Category: Middle East economy

The Sharjah Waterfront City Project

sharjahThis project was officially launched at Cityscape Global 2015, earlier this month, in Dubai. What it will mean is that there will be a 1.5 million square foot Crystal Lagoon water theme park which is, as President of Sharjah Oasis Real Estate, Hayssam El Masri noted, on the same page as “Sharjah’s development plans to attract 10 million visitors to the Emirate by 2021,”

Indeed, Sharjah Oasis Real Estate Development is committed to beginning construction during the last quarter of 2015, to be finished by 2018 (just the first phase). Estimated cost is Dhs9.35 billion, but that includes: a commercial center, hotels, mixed-use towers, villas and more.

El Masri added, “these robust plans will increase demand for residential and commercial units as well as hotels, especially in prime locations that offer all modern facilities.” His sentiment was echoed by Chaiman of Al Hanoo Real Estate Co., Sheikh Abdullah Shkara, who said: We believe this project will be the heartbeat of the city’s tourism 2021 vision.”

It will be an “ideal hub” for all sorts of businesses, to be networking and enhancing their importing-exporting capacity.

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Israel and Azerbaijan Sign Trade Agreement

In recent tax news, Israel and Azerbaijan signed an agreement last year in December of 2011 for customers mutual assistance. Created in conjunction with the Israel Tax Authority and Deputy Director Gidi Bar Zakay, the measure is the 53rd for Israel and will simplify trade procedures between the two countries.

It is also intended to promote the exchange of knowledge so that there may be sufficient enforcement measures enacted by both countries. Israel’s exports to Azerbaijan in 2010 totaled $110 million. Most of these exports were focused on the hi-tech industry and were primarily hi-tech equipment.

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NBAD Ranked One of World’s 50 Safest Banks

If you’re looking to bank in the Middle East – the National Bank of Abu Dhabi (NBAD) may be just the place to be. For the third year in a row, they have been ranked as one of the “World’s 50 Safest Banks” and the safest bank in the Middle East.  This according to Global Finance.

Bank Selections

The selection of the world’s 50 safest banks comes from a comparison of the long-term credit ratings and the total assets of the 500 largest banks in the world.  The ratings come from Moody’s, S&P and Fitch.

NBAD Response

Certainly, NBAD is thrilled with their most recent rating.  As Michael Tomalin, the Group Chief Executive of NBAD said, “We are delighted that NBAD has been recognised as one of World’s 50 Safest Banks and the safest bank in the UAE for the third year in a row, and we proud to be listed as the safest bank in the Middle East especially as it comes during a period of unprecedented market turbulence.”

Even during the recent global financial crisis, NBAD has worked hard to continue to achieve its goals.  As Abdulla M.S. AdulReheem, the Senior General Manager and Group Chief Operating Officer of NBAD, said, “NBAD has remained and strengthened its position in the league of the safest institutions in the world by virtue of the prudence exercised in the conduct of its business.”

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Israelis Take To The Streets

In line with the protests that have swept the Middle East this summer, Israel saw 300,000 people take to the streets on Saturday night, demanding social reforms. 200,000 people took to the streets in Tel Aviv, while another 30,000 people marched in Jerusalem.

Demanding Lower Prices

Demonstrators are, among other things, demanding lower costs for housing and for food in the wave of terrible economic crunches for many in Israel. Protesters have even been setting up camp in city centers throughout the country, camping in key locations to protest the cost of living.

One of the movement organizers, 33 year old Baroch Oren, said that the movement was nothing short of “a revolution.” He said, “There has been nothing like this for decades – all these people coming together, taking to the streets, demanding change.”

When evaluated in purely economic terms, Israel’s annual economic growth is seen as healthy. The growth includes an average 4.5% since 2004, with falling unemployment from 11% to 6%.

Public Outcry

The public, however, doesn’t feel these positive numbers and says that this growth has failed to benefit them.

Mark Regev, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s spokesman, said that the government is aware that it needs to bring down the prices for housing and consumer products. He has said that a team of ministers, academic experts and business people would be meeting as early as Sunday to discuss how to act, and that Mr. Netanyahu will also be prepared to meet with protesters.

