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26 Nov, 2012

Listing of “World’s 500 Most Influential Muslims” Published

Compiled by Imtiaz Muqbil & Sana Muqbil

A compilation of progressive, positive, inspiring and motivating events and developments in the world of Islam for the week ending 26 November 2012 (12 Muharram 1434). Pls click on any of the headlines below to go to the story.



The Ministry of Tourism, Malaysia’s Homestay Experience Programme won the UNWTO Ulysses Award for Innovation in Public Policy and Governance at the UNWTO Awards Ceremony held in Istanbul, Turkey on 15 Nov. The award was received by the Ministry’s Deputy Secretary General Mr. Rashidi Hasbullah. Launched in 1995, the homestay programme has become increasingly popular among local and foreign tourists. They can live with a local family in a kampung (village) house and learn about close-knit family relationships, enjoy sumptuous home-cooked food and discover the simple lifestyle in the country. The programme also contributes to the socio-economic development of the local people and the country. Up until August 2012, a total of 3,424 homestay operators from 159 villages have been trained and licensed by the Ministry of Tourism. From January to August this year, a total of 213,266 tourists participated in this programme, including 41,670 foreigners. Last year, the homestay programme attracted 254,981 participants of whom 59,657 were foreigners. The total homestay programme revenue for 2011 is RM15.74 million, an increase of 26.8% compared to 2010. For more information on homestay programme, please visit http://www.go2homestay.com.

The UNWTO Awards for Excellence and Innovation in Tourism is a worldwide event highlighting knowledge innovation and its application in all five UNWTO regions (the Americas, Europe, Asia and the Pacific, Africa and the Middle East). The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and the UNWTO Knowledge Network confer the UNWTO Ulysses Prize and Awards annually to highlight and showcase Innovation and Application of Knowledge in Tourism.

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/ or

facebook: http://www.facebook.com/friendofmalaysia

twitter: http://twitter.com/tourismmalaysia

Blog: http://blog.tourism.gov.my


World’s 500 Most Influential Muslims List Published

The fourth annual issue of The Muslim 500: The World’s 500 Most Influential Muslims has been released and is available for free download from the website. The following is an excerpt from the Foreword to the publication:

There are 1.65 billion Muslims in the world today, making up approximately 23% of the world’s population, or one-fifth of mankind. As well as being citizens of their respective countries, they also have a sense of belonging to the ‘ummah’, the worldwide Muslim community.

This publication sets out to ascertain the influence some Muslims have on this community, or on behalf of the community. Influence is: any person who has the power (be it cultural, ideological, financial, political or otherwise) to make a change that will have a significant impact on the Muslim World. Note that the impact can be either positive or negative, depending on one’s point of view of course.

The selection of people for this publication in no way means that we endorse their views; rather we are simply trying to measure their influence. The influence can be of a religious scholar directly addressing Muslims and influencing their beliefs, ideas and behaviour, or it can be of a ruler shaping the socio-economic factors within which people live their lives, or of artists forming popular culture. The first two examples also point to the fact that the lists, and especially the Top 50, are dominated by religious scholars and heads of state. Their dominant and lasting influence cannot be denied, especially the rulers, who in many cases also appoint religious scholars to their respective positions.

This doesn’t discount the significant amount of influence from other sectors of society. The publication selects Muslim individuals from a range of categories of influence, 13 in total: (Scholarly, Political, Administration of Religious Affairs, Preachers and Spiritual Guides, Philanthropy/Charity and Development, Social Issues, Business, Science and Technology, Arts and Culture, Qur’an Reciters, Media, Celebrities and Sports and Radicals). How to measure this influence is of course the most challenging aspect of the publication, and the one where opinions diverge the most. Influence can sometimes be gauged on a quantitative basis; the number of people influenced, the number of books written, the amount of sales etc., but more often it is related to the qualitative and lasting effect of that influence. The achievements of a lifetime are given more weight than achievements within the current year. This means that our list of names will change gradually, rather than dramatically, year-on-year.

This list acts as opportunity to shed some light on the many challenges and pioneering triumphs that are present at the very crux of shaping the Muslim community.

What’s New

This year we have an expanded introduction (more than double the size of last year’s) surveying the major events in the Muslim World from the past year.

We have also expanded and reformatted our Issues of the Day section, now approximately five times larger than previous issues. For the first time we feature exclusive pieces by distinguished guest writers.

We have also added write-ups about major initiatives that have reached notable milestones in the last 12 months.

Last year we introduced a specific section on each profile of the Top 50 on how the Arab Spring affected them. We have updated this section under the new title ‘Arab Summer?’

Our website (www.TheMuslim500.com) which was launched last year has already proven to be a popular destination. We have recently updated the Influence feed which shows the latest news on many of the Top 500. We welcome your feedback and will take nominations for the 2013 edition through it.

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Upgrade of Key Bangladesh Transport Corridor to Spur Regional Trade – ADB

26 November 2012, Dhaka – The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is providing $198 million, with an additional $60 million from partner organizations, to fund a partial upgrade of one of Bangladesh’s most critical regional transport corridors together with two land ports, giving a shot in the arm to connectivity and trade across South Asia.

“Upgrading this important section of the Dhaka-Chittagong-Northwest transport corridor will give a big lift to both domestic and subregional trade, as well as encouraging more domestic and foreign investment,” said Juan Miranda, Director General of ADB’s South Asia Department. “The project is an integral part of the South Asia Subregional Economic Cooperation (SASEC) program’s push to improve infrastructure and promote economic cooperation in one of the world’s poorest and most densely populated areas.”

The SASEC Road Connectivity Project will expand and improve a 70 kilometer section of the Dhaka-Northwest corridor ― the second busiest arterial route in the country.

The narrow two-lane road currently suffers from serious congestion and high accident rates. Expanding the route to four lanes will help ease bottlenecks, reduce crashes, and provide the nearly seven million people living in the area with new business opportunities and better access to markets, schools and other social services.

The initiative will also upgrade land ports at Benapole and Burimari, which handle the bulk of goods transported between Bangladesh and India. These upgrades will boost trade volumes, improve traffic flows and reduce the loss of perishable goods.

Studies show upgrading regional transport corridors in Bangladesh will support the movement of about 18 million tons of freight in Bhutan, India and Nepal, boosting intra-regional trade across South Asia.

The SASEC program is an initiative of Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, and Nepal to build closer links that will spur growth and development across the sub-region. Its work covers activities in many sectors including transport, trade, energy, the private sector, tourism and the environment. ADB provides the program with a variety of support, including project financing, technical assistance, and advice.

As a public-private partnership initiative, a five-year performance-based contract to maintain the road will be included in works contracts, which also target up to 50% of the jobs provided for women. The project also includes a technical assistance grant of $1.5 million equivalent, financed from the Japan Fund for Poverty Reduction, to modernize and improve the Roads and Highways Department.

The project will be carried out over five years with an estimated completion date of December 2017. The OPEC Fund for International Development and the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development will each provide cofinancing loans of $30 million.

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Qatar Airways launches scheduled flights to Serbia

Gulf Times – 22 November, 2012 – Qatar Airways has launched scheduled flights to Serbia, its latest entry into Eastern Europe and the airline’s 11th new route of the year. The national carrier inaugurated the first of three weekly services to the country’s capital city of Belgrade, gateway to Serbia’s historic and cultural attractions.

The airline’s newest route also marks an expansion of its global network, now reaching 121 destinations as part of Qatar Airways’ ongoing commitment to serving emerging and popular markets, both in Europe and elsewhere. Qatar Airways chief executive officer Akbar al-Baker was joined on the inaugural flight by Mihailo Brkic, Serbian Ambassador to Kuwait and also responsible for Qatar among others.

Flight QR462 touched down in Belgrade to a traditional welcome ceremony, where guests were treated to a Serbian folklore dance performance. Among the local dignitaries were Qatar’s Ambassador to Romania Saad Mohamed al-Kobaisi, Serbian State Secretary for Tourism, Goran Petkovic; and chief executive officer of Airport Nikola Tesla Velimir Radosavljevic. Al-Baker said the latest route marked yet another significant milestone for Qatar Airways, which has now spread wings to some 31 gateways across Europe and 11 new destinations so far this year.

“Serbia’s capital Belgrade is renowned across Europe for its buzzing nightlife and unique cultural attractions. With world-class entertainment and hospitality on offer, we are very proud to provide both our business and leisure travellers worldwide with new seamless connections to one of Europe’s most exciting and vibrant cities,” said al-Baker.

“As a modern, democratic European country, and well on the path to membership of the European Union, visitors can enjoy numerous cultural, entertainment, traditional and sporting events held in Serbia all year round, demonstrating the creative power and spiritual vitality of this country. 2012 has been a very exciting year for Qatar Airways and our ongoing commitment to serving Eastern Europe will be further strengthened when we launch new flights to Warsaw on December 5.

“Our presence in Europe was especially strengthened last year when we launched a record seven destinations to the continent alone, including Bucharest, Budapest, Brussels, Stuttgart, Venice, Sofia and Oslo.”

Qatar Airways is flying its Airbus A320 on the Belgrade route, featuring 144 seats in a two-class configuration of 12 business class seats and 132 in economy.

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Tunisia: More Integration Amongst Maghreb Countries Needed

Tunis, Afrique Presse (Tunis) 24 November 2012 – President Moncef Marzouki said that the integration rate of the Arab Maghreb countries has not gone above 2%, while the European countries’ reached 80%. In an address at the opening of the conference on “Great Arab Maghreb, Joint Development for Common Future,” held on Saturday at Dar Dhiafa, in Carthage, the President of the Republic said that the Maghreb region, bound as it is by history, geography, language and religion, has not achieved the hoped-for integration.

He called for the implementation of mechanisms that would help overcome the obstacles which have so far slowed down this integration. For its part, Mr. Marzouki added, Tunisia would carry on its quest for Maghreb unity, by means of consultation with the different sides, and attempt to strengthen ties with its neighbours, especially Libya.

In turn, Libya’s General National Congress President Mohamed Youssef El-Megaryef pointed out that “without the Tunisian Revolution’s success, Libya’s could not have triumphed,” explaining that the joint will to consecrate real integration among the Maghreb countries shows the extent to which changes have taken thanks to the two countries’ revolutions.

