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Thursday, 30 May 2013

Qatar: Abolish Exit Visas for Migrant Workers | Human Rights Watch

" Qatar should immediately abolish its exit visa requirements, which expose migrant workers to the risk of exploitation and abuse. The exit visa system can prevent foreigners from leaving the country merely on the say-so of a current or former employer. The case of a French professional footballer who is unable to leave Qatar illustrates how the exit visa system can be used against migrant workers in disputes with their employers. Zahir Belounis, who played for the Al Jaish team, is pursuing a claim for unpaid wages in the Qatari courts. He told Human Rights Watch that his former employers have insisted that he drop his claim or they will not issue him the exit visa he must produce to leave Qatar.

“The Qatari authorities have set up a system that can effectively allow employers to legally hold their current and former workers to a form of ransom,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “People should be basically free to leave any country. The Qatari authorities already have the power to stop people fleeing to avoid justice, so there is no reason they should give employers the power to keep their employees in Qatar.”"

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Saudi Arabia to develop commercial arbitration | ArabNews

"Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah has allocated around $ 2 billion (SR 7.5 billion) for the development of the Saudi judicial system with special reference to the field of international commercial arbitration, thereby representing one of the leading developments in the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC).
Khalid Al-Nowaiser, chairman of the Saudi Commercial Arbitration Committee, made this announcement yesterday at a meeting here of members of his committee with visiting officials from the International Court of Arbitration in Paris.
Jose Ricardo Feris, deputy secretary-general of the International Court of Arbitration at the International Chamber of Commerce (ICA-ICC) in Paris, led the delegation."

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Kuwait's KIPCO takes majority stake in Malta's Fimbank | Reuters

"Kuwait Projects Co (KIPCO) (KPRO.KW), the Gulf state's largest investment firm by assets, acquired a controlling stake in small Maltese trade finance specialist Fimbank FIM.MT through two of its banking subsidiaries.

United Gulf Bank UGBB.BH, KIPCO's Bahrain-based merchant banking unit and Burgan Bank (BURG.KW), the Kuwaiti firm's commercial banking arm, got regulatory approvals to buy a combined 68.7 percent stake in Fimbank, they said in separate press statements on Thursday.

United said it has received the green light from regulators to acquire up to 43.7 percent of Fimbank, while Burgan said it was buying a 25 percent stake."

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Turkey: infrastructure issues | beyondbrics

"Major infrastructure projects in Turkey are seldom less than controversial and the ground breaking ceremony for the third bridge over Istanbul’s Bosphorus straits held this week was guaranteed to spark protests even before the announcement that it was to be named after one of the Ottoman Empire’s less enlightened leaders, Sultan Yavuz Selim, known in the west as “Selim the Grim”.

Critics of the $3bn bridge have long complained that major highways which will be constructed on each side will destroy large areas of unspoiled forest to the north of Istanbul and may even threaten the city’s water supply.

Such criticisms are both justified and a part of the development process but it’s also equally true that the two existing bridges over the Bosphorus were designed to carry only 250,000 vehicles a day but are already handing in excess of 600,000 and cannot be expected to handle the anticipated growth in freight traffic that Turkey’s rapid economic growth continues to generate."

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Gulf states’ football proxy war heats up | beyondbrics

"Real Madrid and Barcelona are known for their annual gladiatorial contest for Spanish football supremacy.

Now the two clubs have become pawns in a proxy war among Middle Eastern airlines for global recognition.

Dubai’s Emirate’s airline on Thursday unveiled a new shirt sponsorship deal with the Galacticos of Real Madrid."

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Dubai Financial Gains Most in 14 Months on IPO Bets: Dubai Mover - Bloomberg

"Dubai Financial Market climbed the most in more than a year as the emirate’s economic recovery spurs investor expectations for initial public offerings on the bourse.
The shares jumped 8.7 percent, the biggest gain since March 2012, to 1.63 dirhams at the close in the emirate, bringing the gain this month to 30 percent. The stock was the most active on the benchmark DFM General Index, which rose 1.2 percent. About 107 million shares were traded, or 5.4 times the three-month daily average.
The bourse’s net income is poised to more than triple in 2013, according to the mean of four analyst estimates compiled by Bloomberg. Dubai’s economy is set to expand by 4.6 percent on average through 2015, according to government forecasts, as it benefits from Dubai’s plans to sell stakes in its companies to the public."

