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Saturday, 29 June 2013

BBC News - How clay shapes industry in the UAE

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Kuwait wealth fund backs British recovery - Telegraph

"The Kuwait Investment Authority (KIA) has poured more than $24bn (£16bn) into the UK across all asset classes, sectors and industries, up from $9bn a decade ago, according to management.
Bader M Al Sa’ad, managing director of the fund, said that while the current economic environment in the UK was “very challenging” he remained bullish in the long term.
“I am still convinced that the economy of Great Britain has the resilience to survive and improve,” he said."

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Sheikha Moza, matriarch of the modern Gulf -

Her name was not mentioned in the passionate tribute that her son, the newly crowned emir of Qatar, delivered to his father in his first address to the nation. Nor did she appear in the rolling television coverage of thousands of Qataris lined up under outsized chandeliers to pledge allegiance to Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani and the newly entitled “father emir.”
But Moza bint Nasser al-Missned has been at the heart of a palace drama in Doha that reached a high point this week as her husband abdicated in favour of her son, an unprecedented moment in the modern history of Gulf monarchies.
The transition not only handed the throne to her son, one of Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani’s 24 children from his three wives. It also culminated with the removal of her main rival in the Byzantine world of the Qatari court – Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim, the powerful prime minister.
With her chiselled cheekbones, her glamorous floor-length gowns, and her unconventionally public role in the deeply conservative Gulf, 53-year-old Sheikha Moza has secured her legacy as the matriarch of modern Qatar. As one of her allies says: “This is her moment.”
The abdication also means she will have to get used to a lower profile after years as the region’s most recognisable woman. Sheikh Tamim, 33, will be naming one of his two wives as consort. “I am sure she will be more in the background domestically,” says Salman Shaikh of the Brookings Doha Center. “But she will be, like her husband, a steadying influence on what’s going on.”
Some observers say the elegantly styled sheikha is behind the Qatari investment vehicle that bought Italian fashion label Valentino last year. On the global stage, she has vied for the attention of fashion journalists with first ladies such as Michelle Obama of the US and, formerly, France’s Carla Bruni.
Closer to home, she is a source of both fascination and irritation. In the Gulf, where first ladies are rarely visible, her appearance – she wears a headscarf but not a veil – and economic and social activism have shocked. She was rumoured to have interfered in government decisions, and at times to have suggested foreign investments, such as in Harrods, to Qatar’s $100bn-plus sovereign wealth fund.
She has also carved out a domestic power base through the Qatar Foundation, an education development and scientific research organisation. About 15 years ago, it launched Education City, a campus boasting branches of universities such as Georgetown and Weill Cornell, where a new generation of Arabs is seeking western knowledge in an Islamic setting.
The development drive has collided with the rigid confines of Qatar’s autocracy. In 2008 Sheikha Moza was behind the creation of a press-freedom organisation in Doha headed by Robert Ménard, former head of Reporters Without Borders. Less than a year into the job, Mr Ménard quit, slamming what he said was some Qatari officials’ resistance to the centre’s independence.
A hard worker who likes to stay fit – she is said to enjoy spinning exercise classes – the sheikha is considered forthcoming and loyal but also firm. People who have dealt with them describe her personal office and the Qatar Foundation as “snake pits” of petty politics.
In fact, she has never been a stranger to palace intrigue. Shortly after she was born in a coastal Qatari town in 1959 to a prominent merchant family, her father fell out with the emir and went into exile in Egypt and Kuwait. She is said by one source to have met the crown prince she married at 18 as he tried to broker the family’s return. It was sweet revenge for the family when he ousted his backward-looking father in a bloodless coup in 1995.
Although she is the emir’s second wife – and her allies say his third marriage was designed to stem grumbling about Sheikha Moza’s power – she has been unchallenged as first lady at a time when the tiny state has leveraged its natural gas wealth into financial and political influence in London and other cities.
Independent-minded like her husband, the sheikha went back to Qatar University to finish her sociology degree after their marriage. The partnership is said to be strong: people who meet the couple note their intellectual intimacy, as they finish each others’ sentences on matters from art to foreign affairs.
Sheikha Moza is believed to have helped persuade her husband to back Libyan rebels in 2011, when Muammer Gaddafi threatened to over-run Benghazi, a defining moment of Qatar’s more activist regional policy in recent years. Her affinity with the city was forged in exile when her father entered a business partnership with a prominent Benghazi family.
However, analysts say her son may adopt a different tone on regional conflagrations such as the Syrian war, following accusations of meddling by the Sunni-dominated state and quiet domestic concern about threats to the stability of one of the world’s richest nations.
Her greatest influence has been at home, where she and her husband led the elite that drove political, cultural and educational programmes while the nation struggled to absorb the pace of change. Some decisions associated with the sheikha have been reversed amid a popular backlash. For example, she brought in consultants who recommended making English the primary language at the country’s national university. Sheikh Tamim is credited with rolling back that decision; and, perhaps as part of preparations for the transition, he has developed a more traditional image.
Many Qataris expect the emir’s rule to stress the preservation of national identity and traditions in a country where expatriates make up 85 per cent of the population. With her victory sealed, Sheikha Moza must now adjust to the new realities as her public profile recedes. “She will have to be careful how she projects her domestic role,” says Brookings’ Mr Shaikh. “And she will be.”
The writers are the FT’s Gulf business correspondent and Middle East editor