Mr. El-Megaryef added that building of the Great Arab Maghreb is “indispensable for our peoples’ progress,” calling to materialise the idea of the Maghreb union on the popular and institutional levels, before concretising it at the governmental level.

“Holding of this conference, the interest shown in the Maghreb development and means for promoting it all represent a step on the path of creating a real Maghreb union,” Mr. El-Megaryef underlined.

The conference, organised at the initiative of the Maghreb Development Centre, in association with the Tunisian Strategic Studies Institute, was marked by the participation of experts, academics and specialists in development sectors, as well as a group of expatriate Maghreb businessmen.

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African Development Bank Grants US$260,000 To Mamoun Beheiry Centre in Khartoum

Tunis, 23 November 2012, SPONSOR WIRE, — On 20th November 2012, the AfDB signed a US$260,000 protocol agreement with Mamaoun Beheiry Centre for Economic and Social Studies and Research (MBC), a policy think-tank in Khartoum named after the first President of the Bank. The grant was approved by the Nigeria Technical Cooperation Fund (NTCF). The agreement was then signed by the Bank’s Resident Representative for Sudan, Mr. Abdul B. Kamara, and the Director of MBC, Dr. Sayed Ali Zaki, at a special ceremony presided over by Ali Mahmound Abdelrasoul, Minister of Finance and National Economy.

In a press conference held after the ceremony, Mr. Kamara underscored that the grant resources will help MBC to better position itself and play a more prominent role in policy dialogue and debate in Sudan. Sudan’s State Minister of Finance, H. E. Magdi Yasin, commended the tremendous role of the Bank in supporting Sudan’s economic and development at this crucial point in the country’s history. On his part, Dr. Sayed Ali Zaki expressed his sincere appreciation to the Bank for the NTCF Grant, and assured that the grant will not only strengthen the MBC’s capacity to serve Sudan but will position it to serve the entire continent.

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Africa CEO Forum Opens, Showcasing the Continent’s Private Sector Leaders

21 November 2012, SPONSOR WIRE – The First Africa CEO Forum, a high-level meeting for the African private sector, opened on November 20, in Geneva in the presence of 560 delegates from 32 countries, including more than 300 leaders of major private African enterprises. Approximately 100 investors and financiers, among the most influential in Africa, as well dignitaries from Africa and the rest of the world, attended the event.

The opening ceremony was co-chaired by Donald Kaberuka, President of the African Development Bank Group, and Amir Ben Yahmed, Vice-President of the Jeune Afrique Group. The meeting was an opportunity to discuss what is needed to boost African development through the dynamics of growth offered by the continent’s private sector.

According to Ben Yamed, one of the major objectives of the forum was to facilitate discussions to ensure African countries find themselves at the forefront of growing emerging economies, supported by a strong private sector managed by internationally recognized leaders.

President Kaberuka held a similar perspective: “Africa has entered the 21st Century determined to throw back shackles of poverty, to converge with the rest of the world, to get the African Lions into the same territory as the Asian Tigers.”

This forum falls perfectly in line with the AfDB mission in its bid to “to do more in supporting and promoting the private sector.” Moreover, the Africa CEO Forum is an ideal platform for the Bank to exchange ideas and reinforce its ties with private sector leaders.

A better understanding of African private-sector initiatives, enabling the exchange of ideas and different viewpoints, while creating the conditions for an ongoing dialogue with private business people, these are the aspirations of Donald Kaberuka, who proposed “the establishment of an External Consultative Committee of private sector leaders with whom I will readily work hand-in-hand.”

The Ben Ahmed also expressed confidence in the future of this initiative: “The aim of the Africa CEO Forum is to showcase this new, energetic, African private sector, which has nothing to envy of its counterparts in other emerging economies.”

The Vice-President of the World Bank for the African Region, Makhtar Diop, echoed those sentiments: “This Forum is a confirmation that Africa needs its private sector leaders. The World Bank considers the private sector as a major partner in the development of the African countries as a whole.”

Organized by the Jeune Afrique Group in partnership with the AfDB, the Africa CEO Forum called on all participants to come up with answers to questions raised in four plenary meetings chaired by eminent African and international personalities.

This ambitious program was completed during the two-day meeting including nine thematic conferences, which offered ready-made toolkits for CEOs on the latest management trends: international development strategy, access to capital, regional integration, public-private sector dialogue, an in-depth explanation of the legal environment, as well as skills management.

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Nigeria’s Abuja Carnival 2012: Promoting peace, tourism and economic growth

21 November 2012 – “Carnival of Peace and Harmony” is the theme of the 2012 Abuja Carnival that will hold between November 24-27. Observers note that the theme aptly reflects the eagerness of the carnival’s organisers to use the event to promote peace in Nigeria, in view of the current security challenges facing the country.

They believe that the carnival – a tool of cultural tourism — presents a veritable avenue to sensitise participants from various parts of the country to the importance of peaceful coexistence in efforts to bolster the nation’s socio-economic growth.

George Ufot, the Deputy Chairman of the carnival’s planning committee, says that the event will reflect on the nation’s current security challenges as well as the need to promote peace and harmony among its people.

He says that the carnival, as a rallying point for artistes all over the world, will also showcase the rich tourism and cultural potential of Nigeria.

Buttressing this assertion, the Minister of Culture and Tourism, Mr Edem Duke, says that 15 countries from Africa, Asia, South America and the Caribbean have indicated interest to participate in the carnival.

According to him, the countries include Egypt, India, Trinidad and Tobago, China, South Africa, Cameroon, Sudan, Botswana, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Ghana and Senegal.

He says that the carnival will also feature 15 events instead of the nine events that were held in the last edition.

“We are enjoying collaboration with other tiers of government. This is because there is going to be participation by not just the various states of the federation, but also some local government areas and some members of the legislature,” he said.

Duke says that the carnival has been diversified to include various competitions among schools, as part of designed efforts to promote culture and tourism in schools. Besides, the minister says that the Institute for Hotels and Tourism Training will also be organising a food festival as part of the carnival.

To showcase the country’s cultural values, Duke says that the National Council for Arts and Culture, National Gallery of Arts and National Commission for Museum and Monuments will stage special exhibitions throughout the period of the event.

He particularly notes that the carnival will foster the economic growth of Nigeria, while enhancing its image. Tourism experts, nonetheless, believe that some challenges facing Nigeria such as religious conflicts, ethnic clashes and discrimination, the Boko Haram threat and militant activities can be effectively addressed via events like the carnival, which foster interactions among Nigerians.

They, however, stress that it is pertinent to put the forthcoming carnival in proper perspective by foregrounding some issues arising from the last edition of the carnival. They particularly cite President Goodluck Jonathan’s remark at the carnival in 2011 that “the Abuja Carnival has come to create an enduring platform for the promotion of unity, peace, social cohesion and integration”.

Fonke Ibok-Ette, the Director, Akwa Ibom Council for Arts and Culture, recalls that in the 2011 edition of the carnival, “every segment of our contingent represented a build up from conflict to resolution. We tried to represent end to militancy because we are from the South-South geopolitical zone, where militancy has become popular,” he says.

He urges all the citizens, Christians and Muslims alike, to cash in on the fundamental message of the carnival to promote peaceful coexistence in the country. Stressing the symbolic values of the various displays at the carnival, Mr Debo Shotuyo, a member of the Ogun State contingent to the Durbar event of the Abuja Carnival in 2011, recalls that Ogun State’s participation in the durbar “shows that durbar is not strictly a northern show.

“In fact, in Ogun State, almost all the Muslim communities organise durbar and use it as an instrument of paying homage to their traditional rulers during Muslim festivals,” he says. Supporting Shotuyo’s viewpoint, observers stress that more states from the southern part of the country should be encouraged to participate in the carnival’s durbar event.

However, Mr Moses Oshibe from Ebonyi, a participant in the 2011 edition of the carnival, says cultural displays such as masquerades could also be used to strengthen the country’s unity.

“Masquerades perform a lot of functions in the traditional society; some use them as peacemakers, some use them to settle land disputes. They are also used in social activities like ceremonies and festivals in several states,” he says.

Oshibe, however, suggests that the participants’ costumes at various events of the carnival should reflect the indigenous cultures.

In her remark in the lead-up to the carnival, FCT Minister of State Olajumoke Akinjide says that her ministry is also planning to organise a similar festival in Washington, the U.S., annually. “The carnival is being taken beyond the shores of Nigeria to stimulate the much-needed international popularity for it. We are also doing this to optimise the commercial opportunities which such an event could offer,” she says.

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Pakistan calls for more trade with Iran

Tehran Times – 21 November, 2012 – Senior Minister for Commerce, Makhdoom Amin Fahim showing concern over the decreasing trade between Pakistan and Iran and emphasized the need for effectively implementing the Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA) in its time sprit for boosting trade between the two brotherly countries.

He stated this at a meeting with 34-member of Iranian delegation which was led by Hossein Sadiq Aabedeen, Governor General of Fars Province, Iran here Monday.

The delegation was also included Syed Hassan Khalili, Director of Office Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Iran in Fars Province and Faridoun Fa’ali, Director General of cultural Heritage, Handicraft and Tourism Organization of Fars Province. Additional Secretary Fazal Abbas Maken Assisted the Minister in talks.

The Commerce Minister showed concern over the decreasing trade between two countries adding that trade between Iran and Pakistan peaked to US$ 1.32 billion in 2008-2009 but subsequently declined to US$ 1.16 billion in 2009-2010 and further to US$ 734.94 million 2010-11.

Pakistan major items of exports of Iran include Rice US$ 75.11 million), meat and Meat preparations (US$ 11.80 million) Agricultural products (US$ 6.96 million excluding Rice and Fruit, Non value added Textiles (US$ 1.80).

Major items of import included petroleum products; however Pakistan’s imports from Iran have decreased from US$ 653.06 million in 2009 to US$ 36.61 million in 2011. Other products include Organic Chemical US$ 75.60 million, Plastics (US$ 65.37 million Iron Ores and Concentrates (US$ 38.17 million), Articles of Iran and Steel (US$ 32.29 million).

The Minister referred to Pakistan’s Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA) with Iran on which is operation from since 2006, Under the PTA Pakistan has granted tariff concessions to Iran on 338 tariff lines, while Iran has granted tariff concessions on 309 lines.

Pakistan and Iran have an institutional agreement in the shape of Joint Trade committee and Joint Economic Commission, During Pak-Iran JEC held on 7-8 September, 2011, both sides agreed to explore the possibility of entering into a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) for substantial increase in bilateral trade.