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France blacklists UAE, Lebanon over foreign aid fraud | Finance and Economy |

"France has added Lebanon and the UAE to a blacklist of 17 countries that do not help investigate foreign aid fraud, banning the use of their banks to help distribute development funds, AFP has reported. The blacklist expands on an already-established register of eight "non-cooperative states and territories" that already includes Botswana, Brunei, Nauru, Guatemala and the Philippines. French development ministry said the move was prompted by a lack of transparency in the countries on the list, adding that poor and developing countries were often the main victims of fraud. "The aim is primarily preventative, to put pressure on these countries by publicising this list to progress towards more transparency," they said."

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Kuwait's Burgan gets nod for Malta bank deal - Banking & Finance -

"Burgan Bank said on Thursday it received regulatory approval to buy a 25 percent stake in Malta's Fimbank.
Burgan, the commercial banking arm of Kuwait Projects Co (KIPCO), said in October it was planning to buy the stake in the trade finance specialist for an undisclosed price.
Burgan, which also bought the Turkish arm of EFG Eurobank last year, has received approval from Maltese authorities for the Fimbank purchase, Thursday's statement to the stock exchange said."

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Victorian Parliament hears claims of witness tampering in Dubai fraud case - ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

"Claims have been raised in Victoria's Parliament that an Australian executive jailed in Dubai earlier this month was the victim of witness tampering by another Australian development company.

Earlier this month Matthew Joyce was found guilty of fraud and jailed for 10 years over a property deal gone sour in Dubai.

The deal involved the sale of waterfront land in the UAE by the Dubai-based firm Mr Joyce worked for to Gold Coast-based developer Sunland."

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Lloyds to close Dubai private banking business - Banking & Finance -

"Lloyds Banking Group, the lender bailed out by the UK government, is to close its offices in Dubai as part of a $150m deal to sell its international private banking operations to Swiss wealth manager Union Bancaire Privee (UBP).
UBP is buying Lloyds Banking Group's international private banking arm, as the British lender focuses on its domestic market in the UK.
Lloyds, 39 percent-owned by British taxpayers and under pressure from UK lawmakers and regulators to slim down and focus on lending to British households and businesses, said the sale fitted its strategy to simplify its business."

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Abu Dhabi-backed Carlyle buys 49% stake in Chinese malls - Banking & Finance -

"Carlyle Group, the US private-equity firm in which Abu Dhabi’s Mubadala Development Company owns a 7.5 percent stake, confirmed it had agreed to buy a 49 percent stake in two Chinese shopping malls, betting on growing consumer demand and expansion of the retail sector in the world's second-largest economy.
Carlyle, through a vehicle advised by its Asia real estate group, bought the stake from shopping mall developer SZITIC Commercial Property Co Ltd as part of a strategic partnership signed between the two companies, it said in an emailed statement.
The malls in second-tier cities Hangzhou and Suzhou have both fashion and electronics stores, with tenants including Starbucks Corp and Wal-Mart Stores Inc."

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Iran, Saudi Arabia both looking to be leader of OPEC -

"Archrivals Saudi Arabia and Iran are expected to battle it out at Friday's OPEC meeting over leadership of the oil cartel at a time when it's facing the grave challenge of the U.S. shale oil boom, an issue that's divided the group.

The gathering in Vienna of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries' oil ministers is slated to elect a new secretary-general. That's a largely ceremonial post but it plays a central role in shaping policy for the 11-member oil-exporting group, which has a direct impact on global oil markets.

The issue assumed heightened importance because OPEC faces losing much of its dominance of the global energy market and its ability to influence oil prices because of the shale oil boom that has turned the energy market on its head."

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Iraq at the centre of internal Opec debates -

"As Opec ministers filter into Vienna for the twice-yearly meeting of the oil cartel, most are expecting a meeting of nuance rather than headlines. Barring a last-minute U-turn, Opec is set to keep its official production target unchanged at 30m barrels a day.

But the lack of headlines at Opec masks two internal debates which will shape the organisation for years. First, the response to rising oil production capacity within the cartel. Second, the election of the next secretary-general of the organisation. At the centre of both debates is one country: Iraq."

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Women need more opportunities, IMF official says - The National

"Middle Eastern and North African countries need to reform their civil services and promote women in the labour market, said an IMF official.

"Size and productivity of the public sector need to improve," Nemat Shafik, the deputy managing director of the IMF, said yesterday. "Don't increase the wages too much in the public sector and encourage the private sector to create jobs."

