'NO SHORTAGE OF OIL'
The Second Deputy Premier and
Minister of Energy and Industry HE Abdullah bin Hamad al-Attiyah has
said there is no shortage of oil in the market.
"Oil is floating in the
market. Even if we (Opec) increase the supply by another 2mn bpd no
body is going to use it. We know that clearly".
Al-Attiyah said the oil
market continued to be volatile. A few weeks ago the prices hovered
around $70 per barrel. Today it is $51 for the Opec basket and $54/$55
in the American market. "The prices have fallen by as much as $15
a barrel in a matter of weeks," he said.
QATAR TO INVEST $14 BILLION
IN GAS PROJECT
Qatar is to invest around $14
billion in the new Ras Laffan Liquefied Natural Gas Company 3 (RL 3)
Speaking at its launch,
Qatar's Second Deputy Premier and Minister of Energy and Industry,
Abdullah bin Hamad Al Attiyah, said the project, based around RasGas'
'Super Trains' 6 and 7, marks the first long term sale of Qatari
Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) to the USA following the signing of a
Heads of Agreement in late 2003.
The LNG will be delivered to
a re-gasification terminal currently under construction on the border
between Texas and Louisiana on the US Gulf Coast. From there, it will
be distributed by pipeline.
TAX REGIME IN UAE
UAE authorities are
discussing the possibility of introducing sales and income taxes in
Shaikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al
Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai, Minister of Finance and Industry,
said, "We are (still) under discussion (and) we have not decided
yet. They are just bringing the idea (of levying taxes)."
Shaikh Hamdan, after
officially opening The Big 5 show at Dubai International Exhibition
Center, also said that the UAE has been developing in a way that no
other Middle East country has.
He said the show has grown in
importance reflecting the fact that the construction industry has
become an essential part of the economic development of countries
throughout the region and especially the UAE.
This year's event, which
features 2,000 manufacturers and suppliers from 55 countries, covering
over 30,200 square metres, also includes 28 national pavilions.
"We keep thinking that the Big 5 can't get any bigger," said
Bernard Walsh, managing director of organizers DMG World Media Dubai.
"With governments giving
the expansion of their tourism, business (and by implication,
residential) infrastructures priority, the large number of current
(and planned) major construction projects in the residential and
commercial sectors focusing on the creation of homes, workplaces,
retail malls and hotels makes it crucial that the regional industry
has a dedicated world class exhibition that gives key decision makers
the opportunity to see the latest and best that the world leaders have
to offer," he added.
A recent report issued by
Meed Projects showed that there are currently 1,400 on-going projects
in the Gulf region, with a total value in excess of $697 billion.
Latest estimates are that this total is increasing at a rate of $4
billion per week as new projects are announced. Given this, the
construction sector will remain very buoyant in the medium and long
The UAE accounts for $221
billion (32 per cent) of projects and Saudi Arabia for $146 billion
(21 per cent). Given that the population of the UAE is less than 20
per cent of that of Saudi Arabia, these highlights the fact that
planned construction is focused on the UAE and, in particular, on
Major property developers (Nakheel,
Emaar, Dubai Properties and Dubai International Properties) have
announced projects worth $26 billion, while Dubai Municipality, Dewa
and the Department of Civil Aviation have other projects planned which
will cost a further $20 billion.
The total construction spend
in the AGCC, Iran and Iraq is currently running at $294 billion. The
UAE makes up $176 billion (60 per cent) of this spend, clearly
indicating the dominant position that it occupies in this sector.
IRAN BEGINS URANIUM
Iran has begun processing a
new batch of uranium at its Isfahan nuclear plant despite US and
European pressure to halt all sensitive nuclear work.
resumed," the diplomat, who is close to the International Atomic
Energy Agency, said. A spokesman for the UN nuclear watchdog did not
confirm the information.
Iran's new phase of uranium
processing came despite a Nov. 24 meeting of the IAEA board on whether
to refer Tehran to the Security Council for possible sanctions.
