Distinction in travel journalism
Is independent travel journalism important to you?
Click here to keep it independent

26 Dec, 2016

Iranian inventor develops Braille touchscreen

Compiled by Imtiaz Muqbil

A compilation of progressive, positive, inspiring and motivating events and developments in the world of Islam for the week ending 26 Dec 2016 (27 Rabi Al-Awwal 1438). Pls click on any of the headlines to go to the story.




Tourism Malaysia is proud to hail the achievement of Harith Iskander home, fresh from winning the “Funniest Person in the World” title at Laugh Factory’s global competition in Lapland, Finland. The title awards him a prize money of USD100,000 along with a year-long comedy tour of the USA and worldwide media coverage.

Director General of Tourism Malaysia, Datuk Seri Mirza Mohammad Taiyab, said, “We are pleased to have given our support to Harith and his team to compete in the semifinals and finals in Finland. He certainly deserves to win, and as all Malaysians, we are proud of his accomplishment.” He added, “This title, and the comedy tour of the United States that will be arranged for him as part of the prize, will shine a positive light on Malaysia. It will be a great opportunity to promote Malaysia through joy and laughter.”

Harith was ecstatic about the win, saying, “It was an overwhelming moment on stage when I was officially named Funniest Person in the World by Jamie Masada. Thank you to everyone for being there for me and for supporting me, and a special thanks to Tourism Malaysia for their support.” Harith “outwitted” almost 90 other contestants worldwide to grab the winning title at the finals held on 8 December at Hullu Poro Areena in Levi, Lapland. Wearing a black “Malaysia Truly Asia” t-shirt in the final round, Harith shared funny anecdotes about life in Malaysia. His performance was streamed live on the laughfactory/YouTube channel to a worldwide audience for online voting. Harith emerged the clear winner amassing over 3.6 million votes.

The panel of judges included Jamie Masada from LA, CEO and founder of Laugh Factory; Michael Addis from LA, a well-known producer of BET Network; and Michael Schmidt from Germany, CCO of Red Arrow Entertainment.

Masada said, “Harith is obviously very professional, has star quality and he will go far.” He added, “He will act as an alternative ambassador for peace, the kind that brings diplomacy and builds bridges between countries and nations through smiles and laughter.”

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.




Malaysian CFOS urged to Focus on Integrity and Compliance

KUALA LUMPUR, 21 December 2016, (Bernama) – Amidst changes in their future roles due to disruptions in the business environment, CFOs must continue to stand up for integrity and corporate governance and be vigilant with compliance. This was the unanimous view of participants at the recently concluded CFO Dialogue organised by the Malaysian Institute of Accountants (MIA) and the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA).

In a disruptive world characterised by the speed of digitisation, new technology, increased regulation, big data, unstable oil prices and political upheavals, CFOs must be even more mindful of managing risks whilst keeping an eye on trust and accountability.

The Dialogue was attended by leading CFOs and C-suite professionals from the industry. It was unanimously agreed that too many CFOs are living in the past, bogged down with the day-to-day running of the finance function. CFOs need to have the mindset that change is the new constant and they need the following attributes to be adaptable to the changes:

(+) Agile and be proactive in understanding the changes;

(+) Be articulate to get the message across;

(+) Have the fortitude to take the challenges and changes head on;

(+) Support and guide their teams instead of dictate.

In addition to their core role as the finance and accounting leader, the future roles of CFOs will entail the following:

(+) They must bring professionalism to the business and build integrity and trust (role of corporate governance). Being a business partner and steward requires a balancing act.

(+) Contribute to good decision making by adopting integrated thinking, i.e. cutting through silos to connect the relevant people and information from across the organisation so that leaders can see the big picture and that all relevant insight is available for good decision making.

(+) Manage an increased complexity of risks that result from big data and digitisation

(+) Be on top of the business model as what is relevant today may be obsolete in two or three years’ time.

(+) Provide insights from Big Data to drive good decision making and have the agility to respond fast and strategically.

(+) Bring value and insights to the Board, not just financial reports on historical information.

(+) Being visionary and think long-term, outside the box of a traditional CFO

On the future skills and competencies for CFOs in the new business world, MIA President Dato’ Muhammad Faiz Azmi, in his opening address at the CFO Dialogue, said: “CFOs need leadership skills, business skills, people skills in addition to technical skills and these must all be underpinned by ethics and integrity.”

Back to top

Malaysia’s National Automaker Proton on Comeback Trail

KUALA LUMPUR, 19 December 2016, (NNN-Bernama) – National carmaker Proton Holdings Bhd, whose fortunes have been in stark contrast to that of rival Perusahaan Otomobil Kedua Sdn Bhd (Perodua), has set itself on the comeback trail next year, with heavy launch of new models in 2016.

In its turnaround effort, 2016 has been a very busy year for Proton, as it introduced four new products and struggle to improve after-sales experience for the brand.

Proton launched three new sedan models of the ‘Perdana’, ‘Persona’ and ‘Saga’ in June, August and September respectively while the ‘Ertiga’, a multi-purpose vehicle jointly developed with Suzuki, made its debut in November.

Perodua meanwhile, launched its first ever sedan ‘Bezza’ in July, after 23 years of focusing in producing minicars.

Proton Holdings Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Ahmad Fuaad Kenali said the local carmaker which was established in 1983, was set to make a comeback and confident of attracting a minimum 10,000 units of monthly sales starting next year.

Total sales for 2016, however, are expected to be below target as the buying momentum for the new models are just picking up, he said.

By end of 2016, he expects Proton to hit the maximum of 90,000 unit sales.

“The delay in the launching of some of the models affected the sales target for 2016. But with all the four products, we believe next year we should be able to achieve at least 10,000 sales per month, or 120,000 units for the whole of 2017,” he told Bernama.

The car maker collaborated with Petronas – the national oil corporation – for an exclusive range of Petronas Syntium SE engine oils and streamlined its parts prices for more than 600 items in the second-half of 2016 to enable Proton customers to enjoy better car performance and lower the cost of ownership in the long run.

It also expanded the ‘seven-day operations’ of selected service centres to 27 outlets (as at December) in its intensifying efforts to provide flexibility, better customer service experience and improve after-sales services.

“The whole effort within Proton now focusing on customer first.

“We try to make sure the trust of the customer come back to Proton and by giving them good products, our sales ‘inshaAllah’ (godwillling) would be better next year,” said Ahmad Fuaad.

During the year, the national car maker also saw the resignation of its founder, former Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, as chairman effective March 31.

Nevertheless, the senior management of Proton will continue to pave the way towards a better future for the company.

The government in April 8, approved a RM1.5 billion soft loan to Proton to help rejuvenate the carmaker but, with among the terms, that it should immediately identify a strategic foreign partner in facing stiff competition from other automakers.

Meanwhile, Proton’s holding company, DRB-Hicom Bhd issued up to 1.25 billion new redeemable convertible cumulative preference shares (RCCPS) in June for RM1 each to Govco Holdings Bhd, a 99.99 per cent owned by Ministry of Finance.

The RM1.25 billion RCCPS is on top of the RM1.5 billion soft loan grant to recapitalise Proton for transformation and restructuring.

As at December, Proton is in the midst of undertaking a request for proposal (RFP) exercise seeking a partner that can provide a strategic, operational and cultural fit on a permanent basis with the intention of growing its automotive business.

There are three final short-listed potential foreign strategic partners for Proton as at year-end and according to Ahmad Fuaad, the final three have the criteria that can propel Proton to greater heights.

He expects to receive a complete proposal in February 2017 and will make an announcement tentatively in first quarter (2017) after a final partner is selected.

“There could be further negotiations prior to the conclusion but hopefully a signing can be done by May 2017,” he added.

Meantime, 2016 is indeed a challenging year for the sector as the Malaysian Automotive Association revised the total industry volume (TIV) forecast to 580,000 units from 650,000 units in the second-half of 2016 due to volatility in the global economy and the soft consumer sentiment.

Market leader Perodua, which earlier maintained its total sales target this year at 216,000 units based on projected demand for the new ‘Bezza’ eco-car subsequently conceded at the final quarter that 2016 had been tough.

President and CEO Dr. Aminar Rashid Salleh said Perodua had been gearing up its promotional activities in the final quarter of the year with three separate campaigns in its drive to end the year sales campaign on a high note.

“This year is a tough year. We may end up with slightly lesser than our earlier sales target,” he maintained.

Aminar expects 2017 to also be a challenging year especially in the first half, with better sales emerging in the second half of the year.

“Cautiously positive, we will continue pushing on all our four models, with Bezza and Axia leading the overall demand for 2017,” said Aminar.

Aminar is well-known in the industry for his ability to come out with a surprise result in driving the national brand to compete with other foreign marques.

Continuously overtaking Proton in terms of TIV since 2009, Aminar led Perodua’s sales to hit a record high in 2015 with 213,300 units sold, as well as record high in market share (32 per cent) and in after-sales business (1.96 million intakes).

A note on commendation, the Proton Saga, Proton Persona and Perodua received awards in the Special Mention category at the “Malaysia Car of The Year (COTY) Awards 2016” held in December, in honour of their value for money, fuel efficiency improvement as well as local in-house design capabilities.

Perodua’s Bezza 1.3 Advance model bagged The Entry Level Car of the Year award, Honda’s Civic 1.5TC was crowned the Car of the Year 2016, while Yoichiro Ueno, Honda’s former CEO and managing director was named as the Automotive Man of the Year 2016.

Yoichiro Ueno was voted for driving the Honda brand to compete amongst traditional market leaders to achieve Malaysia’s number two spot in unit sales this year.

The inaugural COTY event hosted by the Malaysia Automotive Institute (MAI) was reportedly set to be the platform for the government to recognise achievements of car manufacturers in various categories.

MAI had just laid out its roadmap until the 2050 to ensure the country stay competitive by facilitating the development of technology within the domestic industry.

MAI CEO Madani Sahari said the newly-crafted National Automotive Roadmap 2050 to be presented to the government includes the future of autonomous driving.

“The current National Automotive Policy 2014 roadmap is only for up to 2030, and we came up with a new roadmap that would be inclusive for the automotive sector until 2050.

“Although the technologies are fast evolving for the automotive industry, our regulations and enforcement have yet to follow suit and this would also be contained in the new framework,” he added.

Back to top

Malaysia: Hope for Rosier Year Ahead for Commodities

KUALA LUMPUR, 20 December 2016, (Bernama) – The year 2016 saw the commodity sector, except for crude palm oil and metals such as tin and good, reel under the pressure of lower prices, sluggish demand, volatile global uncertainty and weaknesses.

In the first half of 2016, crude palm oil (CPO), tin and gold prices recovered but rubber and that of crude oil remained in the doldrums.

Nonetheless, various supply-demand drivers lifted selected commodity prices into the third quarter of this year and this should lead to a price recovery in 2017.

During the year, like many other commodities in the world, palm oil was affected by the El Nino and La Nina phenomenon, bearish demand routed by slower growth in global markets, geo-political issues and currency fluctuation.

The El Nino phenomenon disrupted CPO supply by an average 12 per cent in Malaysia which saw volatile prices as global demand outstripped supply.

CPO prices ranged between RM2,450 per tonne in the first half of 2016 and RM2,650 in the second half.

During the year, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) came down hard on palm oil suppliers by suspending or causing some suppliers to withdraw their products from their buyers’ supply chains.

The knee-jerk reaction from a segment that attracts premium prices for RSPO products caused the premium to rise by more than 100 per cent.

The ringgit’s volatility also played a role in supporting palm oil prices besides the various supply-demand factors.

Meanwhile, Malaysian palm oil is expected to see a 10 per cent contraction in production this year to 17.8 million tonnes as producers continue to struggle with lower output from the harsh El-Nino weather in 2015 across Southeast Asia.

Leading industry analyst and ISTA Mielke GmbH Executive Director Thomas Mielke said oil palm yield were expected to recover in Malaysia next year, albeit, at a slow pace.

“The industry needs to wait until 2018 to see yield normalise after being badly impacted by the prolonged drought caused by the El-Nino weather, he told Bernama.

Saying that palm oil prices were undervalued, Mielke had forecast a rally soon which will see the commodity fetching between RM2,900 and RM3,000 per tonne.

Low palm oil stocks, export supplies and a slower-than-expected recovery in production saw CPO prices touch a high of RM3,098 per tonne in 2016 against RM2,508 last year.