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Financially Lucrative Jeddah Summer Festival

Saudi tourism officials are certainly pleased so far with the Jeddah Summer Festival. They have generated SR6bn in revenue and have had 4.5 million visitors, and it is only about half over. The 70 day festival will include, in total, more than 100 amusement, art, sports and cultural events.

Festival Fun

The festival falls under the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA), Jeddah Municipality and the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry. As the festival began at the end of June, Prince Abdullah bin Saud, chairman of the Organizing Committee for Festival Events, read out the speech of Jeddah Gov. Prince Mishaal bin Majed.

In the speech he said that,

“We see today the shining image of the Kingdom’s tourism industry and feel proud of its countless achievements in addition to the flow of investments to the industry because of the firm conviction in the immense tourist potential in our country.”

The 2011 festival is the longest since it was first put together 12 years ago.

Financial Projection

The projection is that the festival will achieve a 150% increase in revenue compared to what it generated last year. This figure is according to Mazen Muhammad Baterji, deputy chairman for the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

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Getting Socially Connected in The Gulf

The Middle East business world is joining the rest of the world in its use of social networks, blogs and more. According to a new survey from Regus, 50% of firms in the Gulf were able to win new customers recently due to their use of social networks, blogs and microblogs.

Gulf Businesses Tweeting

The study found that 62% of businesses in the Gulf use websites like Twitter and WEibo to connect with existing customers and that 59% of firms encourage their own employees to join social networks like Linkedin, Xing and Video. This is in comparison to 53% globally. Almost a third of the Gulf companies devote up to 20% of their marketing budget to business social networking activities.

Finding a Balance

The global Regus survey looked at 17,000 managers and businesses in over 80 countries. It also found that, while companies in the Gulf appreciate the importance of these social networking tools, 82% of them also understand that there needs to be a balance between marketing media and traditional tools and techniques.

As Mark Dixon, the CEO of Regus said, “As businesses emerge from the downturn they are increasingly reconsidering pre-recession working practices and opting for more flexible, competitive strategies. From supply chain management, to leaner working practices, to cloud computing, to increased use of video communications and mobile working no area of business is being overlooked. The rapid development of social media as a core business tool is clearly part of this transformation as more and more companies are leveraging this channel to increase the loyalty of existing customers, and as a successful acquisition tool.”

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Turkey Economic Situation Looking Up

Good news for Turkey this quarter. Their economy grew by 11% just in the first quarter of this year, moving past China’s numbers for the same quarter.
As the Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in reaction to the figures that came out on Thursday, “In growth, we passed China and Argentina, we became No. 1 in the world.”

Turkey Looking Good in Comparison

Turkey’s growth obviously stands in sharp contrast to many of its neighbors, as Greece is looking for an economic bailout and other Middle Eastern countries are struggling each quarter. The rapid growth in Turkey’s economy was certainly part of what secured Mr. Erdogan’s re-election June 12.

However, some are still skeptical and many are waiting to see what actions the new government makes about the current-account deficit. AS Emre Alkin, an Istanbul-based economist explained, “Turkey’s economic future is bright…but it needs a new growth model, not tomorrow, not today, but yesterday.”

But Investors Still Nervous

One of the main things making investors nervous is the Istanbul Stock Exchange. It has been one of the worst performers in the emerging markets this year and is down by 9.75% since early May.

Many people are unconcerned about potential economic troubles and unaware of risks to the growth that could occur from the 42% growth in low-interest consumer credit last year.


As Emrullah Turanli, the chairman of Tasyapi which is one of Turkey’s largest construction companies, said,

“Everything looks good. I don’t agree that Turkey consumes too much—look at the use of electricity in Turkey and in developed countries. How many kilowatts does Turkey consume and how many kilowatts do developed countries consume?”

Economists and bankers are nervously awaiting the future in Turkey. They produce minimal quantities of oil and gas and face high costs relative to their competitors so they often import semi-finished goods rather than making their own. In response to this situation, Acting Minister for Foreign Trade Zafer Caglayan recently pushed the government to target getting to $500 billion in exports by 2023, which is more than triple today’s levels.

Time will tell if Turkey will hit the market, or fail trying.