'REACH OUT TO ASIA' CHARITY
Personalities from the world
of sport, entertainment, politics, business and royalty took part in
the charity dinner held at the Ritz Carlton.
The event marked the
beginning of a major charity initiative — "Reach Out To
Asia" launched by Qatar Foundation in association with Qatar
Airways and Doha Asian Games Organizing Committee for the
underprivileged and disadvantaged across Asia.
HH the Emir Sheikh Hamad bin
Khalifa al-Thani, the Heir Apparent Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani
and Sheikh Mozah Nasser al-Misnad attended the gala dinner at the Ritz
Carlton last week.
A galaxy of dignitaries led
by former president of the United States Bill Clinton, Saudi Prince
Al-Waleed bin Talal, Dubai Crown Prince General Sheikh Mohamed bin
Rashid al-Maktoum's wife Princess Haya al-Hussein, Virgin Atlantic
founder Richard Branson, German football legend Franz Beckenbauer and
Hollywood star Jet Li were also present. Several Qatari ministers,
diplomats, prominent nationals and expatriates also attended the
The high-profile event
included a charity auction of items donated by international football
clubs and soccer stars, as well as business houses.
Qatar Foundation, Qatar
Airways and the Doha Asian Games Organizing Committee (DAGOC) are
spearheading the 'Reach Out To Asia' fund-raising drive. Qatar
Foundation will run and manage 'Reach Out to Asia' in line with its
mission to promote education, science and community development in
The campaign is aimed at
reaching Qatar's hand of friendship and help to the many countries
across Asia which are experiencing serious social difficulties in
terms of poverty, inadequate healthcare, homelessness, disease and
natural disasters, such as last year's devastating tsunami and recent
earthquake in Pakistan, Afghanistan and India.
Over the next few weeks and
months, the three organizations will work collectively to drive the
fund-raising efforts, which will involve a series of high-profile
events in Doha, including charity concerts and exclusive gala dinners.
Canadian rock star Bryan
Adams was the guest of honour at the launch and performed at the
Media personality Richard
Quest, CNN's high profile presenter and business correspondent, was
the official Master of Ceremonies at the dinner.
The "Reach Out To
Asia" has been put together under the auspices of HE Sheikha
Mayassa bint Hamad al-Thani.
The inaugural charity dinner
took place under the patronage of the Heir Apparent HH Sheikh Tamim
bin Hamad al-Tani and HE Sheikha Jawaher bint Hamad bin Sohaim Al
Sheikh Mayassa said:
"Sport plays a big role in many people's lives, and how wonderful
to see many sports stars who have graced the world stage over the
years attend our event and donate to our charity auction on the night
to help our worthy cause.
"Qatar is a country
fortunate enough to be rich in resources and through 'Reach Out To
Asia' we are extending our goodwill to help those less fortunate
across Asia. By working together we are pledging to bring a ray of
light into the hearts and minds of those in need and provide just a
little something to ease their pain and suffering.
"We look forward to a
wonderful night tonight to give 'Reach Out To Asia' the push it
deserves," she said.
Following the announcement of
the charity initiative six weeks ago, a number of local companies have
rallied to offer financial support and back the campaign as Platinum
sponsors including Commercial Bank, Alfardan Group of Companies,
Midmac Contracting, Qatar Insurance Company, QNB, United Development
Company, Qatar National Hotels, Qtel, Qatar Tourism Authority, Hassan
Ali Bin Ali, CNN, Airbus and EADS.
VISA RESTRICTIONS ON MAIDS
The Ministry of Interior has
lifted the automatic stamping of ban in passports of maids and
domestic helps on cancellation of their residencies, Brigadier Saeed
Matar bin Bleilah, Director of Dubai Naturalization and Residency
Department (DNRD), revealed.
However, the ban will be
stamped on the passport in case the maid or domestic help seeks
cancellation of residency during the validity of the contract, which
according to rules, is for two years, he said.
Brig Bin Bleilah said the
DNRD received this decision yesterday from the General Department of
Naturalization and Residency, in which the rules of stamping of ban on
passports were revised.
