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28 Nov, 2016

Iran, Russia To Simplify Visa Issuance for Tour Groups

Compiled by Imtiaz Muqbil

A compilation of progressive, positive, inspiring and motivating events and developments in the world of Islam for the week ending 28 November 2016 (28 Safar 1438). Pls click on any of the headlines below to go to the story.



1MALAYSIA YEAR-END SALE IS BACK! Grab the best year-end deals

Malaysia’s annual year-end shopping event, the 1Malaysia Year-End Sale, is here again with participating retailers and malls throughout the country all set to entice shoppers with attractive bargains and exciting programmes. The two months shopping extravaganza, from 1 November until 31 December, was officially launched today by the Deputy Minister of Tourism and Culture Malaysia Datuk Mas Ermieyati Samsudin at Freeport A’Famosa Outlet, Alor Gajah. Tourism Malaysia has embarked on promoting Experiential Shopping packages that enable shoppers to go on a shopping spree while enjoying Malaysia’s best cuisines, entertainment or leisure activities, and visiting attractive tourist spots located near the malls or retail hubs.

The 1Malaysia Year-End Sale is the peak time for shoppers to get the most out of Experiential Shopping as most of the major shopping malls and retail outlets are offering attractive bargains, discounts and in-store redemptions that are too hard to resist. Besides shopping, there is also a line-up of various exciting entertainment events that promises lots of fun and adventure for shoppers to enjoy with their families. Freeport A’Famosa Outlet is among the retailers that offer the best Christmas deals during the sales campaign. For those who love unique art pieces, Kraftangan Malaysia is showcasing a wide array of beautiful craft and textile products from various countries at the Kuala Lumpur International Craft Festival, held at Kompleks Kraf Kuala Lumpur from 24 to 27 November. A Journey Through Time, an exclusive annual event that showcases luxury timepieces and jewellery, is among the major highlights of the 1Malaysia Year-End Sale. This year marks the 10th anniversary of this grand event, which is held from 4 to 13 November at Starhill Gallery.

The three annual sales carnivals in Malaysia have helped spur economic growth in the past years. In 2015, shopping registered the highest tourist expenditure, overtaking accommodation for the first time, with a share of 31.3% of the country’s total tourist receipts.New excitement awaits shoppers as new malls and lifestyle hubs are ready to jazz up the local retail landscape. Apart from Freeport A’Famosa Outlet (opened in January 2016), other new line-ups include DA MEN Mall, Isetan Mitsukoshi concept store and Pavilion Elite (all in the Klang Valley), as well as Design Village Outlet Mall in Penang. A new premium outlet centre, Genting Premium Outlets, is set to open soon in Genting Highlands, Pahang.

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 http://www.tourismmalaysia.gov.my

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

twitter: http://twitter.com/tourismmalaysia

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


Watch Islamic Travel Newswire Executive Editor Imtiaz Muqbil’s landmark TEDx lecture on “Peace through Tourism” on YouTube — the first travel industry journalist in Bangkok invited to speak at this prestigious forum. CLICK HERE.



Malaysia’s Shopping Campaign Wins Award In Hong Kong

PUTRAJAYA, 22 NOVEMBER 2016 – Malaysia has once again made headlines for winning ‘The Most Favourite Promotional Activity’ award at the recent U Magazine Travel Awards 2016.

The awards recognises tourism campaigns implemented by international tourism promotion boards in Hong Kong. Malaysia won for its shopping campaign which featured Miss Shophia – an animated icon that’s portrayed as a shopping companion in Malaysia, to guide shoppers on fashion trends, the latest news on when and where to shop, what to look out for and how to get the best shopping bargains in Malaysia.

Tourism Malaysia travel partners in Hong Kong promoted Malaysia’s travel and shopping packages prominently featuring Miss Shophia in all their print and online media advertisements.

The campaign was successful in creating awareness among Hong Kong tourists on Malaysia as an exciting shopping destination. The favourable exchange rate of the Ringgit Malaysia as well as the convenience of the Tourist Refund Scheme served to boost their interest further.

U Magazine was founded in December 2005. It is an award-winning weekly publication that focuses on travel, food and lifestyle. Since its inception, the magazine has received more than 30 awards in Asia and Hong Kong. The awards is now in its fourth year with public nomination newly introduced. It is one of the most recognised and credible awards in the travel industry.

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Malaysia, Thailand plan High-Speed Railway Project

BANGKOK, Thailand, 23 November 2016, (NNN-Bernama) – Malaysia and Thailand will soon begin discussions on the feasibility of constructing a 1,400km High Speed Rail (HSR) connecting Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok, according to the Thai Transport Minister.

Arkom Termpittayapaisith said the project, if it gets the green light, will shorten the journey between the two capitals to six hours.

Discussions between the two countries will begin at the official level before proceeding to the ministerial level, he said, without specifying the exact date for the start of the official talks.

“Thailand already has a southbound high-speed train project in the works from Bangkok to Hua Hin. Officials will look into whether that line should be extended or if a totally new line should be built from Bangkok,” he told the local media here today.

Arkom said he preferred an extension from Prachuap Khiri Khan in Hua Hin to Padang Besar in Sadao, before linking to Kuala Lumpur.

During the Malaysia-Thailand annual consultation meeting in Bangkok a few months ago, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and his Thai counterpart Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha agreed to conduct a feasibility study on the HSR project connecting the two capitals.

The project, said Najib, will complement the HSR linking Malaysia’s capital and Singapore.

Meanwhile, deputy permanent secretary for transport Peraphon Thawornsupacharoen said the State Railway of Thailand (SRT) will start talks with the Malaysian authorities.

According to him, China and Japan had already expressed an interest in the feasibility study for the Bangkok-Kuala Lumpur HSR project.

He also did not discount the possibility of the Bangkok-Kuala Lumpur HSR project extending its reach to Laos and China in the future.

Peraphon said out of the 1,400 km Bangkok-Kuala Lumpur HSR rail line, 500 km will be in Malaysia.

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University holds USTART Malaysia 2016

KUALA LUMPUR, 21 November 2016, (Bernama) — Universiti Malaya, via its Centre for Innovation and Commercialization (UMCIC) is organizing the second USTART Malaysia 2016 on 22-23 November 2016 at the Research Management and Innovation Complex (KPPI), Universiti Malaya, Kuala Lumpur. This annual event is a continuation of the successful USTART Malaysia and USTART ASEAN events held last year.

USTART Malaysia 2016 is a unique networking platform for university startups, university technology managers, aspiring technopreneurs and collaborators within the innovation ecosystem. This year’s event will be attended by almost 300 participants and exhibitors from institutions of higher learning and their startup companies, industry players, public agencies, entrepreneurs, promoters and business angels, from within Malaysia and ASEAN. The two-day event will be filled with sharing sessions by distinguished speakers representing a span of stakeholders from deep technology ventures, ecosystem leaders, incubator managers and social innovators in thematic panellist sessions, showcases, pitching sessions and IPR clinics.

Key speakers include Mr. Patrick Grove, CEO and co-founder of Catcha Group, CEO of ecosystem drivers Dato’ Norhalim Yunus (MTDC), Datuk Dr. Mohd. Yusoff Sulaiman (MIGHT), Dr. Samsilah Roslan (ITMA), Houston Technology Centre Asia Director, Mr. Vincent Fernando and Mr. Ashran Ghazi, CEO of MaGIC. Meet ecosystem personalities such as Nadira Mohd Yusoff of myNEF & MD of Girls-in-Tech Malaysia, Dr. Arham Abdullah, Director of Industry Liaison Division (BHI), MOHE, Dr. Viraj Perera, CEO of PlaTCOM Ventures and Global Entrepreneurship Movement (GEM) Ambassador, Nur Fazura Sharifuddin. Listen to the Social Entrepreneurs from the likes of Skolafund, Zasve & Nazkids. Hear from Headliners including Tripfez, Flexilicate and Cell Tissue Technology. Learn from incubator experts from UM, TPM, UiTM, NUS, TARUC and CREST. Talk to tech startups UMCH, V-Wave Power, MyCRO and Microclear and chat with game changers such Zafrul Noordin (CodeAr.my), Dr. Kihoko Tokue (Leave A Nest Malaysia & Singapore) and Anna Reherman (Growth Hacking Asia).

USTART 2016 continues to celebrate partnerships and is supported by key ecosystem stakeholders including BHI MOHE, UEM, MTDC, TM, myNEF, MIGHT, MyIPO, TPM, SME Bank, Longwood Assets, Milo and key strategic partners including MaGIC, GEC, PlaTCOM Ventures, ITMA, CRADLE, MBAN, INVEST KL, Marks & Clerk, Asia Research News and UMEC with celebrations and live entertainment supported by the University of Malaya Cultural Centre.

USTART 2016 will be officially launched by YB Dato’ Sri Hajah Nancy Shukri, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department on the 22nd of November at the Auditorium of Research Management and Innovation Complex (KPPI), Universiti Malaya, with the signature theme “Creating Economic & Social Impact through University Startups”.

About UM: http://www.um.edu.my

The University of Malaya (UM) is the foremost and premier Research University (RU) in Malaysia. It is a multidisciplinary RU that has more than 27,000 students and 1700 academic staff with 17 faculties and research centres covering the whole spectrum of learning from the Arts, Sciences and Humanities. The university’s beginning at the beautiful 750-acres campus in the heart of Kuala Lumpur dates back to 1957 and thus far has a huge alumni of over 100,000, among them renowned and illustrious personalities and leaders in various fields.

About UMCIC: http://www.umcic.um.edu.my

Universiti Malaya Centre for Innovation and Commercialization (UMCIC) is the Universiti Malaya’s technology transfer office manages the university’s broad intellectual property portfolio and commercialization of ideas and technologies.

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Malaysian Minister: Muslim Umma Must Focus on Ties That Bind Them

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, 18 November 2016, (NNN-Bernama) — The Muslim Ummah must continue to focus on and highlight the ties that bind them and not let their differences tear them apart, said Foreign Minister Anifah Aman.

He said they must always focus on the long-term interests of the Ummah and find ways to work together to forge unity and solidarity.

“Division, conflicts and disunity cause a great deal of harm to the Muslim Ummah. They sow seeds of discord among its member and pull them apart,” he said in his address at the Council of Foreign Ministers’ Emergency Session in Makkah, Saudi Arabia, Thursday.

Anifah said he believed that unity and solidarity among the Ummah can be achieved by promoting a culture of moderation, which espouses tolerance, respect and understanding amongst them in order to build a peaceful, secure and equitable world.

The emergency session was held following two recent attacks that targeted Saudi Arabia last month, triggering outrage among Muslims across the world.

On Oct 27, a Yemeni Houthi ballistic missile was launched towards Makkah but was intercepted and destroyed by Saudi Arabian ground forces. Earlier, on Oct 9, a similar attack was carried out by the Houthis on a Saudi airbase in Taif.

Noting that the attacks constituted a threat to regional and global peace and security, Anifah stressed that the acts of aggression were deplorable and contrary to Islamic teachings and principles.

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LEAD STORY: Iran, Russia To Simplify Visa Issuance for Tour Groups

TEHRAN, Iran, 23 November 2016, (NNN-Bernama) – Iran and Russia have signed an agreement on introducing simpler rules for the issuance of travel visas to tour groups, IRNA news agency said.

The directors of consulate departments of the Iranian and Russian Foreign Ministries, Ali Chagani and Yevgeny Ivanov signed the agreement on Tuesday in the course of the fifth session of the Iranian-Russian commission for consular collaboration.

The two sides spoke for continued dialogue between the Iranian and Russian consular serives.

On Feb 6, 2016, the two countries put into legal effect an intergovernmental agreement on simpler rules for trips to Russia and Iran by certain categories of Russian and Iranian citizens.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iranian President Hasan Rouhani signed to the document on Nov 23, 2015 during Putin’s visit to Teheran.

It envisions simpler regulations for the obtaining of visas by businessmen,

cultural personalities, researchers, teachers, students, and tourists.

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Abu Dhabi finance zone courts Indian investors with zero tax

NEW DELHI, 24 November 2016, (WAM) – Abu Dhabi Global Market, ADGM, the international financial free zone, is looking to attract businesses in India and elsewhere with incentives such as one-stop servicing, full ownership, zero personal and corporate tax and unlimited repatriation of capital.

The UAE created the financial centre in the capital in October 2015 to support growth and diversification in the nation’s economy, Martin Tidestrom, Business Development Director of ADGM, told the Nikkei Asian Review while leading a delegation to India in the second week of November.

“In order to achieve this, we have created a business and operational platform that is unique in the region,” Tidestrom said. “We are a free zone (that operates under) English common law, which is the most recognised, and considered highly transparent for big-scale finance,” he added.

The financial centre created three independent bodies, the Registration Authority, the Financial Services Regulatory Authority and ADGM Courts, to operate in line with international best practices recognised in key global financial centers.

ADGM, located on the 114-hectare Al Maryah Island, registered 181 companies in its first year.

“With financial services at the core, we have a very strong representation from professional services as well,” Tidestrom said. “Auditing, accounting and various advisory companies are also coming on board to benefit financial services businesses and others. Companies also are interested in sectors such as energy, defense, health care and oil and gas.”

Australia’s Macquarie Group has signed up, and Aberdeen Asset Management announced on 16th November the opening of an office in Abu Dhabi, making it the first international asset manager to set up shop in the new zone. As of 30th June, Aberdeen said it was managing assets totaling US$402 billion on behalf of institutional and private investors.

The recent $200 million Goldilocks Fund was the first launched by Abu Dhabi Financial Group. The group said it will “seek opportunities in equity markets where it can positively transform a company’s fortune, revitalising the business strategy and providing the impetus to spur it on to future success.”

Asked about other potential entrants, Tidestrom said, “We can’t really reveal the names of our pipeline, but they are good local and regional banks and other big institutions.”

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3,500 Tourists Arrive in Aqaba

AQABA, 25 November 2016,(NNN-Petra) – The Italian cruise ship MSC Fantasia docked at Aqaba port on Thursday carrying 3,500 tourists from various European countries.

Chief Commissioner of the Aqaba Special Economic Zone Authority (ASEZA) Nasser Shreidah highlighted the importance of cruise ship tourism for Aqaba as well as the archaeological sited near the city, adding the tourists will tour the Aqaba city and also visit the ancient city of Petra.

MSC Cruises is an Italy founded, Swiss-registered, global cruise line with headquarters in Geneva.

MSC Cruises is the world’s largest privately owned cruise company, employing 16,300 people worldwide and having offices in 45 countries as of July 2014.

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31 Projects Completed In Maidan-Wardak, Afghanisan

Kabul, 23 November 2016, (BNA) – The National Solidarity Program NSP has executed 31 welfare development projects in Maidan-Wardak province yesterday.

According to the information of public relation department of Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development MRRD to BNA, the projects completed and inaugurated in Behsoud district and other parts of the province with the cost of 19000878 Afghanis.

The projects included digging water drinking wells, construction of health clinics, protection walls, irrigation canals, community centers, bridges and extension of four war networks.

Since its inceptions NSP has covered 1612 villages of the province so far succeeded to execute 3244 projects in different parts of the country.

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4th Africa-Arab World Summit Held in Malabo

YAOUNDE, 24 November 2016, (NNN-Xinhua) – The 4th Africa-Arab World Summit meeting opened on Wednesday in Equatorial Guinean capital Malabo with around 60 leaders from the two regions participating.

Under the theme “Together for sustainable development and economic cooperation,” this year’s summit focused on the “assessment of the progress achieved in the implementation of the action plan” adopted in the 3rd summit held in Kuwait in 2013, according to reports from Malabo.

The discussions also focused on “ways likely to deepen this cooperation framework at a time when Africa and the Arab world are working to collectively take up the common challenges they are facing.”

Equatorial Guinean President Obiang Nguema Mbasogo said while hosting the summit that there are many things in common between Africa and Arab countries, like history, culture and religion, etc. He hoped Africa can emerge and increase its position in international arena. He asked the Arab countries to help Africa emerge by providing advanced technologies.