After seeing steady prices in 2016, another industry player said palm oil production was set to rebound in 2017 which would then pressure prices downwards to around RM2,500 per tonne level.

At RM2,500 per tonne, the palm oil industry is set to maintain a good bottom line in spite of the limiting factor in exports.

On the flipside, the expected higher production, post El-Nino, in the third quarter of 2017, will limit the price recovery as output is expected to improve by 15 per cent in the second half of 2017.

As for the rubber industry, the commodity was also affected by low global commodity prices, surging production and subdued demand in 2016 with tyre grade SMR 20 contracting 47 per cent from January to November compared with 18.9 per cent in the same period of 2015.

Unfavourable external factors such as slow global economic growth, low crude oil prices, strong US dollar and poor sentiment in futures trade had further pressured the physical market.

During the year, SMR 20 peaked at RM8.07 per kg on Nov 24 and dipped to a low of RM4.26 per kg on Feb 11, prompting the government to implement the Rubber Production Incentive.

The incentive will be activated when the monthly average SMR 20 price is at the level of RM5.50 per kg or the farm-gate price is at RM2.20 per kg or less

Against this backdrop, the Malaysian Rubber Board said the government decided to implement four entry point projects (EPPs) under the National Key Economic Areas (NKEAs) in a move to stabilise NR prices.

Other efforts included maintaining the production area of one million hectares, increasing the average yield and approving RM10 million to increase latex production.

On the downstream sector, the Malaysian rubber industry recorded a marginal contraction of 2.2 per cent in exports to RM23.88 billion in the first three quarters of 2016.

Exports of other sectors like rubber products, other rubber and heveawood products recorded a growth of 1.3 per cent, 2.8 per cent and 0.7 per cent, respectively.

Demand for natural rubber was noted from developed nations and developing countries like China and India.

As for demand for Malaysian rubber and rubber products in 2017, MRB said it was expected to increase marginally with export earnings estimated to increase to RM33.5 billion from RM31 billion forecast for 2016.

Turning to the tin market, although cast by the same fate as other commodities in terms of prices, the metal touched its highest price of US$22,000 per tonne in November and the lowest of US$13,250 in June on the Kuala Lumpur Tin Market (KLTM).

Hence, traders also expect the metal to remain a stellar next year based on expectation of a rebound in demand from European, Japanese, China and local interest.

As for gold, the glitter fizzled out with US dollar sky rocketing to greater heights while oil prices plummeted to a record low, prompting the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries to gets its members and non-members to cut back on production to shore up prices.

It is no more a safe haven asset as the US Federal Reserve announced a 25 basis points increase in interest rates which would further strengthen the US dollar.

Phillip Futures Sdn Bhd Dealer Chu Ching Yong said gold futures was traded at a high of RM180.40 per gramme and a low of RM147.60 on Bursa Malaysia Derivatives.

“Higher interest rates usually dampen the price of precious metals,” he said, adding that Bursa gold futures may recover to reach a new high as the ringgit weakens further.

Meanwhile, Bank Negara Malaysia is expected to reduce interest rates in 2017 to stimulate the economy.

“We would expect Bursa gold futures to trade within the range of RM160.00 per gramme and RM195.00 per gramme in the coming year,” Chu added.

Back to top

Ambank Credit Cardholder Wins Campaign Grand Prize

KUALA LUMPUR, 27 December 2016, (Bernama) – Hairunazuan Bin Nordin from Taman Pagoh Jaya, Johor was the Grand Prize winner of the “Caltex: Fill, Swipe & Win” Campaign. Hairunazuan, an AmBank credit cardholder since 2014 was presented with the mock cheque for RM50,000 at the prize presentation ceremony held on 20 December 2017 at the Caltex Petrol Station, Batu 6, Jalan Cheras, Kuala Lumpur, which has PIN and PAY enabled terminals for card payments.

Present at the prize giving ceremony were Anthony Chin, Deputy Managing Director, Retail Banking, AmBank (M) Berhad, Syed Anuar Syed Ali, Head, Group Corporate Communications & Marketing, AmBank Group, Chang Swee Wah, Retail District Manager, Central & South, Chevron Malaysia Limited and Damien Ong, Lead Card Marketing & Sales Automation, Chevron Malaysia Limited.

The “Caltex: Fill, Swipe & Win” Campaign was a joint marketing collaboration with Caltex to reward all existing and new AmBank credit and debit cardholders. To participate in the campaign, cardholders only had to register via a one-time SMS and fuel up with a minimum spend of RM50 at any of the 420 Caltex stations with their AmBank Credit or Debit cards. Cardholders with cumulative monthly spending of RM200 and RM400 were also awarded with additional 25 and 50 entries respectively. Apart from the Daily Cash Back, there was a total of RM70,000 worth of cash prizes comprising the Grand Prize of RM50,000 and four monthly cash prizes of RM5,000 each that were given away.

Jade Lee, Managing Director, Retail Banking, AmBank (M) Berhad said, “The campaign was launched to provide more rewards to our cardholders in the form of cashback on their daily petrol use at Caltex. We at AmBank are consistently creating new and innovative products and services, bearing in mind the ever changing demands and needs of our customers. We believe in rewarding our customers and we are delighted to share this joyous occasion with Encik Hairunazuan. Our congratulations to him and a big thank you to all our customers for their overwhelming response during the “Caltex: Fill, Swipe & Win” Campaign.

“I had a pleasant shock and am also happy at the same time, to win the Grand Prize of RM50,000. As a family, we will use our winnings the best we can and also save with AmBank for our children’s future needs. Moving forward, we will continue to use our AmBank credit card for most of our transactions,” said the 35-years old Hairunazuan.

The “Caltex: Fill, Swipe & Win” Campaign commenced on 1 June and ended on 30 September 2016. The campaign boosted year-on-year retail spending by 14% and garnered an increase of 35% AmBank card spend at Caltex stations.

Back to top

Joint Effort to Transform Riverwalk Village

KUALA LUMPUR, 23 December 2016, (Bernama) – AkzoNobel, the leading global paints and coatings company and producer of quality paint brand, Dulux together with Low Yat Group and The One Academy today unveiled the newly uplifted Riverwalk Village located at Jalan Sultan Azlan Shah, formerly known as Jalan Ipoh.

Themed Muhibbah, meaning Harmony in Bahasa, the joint collaboration saw 118 students from The One Academy take part in a meaningful project to uplift one of Kuala Lumpur’s heritage area.

The project to uplift Riverwalk City, marks the first time ever in which AkzoNobel Malaysia and Low Yat Group is collaborating in hopes of creating a better tomorrow for the Malaysian community. This collaboration is in line with AkzoNobel’s commitment in creating more Human Cities around the world with focus on commitment in helping the world’s urban areas to deliver a stronger sense of community purpose, pride and happiness.

AkzoNobel uses its three key strengths – essential ingredients, essential protection and essential colour – to energize local communities and make them more liveable and inspiring. The initiative to paint murals around Jalan Sultan Azlan Shah hopes to bring life in a new light by creating a more pleasant, vibrant and liveable space for Malaysians.

“We at AkzoNobel are ecstatic about this collaboration to transform an area that is filled with so much heritage; Jalan Sultan Azlan Shah. We are honoured to be able to give back to Malaysians by creating a more liveable and inspiring spaces. Through the completion of this project, I can only see the good of what this will create for the Malaysian community in the coming months”, said Indra Laban, General Manager, AkzoNobel Decorative Paints Malaysia, Singapore & Brunei.

“Our collaboration with AkzoNobel, together with The One Academy aims to bring positive vibes to create a more patron plus visitor-friendly environment to Riverwalk Village while providing 118 students with a conducive, participatory learning while being a fun platform to express their creative impression of Jalan Ipoh’s heritage and charm, in the spirit of Muhibbah.

The commendable efforts of these students to complete a meaningful hand-painted 3D wall mural project on three blocks of shop offices, with a total length of 243 feet in just four days is an achievement to be lauded. This joint initiative is just the beginning and does not end here. We certainly look forward to more collaboration with AkzoNobel to jointly support students of The One Academy in nurturing creative talents in Malaysia,” said Jennifer Chow, General Manager – Property & Business Development, Low Yat Group.

“It is truly a privilege and an honour to be able to work with AkzoNobel and Low Yat Group on this impactful Community Service Project through the power of art and design. This meaningful first time collaboration among AkzoNobel, Low Yat Group and The One Academy creates an artistic foundation on which to build a cohesive society reflecting the “Muhibbah” spirit of Malaysia. I hoped that this Mural Painting Project will be the starting point for future collaborative endeavors which would transform RiverWalk Village into a creative hub as part of the development of RiverWalk City,” said Fadzilah binti Ahmad, Lecturer of The One Academy – Community Course Service.

A total of 118 students from The One Academy majoring in different fields from Fashion Design, Multimedia, Fine Art and Illustration, took part in a four-day painting project that was held from 27 to 30 November 2016. Students of The One Academy were given six basic colours such as black, white, yellow, green, blue and red all from Dulux Weathershield®, a range of premium quality exterior paints with Keep Cool™ Technology to reflect infrared radiation from sunlight, reducing exterior wall surface temperature by up to 5oC.

“It has been AkzoNobel’s commitment in protecting the human aspect of any city to further reflect in the making cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable. We believe that our new partnership will make a significant contribution to creating more human urban environments”, concludes Laban.

Back to top

Malaysia hosts End-of-term Reception for UN Security Council

PUTRAJAYA, 23 December 2016, (Bernama) – Malaysia marked the end of its two-year term as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council with a reception at its Permanent Mission to the UN in New York on 22 December 2016.

The reception, hosted by the Minister of Foreign Affairs Malaysia, Dato’ Sri Anifah Aman, was held to express Malaysia’s appreciation to the other members of the Security Council and the wider UN membership for their cooperation, the UN Secretariat for their assistance, and civil society for their general contribution to Malaysia’s tenure.

The cooperation rendered by all quarters had facilitated Malaysia’s work on the Council. During the past two years (2015-2016), Malaysia saw the implementation of several important initiatives, including on the protection of children from abduction in situations of armed conflict, which Malaysia chaired at the Council; non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction to non-state actors; the question of Palestine; peace building in post-conflict countries; and the multiplier effects of climate change on international peace and security. Malaysia is gratified that the initiatives received overwhelming support from everyone both within and outside the UN machinery.

The reception was well attended, with Malaysian cuisine as an additional draw for the multinational guests.

Back to top

TESCO Malaysia Bags Top Retailer Award from Kantar Worldpanel

KUALA LUMPUR, 23 December 2016, (Bernama) – Tesco Stores (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd (Tesco Malaysia), the country’s leading hypermarket recently received an award from KANTAR Worldpanel for being the number one retailer for 2016 Malaysia Most Visited Retailer Award.

The award was presented to the CEO of Tesco Malaysia, Paul Ritchie by Kantar Worldpanel Managing Director, Howard Chang at Tesco Malaysia Head Office in Bandar Menjalara, Kuala Lumpur. Also present during the award presentation was the Customer Director, Vivian Yap and the Corporate Services Director, Azliza Azmel.

Kantar Worldpanel is the global expert in shoppers’ behaviour. A study was done by KANTAR based on purchase behaviour of 2500 panellists which represent the entire household population in Peninsular Malaysia covering 126 grocery categories excluding fresh food, alcohol and cigarettes. Among all the retailers that panellists have visited in 2015, Tesco attracts the most at 35.5 Million footprints in the store and records as # 1 most visited retailer in 2015 in Malaysia.

Commenting on the award, Vivian said, “We are very delighted to be chosen as the number one retailer in the country as we always strive to serve Malaysia’s shoppers a little better, every day. Receiving this award shows that all the hard work and dedication given by all colleagues paid off.”

“We work hard on listening to our customers and understanding the current economic pressures on families. We’ve seen how families are striving to stretch their Ringgit especially in times where they need to spend for the back to school followed quickly by the Christmas and CNY holidays. Tesco is prepared to offer great promotions on essential items while rewarding customers with Syiok vouchers available from 29th December 2016 until 14th January 2017,” added Yap.

Earlier this year, Tesco Malaysia launched its Long-term Price Cut campaign with massive investment in price up to RM90 million. The campaign was executed in three phases focusing on baby products during the first phase, cooking and baking essentials and recently expanded to health, beauty and accessories categories. Tesco also worked closely with its suppliers to bring in key iconic imported produce at affordable prices such as salmon, lemons and avocados.