Speaking on the sidelines of the fifth annual Women in Leadership Forum Middle East and Africa in Dubai, Ms Shafik talked about the challenges facing women in Mena and ways regional economies can help women achieve their economic potential."

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UAE credit bureau to bring fall in cost of loans - The National

"The UAE’s new credit bureau expects borrowing costs to fall by more than 30 per cent once its credit reporting system is in full swing.

“According to the statistics compiled from the World Bank and International Financial Corporation, hopefully we will see at least a 30 per cent reduction in a very short time,” said Younis Al Khouri, the bureau’s vice-chairman and undersecretary of the Ministry of Finance.

A hiring spree is under way at the Al Etihad Credit Bureau, which is set to begin efforts to provide data about individual debtors in July."

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Change should not be confined to mindsets |

"The UAE, as many GCC countries, continues to face a dilemma between addressing the labour shortage of qualified UAE nationals and reducing the heavy dependence on expatriate labor. This particular challenge has generally formed a social perception that young UAE nationals (domestic and foreign trained) are neither qualified nor fit to hold leadership roles.
Consequently, young nationals have increasingly been underutilized and disempowered, leading to untapped human capital in the UAE labor market and a future generational challenge.
To contextualize the UAE’s relevance, it is essential to understand its strategic position within the Mena region, home to a population of 310 million and a GDP of $2.4 trillion in 2012. While the GCC represents 26 per cent of the population, it generates 60 per cent of the total GDP."

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Stolen Gulf cash tipped off the FBI |

"When pre-paid RAKBank and the BankMuscatcredit card accounts were duped of $45 million (Dh165.5 million) in December and February by a gang of criminals using forged electronic cards, how it happened seemed pretty clear.
Criminals had hacked into two Indian credit card processing companies — Bengaluru-based ElectraCard Services, which is partially owned by MasterCard, and Pune-based Enstage.
The hackers increased the limits on the pre-paid cards and erased withdrawal limits. Using a $300 card copying machine available on the internet for $300, they simply used everything from hotel key cards to airline loyalty cards to encrypt the inflated financial details on the magnetic strips."

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Qatar trade surplus rises to QR107bn

"Qatar’s trade surplus widened 8% year-on-year (y-o-y) to QR107.03bn in the first quarter of this year with exports growing faster than imports.

The hydrocarbon-abundant county’s total exports (valued free-on-board) swelled 7% to QR129.82bn, according to Qatar Statistics Authority figures.

The exports of domestic products grew 7% to QR128.84bn; while re-exports were down 15% to QR972mn."

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UAE becomes the most competitive Arab country in the world |

"The UAE has jumped eight places to 8th in the latest world competitiveness ranking published by Switzerland-based IMD World Competitiveness Centre on Thursday, from 16th position last year.
The country scored 88.439 to be the top Arab country and the fourth ranking in Europe, Middle East and Africa, and ahead of countries such as China, Japan, Korea, Germany, Netherlands, Denmark, United Kingdom and France – among many other competitive countries.
The country ranked No 1 in Government Efficiency — making the UAE government the most efficient in the world."

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UAE Sheikh in Calgary exploring business opportunities

"A member of one of the ruling royal families in the United Arab Emirates was in Calgary this week speaking to potential businesses setting up “sustainable” companies in the Middle East.

In an exclusive interview with the Herald, Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Ali Al Nuaimi, adviser for environmental strategies for the Ajman emirate and general secretary of the Al Ihsan Charity Association, said potential opportunities are more than just the energy sector including agriculture, water technology, infrastructure, energy, power and utilities, health, education, culture and arts.

Known around the world as the Green Sheikh, he is an environmental campaigner and in his work with the charity association he is the Goodwill Ambassador for many sustainable projects."

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New UAE Companies Law offers nothing to foreign investors but is that such a bad thing? « ArabianMoney

"Foreign investors hoping that the new UAE Companies Law would allow them to own more than 50 per cent of non-freezone companies will be very disappointed by the new law that was finally passed yesterday by the Federal National Council after 10 years of deliberation.

Perhaps not so surprisingly the FNC has voted to protect the existing interests of UAE citizens rather than expand the rights of foreigners to own UAE companies. It was always open to debate whether the gain to the former would compensate for the loss of control through wider foreign ownership, and nobody can deny that a long debate took place."

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