General-Secretary of Arab League Ahmed Abou EL Gheit said the security situation in Africa is related with the security situation in Arab region, and hoped the two regions strenghthen the cooperation in the concerned areas.

At the summit, African Union President Nkosazama Dlamini Zuma called the youth in the two regions to promote their communication and cooperation in order to face the challenges of the new era.

The Africa-Arab Summit is the supreme policy organ of the Africa-Arab Partnership. It adopts the long and short term action plan and strategies of the partnership. The first Africa-Arab summit was held in Cairo, Egypt, in 1977, since 2010, the summit is held every 3 years alternatively in African and Arab countries, with the second one held in Libya, and the third in Kuwait.

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New Approach to Boost Innovative Entrepreneurs Across Africa

22 November 2016, (All Africa) – Boost Africa Initiative, a unique partnership in support of innovation and entrepreneurship across Africa has been launched on Monday, November 21 in Abidjan by the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the African Development Bank (AfDB) in partnership with the European Commission. The launch ceremony took place at the Headquarters of the AfDB in Abidjan in the presence of EIB President Werner Hoyer, AfDB President Akinwumi Adesina, EIB Vice-President Ambroise Fayolle and Stefano Manservisi, Director-General for International Cooperation and Development at the European Commission.

Boost Africa will contribute to fostering the development of an efficient entrepreneurial ecosystem in Africa by supporting the earliest and riskier stages of the venture value chain, in an economically viable and sustainable way. Boost Africa aims to spur the entrepreneurial potential of the African youth to create innovative and compelling businesses with the capacity to compete regionally and globally, to attract domestic and foreign direct investment, to create new and quality jobs, and contribute to inclusive and sustainable economic growth.

As a result of an initial combined investment of up to €150 million, the Initiative is expected to leverage up to €1 billion in additional investments in a high growth sector, and support over 1,500 start-ups and SMEs across the continent.

Pan-African in scope, the Boost Africa Initiative has three integrated pillars:

Firstly, Investment Program: equity investments in seed funds, business angels co-investment funds, accelerators’ follow-on funds, venture capital funds, etc. that invest in innovative start-ups and high-growth small and medium enterprises (SMEs);

Secondly, Technical Assistance Facility: a pool of grant resources to provide capacity building and disseminate best practices for the investment readiness of intermediaries, the business and technical assistance, training of investee companies and entrepreneurs, and the creation of local investors’ networks;

Thirdly, Innovation and Information Lab: a platform for supporting the entrepreneurship ecosystem by fostering innovation, knowledge development and partnerships, and incubating and piloting promising new ideas, as well as assessing and disseminating best practices.

“Boost Africa will help Africa’s young population to gain hope and confidence that they can succeed in realising their dreams and aspirations,” said AfDB President Akinwumi Adesina. “Africa’s future will be determined by the current youth and it is crucial that we create and support entrepreneurship opportunities for youth, generate success stories and show these as examples for other young people.”

EIB President Werner Hoyer said, “Boost Africa is a truly great initiative which will support African entrepreneurship and innovation, and nurture the continent’s new talent. It is thus a concrete way of tackling the long-term factors fuelling poverty, instability and brain drain ‚Äì many of which are at the origin of the migration crisis we all currently face ‚Äì and therefore make the Sustainable Development Goals a reality.I am proud that the EU and its Bank, the EIB, are operating in such effective partnership with the African Development Bank and other DFIs to tackle the world’s pressing challenges.” President Hoyer added, “What’s more, Boost Africa will hit the ground running, as the first start-ups and high-growth SMEs are expected to be supported very soon. These small businesses and the young men and women behind them are truly an inspiration, as are their dynamism and determination.”

Director-General for International Cooperation and Development at the European Commission Stefano Manservisi said, “Boost Africa will give a concrete push to innovation and spur the creation of new instruments which support financial inclusion, such as venture capital and impact investing which is in line with the European External Investment Plan approach. Thanks to a smart use of blended finance, Boost Africa aims at leveraging the full strength of two major financial institutions to venture into new areas of support for the new generation of African entrepreneurs and we want to give a particular focus on fragile and risky situations where financial services are not provided by the market. Boost Africa is a concrete example of actions that reflect EU’s determination to create conditions for job creation for youth.”

Through Boost Africa, the EIB and AfDB are widening their investment scope to projects that are usually deemed too small, too risky and too time consuming, but which are key to foster entrepreneurship and high impact innovation. Boost Africa is also unique in the emphasis it is putting on a sizeable technical assistance envelope, alongside financing, as well as on its Innovation and Information Lab to strengthen the investment program’s investments.

Boost Africa leverages business and financial expertise from AfDB and EIB, as well as from a broad network of partners and stakeholders, to accelerate the growth and development of start-ups in Africa, and will attract, make strategic use of and nurture a network of venture intermediaries for both financing and business development to boost African entrepreneurship. The comprehensive intervention approach is expected to contribute to the success and growth of start-ups in order to become significant businesses within their local environments.

“Africa is currently home to a boom in small businesses experimenting with innovative products, services or business models, often leveraging technology,” said Adesina. “This is the right time to support these enterprises with financial and technical resources to enable them to commercialise their innovations. Boost Africa will demonstrate to all Africans that they can and should take charge of their future. Boost Africa is a key initiative within the AfDB’s Jobs for Youth in Africa initiative, one of the Bank’s High 5 priorities.”

Deploying a blended finance approach, the investment program expects to invest up to 25-30 smaller-sized equity investments into angel, venture capital and seed funds, which in turn fund start-ups and early stage businesses with high-growth and job creation potential in Africa. Boost Africa’s first investment is expected to be in Telecom Tide Africa Fund, an ICT fund investing in tech start-ups in West and East Africa. Africa Technology Ventures supporting innovative start-ups in East Africa and helping them to expand globally is also under appraisal.

The European Commission’s support is sought by partners and is being currently appraised by the Commission along with its conditions and amount, to enable senior tranche investments to be made by the EIB, AfDB and potential other investors and leverage private investment. The EIB contribution of €50 million will come from the Impact Finance Envelope of the ACP Investment Facility (a revolving fund established under the Cotonou Agreement, which is managed by EIB and is funded out of contributions by EU Member States through the European Development Fund). The AfDB will commit €50 million equity risk capital for investments. The Investment Program is expected to provide investors with adequate financial returns coupled with a superior developmental impact. The technical assistance envelope for Boost Africa will amount to €20 million while the Lab will receive approximately €10 million.

Further details are available at: www.eib.org/boost-africa and http://www.afdb.org/en/boost-africa/

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AirAsia to serve Kuala Lumpur-Jakarta-Labuan Bajo route

Kupang, 9 November 2016, (ANTARA News) – The Malaysia-based low cost carrier AirAsia will soon serve the Kuala Lumpur-Jakarta-Labuan Bajo route, according to East Nusa Tenggara Tourism and Creative Economy Office Chief Marius Ardu Jelamu.

“There has been an agreement with the central government and the airline company that AirAsia will serve this new route starting from next year,” Jelamu said here on Wednesday.

He said the AirAsia’s new route will have a positive impact on the flow of tourists to the province of East Nusa Tenggara through the entry gate of Labuan Bajo.

“This new service of AirAsia will enable more foreign tourists to visit the leading destinations in East Nusa Tenggara,” he said, adding that tourism progress is dependent on smooth air transport connectivity.

Jelamu said that in addition to the Kuala Lumpur-Jakarta-Labuan Bajo route, his party is also trying to accelerate the implementation of Kupang-Dili-Darwin route.

“In addition to air connectivity from the west, the one from the south, namely from Australia to East Nusa Tenggara, also has its share of attractive markets for linking the three countries,” he said.

Jelamu expressed hope that the Kupang-Dili-Darwin route, which had been halted since 1990s, can be reopened soon to support the advancement of tourism in the island province.

“We hope that the Ministry of Transportation will quickly agree on the proposed route service with the airline,” he said.

Further, Jelamu said he appreciated the efforts of the Ministry of Transportation to have opened the Jakarta-Kupang and Jakarta-Labuan Bajo routes, served by Garuda Indonesia.

However, he said the flight path from the south also has attractive market potential related to the flow of tourists and expressed hope that the Kupang-Dili-Darwin route would be reopened soon.

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Air Arabia Confirms Options for Five Airbus A320’S

SHARJAH, United Arab Emirates, 24 November 2016,(NNN-WAM) – Air Arabia, the Middle East and North Africa’s first and largest low-cost carrier, announced today that, it has confirmed options for five additional Airbus A320 aircraft. The delivery of original contract, covering 44 firm orders and five options will be completed in 2017.

The five new Airbus A320 aircraft will be put into service starting second quarter of 2017 backlog, and have a book value of USD 485 million. These new aircraft will join Air Arabia’s expanding fleet of Airbus A320 aircraft, currently serving over 120 routes from five operational hubs.

“We are pleased to confirm the options for five additional Airbus A320’s. Air Arabia’s fleet innovation sits at the heart of the airline operational efficiency,” said Adel Al Ali, Group Chief Executive Officer of Air Arabia. “Today, we operate one of the youngest fleets in the world and this approach will continue to drive our fleet growth strategy for the future. Our customers can expect the same cabin comfort and spacious seat configuration with the new five aircraft joining the fleet.”

Air Arabia has been constantly rewarded over the past years, with the A320 Family Operational Excellence Award by Airbus for achieving the highest level of A320 family aircraft utilisation in the world, with 99.8 percent operational reliability. In 2010, the carrier set a new world record, achieving 30,000 flight hours in just six years, with one of its CFM56-5B-powered A320 aircraft.

Air Arabia currently operates a fleet of 46 Airbus A320 aircraft, offering flights to over 120 destinations, in 33 countries, from five hubs across the Middle East, Africa, Asia, and Europe.

The A320 Family, which includes the A318, A319, A320 and A321, is recognised as the benchmark single-aisle aircraft family in the world.

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Afghan Cycling Team Prepares For Pakistan Competition

Kabul, 22 November 2016, (BNA)- Afghan cycling national team will participate in a trial matches to be launched from Kabul to Nangarhar province tomorrow. Chosen of best cyclists is the aim of the matches to select for Pakistan cycling competition.

Mohammad Sadiq Sadiqi head of cycling federation in National Olympic Committee today said BNA reporter, in this matches cycling’ athletes will be participated from Kabul, Balkh, Parwan, Zabul and Baghlan provinces.

Among the participants six top cyclists to be selected for Pakistan cycling competition, which will be held in next 20 days in Lahore city.

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AFDB Board Approves 50M Boost Africa Investment Program

ABIDJAN, 24 November 2016, (NNN-AGENCIES) – The Board of Directors of the African Development Bank approved on Wednesday, November 16 a €50-million package of investments in various angel, venture, seed, accelerator and incubator funds with the aim of funding innovative start-ups and early stage small businesses across Africa.

The Boost Africa Investment Program seeks to invest in truly innovative businesses, mostly operated by youth (18-35 years) and that are positively ‘disruptive’ in a local market context thanks to a ‘uniqueness’ in terms of the overall business model, products, services, delivery mechanisms, technology applied or otherwise.

The initiative is one of the first instruments of the Bank’s recently approved Jobs for Youth Strategy, which responds to the renaissance of such entrepreneurially driven and home-grown business models in various sectors such as for example (off-grid) energy, telecom, agribusiness, industry, and privately delivered social services, such as health and education, that have the potential to grow and contribute significantly to inclusive growth and job creation.

“The Boost Africa Initiative thus aims to spur the entrepreneurial power of the African youth to create innovative and compelling businesses with the capacity to compete regionally and globally, to attract domestic and foreign direct investments, to create new and quality jobs, and contribute to economic growth,” said Stefan Nalletamby, Director of the Financial Sector Development Department at the AfDB.

Innovative start-ups need not only financing, but also capacity-building support and adequate networks and business connections, which will be offered through the broader Boost Africa Initiative which also has a Technical Assistance and a Lab component.

Boost Africa is expected to be a partnership with various investors and donors. AfDB developed the initiative with the European Investment Bank. The official joint launch took place in Abidjan on Monday, November 21, 2016.

The contributions by the AfDB and others will leverage further investments into this sector, up to a total amount of €1 billion.

The Boost Africa Initiative forms part of the AfDB’s High 5 priorities, in particular “Improving the quality of life for the people of Africa” and the related Jobs for Youth in Africa Initiative.

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$167M ADB Loan to Bangladesh to Improve Gas Production

DHAKA, 21 November 2016,(NNN-BSS) – The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved a $167 million loan to promote sustainable economic growth and reduce poverty in Bangladesh by improving production efficiency at a key gas field north of the capital Dhaka and by expanding transmission infrastructure.

The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) is expected to lend an additional $60 million, subject to board approval, which will be managed by ADB. It is the second project to be co-financed by ADB and AIIB, says a ADB press release.

Bangladesh’s economy is growing fast. But domestic natural gas supplies cannot keep pace with soaring demand for energy, resulting in a rising dependence on oil and diesel-based power generation. With gas reserves depleting, the Government of Bangladesh is trying to meet the supply shortage by importing liquefied natural gas.

“The project will help the government address the country’s energy crisis by making available additional clean energy, particularly imported natural gas, through the transmission network,” said Hongwei Zhang, Finance Specialist (Energy) in ADB’s South Asia Department. “By addressing gas supply constraints and transmission bottlenecks, the project will increase the energy sector’s contribution to sustainable economic growth in Bangladesh.”

The project will install seven wellhead gas compressors to increase pumping pressure and ensure steady extraction at the Titas gas field, Bangladesh’s largest field. The project will also boost gas transmission by building 181 kilometers of transmission pipeline from Chittagong to Bakhrabad southeast of Dhaka.

The $453 million project is expected to be completed in late 2021. It will substitute the use of other fossil fuels, thereby reducing over 700,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year over the ensuing 10 years. The Government of Bangladesh will provide $226 million for the project.

Natural gas is Bangladesh’s main energy source and a major driver of economic growth, providing nearly 75% of total primary energy consumed. More than half of the natural gas produced is used to generate electricity. However, a widening gap between demand and supply has highlighted the urgent need to accelerate gas exploration and production, and to expand transmission infrastructure.

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Baku to host Int’l Symposium on Azerbaijani Carpets

Baku, 23 November 2016, (AZERTAC) – Azerbaijan Carpet Museum and the Executive Committee of the International Conference on Oriental Carpets (ICOC) have signed a cooperation protocol as Minister of Culture and Tourism Abulfas Garayev met with ICOC Academic Chair Alberto Boralevi and Editor-in-Chief of “HALI” Magazine Ben Evans.

Minister Garayev pointed out President Ilham Aliyev’s order to organize the 5th International Symposium on Azerbaijani Carpets in Baku next October. He noted the importance of the event in promoting Azerbaijan’s ancient art of carpet-making.

He said the Azerbaijani carpet and decorative arts were included in the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity of UNESCO.

Alberto Boralevi said the ICOC will assist Azerbaijan in organizing the 5th International Symposium on Azerbaijani Carpets.

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Astana receives National Geographic Traveler Award 2016

24 November2016, Astana was awarded the prize of the National Geographic Traveler magazine in a special nomination ‘City of the Future’. The prestigious award, which was held for the sixth time, is the Oscar of the tourism industry, and this year its partner is Astana EXPO 2017.

Kazakhstan’s capital city received the award for its dynamic development and high tourism potential, and the magazine itself called Astana the city where Oriental flavor is combined with European comfort.

Mariya Meshcheryakova from Russia won in the category “Kazakhstan: Time for Discoveries” with an essay about tourist destinations in Kazakhstan. Mariya studies in Rome and has never been to Kazakhstan. However, she mapped out her dream route to famous attractions of Kazakhstan.