Back to top

Iranian researcher ranks 2nd in global organic products exhibition

Ahvaz, Khuzestan prov, 25 December 2016, (IRNA) – Iranian researcher Elham Jafarzadeh ranked 2nd in International Conference & Exhibition on “Sugarcane Value Chain – Vision 2025” for making 100% organic products in Pune, India.

Jafarzadeh’s article on different species of sugarcane in India ranked 2nd among some 153 articles.

‘I have started my studies on achieving 100 percent-organic products using advantageous microorganisms in sugarcane called ‘ Endophytic Nitrogen Fixing’ since 2009 and I have presented 4 articles up to 2016′ she said on Sunday.

‘The 2009 researches aimed at removing chemical fertilizers, namely nitrate, phosphate, potash and chemical pesticides to protect human health and to maintain soil for future generations and to reduce over 60% of the high fees of buying fertilizers’, she added.

Jafarzadeh was selected as top student in the student scientific conference on” Science and Technology, Vision Statement and National Interests’ which was held on December 27-28, 2014 in Iran’s Culture House in New Delhi, India.

The International conference & exhibition on sugarcane value chain – vision 2025 sugar was held on November 13-16 at Vasantdada Sugar Institute, Pune, Maharashtra, India.

Back to top

Persian carpets show Iran’s influence in world heritage

Tehran, 25 December 2016, (IRNA) – Head of the Research Institute of Cultural Heritage and Tourism Organization (RICHT) Seyed Mohammad Beheshti said carpets woven in Europe and other countries are indicative of the influence of the Iranian culture and cultural transactions with other nations, the RICHT website reported.

“The fact that today we are unaware of carpet-weaving in other countries is indicative of our cultural oblivion and our significant share not only in the field of carpet but in the world heritage.”

According to the RICHT Public Relations Office, Beheshti made the remarks at the first exhibition of “Western Europe and Indo-European carpets in Iran” which was held at Iran Carpet Museum.

He added, “Maybe nothing is more important than reminding the people of our country that who they are and what are their characteristics and the required instrument for this purpose is the same thing that has been developed by the people of this land throughout history and each are somehow manifestation of the cultural features of this homeland.”

Beheshti further remarked, “We can look at each of these manifestations as the mirrors in front of us wherein the cultural image of the people of this homeland is being reflected and if we intend to know characteristics of the people we should look at the remaining works.”

He pointed to the carpet as one of those works and raising the question that what cultural feature carpets elucidate, he said among the terrestrial features of carpet one is that it provides suitable, pleasant, warm, soft and comfortable flooring.

“But”, he noted, “there is a characteristic in the Iranian culture that is whatever it touches or applies it would not suffice to its terrestrial feature rather it should conquer the issue from earth to sky and this is not only exclusive to the carpet but to the pottery, dishes, food, architecture, etc. as alchemy is one of the characteristics of the people of this homeland, i.e. to transfer a worthless object into a precious thing.”

Stressing that the Iranian culture enjoys diversified features including alchemy, he said throughout this country these characteristics are visible and in some parts, some of them are more obvious.

Manifestation of Alchemy in Persian Carpet

Elsewhere in his remarks, Beheshti referred to the carpet as a scene where the Iranian alchemy has been manifested and said this is the point where both the earth and the sky can be conquered and carpet can be considered as pulling down the sky to earth or sending earth to the sky.

Stressing that carpet’s prestige is much higher than being expressed in words, he said but the one who has put the carpet beneath the feet of human beings has considered much more respect for man.

The head of the Research Institute of Cultural Heritage and Tourism stressed that many things can be recognized through carpets and said carpet is the manifestation of the Iranian culture and said carpets on display at the exhibition have been woven in Europe, India, etc. and the influence of Iran’s cultural transactions with other cultures can be found in them.

“Carpet weaving in Britain, France, etc. is a source of surprise for us which is indicative of the influence of our past in the culture of these countries and our cultural oblivion as it has not been true in the field of carpet but we have had a significant share in the world heritage.”

Beheshti said Dante in Italy, Goethe in Germany and Shakespeare in Britain are well-known people while in different parts of Iran there are our share of the world poetry like Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque which is the poem of mosque in the world of Islam, Khajoo Bridge is the poem of bridge, Ganjali Khan Bathroom is the poem of bathroom and Naqsh-e Jahan Square is the poem of square and Isfahan is the poem of city.

Back to top

LEAD STORY: Iranian inventor develops Braille touchscreen

Tehran, 26 December 2016, (IRNA) – A young Iranian inventor has developed a touchscreen for the visually-impaired persons that for the first time uses a continuous style to display characters.

A’zamfar whose Braille Touchscreen project propsal has won him first rank at the 18th International Kharazmi Festival, said the major difference between what he has invented with those Braille touchscreens developed earlier is that it displays Braille characters in a continuous style.

Previously developed Braille touchscreens provide characters line by line, A’zamfar said.

A continuous display style of the Braille characters makes reading for the visually-impaired easier and faster.

According to the Iranian inventor, the new Braille touchscreen is priced far less compared to its foreign versions.

This is another difference that makes it more affordable for persons with vision problems, A’zamfar said.

Back to top

Pakistan, Iran to strengthen banking channels

Islamabad, 22 December 2016, (IRNA) – Pakistan commerce minister said he would pay a two-day visit to Iran next week (28-29 Dec) to discuss Free Trade Agreement (FTA) and resumption of banking channels between Iran and Pakistan.

In an exclusive interview with IRNA on Thursday, Khurram Dastgir Khan said: ‘We are quite hopeful that Iran and Pakistan would be able to sign FTA by the end of 2017, which is aimed at expanding the bilateral trade.’

Giving details on his upcoming visit, the minister said that he is to visit Iran to follow up on the valuable visit by Iran President Hassan Rouhani to Pakistan earlier this year.

“We are very much looking forward to progress on the five year economic engagement plan that was signed during that visit,” he said.

Dastgir Khan added, “We have already made good progress on one part of the plan which is the offer by Pakistan accepted by Iran of a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) and we have exchanged drafts of the agreement.”

The minister added that Iran and Pakistan have already held their first negotiations on FTA and there is great positivity on both sides to conclude it ideally by the end of 2017.

“The time for the conclusion of FTA is very short but since there is great positivity on both sides I think there shouldn’t be that much time required concluding it,” he viewed.

Dastgir Khan ensured that any outstanding issues in the signing of FTA would be resolved quickly.

He added that during his visit to Iran, he will also be discussing on the prospects of broader energy ties with Iran, particularly in reference to the electricity that Pakistan is buying from Iran for the port of Gwadar.

“We would like to increase these imports to all of our border regions,” he said.

The Pakistani official added the current status of Iran-Pakistan (IP) gas pipeline would also be on the agenda of his upcoming visit to Tehran.

“We would see that how we can facilitate both the electricity and the gas purchases,” he said adding, “We will be talking about two separate subjects in my visit which are very necessary for trade. First is an agreement that we are going to purpose on mutual recognition of scientific standards, which means that we accept in principle the certification by the Iranian standards authority and the Iranian accept certification by Pakistani Quality Control Authority; so if a product is certified in Pakistan, it is accepted in Iran automatically and vice versa, which will really help our trade.

“The second thing which we are going to propose is customs cooperation. Customs authorities on both sides should talk regularly and exchange data so both countries can have the same data.”

Dastgir Khan added, ‘We should minimize or remove as much as possible the non-tariff barriers and I will be also discussing with Iranian officials whether we can agree to have an understanding on facilitating business visas as much as possible so the idea is that we try to regularize and formalize our relationship but with a facilitative mind set.

Dastgir Khan also reiterated that Iran and Pakistan are very near to resolve the banking problem between the two countries.

“I just got an update from the State Bank of Pakistan and it is matter of a few weeks now, we are very close to it,” he said adding, ‘Last time when we talked on the issue, the cabinet of Pakistan had approved it and under that approval negotiations have taken place but now our State Bank says that we are literally in last days to resolve the problem. We are hoping to conclude it very soon.

“My visit to Iran will be a two-day visit and I am hoping to meet many officials apart from my counterpart because the relationship with Iran is very important to Pakistan and it is a broad relationship in many areas,” he said.

The official went on to say that the result of the FTA is that both countries agree to minimize the tariffs that they impose on each other’s products and also agree that if both countries are going to restrict trade during some part of the year it becomes predictable with minimizing of tariffs.

“Once the tariff comes down on Iranian goods in Pakistan and Pakistani goods in Iran I think we will see a boost in trade,” he said.

The minister noted that there is already lot of trade that both sides are not capturing in statistics so by bringing down tariffs ‘we want to encourage people to do formal trade.’

He added that inauguration of the ‘Pakistan Gate’ at Iran-Pakistan border is the outcome of his visit to Taftan in May this year in which he asked the customs authorities to improve the facilities and also to have a proper gateway to Pakistan.

“I am very happy to report that they have constructed it with improved facilities over there which is very good sign. It will help people crossing over there and soon there would be big facility for trade and goods.’

Back to top

Shiraz, Cyprus Universities ink cooperation pact

Shiraz, 24 December 2016, (IRNA) – University of Shiraz and Cyprus International University (CIU) signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to promote scientific cooperation.

Shiraz, Cyprus International Universities ink MoU on cooperation

According to Public Relations Department of University of Shiraz, Chancellor of CIU Halil Nadiri told the signing ceremony, ‘We are ready to plan and launch cooperation with University of Shiraz.’

CIU is ready to have cooperation with University of Shiraz in different fields, especially solving problem of Cyprus potable water and launching scientific magazine in the country’s international university.

Deputy Chancellor of University of Shiraz Seyyed Ali Akbar Safavi said that the academic center is determined to further boost scientific cooperation in the international scene.

‘We are seeking implementation of memoranda of understanding in a bid to enhance international communications in the true sense of the word,’ he said.

The official also said that the two universities can help development of tourism industry in both countries.

Meanwhile, Director of International Affairs Department of University of Shiraz Zohreh Azimifar said that the MoU will clear the way for exchange of students and instructors, undertaking joint projects, holding courses of study and international conferences.

Back to top

Exports from Qeshm Free Trade Zone rise by 90 percent

Qeshm, Hormuzgan prov, 27 December 2016, (IRNA) – A senior official in the Qeshm Free Trade Zone said exports from this Persian Gulf Island to foreign countries as well as other free trade zones in the country has risen by 92 percent this calendar year (started March 20).

Direct General for the organization for industries, mines and trade Jahangir Majidi said that the figure shows a remarkable rise as compared with the same period last year.

Talking to reporters on Tuesday, he said the production of items destined for export too has remarkably improved thanks to the well-calculated activities of small-scale businesses reaching a volume of 23,600,00 dollars which is higher by 12 million dollars than the same period last year.

He said 17 production units active in such areas as manufacturing furniture, fisheries and boats are exporting commodities to the UAE, Oman, Iraq, India, Italy, Somalia, Kuwait and Turkmenistan.

Back to top

China to invest $2b in Sarakhs Special Economic Zone

Mashad, Khorasan Razavi, 25 December 2016, (IRNA) – Managing Director of Sarakhs Special Economic Zone Ahmad Sadeqi Golmakani said in this northeastern province on Sunday that a Chinese company would make two billion dollars of investment in this region.

Talking to IRNA, Golmakani underscored that a state Chinese company has inked a memorandum of understanding (MoU), worth two billion dollars, with the Iranian side to make investment in Sarakhs Special Economic Zone.

He said the MoU is considered as the biggest foreign investment in this part of the country, adding the amount of foreign investments has skyrocketed in Sarakhs Special Economic Zone in the past year.

He added several foreign investors from South Korea, Italy and China have recentlyvoiced their willingness to make investment in this region.

Sarakhs Special Economic Zone with a span of 5,290 hectares is situated northeast of Iran and connects ports of the Gulf of Oman and the Persian Gulf to Central Asia, the Caucasus and Russia.

The zone, due to its geographical location which is in the center of ECO countries, is being considered as the golden gate for entry into Central Asia, China and Russia and is a bridge for connecting major trade markets in Central Asia with the Persian Gulf countries in south of Iran, Europe in the west and Afghanistan and Pakistan in east of the country.

The zone is 150 km east of Mashad and 15 km from the city of Sarakhs and borders Turkmenistan in the north and the east.