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Azarov: Ukraine timely pays off foreign debts - ForUm

"Ukraine pays off its external obligations always on time and in full, Prime Minister Mykola Azarov said during a meeting with head of the IMF mission in Ukraine Nikolay Georgiev on Thursday, the press service of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine reports.

"Measures adopted by the government allowed stabilizing the situation related to the balance of payments. We execute all our obligations in full, and year 2013 is totally understandable for us from the point of view of obligations on foreign payments. We do not have any concern for their implementation," Azarov said.

He also noted that Ukraine has a quite difficult financial and economic situation, which is primarily associated with a decrease in demand on global markets for the traditional Ukrainian exports – metal and ore. Therefore, Ukraine was forced to take strict measures on fiscal discipline and to introduce some restrictive measures on imported products, the Prime Minister explained.

Azarov said that the government's program to enhance the economy involves 4.5 million tons of metal for use on the domestic market. According to him, in particular, it will allow to ensure the growth of the gross domestic product.

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Russia Affirmed at BBB by S&P as Putin Wait for Upgrade Drags On - Bloomberg

"Russia had its credit rating affirmed at BBB, the second-lowest investment grade, by Standard & Poor’s, dashing the government’s hopes for the country’s first upgrade in five years before a potential $7 billion bond sale.
Weak institutions and the budget’s reliance on oil revenue continue to offset the country’s robust public finances, S&P, which kept the outlook at stable, said in a statement released today. Russia was last upgraded to Baa1 at Moody’s Investors Service in July 2008.
The world’s largest energy exporter has had its ranking on hold since S&P cut it in December 2008 and Fitch Ratings did the same the next year after crude prices plunged. Russia seeks to boost the debt grade no less than two steps to A- by 2016 and another level to A by 2020, according to a government plan approved in March."

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No ongoing talks on consortium to manage Ukrainian GTS, says Gazprom CEO

"Russia's gas company Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller has said that there have been no talks recently about the establishment of a consortium to manage the Ukrainian gas transportation system, because no necessary amendments to Ukraine's laws have been made.

"No talks on the establishment of a gas transportation consortium are held. There is no reason to hold negotiations on the consortium. In order to hold substantive talks, it is necessary to make changes to the Ukrainian legislation, it is necessary to amend a dozen of laws and regulations of Ukraine. This has not been done yet," Miller said at a press conference in Moscow on Friday.