Meanwhile, the Permanent
Committee of Labor Affairs in Dubai has decided to set up a center for
housemaids who get into a dispute with their sponsor. The center will
extend help to maids who do not have anyone here to support them, by
providing them health care and in the event of the problem with the
sponsor not getting sorted out, would help them find other sponsors.
"We are now looking for a convenient place to locate the
center," he said, adding: "We will investigate the
authenticity of the maid's complaint and take necessary action against
the sponsor if found true. Such investigations are important to
safeguard the rights of both employers and maids, as also to prevent
maids from absconding and finding another employer through the
committee by making false claims."
Laborers and maids may file
their complaints to the committee on hotline 8009119 or mail to P.O
Box Dubai 117444 or on the web site www.labourcomplaints.ae which is
currently available in Arabic and English languages, which would soon
be extended to Urdu, Hindi and Bengali.
WOMEN AT WORK
Many people express confusion
over Ministry of Labor's efforts to get more women into the workplace
that seem to advance and retreat like the tides of the Red Sea.
The ministry recently banned
night shifts for women at all businesses except health care facilities
and plans to enforce it with SR500-SR1,000 fines and threats of
That regulation was on the
books long before Labor Minister Dr. Ghazi Al-Gosaibi cited it in
August. "The decision was not meant to change women's work
situations but rather to create a more suitable work
environment," Dr. Al-Gosaibi said.
Nine working conditions were
put in place, the most controversial being the nightshift ban.
"Women should not work between sunset and sunrise - for a period
of not less than 11 hours," Dr. Al-Gosaibi said, quoting Article
161 of the Saudi Labor Law. The ministry justified the application of
the old rule, as it was a condition of an article of the International
Labor Organization with which the Kingdom ratified a treaty.
That rule contradicts a
directive issued in June by the Ministry of Labor, which concerns
employing Saudi women in shops selling women's goods. Shops in Saudi
Arabia typically are open for two shifts. Night shifts normally last
until 10 p.m. but often are extended to midnight in the summer. In
Ramadan, night shifts end about 3 a.m. Therefore, applying the
regulation would disrupt the Kingdom's normal shopping patterns.
Whether shopping hours or
regulations change, it is clear that Saudi women entering the
workplace will prompt both people and officials to revisit longtime
societal precepts and forge a new vision for the future - if women are
to play an important role in the creation of a new, vibrant economy in
COUNTER TERRORISM CONFERENCE
Saudi Arabia will sponsor a
major international counter terrorism conference to be hosted by the
London-based Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) on Jan. 16 and 17,
Foreign Minister Prince Saud
Al-Faisal, Prince Muhammad ibn Nawaf, the Kingdom's new ambassador to
the UK, as well as a number of international experts will address the
conference titled "Transnational terrorism: A global
"The two-day conference
will discuss how the world community can respond to the challenge of
international terrorism," RUSI said. It will explore
counter-terrorism strategies and approaches from Asia, the Middle
East, Europe and North America presented by experts from these
The conference will also
address the geopolitical dimensions of terrorism not only at Middle
Eastern level but also at European, American and African levels said
the institute, which conducts defense and security studies.
The RUSI event comes a year
after the Kingdom held a similar conference in Riyadh in February with
the participation of delegates from more than 50 countries and
organizations. While opening the Riyadh conference, Custodian of the
Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah, then crown prince, called for the
establishment of an international center to combat terror.
SHALOM, MAHMOUD ABBAS MEET AT
Israeli Foreign Minister
Silvan Shalom and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas met twice on the
sidelines of a technology summit, boosting contacts a day after a
US-brokered deal to open the Gaza Strip borders.
The talks between the two,
attending the World Summit on the Information Society in Tunis, marked
the highest-level contact between Israel and the Palestinians in
Shalom and Abbas first held
what an Israeli official described as an unscheduled meeting on the
sidelines of the conference before convening later in the day along
with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan for a second session.