Back to top

Malaysian, Iranian oil companies to boost collaboration

TEHRAN, Iran, 22 December 2016, (Bernama) – PETRONAS has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) to collaborate in a field study in South Azadegan and Cheshmeh Khosh on 21 December 2016.

The signing took place at NIOC’s Central Headquarters here.

Under the MOU, a study will be conducted for a period of six months, and is expected to be concluded in Q2 2017.

Signing of behalf of PETRONAS was Anuar Taib, Executive Vice President and Chief Executive Officer of Upstream, while NIOC was represented by Dr. Gholamreza Manouchehri, Deputy Managing Director in Engineering and Development.

“We would like to thank NIOC for the opportunity as this MOU is an important milestone for both PETRONAS and NIOC. Iran has provided an opportunity for growth in the Middle East beyond our current footprint in Iraq,” said Anuar during the ceremony.

“We will bring our capabilities and expertise in oil and gas to Iran and look forward to a successful partnership with NIOC,” he added.

Back to top

Bouteflika: Message of Moderation Best Illustration of Islam’s Nobility

ALGIERS, 27 December 2016, (NNN-APS) – Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika has declared that the message of moderation “is the best illustration” of the nobility of Islam and its rejection of any form of violence or excess.

In a message Monday to participants of the 18th National Quran Week, read on his behalf by the Adviser to the Presidency, President Bouteflika said: “Our nation is currently facing the challenge of defence of our religion and preservation of the whole of humanity against religious and confessional conflicts, which are very dangerous.

“Since Algeria chose Islam as a religion, it has always drawn on the source of this religion to take measured and moderate stands that protect our society today against regional and international friction.

“This Algeria inspired our current generation, for which the spirit of moderation is a point of reference. Besides, this generation has not hesitated to support the Charter for Peace and National Reconciliation and make its implementation possible, and adhered to all projects launched by the state to eradicate fundamentalism, extremism and rigorism.”

President Bouteflika recalled that the matrix of Algeria’s historical and cultural reference, imbued with the teachings of moderate Islam and the values of patriotism and sacrifice, had led to the birth of the current Algeria school for prevention of extremism, which has gained the interest of all concerned, and whose experience has attracted the wise, inspired friends and cultivated pride and self-confidence in society.

“Over the years, our country has remained attached to its civilizational legacy. Its cultural and scientific potential, about which it boasts today, reflects this attachment and constitutes a strong argument to meet the current challenges in the world, a world exposed to disturbing and impressive disturbances, reverberating a worrying reality threatening the existence of humanity,” President Bouteflika said.

He also called called on “scholars and avant-garde thinkers of the Muslim world to work for the defence of Islam, which is intentionally and unfairly targeted by some hostile parties within societies with little knowledge of the religion”.

President Bouteflika also congratulated the organizers of this national Quran Week for the relevant choice of the theme of moderation, stressing that Algeria can deservedly be proud of the moderation of its religious references and its policy, “even in the most difficult circumstances”.

Back to top

Turkey-Pakistan Free Trade Talks Make Progress

ANKARA, Turkey, 25 December 2016, (NNN-PPI) – The latest round of Turkish-Pakistani free trade talks have finished, and substantial progress were achieved on tariff lines, proposed for concessions by both sides, state-run Turkish Anadolu Agency reported on Saturday.

“Both sides undertook discussions on agreements on goods, services and investment. Considerable progress was made during the talks on all these agreements,” Pakistan’s embassy in Turkey said, in a statement.

The fifth round Turkish-Pakistani free trade talks were held in Turkey’s capital Ankara, on Dec 21-23, in which both senior representatives from trade, industry and commerce took part.

Negotiations over the deal were launched by then Turkish Prime Minister, Ahmet Davutoglu and Pakistani Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, during the latter’s visit to Turkey in Oct, 2015.

Then Turkish Economy Minister, Mustafa Elitas, and Pakistani Commerce Minister, Khurram Dastgir Khan, inked the free trade agreement framework in Islamabad this Mar.

Bilateral trade between the two countries reached around 600 million U.S. dollars last year, including 289 million U.S. dollars in imports from Turkey.

Back to top

Kuwaitis 3rd Biggest Property buyers in Turkey

ANKARA, 24 December 2016, (NNN-KUNA) — Kuwaiti nationals ranked third after the Iraqis and Saudis in property purchases in Turkey last November, according to the Turkish Statistical Institute.

Kuwaitis bought 212 plots in November, coming third after the Iraqis, who bought 285 units and the Saudis who came second, buying 236 plots.

Property sales for foreigners in Turkey dropped in November by 16.3 percent as compared to last year’s same month, with overall trades involving 1,773 plots.

Back to top

Islamic Dev Bank to Finance Projects Worth US$863 Million

JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia, 26 December 2016, (NNN-SPA) – The Islamic Development Bank (IDB), on Sunday, announced that, its Board of Executive Directors, agreed on financing new projects worth USD 863 million, in a number of countries.

This came about during a meeting of the board, chaired by President of the bank, Bandar Hajjar, the bank said, in a statement.

The funding, approved by the board, is directed to new development projects, in a number of countries, including Bahrain, UAE, Guinea, Morocco, Senegal, Togo, Djibouti, Chad, Jordan and Mali, it added.

The board endorsed some programmes and plans, mainly the 2017-19 action plan, estimated at USD 16 billion, it said, noting that, the financial budget for 2017, worth USD 5.2 billion, was also okayed during the meeting.

Back to top

Oman Hosts Regional Trade Seminar

MUSCAT, Oman, 25 December 2016, (NNN-ONA) – The regional training course, “Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Trade Policies,” has discussed many trade issues.

The course was co-hosted by Oman’s Ministry of Commerce and Industry and Sultan Qaboos University (SQU), in cooperation with the World Trade Organisation (WTO), for the third time, with participation of 23 government officials, representing eight Arab countries.

Dr. Hussein Al-Bughanmi, Academic Coordinator of the course, head of WTO, chair at the Department of Natural Resource Economics at the College of Agricultural and Marine Sciences, in SQU, said that, the main aim of the course is to strengthen the capacity of WTO state members, as well as, the states wishing to join the implementation of WTO agreements, in terms of the trade policies, in addition to providing the participants with the skills necessary to improve their negotiating abilities.

The training course was an opportunity for participants to meet with experts from WTO and other organisations, who enriched, with their experience in the topics, that have been discussed in the course.

Back to top

Jordan, Iraq Discuss Economic Cooperation

AMMAN, 27 December 2016, (NNN-Petra) – Minister of Industry, Trade and Supply Yarub Qudah and Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi discussed ways to promote bilateral cooperation in all fields, especially economic and trade ones.

During a meeting with Qudah in Baghdad on Monday, the Iraqi Prime Minister stressed the importance of reopening the border crossings between Jordan and Iraq.

Qudah voiced Jordan’s support for Iraq in its war on terrorism.

Back to top

ASEAN Economic Community Makes Progress in First Year

JAKARTA, Indonesia, 26 December 2016, (NNN-Xinhua) – The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is now advancing its mechanisms to facilitate the creation of the ASEAN Community (AC) with several measures to address its efficacy target by 2025 already carried out in the first year since it was instituted on Dec. 31, 2015.

The three pillars that embody the ASEAN Community, comprised of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC), ASEAN Political and Security Community (APSC) and ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community (ASCC), were set in an ASEAN blueprint to configure the bloc’s new paradigm in the future.

The creation of the single identity supported by those pillars is assessed as being essential in dealing with the current global economic and political issues, analysts said.

They said strong cohesiveness among the ASEAN member countries would further extend the peace and prosperity that have been enjoyed by around 620 million people living in the region over the past five decades.

The creation of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) was originally expected to establish a single regional market and production base, turning the region into an economic-competitive area with fair economic development that is fully integrated into the global economy.

ASEAN Deputy Secretary General for AEC, Lim Hong Hin, said that 2016 saw numerous advancements towards the AEC creation, among these was the establishment of National Trade Repositories (NTRs) of all the ASEAN member states, allowing traders to get easier access and better compliance with prescribed regulations.

Facilitating the gradual liberalization of the services sector in the regional bloc towards a free flow of service was also put into effect with the signing of the Protocol to Implement the Ninth Package of Commitments under the ASEAN Framework Agreement on Services (AFAS) this year, he added.

“A legal framework that allows the elimination of substantial restriction in cross-border movement between naturalized persons has also been applied, further facilitating trade in goods, services and investments,” he said in an interview with Xinhua.

Besides that, the bloc also saw the full ratification of the ASEAN Open Skies agreements, allowing unlimited air transport for passengers and cargo in international airports of certain ASEAN member countries.

Adding to those progresses, Lim said that essential implementation of frameworks to support the AEC Blueprint 2025 has also been put into place.

In addition, a number of economic priority mechanisms to support the AEC Blueprint 2025 have also been completed this year, such as the ASEAN Trade Facilitation Framework (ATFF), the ASEAN Food Safety Regulatory Framework (AFSRF), the ASEAN Institutional Framework on Access to Finance for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME), and the ASEAN Tariff Finder.

All advancements during the initial year were noted and praised by Latif Adam, an international trade analyst with the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI).

He said that all nations in the bloc now expect the AEC can be their savior amid protectionism which tends to be intensively applied by strong economies in the world.

“We have to admit that advancements have already been put in place in the AEC mechanism. We expect that the AEC can be an alternative to compensate for impacts from possible trade hindrances applied by advanced economies with their protectionist regimes,” Latif said, referring to the United States President-elect Donald Trump’s possible intentions.

Latif said that effort needs to be made to encourage further implementation of the AEC so as to make the bloc the only reliable market for its member states.

Despite a myriad of advances, Lim admitted that apparent challenges were still hampering the efforts to further integrate the regional economy.

The ultimate challenge persists in the disparity of capabilities between the developed and less-developed members that could hamper the latter in addressing the integration commitments.

“These disparities will also have implications on cooperation and policy choices in promoting equality and efficiencies, at least in the short term,” Lim added.

Appropriate distribution of benefits gained from the AEC is another challenge, he said.

To address these issues, integrated measures need to be formulated and implemented so as to further boost the capacities of the less-developed members in optimizing their participation and eventually assure them the benefits from the AEC agendas, Lim said.

Uncertainties in global economic and political realms have also added to the challenges in coping with the AEC agendas, he added.

“Facing those challenges, ASEAN nations are required to provide adequate resource support, strong ASEAN institutions, unrelenting political commitment and proactive stakeholders’ engagement,” Lim pointed out.

Besides the continuing efforts in designing and implementing instruments towards the AEC creation, the 10-member regional bloc is now involved in negotiations to create trade deal pacts with its trade partners through the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which involves the ten ASEAN member states and six other economies including China.

Back to top

Egypt’s Renowned Painter Highlights China’s Silk Road in Art Gallery

CAIRO, Egypt, 21 December 2016,(NNN-XINHUA) – Through 56 colourful paintings, hanging on the classy walls of Horizons Hall, attached to Mohamed Mahmoud Khalil Museum, in downtown Cairo, Egyptian internationally-recognised painter, Mohamed Abla, told ancient Chinese tales and highlighted China’s Silk Road revival initiative, to visitors of his art gallery, dubbed “On the Silk Road.”

“The purpose of the exhibition is to show that I, as an artist, am interested in this topic, which led me to read a lot about China and its civilisation,” the renowned artist told Xinhua, while standing near the largest and most colourful painting at the gallery.

Proposed by Chinese President, Xi Jinping, in 2013, the Belt and Road initiative, which is highly supported by Egypt, seeks to revive ancient trade routes to link China with over 60 countries in Asia, Africa and Europe, through the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road.

“The exhibition is an invitation to the whole world, because China’s proposed Silk Road revival is a cultural, economic project and the relations between China and the Arab world and the West is part of the idea,” Abla explained.

On one of the walls of Horizons Hall, a painting features a ship, with a couple of people on board swinging in the middle of a rough sea, with blue and white waves on a windy day, while an angel in the sky stretches hands towards the ship.

“The angel represents hope for their rescue, which is a life theme, as life has a lot of ups and downs, but there is always hope in the end,” Abla explained, while pointing to the picture.

The artist, who has a lot of fans, including professional and amateur artists in Egypt and abroad, said that, most of his paintings at the exhibition are inspired by tales and myths from Chinese culture, “for China is one of the world’s oldest civilisations, like Egypt.”

Another painting shows two stone-made knights riding two stone horses, each being on top of a broken tall column, while they both try to reach each other for a fight. “They are not convinced they are made of stones and they insist to engage in a war, just like what happens in real life today.”

