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15 Oct, 2012

New Online Platform to Learn Arabic Music

Compiled by Imtiaz Muqbil & Sana Muqbil

A compilation of progressive, positive, inspiring and motivating events and developments in the Islamic world for the week ending 15 October 2012 (29 Dhul Qa’dah 1433). Pls click on any of the headlines below to go to the story.


Malaysia to Organise Communications and Creative Industry Mart

Malaysia will organise the Kuala Lumpur Communications and Creative Industry Mart (KLCCIM) as a commitment to the growth of the creative content industry. The four-day mart will begin on March 26, 2013. Information Communication and Culture Ministry secretary-general Datuk Seri Kamaruddin Siaraf said the KLCCIM was expected to attract more than 200 seller companies from Asia and 300 global buyers. “It will cover approximately 5,000 square metres of floor space, attempting to be one of Asia’s ideal communications, creative and content market,” he said. “It will consist of a content market, exhibition, conference, international masterclass, B2B platform and numerous networking events, providing the world with an opportunity to meet quality buyers from Europe, America, Middle East and Asia.” The annual event will showcase films, television programmes, animation, games, communications and mobile content, music, licensing and merchandising, visual arts, fashion, crafts, performing arts and a film support and location market. KLCCIM would run concurrently with the International Film Festival of Malaysia, Music Festival, Arts Festival, Technology Expo, Masterclass Summit, Project Financing Forum, as well as the DigitalMedia Craft Awards. Prior to KLCCIM, Malaysia would also play host to a number of crucial international events such as the Asian Animation Summit on Dec 10 and 11, 2012, he said.

For more information about what makes Malaysia one of the most popular destinations in the Islamic world, as well as on planning your next holiday or MICE event in Malaysia, please click: http://www.tourism.gov.my/.

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New online platform to learn Arabic music

Alahram Online, 7 Oct 2012 – Brainchild of Jordanian musician Bisher Abu Taleb and video editor Ayham Abu Hammad, www.i3zif.com provides an online platform for learning musical instruments via video lessons. “The project came from our own experience with music,” Abu Taleb told Ahram Online over Skype. “To learn an instrument, first you have to purchase it, pay for classes to learn to play it – all of which is expensive and not always accessible in the Arab world.”

Abu Taleb explained that these obstacles might get in the way of people learning musical instruments. “The Arab world could be missing out on the next Bach,” he said.

The online venture, now with 5,000 registered users, attempts to bring music production closer to people. They offer a cheaper alternative to classes, and guarantee the value of the lessons through selecting talented music teachers to share their knowledge of guitar, drums, oud and piano.

“Learning music is easier than people think – if one practices and gives it time,” says Abu Taleb. He continues by saying that “most musicians are self taught, so if people have that passion and motivation we are providing them a tool as an alternative to learning centres.”

The website advertises its professionalism, with teachers carefully selected to make sure they have a strong background in music and at least ten years experience.

“Our collaboration was perfect for this project,” Abu Taleb commented regarding his relationship with Abu Hammad, with one having a strong background in music and the other in making videos.

Abu Taleb, an established musician himself, was part of El-Rumm group from 2001-2011 – a group run by award-winning composer Tarek El-Nasser.

According to Abu Taleb, most of their traffic comes from Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, Algeria and Tunisia – with the United States following. “Many from abroad want to learn the oud,” Abu Taleb said. “We hope to offer oud courses in English in the future.”

After studying similar models of the venture abroad, the duo created their platform. Besides carefully edited videos of instructors, showing a split screen with the keys of the instruments, users can ask questions by email or arrange Skype lessons with their instructors.

The creators would like i3zif to become a one stop shop for musicians in the Arab world. Besides adding more instruments and instructors to their network, i3zif hope to sell instruments online along with original records by Arab artists.

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Malaysia’s Role In Philippines-MILF Peace Talks Proves Commitment To Ensuring Regional Peace

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 8 (Bernama) — A lawmaker regards Malaysia’s role in facilitating the peace negotiations between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) as proof of its commitment to ensuring regional peace and harmony.

Datuk Idris Haron (BN-Tangga Batu) said ensuring harmony in Southeast Asia was vital in the interest of regional security and the region’s competitiveness with the countries of Europe. “The peace efforts between the Philippine government and MILF have taken many years and Malaysia has played a role to make the talks possible, realising the need for harmony in the region in order to attract huge foreign investments.

“Our role has obviously borne fruit when soon a peace agreement will be signed between the Philippine government and MILF in the interest of all countries in this region,” Idris said when met at the Parliament lobby, here, Monday.

Another lawmaker, Datuk Abdul Rahman Dahalan (BN-Kota Belud) said Malaysia had for a long time assisted in the peace talks in Kuala Lumpur since the premiership of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad followed by Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s, with the success of the negotiations seen during the leadership of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

“We say thanks to the prime minister’s leadership which has sought means to bring peace to southern Philippines and we hope for everlasting peace in the area,” he had said when interjecting Datuk Matulidi Jusoh’s debate (BN-Dungun) on the 2013 Supply Bill in the Dewan Rakyat.

Yesterday, the Philippine government and MILF reached a historic decision to end the long-standing bloody conflict in the southern part of the country with a preliminary peace deal which will see the creation of a new autonomous region known as Bangsamoro. Malaysia has assisted in the peace negotiations since 2001 and led an international monitoring team since 2004.

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Uzbeks celebrate Art Week

Centralasiaonline.com 2012-10-10 TASHKENT – Style.Uz Art Week 2012 brought together Uzbek art lovers and professional artists to exhibit their cultural riches from around the world in Tashkent October 4-9.

The sixth annual event, sponsored by the Culture and Art Forum Foundation, included such major events as the Second International Golden Cheetah Cinema Forum in Tashkent, the Sixth International Tashkent Photo Biennale and the Third International Theatre.Uz Festival, Forum Foundation spokeswoman Elina Dadayeva said.

Master classes taught by foreign guests, conferences, concerts, exhibitions and an Uzbek fashion show were among the numerous side events scheduled, she said. The Golden Cheetah Cinema Forum, the opening event, presented 34 short and full-length movies selected by a jury from 473 films contributed by filmmakers from 43 countries around the world.

“The Golden Cheetah’s motto this year is ‘21st-Century Civilisations: A Dialogue of Cultures,’” Rustam Akbarov, of the festival’s organising committee, said. “We are happy the world is showing such a great interest in our festival, as confirmed by the large number of applications filed (by filmmakers). The films selected for the festival represent all parts of the world.”

One special event provided viewers with the opportunity to screen a restored copy of one of the first-ever feature films shot in Uzbekistan.

“The reels of the silent movie ‘The Second Wife,’ made in 1927, were archived at the Russian State Film Fund,” Akbarov said. “After a long and labourious restoration and digitisation, it has returned to the country where it was made. The Oscar-winning Russian director Vladimir Menshov personally brought it to the festival.”

The Theatre.Uz Festival has become a cultural event “of unique importance” to the entire region, critics say.

“Besides the Golden Cheetah, many other film festivals are held in Central Asia and here in Uzbekistan too, so the level of competition is fairly high, which is useful to both festival organisers and movie directors,” theatre critic Dmitry Goncharov of Tashkent said.

“The situation with theatre festivals in the region is more complicated. Attempts to organise such festivals in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan – specifically, the Aralash Festival in Bishkek in 2010 – have not led to those festivals becoming regular events; besides, the organisers’ budgets are limited, and inviting theatre companies from abroad to take part is always very expensive,” Goncharov said. “But the Theatre.Uz Festival is being held for the third time already, and we all hope it will be held as regularly in the future.”

This year’s festival attracted theatre companies from Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Germany, Israel, Russia and Bulgaria. A total of 21 performances were scheduled, and many workshops with guests from Europe and Russia were organised.

“This year’s focus will be on studying the creative process, the work of creating a theatrical production,” Theatre.Uz art director Nabi Abdurakhmanov said. “We think it is important to involve spectators as participants, rather than just as viewers … Only then can they have an idea of the tremendous effort required and cause (them) to rethink their own relationship to the theatre.”

“Also, we think it is important to promote young talent and bring out its full potential,” he added. “The current format of the festival will help us attain that goal. Hopefully, we’ll discover new theatrical stars during this festival.”

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Inspitari 2012 A Platform To Promote Traditional Dances To Young Generation

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 13 (Bernama) — The ‘Inspitari 2012’ programme organised by the Culture and Arts Department (JKKN) will become the platform for traditional and folk dances to be popularised among the young generation.

However, Deputy Information Communications and Culture Minister Datuk Maglin Dennis D’Cruz said efforts to preserve traditional arts and culture were important and needed the participation from the community.

“In the era of globalisation, we shouldn’t forget the importance of preserving our cultures. A Malay saying ‘tak lapuk dek hujan, tak lekang dek panas’ which means that it will last through any harsh weather, proves that the traditional cultures should be defended so that they will remain relevant, especially among the younger generation.”

The deputy minister said this when opening the Inspitari Gala Night 2012 at the City Hall Auditorium here. Also present was JKKN director-general Datuk Norliza Rofli.

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IDANS dance performances retrace the Silk Road

ISTANBUL – Hürriyet Daily News – This year iDANS International Contemporary Dance and Performance Festival will follow the Silk Road with artists from East and Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and Europe

The sixth iDANS International Contemporary Dance and Performance Festival will offer a different perspective on dance and performance, and also on art itself.

Both theater and performance artists will take part in the festival, which kicks off in October will continue until May 2013. The performances will be live and sometimes paired with film screenings, panels and photography exhibitions. Since 2007, iDANS has always had an extensive program that hardly fit into a single month. In its fourth year, iDANS broke a record in Istanbul for the number of invited artists from abroad, with 41 projects by 154 artists from 21 countries. This year, the festival organizers of Bimeras decided to expand iDANS through the whole season and present a program which will encompass not only diverse expressions of contemporary dance but will also feature some of the most cutting-edge theater and trans-disciplinary live performances from the international scene. iDANS was granted funding by the Culture Program of the European Commission, becoming the first festival from Turkey to receive support.

Inspired by the historical caravan trail that extended some 6,500 km interlinking trade routes across the Afro-Eurasian landmass that connected East, South and West Asia with the Mediterranean and the European world as well as parts of North and East Africa, iDANS 06 will be framed around the metaphor of the Silk Road. As well as programming the work of established and upcoming artists from Europe and the Middle East, the program will include contemporary performing arts from East and Southeast Asia, and will explore the migration, evolution and cross-pollination of diverse movement styles and expressions.