Olga Yakovina, Editor-In-Chief, National Geographic Traveler: Kazakhstan is a very interesting destination for us. It is interesting for Russian tourists and for the entire world now. The country is developing rapidly and therefore we made a special nomination for Astana ‘City of the Future’. 264,000 people took part in voting; more than 60 countries competed for the prize, so it was a tough competition.

Maria Meshcheryakova, Winner In Special Nomination: I took some thematic trips from around the world and tried to find similar routes in Kazakhstan. It turned out that it is truly amazing. I described the amazing Kaindy Lake, and if at any point of my life, I have an opportunity to swim there and see that underwater forest, it would be unforgettable. Sliding down on a snowboard in a singing desert just like in Dubai, but in Kazakhstan, which is closer and dearer, and maybe I would visit Baikonur, the city of stars and space.

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China launches Arabic researchers and translators forum

CAIRO, Egypt, 22 November 2016, (NNN-MENA) – The Chinese Cultural Centre in Egypt, launched on Monday, a forum of Arab researchers and translators of the Chinese language.

The ceremony was attended by Chen Dongyun, head of the centre, and the Cultural Affairs Counsellor, of the Chinese Embassy in Cairo, as well as, a number of Arab and Egyptian diplomats and translators of the Chinese language.

“I started to think of forming this forum since I arrived in Egypt six years ago,” Chen told the forum. “The Egyptians pay special academic attention to the Chinese language.”

She said, the Chinese Cultural Centre should play an important role, to boost translation activities, as Egypt embraces the largest number of Chinese language translators.

For her part, Professor Nahed Abdullah, head of Chinese Translation and Literature, at Ain Shams University and the executive chief of the forum, said, the forum aims at holding workshops and courses, with the goal of spreading the Chinese culture in Egypt.

“The forum also focuses on supporting the initiatives of Chinese-Arabic translation,” she said.

The event coincides with celebrations of the 60th anniversary of the commencement of diplomatic representation between the two countries, and the 2016 China Culture Year in Egypt.

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Amir Kabir University of Technology ranks 4th in world

Tehran, 24 November 2016, (IRNA) — Amir Kabir University of Technology ranks fourth in the world in terms of the number of faculty members in the course of medical engineering.

Secretary of the First International Biomedical Engineering Conference Farzad Tohidkhah told the inaugural ceremony that the course is new to Iran.

He noted that the first medical engineering faculty in Iran was established in Amir Kabir University of Technology.

He further said that world’s first medical engineering faculty was set up in John Hopkins University, which ranks first in terms of the number of faculty members.

Nanyang Technological University, Melbourne University and Amir Kabir University of Technology stand second to fourth in this respect respectively, he said.

Tohidkhah also said that Medical Engineering Faculty of Amir Kabir University of Technology is among the top faculties in the world in the field of research.

The First Biomedical Engineering Conference opened in Amir Kabir University of Technology on November 24 and will continue for two days.

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Britain Keen to Collaborate with Malaysia on Islamic Finance ????

KUALA LUMPUR, 24 November 2016, (NNN-NST) — The British government is keen to collaborate further with Malaysia in the areas of Islamic finance, considering Malaysia’s position as both pioneer and leader in this sphere.

“Speaking on behalf of the British government, we are very excited to continue working with Malaysia, which is not only a pioneer but also the reigning leader in Islamic finance,” said Deputy British High Commissioner, Paul Rennie.

“In fact, we are (keen) to work with Malaysia (to) explore the Islamic finance industry further,” he said.

Rennie had earlier officiated the one-day inaugural Islamic Finance Innofest 2016 (IFInnoFest), which aims to highlight alternative Islamic finance solutions for some of the current issues and challenges faced within the industry.

“The competition that we face now in the areas of finance, be it Islamic or conventional, are not from governments, but from online media and the things that are springing up around us,” said Rennie.

“What we see as disruptions are just us not keeping up with how the world is going, which is to be quick enough to both explore and innovate new ideas,” Rennie added.

He went on to say that there is a great capital trap between borders, especially within the microfinance segment, which could be ironed out with greater collaboration.

“There is still so much to do and I hope that continuous collaboration between all stakeholders will help enable smoother capital flows for the benefit of all, economically and individually,” said Rennie.

The United Kingdom had in June 2014 became the first non-Muslim country to launch a sovereign Sukuk, which signals its recognition and acceptance of the potential of Islamic finance in global markets.

“The issuance of Britain’s first sovereign Sukuk delivers on the government’s commitment to become the western hub of Islamic finance and is part of our long term economic plan to make Britain the undisputed centre of the global financial system,” said Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, at the launch of the issuance, then.

“We have seen very strong demand for the Sukuk, resulting in a price that delivers good value for money for the taxpayer. I hope that the success of this government’s issuance will encourage further private sector issuances of Sukuk in the UK,” said Rennie.

Local financial giant, CIMB Investment Bank Bhd acted as the Joint Lead Manager and Bookrunner for the UK£200 million Sukuk offering by HM Treasury UK Sovereign Sukuk PLC, a special purpose vehicle wholly-owned by Her Majesty’s Treasury.

The Sukuk was priced on June 25, 2014 at 2.036 per cent, representing a spread of 0 basis points (bps) relative to the yield on the 1% per cent Treasury Gilt 2019 and the price is set at UK£100.

The deal was significantly oversubscribed by more than 10 times, attracting interest in excess of over UK£2 billion.

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Kazakhstan Exhibits Best domestic goods

Astana, 25 November 2016, (Khabar Agency) – Best domestic goods that can become a trademark of Kazakhstan were chosen in Astana. The second forum of domestic manufacturers with the participation of more than 700 entrepreneurs, chiefs of state bodies and national companies was held at Korme exhibition center.

Participants discussed mechanisms of entering foreign markets and government support measures. The parties also signed long-term contracts, which, according to the organizers, guarantee a successful business promotion. According to the Kazakh Minister of Investments and Development, the share of local content in procurements today totals about 60%.

There is a potential of selling products abroad. In addition, Atameken National Chamber of Entrepreneurs has organized a competition for awarding the brand ‘Uly Dala Yeli’. It will be awarded every year to the leading domestic manufacturers and service providers of Kazakhstan.

Zhenisbek Dulatov, Staff, National Chamber Of Entrepreneurs: Some companies that participate in the contest ‘Uly Dala’ are already selling their products abroad. For example, the company Rakhat, and other companies are exporting their products to China. The idea of the contest ‘Uly Dala Yeli’ is aimed at combining under a common brand, the high quality Kazakhstani goods, so that they can be exported under a single brand.

The exhibition “Best Product of Kazakhstan” was also held within the forum. More than 300 companies, including 145 winners of the regional competitions, presented their products. Everyone could test the quality of the products, as well as to establish business contacts. Diploma winners received the right to use the logo of the competition for advertising purposes for four years, which will boost support for domestic business, the organizers say. The best companies will be awarded at the annual awards ceremony ‘Altyn Sapa’, which will be held in Astana on December 6.

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Bangladeshi film ‘Shikari’ to be screened in Malaysia

DHAKA, 24 November 2016,(BSS)- Shikari, a Bengali film jointly produced by Bangladesh and India, will be screened in a Kuala Lumpur cinema hall.

Information Minister Hasanul Haq Inu will inaugurate the screening of the film on November 27 at Federal Cinema Hall on Jalan Raza Road in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur.

Shikari, subtitled Hunter, is a 2016 Bangladesh-India joint venture action thriller drama film directed by Joydeep Mukherjee and Zakir Hossain Simanto. Produced by Abdul Aziz and Himanshu Dhanuka under the Jaaz Multimedia and Eskay Movies banners, Bangladeshi celebrated actor Shakib Khan and Indian Tollywood (Bengali) heartthrob Srabanti Chatterjee and veteran actor Sabyasachi Chakrabarty casted in the film.

The film also features Amit Hasan, Kharaj Mukherjee, Shupriyo Dutta and Rahul Dev in supporting roles.

It is an official remake of the 2009 Tamil movie Aadhavan which was itself inspired from the 1990 Malayalam movie His Highness Abdullah.

The soundtrack album and background score of the film was composed by Indradeep Dasgupta.

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Bangladesh prepares for World’s Second Largest Muslim Congregation

DHAKA, 24 November 2016, (NNN-BSS) — Bangladesh police are set to take special security measures for the two phases Biswa Ijtema, the second largest congregation of the Muslim community, on the bank of River Turag at Tongi, on Jan 12-15 and Jan 20-22.

“Police are very much sincere in holding the Biswa Ijtema in a peaceful and secured manner and it will prepare the security plan in coordination with other law enforcement and security agencies,” Inspector General of Police (IGP) AKM Shahidul Hoque said after holding a meeting with Tablig Jamaat leaders at Police Headquarters here.

The meeting decided to deploy plain cloth policemen alongside uniformed one, Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), Ansar and Armed Police Battalion personnel in large numbers in and around the Ijtema venue to ensure security of the pilgrims.

It also decided to install archways, closed-circuit camera televisions (CCTVs) and watch towers to make the security foolproof. Activities of the banned militant outfits will be monitored closely aimed at avoiding any untoward incidents.

The meeting also discussed traffic management system to ease public sufferings centering the Ijtema.

The Biswa Ijtema is the second largest Islamic congregation after the Hajj. It is one of the largest peaceful gatherings in the world.

The Ijtema is a prayer meeting spread over three days, during which attending devotees perform daily prayers while listening to scholars reciting and explaining verses from the Quran. The Ijtema is considered a demonstration of Muslim unity, solidarity, mutual love and respect and an opportunity to reiterate their commitment to Islamic values.

The Ijtema is non-political and therefore it draws people of all persuasion. It is attended by devotees from 150 countries.

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Azerbaijani mugham master to give concerts in US, Australia

Baku, 22 November 2016, (AZERTAC) – Azerbaijani people’s artist Alim Gasimov and his daughter Fargana Gasimova will give concerts in the US and Australia in January 2017. In the US, they will be accompanied by “Yo-Yo Ma” and “Silk Road” ensembles.

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British Ambassador admires Indonesia’s culture of tolerance

Jakarta, 24 November 2015, (ANTARA News) – Moazzam Malik, British Ambassador to Indonesia, ASEAN and East Timor, has expressed his admiration for the culture of tolerance applied by Indonesia, and urged the countrys government and people to share their experiences to other countries in the world.

“Among all the countries that Ive worked, Indonesia could be considered the most successful country in protecting and promoting tolerance and moderation,” the ambassador stated in a general lecture at the University of Gadjah Mada (UGM), Yogyakarta, on Wednesday (Nov 23), according to a statement from UGM received by ANTARA News here on Thursday.

He shared several special experiences during his first visit to Indonesia a few years ago.

As a Muslim who grew up in England, he was surprised and proud to see women in Muslim dress riding motorcycles on public streets, and attend a meeting led by a woman Islam cleric at the State Palace.

These experiences are something that cannot be found in many other Muslim countries, he added.

“Maybe for you, it is a common matter to see women in headscarves riding motorcycles. But for me, it is so incredible that I instantly took a photo and sent it to my daughter. In some Muslim countries, this could cause big controversy,” Malik pointed out.

He sees the condition as unique in the religious life in Indonesia which, on a larger scale, could be a potential solution to the problems of intolerance in the world.

In particular, he mentioned two characters which he observed form the culture of tolerance in Indonesia.

First, diversity has become a character of Indonesia, as a country with thousands of islands, since the beginning, unlike most countries that were initially homogeneous and began to be diverse due to migration.

Besides, “Pancasila” (a philosophical foundation of the Indonesian state) as the foundation of the state, and “Bhinneka Tunggal Ika” (Unity in Diversity) as the national motto, have deep meanings in life, he added.

“Most countries do not have a similar idea and not even have a national motto like that. That makes Indonesia special. In the UK, weve just talked about national values about three years ago and it was brought up a debate,” Malik stated.

According to Malik, those uniqueness were the reasons Indonesia should be more active in talks on plurality in world forums to build a joint solution to the problems of intolerance, which continues to be an important issue from time to time.

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CA$11.9M initiative to boost ASEAN SMEs

24 November 2016, (Borneo Bulletin) – CANADA is working with Asean to deliver an ambitious five-year, CA$11.9 million initiative through a partnership with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) to support small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the region.

The Canada-OECD Project on ASEAN SMEs (COPAS) is an initiative that aims to create more competitive, resilient and innovative SMEs in Asean that are better able to benefit from the ASEAN ASEAN Community (AEC).

Canada will be supporting ASEAN SMEs by bringing world-class expertise and experience under the COPAS.

The project was highlighted yesterday by Sharon Armstrong, the Director/Counsellor (Development) of the Embassy of Canada for Indonesia and Asean, and Marina B Laker, the High Commissioner of Canada to Brunei Darussalam in an interview with the Bulletin. It was shared that the project works with policy makers from the ASEAN Secretariat, the ASEAN Coordinating Committee on micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (ACCMSME) and ASEAN member states.

The project aims to improve their knowledge, skills and capacity to ensure that they are better equipped to work together; identify key lessons learned; prioritise policy reforms; and develop and adopt relevant programmes and policies that improve SME competitiveness, resilience and regional and global linkages.

The project also supports the implementation of the Strategic Action Plan for Asean MSMEs by focusing on action lines that will help enhance SME productivity, provide SMEs greater access to finance, integrate SMEs to value chains and strengthen the policy and regulatory environment.

On what the project has done to date, it was shared that the “Starting a Business in ASEAN” report was recently concluded. It is an evidence-based analysis that compares experiences across ASEAN and provides clear and concrete recommendations to member states. Endorsed by the ASEAN Senior Economic Officials in June 2016, the report will serve as an important reference for evidence-based policy reforms.

Also, through the project, Canada has worked with ASEAN and OECD to support important regional meetings such as the SME Regional Policy Network meeting in Singapore in late May/early June 2016 and the Southeast Asia Regional Forum in Hanoi in June 2016. The project also supported another SME Regional Policy Network gathering here in Brunei on November 22, bringing together policymakers from across ASEAN to discuss the impact of the digital economy on SMEs and ways to analyse and compare relevant SME policies in this area.

Armstrong attended the aforementioned SME Regional Policy Network meeting in Brunei.

As she explained in yesterday’s interview, COPAS is a “project we are funding that is being delivered by the OECD that assists the ACCMSME to help deliver on the Asean Strategic Plan on SMEs.”

“It’s really about trying to have more inclusive, productive economies and about really trying to enable SMEs to take advantage of the Asean Economic Community.

“We all know that the AEC came into effect as of the beginning of this year, but what does that really mean for SMEs and how can they take advantage of it?

“Of course, we live in a world where one of the things that the committee was talking about in the Regional Policy Network meeting was the digital economy, what that means for SMEs, how SMEs can take better advantage and how the ASEAN member states and ministries can put into place the right kind of policies and legislative framework so that SMEs can actually take advantage.”

She also shared an example of what the project has done. “One of the first things that the project did just in the last few months was to work on starting a business. This was actually one of the priorities of Lao PDR as the chair of ASEAN last year.”

“The project supported a series of workshops and analyses in different countries, including Brunei, about what starting a business looks like in this country. To try and identify, country by country, how many steps does it take, how many things need to be signed, how can you get licences, how much time does it require, and how much money does it require for a small business to get started?

“The OECD through this project deconstructed that ‘starting a business’ part and looked at all of the ASEAN countries with a view to saying how they compare, what the real problems are in terms of starting a business, and the next step will be on what policy measures these countries can take, including Brunei, to actually address some of these things and make it better.

“So then of course we will hopefully be looking at real policies, real changes that will affect SME owners and businesses.”

On the project’s importance to Canada, Armstrong said, “Overall our regional development programme supports sustainable economic growth, and advancing democracy or more accountable and inclusive governance. On the sustainable economic growth side, I think what we recognise is that SMEs are really the engine for growth across ASEAN.”

She highlighted Canada’s long-standing relationship with ASEAN, noting that ASEAN is Canada’s 6th largest merchandise trading partner, with two-way merchandise trade amounting to $21.4 billion in 2015. In addition 11,560 students from ASEAN member states study in Canada.