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Coveted Award Given to Gulf Bank

Banker Middle East, the premiere banking industry magazine in the Middle East, has just announced a number of awards. Gulf Bank of Kuwait received the “Best Employee Training” award at the Banker Middle East Awards Ceremony that was held at the Ritz Carlton in Dubai on June 22, 2011.

Win for Gulf Bank

Certainly, Gulf Bank was quite pleased with this distinction, as Omar Al-Bassam, the Assistant General Manger of Human Resources at Gulf Bank explained:

“We are extremely proud to accept this prestigious award from The Banker Middle East, and the value the international recognition it represents. This is a great accomplishment for us and endorses our long-term strategy of recruiting, developing and investing in the very best people.”

He continued by saying, “This award reflects the efforts of a lot of people over a long period of time. I am very proud of the progress Gulf Bank has been able to make through listening to its staff and providing the training and the motivation needed to create the strong and dynamic organization the Bank has become today.”

Other Gulf Bank Wins

Gulf Bank has won a number of other awards as of late, as well. At the end of 2010, they won the Localization Award for the 6th consecutive year from the GCC Council of Ministers of Labour and Social Affairs. They also won the “Employer of the Year” award at the 2nd GCC Human Resource Excellent Awards 2010 that was held together with the 5th Human Assets Middle East Congress.

The Bank has implemented a number of new programs including the “Mentoring For Success” program that they started in 2010. This program has the goal of enhancing and developing the Bank’s talent by pairing up mentors and mentees that are selected and developed for retention and excellence.

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Quincy Jones Helping the Middle East…One Song at a Time

Quincy Jones is stepping into the scene in the Middle East, helping to promote Arab music and to give attention to Arab artists and musicians.


Jones recently worked on a single called “Bokra” with Badr Jafar who is an Emirati social entrepreneur. Others involved in the project included Lebanese star Majida El Roumi Grammy-winning producter RedOne, Kadim Al Sahir from Iraq, Saber El Rabai from Tunisia, Amr Diab from Egypt and Asma Lmnawar from Morocco.

26 years ago Jones produced the hit record “We Are The World” which swept the world and sold tens of millions of copies to raise money for African famine victims. Another version was made last year for victims of the Haitian earthquake.

Helping the Middle East

Quincy Jones explained his interest in the Middle East as he said,

“I have long been a vocal proponent of music and the arts being a great asset in building bridges between people and cultures.”

He continued by saying that, “I believe that given a choice, people want to live in a world of peace and prosperity, and it is my hope that this song will serve as a clarion call for the people of the Middle East and North Africa who share that desire for peace, hope, unity and a better tomorrow to come together to achieve that dream.”

Helping Those Underprivileged

The money that the single makes will help to finance educational arts and culture scholarships and projects that will help children in the Middle East and in North Africa.

In a press release about the singlg, Badr Jafar wrote, “This song comes at such an important time for the Middle East and brings together the region’s leading talent to produce a song of inspiration and hope for all. There is no better time in the region’s history than now for us to be producing a song of this magnitude, and we have the very best people in the industry behind it.”

RedOne told CNN,

“It’s such an honor to have been chosen by Quincy Jones to join the team and recreate this legendary song. We will be trying this new thing, inspire young people, the new generation thinking about peace, thinking about a better tomorrow.”

The song was already recorded in Rabat, Morocco and is expected to be released after Ramadan. Along with the song, the group is creating a music video and a behind-the-scenes documentary about the project.

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Best Bank in Middle East Named

As reported in recent news, the international finance magazine, Euromoney, recently held awards as part of their Euromoney Awards for Excellence 2011. The ceremony, held recently in Dubai, announced their findings. During the ceremony, they had awards for the Best Bank in the Middle East, the Best Bank in Kuwait, and for many other categories.

The National Bank of Kuwait (NBK) received the awards as the “Best Bank in the Middle East” and as the “Best Bank in Kuwait.”

The NBK Group Deputy CEO Isam J Al Sager said, about the awards,

“These awards mark a new recognition of NBK’s unique and leading position regionally as well as its impressive achievements and management expertise.”

Euromoney explained its choice when it said, “NBK is recognized as the Best Bank in the Middle East and the Best Bank in Kuwait for 2011 in view of its remarkable performance and ability to maintain its leading position in spite of current difficulties for regional and international financial markets.”

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