Before the human species invented words for nations or passports, they were highly mobile and were engaged in trading across large distances spanning entire continents. The trade of material goods out of ecological, economical or spiritual needs facilitated the exchange and hybridization of ideologies, religions, beliefs, aesthetic know-how, movements and gestures. In its 6th edition iDANS brings together a diverse array of artistic approaches to highlight the transformations across time and space, in an attempt to trace out a contemporary silk road of dance.

Obviously, the iDANS program’s exploration is not exhaustive of what is out there in Asia. Yet, it marks for iDANS the beginning of deeper research and investment in contemporary performing arts in and around Central, East, and Southeast Asia.

The iDANS 06 activities and program are clustered under separate sections that take their name and characteristics from the goods traded along the Silk Road. These subheadings will be: “Gemstones,” “Spices,” “Silk” and “Paper.”

Gemstones features staged contemporary dance and theater performances by some established artists such as Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker of Belgium, the Rimini Protokoll troupe of Germany and Saburo Teshigawara of Japan. Spices introduces some quite challenging, pungent and tasty works by numerous upcoming artists such as Aakash Odedra of the U.K. and Geumhyung Jeong of Korea, and heralds the news from the next generation of contemporary dance with the freshest works by recent P.A.R.T.S. graduates. Silk features Tao Dance Theater from Beijing and Toshiki Okada from Tokyo. The Paper section encompasses the knowledge production and exchange projects of iDANS, namely, “Critical Endeavour Turkey 2012,” as well as public lectures and talks.

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Indonesia as Location of Atlantis?

Jakarta, October 3 2012 (ANTARA) – US researcher of ancient mysteries Frank Joseph Hoff has said that recent views regarding Indonesia and surrounding areas being the location for the lost continent of Atlantis are important for humanity.

Atlantis, dating back thousands of years, was the “soul of the world,” the original cradle of civilization, and the source for most races, religions and science, according to Hoff, who is currently the president of Atlantis Publications, here on Tuesday.

He referred to the work of Brazilian Professor Arysio Nunes dos Santos on the location of Atlantis. Santos in his book titled “Atlantis – The Lost Continent Finally Found” determined that Atlantis and earlier Lemuria, were located in the South China Sea, at the farthest ends of the Pacific and Indian Oceans.

Larger than an island, Atlantis was a continent comparable in size to the United States, which didn’t sink but went underwater when sea levels rose around 11,600 years ago, Hoff noted, adding that Indonesia is the only part of that continent that remains visible.

Backing his claims he added that sources like NOAA satellite data also show that the continent was in the location. “Millions of citizens of Atlantis were killed in the deluge/tsunami that followed a massive earthquake, but some fled to the Indus Valley area in India and Pakistan and other locations,” Hoff said.

Greek philosopher Plato had first mentioned Atlantis some two and a half millennia ago. Prof. Santos has studied and researched for 30 years to determine the location of Atlantis. Based on the studies and research, he has determined that Atlantis was located in Indonesia and surrounding areas.

“Our theory proposes the dramatic cataclysmic explosion of the Krakatoa volcano, which opened the Sunda Strait separating the islands of Java and Sumatra and caused the destruction of Atlantis. We also propose that it was the mechanism involved in ending the Pleistocene Ice Age some 11, 600 years ago. Some 70% of the former species of great mammals which existed in this former era became extinct, as a result,” said Hoff, who also assisted Prof. Santos for about eight years.

Prof. Arysio Santos was a nuclear physicist, geologist and climatologist, and died in 2005, two months after the publication of his book. Hoff believes that close cooperation between several parties, particularly businessmen, researchers and government officials, is necessary to promote Indonesia as the location of the lost continent.

“The finding of Atlantis could help boost tourism in Indonesia tremendously. With the Arab Spring, Indonesia has huge potential to attract millions of tourists. My only concern here is traffic jams which could be bad for tourists,” said Hoff, who has visited Indonesia twice.

His first visit was in October 2010, when he spoke in an international conference on nature, philosophy and the culture of the ancient Sunda civilization, in Bogor, West Java.

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Islamic Movements Urged To Spread Message Of Unity

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 8 (Bernama) — Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said today he hoped Islamic movements in the country would spread the message of unity to all strata of Muslim society. He said the role could be played effectively by them because of the nature of missionary movements which were independent and influential as well as apolitical.

“I am confident, that greater Muslim unity can see be achieved if all parties are sincere in championing this cause without having other agendas besides wanting to see Islam continue to be strengthened and its teachings upheld in our country,” he said when opening the National Islamic Missionary Movements Seminar at the Putra World Trade Centre here today.

Muhyiddin also reminded Muslims in the country to avoid becoming split as their wellbeing depended a lot on their being united. “Do not let differences in ideology or political views cause us to fight among ourselves and became disunited, which ultimately will be to our own loss. Defend the progress we are enjoying today by maintaining our existing unity,” he said.

He said Muslims were faced with all kinds challenges now including from the aspects of culture, ideology and faith. He said the greatest challenge arose as a result of the spread of the liberalism and plurality of religion ideologies which among others called on Muslims to free themselves from their beliefs and religious rulings.

As such, Muhyiddin said Islamic missionary movements in the country should be further strengthened so that they can propagate the true teachings of Islam. Towards this end, he said, Islamic scholars and leaders of Islamic organisations and missionary movements should join hands to face the challenges and that the government would support the efforts.

He said the wise missionary approach taken in Malaysia had impressed international Islamic organisations and scholars who see Malaysia as a model Islamic country because it is among the most advanced Islamic countries and not only that, but able to balance aspects of unity and development.

Several foreign Islamic scholars who came to visit Malaysia recently had expressed the hope that Malaysian Muslims would defend the progress they were enjoying today, besides giving a reminder that the upheavals taking place in several Islamic countries should not be allowed to happen here, he added.

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Mosque with capacity for 28,000 to be built in Ras Al Khaimah

Abu Dhabi, 24 Dhul Qaada 1433/ 10 October 2012 (IINA) – A mosque for 28,000 worshippers is to be built in UAE’s Ras Al Khaimah city. The Dh250 million project, which will be implemented on an area covering18,000 square meters, will include an Islamic museum, a library, a Quran memorization center and elaborate gardens, UAE news agency WAM reported.

The mosque is an initiative of the UAE President Sheikh Khalifa, and it will be named after him. The proposed site is the growing urban area of Al Dhait, south of RAK city, where thousands of housing plots have been given to Emiratis. “This is going to be most probably in Al Dhait area because this area has the most dense population,” said Mohammed Al Asam, the general manager of RAK Municipality. “This is going to be a landmark.” The RAK government recently awarded 1,028 of 2,322 residential housing plots in the desert neighbourhood, which has several Friday mosques but no major building for special functions.

A committee for Sheikh Khalifa approved the mosque’s construction at the headquarters of the Ministry of Presidential Affairs. The mosque is a “translation” of the President’s vision to “strengthen the vital function of mosques as a center of cultural, intellectual and social life of the citizens”, Wam reported. No timeline was given for construction. During the meeting, the committee also approved Dh35 million for the construction of interior roads in Ajman. The first phase of the 22,000-square-metre Sheikh Zayed Mosque in Fujairah is scheduled for completion in November.

More than 500 men are working on the Fujairah mosque, which will hold 28,000 worshippers once completed in two-and-a-half years. The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi is the largest in the country at 22,412 square meters.

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Europe’s first hijab-wearing mayor in Bosnia

Sarajevo, 24 Dhul Qaada 1433/ 10 October 2012 (IINA) – The small Bosnian town of Visoko, near the capital Sarajevo, has elected a mayor who wears the hijab headscarf, a first not only in Bosnia, but also in Europe, the electoral commission (CIK) said yesterday. Amra Babic, 43, who regularly wears the hijab, won 30 percent of votes in Sunday’s local elections in the town of some 40,000 inhabitants.

Amra’s Party of Democratic Action (SDA), the main Muslim party in Bosnia, said ahead of the vote that if Babic won, she would become “first female mayor of Visoko, but also in Europe who wears headscarf.”

Babic, a mother of three and an economist, served as finance minister in the central canton of Zenica prior to running for mayor. Having lost her husband in the 1992-95 inter-ethnic war in Bosnia, Babic has for years led an association of families of Muslim fighters killed in the conflict.

Muslims are the biggest religious group in Bosnia, making up some 40 percent of its 3.8 million inhabitants. Orthodox Christian Bosnian Serbs account for 31 percent while the traditionally Roman Catholic Croats represent 10 percent. The hijab was banned under communism when Bosnia was part of the federal Yugoslavia, from 1945 until the early 1990s. A number of Muslims in the country nowadays wear the hijab, although most women do not cover their head.

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First female rapper debuts in Afghanistan

KABUL, Afghanistan – The Associated Press – “Listen to my story! Listen to my pain and suffering!” Afghanistan’s first female rapper Sosan Firooz pleads into her microphone. With her first rap song, the outspoken 23-year-old singer is making history in her homeland where society frowns on women who take the stage. She is already shunned by some of her relatives. But for Firooz, the best way to express herself is through rap, a musical genre that is just starting to generate a following in Afghanistan.

She sings about repression of women, her hopes for a peaceful Afghanistan and the misery she says she experienced as a small child living in neighboring Iran. Her song’s message to Afghans: Stay in your homeland. Those who leave, she sings, will only get jobs washing dishes or working at a car wash. “They will miss their homeland,” she raps in a staccato style, part rap and part hip-hop. “They will want to kiss the dust of their homeland.”

“What is the result of Afghans being refugees in Iran and Pakistan?” she raps in Dari, one of Afghanistan’s two main languages. “Half of them are addicts and the other half are terrorists!”

So far, the song, titled “Our Neighbors,” has only been released on YouTube, with a video that shows a series of pictures of Firooz posing in a hip-hop style gear, with jeans, dangling chains and bracelets. In some pictures, she wears a bandana with skulls, but her long hair flows freely, with no headscarf – a rarity among Afghan women, including the few female singers.

Firooz is also an actress, appearing in secondary roles in a number of local TV soap operas. Earlier this month, she sang at a three-day music festival in Kabul. Because social interaction between men and women are restricted, the musicians played for a female audience the first day and males the last two days.

She is still not yet widely known among Afghans, but she’s breaking traditional rules for women in a very conservative society, where some women don’t go outside without wearing blue burqas that cover them from head to toe.

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Egypt, Turkey plan to join forces in tourism

ISTANBUL – Hürriyet Daily News – Egypt and Turkey are planning broad collaboration to attract a higher share of the global tourism market, starting with increased flights between the two countries.