According to him, the Ukrainian counterparts first assured that this will happen within one timeframe, then the deadline was changed. "Time goes by, but nothing happens," the Gazprom CEO said.

Miller also noted that this matter was not raised during last week's talks with Ukraine."

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Qatar’s new emir: A hard act to follow | The Economist

"IF ANYONE understands the frustration of being a crown prince, it is Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani. For two decades he played second fiddle to his own father. But on a sweltering summer day in 1995 he informed Qatar’s unsuspecting emir, then on holiday in Switzerland, that his royal ruling services would no longer be required.

Sympathy with the impatience of youth may be one reason for Hamad’s announcement on June 25th that he was handing power to his 33-year-old son, Tamim. The move was unusual. Changes of power during two centuries of al-Thani rule have tended to be non-consensual, and few Arab monarchs anywhere have ever willingly abdicated (see chart). The new emir is barely half the age of his youngest fellow-sovereign in the Gulf Co-operation Council, the six-member club of oil-rich Arab states."

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Myanmar telecom deal with Qatar firm sparks ire | Arab News — Saudi Arabia News, Middle East News, Opinion, Economy and more.

"Religious tensions engulfing Myanmar spread yesterday to the world of big business: Monks and others in the Buddhist-dominated country demanded to know why a lucrative license for a new national mobile phone network had gone to a company from a Muslim nation.
Currently 7.3 million of Myanmar’s 60 million people have access to mobile phones, making it one of the least connected countries in the world, according to government statistics seen yesterday. Eager to push that number to 45 million by 2015, the former military-run nation decided to loosen its grip on the industry and award licenses to build and operate mobile networks.
Norway’s Telenor was widely seen as a favorite and there was little surprise that it was one of the two winners announced Thursday."

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Ukraine: The gas king turned media mogul | The Economist

"“I CONSIDER  the sale of Forbes Ukraine the end of the project in its current form,” wrote Vladimir Fedorin, the publication’s editor-in-chief on June 22nd. “I am convinced the buyer is pursuing one of three goals (or all three): 1) to shut journalists up before the presidential election; 2) to whitewash his reputation; 3) to use the publication for purposes that have nothing to do with the media business.” When news broke about the sale of the owner of Forbes Ukraine, United Media Holding (UMH), to Sergei Kurchenko, a secretive 27-year old multimillionaire believed to be a straw man, Mr Fedorin did not mince words.

It was Forbes Ukraine that first introduced the previously unknown Mr Kurchenko to the world. In an article titled “The Gas King of All Ukraine”, exposed how in a few months his company, GazUkraine-2009, had become one of the country's largest petroleum product importers and a liquified petroleum gas major. It also revealed ties to firms involved in gas smuggling and links between Mr Kurchenko and the son of the prosecutor general, Viktor Pshonka. Both have denied the links."

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Russia’s rating: S&P sticks | beyondbrics

"The best gamblers know when to get out of the game, rather than throwing money at a losing bet in the hope it comes good.

With that in mind, let us look at Russia – and specifically, its credit rating.

Last month, JPMorgan was hired specifically as a consultant to “promote the sovereign credit rating of the Russian Federation”, according to a finance ministry statement. It’s not known how big the contract is."

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Iraq: Iran’s Economic Gateway To the World - Al-Monitor: the Pulse of the Middle East

"The Trade Promotion Organization of Iran (TPOI) said on Monday, June 24, 2013, that 72% of Iran’s exports go to Iraq, and revealed that Iraq's imported goods from Iran increased by nearly 15% this year.
The Iranian Fars News Agency quoted TPOI deputy Kiumars Fathallah Kermanshahi as saying that “Iraq receives 72% of the total volume of Iran's foreign trade, and is ranked first as the biggest importer of Iranian goods.”
For years, the UN and Western countries have imposed a series of sanctions against Iran, which is accused of seeking to develop nuclear weapons, under cover of an alleged civil program. Yet, Tehran denies these accusations."

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