing electricity power plants. Due to recent
advancements in wind energy, many investors in the country have become
interested in investing in this type of energy. At the moment,
projects assuming 130 MW of wind power plants are underway, of which,
25 MW is operational, the director stated.
Based on the planning in the
4th Socioeconomic and Cultural Development Plan (2005-2010), private
sector is expected to have a share of at least 270 MW in renewable
energies. However, it is the government's duty to take the first step
for investment in biomass and solar power plants; private sector may
then play its part once the infrastructures to this end are laid out,
At the moment, a 250-KW plant
is under construction in Shiraz and two more geothermal units with 5
and 50 MW capacities will follow. Moreover, two biomass and solar
energy plants, standing at 10 MW and 17 MW respectively, are of other
DUBAI GOLD AND COMMODITY
Dubai Gold and Commodities
Exchange (DGCX), the first such marketplace in the Middle East, will
commence trading on November 22 with the opening of the gold futures
From day one, DGCX will offer
an uninterrupted trading window of more than 13 hours to provide
arbitrage opportunities against Far East, European and American
markets. "It is remarkable that DGCX will go live with its
trading operations within a year from the launch of the concept,"
said Framroze Pochara, chief executive of DGCX.
DGCX opened its membership
last June, receiving more than 270 applications in two months. Of
these, roughly 200 have been approved in principle and 50 have been
formally admitted. "We estimate that we will have around 100
members trading on the DGCX markets on day one.
This critical mass of members
will ensure that the first day of trading will be meaningful, and will
see active participation from across the globe," Pochara said.
Confirmed members include Mashreq Securities, National Bank of Dubai,
Standard Bank, Goldas (Turkey), Supama International, and Swiss Gold.
Abu Dhabi Motors, the
exclusive importer for BMW, MINI, ALPINA and Rolls Royce vehicles in
Abu Dhabi and Al Ain, has successfully completed the BMW Quality
Management Assurance program with a score of 96.1 percent, the highest
ever achieved in the Middle East. QMA is a voluntary quality assurance
scheme designed for BMW importers that provides a framework of
business standards to improve internal communication and efficiency of
processes to enhance customer loyalty and profitability. Arno
Husselmann, general manager of Abu Dhabi Motors said: "This was a
quality performance from a quality team that demonstrated the highest
standards of professionalism. The QMA program has been developed and
refined at BMW dealerships around the world over a number of years and
is differentiated from other quality assurance programs by its
cross-departmental applications and approaches for achieving greater
HYDERABAD PROPERTY SHOWS
Investment opportunities in
real estate projects for the Indian expatriate community were
highlighted in a series of Hyderabad property shows held across Saudi
Arabia recently. Jeddah alone had two such presentations, which
reflected the "tremendous interest" the community had in
investing in real estate projects, Mohammed Abdur Raheem, chief
executive officer of Mars International, a Hyderabad-based
multi-activity company, said. "The presentations aimed to
highlight the emergence of Hyderabad as one of the major Asian
metropolises and the prospects the southern Andhra Pradesh state
capital holds for real estate investment," said Raheem, who
worked in the Kingdom's travel trade for 20 years. He was the regional
manager of STTB for the Central Province in Riyadh before he chose to
return home and set up the consultancy firm.
In his presentation held at
Salt N Pepper restaurant, Raheem said the company he founded was in
constant touch with major builders, architects and entrepreneurs and
was in a position to offer advice and guidance to investors. "Hyderabad
has high potential, as it has already become a hub for IT,
biotechnology, and aviation. It has already been attracting foreign
investments in great measure, and multinational companies are
relocating their offices there," he said. "By 2008,
Hyderabad will have one of the most modern international airports to
be able to handle seven million passengers in its first year and over
40 million after the completion of all phases of the project," he
REAL ESTATE BUSINESS BOOMING
Real estate business is
booming in Sharjah due to cheaper prices of apartments that attracting
buyers mainly are from India, Pakistan and Iran.
Earlier, homebuyers had to
get power of attorney from the building's owner. Now anyone can
purchase a flat and register it in their name with Sharjah
Municipality. A freehold ownership is also being anticipate to be
introduced soon that has also fuelled the rush for homes. If it is
allowed naturally, apartment prices will shoot up, as Sharjah will
have to provide resident visas to the owners. The prices are expected
to shoot up by 20 per cent, hence the current investment in real
estate is a speculative trade. Riding on the upsurge, a home finance
company has set up office in Sharjah and is offering finance for
apartment purchases at Al Dana residential tower on the Buhaira
Cornice, and Ali Mousa Tower 1 and 2 in Al Majaz.
Its interest rate for five
years is 8.98 per cent.
It may be mentioned that
prices in Sharjah are still affordable for first-time buyers at Dh300
to Dh400 per square ft, compared to Dh 700 to Dh 2,000 in Dubai. A
two-bedroom flat in a one-year or 18-month old building will cost
about Dh450, 000. A two bedrooms flat will cost between Dh500, 000 to
Dh600, 000 and the purchase can be financed over a 20-year period.
EU, GCC ON TRACK TO CONCLUDE
The European Union and the
GCC are on track to conclude a long-delayed free trade agreement by
the end of this year, said officials from both sides, after a fresh
round of talks in Abu Dhabi.
The next round of
negotiations will take place in Brussels on November 24 and 25.
"Our aim is to finalize
the agreement by year-end, and this round of negotiations has begun
very well," said Holger Standertskjold, chairman of the EU
delegation to the negotiations.
Talks have moved forward,
said Hamad Al Baazi, chairman of the GCC delegation, because both
sides are willing to consider the other's demands.
"I see it as an
encouraging start," said Dr. Hamad Al Baazi, chairman of the GCC
negotiating team. "Each side should come out with comments and
answers and we are not far from that." Standertskjold told
reporters that there are some outstanding issues to be resolved,
however, before the talks conclude.
"They include market
access not only in goods but in services and investments and
government procurements. These are the most important elements in the
current round of negotiations that need to be discussed further,"
Al Baazi added that there is
a need for more coordination between both sides on issues relating to
the services and investments sector.
The GCC also is critical of
high taxes levied by the EU on Gulf refined oil products and aluminum,
as well as with its $17 billion trade deficit with Europe.
"The aluminum and
petrochemical issues are on the agenda and we hope to resolve
that," Al Baazi said.
The GCC states want
preferential treatment for aluminum and petrochemicals.
He said most of the political
issues have been resolved and denied rumors that disagreements persist
among GCC states.
"There was a meeting in
Riyadh on October 10 and we agreed on most of the political issues.
There are no disagreements but different points of view and this is
common in negotiations of such nature," Al Baazi said.
He emphasized that both the
EU and the GCC will benefit greatly from a FTA due to growing levels
of trade and investments.
Standertskjold said free
trade agreements between the United States and the GCC were irrelevant
to the current discussions.
"That is something for
the GCC to look at," he said. "But we will emphasize
regional integration and the GCC as an organization."