Turkish Airlines, the national flag carrier, has added Egypt’s Sharm el-Sheikh and Hurghada airports to its large network of destinations, Egyptian Tourism Minister Hisham Zazou said late on Oct. 8 at a press meeting announcing Turkish Airlines’ direct flights to the world-famous tourism resort cities by the Red Sea.

The Turkish flag carrier launched its first direct flight to Sharm el-Sheikh yesterday and will begin direct flights to Hurghada Oct. 17 in the first steps of wider cooperation between the two countries in tourism.

“We are going to organize a workshop between the Egyptian Tourism Foundation and chambers and TURSAB (the Association of Turkish Travel Agencies) on Dec. 10 in Egypt to do more business in the future. We are discussing with Turkish Airlines more frequent flights between Cairo and Alexandria in the coming weeks,” Zazou said.

“We are discussing even more optimistic and ambitious plans between us in terms of serving international destinations, and also business for Turkey and Egypt from long-haul destinations like South America, China, Japan, Southeast Asia, even America. Where our national air carrier may not be currently flying, we are going to have joint marketing activities on long-haul destinations, because specialists and experts know that tourists who come from these long-haul destinations do not come to this part of the world to visit one country alone, but they look forward to visiting more than one country. This is an opportunity to have road shows. With the cooperation of Turkish Airlines, we hold Egyptian-Turkish nights and promotional activities,” he said.

Touching on incentives Egypt has for the Turkish tourism sector, he said, “We have incentives for charter operations into Egypt, co-marketing and co-advertising activities.”

Egypt also has eased visa requirements for Turkish citizens, Ambassador Abderahman Salaheldin said at the event, adding that the two countries were just short of lifting visas.

The largest of the “Arab Spring countries,” Egypt is in a push to revive its crucial tourism sector, which lost steam last year when it turned a new page in its history after the overthrow of the regime led by former President Hosni Mubarak. The country’s tourism revenues dropped to $9 billion last year from $14 billion from the year before, and now targets $25 billion by 2017, Zazou said.

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Iran’s annual pistachio exports projected to hit $1b

Tehran Times – 09 October, 2012 – Iran is expected to earn $ 1.1 billion in pistachio exports this calendar year, which ends on March 20, 2013, the head of the association of Iranian pistachio farmers said. Mohsen Jalalipour told the IRNA News Agency that 200,000 tons of pistachio is anticipated to be harvested in the current year, of which 120,000 tons will be exported.

The last year’s output amounted to 160,000 tons, he said, adding that 15 percent of the output is supplied to the domestic market. Last year, 100,000 tons of pistachio was exported, he noted.

On August 14, Jalalipour said Iran has been replaced by U.S. since 2011 as the leading pistachio producer in the world. He told the ISNA News Agency that by 2011, Iran was the major pistachio producer with some 200,000 tons of annual output, but U.S. took the lead from Iran by producing 210,000 tons of pistachio.

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Malaysia to organise KLCCIM 2013 next year

CANNES (France), Oct 10 (Bernama) — Malaysia will organise the Kuala Lumpur Communications and Creative Industry Mart (KLCCIM) next year as a commitment to the growth of the creative content industry. The four-day mart will begin on March 26. Information Communication and Culture Ministry secretary-general Datuk Seri Kamaruddin Siaraf said the ministry-organised KLCCIM was expected to attract more than 200 seller companies from Asia and 300 buyers from around the world. “It will cover approximately 5,000 square metres of floor space, attempting to be one of Asia’s ideal communications, creative and content market,” he said on the second day of the World Audio Visual Trade Exhibition (MIPCOM) 2012 at the Palais des Festivals here.

“It will consist of a content market, exhibition, conference, international masterclass, B2B platform and numerous networking events, providing the world with an opportunity to meet quality buyers from Europe, America, Middle East and Asia,” he said. The annual event will showcase films, television programmes, animation, games, communications and mobile content, music, licensing and merchandising, visual arts, fashion, crafts, performing arts and a film support and location market.

Kamaruddin said KLCCIM would also run concurrently with the International Film Festival of Malaysia, Music Festival, Arts Festival, Technology Expo, Masterclass Summit, Project Financing Forum, as well as the DigitalMedia Craft Awards. Prior to KLCCIM, Malaysia would also play host to a number of crucial international events such as the Asian Animation Summit on Dec 10 and 11, this year, he said.

Kamaruddin is leading a Malaysian delegation comprising 40 creative content companies to the four-day MIPCOM 2012 which ends on Oct 11. MIPCOM is an annual global content event for co-producing, buying, selling, financing and distribution of entertainment content across all platforms. (BERNAMA)

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NBO official wins Al Mar’a ‘Woman of the Year’ Award

Oman Daily Observer – 10 October, 2012 – The Al Mar’a Excellence Awards honours Omani women, in celebration of, and in keeping with the implementation of the Royal Orders issued by Sultan Qaboos Bin Said, to observe October 17 every year, as the Omani Women’s Day. The group of leading women were short-listed, selected and evaluated by Ernst & Young – a global provider of assurance, tax, transaction and advisory services. The winners were announced at a special Gala Dinner held under the patronage of Maitha al Mahrouqiya, Under-Secretary, Ministry of Tourism, and in the presence of Sayyida Rawan al Said, CEO, ONIC Holding, and other dignitaries, on October 7.

Now in its 2nd year, the Al Mar’a Excellence Award 2012 has expanded to recognize women leaders in diverse fields like business, government, industry, education and other relevant fields. The awards recognise and encourage Omani women who demonstrate excellence and extraordinary success in such areas such as innovation, performance and personal commitment to their businesses and communities.

Overall there are 12 awards, including honorary awards, as well as two exclusive awards for Oman’s top women achievers. This year’s “Woman of the Year” title has been awarded to Aisha Al Kharusi, Head of Corporate Communications & CSR, at the National Bank of Oman.

Al-Kharusi’s credentials include being the former Deputy Regional Director of Boeing International — Middle East Region. She was on the Global Corporate Citizenship advisory committee in Chicago representing her international peers worldwide. Prior to joining Boeing, she was a young entrepreneur managing an agency and a pioneer of Oman’s first bi-lingual youth supplement: Youth Observer.

As a devoted member of society, Al Kharusi held several roles including member of the Young Arab Leaders – UAE Chapter. Furthermore, she has held several positions as a Board Member for the Omani Businesswomen Forum — Oman Chamber of Commerce. Currently, she is Board Member of AIESEC Oman and Injaz Oman (both youth driven non-profit agencies).

“On behalf of the National Bank of Oman, I am very proud to see a talent like Aisha excel within the community and to be recognised as a role model. At National Bank of Oman we encourage our employees to achieve the highest zeal not just within their job scope as well as outside their community. Aisha has had one goal in mind: to work hard and persevere in everything she touches. Finally, her day has come and she certainly deserves this honour. Congratulations to Aisha Al Kharusi, “Woman of the Year!” said Mohammed Al Ardhi, Deputy Chairman, National Bank of Oman.

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Designs Ready for new airports in Oman

Oman Daily Observer – 10 October, 2012 – The Transport and Communications Ministry completed the engineering designs for the passenger terminals at the domestic airports in Sohar, Al Duqm, Ras al Had and Adam. The implementation comes as per the strategy which meets the actual technical and economic need for such airports.

The new designs resulted in reducing the cost of construction, operation and maintenance, compared to the previous designs after reducing the size of the construction area for the passenger terminal without affecting the previous capacity, which was at 1.5 million passengers a year for each airport.

The statement issued by the ministry says that the new technical designs for the passengers terminals at the four airports are practical and effective so that they provide passengers with easy access and exit compared to the previous designs which were similar to those at Muscat and Salalah airports. These airports provide elite cutting-edge services in terms of facilities, standards, terminals sizes and others.

The Transport and Communications Ministry said that the new designs take into consideration the future expansion, increasing the capacity to meeting the growth in the passenger and cargo activity on the long term through horizontal expansion which depends on the development of the aviation activity at these airports and the growth in trade and tourism activities at the nearby areas.

The ministry pointed out that the passenger buildings stretches over about 5,000 square meters to accommodate 1.5 million passengers per year. The building includes a ground floor and mezzanine, which provide services that meet the needs of customers, such as restaurants, retail shops and service utilities.

As for the air freight, the Transport and Communications Ministry said that two buildings for air freight will be built at Al Duqm and Sohar airports, with a capacity of 25,000 tonnes per annum to meet the business and economic activity of the area, which is expected to witness growth in the future.

The ministry added that the first package works for all four airports have been completed, except for Adam which is almost completed, especially the road network and civil works.

The second packages, related to the runway and taxis are completed at Adam airport, almost completed in Sohar airport, 45 per cent completed in Al Duqm airport and 57 per cent completed at Ras al Had airport.

The statement pointed out that the technical committee supervising the implementation of the airport projects has followed and supervised all the engineering designs to ensure achieving the prospective aims as per the planned strategy. He expects to float the public tender of the third package of the passenger terminal for Sohar and Al Duqm during the coming weeks.

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Emirates, Australia ink marketing agreement

Khaleej Times – 11 October, 2012 – Emirates and Tourism Australia have signed a global marketing agreement aimed at using the world’s largest international passenger airline’s growing network to further boost visitation from key markets in Europe and New Zealand. Under a new memorandum of understanding, Emirates and Tourism Australia intend to collectively spend up to A$ 14.3 million over the next three years on a range of joint marketing activities focusing on some of Australia’s leading inbound visitor markets — the UK, Germany and New Zealand, in addition to France and Italy.

The arrangement will feature joint marketing on traditional and digital media platforms as well as event and sponsorship activities.

“Emirates’ A$14.3 million partnership with Tourism Australia takes the airline’s investment in ‘destination Australia’ to the next level. This is the largest investment Emirates has ever made with a global tourism body, highlighting our commitment to Tourism Australia’s strategy for attracting global travellers,” said Salem Obaidalla, Emirates’ senior vice-president of commercial operations for the Far East and Australasia. “Emirates has carried more than 16 million passengers to and from Australia since 1996 and today we enable travellers from more than 30 European locations to travel to Australia via one stop in Dubai, offering passengers from all corners of the continent the chance to enjoy the many and varied attractions down under,” he added.

“We believe the proposed partnership with Qantas, pending regulatory approval, will further grow tourism to Australia from these key European markets. Collaboration between our two airlines will deliver the best network, schedules, lounges, frequent flyer program and customer experience for travellers both to and from Australia,” Obaidalla said.