Additional Secretary while highlighting the problems faced by Pakistani exporters requested the Iranian govt to reduce the visa fee for Pakistan businessmen and tourist as the existing fee is too high.

An request was also placed to keep the Pakistan Iran land border open for a longer time for trucks to pass as many perishable items go to waste.

Governor Fars province showed keen interest in hydel power projects of Pakistan, also extending help and expertise.

He said that livestock and agriculture offered great scope for Pakistani trade. He also offered magnesium and other mineral resources at a competitive rate to Pakistan.

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Emirates to fly twice daily to Mauritius

Khaleej Times – 21 November, 2012 – Emirates, one of the fastest growing international airlines, has announced the addition of three frequencies to its present 11-weekly flights to Mauritius. The service to the paradise island will be double daily beginning December 2.

The 12th weekly flight was introduced on October 31 and two further frequencies will be added on December 2. They will be serviced by a Boeing 777-300 in a three-class configuration.

Emirates flight EK3705 will depart Dubai at 1000hrs arriving in Mauritius at 1645hrs. The return journey from Mauritius, EK3706 will depart at 1820hrs arriving in Dubai at 0110hrs, the following day.

“The increase in frequencies will undoubtedly create more opportunities for the Mauritian tourism sector and local economy,” explained Ahmed Khoory, Emirates’ senior vice-president, West Asia Indian Ocean, The island destination is very popular throughout our network and double daily flights will offer even more flexibility to travellers.”

In January this year, Emirates and the government of Mauritius signed an agreement aimed at jointly promoting the island destination across the airline’s global network. The two parties have engaged in the development of a series of joint activities to increase the visibility and awareness around the island in the 126 destinations to which the airline flies.

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Iran earns over $112m in marine product exports

Tehran Times – 21 November, 2012 – Iran has exported over $ 112 million worth of sea products since the beginning of the current Iranian calendar year, which began on March 20, the Mehr News Agency quoted an official with the State Fishery Organization as saying.

Issa Golshahi added that 27,521 tons of sea products have been exported to U.S., Canada, Australia, Italy, Spain, Egypt, Kuwait, the UAE, Lebanon, Vietnam, Chin, and South Korea. Some 250 kilograms of caviar has also been exported during the period of time, he noted.

In October, the deputy agriculture minister said the value of exports of Iran’s fishery sector will surpass $ 350 million in the current calendar year. “The exports stood at $ 210 million last year,” Gholamreza Razeqi said, IRNA reported.

Some 4,000 tons of shrimp, valued at around $ 17 million, was exported last year to the UAE, Kuwait, Lebanon, Australia and Spain, he said, adding that infrastructures have been provided to export 500 kilograms of caviar in the current year.

Iran plans to increase annual caviar output by 10 fold to one ton in the current calendar year, which began on March 20, Razeqi said in June. He added that some 100 kilograms of caviar has been produced since the beginning of the current year, and that a portion of the output has been exported.

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Dubai-Azerbaijan ties to grow

Khaleej Times – 20 November, 2012 – The Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry opened its first overseas office in Azerbaijan, with the Dubai Chamber chief confident that there will be a significant boost in trade and investment flows between both sides.

Following a successful trade mission to Azerbaijan, director-general Hamad Buamim talked to Khaleej Times about the business synergies that exist between these two countries and how the Dubai Chamber is helping to facilitate and increase two-way trade and investment.

Why has the Dubai Chamber focused on enhancing ties with Azerbaijan?

Azerbaijan is an economic leader in the Caucasus region. It accounts for nearly 73 per cent of the whole economy of this region and is one of the leading economies in the CIS in terms of FDI per capita. The main sources of FDI for Azerbaijan are mainly from the UK, US, Japan, Norway and Turkey. The cumulative FDI in 2011 amounted for approximately $ 4.4 billion. After declaring independence from the former USSR, Azerbaijan reinforced its economic potential and established strong and firm macroeconomic stability. Today, Azerbaijan is one of the leading economies globally and the second fastest growing economy among 179 countries in terms of GDP per capita between 2001 and 2010.

Trade is a good indicator of the strength of economic ties between the two countries. How strong is this between Dubai and Azerbaijan?

Last year, Dubai’s non-oil trade with Azerbaijan amounted to Dh1.62 billion, making the country the emirate’s 70th largest trade partner. While this is not remarkable in itself, what is worth noting is the growth between 2010 and 2011. During this time, non-oil trade jumped by 92 per cent, which is a significant leap and one that demonstrates the huge potential there is for enhanced trade and investment flows between Dubai and Azerbaijan. If you look at the UAE as a whole and not just Dubai, the picture is also extremely positive, with total trade between the UAE and Azerbaijan during the first nine months of this year exceeding $ 300 million. This is a growth of 24 per cent in comparison to the same period last year, with the main goods traded including raw materials, information technology and agricultural products, and items for light industry.

To what extent has Dubai and UAE companies invested in Azerbaijan and vice-versa, and how do you expect this to grow?

Between 2002 and 2012, UAE companies have invested over $ 200 million in Azerbaijan, while at present there are 218 Azerbaijani companies operating in Dubai. We envisage that this number will increase following the opening of our overseas representative office. This office will provide Azerbaijani entrepreneurs and investors with access to information about business opportunities in Dubai and will act as a point of contact on the ground.

What are the areas that present opportunities for economic cooperation?

While others do exist, we have focused on six major areas of joint economic cooperation. These are transport and logistics; construction and infrastructure; tourism and hospitality; agriculture and food processing; financial services; and information and communication technology.

Taking each in turn, Dubai’s status as a major global re-export hub can offer Azerbaijani traders an air-sea route to a number of high-growth consumer markets in the Middle East, Southeast Asia and Africa. We have expertise in supply chain management and greening the supply chain which we could export to Azerbaijan as well as assistance in developing road and rail transport systems.

Opportunities exist for Dubai-Azerbaijan collaboration on sustainable housing and construction projects in Azerbaijan and the wider Central Asia region. Likewise, the Dubai industry could partner with Azerbaijani companies to set up manufacturing facilities, producing bricks, cement and marble.

On investments in the fast growing tourism sector, Azerbaijan has strong growth potential with a forecasted 7.5 per cent growth per annum between 2012 and 2022. Dubai has significant experience in building hotels and developing infrastructures for tourism, eco-tourism, medical tourism and other leisure facilities, which can be utilised by Azerbaijan. Due to its rich bio-diversity and many climate zones, Azerbaijan could be an ideal location to secure fruit and vegetable supplies to Dubai, which would help meet food security needs. Dubai businesses can contribute by investing in the development of agricultural machinery, techniques and production of fertilisers that will help improve food productivity. Meanwhile, agri-businesses provide another area of cooperation for Dubai businesses, especially in the production of bakery and flour products, frozen vegetables and fruits, canned fruits, condiments, meat and dairy products, honey processing and packaging for confectionery production.

Moving on to the financial sector, Dubai has seen robust growth in this area and can transfer its expertise with regards to SME financing, insurance, Islamic financing and stock and commodity exchanges to Azerbaijan.

Finally, Azerbaijan’s ICT market offers prospective investors the opportunity to profit by bringing quality high-speed internet connections across the country as well as working on projects to increase computer literacy thus increasing the demand for ICT products and services. Dubai is well placed to facilitate the provision of hardware and software to Azerbaijan schools and universities as well as software for risk management, fund management, accounting and compliance. Opportunities also exist in the exchange in expertise in e-government technology.

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Southeast Asia Seen Resilient As Indonesia Outperforms

JAKARTA, Nov. 19 (NNN-BUSINESSWEEK) — Southeast Asia is emerging resilient from a period of global turmoil, with rising investment and domestic consumption that will propel growth in coming years, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development said.

Indonesia’s growth will average 6.4 percent from 2013 to 2017, the OECD estimated in a report yesterday, equal to that recorded in the two decades before the 1997 Asian financial crisis. The Philippines will expand about 5.5 percent a year, the OECD said, up from 5 percent in the decade through 2012, according to International Monetary Fund data. Malaysia and Thailand will see gains of about 5.1 percent, the OECD predicted.

The outlook underscores President Barack Obama’s aim to strengthen U.S. trade ties with the region as its middle class swells. Obama today makes the first visit by a sitting American leader to Myanmar, a nation of 55 million people whose economic opening also shows the potential for companies from more industrial Southeast Asian nations to build scale within the region.

“Policy makers have been very active in providing support to boost domestic demand to counter subpar growth in the region’s bigger export markets,” said Euben Paracuelles, a Singapore-based economist at Nomura Holdings Inc. “We’re also seeing fiscal policy being used aggressively as stimulus.”

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is increasing spending on roads, seaports and airports as he woos investment to spur Southeast Asia’s largest economy. Growth held above 6 percent for an eighth quarter in the three months through September, a report showed this month.

More than a decade after the Asian financial crisis forced Indonesia to seek an International Monetary Fund bailout, Fitch Ratings and Moody’s Investors Service have raised their ratings on the nation’s debt to investment grade and growth is among the fastest in the Group of 20 nations.

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Malaysia: Iskandar Malaysia Shapes Model ‘Smart City’

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 20 (NNN-Bernama) — With over half of the world’s population living in cities and still growing, more governments and urban planners are leaning towards the ‘smart city’ concept.

The hunt for a model future city may yet lead them to Malaysia’s biggest economic development zone, Iskandar Malaysia, the largest mega region in Southeast Asia and three times the size of neighbouring Singapore.

In late 2006, the 2,217 sq km economic growth corridor in Malaysia’s southern Johor was launched as a high impact development to help propel the country into a First World economy under a 20-year blueprint.

Four months ago, a distinguished panel of global economic, business, science and technology initiated by the Malaysian government and the New York Academy of Sciences gave its nod to Iskandar Malaysia to step up into a ‘Smart City’.

Smart cities rely on the widespread and innovative use of information and communication technologies (ICT) to plan and share resources for economic, environment and social developments towards better quality and sustainable living.

“We have taken up the challenge and formed our own definition of Smart City, one that is anchored on the three pillars of Iskandar Malaysia – economic, environment and social development,” said IRDA chief executive Ismail Ibrahim, a British-trained town planner.