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Campaign on promotion of Kazakhstani goods in Russia

25 November 2016, (Khabar Agency) – Domestic production is available now in the largest retail chains of Russia. A large-scale campaign ‘Week of Kazakhstani goods’ organized by KAZNEX INVEST National Agency has started here.

40 types of customer goods manufactured in Kazakhstan have been made available to the Russian customers. They include confectionery, chocolate, butter, pasta products, soft drinks and tea. According to the organizers, the campaign is aimed primarily at increasing the awareness of the brands made in Kazakhstan and at increasing the competitiveness of the domestic goods.

Aleksander Kostrikov, Customer: I am glad that Kazakhstan’s goods appear in our shops because it indicates a good quality for reasonable price for me. There are many imported goods nowadays, however it is hard to find goods manufactured in the neighboring countries.

Anuar Beisekov, Spokesperson, Kaznex Invest Branch In Novosibirsk: Kazakhstan’s good are available in more than in 1,000 retail outlets in six Russian cities. They are Novosibirsk, Yekaterinburg, Barnaul, Kemerovo, Tomsk and Novokuznetsk. We expect that Russian consumers will appreciate the Kazakh products, it will be in high demand and the companies will be able to conclude contracts with retail chains.

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Afghan-Iranian Seek Better Banking Ties To Develop Trade

Kabul, 24 November 2016, (BNA) – Governor of the Central Bank of Afghanistan Khalil Sediq on Monday called for regulating banking ties to develop trade with the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Sediq made the remarks in a meeting with Governor of Central Bank of Iran Valiollah Seif. He said that Iran and Afghanistan enjoy extensive trade relations, but, unfortunately, major portion of transactions are carried outside the banking system causing risk for Iranian and Afghan businessmen.

‘Through practical measures, we try to channel trade to the CB Governor calls for banking ties to develop trade banking course so as to prevent likely risks.’ He noted that Iranian and Afghan central banks share common experience and both sides move towards better regulation of the financial system. Sediq underlined that Afghan central bank has adopted appropriate and comprehensive regulations to fight terrorism financing and money laundering as well as corporate sovereignty.

Seif said for his part that Iran and Afghanistan have entered a stage in history of their trade that marks highest volume of exchanges but the method of trade they use is in cash and through traditional money exchangers. Such methods can be improved through the banking system, he added.

‘Extensive trade between Iran and Afghanistan should be further promoted through banking ties and we seek expansion of the brokerage ties between banks of the two sides so as to minimize the trade risk.’

He made clear that Iranian and Afghan officials are now discussing appropriate brokerage ties and volume of exchanges will be upgraded through the banking system and opening up Letters of Credit. ‘Central Bank of Afghanistan follows highly advanced laws and has managed to have positive record in terms of inflation control and forex stabilization. This has easily made great deal of help to future planning and we can exchange experience with the bank.’

According to statistics released by the Islamic Republic Customs Administration, Iran’s exports to Afghanistan stood at $1.16 billion in value in the first half (March 20-September 20) of the current Iranian year of 1395 (started on March 20), while importing $10.66 million worth goods.

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China’s Alibaba Launches Data Center in Dubai

DUBAI, 22 November 2016, (NNN-Xinhua) — Alibaba Cloud, a cloud computing arm of China’s Alibaba Group, said here Monday that it launched a data center in Dubai.

Operated by YVOLV, a joint venture between Alibaba Cloud and United Arab Emirates (UAE) company Meraas Holdings, the data center will be the first “full-fledged public cloud” in the Middle East, said Alibaba Cloud and Meraas in a joint press conference.

It will serve the “increasing demand” for mission-critical, affordable and secure cloud computing in the region, they said.

Simon Hu, president of Alibaba Cloud, said that with the data center, global cloud network will be able to meet demands from enterprises which are going global.

Fahed Al-Hajeri, chief executive officer of YVOLV, confirmed that the cloud provider’s achievements in its home market China “can be replicated in the region.”

The project, he added, is in line with Dubai’s smart city initiative and the Gulf state’s strategic master plan “UAE vision 2021.” The latter aims to transform the UAE, a major oil supplier, to the world’s most competitive country.

Dubai, as one of the seven sheikhdoms forming the UAE, is considered its business and trade hub.

IT spending in the Middle East is expected to reach 212.9 billion U.S. dollars, which would represent a 3.7 percent year on year increase, Gartner, a U.S. IT research and consultancy firm said.

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CPEC to help boost Balochistan’s Handicrafts industry

KARACHI, 21 November 2016, (APP) – Women Chamber of Commerce & Industry (QWCCI) Quetta urged the government to work on strategic methods for bringing women in the mainstream of the economy.

Addressing a workshop on Monday, WCCI Founder President and Former VP FPCCI, Fehmida Jamali said shifting of Chinese handicrafts industry to Pakistan can play a momentous role in empowering Pakistani Women.

Currently, the handicraft manufacturing industry of China is facing challenges due to expensive labour, whereas demand of the traditional handmade products is on the rise, said a news release issued here.

Therefore, it would be very beneficial for Pakistan to initiate joint ventures with China in the handicrafts sector on the basis of buyback guarantee, under which the raw material and wages would be provided by China and in return market driven handicrafts items would be produced by Pakistan, she said.

Fehmida said that the handicrafts sector is the only sector having direct linkage with the skills of women. So, there is a dire need to tap this segment in order to empower more than 50 percent population of women in Pakistan.

Cottage industries occupy an important position, especially in the rural setup, as traditionally in those areas women are not encouraged to work outside their homes, she said.

Therefore, a significant number of women in Pakistan are engaged in handicrafts and tailoring activities. For example, up to 30 to 40 percent women in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan are involved in the cottage and handicraft industries, Fehmida said.

The handicrafts of Pakistan have fascinated the world by its creativity, aesthetics and exquisite craftsmanship, previously, nearly 65 percent of women earned their livelihood from handicraft work, but the rising cost of inputs, difficult access to credit and poor marketing network, have brought the industry to its present dismal state, she added.

President WCCI Quetta Mukhtar Fatima said the economic growth alone cannot guarantee social harmony and gender equality, especially in an under-developed society; national development must be balanced by a strong emphasis on equitable distribution of development benefits.

Women empowerment is impossible without the economic participation of women and for this, women has to be encouraged to take part in business and entrepreneurship.

Fatima said revival of the handicrafts industry lies in the development of infrastructure, provision of financial support to artisans, establishment of direct links between buyers and artisans, elimination of middlemen and improved marketing facilities.

Though the range of handicraft products included Ajrak, ceramics, articles made of date leaves, farassi rugs, jandi, khes, musical instruments, caps, straw products, bangles, crucia work, embroideries, kashi, rilli, Thari carpets and woodcarving, she added.

She said it not only provide additional employment and raise the standard of living for both rural and urban populations but also prevent migration from rural areas to the cities. “President WCCI Quetta also said CPEC could help Baluchistan Handicrafts industry to export its finished products to China and CIS states”.

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Dubai to Build World’s Largest E-Library

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates, 19 November 2016, (NNN-WAM) – The Ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, has issued here, on Friday, a law to establish a one billion dirham (USD 272 million) library, with two million e-books, making it the world’s largest electronic collection.

A board, which will have to plan the construction of the library, will also be drawing up general policies and strategic plans, required to deliver the library’s objectives.

Renderings of the planned library indicate that its architecture will have the shape of a book.

Spreading over one million square feet, the facility will include eight specialised libraries, can accommodate 42 million visitors annually, and will host over 100 annual cultural events.

”We want this library to serve as a cultural forum, an incubator for knowledge and a civilisation centre in the region,” said Sheikh Mohammed.

The announcement marks the culmination of the UAE government’s programme: “2016 – The Year of Reading.”

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Egypt Unearths Ancient Cemetery and Town

CAIRO, Egypt, 24 November 2016, (NNN-MENA) – The Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities announced on Wednesday, the discovery of a Pharaonic necropolis and a town, near an ancient tomb in Upper Egypt’s province of Sohag.

“The necropolis and the town date back to the beginning of the Pharaonic dynasties at around 5316 B.C.,” said Mahmoud Afifi, head of the ministry’s archaeology sector.

Afifi said, the sites have been unearthed during the work of the ministry’s excavation mission, 400 metres south of the temple of ancient King Seti I, at the Arabet Abydos area in Sohag.

“It is likely that the cemetery and the town belonged to senior personnel, in charge of the construction of royal tombs and funeral walls of the kings of the First Dynasty in Abydos,” Afifi added, noting the mission also found remains of ancient huts and daily life potteries and stone tools.

For his part, Hani Abul-Azm, head of the central administration of Upper Egypt’s antiquities, said, the mission has discovered, so far, 15 large tombs inside the necropolis.

He said, the unearthed tombs are even larger than those royal tombs in Abydos, that date back to the First Dynasty, “which indicates the importance, influence and social status of their owners, during that time of ancient Egyptian history.”

Several ancient tombs have been discovered in Sohag over the past decade, including the 13 tombs unearthed in 2008, that date back to over 5,000 years, also in southern Abydos town in Sohag.

A Pharaonic tomb was discovered at the Millions of Years Temple of Egyptian King Thutmose III, in Upper Egypt’s ancient city of Luxor in Nov, with a royal servant’s coffin and a mummy inside, which are believed to be dating back to the Pharaonic Third Intermediate Period around 1,000 years B.C.

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Egyptian airports records 29pct drop in passengers

24 November 2016, (MENAFN)- The number of passengers received in Egyptian airports amid the Jan-Oct period of this year dropped by 29 percent compared to the same period of 2015.

Moreover, 20.1mn passengers had gone amid Egyptian airports in the cited period, compared to 28.4mn in 2015.

Cairo Intl’ airport viewed a small decline in the number of flights it had received, from 130.000 in 2015 to 123.000 in this year.

In addition, the number of travelers received at the Hurghada Intl’ airport dropped to 62 percent from 6mn passengers in 2015.

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Etihad Group targets UAE innovators, entrepreneurs

ABU DHABI, 24 November 2016, (WAM) – As part of the UAE’s Innovation Week, Etihad Aviation Group, EAG, has launched Fikra, (which means idea in Arabic), a UAE-based competition aimed at fostering entrepreneurship and innovation across the country.

The competition also aims to encourage students to deliver solutions to some of the major challenges facing the aviation industry in today’s ever-competitive environment.

The challenges of the competition are focussed on 10 areas where the travel group is looking for specific ideas. These are focussed on delivering ideas around digital evolution, stopover visits, ancillary sales opportunities, improving loyalty schemes, specialist cargo, social media, youth engagement, airport experience and the environment.

In addition there is a special category called ‘Out of the Box’ that allows the next generation to pitch game-changing ideas, in line with some of the concepts that the airline has already launched such as The Residence.

“The Ministry of Education believes that education and research are important ways to acquire, develop and learn knowledge so we strongly support Etihad Airways in their Fikra initiative, as it will engage the students in innovation and business development. The project will invest in our youth and help them to pave the way forward to a sustainable and prosperous future,” said Fatima Al Jefri, Director at the Department of Science, Technology and Research at the ministry.

Ray Gammell, Chief People and Performance Officer for EAG, said, “Innovation is key to how we do business and how we will continue to grow as a travel group. We have reached the size we are today by innovating quickly and supporting an entrepreneurial spirit throughout our business units. That commitment does not stop, the new Fikra project gives us an opportunity to hear from the country’s next generation and we hope it will deliver ideas that can push us to the next level of our development.”

The first phase of the competition will see all submissions evaluated, appraised and scored on their merits. The 20 highest scoring participants will enter the next phase of the competition.

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Bangladesh Seeks Expanded cultivation of flood-tolerant rice

RANGPUR, 25 November 2016, (BSS) – Agriculture experts at a farmers’ field day have stressed on expanded cultivation of flood tolerant rice to increase rice production in attaining sustainable food security amid adverse impacts of climate change.

RDRS Bangladesh, an NGO, organised the event at research plots of flood tolerant BRRI dhan51, BRRI dhan52, BINA dhan11 and BINA dhan12 rice and local variety ‘Bozra’ rice of four farmers in Noyagram village under Ulipur upazila of Kurigram on Thursday afternoon, a press release said.

The NGO assisted 50 farmers of Chilmari and Ulipur upazilas in Kuirgram to expand cultivation of these rice varieties this season with support of International Rice Research Institute under Stress Tolerant Rice for South Asia and Africa (IRRI-STRASA) project.

The main objective of arranging the event was to exhibit farming technologies of flood tolerant rice to popularise cultivation of those suitable for flood-prone and low-lying areas.

Deputy Director of the Department of Agriculture Extension for Kurigram Mokbul Hossain attended the event as chief guest with Project Coordinator of Climate Change Project of RDRS Bangladesh for Kuirgram Shafiul Islam in the chair.

Ulipur Upazila Agriculture Officer Ashok Kumar Roy, Members of local Buraburi union parisahd Rezia Khatun and Lal Mian and Sub-assistant Agriculture Officer Asharf Ali were present as special guests.

Farmer Rezaul Karim got 4.25 tonnes yield rate in terms of paddy after harvesting BINA dhan11 in presence of the experts who also monitored ripe fields of BRRI dhan51, BRRI dhan52 and BINA dhan12 rice and local variety ‘Bozra’ rice.

Farmers Kajibar Rahman, Abu Bakar and Shajahan Ali shared their experience in cultivating of these flood tolerant rice varieties having submergence tolerant capacities for over two weeks to get better yield than local ‘Bozra’ variety rice.

They also termed cultivation of BINA dhan11 and BRRI dhan52 rice varieties as more suitable as early harvest of the same would allow cultivating subsequent mustard, wheat and maize on the same land.

The chief guest called upon the farmers for expanding cultivation of flood tolerant rice varieties to increase rice production by overcoming crop losses being caused by floods every year in the country.

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Girls’ Volleyball Matches Start In Kabul

Kabul, 23 November 2016, (BNA) – Girls’ volleyball matches has started in Kabul University Gymnasium yesterday.

The competitions launched by Ministry of Women Affairs, Ministry of Justice, Deputy Ministry of Youth Affairs for Ministry of Information and Culture with cooperation of Quick Relief Institution aiming to focus on combating against human trafficking.

According to BNA reporter, in these tournaments Girls’ volleyball teams participated from Ustad Burhanuddin Education University, Aryana Cup, Al-Zahra Complex and Red Crescent.

In first two matches of the competitions Ustad Burhanuddin Education University’ Girls volleyball team has defeated Aryana Cup Girls volleyball team and Red Crescent team succeeded to beat Al-Zahra Complex Girls volleyball team.

The tournaments also continues today.

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French-UAE conference on safeguarding cultural heritage

PARIS, 24 November 2016, (WAM) – Plans by the United Arab Emirates, UAE, and France to hold a conference on safeguarding endangered cultural heritage in December in Abu Dhabi reflects existing unique ties and co-operation between the two countries, the Secretary-General of the conference Hugues Moret said on Thursday.

“Paris and Abu Dhabi are determined to have bold and significant outcome from the conference, especially because 40 countries and inter-government organisations will participate in the event,” he said.

The conference is an initiative of His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, and Francois Hollande, President of France.

To be held on 2nd and 3rd December 2016 at the Emirates Palace under the patronage of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, UNESCO, the Safeguarding Endangered Cultural Heritage conference will be attended by a number of leaders, international experts and representatives of International Criminal Police Organisation (Interpol) and other organisations. It will be co-chaired by Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, Chairman of Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority, and Jack Lang, President of the Paris-based Arab World Institute.

Participants will discuss an international action plan to address the impact of terrorism, conflicts and illicit trade on culture, Moret, a former French diplomat, said during a meeting with representatives of Arab media.

The conference, he said, will focus on forming an international alliance to protect world cultural heritage and creating a Geneva-based fund, with initial commitments of US$100 million, to support protection of cultural heritage in war zones.

France will donate $30 million to the new fund, Moret revealed.