Tourism Australia managing director Andrew McEvoy said Emirates has demonstrated a strong and growing commitment to the Australian market since it first started flying to country in 1996 and has been one of its most committed marketing partners. “Tourism Australia has worked with Emirates on local cooperative marketing activities across individual markets for some years now, and very successfully so, linking Australia’s visitor appeal with the airline’s extensive schedule and internationally recognised and well respected brand,” he said.

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GCC hospitality industry ‘is poised for growth’

Gulf Daily News – 08 October, 2012 – The GCC hospitality sector is poised for healthy growth owing to favourable economic conditions, infrastructure development, increased bids to host high-profile global events and government support to the private sector. All these factors have contributed to the steady increase in tourist arrivals, which has facilitated the growth of the hospitality industry in the region, according to Alpen Capital managing director Sameena Ahmad.

Alpen Capital, in its GCC Hospitality industry report, estimates that the GCC hospitality market is anticipated to grow at an annual rate of 8.1 per cent to $ 28.3 billion by 2016, compared to $ 19.2bn in 2011. Occupancy rates are expected to average around 67pc to 73pc between 2012 and 2016. Saudi Arabia is expected to remain the largest GCC market in terms of revenues, followed by the UAE. Qatar is expected to be one of the fastest growing markets, driven by rising business and leisure tourism as the country prepares for the FIFA World Cup 2022 and to achieve its 2030 national vision.

Driven by its macro-economic fundamentals, the GCC performed relatively better in the current economic crisis. Government support helped tackle the economic turbulence and public sector spending on infrastructure has driven the region’s economic growth. With the improvement in economic conditions, business and consumer sentiments are showing signs of revival.

This is likely to boost domestic and inter-regional tourism in the GCC, which will contribute significantly to tourist arrivals, the report says. In addition, as economic conditions improve globally, international tourism is likely to increase from emerging and developed markets.

Tourist arrivals in the GCC are also increasing on emergence of the region as a preferred tourist hub due to varied offerings. These range from shopping festivals to annual sporting events to conferences and exhibitions attracting both leisure and business travellers.

Demand for hotels is also likely to be driven by higher arrivals from Asian nations as travel spend is likely to grow at an impressive rate driven by rising income levels. There is a growing domestic demand for hotels which is likely to be driven by rising income levels in the region and the fact that GCC per capita income is higher than most advanced economies, the report adds.

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Oman, Tanzania to ink pacts

Oman Daily Observer – 08 October, 2012 – A number of key agreements and events will see the light of day during the forthcoming state visit of Tanzanian President Jakaya Mrisho Kilwete to Oman next week. The Tanzania Business Forum will be held on October 16 at Al Bustan Palace Hotel at 9.30 am in which President Kilwete will deliver keynote address. At the end of this important event, Omani and Tanzanian authorities will sign an agreement to establish Oman-Tanzania Business Council.

This was stated by Tanzania’s Ambassador to the Sultanate, Ali Ahmed Saleh, at a press conference here yesterday. Speaking to the Observer on the sidelines of the conference, Saleh said during this visit, the two sides will sign an agreement on the “Promotion and Protection of Investment”. This, along with the Oman-Tanzania Business Council, will act as a catalyst to unlock the potential of bilateral trade and investment between the two sides, he stressed.

An agreement on “Political Consultation” will also be signed, which will go a long way in bringing the two brotherly countries closer in important fields. The two countries will also sign an agreement on “Records and Documents”, which holds out much significance in view of the fact that the two sides have a long-standing period of shared history and sharing some documents and achieves may help unearth important historical facts about the relations.

Last but not the least, a deal on facilitating co-operation between the two countries in the field of higher education is also slated to be signed during this visit. Saleh said Oman and Tanzania have longstanding and cordial relations and the forthcoming state visit of President Kilwete is aimed at opening up new vistas of opportunities so that the bilateral relations reach the level they deserve.

Oman and Tanzania enjoy very “unique and special” bonds of affection, mainly because Oman is the only country outside of Africa, where many people speak Swahili language and Oman shares blood and cultural relations with Tanzania. Over the years, the two sides have witnessed important exchanges of visits with the first president late Julius Nyerere having visited Oman in 1985 and the then president of Zanzibar, Dr Salmeen Amour Juma, also visited Oman. There have also been many ministerial exchanges between Oman and Tanzania, with the Tanzanian Foreign Minister having visited the Sultanate in 2011.

The forthcoming visit of President Kilwete assumes special significance because there is a strong determination on the sides to unlock the full potential for investment and trade in all fields of human endeavour. Tanzania, said Saleh, holds out great opportunities for investment in its livestock and fisheries sector, and farm production. Blessed with millions of hectares of fertile land, water and very suitable weather, Tanzania can be an ideal place for Oman to invest and grow its farm products to meet its requirements. This is how Oman can transform itself from being a net importer to exporter of fruits and vegetables and achieve self-sufficiency in these items and also food security.

Since Tanzania has recently discovered several wells of oil and gas, the two sides can establish linkages in this field for mutual benefits. Oman can also fruitfully invest in a big way in Tanzania’s fast growing infrastructure, roads, bridges, hotels, resorts, as well as in the transport and shipping sector. The manufacturing sector too offers promising investment opportunities for the Omani government and business community, he added.

Most importantly, he, said Tanzania with a population of 41 million people, offers access to a market of 150 million people in its neighbouring countries through the Port of Dar-es-Salaam. Tanzania is home to some of the world’s most attractive tourist destinations and in recent years there has been an increase in the number of Omani visitors travelling to Tanzania, which has been catalysed by the resumption of direct flights to Tanzania by Oman Air. This has been a building factor in consolidating trade and cultural ties between the two countries.

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Saudi Arabia projects 6% GDP growth

Arab News – 09 October, 2012 – Saudi Arabia is heading for real GDP growth of 6 percent in 2012, according to Moody’s Investors Service. It also said the outlook for Saudi Arabia’s banking system remains stable.

The Kingdom’s nonoil private-sector real GDP to expand by 5.2 percent in 2012 and 5.5 percent in 2013, following 6.4 percent growth in 2011, with overall real GDP growth forecast at 6 percent in 2012, one of the highest rates in the GCC, Moody’s said.

Commenting on Moody’s report, Asim Bukhtiar, vice president and head of research at Riyad Capital, said: “Considering that the Kingdom managed 4.6 percent GDP growth in a difficult 2010, the projected 6.0 percent in 2012 should be achievable.”

He said: “Strong commercial credit demand suggests that the economic engine is humming along. However, 2013 may present challenges as trading partners grapple with deteriorating growth prospects.”

The Moody’s report said economic activity and banking-system credit growth will be supported by the positive effects of high government spending and increased private-sector business activity.

The key drivers of the outlook are a benign operating environment, low problem loan levels, strong loss-absorption capacity underpinned by high capital buffers and solid profitability, and the sector’s stable, low-cost deposit base and ample liquidity.

However, Moody’s says that these system-wide strengths will remain counterbalanced by structural weaknesses over the 12-18 month outlook period.

Jarmo T. Kotilaine, a regional economist, said: “The GDP projection of 6 percent is not impossible but does look a tad ambitious in view of intermediate national accounts data. GDP growth was 5.9 percent in Q1 and 5.5 percent in Q2, the drop being partly due to lower oil prices and less momentum in production. But we also have the base effect due to the sharp acceleration of growth last year.”

He said real GDP expanded by an annual 9.6 percent in Q2 2011, by 7.5 percent Q3 2011 and by 7.4 percent in Q4. The key drivers were a general increase in oil prices and production as well as a sharp boost to government expenditure due to new spending priorities in areas such as housing, job creation and social welfare. Generally speaking, these drivers are unlikely to grow as fast this year, even allowing for the decreased risk aversion we have seen in recent weeks due to global developments. Nor is private sector growth likely to entirely make up for the slack. “The outlook for the economy is very benign, but in terms of headline growth figures likely one of relative normalization as compared to last year,” Kotilaine said.

Basil Al-Ghalayini, CEO of BMG Financial Group, said: “In spite of the strong fundamentals of the Saudi economy in terms of huge government spending, young spending population, political stability coupled with religious tourism and unlimited upside potential in addition to the oil one, we are still seeing certain correlation with international markets volatilities. Although certain sectors in Saudi Arabia have been affected negatively by the global slowdown, investment opportunities are still in great demand in the country.”

About banking outlook, Moody’s expects problem loans (defined as loans overdue by 90 days) to gross loans to decline below the December 2011 level of 3.0 percent.

However, Moody’s says that asset quality remains exposed to event risks, due to the continued high, albeit declining, single-party exposures in the banks’ loan books. Over the outlook period, the corporate sector will also remain susceptible to vulnerabilities, including the relatively low transparency of family-owned conglomerates and the frequent intermingling of risky investment activities with operating activities that are typically more stable.

“Generally speaking, of course, Saudi banks are in very robust health by global standards,” Kotilaine said. While the point about structural weaknesses has some power, the weaknesses are being limited to an extent. Banks have become more rigorous about vetting clients and deals in response to earlier name lending concerns. And of course, the expansion of new lending in areas such as mortgages and SMEs can help curb some of the concentration challenges, he said.

Meanwhile, total deposits in the Saudi banks fell over the week ended Sept. 27, down by 0.16 percent, reaching SR 1.20 trillion, with its YTD growth decreasing to 8.4 percent, Riyad Bank said in its weekly report.

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Saudi tourism sector to create 1.1m jobs by 2016

Saudi Gazette – 09 October, 2012 – The Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA) does not target foreign tourists and want to focus on internal tourists, said Mohammad Al-Amri, Executive Manager of SCTA, in an answer to the Saudi Gazette question about their role in easing visas for non-Muslim tourists.

Al-Amri added that they want to focus on Saudi tourists as they are the target of many Arab and foreign countries. SCTA programs hope to attract Saudis to spend some of their vacations and breaks in the country.

Al-Amri was speaking at a press conference held here at JCCI Monday to announce the upcoming “Hotel Show” that will take place here on Nov. 17-19. He said the tourism sector is expected to offer 1.1 million direct and indirect jobs by 2016, with a growth of 25 percent. Tourism, he further said, provides a vast number of investment opportunities and its development should be an imitative of the private sector and not from the government.

Moreover, Al-Amri said they have started their field inspection tours in cooperation with the municipalities, civil defense and other government bodies to close down any violating hotel or furnished apartment. “We were surprised to know that some places are operating without a license,” he added.

Their new category system is based on giving value points to each hotel or furnished apartment based on the quality of their services and decor along with other elements that add value to the establishment. The evaluation process is done once a year and therefore investors are now working hard to get more points, he noted, forecasting that Jeddah will need 6,000 to 7,000 rooms in the coming years to meet the demand.