The idea of Smart Cities and Smart Villages driven by innovative science and technologies was on the agenda of the inaugural meeting of the Global Science and Innovation Advisory Council (GSIAC) chaired by Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak in New York back in May 2011.

GSIAC counts two Nobel Laureates and well-known global economist Jeffrey Sachs among its international members. It is an advisory council to the Malaysian government to transform the nation into a high-income economy by 2020.

“Some countries such as South Korea and Japan define it as a lifestyle with 100 per cent ICT usage whereas in Europe, the definition is more holistic and not limited to ICT,” Ismail said.

Iskandar Malaysia is drawing the best practices of the two schools of thought and added it own. It has taken into account the country’s diversity to target issues like racial harmony.

The vision, Ismail added, was to transform quality of life and economic growth in building smart, connected and inclusive communities in all five flagship zones – state capital Johor Baharu, Nusajaya, Western Gate Development, Eastern Gate Development and Senai-Skudai.

Between 2005 and 2025, the population of Iskandar Malaysia is projected to double to three million with 1.27 million jobs. Gross Domestic Product is estimated to jump from US$20 billion to US$93.3 billion and per capita income twice higher at US$31,100.

Ismail said the private sector should be the main influence in rolling out Smart City while IRDA would be the facilitator to put together private-public partnerships where feasible.

The diversity of the five flagship areas means IRDA has to target priorities, the when and how of implementing specific initiatives as well as to reach out to local communities to support the changes ahead.

“Technology and private sector investments are key factors but we must remember the support of the people is just as important. We have to keep them informed so that they understand fully what is going on, what is a Smart City, how the transformation will impact their lives, what are the benefits and opportunities for them.

“This is a big challenge. The collaboration of government, private sector and the people must be an ongoing process to keep all parties aligned to achieve the set benchmarks,” Ismail said.

Early initiatives already in place include E-procurement for tenders and contracts, increased usage of E-government services to improve public and social services, SafeCam surveillance, introduction of rapid bus transport, establishing community police posts and awareness programmes on low carbon lifestyles.

The private sector has already kicked into gear with Nusajaya, the sole greenfield and core site of Iskandar Malaysia’s iconic developments, getting a head start. It will be transformed into a Smart City with a digital masterplan from Cisco Systems in partnership with Iskandar Investment Berhad and real estate major UEM Land Holdings Berhad.

“Nusajaya has the potential to become a leading model for Cisco’s Smart Connected Communities vision worldwide. All the right ingredients are in place – government participation, visionary developers and an ecosystem of private sector expertise,” said Anil Menon, president for globalisation and Smart Communities at Cisco, when the project was announced in July this year.

With Asia’s first Legoland, world famous Pinewood Studios, international education colleges and modern housing enclaves, Nusajaya is envisioned as a global benchmark for the design, building and operations of a Smart City.

Iskandar Malaysia, now into its second five year phase, is attracting more and more domestic and international interest, nudging total investments towards the RM100 billion-mark by the end of this year against a RM382 billion target by 2025.

Ismail said IRDA would soon have a team to oversee and coordinate projects which have been banded under six targets – Smart Economy, Smart Environment, Smart People, Smart Mobility, Smart Social and Smart Living.

The government has moved swiftly to address security within Iskandar Malaysia with a SafeCam project with the cooperation of stakeholders, namely government agencies, residents’ associations, businesses and the private sector.

The initiative, derived from the successful Project Griffin by the London Metropolitan Police started in 2004 to combat terrorism, allows police to access almost 20,000 closed circuit television cameras installed in government and public areas in the fight against crime.

“This is one of the most advanced developments in Iskandar Malaysia under the Smart Living focus area. I must say that in implementing Smart City, there was no need to amend the overall blueprint of Iskandar Malaysian because happily, the development pillars are similar,” Ismail said.

Ismail said IRDA would continue to work closely with federal agencies such as the Malaysian Industry-Government Group for High Technology (MIGHT), Performance Management & Delivery Unit (PEMANDU) and Multimedia Development Corporation (MDeC).

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Kazakhstan – Sri Lanka Plan Boost in Bilateral Travel, Transport and Trade

ASTANA (KAZAKHSTAN), Nov 22 (NNN-NEWS.LK) — Participants of the Kazakh-Sri Lanka Business Forum have discussed areas of common interests between the two countries including travel, transport, and logistics to increase the current trade between Sri Lanka and Kazakhstan.

President Nursultan Nazarbayev has expressed interest in cooperation in agriculture, transport and energy and especially, in textile industry as Sri Lanka exports all kinds of materials and finished apparel.

Addressing the Business Forum in Astana, Minister of External Affairs Prof. G. L. Peiris said Sri Lanka is currently diversifying its economy and its exports and also considering setting up joint ventures.

He said that many international investors recognize Sri Lanka as a country with wide opportunities to set up joint enterprises.

The Minister invited the Kazakh businesses to share their vast experience in the development and production of hydrocarbons to explore oil in Sri Lanka.

He pointed out that Sri Lanka spend about US$ 6 billion on oil imports annually and with crude oil accounting for one-third of the country’s imports, and has requested Kazakh businessmen to share their experience in oil-field development with Sri Lanka.

He emphasized that Sri Lanka pursues a policy of protecting and promoting investors and has assured the Forum of the government’s guarantee to protect any foreign investment.

The Prime-Minister of Kazakhstan Serik Akhmetov addressing the Forum said the economic cooperation of the two countries is not up to the level they would like it to be and there is potential for growth.

He said Kazakhstan is actively diversifying and modernizing its economy and invited Sri Lankan companies to take part in the State Program of Accelerated Industrial-Innovative Development.

Around 100 businessmen from Kazakhstan and Sri Lanka participated in the business forum to discuss new horizons of cooperation, especially, development of tourism along with increasing trade and mutual investments.

The two countries have decided to form a Kazakhstan-Lankan inter-government commission for trade and economic cooperation.

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D-8 Muslim Countries For Enhanced Trade, Visa Liberalisation

ISLAMABAD, Nov 23 (NNN-KUNA) — The leaders of Developing-8 bloc have called for practical measures to enhance trade, visa liberalisation, and free flow of goods in a bid to strengthen their economies and bilateral relations. The call came as two-day D-8 summit started here Thursday. The summit was opened by the Nigerian President, Jonathan Goodluck, who handed over the chairmanship to Pakistan.

According to the Islamabad Declaration, adopted at the conclusion of the summit, the leaders of the participating states shared a general understanding for the need of strengthening and widening the scope of economic cooperation. They stressed the need to ensure transparency so that they are able to address the threats of poverty, illiteracy and slow growth.

They urged opening of banks, investment ventures, free flow of goods, services and people, joint investment Fund, Islamic banking and investment, small and medium enterprises and regional connectivity.

Apart from President Asif Ali Zardari, who chaired the Summit, those who addressed the meeting included Jonathan, Iranian President Mahmood Ahmadinejad, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Egyptian Deputy President Mahmoud Makki, Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin and Bangladeshi Advisor to Prime Minister for International Affairs Professor Gowher Rizvi.

Zardari emphasized the need for setting up trade and development banks; facilitating contacts between chambers of commerce and investment houses, simplification of visa and customs procedures and barter trade. He urged the members of the D-8 to endorse once again the core values of peace, dialogue and cooperation, justice, equality and moderation, democracy, rule of law and harmony, and peaceful co-existence and inclusion.

He said most of D-8 countries have already ratified the PTA and there was need to operationalize it without delay. Ahmadinejad proposed setting up of a Joint Investment Fund, barter transactions and operationalisation of the Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA) between the Developing-8 member states.

He called for a more serious effort towards creation of a fair and equitable economic system, particularly amongst the member states so as to counter the external influences. He said barter trade between the member states would help them counter the impact of a “dominant currency”, while enhanced cooperation between their private sectors would help intra D-8 trade.

Erdogan said joint projects among the member states of D-8 was the only way to make a dynamic move towards prosperity. Secretary General of D-8 countries Widi Agoes Pratikto said that Islamabad declaration would play vital role in strengthening trade and economic ties among the member countries.

He said that the vision of D-8 is to focus on a point to promote trade and economic relations with the developing countries as well as making harmony with the developed world.

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Indonesia: Huge Business Opportunity For Comics Industry

JAKARTA, Nov 23 (NNN-ANTARA) — Indonesia’s Minister of Tourism and Creative Economy Mari Elka Pangestu stated that there is a huge business opportunity, for the local comics industry in the domestic market.

“I urge creative youths to explore business opportunities in the national comics industry,” said the Minister, in a creative products exhibition, Pekan Produk Kreatif Indonesia (PPKI) 2012, here on Thursday.

The exhibition, which is being held from November 21 to 25, has been organised by The Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy, in collaboration with several companies and stakeholders, at South Jakarta. The event also includes a talk on the national comics industry.

Pangestu is hopeful that the event will inspire local comic book artists to join the comics industry in Indonesia, since there are ample business opportunities in the domestic market. “We hope such events can drive the comics industry in Indonesia,” she said.

According to her, the comics industry plays an important role in the national creative industry. “Therefore, the comics industry should collaborate with the industry of animation, advertising and movies. By doing so, local comic book artists can create growth for the comics industry, in the country,” she expressed.

The Minister noted that the contribution of the creative industry to the gross domestic product (GDP) has been on the rise lately.

Based on the data released by the Ministry, the creative industry contributed as much as Rp472.8 trillion to the GDP in 2010. In addition, it created jobs for 11.49 million people. These figures increased in 2011 to Rp526 trillion, with 11.51 million people employed in the industry. “We expect the number to rise again this year to Rp573.4 trillion, with 11.57 million people employed in the industry,” said the Minister.

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Tourism Sector Set To Become Major Contributor To Malaysian Economy

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 20 (NNN-Bernama) — The Tourism sector, being the third biggest contributor to the country’s economy after manufacturing and palm oil, offers vast employment opportunities.

The Tourism industry not only promotes those involved in the sector but compliment the service industry to generate business opportunities and further boost the country’s economy as well as enhance people-to-people relations.

According to the Tourism Malaysia statistics, revenue generated from 24.6 million tourist arrivals in 2010 was RM56.5 billion but the figure increased to RM58.3 billion through 24.7 million tourist arrivals last year. The domestic tourism industry has also seen a positive increase as revenue for last increased to 42.3 billion compared with RM34.7 billion in 2010.