Abla said, even the colours and papers he used for the displayed paintings were all Chinese-made. “I was looking for a thinner, lighter kind of paper for my paintings of this gallery, and I found that the Chinese papers were what I wanted. In addition, the pigment of Chinese-made oil is very high.”

Zahara, a student of fine arts, said, she admired Abla’s use of Chinese colours and natural symbols from Chinese culture, referring to two side-by-side paintings in the gallery; one is of an abstract face of a lady with Chinese features and yellow dress and the other is of an abstract face of an Egyptian-looking man, wearing traditional Nubian Egyptian garment and holding a flower in his hand.

Among the visitors were also an old American couple, industrial psychologist, Fred Brower, and child psychologist and child book writer, Mandy Brower, who both said they loved the depths of Abla’s works so much, that they bought three of his paintings before.

The American man said, the Silk Road was made famous for the people of the West by traveller Mark O’Polo, describing the Chinese revival of the ancient routes as “a very, very interesting idea.”

“I know it’s now being revived and re-established. This connection is something I am looking at as being very interesting. It’s about connecting East and West by land, not just by flight. So, yes, we know the Silk Road and the beauty that it exchanges between the two cultures,” Brower told Xinhua at the art gallery.

Back to top

UAE Launches Scientific Research Award to Promote Innovation

ABU DHABI, 23 December 2016, (NNN-WAM) – The Ministry of Interior has launched a third cycle of the Minister of Interior’s Scientific Research Award, following directives from Lt. General Sheikh Saif bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior.

The new cycle will be focused on enhancing research quality and methodology to align contributions with the federal government’s efforts in promoting innovation.

The six winners of the award will receive a AED50,000 worth of prize money, each, a medal as well as a commemorative shield, the board of trustees of the award noted at a meeting chaired by Major General Nasser Lakhreibani Al Nuaimi, Secretary-General of the office of Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior.

The winners will also have their researches published by the ministry.

Only Emirati police or security officers may compete for the award. However, foreigners may participate only with researches jointly conducted with eligible Emiratis.

The scope of researches must cover police and civil defense operations, naturalisation and residence affairs, ports, traffic, licensing, punishment and correction institutions, administrative police work and human resources development.

As a prerequisite, all researches must be written in Arabic, unless otherwise deemed necessary, as must be new, original, innovative and add value and contribute to efforts in addressing security issues and developing police work.

Back to top

First Gulf Medical Exhibition Kicks Off

MANAMA, Bahrain, 22 December 2016, (NNN-BNA) – Bahrain’s President of the Supreme Council for Health (SCH), Lt-Gen, Doctor Shaikh Mohammed bin Abdulla Al Khalifa, today patronised, the opening of the first Gulf Medical Exhibition 2016, at the Bahrain International Exhibition and Convention Centre.

Ajial Consulting, in collaboration with the New Line, for organising exhibitions, organised the event, that runs until Dec 23, with the participation of more than 100 local and international medical institutions.

The SCH President praised the exhibition, that provides a good opportunity for local medical institutions, to exchange expertise with international parties.

He pointed out that, the expansion of therapeutic tourism projects, relies on the improvement of services provided, noting the SCH’s keenness on upgrading them.

Back to top

Saudi Plans to Set Up I.T. Firm Employing Women Only

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia, 20 December 2016, (NNN-XINHUA) – Two Saudi ministries are negotiating the formation of women-only information technology firm, to open up new sectors for female job seekers, Al Sharq Al Awsat local newspaper reported on Tuesday.

The firm will mainly target females specialised in the IT sector and the project that is adopted by the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology, and the Labour Ministry, is part of a plan to localise the communication sector.

The firm is the second phase of the plan, as the labour ministry has concluded the first phase of localising mobile phone selling and repairing jobs.

The General Authority for Statistics highlighted that the unemployment rate in the third quarter of 2016 reached 5.7 percent.

Shoura (Consultative) council member, Dr Saeed Al Shaikh, said that, the firm will open up new job opportunities for women and reduce the unemployment rate among female locals.

Besides the firm, the government has launched distance job scheme, to allow women to take up more employment opportunities, in the conservative state that bans them from driving or work with men in the same offices.

Back to top

Patience Pays Off for Jakarta Cop, Free Haj Package Awaits

JAKARTA, Indonesia, 24 December 2016, (NNN-Bernama) – Patience is a virtue. In the case of Aiptu Sutisna, his patience was paid off when the Saudi Arabian government awarded him with best gift he could ever ask for – a sponsorship for him to perform haj, free of charge, next year.

The Indonesia’s capital Metro Jaya policeman did not expect the pleasant surprise at all when the incident in which he was clawed and screamed at by a female traffic offender gained global attention after it went viral on social media.

“This is truly a surprise. In fact, I’ve just started saving money to perform haj, but maybe it’s my sustenance provided by Allah that I get to go to the Holy Land faster with the sponsorship,” he was quoted as saying in online media here yesterday.

In the incident which occurred two weeks ago, the female civil servant, identified only as Dora, berated, clawed and screamed at Aiptu for issuing a traffic summons to her after she was allegedly using the busway lane.

Aiptu then lodged a police report on the incident.

Two days later, Dora came to the police station to apologise to Aiptu, who later withdrawn the report and considered the matter solved.

Thursday, Aiptu received the sponsorship from the Saudi Arabian Ambassador to Indonesia, Osama Al Mohammed Al-Shuaibi.

“I’m so touched and proud…I didn’t expect patience can be so rewarding,” he said, adding that he would also pray for Dora at the Holy Land.

Meanwhile, Dora was quoted as saying she was also happy for Aiptu for receiving the sponsorship as the policeman truly deserved such a special reward.

Back to top

Tourism forms 40% of Penang Economy

GEORGE TOWN, Penang state, Malaysia, 19 December 2016, (NNN-Bernama) – Penang state continues to shine as one of the leading states in the country in terms of tourism and the industry has also dominated 40 per cent of the overall state’s economy, according to Deputy Prime Minister Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.

He said THE TOP@Komtar, a new tourism spot in the state, could be a platform to promote Penang locally and also internationally.

“Penang has long been a favourite spot among tourists, both locally and internationally. In fact, this paradise island has been making its mark across the globe, and most recently, it has earned a place among the top 10 best places to retire in the world as ranked by acclaimed travel magazine Conde Nast Traveller,” he said in his speech in conjunction with the official opening of THE TOP@Komtar here yesterday.

The text of his speech was read out by Culture and Tourism Minister Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz.

The deputy prime minister added that with the opening of the new attraction, which comes with a skyhigh transparent bridge, it was a stepping stone for the state to assist the country into achieving the nation’s goal in becoming a prominent high-income nation in the international landscape.

“This tallest structure is not just an icon but it also serves as a reminder of the late Dr Lim Chong Eu’s vision for Penang. When Dr Lim was appointed as the Chief Minister he realised that there was a need for urban development and heritage conservation and thus, Komtar was conceived. Thus, the legacy must continue,” he said.

Ahmad Zahid also commended Only World Group for taking a bold step forward in giving a new lease of life to Komtar.

Based on data collected by Tourism Malaysia, in 2015 alone, the state recieved 6.3 million domestic and international tourist arrivals.

THE TOP@Komtar is part of the iconic and historical building that had been the icon for the state for decades and was built during the era of former Chief Minister, Dr Lim Chong Eu in 1970’s.

THE TOP is expected to become a new attraction in the state. It includes Rainbow Skywalk at level 68; lookout tower and a jurassic research centre.

Meanwhile, Mohamed Nazri said the federal government was committed to assist in upgrading the funicular train car service to Bukit Bendera (Penang Hill), which is a top tourist spot, to a cable car service to meet current and future needs.

He said the upgrade was necessary as there had been a tremendous growth in visitors to Bukit Bendera, from 200,000 in 2008 to 1.6 million now.

“That is why in my ministry’s allocations, each year a sum is set aside for this service. Bukit Bendera certainly needs a cable car service to cater to the ever increasing number of visitors,” he said.

Back to top

Ethiopian Airlines to Launch Jakarta Flights by June 2017

ADDIS ABABA, 22 December 2016, (NNN-ENA) – Ethiopian Airlines, Africa’s largest airline group, has announced that it will launch its service to Jakarta, Indonesia’s economic, cultural and political capital, in June 2017.

Commenting on the new service, the airline’s group chief executive officer, Tewolde GebreMariam, says: “As the fastest growing airline in Africa, Ethiopian is pleased to offer the opportunity to business people as well as tourists to explore Jakarta’s potential both for investment and leisure.”

The new service will further expand the airline’s presence in Asia, connecting Africa to the Asia region and in turn strengthening tourism and trade ties between the two regions, he added.

“Moreover, pilgrims and the West African community residing in Indonesia will be enjoying hassle-free connections to Ethiopian’s vast African network via its hub at Addis Ababa,” he says.

‘Ethiopian Airlines is working very hard to connect Africa with the major trading centres of the world and Jakarta, Indonesia, is one of them.”

The inauguration of the service to Jakarta will enable Ethiopian to have services to all five5 of the world’s most populous countries. Indonesia is the fourth most populous country in the world.

Ethiopian, which already flies to the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur, will also launch flights to Singapore in the middle of 2017.

Back to top

China Explores Halal Science Business Opportunities

KUALA LUMPUR, 21 December 2016, (Bernama) – A six-member delegation from China’s Northwest University of Nationalities (NWUN) on a working five-day visit to Malaysia paid a visit today to TPM Biotech Sdn Bhd (TPM Biotech), to explore bilateral cooperation on halal science practices and biotechnology opportunities between both countries.

The delegation’s visit to TPM Biotech was coordinated by Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia (USIM) and led by the NWUN’s Vice-President, Mr. Wang Zhaxi. Other members of the NMUN delegation were Yang Jutian, Deputy Dean of Life Science and Engineering, Na Jufeng, Associate Professor of The Institute of Islamic Culture and Yuan Mu, Deputy Director, NWUN International Cooperation and Exchange Division.

Accompanied by USIM representative, Associate Professor Dr. Alina Abdul Rahim. The delegation was welcomed by TPM Biotech Acting Head, Mr. Azlan Abu Samah.

The NWUN delegates were given a presentation by TPM Corporate Communication on the available TPM Biotech facilities and services, its Halal Science Laboratory and herbal manufacturing plant in Raub as well as on the TPM Group operations.

TPM President and Chief Executive Officer, Dato’ Ir Azman Saidin said that the NWUN visit presented an excellent international exposure for TPM Biotech, especially in China, as well as to further explore new business opportunities and avenues in the field of biotech and halal science collaboration.

“Being the only accredited halal science laboratory by JAKIM, we are confident that the increasing global demand for halal products will offer an avenue for TPM Biotech to provide its expertise and services. The visit of NWUN delegation is timely in view of the rapid expansion of trade and investment between China and Malaysia. We strongly believe that this visit would open the window of opportunity for us,” he added.

Meanwhile, Mr Wang Zhaxi said the visit to TPM Biotech was fruitful and an eye-opener for NWUN to explore the opportunity of closer cooperation and collaboration between both organizations.

“We are impressed by the world standard halal science laboratory of TPM Biotech which adheres to the stringent halal requirements. We are hopeful of establishing a common working relationship in the future not only with TPM Biotech but also with the Group’s other businesses,” commented Wang.

Since 2007, TPM Biotech has assisted over 1,800 biopreneurs and SMEs by providing the necessary production facilities and services; lab analyses; international standards and quality control as well as advisory halal services. The OEM products which are manufactured by TPM Biotech range from herbal-based foods, food supplements, ingredients and pastes to nutriceutical (capsules) products.

Technology Park Malaysia Sdn Bhd, an agency of MOSTI, has an integrated infrastructure, facilities and support services to assist technopreneurs and entrepreneurs who are keen to commercialize their ideas in the four industry clusters, namely, ICT, Engineering, Biotechnology and Green Technology.

Back to top

OIC, United States Hold Inaugural Bilateral Consultations

JEDDAH, 27 December 2016, (NNN-WAM) – Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, OIC, and the United States have pledged to continue their collaboration on a number of areas, particularly in preventing radicalisation, increasing access to employment, particularly youth employment, promoting interfaith and intercultural dialogue.

They have also expressed their intent to strengthen partnerships especially with USAID, and programmes aimed at preventing violence against women.