SCTA has lowered the bank insurance for tourisms investments from 2 million to be between 25,000 and 100,000. The move has attracted many Saudis to invest in this sector, Al-Amri said. New will be given to suite units and agricultural furnished housing units.

He noted that SCTA has started to give license to people who want to work as tourist guides. This permission can be given to any Saudi who is above 21, a high school graduate and also knows information about the area he wants to work as guide. “We already gave licenses to people of different professions – some are judges, sheikhs, doctors, engineers, among others,” he added.

The Hotel Show will offer a chance for investors, contractors and businessmen on one side and SCTA on the other side, to be able to discuss the future of this sector in the Kingdom, said Elie Rizk, CEO of the organizing company M.I.C.E Arabia Group.

The Kingdom needs more international exhibition in this sector to be able to provide investment opportunities, he added, saying “what this sector needs is government support and citizens understanding of its importance. This is what happened in Dubai 10 years back and this is what made it distinguished now. Kingdom is now approaching (the level) due to the construction and development boom.”

Barth de Ridder, DMG director of Conferences and Training in the Middle East, said the Kingdom will receive up to 88 million visitors by 2020, while the number of hotel employees will increase from 18,600 to 2.3 million by 2020. The exhibition will have workshops, seminars and features on the side of it, said Mike Allsop, senior vice president of DMG Events, a co-organizer.

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Islamic banking industry has bright future in UAE

Khaleej Times – 07 October, 2012 – The Islamic banking sector has a bright future in the UAE as it has been playing a major role in financing infrastructure projects, residential properties and corporate expansion, a top official of Noor Islamic Bank said.

The Islamic lender, which was established with a vision to be recognised as the financial icon from Dubai, is developing its online and mobile banking products and services to expand its reach to the customers. The bank is all set to launch its latest product – A Bank in Your Hand — at Gitex Technology Week next week.

“Islamic financial instruments have the potential to become a key funding source for the nation’s infrastructure needs,” Hussain Al Qemzi, group chief executive officer of Noor Investment Group and CEO of Noor Islamic Bank, told Khaleej Times in an interview ahead of the World Islamic Retail Banking Conference, starting from October 9.

Noor Islamic Bank is a full-service bank delivering the broadest range of products for its customers, with an emphasis on unique and personalised services. It has branches in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah, and has a representative office in Tunisia. The bank’s mission is to be ranked among the top 100 most innovative companies in the world by 2020.

“I believe prospects for Islamic banking in the UAE are bright. The UAE Islamic banks account for around one-fifth of all banking assets in the country and 30 per cent of the global Islamic banking industry,” Al Qemzi said.

He said the UAE Islamic banks play a major role in financing infrastructure projects, residential properties and corporate expansion. “This will continue as the country’s economy maintains its steady growth, thanks to the influx of petrodollars, resulting from high oil prices.”

“Infrastructure financing, in particular, represents a tremendous opportunity for Islamic finance. At a time when the conventional banks are offering fewer and shorter loans, the UAE government and companies are increasingly turning to other options for finance,” he added.

Al Qemzi, a seasoned banker with over 28 years of experience working with the leading financial institutions in the UAE, is an insightful leader with proven experience of incubating, leading and managing strategic ventures and business transformation initiatives. During his tenure as CEO, Noor Islamic Bank has received 19 prestigious industry awards. Al Qemzi was also awarded the prestigious 2010 ‘CEO of the Year Award’ in the Islamic banking category at the CEO Middle East Awards.

About the outlook of banking sector in second half, Al Qemzi said the UAE banks are in a much better position today, but some challenges remain around credit growth and provisioning for legacy issues linked to overexposure to corporates and government entities.

“I am optimistic for the future. While uncertainties about the health of the global economy remain, the UAE banks are in a much better position today, than they were in 2008. The UAE banks are benefitting from improving liquidity, with higher deposits helping to push down the loan-to-deposit ratio below the 100 per cent for the first time since mid-2011.”

“Profits are holding up, assets are building, but challenges remain around credit growth and provisioning for legacy issues linked to over-exposure to corporates and government entities,” he added.

To a question about the bank’s profit and revenue growth in 2012, he said: “This year will be our first full year of sustained profitability, in line with our five year forecast when we launched in 2008.”

In reply to a question regarding the opening of more branches, he said Noor Islamic Bank is present in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah. “There are no plans to open more branches at this time. Instead, we will focus on developing our online and mobile banking products and services, the latest of which, ‘A Bank in Your Hand’ we will be launching at Gitex Technology Week, later this month.”

In reply to a question about the bank’s Shariah-compliant services, he said Noor Islamic Bank is delivering the broadest range of Shariah-compliant products to its customers, with an emphasis on unique and personalised services.

“Noor Islamic Bank’s products and services are governed by a Shariah board, comprising leading Islamic scholars with extensive experience and expertise in legal, financial and banking-related matters.”

About the bank’s growth strategy, he said the bank is continuing to develop its retail offerings, with a strong focus on enhancing our customers’ online and mobile banking experience. “Our growth strategy is one of prudent growth, as we seek to extend the reach of our corporate advisory, capital market and structuring capabilities. At the same time, we continue to seek opportunities in international markets as cross-border investment opportunities emerge,” he said.

Elaborating his point, he said some investment opportunities emerge in Turkey and Southeast Asia. “In Turkey, we have closed Islamic mandates valued at nearly $ 3 billion over the past three years, the latest of which is a $450 million facility for Al Baraka Turk Bank, the largest Islamic finance deal in the history of Islamic banking in Turkey. In Southeast Asia, we believe the growing regional economies will provide significant opportunities to expand our cross-border business,” he said.

“We are keen to build relationships and cooperate with other banks on cross border deals. We believe this route offers us greater growth opportunities than establishing a physical presence in markets outside the UAE,” Al Qemzi concluded.

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Exports via Iran’s Aras Free Zone hit $ 88m

Tehran Times – 07 October, 2012 – Iran exported some $ 88 million worth of goods to 14 countries via its Aras Free Zone (AFZ), northwest of the country, during the first half of the current Iranian year, which began on March 20, the AFZ director stated.

The exports amounted to 95,000 tons in weight, showing 58 percent growth year on year, the IRNA news agency quoted Sadeq Najafi as saying. He added that the goods were exported to Georgia, Armenia, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Turkey, Germany, UAE, Tajikistan, Iraq, Algeria, Syria, and Venezuela.

Iran plans to give a boost to its non-oil exports in the second half of the current Iranian calendar year, Mohammad-Reza Izadian the Trade Promotion Organization of Iran’s (TPOI) director for planning affairs said. Iran exported around 37.45 million tons of goods, worth $ 20.62 billion and imported some 19.12 million tons of goods, worth $ 26.48 billion in the six-month period, the Mehr news agency reported.

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Iran, Turkey bilateral trade to hit $30b

Tehran Times – 06 October, 2012 – Iranian First Vice President Mohammad-Reza Rahimi announced that the speed of trade exchanges between Iran and Turkey has accelerated and will soon reach the targeted goal of 30 billion dollars per year. Rahimi told the remarks during two-day travel to Turkey on Thursday. Rahimi’s visit takes place upon an official invitation extended by the Turkish PM, IRNA reported. The ministers of oil, roads, justice, and commerce were accompanying Rahimi during his visit to Turkey.

Iranian First Vice President and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan held private talks on different issues including economic ties in Ankara on Thursday. After the private meeting, a joint-committee of both countries’ high-ranking officials headed by Rahimi and Erdogan started.

“Economic and trade ties between Iran and Turkey are in line with common interests of the two countries,” Rahimi said in a joint press conference with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara on Thursday. He said the volume of trade exchanges in the first six month of the current Iranian year, which started on March 20, has exceeded 16 billion dollars which is expected to reach 25 billion dollars by the end of the year.

He added that the growing trade relations between Tehran and Ankara indicate the two countries’ willingness to strengthen mutual ties. He expressed hope the value of trade exchanges between the two neighbors would reach 30 billion dollars in the near future.

Erdogan, for his part, pointed to increasing ties between the two countries in trade and economic sectors and said both sides are making efforts to bring the value of exchanges to 30 billion dollars soon. He added that Tehran and Ankara have also held positive talks on bilateral cooperation in the energy sector, expressing hope that they would continue such negotiations.

Iran and Turkey have sharply increased the level of their trade ties over the past years. In 2000, the level of bilateral trade stood at only around USD one billion, but in 2010, it exceeded USD 10 billion. The figure hit USD 15 billion last year. The two sides seek to raise the value of their bilateral trade to USD 30 billion by 2015.

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Omran’s role in sustainable tourism lauded

Oman Daily Observer – 06 October, 2012 – Sayyid Khalifa bin Al Mirdas al Busaidy, Governor of Musandam, along with senior management from Omran visited the construction site of Khasab Hotel, one of the company’s up and coming projects which is expected to be completed by the last quarter of 2013. Led by Wael bin Ahmed al Lawati, Omran CEO, the Governor inspected the steady progress that has been achieved to date.

Al Busaidy said, “The Khasab Hotel is a prime example of the infrastructure needed to boost tourism and economic activity in the governorate which echoes the 9th five-year development plan to 2020 for the nation. Like a true partner, Omran has worked very closely with us to ensure these projects position Musandam as a hub for ecotourism and a draw for nature enthusiasts. This will undeniably result in long-term impact on sustainable development, enabling citizens to fully reap the fruits of these investments.”

Al Lawati said, “The Musandam peninsula geography is unique and memorable. Its dramatic limestone cliffs that plunge into pristine fjords give visitors an authentic experience and showcases Oman’s untouched natural beauty. The Khasab Hotel project will pave the path to additional sustainable projects that we have planned. It will not only encourage domestic tourism but also drive people from neighbouring countries and beyond to experience the beauty of this land. On the local front, the project will generate meaningful employment opportunities for young Omanis, attract new facilities and strengthen the local supply chain.”

He added, “In all of our projects, community engagement plays a pivotal role in all stages of our cycle. The Khasab project is one of many which will deliver long-term benefits to local communities and support the long-term success of Oman’s tourism sector.”

Situated near the centre of town and the local port, the LEED accredited Khasab Hotel will cater to the mid-high end market, offering guest rooms ranging from studios and duplex rooms to suites. After breaking ground earlier this year, the site has completed 337,014 man hours without LTI in 254 days. During this time, all excavation foundation works and super structures were completed.

As part of its asset management portfolio in the Musandam Governorate, Omran operates the Golden Tulip Khasab and the Golden Tulip Dibba. The company’s considered and responsible approach has resulted in a polished track record of building the best projects, safely and to the highest quality levels, and managing them to the best possible standards.