Malaysia has also recently earned recognition from the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) as the ninth most visited country in the world from 2009 to 2011, and ranked 14th in terms of revenue earned from the tourism sector. This year Malaysia has targeted 25 million tourist arrivals and a projected revenue of RM60 billion.

During the 2013 Budget tabled by Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak on Sept 28, he also announced 2013/2014 as Visit Malaysia Year to attract 26.8 million tourists. The government also announced a three-year tax exemption incentive for tourism and travel agents who provide services and handle up to 750 foreign tourists or 1,500 domestic tourists.

The focus of the government is to enhance the country’s position as a leading foreign tourist destination, while promoting domestic tourism. Opportunities abound for entrepreneurs, business owners and investors who support the government’s direction.

The Dean of Universiti Teknologi MARA’s (UiTM) Faculty of Hotel and Tourism Management Prof Madya Dr Mohamad Abdullah Hemdi views the initiatives as a boost to the tourism sector and those involved in the industry. In order to ensure the government’s target of 26.8 million tourist arrivals was achieved, he urged entrepreneurs involved in the industry to grab the opportunities to offer luxurious holiday packages to increase their revenue.

“For Visit Malaysia Year 2013/2014, the concept of providing luxury villas at top resort destinations as an alternative to hotel accommodation as well as an investment portfolio must be adopted. “To ensure tourists enjoy their stay here, a variety of tourism products is important, like providing services for tourists to visit Malaysia using helicopters of private jets or even luxury yachts,” he told Bernama.

Mohamad Abdullah said initiatives like promoting the unique flora and Fiona found in the tropical forests of Malaysia, cycling around national parks in the country must also be packaged and offered to tourists.

Malaysia, a country blessed with rich natural environment and exotic islands has not taken full advantage of the growing demand for luxury retreat villas like Bali in Indonesia and Thailand.

Moving forward, the long-term prospect for Malaysian tourism remains bullish and hospitality developers should take advantage of the surge in demand for private luxury villas, be it for investment purpose or holiday destination.

Recently the country welcomed the opening of an international theme park, LEGOLAND in Johor, which is the first in Asia and one of only six in the world. The state of Johor is also scheduled to launch a few other theme parks this year such as Hello Kitty Town, Little Big Club and Lat themed attraction in Puteri Harbour, while 2014 will see the opening of Ocean Quest and Ocean Splash water parks in Desaru.

Mohamad Abdullah said in efforts to promote tourism and provide human capital for the industry, UiTM offers various courses in various fields related to the tourism industry, adding that 7,746 students were currently pursuing their higher education in their respective fields.

“In UiTM, we have training for those involved in the tourism industry like the homestay programme through collaboration with the Malaysian Association of Tour & Travel Agents (MATTA) to enhance their knowledge of tourism products.

Meanwhile, Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) Tourism Unit head Norazah Yusof said many luxury hotels have mushroomed in the city to cater for the high demand for luxurious holiday packages. Norazah said the City Hall continuously organise programmes and events to promote the tourism industry, especially in Kuala Lumpur, by offering tourism in the fields of medical, education and hospitality.

She added that since tourists want to experience ‘on ground experience’ food festivals, culture and traditional programmes that showcase Malaysian culture are organised for them to participate.

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Exhibition highlights Saudi Arabia’s cultural dimension

Arab News – 17 November, 2012 – Prince Sultan bin Salman, president of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA), stressed the importance of “the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s Marvelous Masterpieces Exhibition’ as a window on Saudi culture and heritage to the outside world while formally opening the expo in Washington D.C. on Thursday.

The exhibition was organized by the SCTA in collaboration with Sackler and Fryer Museum, an affiliate of Smithsonian Foundation for Museums and Research.

“People know only about Saudi Arabia’s religious, political and economic dimensions that make noticeable marks on the outside world, but the cultural dimension of the Kingdom has been confined to the realm of experts, scientists and researchers,” the prince said.

The series of Saudi antiquities exhibition was first launched under the aegis of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah at the Louvre Museum in Paris in 2010 with the aim of highlighting the splendid cultural features of the Kingdom to the outside world.

“During the past stops in France, Spain, Russian and Germany, the exhibition attracted more than 1.5 million visitors,” the prince added. Chairman of the Board of Directors of King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies, Prince Turki Al-Faisal, Saudi Ambassador to the United States Adel Al-Jubeir, Secretary-General of the Smithsonian Foundation for Museums and Research G.

Wayne Cliff, Director of Sackler and Fryer Museum Julian Rabie, a number of princes and Saudi and US dignitaries apart from a number of Islamic and Arab diplomats were present at the opening ceremony. The exhibition includes some 320 masterpieces illustrating the history of the Arabian Peninsula from the Stone Age to the modern times.

In his welcome speech, Cliff expressed his pleasure at the Saudi authorities selecting the museum to launch the first leg of the exhibition’s US tour. “The exhibition would provide a rare opportunity to the US public to enjoy various aspects of the Kingdom’s history and civilization, which were not known to them except to a few antiquities experts and scientists,” Cliff said.

Cultural and arts activities will also be staged on the sidelines of the exhibition. The last show of the exhibition, organized early this year, was hosted by Berlin’s Pergamon Museum. “This exhibition shows the cultural and civilized dimension of Saudi Arabia, which is saying to the world today that it is indeed a country that embraces many civilizations. It also shows that the role that the Kingdom and its leadership are playing today is in fact a historical genuine role that was crowned in the past by Islam, which by the way, did not eradicate these civilizations,” a German visitor commented after viewing the exhibition.

The exhibition’s two-year world tour has been undertaken after receiving approval of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah. It was hosted in Paris by the Louvre Museum, La Caixa Forum Museum in Barcelona, Spain and Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia.

“The exhibition showcases 300 archaeological findings including some excavated 10 years ago reflecting the civilization that existed in the Arabian Peninsula,” Rabie, who is also former professor of Islamic Art and Architecture at the Oxford University, said while addressing a press conference attended by more than 70 US media persons on Wednesday.

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Saudis keep Bahrain tourism industry thriving

Arab News – 18 November, 2012 – Leading members of the travel, tourism and hospitality industry in Bahrain have acknowledged the key role Gulf tourists have played in sustaining the neighboring nation’s economy during a critical phase.

“We want to extend our special thanks to citizens of the Gulf Cooperation Council states for continuing to visit us and for actively supporting us as we grappled with the negative publicity in the world media,” said Isa Hassani, head of tourism marketing at the Ministry of Culture. “We have seen an upswing in tourist arrivals.”

Hassani was among a select group of topnotch travel and tourism industry leaders taking part in a forum organized by SKAL International Bahrain which turned 40 this year.

“Bahrain is not only safe, but it is pulsating with cultural activity,” said SKAL Bahrain President Mohamed Buzizi in his opening remarks. “Nothing has changed, and Bahrain and Bahrainis know no other way but to make our guests comfortable.”

Jamil Wafa, a widely respected businessman and Unitag Group founder and executive chairman, agreed with Buzizi. He blamed the world media for blowing things out of proportion. “Yes, there have been skirmishes, but the media have gone wild with their reports,” he said. “Yes, this is a safe place, and if it weren’t, we wouldn’t be here.”

Wafa blamed embassies of European nations for creating an atmosphere of fear with their travel advisories. “They are the real culprits … there is no need for them to issue these circulars advising their citizens not to venture out at evening time; all this fits neatly into the agenda of the troublemakers and a sensational media,” he said.

William A. Torresala, chief operating officer at Hala bint Mubarak Al-Suwaiket Trading Est., said there is no place like Bahrain in the world. “I have been to various places and cities around the world, and I can say with personal experience that Bahrain is among the safest places,” he said. “The negative publicity unleashed in the world media has led to people asking how things are in Bahrain these days.”

Daniel M. Naoumovitch, chief executive officer, Sabre Travel Network, was forthright in his assessment. “I travel extensively in the region but I and my wife find Bahrain the best,” he said. “This is the reason why we call Bahrain home, but unfortunately this is not what the outside world is hearing.”

Naoumovitch called for setting up a fund to conduct a sustained public relations exercise to promote and sell Bahrain. “We are ready to contribute to this fund because we own this brand and it is our duty to promote it,” he said.

Abdullah M. Abo Khamseen, director and executive general manager at Kanoo Travel, acknowledged the generosity and large-heartedness of Bahrainis. “Bahrain is like a second home to all Saudis,” he said. “We will continue to come here, and as the speakers here have pointed out, the traffic across the King Fahd Causeway has only increased.”

Abo Khamseen called for concerted efforts on both sides in streamlining the traffic at the 25 km causeway that links Alkhobar with Manama. “With all the technology at our disposal, we need to find ways to minimize the waiting time at the causeway.”

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Single GCC tourism visa to boost visitor numbers

Saudi Gazette – 19 November, 2012 – A single Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) entry visa will help boost the number of tourists in the region and will reinvigorate tourism as a sector, a study submitted to GCC officials has found.

“A study has been submitted to the Gulf Cooperation Council on adopting a single tourism visa,” Abdul Raheem Hassan Naqi, the secretary general of the GCC chambers unions, said. “The move will reinvigorate the tourism sector amid expectations that the GCC countries will invest around $ 380 billion (Dh1.395 billion) in tourism projects by 2018,” he said in remarks published by Saudi daily Al Eqtisadiya Sunday.

The study covers all aspects of the single visa and calls for allowing a tourist planning to visit one of the GCC states to move smoothly to other countries as well. “The GCC have the capabilities to implement the visa recommendations and the fact that $ 380 billion will be invested in tourism and related sectors should be an outstanding stimulus for other ministries and government agencies,” he said. “We understand the specificities of some countries, but we look at the overall benefits of Gulf tourism and its economic contributions to each of the member states. Tourism remains a factor for local economies and jobs and all efforts should be channeled into doing away with complications.

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Saudi Arabia witnesses unprecedented boom in tourism

Arab News – 20 November, 2012 – With a long-term vision to boost the influx of tourists to the Kingdom, Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry, in cooperation with the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA), established the first International Hotel Show and Summit. The summit was organized by Mice Arabia and dmg events and took place at the Jeddah Center for Forums and Events.

