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Last updated: Friday 23 Dec, 2005-12.30 P.M (PST)

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3 DAYS FORECAST
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KARACHI
Today 12 26 38 Sunny
Tomorrow 11 27 38 Sunny
Day after 11 28 38 Sunny
LAHORE
Today 1 20 87 Sunny
Tomorrow 2 20 87 Sunny
Day after 2 21 87 Sunny
ISLAMABAD
Today 0 18 59 Sunny
Tomorrow 0 18 59 Sunny
Day after 0 21 59 Sunny
HUM%: Humidity In %
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updated: Fri - Sun 23-25 Dec, 2005

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KARACHI         - 021 LAHORE          - 042 ISLAMABAD    - 051 FAISALABAD   - 041 MULTAN          - 061 PESHAWAR    - 0521 CANADA          - 1 KUWAIT           - 965 INDIA               - 91 IRAN                - 98 U.K                   - 44 U.A.E                - 971 U.S.A                - 1

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  REPORTS FROM GULF & MIDDLE EAST
 
 
 

 

 

Nov 21 - 27, 2005

'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) project.

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 the country.

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 term.

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 Dubai.

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 PROCESSING

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.

"Conversion has 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 LAUNCHED

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 charity dinner.

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 Qatar.

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 launch.

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 Thani.

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 LIFTED

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 closure.

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 the Kingdom.

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, 2006.

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 approach,"

"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 regions.

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 TECHNOLOGY SUMMIT

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 months.

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 Bank.

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," Shalom said.

A planned summit between Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has stalled over renewed violence.

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 FIRMS

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.

 
 

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