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Indonesia, China’s Second Biggest Investment Destination

BEIJING, Oct 11 (NNN-Bernama) — Indonesia has become the second biggest destination of Chinese investment in the Southeast Asian region, according to the Chinese Trade Ministry.

China’s overseas direct investment (ODI) in Indonesia reached US$590 million in the first seven months of this year, the head of the international trade and economic cooperation department at the Chinese Trade Ministry, Jiang Jiqing said here on Wednesday.

“Hopefully, the figure will continue to increase in accordance with the Chinese government’s go global policy which encourages Chinese investors to invest overseas,” Antara news agency quoted Jiqing as saying at a seminar on investment opportunities in Indonesia.

Meanwhile, Indonesian Ambassador to China and Mongolia Imron Cotan said Chinese investment in Indonesia is still relatively small. “With its foreign exchange reserves reaching US$3.5 trillion, China’s investment in Indonesia which reached US$1.2 billion in 2011 has not reflected its real potential,” he said.

The Chinese investment in Indonesia is still far below that of Singapore, Japan, South Korea and The Netherlands, he said. “Ideally, Chinese investment in Indonesia should increase by US$2 billion per year,” he said.

As Southeast Asia’s largest economy which has gross domestic product of around US$1 trillion, coupled with conducive investment climate and stable macro economic policy and political situation and endowed with abundant natural resources, Indonesia is promising destination of foreign investment, he said.

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Bahrain’s Al-Aali Mounds Nominated For Inclusion In List Of World Heritage

MANAMA, Oct 7 (NNN-BNA) — Bahrain Minister of Culture, Shaikha Mai bint Mohammed Al Khalifa, revealed that the range of Aali Historic Mounds has been nominated for inclusion among the list of World Heritage sites.

She said that the Ministry intends to carry on with the process of registering 11 unique landmarks located between al-Aali, Wadi al-Sail and Jannabiya, in addition to Saar historic community project besides the restoration of the pottery industry in al-Aali, to help attract more tourism into the Kingdom of Bahrain.

Shaikha Mai gave an exclusive interview to al-Watan daily newspaper Sunday and said that the Bahrain National Theater is considered one of the most important cultural projects in the Kingdom of Bahrain which was constructed as a gift fully donated by King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa to coincide with the selection of Manama as the Capital of Arab Culture.

The Bahraini National Theater is scheduled for inauguration on Nov 12 and work is well underway to be inaugurated on due time. The King laid down the foundation stone for the world-class Bahrain National Theater in July 2010 in order to accommodate 1001 seats and is considered the third ranking in the Arab world.

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Malaysia Week May Spread Its Wings To The Middle East, China

LONDON, Oct 7 (NNN-Bernama) — Destinations for Malaysia Week 2012, an event to showcase the vibrant culture and traditions of Malaysia, may spread its wings to the Middle East and China. Information, Communications and Culture Minister Rais Yatim said Malaysia Week 2012 which kicked off in London kicked off Saturday, an event to showcase the vibrant culture and traditions of Malaysia to Britons, especially tourists visiting London, would be expanded to other locations.

Rais said Malaysia Week, held in London for the fourth time, not only received tremendous support and response from Britons but tourists visiting London. “We hope to hoist the Malaysia Week to another level but organising similar events in Europe, Middle East countries and China,” he said after opening the Malaysia Week London 2012, Saturday.

Rais said Malaysia Week was organised in London during 2006, 2007, 2008 and Washington, United States in 2010. “After organising five Malaysia Week events, we have been able to identify what are the main factors that attracted the visitors, so we must continue such efforts,” he said.

The five-day Malaysia Week celebration held at South Bank, close to the Thames River, has become a major attraction among tourists in London.

Rais said the enchantment of Malaysia that can be experienced through a multi-ethnic and diverse culture, has become a major asset in promoting the country. “Even Southwark Mayor Althea Smith had acknowledged that Malaysia’s enchantment and strength was the composition of different races, ethnic groups,religions, culture, food etc,” he said.

Meanwhile, Smith told reporters that the event was about diversity and the need for people to work together as one community because at the end of the day, no matter what part of the world we are, no matter where we live, we are one…we’re all united as a human race,” she said.

Famed Malaysian shoe designer Datuk Dr Jimmy Choo expressed hope that Malaysia Week would continue to be organised here since it allowed visitors to enjoy what Malaysia had to offer in terms of culture, food, fashion and other others attractions.

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Algeria Has Potential To Become A Favourite Destination Of Mediterranean Region

ALGIERS, Oct 11 (NNN-APS) — Algeria had assets which allows it to become a favourite destination in the Mediterranean region, says Minister of Tourism and Craft Industry Mohamed Benmeradi. The minister, who presided over the opening session of the joint Algerian-Tunisian sectoral co-operation committee in tourism here Tuesday, added that Algeria had tourism assets and the potential to become a preferred destination in the Mediterranean.

Benmeradi said the holding of the second meeting of the sectoral committee was in line with the recommendations of the High Commission of Co-operation between the two countries and the monitoring committee. “The meeting provides an opportunity to strengthen brotherhood ties between Algeria and Tunisia,” he added. Algeria is seeking to benefit from the Tunisian experience in tourism, especially as that country is one of the main tourist destinations in the Mediterranean.

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Indonesia, Japan Agree On Rp140 Trillion Jakarta Project

JAKARTA, Oct 10 (NNN-ANTARA) — Indonesia and Japan have agreed on infrastructure development projects worth Rp140 trillion in Jakarta and its vicinity cities under the Metropolitan Priority Areas development program.

“We have agreed the projects to be financed 55 percent by private parties and 45 percent by public-private partnership and using the national budget and loans,” chief economic minister Hatta Rajasa said in the 4th Indonesia-Japan Joint Economic Forum here on Tuesday.

The agreement was reached in the Third Steering Committee Meeting on industrial investment under the Metropolitan Priority Areas development program.

Hatta attended the 4th Indonesia-Japan Joint Economic Forum along with industry minister MS Hidayat, tourism and creative economy minister Elka Pangestu and a number of officials from various ministries and the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Japan in the meeting was represented by foreign minister Koichiro Gemba, economic and trade minister Yukio Edano and a number of state officials and businessmen. “In the meeting 45 projects have been identified to be finished in 2020,” he said.

The projects would be carried out along with the implementation of four MPA goals namely development of better city environment, growth of new sub-corridors and multiple gateway and development of low-carbon energy sources which are expected to be realized in 2030 in the Jakarta Metropolitan areas.

Koichiro Gemba told newsmen Japan has estimated it would extend around Rp125 trillion to finance the projects through Japan’s Official Development Assistance and foreign aid. “We estimate we will extend around Rp125 trillion or one trillion yen for the next 10 years,” he said. Japan still opens possibilities to add funding in case requested by the Indonesian government, he added.

The meeting has identified minimally five big MPA projects including the development of a mass rapid transport system, a new international-scale sea port in Cilamaya, the extension of a Soekarno-Hatta airport and the development of new research clustes and water waste canal system in Jakarta.

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India Seeks More Halal Trade With Brunei

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN, Oct 10 (NNN-BRUDIRECT) — India is looking forward to working with Brunei to improve the trade of India Halal products in the Brunei market. Vice President of World Halal Congress who is also the chairman and founder of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), AJ Mohamed Jinna said this in an interview during a courtesy call on the Chairman of Indian Chamber of Commerce, Nazeer Ahamed Zackiriah at his office at Nazmi Textile Mall in Serusop on Monday.

“We have met with the Halal Authority Department at the Ministry of Industry and Primary Resources and we found it was very good the way they do the process and we would like to learn what Brunei has established”.

AJ Mohamed Jinna, who is also the CEO of Halal India, Executive Director of Halal Nepal and Executive Director of Halal Bangladesh Services and Executive Director of Halaal International Hub Singapore said, “There are a lot of critical factors in the complexity of the production today because the environment has changed. I has a meeting with the Permanent Secretary at Ministry of Industry and Primary Resources and it was a fruitful discussion as we are trying to bring India and Brunei closer in trade and tourism. And our relationship sees a long way, it should be made stronger in trade and tourism.”

He said a lot of improvements have been made in the past in the trade sector between Brunei and India but we are now taking a new initiative to bringing in halal products from India to Brunei. The Brunei government is willing to learn from us and we also learn from Brunei.

“Our purpose of visiting the Indian Chamber of Commerce was to understand any difficulties they are facing and I want to share their experience with the Indian ministries. The delegation left the country the same day to Singapore and Malaysia.

The Chairman of Indian Chamber of Commerce, Nazeer Ahamed Zackiriah, welcomed the positive move by the Congress to further strengthen Brunei-India trade ties especially in Halal products. The delegation visited Brunei for the first time with the objective to promote Halal products and Halal friendly tourism.

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Azerbaijan To Create Special Multicultural Research Centre

BAKU, Oct 6 (NNN-Bernama) — International communities have been urged to support Azerbaijan’s initiative to create a special research centre covering world multicultural problems, reports Azerbaijan’s Trend news agency. The call was stated in the final declaration that had been adopted following the Baku International Humanitarian Forum which ended on Friday.

The document in particular urges the public, politicians and scholars to fully support the Azerbaijan’s initiative for the creation of the research centre. Forum participants expressed their belief in the need for holding these annual forums and expressed deep gratitude to the Azerbaijani president, the government and all organisers of the Baku International Humanitarian Forum for such a large scale campaign that turned Baku into the centre of discussions on humanitarian issues on Oct 4-5.

According to the document, a comprehensive and multi-level dialogue held within the Baku Forum gives hope to the possibility of an effective resistance to the current challenges of our time.

It was stressed that its usage is necessary to organise international humanitarian cooperation and to promote effective coordination in this area. Participants of the Baku International Humanitarian Forum stressed the increasing importance of rethinking the concept of multiculturalism and its role in modern society.

They stressed the need for using multiculturalism as an integral part of state policy and its significance for the development of different cultures and the conservation and enhancement of the cultural achievements of humankind.

They emphasised the need to further develop the philosophical and ethical issues of multiculturalism along with media coverage to prevent xenophobia, racism and intolerance. ‘We believe that the current processes, encouraging cooperation and understanding, along with increasing tendencies of resistance in various regions of the world must be at the centre of scientific activity of the universities, academies of science and appropriate funds’, the declaration said.

The rapid development of science leads to the formation of a new interdisciplinary scientific paradigm and makes the need to reflect these processes in education, requiring the formation of a single, integrated situation among the new generation in the world, said the declaration.