Hani Abu Ras, mayor of Jeddah, inaugurated the exhibition, which was organized under the aegis of Prince Sultan bin Salman, president and chairman of SCTA. The first day of the exhibition witnessed the attendance of many distinguished figures including Salah K. Al-Bukhyyet, vice president for investors at SCTA; Abdullah S. Al-Jehani, vice president of the Tourism Division at SCTA; Mohammed A. Al-Amri, SCTA executive manager for Makkah region; and Mazen Batterjee, vice chairman of the board of directors at JCCI.

One hundred and twenty exhibitors from 24 countries displayed an impressive array of hospitality products and services. Al-Bukhyyet said this exhibition is the first step toward boosting the Kingdom’s tourism industry and in removing any impending obstacles for this sector’s growth. He added that a strong hospitality sector will create valuable job opportunities for the Saudi youth and boost the construction industry as well.

“In view of the rise in international and domestic tourism, accompanied by the exponential expansion of the hospitality industry, we expect to have more than 100,000 hotel rooms and 200,000 furnished apartments by 2020. This will also generate 1 million jobs by 2016, with a growth of 25 percent,” said Al-Bukhyyet.

Abu Ras said the hotel show is an ideal business platform for highlighting the large-scale infrastructure developments the Kingdom is witnessing and a great networking opportunity for industry peers. “SCTA and Jeddah municipality are working hard to build a thriving tourism hub in Jeddah.”

Al-Amri said: “The hotel show is an important exhibition, especially since the Kingdom has witnessed an increase of 18.9 percent in tourism from 2010 to 2011. Jeddah is considered the busiest city, with 65 percent occupancy, according to the National Tourism Development Strategy. Furthermore, investment in the tourism sector and residential construction is expected to reach SR 97.5 billion between 2010 and 2020.”

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‘Light from the Middle East’ at V&A Museum in London

Ahram Online, Sunday 18 Nov 2012 – In Light from the Middle East, the V&A Museum showcases photography by 30 visual artists hailing from 13 Middle Eastern countries, illustrating how these artists used photography to record, reframe, and resist the societal challenges and political transformations shaping the region in the past two decades.

The collection displays how artists from the region experiment with the art of photography. The result is a rich range of artwork in three categories: Recording, Reframing and Resisting. Art by two Egyptian artists appear in the show. Nermine Hamman exhibits photographs from her post-revolutionary series ‘Upekkha’, in which she transports soldiers to a scenic setting away from the chaotic streets of Cairo. And Youssef Nabil, known for his ‘Hollywood on the Nile’ photography and film, in which he pays tribute to the golden era of Egyptian cinema, is also showcased.

The exhibition also features artwork from Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, among others. “Ranging from photojournalism to staged and digitally manipulated imagery, these artists offer multiple viewpoints appropriate to the complexities of a vast and diverse region,” according to V&A.

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After dark years, lights coming back on for Iraqi cinema

Reuters, 19 Nov 2012 – The din of power generators, tangle of jerry-rigged electric wiring and hassle of security checkpoints are all part of the movie business in Iraq, not to mention the lack of studio space and dearth of experienced crews. But actors like Sadiq Abbas are just happy to get back to work. “The journey of a thousand miles starts with one step,” Abbas said on the set of a short film shot recently in Baghdad. “Let’s take this as the first step for Iraqi cinema.”

War and international sanctions have left most of Iraq’s infrastructure and industry – including the movie industry – in shambles. Government funding would have provided the jumpstart the industry needed but it has not been a government priority; the last full length feature financed by the state was in 1990. Independent film producers have struggled on their own.

That may be changing. Nine months after the last US troops left, Iraq’s oil industry is pumping at the highest in decades thanks to multi-billion contracts with foreign companies. Everyday life is showing signs of becoming more stable, and the government says it can now look again to funding the arts. The ministry of culture has put up $4.7 million through to next year, enough to fund 21 movies ranging from full-length features to shorts and documentaries, touching on subjects as sensitive as Shi’ite and Sunni friendships riven by sectarian rivalries and the issue of family honour.

“Hopefully we can pull this off, because in Iraqi cinema history we never produced four films in one year,” said Ismail Al-Jubouri, the deputy head of cinema and theater department at the ministry of culture.

Iraqi cinema dates back to the 1950s, although production did not exceed more than a few films a year even then. The government’s cinema department was established in 1959 but produced only two feature-length films in the next decade along with a handful of documentaries. During the 24-year rule of Saddam Hussein from 1979, the industry mainly served as a propaganda tool for his Baathist party, which also commissioned art, theatre and music.

Films focused mainly on the 1980-88 Iraq-Iran war, portraying Iraq as the victor in the conflict, which ended in a stalemate and ceasefire. The film The Long Days told Saddam’s life story. The heyday of the industry came in the 1970s, when the government established its first theatre, allocated more funds for full-length movies and attracted Arab filmmakers to help.

The first technicolour film was produced in this period, The Head, directed by Faisal Al-Yassiri, who is one of those to have benefited from the government’s latest funding. Iraqi civil servant Mohammed Mahdi, 40, said his mother recalls going to the cinema to watch mainly Egyptian romances with their father, leaving the children with their grandmother.

“It was a romantic thing for them to go to the cinema,” Mahdi said, adding with a laugh that his father always fell asleep in the middle. Their dates stopped with the advent of the war, as his father was in the military, Mahdi said. “My mother always regretted the dying of Iraqi cinema.”

After the US-led coalition invaded in 2003 and toppled Saddam, movie archives and equipment were looted, and later sectarian violence drained the country of artistic talent. Film production slowed to a crawl and the infrastructure of the industry deteriorated. Laboratories and cameras fell into disrepair and cinemas were shuttered.

Independent film production houses tried to pick up the pieces, with some notable successes such as the privately funded war film, Son of Babylon, which won a number of international awards and was selected as Iraq’s official entry for the 2011 Academy Awards. But the return of government funding means a new start for many local directors, even if the amounts are small by international standards.

Under the government programme, funding for full-length movies can reach as high as 1.25 billion dinars ($1.07 million) while a short film like A Man’s Tear, which featured actor Abbas in one of the lead roles, can receive up to 74 million dinars.

Only 40 million dinars was allocated to the film industry from 2004 to 2012, said Qasim Mohammed Salman, the head of the ministry’s cinema department and executive producer of the 21 films. The government’s backing is appreciated, said Saad Abdullah, production manager of A Man’s Tear, in which two brothers, one who stayed in Iraq and one who went abroad and came back wealthy, become estranged over who will care for their mother.

“I feel they want to support us. They have only given us a little but we will take what we can get,” Abdullah said.

And even if the film industry is getting a shot in the arm, venues for showing movies are still scarce. While security is much improved, many people remain wary of public gatherings. Salman said of 82 cinemas that used to be open in Iraq, most of them in Baghdad, no more than five cinemas remain.

Small private cinemas operate in some social clubs. One local director regularly uses an inflatable screen to give outdoor screenings of his productions in Baghdad.

But many filmmakers are hopeful Iraqis will eventually come back to the cinemas. “It’s the audience in the end who decides. They are the consumers and they are the ones who bring the money to the cinema by buying tickets,” said Raad Mshatat, the director of The Silence of the Shepherd a full-length film. “I have high hopes Iraqi cinema will come back to life.”

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Qabila TV launches short film festival to cultivate young talent

Ahram Online, 19 Nov 2012 – The independent media project, Qabila TV’s inaugural short film festival is accepting submissions until 21 December. Qabila is an independent media venture established by a group of Egyptian youth in 2010. This year, it is launching a short film competition to showcase and encourage talented filmmakers from Egypt, the Arab region, and beyond.

Aspiring filmmakers can now submit their films for the festival until 21 December. The festival is open to submissions from around the world, provided that the film be created after 1 January, 2011, and have a duration of 1 – 15 minutes long.

The jury is made up of young, yet established directors, screenwriters and authors from the Arab world, including Amr Salama, Muhammad Bayazid and Sandra Nashaat. Awards will range from LE20,000 ($3,280) for best movie to LE5,000 ($820) for best screenwriter.

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Indonesian keen on becoming world’s fashion center

Wed, November 21 2012 Jakarta (ANTARA News) – Indonesia is keen on becoming the world’s fashion centre by 2025, with the advancement of the fashion industry in the country, according to a minister.

“Our dream is to make Indonesia, a fashion centre of ASEAN. Then, we would like to expand and become the fashion centre of the world,” said Indonesia’s Tourism and Creative Economic Minister, Mari Elka Pangestu, on Wednesday. The minister made this statement when she inaugurated the Indonesian Creative Products Week (PPKI), held from November 21 to 25, 2012, at Epiwalk Kuningan.

According to her, fashion designers should undergo coaching, training and development programs to improve their skills and understand fashion trends. Mari Pangestu noted that together with the stakeholders in the fashion industry in Indonesia, the government has started the Indonesia Fashion Week and Jakarta Fashion Week, for fashion designers to showcase their work.

“In a country with abundant natural resources and rich culture, creativity in the field of fashion, can combine local taste with international trends,” said Mari. She added that one of the missions of the creative industry is to improve Indonesia’s image in the eyes of the international community.

Therefore, Mari said that for Indonesia to become a fashion centre, the country has to be a centre of inspiration too. “To reach this goal, we must start with research and development, trainings and enhancement of human resources and business development,” Mari added.

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Indonesian State Enterprise Minister ready to carry out “orange revolution”

Wed, November 21 Jakarta (ANTARA News) – Indonesia’s State Enterprise Minister, Dahlan Iskan, is keen on carrying out an orange revolution, from 2013, by planting three kinds of fruit-bearing trees, namely, mango, mangosteen and durian. The orange revolution is expected to produce a lot of tropical fruits, mainly mangosteens and durians, which could be exported to China, said the minister, on Tuesday.

“The idea emerged from the fact that we have been flooded by Chinese fruits so far. So, why can’t we meet China’s high demand for tropical fruits?” he added.

Indonesia imports oranges from China and there is a demand for tropical Indonesian fruits, like mangosteens, in China, he said. “To date, China gets tropical fruits from Bangkok (Thailand), the Philippines and Vietnam, which are not tropical countries, but sub-tropical,” he stated.

PT Perkebunan Nusantara VIII, a state-owned plantation company, will plant tropical fruit-bearing trees, such as durian and mangosteen, in October 2013, he said. The plantation company has prepared a plot of land to grow mangosteen and durian trees (1,000 hectares each) in West Java. The Bogor Institute of Agriculture (IPB) will provide the seedlings.