This came up during a recent meeting between a delegation of the OIC headed by Ambassador Yahya Lawal, Acting Director-General for Political Affairs and Director for African Affairs with the officials of the US Department of State at the inaugural OIC-US bilateral consultations.

Ambassador Thomas Shannon Jr., Under-Secretary of State for Political Affairs of the United States welcomed the consultations and stressed the importance of maintaining close ties between the two sides. The two days meeting was chaired by Arsalan Suleman, Acting Special Envoy of the United States of America to the OIC.

The delegations exchanged views on a wide range of issues concerning to the OIC, including the situation in Palestine, the ongoing situation of the Rohingya Muslim minority, the global refugee crisis, humanitarian assistance, The Istanbul Process, the importance of interfaith and intercultural dialogue, global women’s issues, terrorism and other regional issues of mutual interest.

The OIC has hoped that such bilateral consultations will further enhance cooperation with the United States and will be held annually, alternating between Washington DC and Jeddah.

Back to top

Algeria to Launch National Rugby Championship in 2017

ORAN, ALGERIA, 27 December 2016, (NNN-APS) – Algeria will be launching its national rugby championship in September next year, says the president of the Algerian Rugby Federation (FAR), Sofiane Benhacen.

He told APS here Monday that there are currently 20 rugby teams in Algeria and they would be divided into two groups for the national championships, one covering the centre-east part of the country and the other the centre-west.

Sofiane Benhacen added that another rugby team had just been formed in the province of Oran. The Misserghine team, will be the third team to be established om Orang after the Arzew and Oran sides which which were set up a few years ago.

The members of the FAR recently visited the new club, on the sidelines of the recent Tri-Nations Tournament organized in Oran, and assured the players and leaders of their support, he added.

As part of its youth training programme, the FAR planned to hold National Sevens Tournament soon in Oran, he announced.

This tournament would be the third of its kind in Algeria, after those organized in the central and in the eastern parts of the country and would make it possible for Algeria to stage one national tournament every two months.

Such tournaments are very important, he added, because they are provide training and competitions before the start of the national championship.

At the international level, the national team will try to qualify for the 2018 Rugby World Cup in Japan, said Sofiane Benhacen.

Back to top

Vietnamese to Enjoy Visa-Free Travel to Uzbekistan

HANOI, Vietnam, 27 December 2016, (NNN-Bernama) – Vietnamese citizens will enjoy visa-free travel to Uzbekistan from April 1, 2017, said the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT), Vietnam News Agency (VNA) reported.

According to the VNAT, the move benefits Vietnamese citizens of over 55 years old for stays of up to 30 days. Entrance fee to the central Asian country is US$50.

So far, Vietnamese citizens can travel to 51 countries and territories without visa.

Back to top

WB loans $360m to improve waterways in Bangladesh

DHAKA, 21 December 2016, (BSS) – With the aim to improve navigability of 900km waterways, the government today signed a financial agreement of US$ 360 million with World Bank (WB). The improvement of waterways in Chittagong-Dhaka-Ashuganj Corridor and connecting routes would enable safe transport of passengers and cargo round the year.

Senior Secretary of Economic Relations Division (ERD) Mohammad Mejbahuddin and Qimiao Fan, World Bank Country Director for Bangladesh signed the agreement, said a press release.

The Bangladesh Regional Waterway Transport Project-I will help reduce travel time and cost for cargo and passenger transport, and boost national and regional trade.

Under the project, one new general cargo terminal will be built at Pangaon, and the existing cargo terminal at Ashuganj will be improved. Authorities will also build new and rehabilitate existing passenger terminals at Sadarghat, Narayanganj, Chandpur, and Barisal.

To help the poor population living in remote areas, the project will construct 14 landing Ghats/stations in Chars (shoals), where often waterways are the only mode of transportation. The terminals and landing stations will be built to improve the security, safety, and sanitation conditions, and incorporate the needs of female users, the elderly, and small traders, with women-only toilets and waiting rooms.

“The project will benefit traders, exporters and commuters by cutting down transport time and cost, and enhancing safety, even during night-time travels, which will lead to increased trade and investments,” said Qimiao Fan.

The project will help improve the Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority’s capacity to comply with international standards and adopt modern management practices for inland water transport, and achieve long-term operational and financial sustainability.

“As a riverine country, the inland waterways play an important role in addressing transportation needs in Bangladesh, especially for the poor, as well as support trade,” said Mohammad Mejbahuddin.

“Realizing the importance, the Government of Bangladesh provided high priority to modernize the sector, and in particular improve the Chittagong-Dhaka-Ashuganj Corridor that carries the bulk of cargo and passenger transports,” he added.

The credit from the World Bank’s International Development Association, which provides grants or zero to low interest loans, has a 38-year term, including a six-year grace period, and a service charge of 0.75 percent.

Back to top

Mustard farming benefits honey hunters in Rajshahi

RAJSHAHI, 25 December 2016, (BSS) – More than 250 tonnes of honey were produced in Rajshahi region during the current season making growers hopeful of getting a good earning.

This amount is five times higher than that of last year, said sources at the Department of Agriculture Extension (DAE) here.

Farmers of Rajshahi, Naogaon, Natore and Chapainawabganj districts had been engaged in honey extraction since mid-November, said Fazlur Rahman, additional director of DAE. Due to favourable weather, the number of farmers increased this year to 250 from 75 in the region and other districts last year, he said.

Farmers set up 7,500 bee-colonies near mustard fields in different villages where there was good flowering, and got around 80 kg of honey from each colony in two weeks, the growers said.

The farmers said they were able to sell one-third of the honey to local people and wholesalers at around Tk 150 per kilogram, and are waiting for business companies to buy the rest.

“We will be able to make a good profit if the companies buy our honey for Tk 150 to Tk 200 per kg,” the growers said. “I got 35 maunds of honey from my 63 bee-colonies in Borobilla area under Paba upazila. I sold twelve maunds to locals. Now I am waiting to sell the rest to a company at a good price,” said Habibur Rahman Babu, a farmer in Darusha village under the same upazila.

A number of growers said the same, adding that they have to spend about 50 percent of the earning to meet the cost during extraction and for feeding the bees during the off-season.

Deputy director of DAE Dev Dulal Dhali said mustard was cultivated on around 30,000 hectares of land in the district, and there was good growth of the crop due to favourable weather.

As a result, honey farmers were encouraged to set their bee-colonies beside mustard fields across the district and were able to collect a large amount of honey, he added.

“We are motivating honey growers and crop farmers to increase cultivation of mustard as honeybees help increasing the output by more than 20 percent to 25 percent through pollination,” he added.

Prof Dr Bidhan Chandra Das of Zoology Department of Rajshahi University told BSS that honey farmers need technological support, financial assistance and a sound of marketing system.

“It’s possible to make the honey farming a million-dollar business for the country, creating huge jobs,” he said.

Prof Bidhan Das said Bangladesh can even export queen bees, candle and gum which will further contribute to the export. In Europe, each queen bee is sold at 50 euro.

He said many unemployed people can be involved in honeybee farming and the marketing process of honey, which will ultimately help reduce poverty apart from giving a boost to the country’s export earnings.

“If the government takes proper steps, honey production will get a boost in the country, ushering in a new opportunity for export,” said Dr Das adding Bangladesh can produce two lakh tonnes of honey a year.

Back to top

Broccoli farming gaining popularity in Rajshahi region

RAJSHAHI, 27 December 2016, (BSS) – By virtue of lucrative market price and gradually mounting consumers’ demands farming of broccoli, a non-conventional winter vegetable, has been gaining popularity in the region.

Dev Dulal Dhali, Deputy Director of Department of Agriculture Extension (DAE), said farmers are showing their interest in cultivating Broccoli for the last couple of years due to better output and market price.

He mentioned that there has been a bright prospect of broccoli farming commercially in the country’s northwest region.

He said the prolonged cold weather being experienced in the region for the last couple of years which is suitable for cultivation of Broccoli that is locally known as green cauliflower.

Almost similar to the cauliflower and its green leaves enriched with protein and vitamin C can be consumed directly. The price of broccoli in the markets is three to four times more than cauliflower.

Broccoli is gradually becoming popular among the urban people and the Chinese restaurants together with the grand hotels are using broccoli for making soup and other delicious foods creating demand for the vegetable.

ATM Rafiqul Islam, Project Director (Agriculture) of Barind Multipurpose Development Authority, told BSS that the crop was unfamiliar to the farmers and consumers of the rural areas.

He said various agricultural extension and research organizations have taken initiatives to make farming of the crop popular among the growers level. DAE has also grown the crop in projection plots aimed at encouraging the farmers towards boosting its production commercially.

He added the vegetable could easily be cultivated in the normal farming field as it is more tolerable to high-temperature than cauliflower and cabbage. Nutritive value of the crop was more than any other winter vegetable including cabbage and cauliflower.

Rafiqul Islam said importance should be given to encouraging the farmers through providing them with necessary financial support and inputs. The farming method was almost similar to the cabbage and cauliflower. At least 40,000 to 50,000 plants could be produced from per hectare in 65-70 days.

Back to top

Govt pledge-bound to uphold Bangalee art & culture

DHAKA, 26 December 2016, (BSS) – Awami League General Secretary Obaidul Quader today said the present government is pledge-bound to make and broadcast programmes in all mass media including television by upholding the Bangalee art and culture as well as the spirit of the liberation war.

“To this end, the government has framed various policies and would take all sorts of measures for completely implementing those policies,” he said while exchanging views with the Federation of Television Professionals Organization (FTPO) at the Dhanmondi Political Office of the Awami League president here this evening.

Quader, also the road transport and bridges minister, said some demands of the FTPO are related with the rules and regulations of the existing Broadcast Policy under the Information Ministry and the National Board of Revenue under the Finance Ministry.

The AL general secretary said Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is always very respectful to the cultural activists and artistes and she would take necessary steps for the executing the legitimate demands of the FTPO.

Quader sought sincere cooperation and support from the cultural activists, artistes, television performers and theatre-makers for stamping out communalism and militancy from Bangladesh.

Agriculture Minister Begum Matia Chowdhury, AL Joint Secretary Mahbub-ul Alam Hanif, Organizing Secretaries Enamul Haque Shamim and Khalid Mahmud Chowdhury and Office Secretary Dr Abdus Sobhan Golap were present, among others, from the Awami League side.

From the FTPO side, its Convenor Mamunur Rashid, Member Secretary Gazi Rakayet, Syed Hasan Imam, Ahsan Habib Nasim, Mujibur Rahman, Anisur Rahman Milon, Shihab Shahin, Nadia Ahmed, Feroz Khan and Tania Ahmed were present at the view exchange meeting.

Back to top

Haramain train only 10 km of tracks away from completion

Makkah, 22 December 2016, (IINA) – Work on only 10 km of track has to be completed before the Haramain high-speed train, linking Makkah, Madinah, Rabigh, and Jeddah, will be ready for operation, according to the project’s supervisor Bassam Ghulam. The experimental operation of the train service will start after six months.

Ghulam said during a presentation at the Makkah Chamber of Commerce and Industry that work has to be completed on seven kilometers of track from Makkah and three in Jeddah, Saudi Gazette reported.

During the first phase of its operation, which will continue for 12 years, the train is expected to transport about 1.2 billion passengers at the rate of 100 million annually, said Ghulam. “At the outset of its operation, the train is expected to transport between 11,400-12,400 passengers an hour,” he said.

When it becomes fully operational, the train will transport 19,100 passengers an hour between Jeddah and Makkah, 3,800 between Makkah and Madinah and 8,000 between Rabigh and Madinah.

“The train will serve more than two million pilgrims every year,” he added. “As many as 127 out of 138 bridges have been built, and 845 crossings completed to drain rainwater,” said Ghulam.

The supervisor said the train will cover the distance between Jeddah and Makkah in less than 21 minutes, between Makkah and Rabigh in an hour and between Makkah and Madinah in two hours. Due to safety measures, the maximum speed of the train per hour will not exceed 300 km.

Ghulam said the Jeddah part of the project was the most difficult because of the Jeddah-Makkah Expressway, which is the most crowded.

Back to top

Thousands of U.S Muslims discuss peace, spiritual renewal

Atlanta City, Georgia, 26 December 2016, (IINA) – Thousands of American Muslims met in Atlanta City, in Georgia over Christmas weekend discussing peace and spiritual renewal.