The participants of the forum also stressed the role and importance of converging technologies for the future, considering it necessary to pay more attention to the development of Nano-, bio-, info-and cognitive technologies and their proper use.

‘We are aware of the variability of the development processes of each society depending on the specific characteristics of the socio-cultural basis. We recognise the growing role of new technologies and social networks, their role in the formation and dissemination of information as a phenomenon having no analogue in previous eras.

‘We urge international organisations and various humanitarian bodies to systematically initiate forums, conferences, debates and round tables to implement a genuine intercultural dialogue between the countries, civil society and religions designed to cultivate creating an atmosphere of tolerance and preventing the inter-civilisation conflicts,” the declaration added.

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Egypt to export 100,000 tonnes of rice

Ahram Online, 9 Oct 2012 – Egypt will issue its first public tender for exporting 100,000 tonnes of rice in October and November, the ministry for industry and foreign trade said on Tuesday The government will invite private firms to bid for the right to sell and transfer the grain overseas.

Last week, Egypt lifted a four-year ban on exporting locally grown rice after reporting a plentiful 2012 harvest. The specifications of the tender will be released on 10 October and available to both Egyptian and foreign exporters, the ministry said in a statement.

The conditions have been designed to avoid a single exporter having a monopoly on Egyptian rice, the statement added. In March 2008, then-trade minister Rachid Mohamed Rachid imposed a blanket ban on Egyptian rice exports in hopes of shoring up waning rice supplies in the domestic market.

The ban was extended by a year in September 2011 to pre-empt domestic supply shortages. Industry minister, Hatem Saleh, said last week that Egypt’s total rice production stood at 4.6 million tonnes in 2011/12, up 7 per cent from the previous year.

Annual rice consumption currently stands at 3.5 million tonnes, the minister said, leaving a surplus of roughly one million tonnes for export. Exporters would have to pay LE1,000 (roughly $164) per tonne in export fees, Saleh said at the time.

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After 10 years, Khafre’s pyramid and 6 tombs opened on Giza

Nevine El-Aref , 11 Oct 2012 – Dozens of journalists, photographers, TV anchors as well as top government officials at the Ministry of State for Antiquities (MSA) gathered Thursday at a large tent erected at the void area in front of the Khafre pyramid in Giza to celebrate the official re-inauguration of Egypt’s second largest pyramid and six Old Kingdom royal and noblemen tombs.

“I am very happy today to reopen these tombs which were closed for more than ten years due to restoration,” an ecstatic MSA chief Mohamed Ibrahim told reporters. The restored historic site includes the tomb of King Khufu’s granddaughter, along with those of five Old Kingdom noblemen.

The tombs, which were discovered in 1927 by American Egyptologist George Reinser, have been closed for restoration on more than one occasion in the past. In one of those endeavours, a site management plan was implemented at the Giza plateau the early 1990s to preserve these historic treasures.

The newly inaugurated tombs are located at the eastern and western side of Giza necropolis. They bear impressive facades, more like temples, and large chambers with rock-hewn pillars. “Although these tombs may be sparse in decoration, they are rich in architectural features,” Ali El-Asfar, the director general of Giza antiquities department told Ahram online.

The first tomb, located at the eastern cemetery, which includes the Old Kingdom’s royal tombs, belongs to Princess Mersankh, the granddaughter of the builder of the Great Pyramid King Khufu. This tomb was originally intended for Mersankh’s mother, Queen Hetepheres II, but was assigned to the daughter upon her sudden death.

At the time Mersankh’s tomb was discovered in 1927, a black granite sarcophagus was found along with a set of Canopic jars, and a limestone statue depicting Queen Hetepheres II embracing the daughter. The sarcophagus stands now at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo while the statue is on display at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.

The second tomb, located at the western cemetery, belongs to Seshem-Nefer, the overseer of the two seats of the House of Life and keeper of the king’s secrets, and is one of the largest tombs on the Giza Plateau. This tomb is decorated with very fine reliefs and painting depicting funerary, hunting and offering scenes, as well as a depiction of the Seshem-Nefer’s daily life along with his family and before his deities.

The third tomb belongs to Senefru-Kha-Ef, the king’s treasurer and priest of the god Apis. The tomb’s inner walls also reveal typical scenes of the dead official and his children. The fourth one was constructed for Nefer, the overseer of the soul priests. Its walls are decorated with scenes showing the Nefer’s daily life with his family and dog.

The fifth tomb belongs to Yassen, the overseer of the king’s farms. The sixth tomb was constructed for Ka-Em-Ankh, overseer of the royal treasury. This tomb has very distinguished false doors marked by different titles of the deceased as well as a portrait of him.

Engineer Waad Ibrahim, the head of the engineering department at the MSA, told Ahram online that restoration work aimed at returning these tombs to their original appearance at the day of their discovery.

The MSA discovered through scientific and technical studies that the large volume of visitors over the years had raised levels of humidity inside the structures to dangerous heights up to 80 per cent. These studies showed that each visitor to the pyramids and tombs releases an average of 20 grams of water vapour through perspiration, thus slowly causing damage to the plasters that cover part of the grand gallery. The walls of the Grand Gallery of the pyramid were also found to be covered with up to 2cm of salt minerals which damage the plaster.

Ibrahim said that the walls of the tombs have been cleaned and reinforced, graffiti left by previous visitors removed and inscriptions and paintings conserved. The ground floors are now protected by wood to preserve the original rock of the tombs as well as to facilitate visiting tours. New lighting and ventilation systems have been installed. A path linking the tombs to the Great Pyramid of Khufu was carved in order to facilitate movement across the plateau.

He told Ahram online that the project cost LE24 million (around $4 million) and complained that the MSA is short on funds to carry out more restoration work on the plateau, to render it more tourist-friendly, and to devise ways to stop horses and camels, popular vehicles among tourists for sightseeing, from disfiguring the plateau’s panorama view.

The MSA aims to open a new gate to the plateau at the Fayoum desert road soon, and to run a fleet of Taftafs (electric wagons) to supplant horses and camels. As Khafre reopens, the MSA hopes to close Khufu for restoration in order to bring back the old man in a better shape.

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Several airports coming up in Papua

October 8 2012 Timika, Papua (ANTARA News) – The Ministry of Transportation, through the Directorate General of Air Transportation, will develop a number of airports in the provinces of Papua and West Papua, according to local transportation office spokesman Bambang Tjahjono.

“In order that more commercial airlines serve the eastern Indonesian provinces of Papua and West Papua, the Ministry of Transportation will develop airports there,” he said here on Monday.

Bambang stated that the runways of Sentani in Jayapura and Sorong in West Papua would be extended. “The runway of Sentani airport will be extended to 3,000 metres, in addition to the development of its taxiway and a boarding bridge or garbarata,” he noted.

“The Ministry of Transportation and Sorong mayor have also signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on the expansion of the runway of Sorong airport in West Papua,” Bambang said. “The MoU also involves the construction of an alternative airport in Segun,” he added.

According to Bambang, other airports to be developed in Papua and West Papua include those in Kaimana, Wamena, Manokwari, Merauke, Wagete Baru in Deiyai, and Tamanof. “The Ministry of Transportation has allocated a lot of funds for the eastern Indonesian region because we give our special attention to Papua and West Papua,” he explained.

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Indonesia’s Padangpanjang govt promotes local products, strengthen SMEs

October 11 2012 Padangpanjang, West Sumatra (ANTARA News) – The Padangpanjang municipal administration is promoting the use of local products in an effort to support the region’s small-and medium-scale industries. “If we don’t, who will help market the products of Padangpanjang’s small- and medium-scale industries?” Padangpanjang Vice Mayor Edwin said here on Thursday.

“The small- and medium-scale industries of Padangpanjang produce various types of products, such as embroidery, snacks, leather and handicrafts,” he added.

Edwin called on local officials to support the region’s small- and medium-scale industries by using and promoting such products. “The locals and visitors will soon realise that these products are of good quality and they will start using them too,” he said.

Local officials have been asked to focus on promoting embroidery products, leather shoes, and snacks produced by Padangpanjang’s small- and medium-scale industries. “The officials have to wear locally made embroidered uniform twice a week on Thursdays and Fridays and they are also obliged to wear local leather shoes,” Edwin stated.

In addition, locally prepared snacks such as chips and smashed fried corn will be served at official events. The Padangpanjang municipal administration is also encouraging local businessmen to take part in various exhibitions and fairs across the country in order to promote their products.

“We are ready to assist them in marketing their products if they are of good quality and are competitively priced,” Edwin said. He also urged Padangpanjang residents to always use locally manufactured products. “It’s better for us to actively get involved in promoting the culture of Padangpanjang by buying and using our local products,” Edwin added.

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Brunei Creative industry showcase to promote local talents, entrepreneurs

Borneo Bulletin Online – In conjunction with the 7th National Youth Day celebration, a mini-exhibition on Brunei’s Creative Industry is currently on show at the concourse of the Indoor Stadium, Hassanal Bolkiah National Sports Complex.

A total of 13 participants comprising five different categories are currently participating in the event with the aim of exposing the local innovative products and services offered by the participating local entrepreneurs in order to develop Brunei’s Creative Industry.

The Sultan of Brunei Darussalam consented to tour the mini-exhibition where he spent time with the participants, in a show of approval for the new industry. The five categories of the Creative Industry are Digital Media and Creative Technology, Film Industry, Visual Arts and Performing Arts, Publishing and Traditional Arts and Crafts.

According to Alomsa Nor Adzmin Hj Alli Omar, one of the exhibitors from Islamic Calligraphy Art, among the products that he and his team are promoting are unique works of calligraphy art from using hand-made tools to sand-blasting machinery.

Alomsa Nor Adzimn, who has been involved in Islamic calligraphy for about 20 years, also said that there are currently not many calligraphy artists in the Sultanate, and hoped that the exhibition will generate more interest among local artists.

Sharing a similar view was Noraidah binti Hj Khamis, representative of the teaching force from the Youth Development Centre (PBB). She said that the Creative Industry is starting to gain momentum and that such exhibitions have helped PBB students land jobs straight after completing their courses.

“A lot of our students, from the Pastry and Confectionery course and the Culinary Skill and Banquet courses, have secured jobs with prominent companies in the service industry straight after completing their work attachments,” she noted. She added that “the support and trust from local firms in our students have been encouraging” and that events such as the Youth Day mini-exhibition can further promote the students’ culinary art and pastry skills to potential stakeholders.