Before planting the durian and mangosteen trees, the plantation company will plant papaya and banana trees on a 3,000 hectare land, in February 2013. The area used to be a tea plantation, which is no longer productive.

The orange revolution will be carried out in Aceh, North Sumatra, West Sumatra, Bengkulu, Jambi, Riau, South Sumatra, Lampung, West Java, East Java and Central Java. The orange revolution will be conducted by the state enterprise ministry and the Bogor Institute of Agriculture.

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President Yudhoyono supports investment of US$507 billion by Islamic countries

Thu, November 22 2012 Islamabad (ANTARA News) – President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, together with seven heads of state from countries with large Muslim population, have agreed to boost trade and investment by as much as US$507 billion, by 2018. A total of eight leaders attended the Developing 8 (D8) Summit. The attendees included President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, the Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Egyptian President, Mohamed Nursi, the Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Also the Nigerian President, Goodluck Jonathan, the Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister, Tan Sri Muhyidin Yassin, and the Pakistani President, Asif Ali Zardari, who was also the host. Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Haseena Wajid is represented by Adviser to Bangladesh Prime Minister for International Affairs Professor Gowher Rizvi.

The leaders expressed their desire to increase cooperation in several sectors, such as industry, agriculture, trade, health, banking, energy, human resources, science and technology as well as communications and information.

Indonesia’s Economic Coordinating Minister, Hatta Rajasa, stated that Indonesia and other D8 countries are targeting to get their trade volume within 15 to 20 percent of the total world trade, US$ 14 trillion, which could be doubled to US$28 trillion, in the next 10 years. “The eight countries are highly motivated to boost their trade volume in the next 10 years,” he said. Other Indonesian ministers who attended the Summit include the Trade Minister, Gita Wirjawan, the Industry Minister, MS Hidayat, the Foreign Affairs Minister, Marty Natalegawa and the Cabinet Secretary, Dipo Alam.

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Desert music, dance and lament in dunes of Morocco

AFP, 14 Nov 2012 – Rousing desert rhythms brought to life the oasis of M’Hamid, last stop in Morocco before the vast empty wastes of the Sahara, as musicians from across the region descended on the dunes. The Taragalte music festival kicked off in earnest at the weekend under a spectacular star-lit sky, with a list of women’s groups, from Morocco, Mauritania and Mali topping the bill.

Camel racing, poetry and traditional dance featured among the palm trees and rolling sand dunes of M’Hamid, with the festival celebrating — and seeking to preserve — a desert culture undermined by modernity, according to its organisers.

Mauritanian group Noura Mint Seymali captivated the crowd with a powerful delivery from the vocalist, Noura, accompanied by a virtuoso performance from Ayniyana, her accomplice on the ardine, a 20-string harp similar to the kora. Next up was the Malian group Tartit, 10 Tuareg women from the northern region of Timbuktu, whose traditional music, a hypnotic blend of chanting, clapping and drumming, added poignancy to the Moroccan event.

Unrest forced the group to flee Mali in February, just two weeks after they played at Timbuktu’s famed desert festival, with Islamist militants later occupying the entire northern region, banning music, destroying ancient shrines and forcing women to wear the veil. A sign placed below the stage read: “Taragalte pays homage to Timbuktu, heritage of humanity.”

Oum, the budding Moroccan star who headlined the opening night at Taragalte with her five-piece soul band, said the festival sent a message of solidarity to the musicians and the women of Mali. “It’s a chance to say that we support them, and the freedom of the arts, and the freedom just to be,” she told AFP. “It’s a message that is even stronger because it comes through the voices of women.”

Taragalte, now in its fourth year, has forged strong links with its Malian counterpart, which the organisers have attended yearly, inviting musicians to M’Hamid from the festival in Timbuktu — just a 50-day camel ride away, locals quip.

Malian guitarist Samba Toure, a protege of Mali music legend Ali Farka Toure, made an appearance at M’Hamid, while renowned Tuareg group Tinariwen played at the inaugural event in 2009.

Osman Toure, bass player for the Mauritanian group Noura Mint Seymali, which was also invited to play at M’Hamid during the Timbuktu festival in January, praised the Moroccan initiative, following the events in Mali. “I find that the desert, the tents… Of course they are different cultures. But it’s the same spirit. There is a great similarity between the two festivals,” Toure said.

“It was a moment of tragedy that took place (in Mali) with respect to the music… Many of the musicians fled to Mauritania, as well as Senegal and Burkina Faso. But despite that, many of them ended up here.”

M’Hamid El Ghizlane lies deep in the desert, on the edge of the arid Draa valley, some 250 kilometres (150 miles) southeast of Ouarzazate, the so-called gateway to the Moroccan Sahara, and 40 kilometres from the Algerian border. Centuries ago, it was used by the camel caravans plying the old trade route between Morocco and Timbuktu, but the closure of the Algerian border in 1994 means any overland trip, however hazardous, is no longer possible.

Halim Sbai, one of Taragalte’s main organisers, speaks passionately of the need to preserve “the natural and cultural patrimony of the desert,” including by allowing local people to participate, displaying their traditions and music at the festival.

The construction of a hydro-electric dam at Ouarzazate in 1972, to provide for the city’s growing population and tourist trade, with its five-star hotels and golf courses, took a heavy toll on water supplies to M’Hamid, Sbai explained.

“The dam deprived the region of water that, before it was built, flowed from the High Atlas mountains all the way here. We are in an oasis that needs to be preserved. It’s a very fragile environment. And we try to get tourists to help us with that, so we can leave it for future generations,” Sbai said.

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Brunei Minister says SEAHOG Rally promoting sports tourism

Borneo Bulletin Online – The Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports, Dato Seri Haji Hazair bin Haji Abdullah emphasised the uniqueness of the 2nd South East Asia Harley Owners Group (SEAHOG) Rally 2012 as a good example of promoting sports tourism and establish business networking across the continent during a welcoming dinner for the 2nd SEAHOG Rally participants and joint organising committees at the Mangrove Paradise Resort last night.

“This can also be translated into a beneficial economic relationship,” the minister said on one of the ways that can generate interest and enhance the promotion of sports tourism in the country. The minister further added that the passion of the participants and the joint organising committee of the 2nd South East Asia Harley Owners Group (SEAHOG) Rally 2012 in motorcycling have also “brought and connected people of diverse cultures from the world’s populous continents and regions whilst meeting together under one common interest and hobby, that is Harley Davidson”.

“I recall His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam’s titah during the Asia-Europe Summit in Laos recently where His Majesty stressed the importance of human dimension in bringing about the trust needed for building close and meaningful social, economic and cultural collaboration between Asean and Europe,” the minister said.

The minister added that in this regard the SEAHOG Rally has provided a social platform for people’s connectivity and cultural understanding between Asia and Europe as well as the rest of the world, which include the participation of chapters comprising Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand as well as bikers from China, Europe and the USA during the 2nd edition of the SEAHOG Rally. The participating chapters, including Brunei, will continue their adventure to Bintulu, Sarawak today.

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Brunei can showcase its Muslim society to Western world

Borneo Bulletin Online – The Chairmanship of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) will allow Brunei to showcase its Muslim society to the Western world; a society that is friendly and gentle. This was said yesterday by Siphan Phay, Secretary of State and Spokesman for Cambodia’s Council of Ministers, while speaking to the Borneo Bulletin in an interview.

“Brunei can show a Muslim society to Western society – how friendly and gentle relations can be between a Muslim and non-Muslim country,” he said. “Brunei is a Muslim country that is very friendly and that shares mutual respect with all the Asean nations,” he added. “So far we have learned that Brunei is a very, very gentle nation and that they have what we call ‘diplomatic prowess’ to engage and maintain peace and stability in the region,” he continued, adding, “they are very proactive to be friendly with others and maintain peace and stability.”

Teuku Faizasyah, Indonesian Presidential Palace’s International Spokesperson spoke to reporters in the International Media Centre, and said, “We have every confidence in Brunei’s chairmanship. It’s a continuum. We are moving from the summit we chaired last year in Bali and now in Cambodia, so certainly, Asean already has certain priorities.

“It’s a continuum of activities building up on what we achieved the year before, this year and certainly next year are part of continuum of Asean progress,” he added. “We must make sure that the 2015 community target can be achieved and that is why all the member countries will lend their support to whomever chairs Asean.”

The spokesman told reporters that Indonesia, on many occasions has emphasised its desire to ensure the success of Brunei’s chairmanship because this will lead to the Asean Community of 2015. Today a symbolic handover of the Asean Chairmanship from Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen to the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam will take place at the Peace Palace in Phnom Penh.

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Economic activity by Kyrgyz women gathers momentum

Centralasiaonline.com 2012-11-19 BISHKEK – When Nistan Baibulatova started her first business 20 years ago, hardly anyone in Kyrgyzstan, let alone women, knew anything about entrepreneurship. But over the years, Baibulatova has not only built up her own businesses but has also begun to help other women gain financial independence.

“After the collapse of the Soviet Union, I started a sewing business,” she told Central Asia Online. “I had a sewing shop that brought in a good income. Then I gave birth to a son and no longer had time to run the sewing business.” After her son started growing up, she opened a hotel near Lake Issyk-Kul and has built a steady clientele there.

On the heels of her business successes, Baibulatova began to think of the fate of other women in Kyrgyzstan. “Last year I had the idea of creating the civic group Taza Dil, which would teach girls from poor families about sewing and embroidery free of charge,” she said. “The prominent Kyrgyz businesswoman and fashion designer Dilbar Ashimbayeva is helping me. She has agreed to teach the girls free of charge and to give them jobs in her fashion house.”

Baibulatova said she hopes that girls who complete the courses will one day open their own businesses. She has already developed her plan, obtained financial backing and is looking for a facility in which to operate. “For the first two or three years, I intend to help the girls free of charge, and then I hope that this activity will bring me dividends,” she said.

Women own 30% of the country’s small- and medium-sized enterprises, according to government statistics. This figure has tripled over the past 10 years but, according to Baibulatova, still doesn’t reflect the potential of Kyrgyz women. “Kyrgyz women want to make use of their capabilities … to make a contribution to the financial prosperity of their families,” Baibulatova said.

Acquiring even a small business can help make women financially independent, former Economy Ministry economist Kubichek Eshenbayev told Central Asia Online. “We often observe a situation, particularly in the villages, of a woman being married while still quite young and without any education,” he explained. “But suppose she and her husband don’t get on, or break up? Who will feed her and her children? Such girls are frequently left with no means of support.”