The alliance will study emergency situations and could consider conducting emergency military intervention in involved countries as an option to save endangered archaeological assets, Moret noted.

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Southeast Asian Contemporary Arts Reunite at Galeri Petronas

KUALA LUMPUR, 24 November 2016, (Bernama) — GALERI PETRONAS yesterday launched its latest exhibition, “SEMANGAT 10: Visual Expressions of Southeast Asian Identity”.

A showcase of 34 unique contemporary artworks by 24 artists from the 10 ASEAN nations, the exhibition celebrates the region’s revered landscape, cultural diversity, traditional practices and belief systems through paintings, installations, photography, videography and sculptures.

Speaking at the launch, PETRONAS Chairman Tan Sri Mohd Sidek Hassan said, “SEMANGAT 10 seeks to complement the multi-lateral relations between the ASEAN countries through arts, especially as the nations share many commonalities and a strong bond nurtured through the ages.

“The exhibition is also a constant testament of PETRONAS’ mission to contribute to the well-being of society. Despite the challenges in the global oil and gas industry, PETRONAS remains committed towards nurturing, promoting and preserving the collective artistic gestures and memories distinctive within ASEAN.”

ASEAN, which will celebrate its 50th anniversary next year, had come a long way since its formation in 1967 and SEMANGAT 10 would reinforce and continuously put a holistic emphasis of the development of its peoples in progressive yet peaceful ways, he added.

This exhibition, also the last to be hosted by GALERI PETRONAS this year, documents the cultural and social dynamics of a rapidly changing society not only to reflect the vibrancy of Southeast Asia’s contemporary art scene, but also to foster linkages among members of the region’s art fraternity.

Among 24 artists showcased in this exhibition are Ahmad Shukri Mohamed, Ahmad Zakii Anwar, Chan Kok Hooi, Hamir Soib, Jalaini Abu Hassan, Zulkifli Yusoff, Pengiran Timbang, Sopheap Pich, Heri Dono, Krisna Murti, Yunizar, Marisa Darasavath, Aung Kyaw Htet, Nge Lay, Alfredo Esquillo Jr, Geraldine Javier, Norberto Roldan, Fyerool Darma, Kumari Nahappan, Ampannee Satoh, Jirapat Tatsanasomboon, Natee Utarit, Pham Huy Thong and Pham An Hai.

Also present at the launch was PETRONAS Senior General Manager of Group Strategic Communications Zahariah (Liza) Abdul Rahman.

“It is our sincere hope that this exhibition will provide a stimulating visual experience and at the same time, offer the public a chance to re-examine the artistic and cultural values of each ASEAN country. Only by understanding and appreciating our similarities and differences can we form a unifying regional identity,” said Liza.

The exhibition is open for public viewing at GALERI PETRONAS on Level 3, Suria KLCC from 23 November 2016 until 15 January 2017. Admission is free.

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Indonesia proposes ASEAN Pacific Alliance

Lima, Peru, 20 November 2016, (ANTARA News) – Indonesia has proposed a new cooperation forum of ASEAN-Pacific Alliance as an alternative to Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) the continuation of which is doubted with U.S. president elect Donald Trumps pledging protectionism.

“If TPP failed to come to reality why not ASEAN and Pacific Alliance establish relations. It would be better than TPP,” Indonesian Vice President M Jusuf Kalla said on the sidelines of the summit meeting of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum here on Saturday.

Pacific Alliance groups Mexico, Peru, Chile, and Colombia. Among the four countries Colombia is not APEC member.

TPP was established by a number of Asia Pacific country, but not including Indonesia, although the country has expressed interest in joining it.

TPP is a trade agreement among twelve of the Pacific Rim countries notably not including China. The finalized proposal was signed on 4 February 2016 in Auckland, New Zealand, concluding seven years of negotiations.

It is currently awaiting ratification to enter into force. The 30 chapters of the agreement aim to “promote economic growth; support the creation and retention of jobs; enhance innovation, productivity and competitiveness; raise living standards; reduce poverty in the signatories countries; and promote transparency, good governance, and enhanced labor and environmental protections.”

The TPP contains measures to lower both non-tariff and tariff barriers to trade, and establish an investor-state dispute settlement mechanism.

The TPP began as an expansion of the Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership Agreement (TPSEP or P4) signed by Brunei, Chile, New Zealand, and Singapore in 2005. Beginning in 2008, additional countries joined the discussion for a broader agreement: Australia, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, the United States, and Vietnam, bringing the total number of countries participating in the negotiations to twelve. Current trade agreements between participating countries, such as the North American Free Trade Agreement, will be reduced to those provisions that do not conflict with the TPP or provide greater trade liberalization than the TPP.

The United States government considers the TPP a companion agreement to the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), a broadly similar agreement between the U.S. and the European Union.

Now, however, doubt is growing about the continuation of TPP with the United States elected Trump as their leader. Trump has hinted disapproval for a number of international organizations including TPP.

“All countries braced for the change in the U.S. leadership, but most countries still believed the United States would not change,” Kalla said.

In the APEC summit, Kalla took part in the plenary session of APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC).

Before the plenary session Indonesia, China, New Zealand and Brunei was given the responsibility for formulate program for strengthening small, micro and medium enterprises.

In the APEC forum, Indonesia also proposed equal treatment of products like palm oil, rattan, coffee, and rubber with other trade commodities exempted from import duty.

“The prices of farm products should not be too low to prevent wider spread of poverty,” Kalla said.

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Indonesia to focus on sports tourism development

Jakarta, 21 November 2016, (ANTARA News) – Indonesia is developing its sports tourism through the launch of running, biking and rock climbing events in tourism destinations, as part of its efforts to promote and advance its tourism sector.

According to Youth and Sports Minister Imam Nahrawi, all of the 34 provinces in Indonesia are encouraged to organize sports events in tourism resorts for the development of sports tourism destinations.

The Youth and Sports Ministry will encourage all provinces in the country, apart from the 10 provinces being designed as primary tourist destinations, to organize sports events such as biking in tourism destinations from next year.

“In 2017, we will encourage all provinces to develop sports tourism. The sports tourism in the country has shown good development from year to year,” Nahrawi said on Sunday (Nov 20).

For example, the provincial government of Central Java continues to organize the Borobudur Marathon event around areas of the Borobudur Buddhist Temple, which is also a main tourist destination in the country.

The minister appreciated the Central Java provincial government for its success in organizing the Bororbudur Marathon every year. This year, the marathon was attended by an extraordinary number of runners.

“This, of course, helps support the greatest mission of developing sports and industry tourism,” Nahrawi said after launching the Borobudur Marathon 2016 at the Lumbini Square complex of the Borobudur Temple in Magelang, Central Java, on Sunday.

However, the Central Java government still needs to intensively promote the Borobudur Marathon abroad to attract more runners from foreign countries.

Besides the Borobudur Marathon, the Central Java government also organized various sports tourism events in other attractive destinations such as in Wonosobo, in Dieng, that could further advance Central Javas sports tourism.

In Dieng, in addition to the marathon, biking was also developed by organizing a Tour de Dieng.

In Batang District, the Central Java government also developed a rock climbing sports tourism event. In this case, the Batang District government is ready to put its sports tourism event on market, particularly rock climbing in the Prau Mountain slope of Bawang Sub-District.

According to Nasikhin, Regional Government Secretary of Batang District, the best place for rock climbing over the weekend is the cliff rock hills. “Tourists who are fond of sports can have a rock climbing, while enjoying the length of the cliffs and beauty of the local natural landscape,” Nasihkin said.

The tourist destination is located at a height of 30 meters above the sea surface. It has a waterfall which supports the region as a tourism destination. Visitors will be pampered by the rock hill cliffs and the natural panorama of the Curug Si Pitung, the Curug Wanganwali, the Pancuran Poncowati and the camping site.

With its various potential tourism objects in the area of the Prau Gountain, the local government will transform the area into a main tourist destination apart from beach tourism. The trend of the natural tourism with mountainous panorama is now becoming a prime destination for the youths. Therefore, the local government of Batang is optimistic on the tourism objects in Mountain Prau. It is convinced that the area would become a main site for tourists to visit. Therefore, the local government will soon draw up a master plan for the development of the natural and sports tourism destination.

“We are optimistic that it will become a new and reputable tourism destination,” Bambang Supriyanto, the head of Batangs Culture and Tourism Service, said.

In the meantime, the Central Executive of the Indonesian Sport Bikers Association (PB ISSI) will cooperate with the Tourism Ministry in carrying out its programs to help boost the countrys sports tourism.

“The Ministry of Tourism is committed to support our programs. Now, cycling is not only a matter of racing achievement but also a necessity to develop sports tourism,” PB ISSI Chairman Raja Sapta Oktohari said in press statement in Jakarta on Monday last week (Nov 7).

Okto, as Raja Sapta Oktohari is popularly called, explained that his organization has discussed matters relating to implementation of cycling races that involved the Ministry of Tourism.

Currently, the PB ISSI is focusing on developing all kinds of cycling races such as road race, track, Bicycle Motor-Cross (BMX), cross country and downhill events. These events are focused not only to attain achievements in cycling but also to develop sports tourism.

With the cooperation of the tourism ministry, the ISSI hopes that everything could be carried out in a synergic manner. After all, the tourism ministry is the financial support of a number of cycling races both in national and international scale.

“Now, cycling races cover national and international scale events. We hope the tourism ministry will continue to provide supports or sponsors,” said Okto.

Deputy for tourism marketing development of the Ministry of Tourism, Esthy Reko Atuti, hopes that cooperation with the PB ISSI would run smoothly, so that the development of sport tourism, particularly with regard to cycling events, would make further progress.

The Ministry of Tourism has three major tourism products which attract tourists, namely nature tourism, culture tourism and man-made (object) tourism. Sports tourism is part of the man-made tourism. Therefore, the tourism ministry hopes that its cooperation with the ISSI to handle technical would matter.

For cycling races, for example, the ministry hopes its technical matters would be handled by the ISSI, while the ministry will handle its destinations, promotions and branding to attract tourists.

The tourism ministry hopes it ISSI would also be involved in activity planning. The ministry has 10 main tourist destinations that have been given development priority. The planned organizing of the Tour dIndonesia 2017 was discussed in a meeting between the ministry and the PB ISSI officials.

“We hope that we can jointly promote Tour dIndonesia. We have the media, which could be used to expose the sport tourism programs,” Esthy said.

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Indonesia, Netherlands Boost Trade, Maritime Ties

JAKARTA, 24 November 2016, (NNN-AGENCIES) — Indonesia and the Netherlands pledged to continue enhancing bilateral ties on Wednesday as President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo and visiting Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte agreed to improve cooperation on trade, investment, water management and maritime infrastructure development.

On Wednesday morning, Jokowi invited Rutte to a meeting at the State Palace where the two also agreed to continue improving existing partnerships between the two countries, which face common challenges, such as rising temperatures and sea levels globally, the need for sustainable food production and the threat of terrorism.

“Together we can build a strong common future,” Rutte said.

Rutte was accompanied on his visit by a large delegation of around 200 businesspeople, in a move Jokowi said showed the commitment of the Dutch government and private sector to the ongoing improvements in cooperation with Indonesia.

Later on Wednesday, Jokowi invited the CEOs of six major Dutch companies, mostly already operating in Indonesia, to the palace where they discussed plans to expand their investment in Indonesia.

Among them were the CEOs of oil and gas giant Royal Dutch Shell; Van Oord, a contractor specializing in dredging and marine engineering; the Damen shipyard group; and Royal Vopak, a logistics and distribution service provider to the chemical and oil industry.

The two countries also inked six agreements covering cooperation in maritime affairs and fisheries, climate change, waste management and recycling, education and training in agriculture and training for Indonesian diplomats.

“By sharing knowledge and expertise, we can find inventive and integrated solutions that benefit not only the economy, but society and the environment as a whole,” Rutte said.

A total of 38 memorandums of understanding and letters of intent were signed by officials and businesspeople of both countries during Rutte’s three-day visit.

The Netherlands is one of Indonesia’s main European partners in trade and investment, although last year the value of Dutch trade and investment declined.

Bilateral trade amounted to US$4.22 billion in 2015, down from $4.89 billion in 2014. Meanwhile, Dutch investment in the largest economy in Southeast Asia, in 421 projects, declined to $1.31 billion in 2015, from $1.73 billion in 2014.

In the first quarter of this year, Dutch investment in Indonesia amounted to $266.93 million in 208 projects.

Rutte’s visit to Indonesia, which is his second in the past three years, was made amid what he described as “sad news” about vanished war graves in the wrecks of Allied, including Dutch, warships sunk during World War II, which are thought to have been ravaged by scavengers.

But Rutte thanked Jakarta for offering to cooperate to investigate the recent disappearance of the shipwrecks in the Java Sea.

Although the Indonesian government has denied any wrongdoing, it has offered help by setting up a joint investigative team. “We’ll work together to find clarity on what happened and we will coordinate in the future,” Rutte said.

After the meeting, Rutte presented Jokowi with a keris, a traditional Indonesian dagger, one of the artifacts in the Nusantara collection stored in a museum in the Dutch city of Delft, to symbolize the plan to repatriate a total of 1,500 Indonesian artifacts from the Netherlands.

The two countries have a long history of bilateral ties, but Jokowi’s tough stance on the death penalty has strained relations between them, particularly when a Dutch citizen was among a number of death-row drug convicts executed in January 2015.

Although it is Rutte’s first visit to Indonesia since Jokowi assumed office, the two have previously held bilateral meetings, such as when Jokowi visited The Hague in April, during which he invited his counterpart to invest in Indonesian infrastructure projects, particularly in the maritime sector.

A month earlier, the two also had a short bilateral talk on the sidelines of an international forum in Sanya, China.

Rutte first visited Indonesia in November 2013 when he met then president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. At that time, Rutte also met with Jokowi in the latter’s capacity as Jakarta governor.

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Iran-Indonesia Joint Economic Commission meeting opens

Kuala Lumpur, 24 November 2016, (IRNA) – The 12th round of Iran-Indonesia Joint Economic Commission meeting started in Jakarta on Thursday attended by visiting Iranian Communications and Information Technology Minister Mahmoud Vaezi.

Iran-Indonesia Joint Economic Commission meeting opens in Jakarta

A memorandum of understanding and some agreement documents are set to be finalized in the joint meeting.

The documents would be signed during the Indonesian president Joko Widodo’s next month visit to Tehran.

Indonesian Coordinating Minister for Economic Affairs Darmin Nasution and Mahmoud Vaezi are jointly co-chairing the two-day Iran-Indonesia’s Joint Economic Committee meeting.

The 11th meeting which was decided on during the Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s last year visit to Indonesia was held after a 7-year hiatus and this year’s event is complementary to the previous round.

Vaezi arrived in the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, on Wednesday to attend the

12th round of Iran-Indonesia Joint Economic Commission meeting.

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Iran, South Africa explore ways for developing transportation ties

Tehran, 24 November 2016, (IRNA) – Iran welcomes South African companies to help the country carry out its transportation projects, says a transportation ministry official.

Iran, South Africa explore ways for developing transportation ties

‘The South African companies could cooperate with Iran in its transportation development as project developers,’ said Iran’s Deputy Transport Minister Asghar Fakhrieh Kashan on Thursday in a meeting with a South African Transport Ministry delegation.

‘There are a lot of projects underway in Iran for developing airports, highways, railroads and ports as well as projects for establishing new cities,’ Fakhrieh said.

‘We prefer to have foreign companies as project developers,’ he said.

The Iranian official also said that the South African companies could cooperate with Iran both individually and through a consortium jointly established with the European companies.

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Iran, Indonesia to step up telecom cooperation

Kuala Lumpur, 24 November 2016, (IRNA) – Visiting Iranian Communications and Information Technology Minister Mahmoud Vaezi held talks with his Indonesian counterpart Rudiantara in Jakarta on Thursday.