The participants for this year’s exhibition includes Ambuyart Animations, Bru Innovedu Services, Brunei Economic Development Board (iCentre), Youth Entrepreneurs Association Brunei, Poni Divers, Zulzie Photography Studio Enterprise, Origin Film Sdn Bhd, Youth Development Centre (PBB), G5 Young Artist, Lively Dancers, Ridah Handicraft, PHMD Publishing Company and Cube Box Solution.

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Saudis name El Medina the capital of Islamic culture of 2013

Ahram Online, 7 Oct 2012 – In line with naming El-Medina El-Monawara (The Lit City) in Saudi Arabia, the capital of Islamic culture of 2013, Secretary General of the Cultural Committee of the kingdom Sheikh Saleh Awad El-Moghamsy announced that on 20 January 2013, the city will witness one big cultural event at Al-Qiba Mosque, honouring its great heritage and Islamic culture. According to Ahram Arabic, Sheikh El-Moghamsy says that a scientific and technical committee will be formed to develop a complete conception of the event, and to organise cultural weeks and days of the Islamic countries in Medina in accordance with Islamic Sharia.

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International Finance Corp to boost investments in Yemen, Iraq, N. Africa

Reuters, 8 Oct 2012 – The World Bank’s financial arm International Finance Corp (IFC) plans to increase its investments in Yemen, Iraq and North Africa next year to help support development and job creation, a senior IFC executive said.

“MENA needs to create 50-70 million jobs in the next decade. Recent events in the MENA region have created the urgency to address the fundamental conditions required to revive growth and support human development,” Dimitris Tsitsiragos, the IFC’s vice president for Europe, Middle East and North Africa, said in an interview on Monday.

The IFC, which invests in developing the private sector in emerging economies with a special focus on small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), sees opportunities in infrastructure, energy, education and healthcare in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).

“MENA is a strategic priority for the IFC. Obviously a lot depends on market conditions but our objective is to keep our programme at the same level and hopefully grow it, Tsitsiragos said. “We are prepared to take the risk and support projects in Yemen.”

The poorest Arab country, Yemen was driven to the brink of bankruptcy by a year-long uprising that in February pushed long-time president Ali Abdullah Saleh from power and allowed al Qaeda to build its presence in lawless tribal regions.

“It’s a small country but deals have a bigger impact. If we succeed, our deals will boost investment sentiment and provide comfort for investors,” Tsitsiragos said.

The IFC would be interested in Yemen’s energy sector, SMEs, microfinance and the financial sector. It has invested $2.2 billion in the Middle East and North Africa so far this year, Tsitsiragos said, as economies in the region try to recover from the impact of the Arab Spring uprisings. It hopes to top that amount next year.

It plans to invest close to $100 million next year in OPEC member Iraq, which sits on the world’s fourth-largest oil reserves. “We have so far done a total $400 million in Iraq and plan to do more next year,” Tsitsiragos said. “We like infrastructure, manufacturing and the financial sector.”

Last year the IFC provided a $400 million, seven-year debt facility for Zain-Iraq, a mobile phone company and subsidiary of Kuwait’s Zain Group. It also invested in Ahli United Bank, Iraq’s largest lender by market value, and has put close to $75 million into the United Arab Emirates’ Gulftainer Co to help it develop ports and logistics activities in Iraq.

Since early last year, the IFC has arranged $450 million of financing for Egypt’s Orascom Construction, $137 million in debt financing for Jordan’s Hikma pharmaceuticals to help improve access to high-quality generic medicines in the MENA region, and a $50 million loan to French cement maker Lafarge to help the company expand its operations in Iraq.

The IFC was the lead advisor for a public-private partnership project to build a new airport in Medina, Saudi Arabia and another to construct two teaching hospitals in northern Egypt.

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More Malaysian SMEs Venturing Into India

PUNE, Oct 12 (Bernama) — Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) are aggressively expanding into India, amid the tremendous opportunities in the country of over one billion, Malaysia’s Mumbai-based, Trade Commissioner, Noraslan Hadi Abdul Kadir said.

“When I arrived in 2009, a lot of big companies were coming to India, but now we see more Malaysian SMEs venturing into the country. There are an array of industries such as automotive parts and components as well as supply of such components for the construction sector here. Some have even opened assembly lines. They import semi-knocked down parts and do the assembly here for supply to the Indian market.

“Hence, there is a huge interest from SMEs,” he told Bernama on the sidelines of the Showcase Malaysia 2012, a three-day event that ends here, today.

Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation (Matrade) Chairman, Datuk Mah Siew Keong said more Malaysian companies should venture into India, either individually or in the form of a joint venture to partake in the country’s growth.

“Matrade will provide all the help needed to establish their presence here as we no longer focus on trade alone but also investment,” he added.

Noraslan said Matrade can now help these companies penetrate the Indian market, a role that previously was under the Malaysian Investment Development Authority (MIDA). “We can now assist them in joint ventures as well by liasing with local government and authorities,” he added.

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Labuan IBFC To Focus On Asia Pacific Region

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 13 (Bernama) — The slowdown in Europe has affected numerous economies in the world, however, the impact on the Labuan International Business and Financial Centre (Labuan IBFC) is minimal as its strategic focus since inception has always been the Asia Pacific region.

“We have also seen how Asian jurisdictions have benefitted from the resilient growth of regional economies. Indeed, Asian equity, bond, and foreign exchange markets in Asian financial markets including Labuan, have demonstrated resilience,” Second Finance Minister, Datuk Seri Ahmad Husni Hanadzlah told Bernama, here today.

The minister said another factor that reduced the sensitivity of Asian markets to European financial pressures was that Asian economies undertook structural reforms in their banking systems and capital markets.

“These reforms have given the Asian the depth and breadth to absorb external shocks. We have also learnt to cope with capital flows in and out of our systems better,” he said.

Ahmad Husni said Labuan witnessed a steady growth of 8.0 per cent in the number of company incorporations in 2011 and anticipated further growth with the increasing infrastructure development that is expected to take place in Asia, especially Asean.

A number of milestones have been achieved last year, which included the development of Global Incentive for Trading Programme (GIFT) for the oil and gas (O&G) traders to advance Labuan as a regional hub for O&G trading activities in Asia Pacific.

Currently, the Labuan licensed financial institutions and the supporting service providers created about 2,000 direct employment in Labuan.

“These are talents with specific skill sets in the fields of accounting, law and taxation. There is also substantial indirect employment of locals arising from the spillover of economic activities to the real sectors,” Ahmad Husni said, adding that with the introduction of co-location in 2009, there are others being employed by Labuan entities in Kuala Lumpur too.

The Labuan IBFC also has received substantial amount of investment from the federal government since its establishment as an IBFC.

Infrastructure projects to complement the services of the IBFC such as the upgrading of airport, expansion of road networks, establishment of international school, modern tele-communication facilities have benefitted the locals. As a result, Labuan has become an important centre, especially for the O&G industry, with participation not only by Petronas but also international O&G companies.

Ahmad Husni said although the government has continuously introduced measures to liberalise the domestic financial services industry, it wouldn’t impact Labuan’s advantage.

The Labuan IBFC remains relevant as it is part of the Malaysian financial system and operational flexibility for Labuan financial institutions has also been provided.

“For example the policies on co-location of insurance and insurance related companies provide the flexibility for them to establish their operational and management offices onshore, which has encouraged the transfer of international practices to the domestic institutions.

“In the financial centre blueprint, several recommendations have been identified for the Labuan IBFC to complement the growth of the Malaysian financial system in the area of enhancing financial inter-linkages and Islamic finance,” he said.

Moving forward, Ahmad Husni said Labuan IBFC could play an important role to facilitate businesses to invest into Malaysia as we are seeing greater financial and economic integration with our regional neighbours in Asean and Asia Pacific, especially China and India,

Moreover, the Asean Infrastructure Fund (AIF) is located in Labuan. The AIF, which was set up on Malaysia’s suggestion, had the consensus from the ministerial meeting that the US$482.5 million fund be registered under the laws of the Labuan IBFC, as well as the appointment of Malaysia as chairman of the AIF Board of Directors.

The Asean Finance Ministers unanimously accepted the Asian Development Bank (ADB) as the fund’s administrator, which recommended that the fund is to be domiciled in the Labuan IBFC.

ADB cited Labuan’s conducive ecosystem, including its strategic location within the rapidly growing nations, advanced financing mechanism and robust regulatory framework as some of the major factors for its recommendation. The endorsement is important for Labuan IBFC and this is something the Labuan Financial Services Authority must be very proud of, Ahmad Husni said.

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Three-day Bangladesh tourism fair from Oct 11

DHAKA, Oct 8, 2012 (BSS) -A three-day international tourism fair will begin in the capital on October 11 to attract more regional tourists to the country. Tour Operators Association of Bangladesh (TOAB) with support from Bangladesh Tourism Board (BTB) will organize the fair styled ‘Bangladesh Travel and Tourism Fair 2012’ with participation of 10 countries at Bangabandhu International Conference Centre (BICC).

BTB Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Akhtaruz Zaman Khan Kabir, TOAB President Hasan Mansur and Director Borhan Uddin, among others, spoke on the occasion. The TOAB organized the fair with the theme of ‘Regional Tourism – Key to Tourism Expansion’ to help the country get more than five lakh foreign tourists in one year. Presently the country is fetching around four lakh foreign tourists annually.

The participating countries included India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, the Maldives, the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Greece and host Bangladesh. Tourism authorities, tour operators, airlines, travel agents and hotels and resorts of participating countries will showcase their products and services at 209 stalls at the fair.

Of the total stalls, Bangladeshi tourism service providers will display their products and services at 169 stalls while the foreign bodies at 40 stalls.

Kabir said the government always encourages such kind of fairs and efforts from the private sector for expansion of the country’s tourism industry. “We have to involve common people in the tourism sector for building a sustainable tourism industry,” he said. Mansur said they would also organize three seminars on the sidelines of the fair to discuss various issues related to tourism development of the country.

The topics of the seminar are – ‘business opportunities for micro-enterprisers involved in nature tourism’, ‘role of banking system in developing tourism’ and ‘role of foreign missions and their economic wings in developing tourism’.

Besides, the TOAB will organize cultural show while the Philippines and Sri Lanka will give their country presentations in two evenings of the fair that would remain open from 10am to 8pm everyday.

Narrating the logic behind organizing four consecutive tourism fairs in a year, the TOAB president said presently there is no need to organize more than two fairs in a year considering the size of country’s tourism industry.

BTB CEO Kabir said they are formulating a policy on rules and regulations of organizing tourism fair in the country. “From next year, no one will be able to organize tourism fair without following the policy,” he said.

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