The 22nd annual Southeast convention, hosted by the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) and the Muslim American Society, held at the Renaissance Atlanta Waverly at the Galleria, channel 11 Alive (NBC-affiliated television station) reported.

“This marks the end of a very challenging year for American Muslims,” said Dr. Mohammad Ilyas, president of the ICNA southeast region. The convention, which began on Friday concluded on Sunday.

Back to top

CAIR welcomes Obama’s decision to end NSEERS tracking program

Washington, 25 December 2016, (IINA) – The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) welcomed President Barack Obama’s decision to permanently dismantle the regulatory framework behind the National Security Exit-Entry Registration System (NSEERS).

“Registering and tracking Muslim visitors to the United States is not only discriminatory but a tremendous waste of our nation’s national security resources,” said CAIR Government Affairs Director Robert McCaw. “We thank President Obama and DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson for finally put an end to what was widely perceived to be a massive profiling campaign targeting individuals based on their religion and ethnicity. We also thank the many people in civil society organizations who worked tirelessly to end the program.”

President-elect Donald Trump and advisors close to him have publicly said that would revive and expand the federal registry that once targeted visitors mostly from Muslim-majority countries, which was phased out in 2011 for being “ineffective.” McCaw noted, “CAIR will offer a legal challenge to any Trump administration attempt to resurrect or expand NSEERS to target Muslims residing in the United States.”

In November, CAIR joined almost 200 civil and human rights, civil liberties, education, social justice, and interfaith organizations in urging the Obama administration to take immediate action to rescind the regulatory framework behind the NSEERS.

NSEERS, set up in the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks, required certain non-citizen males over the age of 14 from 25 countries to be registered and fingerprinted. With the sole exception of North Korea, every one of the 25 countries on the NSEERS bulletin was Muslim or Arab. Those targeted by the NSEERS program were also required to leave the US through specified ports. Anyone who failed to comply with the program faced arrest and deportation.

In 2011, CAIR welcomed the suspension of the “ineffective and burdensome program that was perceived as a massive profiling campaign targeting individuals based on their religion and ethnicity.”

CAIR is America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.

Back to top

“Roads of Arabia” exhibition kicks off in Beijing

Beijing, 20 December 2016, (IINA) – “Roads of Arabia” exhibition is set to open its door on Tuesday at the National Museum in the Chinese capital Beijing.

The exhibition, which is showing for the first time in an Asian country, is sponsored by Saudi Aramco, which also sponsored previous fairs held in Europe and America.

The Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTNH) and the National Museum in Beijing finished preparations for the launch of the show where 466 rare archeological pieces were showcased in the gallery. The fair is being held in coordination with the Saudi Embassy in China, Arab Newspaper reported.

The exhibition introduces the history and civilization of the Arabian Peninsula to the rest of the world, as well as enhances the cultural connection between the different nations of the world and highlights the fact that the Kingdom is a cradle of great human civilizations that culminated in the vast civilization of Islam.

The pieces present Saudi Arabia’s cultural heritage and civilization starting with the Stone Age, the pre-Islamic era, and early, medieval and late civilizations of Arab monarchies. It also passes through the Islamic and Medieval Islamic period as well as the establishment of the Saudi state, in 1744, until the era of King Abdulaziz, the founder of the modern Saudi Arabia.

Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman inaugurated the exhibition when it was held in Dhahran City in Saudi Arabia.

King Salman encouraged the exhibition to tour East Asian countries, starting with the Chinese capital, after the remarkable success, it enjoyed before, at the Louvre Museum in Paris, Barcelona, St. Petersburg, Germany and the four US cities: Washington, Houston, Kansas and San Francisco.

Back to top

Canadian PM praises Muslim community

Toronto, 26 December 2016, (IINA) – In his traditional greeting to the reviving Islamic spirit convention taking place in Toronto, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau commended the Muslim community for its contributions to Canada and reiterated his commitment to combat Islamophobia and politics of hate and division.

“Canada is stronger because of the contributions of its Muslim community. We are stronger because of you. And that’s why every day we just chose hope over fear and stood up to the politics of hate and division,” said Trudeau.

“That is why our government supports initiatives that encourage inclusion and equality, combats Islamophobia and strengthens the protection of our civil rights,” he continued.

In his Christmas message, Trudeau refrained from mentioning the Christian motifs of the holiday, choosing instead to stress the spirit of giving of the Canadian public and adding that Canada will continue to absorb refugees from Syria, Arutz Sheva News reported.

Since winning the election last year, Trudeau has taken the view that Islam is “not incompatible with the Western secular democracy.”

He recently issued a call for Muslims in Canada to strengthen their involvement in politics, encouraging Muslims to join the Conservative party and other parties in the country “to make sure that no party gets to run against Muslim Canadians or any other group of Canadians and tarnish them.”

Over the past year, Canada has taken in close to 38,000 Syrian refugees, the vast majority of them Muslims.

Back to top

Hadjar for creation of Maghreb electronic infrastructure

NOUAKCHOTT, 22 December 2016, (Mauritania)- Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research, Tahar Hadjar, on Wednesday called in Nouakchott (Mauritania) to create a Maghreb electronic infrastructure to monitor the rapid global developments in teaching and research in order to achieve integration and complementarity between the different sectors of Maghreb.

Speaking during the 13th session of the Council of Maghreb Ministers of Education, Higher Education and Scientific Research, Hadjar called for creating “an electronic infrastructure and hasten the setting up of the electronic portal of the Maghreb universities in order to allow students to be attuned to the technological advances in the world.”

The minister highlighted “Algeria’s efforts and commitments in the field of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) for the establishment of a national system of scientific and technical information for the creation of a research center and an academic research network linking the various educational and research institutions with the many international databases.”

In this regard, Hadjar cited the National Theses Reporting Portal, which contains more than 100,000 doctoral and magisterial subjects and over 50,000 theses that can be read online, the Ibn Sina Virtual University Project (2015), and the first distance learning experience launched this year with the participation of five universities providing distance learning in fields such as economics, management and commerce.

Back to top

11th FestivAlgerie: Bridges for exchange, openness to other cultures

ALGIERS, 22 December 2016, (Algeria Press Service) -“Outre mesure” troop from France, Fazila Rahimova from Azerbaidjan, the Algerian-Japanese troop and Mohamed Rouane (Algeria) hosted Wednesday in Algiers the second evening of the 11th International festival of Andalusian music and old music (FestivAlgérie).

During the “Reconnaissance” part, “Outre mesure” troop, made up of Robin (flute) , Benoit Leconte (percussion), Bernard Subert (clarinet) and Gaël Chauvin Lemeur (Bombarde-Cornemuse/traditional Breton instrument) and other artists, performed court dances, with slow and calm pace.

For her part, Fazila Rahimova, from Azerbaijan, successfully performed “Maqam bayati-chiraz” play before leaving the floor to the Algerian-Japanese troop led by Mohamed Saadaoui (kanun) and Atsuko Suetomi (Koto), whose instruments advocate tolerance, love and openness to other cultures.

The Algerian-Japanese paid homage to the Malouf music legend late Tahar Fergani and late conductor Brahim Beledjrab, and performed “Bachraf Dhil” Andalusian play.

Back to top

Holy Qur’an week opens in Algiers

ALGIERS, 26 December 2016, (Algeria Press Service) – The 18th National Qur’an Week opened Monday at the Palace of Culture Moufdi Zakaria in Algiers, with a ceremony attended by religious figures, members of the government and representatives of diplomatic corpses accredited to Algiers.

In a message to the participants read on his behalf by presidency’s advisor Mohamed Ali Boughazi, President of the Republic Abdelaziz Bouteflika called for more efforts to defend Islam, “which is today, deliberately and unfairly, targeted by certain hostile spheres, within societies who have little knowledge about this religion.”

“Its moderate message is the best evidence of the nobleness of Islam and its rejection of all forms of violence and extremism, especially bloodshed and terrorist crimes,” President Bouteflika said.

During the event, organized by the ministry of Religious Affairs under the high patronage of President of the Republic, lectures will be given about the holly Qur’an.

Qur’an recitation and psalmody contests are to be held during the event, which will pay tribute to erudite Mohamed Cherif Kahar, who passed away last Friday.

The works of the event, to be held under the theme “Moderation, a moral value,” will run until Dec. 29 at Dar el Imam in Algiers.

Back to top

Algerian rugby championship from September 2017

ORAN, 26 December 2016, (Algeria Press Service)- A national rugby championship will start in September 2017, said the president of the Algerian Rugby Federation (FAR) Sofiane Benhacen.

The president of the FAR told APS that there currently are 20 rugby teams in Algeria, which will be divided into two groups, centre-East and Centre-West, as part of the championship which will be established in September 2017.

Sofiane Benhacen said that another rugby team has just been created in the province of Oran. It is the Misserghine team, which adds to those of Arzew and Oran (Oran stadium), which have already been in place for a few years. The members of the FAR visited this new club, on the sidelines of the recent “tri-nations” tournament organized in Oran, and assured the players and leaders of their support, he added.

As part of youth training, a national union sevens tournament is scheduled soon in Oran he announced, underlining that it is the third of its kind, after those organized in the Centre and in the East. That makes it one national tournament every two months. These tournaments are very important, because they are trainings and competitions before the start of the championship.”

On the international level, the national team will try and qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Japan, said Sofiane Benhacen.

Back to top

Indonesian President sees Jakarta as world sharia finance center

Jakarta, 24 December 2016, (ANTARA News) – President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) has said Jakarta should aim to become the global sharia financial center as Indonesia has the worlds largest Muslim population.

“Ive ever conveyed (it) to chairman of the Financial Services Authority (OJK) that it is natural if we make Jakarta as the world sharia financial center,” Jokowi said, at a gathering of stakeholders related to the eight-year issuance of state sharia-based bonds at the state palace here on Friday.

According to Jokowi, he had heard that an effort to make Jakarta as the world sharia financial center was being discussed by the OJK.

“We have the potential and power, why we do not use (that), not only sharia financial services such as banks, insurance companies, I think many other things that can be developed, including sharia travel, and halal restaurants,” the president pointed out.

The president stated that Indonesia should focus on its great market potential.

“It will trigger economic growth in our country and eliminate issues that often appear such as rumors of 10 million to 20 million Chinese laborers coming into Indonesia, while actually it was only 21,000 of them,” he explained.

On state sharia-based bonds for the national state budget, the president said that the essence of the budget is that it will be used for the welfare of the people, meaning to eradicate poverty, reduce unemployment, and social inequality.

“Therefore, the government uses various ways to strengthen the state budget such as strengthening the tax base for instance through the tax amnesty, state sharia securities (SBSN) or the state bonds,” he disclosed.

The president also declared that Indonesia should be proud that it is the issuer of the largest state bonds in US dollars.

Up to November 2016, the issuance of SBSN in the international market reached US$10.15 billion with outstanding US$9.5 billion.

“This means that we have huge potential and it plays an important role in the development and improvement of the welfare of the Indonesian people,” he cited.

The president further said that Indonesia has a variety of sharia-based bonds (Sukuk), so there are many alternatives to invest.

Jokowi also pointed out that in 2015 and 2016 as much as Rp20.8 trillion of Sukuk has been used to construct railway lines, including bridges that are beneficial for the people.

“Then (the sukuk) is also to construct facilities of higher learning institutes and rehabilitate various buildings including those for preparation of Hajj Pilgrimage rituals,” Jokowi added.

Back to top

Three geothermal power plants on stream in North Sulawesi

Minahasa, N Sulawesi, 27 December 2016, (ANTARA News) – Three units of geothermal power plants (PLTP) worth Rp6.18 trillion (US$532.07 million) of Pertamina Geothermal Energy (PGE) are to come on stream on Tuesday.

President Joko Widodo will officially commission the operation of the three projects here on Tuesday.

The three projects include the 5th and 6th units of PLTP Lahendong with a capacity of 20 megawatts each in Tompaso, North Sulawesi.

State-owned energy company Pertamina, the parent company of PGE, said the project is valued at US$282.07 million (Rp3.3 trillion).

Construction of the two units began in July , 2015 and were scheduled to be completed in December, 2016 and June, 2017 respectively.

Construction has been successfully completed on Sept.15 for the 5th unit or three months earlier and on Dec. 9, 2016 for the 6th unit or six months earlier than scheduled.

PLTP Lahendong , the 5th and 6th units, which uses the total project scheme (until producing power) will add the capacity of the Lahendong power generating capacity to 120 MW and strengthen the electrification capacity in Minahasa, North Sulawesi of no less than 240,000 houses.