Iranian communications minister, Indonesian counterpart meet in Jakarta

Touching upon the importance of communication and telecommunication in economic development, Vaezi discussed the ways for expansion of mutual cooperation between the two countries.

He also voiced the Iranian side readiness to share its valuable experiences with Asian and Islamic countries, Indonesia in particular.

Vaezi also emphasized the need for utilizing the state-of-art technologies and the Internet capacities for producing indigenous context in line with the national, home-grown and religious culture of different countries.

Rudiantara, for his part, called for expansion of cooperation between the two countries and praised Islamic Republic of Iran’s progress in communications and information technology arenas.

The Indonesian minister also underscored the ground is properly ready for expansion of mutual ties between the two nations.

Vaezi arrived in the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, on Wednesday to attend the 12th round of Iran-Indonesia Joint Economic Commission meeting.

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Jordan King visits Australia to strengthen ties

CANBERRA, Australia, 24 November 2016, (NNN-PETRA) – Jordan’s King Abdullah II, held talks in the Australian capital Canberra on Wednesday, with the Governor General of Australia, Peter Cosgrove, that focused on means to forge closer coordination between Jordan and Australia, on developments and crises in the region.

The discussions, which were attended by Queen Rania Al Abdullah, and the wife of the governor general, also dealt with the war on terrorism and the repercussions of the Syrian crisis.

During the meeting, which was also attended by Princes Ali Bin Al Hussein and Hashem Bin Al Hussein, the King and the Governor General stressed shared values between the two countries, and their keenness to achieve global peace.

They also affirmed that continued consultations between the two countries, on various issues of common interest, will reflect positively on bilateral cooperation.

The talks also dealt with the burden being borne by Jordan, as a result of hosting Syrian refugees. In this context, the King thanked Australia for its support to countries hosting Syrian refugees, noting that, this helps them continue their humanitarian and relief services to the refugees.

On counter-terrorism efforts, King Abdullah affirmed the importance of continuing regional and international efforts, to fight terrorism and its gangs, within a holistic strategy to preserve global peace and stability.

In remarks, during a lunchon banquet, King Abdullah highlighted the strong ties between Jordan and Australia, as well as his keenness to further boost them in various domains.

He pointed to threats posed by terror groups to the Middle East and warned of their attempts to spread terror and incite sedition among peoples and different religions.

“Islam is a religion of peace and calls on all believers to respect others,” the King added.

The governor general, for his part, voiced hope that the visit will contribute to expanding cooperation between the two countries in various domains.

He also pointed to the common visions between his country and Jordan, mainly with regard to the war on terrorism, and the humanitarian response to the crisis in Syria.

The governor general said Australia was looking forward to boosting relations with Jordan in the security, scientific, economic and sports fields.

The talks were also attended by the Royal Court chief, the foreign minister and Jordan’s ambassador to Australia.

Earlier, King Abdullah and Queen Rania were accorded an official reception at the Government House. An artillery unit fired a 21-gun salute welcoming King Abdullah and a brass band played the national anthems of Jordan and Australia.

The King and Queen began their state visit to Australia by visiting the Australian War Memorial, where the King laid a wreath and signed the visitors’ book.

King Abdullah and Queen Rania also attended a dinner banquet that was hosted by Australian Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull and his wife.

In Amman, Prince Faisal Bin Al Hussein was sworn in as Regent, in the presence of Cabinet members.

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Judicial conference on environment begins today

DHAKA, 25 November 2016,(BSS) – The two-day “South Asian Judicial Conference on Environment and Climate Change” begins today in the capital city for drawing a roadmap to help implement the environment laws in South Asian countries.

President M Abdul Hamid will inaugurate the two-day conference at Radisson Blu Water Garden Hotel in the capital.

Chief justices from different countries including India, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Bhutan and Nepal will attend the conference, which will conclude on November 26.

Senior judges from the supreme courts of different countries and ministers, diplomats and representatives from different international organizations, senior officials of different public and private agencies and experts on environment and climate change will also attend the conference.

Bangladesh Supreme Court with support from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) is organising the prestigious conference for the first time.

“The conference would play a major role in implementing laws regarding environment in South Asian countries”, said Md Sabbir Faiz, additional registrar (administration and judicial) of the High Court Division.

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Korean artistes to perform in Brunei

24 November 2016,(Borneo Bulletin)- THE world’s top B-boy dance group Jinjo Crew, accompanied by the renowned Korean fusion musical band Coreyah, held a performance for invited guests only at the Indera Samudra Grand Hall of The Empire Hotel & Country Club last night.

The Jinjo Crew and Coreyah are in Brunei Darussalam from November 22-23 to perform for the cultural event, ‘The Rhythm of Korea’ jointly organised by the Embassy of the Republic of Korea in Brunei Darussalam and the Korea Foundation in Korea.

The guest of honour at last night’s event was the Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports, Pehin Datu Lailaraja Major General (Rtd) Dato Paduka Seri Haji Awang Halbi bin Haji Mohd Yussof.

The main aim of the event was to celebrate the completion of the construction of the Korean Embassy’s new building at the Diplomatic Enclave in Jalan Kebangsaan.

The Korean Ambassador to Brunei Darussalam, Cho Won-myung said he hoped that the event would lead to more cultural exchanges that would enhance understanding between the people of Korea and Brunei.

He noted that throughout 2016, the Korean Embassy has planned a series of events such as a badminton tournament, K-Dream Night, Korea Festival, Korea Movie Festival and the Rhythm of Korea.

Jinjo Crew’s second performance this Saturday night at the Jerudong Park Amphitheatre will be open to the public. They are one of the most active B-Boy teams in Korea and holds several titles from major international competitions.

The crew took Best B-boy team titles at five leading competitions in 2012 and became the world’s first B-boy group to record a “grand slam” sweep in the 40 years of B-boy history.

Coreyah comprises four traditional Korean percussionists, a guitarists and a world-music percussion performer, who blend traditional and modern music to produce sounds that connect the present and the past. Coreyah also rendered a Bruneian traditional song ‘Alus Jua Dendang’ that drew a loud applause from the audience last night.

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Kuwait keen to inject Islamic Values in Medical Fields

KUWAIT, 24 November 2016, (NNN-KUNA) – The Kuwaiti Ministry of Health is keen on strengthening the values of Islamic medical culture, in various health fields, due to its significance in treating some diseases, Dr. Mohammad Al-Khashti, the ministry’s Undersecretary of Public Medical Services, said.

Al-Khashti made his remarks, in a speech he gave, during the opening of the “History of Medicine in Human Civilisation” museum, held in cooperation with the National Council for Culture, Arts and Letters (NCCAL), at the Islamic Medicine Centre, at Al-Sabah Medical area, as part of celebrating ‘Kuwait: Capital of Islamic Culture 2016.’

Kuwait has contributed to solidifying the Islamic culture, in its medical sectors, naming two of its major hospitals after notable Muslim medical scientists, such as, Al-Razi and Ibn Sina, aka Avicenna, he noted.

The museum aims at raising public awareness and shedding light on Islamic and alternative medicine, in order to face current and future challenges, Al-Khashti, said.

For his part, Dr. Bader Al-Duwaish, NCCAL’s Assistant Secretary-General, said, in his speech, the event highlights the historic development of medicine and pharmaceutical industry, adding that, the museum is an essential source for researching and documenting Islamic heritage, which NCCAL strives to persevere.

The museum includes a number of medical materials that have been extracted from natural plants and oils, in addition to a display of medicines and gems, that are believed to be effective in treating some chronic diseases.

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Madrid cultural center hosts seminar on Islam

Madrid,24 November 2016, (IRNA) ‚Äì Iran’s mission in Spain in cooperation with the Spanish Federation of Islamic Religious Entities has launched a seminar on Islam and extremism.

The seminar on Islam vis-a-vis extremism was held in the Ateneo Cultural Institute in Madrid on Wednesday.

Present at the event were Alireza Esmaeili Iran’s Cultural attache to Spain, a number of Spanish cultural officials as well as journalists.

Maria Victoria Caro Bernal one of the officials affiliated with the Ateneo Cultural Institute in the Spanish capital expressed hope that such meetings would help introduce the genuine Islam to the world.

Maria Isabel Romero President of the Junta Islamica (Muslim Council) in Spain, who was also present at the seminar referred to extremist activities aimed at creating horror in the society.

She said that while extremism is an abandoned issue in many societies, societies should come to respect diversified approaches to the religion.

As of 2015, Spain officially had 1,887,906 Muslims out of a total population of 46,449,565 or slightly above 4 percent of the total population.

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Bid to Upgrade Quality of Nigerian Ports

LAGOS, 24 November 2016, (NNN-NAN) – The new Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Hadiza Usman, is keen to work with professionals in the maritime sector to make the ports more attractive to business.

The NPA General Manager for Public Affairs, Chief Michael Ajayi, says she has expressed her determination to close the gap between the NPA and the professionals by engaging them in most of its activities and she received members of the Nigerian Ports Consultative Council (NPCC) in her office Wednesday.

She told the NPCC members that she would need their inputs and those of other professionals to move the industry forward. The NPA would find a solution to the issue of gridlock in Apapa port, west of Lagos Island, and fix the access roads to boost port operations.

She expressed concern over other challenges facing ports in the country and assured the group of her determination to find lasting solutions to the problems.

Hadiza said she would look critically at all the recommendations made by the NPCC and promised to implement the good ones to boost the economy. She said the maritime industry “needs the experience which many members of the NPCC are bringing to NPA in charting a new course for the sector”.

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Bangladesh bid to boost number of tax-payers

DHAKA, 25 November 2016, (BSS) – Finance Minister Abul Maal Abdul Muhith yesterday hoped that the number of income taxpayers will increase to 20 lakh by the end of the current fiscal (2016-’17).

“Currently, 11 lakh taxpayers are submitting income tax returns on an average every year. I hope their number will exceed 18 lakh and reach 20 lakh at the end of the current fiscal,” he said speaking as chief guest at a function at under-construction National Revenue Building at Sher-e-Banglanagar in the city.

The function was held marking the inauguration of Income Tax Week and offering citations to best taxpayers.

Income Tax Week is being observed from November 24 to 30 for the first time in the country.

The finance minister said it would be possible to raise the volume of national budget to Taka 5 lakh crore within the tenure of the present government. Referring to the rise in number of taxpayers, he said a taxpayer-friendly culture has been created in the country.

Earlier, people were afraid of paying taxes, he said, adding that the fear has been dispelled now.

He hoped that people will pay taxes to serve the country.

Industries Minister Amir Hossain Amu and State Minister for Finance and Planning MA Hannan also addressed the function with National Board of Revenue (NBR) Chairman Najibur Rahman in the chair.

In the function, 141 organizations and individuals were given tax cards as recognition of best taxpayers in 2016-2017.

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US basketball star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar awarded US Medal of Freedom

Washington, 23 November 2016,(IINA) – Former American Basketball Lakers Star Player Kareem Abdul-Jabbar became one of just 21 people this year to receive the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom on Tuesday.

US President Barack Obama in a ceremony at the White House gave out his last batch of Presidential Medals of Freedom to huge names in Hollywood, the world of sports, philanthropy and more, according to media reports.

“The reason we honor Kareem is more than just a pair of goggles and the skyhook,” Obama said. “He stood up for his Muslim faith when it wasn’t easy and wasn’t popular. He’s as comfortable sparring with Bruce Lee as he is advocating on Capitol Hill or writing with extraordinary eloquence on patriotism.”

So, along with being the NBA’s all-time scoring leader, a six-time NBA champion, a six-time MVP, 19-time All-Star and serving as the United States’ cultural ambassador, Abdul-Jabbar now has a Medal of Freedom.

Obama’s biggest challenge during the ceremony was trying to figure out how to get the award around the next of the 7 foot to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Obama called him “the sport’s most unstoppable force” for two decades and quoted his character from the 1980 movie “Airplane!” saying, “He did it all while dragging Walton and Lanier up and down the court for 48 minutes.”

After retiring from basketball in 1989, Abdul-Jabbar, aged 69, continued to use his stature to try to change the public’s way of thinking on various issues. In particular, the White House commended him on his avocation for civil rights, cancer research, science education and social justice.

“Physically, intellectually, spiritually, Kareem is one-of-a-kind,” Obama said. “An American who both illuminates our most fundamental freedoms and our highest aspirations.”

From a podium at the White House, Obama explained that the awards are given to Americans who have ‘lifted our spirits, strengthened our union, and pushed us toward progress.’

The honorees sat behind Obama as he delivered introductions; ‘I always love doing this event. But this is a particularly impressive class,’ he said.

‘We’ve got innovators and artists, public servants, rabble rousers, athletes, renowned character actors – like the guy from Space Jam,’ Obama said.

Unlike the great actors actually getting awards – Tom Hanks, Robert De Niro, and Robert Redford – the president was referring to basketball great Michael Jordan, who appeared in the ’90s partially-animated film.

Overall, Obama was giving out 21 awards, with two going to people already deceased.

His first presentation was to Bill Gates and Melinda Gates, for their philanthropic work over the years after forming the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in 2000.

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OIC Chief Calls for Support of Islamic Broadcasting Objectives

24 November 2016, The Secretary General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Dr. Youssef bin Ahmad Al-Othaimeen, called on the Member States to support the Islamic Broadcasting Union (IBU) to deliver its lofty goals of getting Muslim peoples to know one another, promoting Islam’s basic tenets, advocating Islamic causes, entrenching the spirit of common brotherhood among Muslim peoples, promoting cooperation among broadcasting bodies and organizations operating in the Member States, and fostering production and exchange of radio and TV programs that serve the Organization’s objectives.

Speaking at the opening of the fourth meeting of the IBU General Assembly, convened at the OIC General Secretariat, on 24 November 2016, Dr. Al-Othaimeen started by expressing gratitude to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, HRH Crown Prince Mohamed bin Nayef bin Abdulaziz, First Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister of Interior, and HRH Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Second Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense, and to all Member States for unanimously electing him as Secretary General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.

He pointed out, “Essential to effectively addressing the myriad of challenges and threats facing the Muslim world is the attainment of Islamic solidarity through leveraging support for a strong, unbiased media portrayal of the major issues of concern to the Muslim world, and visibility for the goals and objectives pursued by the Organization.”

On the priority areas of intervention provided for by the OIC 2025 Programme of Action, adopted by the 13th Islamic Summit Conference, Dr. Al-Othaimeen explained, “building an effective media infrastructure in the Member States is a prerequisite for revitalizing OIC media outfits and will lead to greater solidarity, harmony and joint Islamic action on all planes.

As well as reviewing the decisions and recommendations of the Executive Council in its third meeting held on 23 November 2016 at the OIC General Secretariat, the IBU General Assembly examined the Union’s activity report, along with the action plan and budget for the next two years and closing accounts for 2015.

The participants welcomed the focus by the Saudi Broadcasting Corporation, in its paper presented to the meeting, on the need to produce radio and TV programs focused on the youth, along with radio programming to combat bigotry and extremism, and provide Islamic countries, particularly in Africa, with necessary technical assistance and training.

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Oman aims to become a tourist hub by 2040

Salalah, 30 October 2016,(IINA) – Under a new investment plan worth $35 billion, Omani government plans to attract more than five million international visitors a year by 2040.

Under the new plan, the government predicts the tourism sector will employ more than 500,000 people, with a large number of them predicted to be Omanis. Oman seeks to attract more travelers, especially amid developments in Europe and Middle Eastern countries, including a rise in anti-migrant violence, bombings, and political disturbances.

Salalah, the capital of Dhofar governorate, is at the core of Oman’s tourism industry. Major hotels along the Indian Ocean coast here are filled with Gulf nationals and holidaymakers from Europe and Asia. Also known for its coconut plantations, palm orchards, quiet beaches and frankincense market, Dhofar is a crowd-puller for its religious sites, including the tomb of Prophet Ayoub’s wife, Rahima in central Salalah and the 40ft-long grave of Prophet Emran (May Allah please with him) nearby. Adventure-seekers can also enjoy hiking, and humpback whale and dolphin watching.