"It was a good
meeting," Abbas told reporters, speaking about the first round of
talks. "I reminded him that this (Gaza deal) was the first
agreement signed in five years and that now we should really close
that gap and not only implement what has been signed but sign new
agreements," he said.
In rare progress in Middle
East diplomacy, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice brokered a deal
on Tuesday to open Gaza's border to Egypt and for passage arrangements
for Palestinians between the coastal territory and the occupied West
The European Union has
pledged to help prevent arms reaching Gaza, which Israel quit in
September after 38 years' occupation. "It (border crossing
arrangement) should be made with full security that will be promised
to the Israelis and to the tourists that are coming to Israel,"
A planned summit between
Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has stalled over renewed
At their first meeting of the
day, Shalom reaffirmed to Abbas that Israel opposed the participation
of Hamas in a Palestinian parliamentary election due in January, the
Israeli official said. Shalom's preliminary talks with Abbas were
attended by Mauritanian President Ely Ould Mohamed Vall. Meanwhile,
pressure mounted on Sharon yesterday to call springtime elections, as
his foreign minister Shalom became the first senior member of his
party to publicly back polls in March.
The political establishment
has been gripped by talk of early elections for months. Sharon's Likud
party has been flung into crisis over his pullout from the Gaza Strip
and his fragile governing coalition increasingly teetering.
Last week polls as early as
March - eight months before the government's mandate ends - became an
increasing possibility when trade union boss Amir Peretz ousted Deputy
Prime Minister Shimon Peres as leader of the Labor party.
INVESTMENT FUND FOR TECH
The Saudi Arabian General
Investment Authority (SAGIA) and Intel Capital, Intel's venture
investment program, has announced a cooperative effort to establish an
independent $100 million venture capital investment company (fund) to
invest in technology companies located in, or having a connection
with, Saudi Arabia.
The fund will invest in
growing technology companies developing innovative value added
services and software and employing new business models. The
investments will focus on early and growth stage companies,
emphasizing entrepreneurship and continued growth of the ICT industry
in the region.
At a ceremony in Riyadh on
Tuesday, Intel Chairman, Dr. Craig Barrett, and Governor Amr A. Al
Dabbagh of SAGIA, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU),
outlining Intel's and SAGIA's intention to work together to help
establish this new Saudi fund and help grow established ones. Intel
will serve as a consultant to this fund and will also have the option
of co-investing in all the investments made by the new fund.
Separately, Intel announced
previously its own $50 million fund to invest in leading technology
companies in the region.
SAGIA played a central role
in helping establish the focus of the fund and will act as a liaison
to the Saudi Arabian government with respect to foreign investments
that such a focus is bound to attract. Although neither SAGIA nor
Intel Capital will directly invest in the fund, they are committed to
working with it on an ongoing basis.
"The signing of the MOU
with Intel Capital heralds a new era for ICT investments in Saudi
Arabia as the industry will be witnessing a great growth. Coupled with
the engagement of international companies like Intel, the Saudi ICT
market will reach international standards," commented Al-Dabbagh.
"Intel has a history of
pioneering successful technology investments in developing markets to
foster growth and innovation," said Barrett. "We look
forward to helping establish a local, dedicated technology investment
fund that will help grow the IT industry in the Gulf region."
SAGIA has been in talks with
Intel for the past six months laying the groundwork for yesterday's
groundbreaking signing. Given its outlook to create focused yet
differentiated and segmented strategic business units, the SAGIA-Intel
agreement falls in line with such a strategy. SAGIA offers a
comprehensive investment facilitation package to all investors seeking
opportunities in any of the economy's open sectors.
The long-term goal of SAGIA
is to see to the creation of other, similar industry-focused VC funds.
The signing with Intel is hoped to be the first such agreement with
global ICT players.
"VC funds were key
drivers of the technology boom in the Western world and I am confident
that this will play a major role in stimulating the ICT sector in
Saudi Arabia. I am also hopeful that other VC funds will now be
created and we will give them equal support," concluded Al-Dabbagh.