But because these women are starting to take initiative, they are becoming economically independent, he said. “This is a good thing for the family, for the economy and for the emancipation of women as a whole,” Eshenbayev said. “Our women are showing that they are capable of more than washing diapers and standing over a hot stove.”

Working women are found predominately in service sector industries like healthcare, education, hotels and restaurants, social-welfare and personal services, research from the NGO Kurak indicates. Indeed, women held 88% of those jobs in the processing industry, including textiles and sewn garments, in 2011. But what’s more encouraging is when women take the initiative to run a business, and the latest numbers indicate that 42,000 women run one-person businesses in Kyrgyzstan.

“Women of Kyrgyzstan are trying to earn money from the few opportunities available to them,” Baibulatova said. In October, Baibulatova attended a Bishkek conference for woman entrepreneurs where she met a girl who went from selling samosas in the market to opening up a small guesthouse in Batken. “There are many such examples,” she said with a smile.

With the number of women entrepreneurs with several years of experience reaching an acceptable level, women now need to concentrate on raising the level of quality, Kurak co-founder and lawyer Gulnara Kalikova told Central Asia Online. “They need new knowledge in order to expand the business and rise to a new level of quality,” she said. “Our woman entrepreneurs now need training on how to run a business.” “Our forum plans to introduce a number of projects for teaching women, particularly in the regions, where there is no access to such courses,” Kalikova said.

One of the pitfalls that Kurak hopes to help woman entrepreneurs avoid is falling into debt. Women need to learn how to borrow for a business, Kurak analyst Rafkat Hasanov told Central Asia Online. “Property, mostly belonging to the oldest man in the family, renders women dependent on men or on the family in relation to private property,” he said. “Therefore, property offered by women as collateral is not recognised by the banks as a liquid asset, which means that women cannot fully control what they put up as collateral and begin their own business.”

Sometimes women end up taking out business loansbut end up spending the money on the wedding of a son or daughter or a funeral or even to pay off other debts, Hasanov said.

Baibulatova urges caution when borrowing money. “There are cases in which women have taken out loans for their intended purpose, for business, but have got their fingers burned and have been left without anywhere to live, along with their children and the rest of the family,” she said. “I want to warn women against doing this, and call on them to think 100 times before borrowing.”

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Bangladesh Tourism Minister seeks media support for promotion of tourism

DHAKA, Nov 17, 2012 (BSS) – Civil Aviation and Tourism Minister Lt Col (retd) Faruk Khan today said capacity building of the media has become indispensable for projecting the country’s tourist destinations and natural beauties before local and international tourists.

Media could play an important role in supplementing the government effort in flourishing the tourism sector to turn the country into an attractive tourist destination for tourists, he said, adding the government would provide the media with all out support to this end.

He was speaking at a roundtable titled ‘Promotion of Tourism Industry: Role of Media’ at Ruposhi Bangla Hotel in the city. Aviation and Tourism Journalists Forum (ATJFB) arranged the function in cooperation with Bangladesh Tourism Board (BTB).

Secretary of the Ministry Khurshed Alam addressed the roundtable as the special guest while Chairman of Civil Aviation Authority, Bangladesh (CAAB) Air Vice Marshal Mahmud Hussain and Chief Executive Officer of Bangladesh Tourism board (BTB) Aktaruz Zaman Khan Kabir spoke as guest of honour. ATJFB convenor Nadira Kiron gave the welcome speech while its Office Secretary Kamal Uddin Ahmed gave the vote of thanks.

Editor of Bangladesh Monitor Kazi Wahidul Alam moderated the roundtable while Professor of Department of Tourism and Hospitality Management of Dhaka University Dr Mobina Khandokar and ATJFB Member Secretary Tanzim Anwar presented keynote papers separately. Tour operators, representatives from hotel management and travel industry also shared their views on the occasion.

Faruk Khan said Bangladesh has a number of unique tourist destinations and those could be capitalized for promoting eco-tourism. He described the private sector as engine of economic growth and urged the private sector stakeholders in the industry to come up with investments to set up tourism related universities and institutions to create skilled manpower.

In doing so, he said, the government is ready to give necessary policy support, he added. Khurshed Alam said the government plans tax rebate to give a big boost to the tourism industry. He also said steps would be taken to review the activities of Bangladesh Tourism Board so that it can work more efficiently. “The BTB is highly dominated by bureaucrats. So, inclusion of private sector representatives in the state-run organization is under the government’s active consideration,” he said.

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Bangla food showcased in Islamabad

DHAKA, Nov 21, 2012 (BSS) – Bangladesh cuisines, including Biriani and sweets, were displayed in an international women food festival in Islamabad. Bangladesh, Belgium, Bosnia-Harzegovina, Brunei, Cuba, Iraq, Japan, Malaysia, Maldives, Nepal, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland, who have Missions in Islamabad, took part in the festival, said a press release.

Diplomats’ wives of the respective countries served foods in the Islamabad Foreign Women’s Association (IFWA) Food Festival held on November 17. The festival is a regular event since it was established in 1995 in Islamabad as a charity organization by the wives of the diplomats in Pakistan.

The fund raised from the festival is being utilized for the underprivileged women and children of Pakistan. The funds collected from the Food Festival were donated to hospital, orphanage, school and shelter for women and children in Islamabad.

Bangladeshi Biriani, fish cutlet and sweets were displayed and served to the visitors. The visitors spoke high about Bangladeshi foods. Rowsshana Ara Hossain, wife of Bangladesh High Commissioner to Pakistan, inaugurated the festival as its President.

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Bid to popularise ballet in Turkey

ANKARA – Anatolia News Agency – The Ankara State Opera and Ballet (ADOB) will organize public concerts, musicals and organized pieces in districts across the city in an effort to bring opera and ballet to the attention of the public.

ADOB’s head and art director Aykut Çınar said the 2013 season had been welcomed in with a concert held last month and that their teams were preparing performances with excitement. “I think people remain distant from opera and ballet as they do not know about them,” Çınar said, adding that performance tours for the new city had been organized and tested in the cities of Kayseri, Sivas and Bolu.

Çınar said art-lovers showed great interest in opera and ballet and that this interest had influenced what they organized for the next year. “We are thinking of ways to be more visible to the public. We even started to search for outdoor areas where we could organize concerts. We want to organize large-scale public events. Our aim is not to hold traditional concerts but to plan and design differently and hold boutique events that would also include dance shows, concerts and stage plays,” he said.

ADOB will organize 205 events for the season, a number exceeding 350 when taking into account operas and children’s plays in the Leyla Gencer Children’s Opera. Çınar also said a concert for New Year’s Day is in the works. “We want to meet our fellow townsmen from Ankara wherever we organize the event,” she said.

Çınar said Turkish people had became familiar with opera relatively recently. “The problem is the reflex of rejecting the unknown. As long as a work is presented with good examples and competent artists, I think Turkish people would not reject it. Turks know about the quality of voice since they express their sorrow and joy through singing songs. As long as it is introduced well, opera would encounter no problem in this country,” she said.

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High speed trains set to boost Turkish economy

ANKARA – Anatolia News Agency – Turkey’s high speed train lines, expected to constitute 10,000 of the country’s total 25,000 kilometers of railway by 2023, will make a significant contribution to economic, social and cultural development, according to Transport Minister Binali Yıldırım. “The high speed train lines that will connect four major cities: Ankara-Istanbul, Ankara-İzmir and Ankara-Bursa, will carry more than 30 million passengers a year and their contribution to the economy will exceed $800 million annually,” Yıldırım said yesterday, adding that Turkey was the world’s eighth and Europe’s sixth country to take advantage of high speed train technology.

Yıldırım said work on the Ankara-Istanbul line, which is expected to carry 17 million passengers a year when finished, is nearing its end. “We will open this project, which will decrease the travel time between the two cities to three hours, simultaneously with Marmaray on Sept. 30, 2013,” the minister said.

Yıldırım said that the Ankara-İzmir and Ankara-Bursa routes were expected to carry 6 million passengers a year each, adding that the high speed network would also reach Kayseri, Sivas and Erzincan in the east and Antalya in the south.

The transportation minster noted that the high speed trains had high energy efficiency and offers comfort to its passengers. “According to estimations, 5.5 million people will travel by train instead of their private cars,” Yıldrım said. “One of our priorities is to reduce the country’s dependency on highways. The traffic will be better and when you consider the cars that will not be on roads and their costs, the country will save more than $160 million in total. With less usage of exported energy, the current account deficit will decrease by $185 million. Fewer cars on the roads will also mean fewer traffic accidents, which will save our country an additional $571 million.”

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Turkey in top league of tourism business

ISTANBUL – Anatolia News Agency – Turkey has become one of the top 10 countries for tourism, said Turkish Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges (TOBB) President Rifat Hisarcıklıoğlu at the United Nations Tourism Summit at Istanbul’s Haliç Congress Center yesterday. The event was jointly organized by the Culture and Tourism Ministry, the Turkish Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges (TOBB).

The sector’s annual 10 percent growth in Turkey surpasses the world average at 3 percent, Hisarcıklıoğlu said. The global tourism growth will present $300 billion of revenue opportunity in the next seven years, he said. Nearly 1,200 participants, more than 300 of which were foreign, from 55 countries making up 91 percent of the global tourism sector attended the event.

Turkey has been involved in the tourism sector for about 25 years, Tourism and Culture Minister Ertuğrul Günay, said at the event. “Tourism will be one of the founding sectors of the 21st century,” he said. The global number of tourists hit 1 billion, Appointed Executive Director of the UN-HABITAT Joan Clos said, adding that the tourism sector was a part of the economy of today and tomorrow.

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Public works minister opens Jordan Real Estate Expo

Amman, November 23(Petra) — Minister of Public Works and Housing Yahia Al- Kasbi on Friday commended the role of the private sector in enhancing investment in the kingdom, especially in the housing and real estate fields. The minister, who opened today the International Real Estate Fair in Amman, told Petra that such events highly contribute to promoting investment and partnership between the public and private sectors, hailing efforts exerted to hold such exhibition. The three-day meeting is organized by Souhadam Business Consultant Agency in cooperation with The Jordan Housing Developers Association. The fair aims to serve real estate buyers, investors, developers, architectures, designers and professionals in Jordan.

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