Oman’s economy was powered by agriculture, fishing, camel and goat herding, and handicrafts, until oil was discovered, propelling the sultanate’s dramatic development over the past four decades.

“Tourism certainly can and is playing a major role in Oman’s economy,” James Wilson, CEO of the state-run developer Omran, told Al Jazeera. “The government is now focused on five key economic sectors: tourism, logistics, manufacturing, mining, and fisheries, all of which will help Oman advance from its current dependency on oil.”

“The new visa system which has yet to be adopted looks at producing a joint visa with neighboring countries, allowing tourists to obtain visa entry to Oman and its surrounding countries. This aims to ease the travel experience within the GCC,” he added. Earlier this year, Oman’s tourism ministry announced plans to attract more than five million international visitors a year by 2040, up from 2.6 million visitors in 2015. Tourism currently contributes just 2.5 percent to the sultanate’s economy, and the government aims to raise that figure to 6 percent.

By 2040, the government aims for a total of 33,373 hotel rooms, 29,287 holiday home rooms and 17,262 rooms in “integrated tourism complexes,” according to Omran.

These clusters will be developed over the next 10 to 15 years, with an aim to become destinations in their own right.

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Pakistan, China artists hold joint workshop

ISLAMABAD, 23 November 2016, (APP) – Pakistan and China artists joint workshop Wednesday started here at Pakistan National Council of the Arts (PNCA).

A selected group of Chinese performing artists shared their experiences with Pakistani artists in the field of dancing and music.

The Chinese cultural troupe comprised of musicians and dancers. Artists of both sides shared their experiences with each other on stage.

PNCA’s Pakistan National Performing Arts Group (NPAG) presented their

performance in the start of the workshop.

Renowned classical dancer and choreographer Indhu Mitha and Zarin

Suleman Panna were also present who shared their experiences and expertise.

Veteran artist Javed Niazi, Ustad Manzoor, Table play Ajmal Khan and

Alghoza player Ustad Akbar Khameso Khan performed and shared their artistic skills with the guest artists.

Director General PNCA Jamal Shah who is versatile artist and teacher

was also present and have been moderating the workshop.

The Chinese troupe will perform on November 26 at PNCA Auditorium.

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Conference on Sustainable Transport in Ashgabat

24 November 2016, ISLAMABAD, Nov 24 (APP): Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif will visit Turkmenistan’s capital Ashgabat on November 25-27 to lead the country’s delegation at the first-ever Global Conference on Sustainable Transport.

The Prime Minsiter is undertaking the visit at the invitation of the President of Turkmenistan, who is co-hosting the Conference along with United Nations’ Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon.

The Conference, likely to be attended by around 1,500 participants including heads of state and government, ministers, civil society leaders and the UN officials, will discuss promotion and role of sustainable transport towards achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

“Pakistan is keen to improve connectivity with Central Asian States by establishing transport and communication links. These will be conducive to tapping the potential of trade, economic interaction, people-to-people contacts and tourism,” a statement by Foreign Affairs Ministry said Thursday.

The statement added that Pakistan and China had launched China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) to provide seamless connectivity to Gwadar and Karachi ports.

During the visit, the Prime Minister will also hold a bilateral meeting with the President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov.

“The meeting of Prime Minister will provide a valuable opportunity to review the decisions taken during two visits of the Prime Minister to Turkmenistan in 2015 and the Turkmen President’s visit to Pakistan in March 2016, as well as exchange views on bilateral, regional and international issues of mutual interest,” the statement mentioned.

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Prambanan to launch Banyunibo kampong tourism promotion

20 November 2016, – Sleman (ANTARA News) – The Prambanan sub-district administration will launch Banyunibo kampong tourism promotion in Cepit, Bokoharjo village, Sleman District, Yogyakarta, on December 10, 2016.

“The launch will be highlighted with an exhibition promoting tourism potential of Prambanan sub-district,” Prambanan Sub-district Head Abu Bakar said here, Sunday.

Among tourism attractions to be promoted are Banyunibo Temple and Banyunibo waterfall.

“There are many other cultural heritage sites such as the temples of Ijo, Barong, Banyunibo, Miri, and Boko Queen. Besides, there are many nature-based tourism destinations. Natural scenery seen from hilly area is also fantastic here,” he noted.

“Spot Riyadi” tour agencys owner, Riyadi said the number of domestic and foreign tourists have increased significantly.

“We have operated since two years ago, and its always full particularly during fine weather as tourists want to enjoy views of sunset and sunrise,” he said.

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Qatar Museums honours 50 Zubarah heritage volunteers

23 November 2016, (MENAFN – The Peninsula)- Qatar Museums (QM) honoured more than 50 young volunteers from Qatar and around the world at a gala dinner last night, following the completion of 20-day ‘Together for Heritage’ project to conserve the historical Al Zubarah heritage site.

The Al Zubarah heritage site is Qatar’s largest and was recently declared a Unesco World Heritage Site.

Held at the Museum of Islamic Art courtyard, the event was attended by senior QM officials and Unesco representatives. QM Chief Archaeology Officer Al Al Kubaisi thanked the volunteers for their time, hard work, passion and dedication to preserve the Al Zubarah site which is of utmost importance to the country.

“It is wonderful to see that the volunteers embraced this unique opportunity and learned not only technical skills of conservation and archaeology in Qatar, but also learnt from each other and formed strong bonds of friendship in this living cultural exchange programme,” said Al Kubaisi.

The project was part of Unesco’s World Heritage Volunteers (WHV) ‘Together for Heritage’ campaign, an initiative within the framework of the Unesco World Heritage Education (WHE) Programme, aimed at increasing awareness and reinforcing the importance of nserving and protecting world heritage. The initiative helps to develop youth appreciation and respect for heritage and cultural diversity, creating a positive attitude towards heritage preservation.

‘Qatar is a country with a proud and rich heritage stretching back over thousands of years, and preserving this history for our future generations is vital. Every volunteer should be extremely proud to have played a significant part in protecting and preserving this spectacular World Heritage Site,” added Al Kubaisi.

The projects saw young volunteers from several countries as well as 12 volunteers from Qatar, take part in awareness raising and hands on activities at Al Zubarah Fort and other parts of the site, all focused on preventive conservation and preservation techniques. These included working with QM’s Architectural Conservation Team, where volunteers were taught the basics of masonry conservation, plaster consolidation and to write documentation and conservation reports about the site, among others.

They immersed themselves in learning about the day-to-day life in a World Heritage property and took part in workshops. The Al Zubarah Volunteers Program is sponsored by Ali bin Ali Group, Seashore Group and Ooredoo.

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Qatar: Massive beach clean-up launched

24 November 2016, (MENAFN – The Peninsula)- To maintain cleanliness of beaches and save the environment from pollutants, a massive clean-up drive started on Sunday at the North West beaches.

‘The Ministry of Municipality and Environment gives priority to cleaning of beaches and has offered all requirements needed to accomplish the task because they are very important for visitors especially on weekends,” said Safar Mubarak Al Shafi, General Cleanliness Project Director.

He also said that the cleaning plan was divided into three phases to clean up about 65km of beaches and the department had provided a permanent place to facilitate the workers until the end of the campaign which is expected to continue one more month. Al Shafi urged the people to support the Ministry’s efforts to maintain beaches and islands clean by throwing waste in proper places and avoiding careless behaviour which might harm the ecosystem.

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S. Korean hotels reinforce halal foods for Muslim guests

Seoul, 21 November 2016, (IINA) – A rising number of five-star hotels in Seoul, South Korea are offering halal foods in their restaurants to attract Muslim guests, a small but growing market, industry officials said on Monday.

The local travel and hospitality industry has sought ways to enhance convenience for a growing influx of Muslim tourists on the back of the popularity of Korean pop culture and medical tourists from the Middle East, Yonhap News Agency (South Korea’s news agency) reported.

To catch up with the latest trend, restaurants in the main hotels have expanded halal foods, which refer to foods prepared in a specific way in line with the Islamic law.

According to the Korea Tourism Organization (KTO)’s halal guidebook, all restaurants in the Plaza Hotel and Lotte Hotel are categorized as “Muslim-friendly restaurants.”

The Plaza Hotel, which offers a Qur’an for the daily prayers of Muslims, said the number of Muslim guests has risen by over 10 percent for the past few years.

Lotte Hotel, which has five Muslim-friendly restaurants certified by the KTO, said it has also seen Muslim clients up 10 percent in the past three years.

Intercontinental Seoul COEX has recruited a hotel chef specializing in halal foods to take charge of the Arabic section of “Asian Live,” one of the four restaurants in the luxury hotel in southern Seoul.

The number of Muslim travelers to South Korea has risen from 541,518 in 2012 to 752,504 in 2014. In the first nine months of this year, the figure has risen to 708,297, up 35.8 percent from a year earlier, the KTO said.

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Saudi Arabia registers first blind female lawyer

Jeddah, 22 November 2016, (IINA) – The Saudi Ministry of Justice has accredited Laila Mohammed Al-Qabi and placed her name in the registry of lawyers under training, making her the first Saudi blind woman lawyer in the Kingdom, Saudi Gazette reported.

The ministry also gave her the certificate of trainee lawyer, which will enable her to practice law for a year starting this week. A number of lawyers, consultants, and legal committees have welcomed Qabi to the tribe of lawyers and said her strong perseverance has helped her overcome her loss of vision.

“I am happy to be recognized as a lawyer. I am exulted on completing my journey of a thousand miles that began with a single step,” she said.

Al-Qabi profusely thanked all those who had supported her and hoped that she would live up to their expectations.

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Indonesian Sharia banks` assets reach Rp331 trillion

Medan, N Sumatra, 21 November 2016, (ANTARA News) – The total assets of the Indonesian sharia banking industry in the third quarter of 2016 reached Rp331 trillion, accounting for 5.13 percent of the national banking industrys assets.

“The figure outstrips the target set by OJK (Financial Service Authority) at 5 percent,” Chief of OJK Regional Office in Northern Sumatra Lukdir Gultom said at a campaign “I Love Sharia Compliant Finance (ACKS)” here on Sunday.

By campaigning for sharia compliant finance continuously, the public will increasingly be acquainted with and love sharia financial products and services and that the sharia banking industry will grow at a faster pace, he said.

OJK continued to encourage the sharia compliant financial service industry covering banks, non-bank financial institutions and the capital market.

“To date, Indonesia has a total of 13 sharia commercial banks, 21 sharia business units, and 165 sharia rural banks. We will try to increase their number,” he said.

Chief of the Financial Bureau of the North Sumatra Provincial Government Agus Triyono said the sharia banking industry has now offered products and services as good, complete and modern as conventional financial products and services.

“North Sumatra whose majority of population are Muslim has the potential to become a hub for national sharia banking industry,” he said.

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Six Dutch firms to expand businesses in Indonesia

Jakarta, 24 November 2016, (ANTARA News) – Six Dutch companies that have been in Indonesia for years would continue to expand their business in the country, Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said here on Wednesday.

“They are talking about plans to expand their investment in Indonesia,” Retno explained after a meeting between President Joko Widodo and the CEOs of these six Dutch companies at the Presidential Palace earlier in the day.

Retno recalled that these companies have been running their businesses in Indonesia for decades.

The companies are Royal Dutch Shell, Van Oord, Port of Rotterdam, PGGM Pension Fund, Damen Shipyard Group, and Royal Vopak.

Earlier, President Jokowi had noted that Dutch Prime Minister Mark Ruttes visit along with 200 businessmen reflected their trust and commitment to encourage cooperation with Indonesia.

“This showed trust and commitment of Dutch government and private sector to increase cooperation with Indonesia,” he had commented at a joint press conference with Rutte at the Merdeka Palace.

The President reminded that the two countries have a strong relationship that covered various sectors.

“During bilateral talk, we discussed cooperation in economy, trade, investment, water management and development of maritime infrastructure,” Jokowi observed.

He emphasized that the Netherlands has been one of Indonesias key partners in Europe. It holds an impressive trade and investment value and a relatively high number of tourists come from this country.

“The Dutch port has become a gateway for Indonesian goods to Europe,” Jokowi underlined.

Meanwhile, Mark Rutte pointed out that Indonesia has played an important role in the region and has been a strategic partner of his country.

“Bilateral trade has reached 3.2 billion euros in 2015,” he disclosed.

The Prime Minister expressed the hope that the two countries can increase their cooperation further as there are many opportunities in various sectors.

The business delegation accompanying Rutte included those working in the areas of waste management, climate change and agriculture.

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SW Asian Contemporary Arts Reunite at Galeri Petronas

KUALA LUMPUR, 24 November 2016, (Bernama) — GALERI PETRONAS yesterday launched its latest exhibition, “SEMANGAT 10: Visual Expressions of Southeast Asian Identity”.

A showcase of 34 unique contemporary artworks by 24 artists from the 10 ASEAN nations, the exhibition celebrates the region’s revered landscape, cultural diversity, traditional practices and belief systems through paintings, installations, photography, videography and sculptures.

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Pakistan plans to attend 15 trade shows in Africa

ISLAMABAD, 24 November 2016, (APP) – Trade Development Authority of Pakistan (TDAP) has focussed 15 international exhibitions for participation to enhance trade relations in African continent during current financial year.

The government, in order to enhance trade with African countries including Zimbabwe has been focusing on promotional activities to increase the volume of bilateral trade.

Sources at Commerce Division on Thursday said TDAP has already been participating in Zimbabwe International Trade Fair since 2015.

The focussed 15 international exhibitions for participation to enhance trade relations in African continent include 24th Edition of Inter-build Africa, Johannesburg, South Africa, Pro Beauty South Africa, Johannesburg, South Africa, August-2016, Medic East Africa Exhibition & Congress, Nairobi, Kenya, International Exhibition of Textile Equipment, Tunis, Tunisia and Lagos International Trade Fair, Lagos, Nigeria.

The other are 19th AfricaCom, Cape Town, South Africa, Medical Expo, Casablanca, Morocco, March-2017, Morocco Home, Casablanca, Morocco, April-2017, Food Africa, Cairo, Egypt, May-2017, 20th Auto Expo, Nairobi, Kenya, May-2017, Automechanika, Johannesburg, South Africa, May-2017, Africa Health Expo, Johannesburg, South Africa, June-2017, SAITEX-2017 and Africa Big 7, Johannesburg, South Africa, June-2017, Dar-es-Salaam International Trade Fair, Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania, June-2017 and 34th Luanda International Trade Fair, Luanda, Angola, July-2017.

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Technology towns in Kyrgyzstan and government’s support

25 November 2016, (Karbar News Agency) – The development of the light industry is included in the Strategy for Sustainable Development of Kyrgyzstan for 2013-2017. The sewing industry brings to Kyrgyzstan almost half of income from export. That is why one of priorities of the present Government is the support of domestic manufacture.

Last week the Government of Kyrgyzstan assigned to allot plot of land for construction of technology towns of textile and sewing industry in the country to support the industry. The state bodies in cooperation with Legprom are working on 3 projects. One in Osh, the second in Chui oblast and the third one in Osh.

The idea of construction of such facilities belongs to Legprom, the Association of light industry enterprises of Kyrgyzstan, which was formed in 2005 and since has been supporting the industry.

President of Legprom Association Sapar Asanov in his interview to Kabar News Agency highlighted the necessity to construct modern industrial enterprises.

“The textile and sewing industry has been developing. Given this Legprom wants to build a modern technology towns. Kyrgyzstan is a member of WTO for many years, but we cannot use these rights, we cannot go out to Western markets, just because of not conformity with the standards of production facilities. This is worldwide experience,” he said.

Asanov told the necessity of consolidation and creation through industrial zones, through the introduction of standards.

He also dwelled on two main problems of the light industry. “This is the lack of professional staff and modern industrial enterprises,” he said.

Further, Sapar Asanov shared his plans for future. “Currently we are working on 3 projects. Within the framework of the first project we plan to build a technology town in Bishkek within 2 years. There will be about 30 enterprises, providing more than 7-8 thousand work places.

The second technology town will be build outskirts of Bishkek city in Chui oblast. There will be about 40 enterprises. We plan to open there more than 10 thousand workplaces. And the third in Osh,” he said.

President of Legprom Asanov said that unfortunately the lion’s share of the industrial output belongs to Chui region and Bishkek. “Therefore we need to develop not only Bishkek city, but also the regions too and we want to build technology towns in the regions to assist somehow to reduce internal migration,” he said.

Asanov expressed hope that in case of realization of all above-mentioned initiatives, the light industry of Kyrgyzstan can become the locomotive in development of economy of the country.

Concluding his speech the President of Legprom thanked the President and the government of the country for their understanding and support, who in every way try to create conditions for further developing of the light industry.

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Tehran museum hosts exhibition of modern Arab art

Tehran, 18 November 2016,(IINA) – Tehran’s Museum of Contemporary Art (TMoCA) is hosting an exhibition of modern Arab art from countries including Saudi Arabia and the UAE, underlining a regional cultural bond that has thrived despite the simmering tensions between Iran and its Arab neighbors, the Guardian reported.

TMoCA, which has the finest collection and boasting works by the likes of Jackson Pollock, Francis Bacon and Andy Warhol, is displaying 40 pieces by prominent Arab artists alongside 40 paintings by Iranians. Mohsen Noferesti, an official from TMoCA, said that Iran maintained its cultural ties with the outside world regardless of the political situation.

“Even at the time of sanctions we hosted works from many parts of the world,” he said. The Sea Suspended show exhibits modern Arab art from the 1940s to the 1990s from places such as Egypt, Iraq, north Africa, the Levant and the Arabian Peninsula.

Noferesti said the exhibition had been warmly welcomed in Tehran and visited by hundreds of people every day.

Karim Sultan of the Sharjah-based Barjeel Art Foundation, who curated the show in collaboration with the museum and the Tehran-based Mohsen Gallery, said art had the power to transcend politics.

“What we were really aiming for was more of a cultural dialogue, to open up a conversation about art and the artists,” he told the Guardian. “I’d say the exhibition would have had to take place regardless of the political situation because of the importance of art. Whatever the situation is, art has a way of moving over the situation, and a lot of people engage in a different kind of conversation, perhaps in a positive way.”

Sultan said various exhibitions and museums in the UAE, including in Dubai, had for some time featured works by Iranian artists.

The Third Line, a Dubai-based art gallery, represents Iranian Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian, who had a major exhibition at the New York museum last year. The Sharjah art foundation has also displayed a major art show of another Iranian artist, Farideh Lashai.

“It’s not out of a vacuum that we proposed to do a show; it comes as a response in a long cultural conversation that is taking place,” Sultan said. “The exhibition that just opened in Tehran was one that came out of an impetus to continue that conversation. Tehran is a very important city in the region and a museum like TMoCA is an incredible institution that has a lot of history.”

TMoCA, which was founded before the 1979 Islamic revolution under the supervision of Farah Pahlavi, the former queen of Iran, has hidden treasures bought before the revolution, thought to be worth more than $2.5 billion. It includes Pollock’s Mural on Indian Red Ground, considered to be one of his most important works and estimated to be worth more than $250m, as well as important pieces by Picasso, Van Gogh, Monet, Pissarro, Renoir, Gauguin, Toulouse-Lautrec, Degas, Whistler and Marcel Duchamp.

In 2012, the museum took around 100 works out of its basement for a first show of its kind as part of its Pop Art & Op Art exhibition, featuring works by Warhol, David Hockney, Roy Lichtenstein and others. That year Pahlavi gave an interview to the Guardian about the history of the collection.

Among the works on display in the modern Arab art show are the Iraqi artist Kadhim Hayder’s spectacular Fatigued Ten Horses Converse With Nothing (The Martyr’s Epic); the Saudi artist Mounirah Mosly’s The Land of Solidities; and the UAE artist Hassan Sharif’s Man. Other artists represented include Bahrain’s Abdullah Muharraqi, Palestine’s Asim Abu Shakra, Iraq’s Raffa Nasiri and Egypt’s Seif Wanly.

TMoCA is planning to lend some of its treasures to museums and galleries in Berlin and Rome in the near future. Some works were due to go on display in Berlin earlier this year but the recent resignation of Iran’s cultural minister has delayed the plans.

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EXPO 2017 projects big flow of tourists from Russia

Astana, 25 November 2016, (Khabar Agency) – The organizers of EXPO 2017 are expecting a big flow of tourists from Russia. In addition, the pavilion of the neighboring country will be the most impressive, over 1,000 square meters.

This was discussed by the experts and businessmen of both countries in Moscow. B2B meetings participants intend to elaborate a concrete package of services to attract tourists. Moreover, Russia’s Federal Tourism Agency and the National Chamber of Entrepreneurs ‘Atameken’ signed a memorandum of cooperation in tourism.

Yuliya Yakupbayeva, Member Of Board, Atameken National Chamber Of Entrepreneurs: We have signed a memorandum with the Russian Tourism Agency and agreed on bilateral tourism development in our countries. Apparently, we will create a pilot project on inbound tourism for all EEC states starting from Russia. We have a huge border capacity, the market of 32 million people. There is an enormous field for cooperation with Russia.

Yuliya Lopareva, Operator Of Russia’s Team In EXPO: This is the first event of such scale in Kazakhstan and Central Asia and we see the progress in organization of events in Kazakhstan since 2012, we see how they scaled up. Russia started preparations in 2015. We would like to co-organize a very interesting business program that will yield Expo even a greater meaning and result in concrete actions.

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OIC Vaccine Manufacturers Group Held in Bandung, Indonesia

14 November 2016, (OIC) – A two-day meeting of OIC Vaccine Manufacturing Group(VMG) started at the Headquarters of Bio-Farma in Bandung, Indonesia on 14 November, 2016. Representatives from Saudi Arabia, Iran, Indonesia, Turkey, Malaysia, Senegal, Morocco, Egypt Tunisia, WHO, GAVI, IDB, COMSTECH and SESRIC are participating in the meeting.

The Third Meeting of VMG will, among other things, review the implementation of the recommendations made by the Second Meeting of the Group held in Tunis on 11-13 May 2015. The meeting will also discuss the status of implementation of the Short, Medium and Long Term Plan of Action towards self-reliance in production and supply of vaccines among OIC Member States.

A Training Workshop on Vaccine Management targeting vaccine manufacturers and regulators is also organized in Bandung, from 15-18 November 2016. The Workshop is aimed at strengthening the capabilities of OIC Member States in the area of regulation and production of Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI) vaccines in order to support the regional self-reliance of OIC, including administration, and vaccine handling.

In order to achieve self-reliance in vaccine production, the OIC has established the Vaccine Manufacturing Group in 2014. The VMG comprises entities from OIC Member States, who are involved in the production of vaccines.

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Tk 5,658 cr spent for free textbook distribution

DHAKA, 25 November 2016,(BSS) – The government has spent Taka 5,658.86 crore for free textbook distribution in the past eight years.

“Taka 5,658.86 crore has been spent for free textbooks distribution among students of pre-primary, primary, ebtedayee, secondary, dakhil and technical students in the eight years,” National Curriculum and Textbook Board (NCTB)Chairman Prof Narayan Chandra Saha told BSS.

He said the government has been distributing free textbooks to encourage students of poor families to continue their studies, which eventually is checking drop-out rate at both primary and secondary level educational institutions.

“We will distribute 36,21,82,245 textbooks free of cost among the primary and secondary level students in academic year 2017.

The free textbooks will be distributed among 4,26,35,929 pre-primary,

primary, secondary, ebtedayee, dakhil, dakhil vocational, SSC vocational, small anthropological group and visually challenged students across the country, he added.

Dr Narayan said the NCTB is working round-the-clock to reach new textbooks to students through a ‘book festival’ on January 1, 2017.

More than 20 crore books have already reached their destinations, he said,adding that textbooks will be made available at districts, upazilas and remote areas by December 17.

He said 60,01,024 guide books have been prepared for primary teachers

while 46,66,664 books for secondary teachers. The present government started distributing free textbooks from 2010 academic year.

Education ministry officials said 333,762,772 textbooks were distributed among 4,44,16,728 students of pre-primary, primary, ebtedayee, secondary,dakhil and technical students for the 2016 academic year.

They said of the total number of books, 65,77,154 were distributed among 33,73,373 pre-primary students while 10,87,19,99 textbooks of 33 subjects were distributed among 2,45,71,731 students of Bangla and English version at primary level.

The sources said 1,92,55,615 textbooks of 36 subjects were distributed

among 27,03,984 ebtedayee students, 16,30,04,373 textbooks distributed among 1,12,36,018 students of Bangla and English version at secondary level, 22,71,836 textbooks among 1,87,153 SSC vocational students and 3,39,33,797 textbooks distributed among dakhil and dakhil vocational students.

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Tour de Indonesia is coming back in 2017

Jakarta, 22 November 2016, (ANTARA News) – The Central Executive Board of the Indonesian Sports Cycling Association (PB ISSI) will revive Indonesia’s prestigious cycling race Tour de Indonesia (TdI), by organizing it again next year, after five years of hiatus.

Scheduled to be held in July 2017, the TdI, which usually starts from Jakarta to Bali, will cover a route of seven stages from Banten in the western part of Java to Banyuwangi in the easternmost region of the island.

“The TdI is designed to become an archipelagic cycling race series and serve as a benchmark for other regions which have cycling tour programs in Indonesia such as the Tour de Singkarak, Tour de Siak and others,” PB ISSI General Chairman Raja Sapta Oktohari said after the soft launch of the TdI last week (Nov 9).

The TdI will be the biggest cycling event in Indonesia. Its soft launching was held first to ensure that it would be organized after five years. It will be held in July 2017 to coincide with the National Championship schedule of the Union Cycliste Internationale/International Cycling Union (UCI).

According to Oktohari, the implementation of the TdI will be inseparable from the support and cooperation of all sides, as this race is the icon of Indonesias cycling races.

“We have the soft launching today. All efforts will be made from now. This showcases our seriousness to prepare everything for this race. It has been awaited for several years,” Oktohari said.

For the time being, the TdI 2017 will finish in Banyuwangi. This time it will be different from those held in the past when it finished in Bali. The distance to be covered is still under survey by a technical team.

The technical team will observe the roads, which will be used to cover the distance of the TdI, and is expected to allot a budget of about Rp20 billion. After observing the route, the team will also look at the supporting infrastructure. For the time being, seven stages have been decided, but all of this still could change based on the results of the teams surveys.

Apart from awaiting the results of the teams surveys, the BP ISSI is also waiting for the decision of the UCI regarding the dates of its implementation.

The cycling race is decided to be held in July to coincide with school holidays and the Indonesian National Cycling Championship 2017. It was decided to be held during school holidays in consideration that the organizers would be easier to clear the roads and allow the cyclists to pass without barriers.

“The organizers are willing to turn the cycling race into a real prestigious sport event and the biggest one in Indonesia. Therefore, it should be prepared maturely,” Octohari said.

In order to make the TdI event a success, which will involve international cyclists, the PB ISSI is cooperating with a number of parties, including large sponsors and the Ministry of Tourism.

“The Ministry of Tourism is committed to support our programs. Now, cycling is not only a matter of racing achievement but also a necessity to develop sports tourism,” Oktohari said in press statement in Jakarta on Monday last week (Nov 7).

Deputy for tourism marketing development of the Ministry of Tourism, Esthy Reko Astuti, said that the TdI could help promote the potential of the Indonesia tourism.

“We have met with our colleagues of the PB-ISSI who informed us that they will hold the Tour de Indonesia. We support it very much, because it will help promote the tourism sector in Indonesia,” Esthy di Jambi said on Wednesday (Nov 16).

She said the TdI, which was once halted for several years, can develop cycling athletes in the regions and promote regional tourism.

After all, the event could be organized parallel or simultaneously in various regions or provinces which have tourist destinations such as nature tourism, culture tourism and marine tourism. But its technical implementation will continue to be discussed with the PB ISSI.

Esthy Reko Astuti hopes that cooperation with the PB ISSI would run smoothly, so that the development of sport tourism, particularly with regard to cycling events, would make further progress.

The Ministry of Tourism has three major tourism products which attract tourists, namely nature tourism, culture tourism and man-made (object) tourism. Sports tourism is part of the man-made tourism. Therefore, the tourism ministry hopes that the ISSI would handle the technical matters.

For cycling races, for example, the ministry hopes the technical matters would be handled by the ISSI, while the ministry will handle destinations, promotions and branding to attract tourists.

Esthy Reko Astuti hopes that the PB ISSI would also involve the tourism ministry in planning its activities. After all, the tourism ministry has 10 main tourist destinations that have been given development priority.

The planned organizing of the Tour de Indonesia 2017 was discussed in a meeting between the ministry and the PB ISSI officials.

“We hope that we can jointly promote Tour de Indonesia. We have the media, which could be used to expose the sport tourism programs,” Esthy said.

Oktohari said his side is ready to discuss any matters with the tourism ministry. He said his organization, for example, has discussed matters relating to implementation of cycling races.

Currently, the PB ISSI is focusing on developing all kinds of cycling races such as road race, track, Bicycle Motor-Cross (BMX), cross country and downhill events. These events are focused not only to attain achievements in cycling but also to develop sports tourism.

With the cooperation of the tourism ministry, the PB ISSI hopes that everything could be carried out in a synergic manner. After all, the tourism ministry is the financial support of a number of cycling races both in national and international scale.

“Now, cycling races cover national and international scale events. We hope the tourism ministry will continue to provide supports or sponsors,” said Oktohari.

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Uganda: Gulf Air to Resume Entebbe Flights

25 November 2016, (The Monitor Kampala)- The Kingdom of Bahrain and government of Uganda have negotiated a deal to return the kingdom’s flag-carrier, Gulf Air to promote trade and investment between the two countries.

According to Mr Rashid Yahya Ssemuddu, Uganda’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia, the airline, which suspended operations in Uganda in 2012, will resume operations because of a new bilateral agreement with the kingdom to increase investments and tourism in Uganda.

This follows a meeting with the Bahrain Foreign Affairs minister, Sheikh Khaled Bin Ahmad Al-Khalifa in Kampala on Wednesday.

“I am confident that Uganda will benefit from the pledges that were made because it was convened under instructions from His Majesty the King and I am sure that what we deliberated is binding,” Mr Ssemuddu said in a press release after the meeting.

According to him, the Bahrain agreed to assemble a business delegation to visit Uganda in March next year, during which several investment agreements and deals will be signed.

“Within the delegation that will come to Uganda, there will be bankers to venture into the country’s financial services industry,” he said, adding the Bahraini King, Sheikh Hamad Bin Isa Al Khalifa is expected to visit Uganda soon.

Gulf Air suspended flights to Entebbe three months after the launch claiming that transit traffic and operations were causing losses.

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Saudi Cost-Cutting to Reduce Budget Deficit, Private Sector Business

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia, 23 November 2016,(NNN-SPA) – A Saudi study has predicted a reduction in the deficit of the current and next year’s budget, because of government plans to cut spending, while this will slow down business activities of the private sector, Al Eqtisadiya online news reported.

The Saudi cost cut approach, to deal with the dropping oil prices in international market, will reduce the gross domestic product (GDP) of the non oil sector, said the study, conducted by Jadwa Investment local company.

The policy of the cost cuts led to a decision earlier this month, by the Council of Economic and Development Affairs (CEDA), to cancel projects valued at up to 266.7 billion U.S. dollars, citing the reason that they would not meet the expected economic and development returns.

Also, the CEDA announced, it was settling overdue payments to the private sector next month, before the end of the fiscal year.

The results of the study contradict with the goals of the country, to end oil-dependency by empowering the private sector, as a key element towards economic growth.

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