During the construction of the projects jobs were open for no less than 1,800 workers and the project has a local content of 42.68 percent.

Another project is the 3rd unit of PLTP Ulubelu with a capacity of 55 MW built with an investment of US$250 million equivalent to Rp2.8 trillion.

Construction of the project also under total project scheme began on July 5, 2015 to be completed in August , 2016, but it was successfully completed on July 26 in 2016 or a month earlier than scheduled.

The project, which is located in Tanggamus, Lampung, has provided jobs for 3,000 workers with local content of 50.89 percent.

“President Joko Widodo inaugurated the groundbreaking ceremony of the three PLTP projects in Kamojang on 15 July last year, and today he would officially commission the project,” President Director of Pertamina Dwi Soetjipto said in his written statement.

Dwi said Pertamina as the parent company of Pertamina Geothermal Energy (PGE) appreciated the PGE workers for having proven their high competence.

He said the completion of the project earlier than scheduled, would help the government in its program to cover shortage in power supply in the country.

The project also will provide more jobs that would reduce unemployment rate in the country, he said.

The projects are also expected to boost development of industries in the regions and will encourage development of clean and renewable energy in the country.

“As a state energy company, Pertamina is proud for being able to contribute to the government program of developing renewable energy in the country,” Dwi said.

Through PGE, Pertamina is set to increase the generating capacity of its geothermal power plants to 1,037 MW in 2021.

On the occasion, Pertamina also reported progress in the development of its other PLTP projects including the first unit of PLTP Karaha.

The ground breaking ceremony of the 55 MW units of PLTP Karaha was also inaugurated by President Joko Widodo on July in 2015.

Currently the project has been 91 percent completed and it is expected to be fully completed in May , 2017.

Other PLTP projects of PGE are the 1st and 2nd units of PLTP Lumut Balai with a capacity of 2×55 MW now 71 percent completed, and PLTP Hululais with a capacity of 55 MW and PLTP Kerinci with a capacity of 55 MW respectively 67 percent and 43 percent completed.

“The three projects to be officially commissioned by the president today are valued at US$532.07 million or Rp6.18 trillion of a total of Rp26 trillion allocated by Pertamina for its PLTP projects to be completed until 2020,” Dwi said.

Back to top

Indonesian Muslim students distribute flowers to Christians

Jakarta, 25 December 2016, (ANTARA News) – Bunches of flowers that 72 members of Muslim Students Association (HMI) distributed to church goers at the Christmas Eve in Jayapura, capital city of Papua Province, has highlighted an increase of brotherhood among the religious adherents in Indonesia.

According to Murdani, coordinator of HMI of the Jayapura chapter on Saturday, the HMI students gave around 2,000 bunches of roses wrapped in transparent plastic sheet to church goers at 12 churches before they came into the churches in the city.

At each bunch of flowers there is an inscription reading “The Jayapura chapter of wishes Marry Christmas, December 2016 may God bless”.

Apart from handing over the flowers, the HMI members wearing T-shirts with HMI writing also helped manage traffic such as that at GKI Pengharapan Jayapura church.

In addition, members of the Hindu Dharma Youth Association (PHD) in the East Nusa Tenggara (NTT) Provincial city of Kupang were also involved in the process of securing the Christmas celebration on December 25, 2016 in Kupang.

Regarding the celebration of Christmas in Kupang, the PHD youths of the Kupang city Hindu Dharma helped security forces secure the Christmas celebration activities in several major churches in the city.

The Christmas Eve mass at the Parish Church of St. Yoseph Naikoten taking place at 06.00 pm local time was attended by thousands of local Catholics.

As many as 15 persons of the Bali-based Hindu Dharma Youth Association wearing traditional Balinese dress also helped secure the Christmas celebration.

According to Manik Sugiarsa of the Hindu Dharma Youth Association, youths of this association have been two years involved in the organizing committee of the Christmas celebration in Kupang to support the security activities.

“We wish the Christmas celebration in Kupang runs peacefully as the youth of course we have moral responsibility to safeguard the situation of the Unitary State of Indonesia,” Manik stressed.

In addition, Ms Novita Ngeneng, one of parishioners of St. Yoseph Naikoten II Kupang, appreciated the participation of the interfaith youth in Kupang in maintaining security activities of Christmas Eve Mass in several churches in this area.

“This is a good example for other regions in Indonesia in maintaining religious harmony. Harmonization of religious life should be started by the youths. Indonesia is very beautiful because of its diversity of ethnicity, religions and cultures. Potential of this diversity should be maintained,” he pointed out.

Meanwhile, a number of Muslim residents of the Bonipoi village, in Kupang joined with the organizing committee of the Christmas celebration, police and military personnel to maintain security activities of the celebration of the Christmas Eve Mass at the Cathedral Church in Kupang.

In Jakarta, organizer of the Istiqlal grand mosque provided parking area for motorcycles and cars for the people who want to carry out mass on Christmas Eve in the cathedral church in Central Jakarta.

“Indeed, normally (Istiqlal) parking lot is used (for Christmas activity) every year to avoid traffic jams,” said Dwi, one of the parking lot on-duty personnel here on Saturday night.

Former chairman of the Communion of Indonesian (protestant) Churches or PGI of Maluku Province Pdt. DR. John Ruhulesin when leading worship in preparation for Christmas stated that Christians are asked to use the momentum of Christmas as an important event to renew life and peace with other religious communities, forgive and share love with others in need.

“True Brotherhood is a relationship and a sense of belonging, respect and love each other, regardless of differences, without mutual suspicion and envy and jealousy,” Pastor Jhon said.

In the meantime, National Police Chief General Tito Karnavian expressed that differences in ethnicity, religion, race and class are unifying for the Indonesian nation.

He made the remarks when observing the implementation of Christmas Eve Mass at the Reformed Injili Indonesia church in Kemayoran, Central Jakarta on Saturday night.

“Since the proclamation (of Indonesian independence), we have proclaimed that all the differences are not breakers, but they even become the unifier for all of us,” Tito disclosed.

He further said, the difference is the wealth for the whole of Indonesia, thus, (this) should be utilized as a means to unite the nation.

During the visit, Tito also conveyed Christmas greetings to the whole church worshipers in the church.

“Merry Christmas to all. May the love and peace can bless us all tonight. God bless,” said Tito.

In addition to the Police Chief, the visit was also attended the Military chief Gen. Gatot Nurmantyo, Interior Minister Tjahjo Kumolo and Jakarta Acting Governor Sumarsono.

Earlier on Thursday (Dec 22) General Tito Karnavian led a roll call ceremony on “Operation Candle 2016” for Christmas security measures, at the National Monument (Monas), here, Thursday.

“Operation Candle is a centralized and routine operation by the police to secure Christmas and New Year celebrations,” the general said.

Some 150 thousand personnel have been deployed to guard Christmas and New Years Eve celebrations this year.

“The total number is some 150 thousand officers, comprising both police and military officers, as well as others from relevant institutions,” he remarked.

Tito has cautioned the personnel to anticipate several public order disturbances, such as conventional crimes, religion-related conflicts, and possible acts of terrorism.

“Be vigilant as well (in monitoring) mass migrations from one place to another because its the holiday season. We have to be ready to secure public mobility so their journeys by land, air, and sea are safe and hassle-free,” he added.

He reminded them to optimize security at public facilities, such as places of worship, terminals, stations, shopping malls, airports, and recreational spots.

Roads on the northern coast of Java, particularly Cipali, must also be secured.

He highlighted the synergy among relevant institutions in securing the Christmas and New Year holidays. Operation Candle 2016 will be in effect for 10 days from December 23 to January 1.

Back to top

Indonesia expediting plan to build high-speed train

Jakarta, 25 December 2016, (ANTARA News) – The Indonesian government is increasing its lobbying with Japan to expedite its plans to build a semi-high speed train that will cover a distance of some 700 kilometers from Jakarta to Surabaya in East Java.

As the government has decided to complete the plan soon and move quickly on construction of the Jakarta-Surabaya semi-high speed train, ministers held a coordination meeting last month.

Those at the coordination meeting, which was attended by Luhut Binsar Panjaitan, Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs; Bambang Brodjonegoro, National Development Planning Minister/National Development Planning Agency (Bappenas) Head; and Sri Mulyani, Finance Minister, decided to speed up construction of the project.

For this purpose, Minister Luhut Binsar Panjaitan visited Japan on December 20-21 this week to discuss the medium fast train project with the Japanese.

The project has long been discussed, and since the beginning Japan has been offered to build the system.

Nevertheless, if there is a better opportunity, the government would consider it.

“Of course they (the Japanese) have the right, because they are involved in the feasibility study. We are looking for the cheapest, best, and fastest. Of course, there are options. We should not put all our eggs in one basket,” Luhut said in Jakarta on Friday (Dec. 23, 2016).

In a press conference on Friday, Luhut said the government estimates that the Jakarta-Surabaya semi high-speed train project will cost Rp80 trillion.

The cost was based on a preliminary study conducted by the Ministry of Transportation and the Agency for the Assessment and Application of Technology (BPPT).

With a speed of 160 kilometers (km) per hour, and powered by electricity, the semi high speed trains will cover the Jakarta – Surabaya route in five hours.

Previous estimates indicate the semi-high speed train could reach a speed of 180 kilometers to 200 kilometer per hour, and shorten the travel time from Jakarta to Surabaya.

Currently, it takes about 10 hours to travel from Jakarta to Surabaya. However, with a medium-speed of 180 to 200 kilometers per hour, travel time between both cities could be shortened to below four hours.

Luhut said the trains electric power system would be a step forward in the use of technology, because other long distance trains continue to use diesel fuel. “For the cost, frankly, we would like to follow the DED (detailed engineering design) calculation. The cost figure released by the government of Japan is approximately Rp102 trillion. We see that the figure still could be lowered to about Rp80 trillion. Yet, the investment remains very large,” he said.

Because of the high cost of the investment, Luhut said the government has decided to put in place a funding plan that requires cooperation between the government and business entities (KPBU), or through the Public Private Partnership (PPP).

Such a plan has been proposed by Minister of National Development Planning (PPN)/Head of National Development Planning Agency (Bappenas) Bambang Brodjonegoro. Bambang made the proposal because, based upon the law on railways, train lines are state assets that should be managed by the government.

The government would study the feasibility of adopting the public private partnership (PPP) for the project to be implemented jointly with Japan.

“We have discussed this alternative (PPP) with the Bappenas . We can invite the private sector to jointly fund the project, and will discuss this again,” Luhut noted in a previous statement.

Therefore, it is expected that the project would not burden the state budget.

The cooperation scheme between the government and the private sector (PPP) could be used for alternative funding, since the government would seek to use most of its budget in 2017 for the development of rural areas and other regions outside Java Island.

“If it would be funded by the government, (the project) would add to the governments debt. It will burden the state budget. The governments policy is currently not to use too much of the funds in the budget for (development) in Java Island. We would rather use it for development of regions outside the island, as part of the efforts to ensure equitable development,” he explained.

However, the project would not be fully handled by the private sector, as the government, based on the law on railways, is required to own the railway line.

Previously, Transportation Minister Budi Karya Sumadi had said that the government would maintain its ownership in the project, although it has yet to take a final decision and would use existing track lanes.

Regarding the approximate price of the semi fast Jakarta-Surabaya train tickets, Luhut estimated that the price will range from Rp500,000 to Rp600,000.

“Ticket prices are Rp500,000 – Rp600,000, but it depends on what we will still see,” Luhut said.

In the meantime, a number of local East Java legislators said the Jakarta-Surabaya semi-high speed trains will boost the countrys economic development.

According to Zainul Lutfi, Commission B member of the East Java Regional Legislative Assembly (DPRD), the Jakarta-East Java train project will help equitably distribute economic development and increase economic activities in the regions.

However, he advised that the project should be accompanied by a comprehensive study, particularly in those regions where the train passes through.

His colleague, Abdul Halim of the DPRD Commission D, said he supported the project, but studies should be conducted to determine its feasibility, including the country that will build it.

Back to top

Indonesian Home Minister wishes Christians Merry X`mas

Jakarta, 25 December 2016, (ANTARA News) – Minister of Home Affairs Tjahjo Kumolo wished Merry Christmas to all Christians across Indonesia.

The home affairs minister conveyed the Christmas greeting directly while observing preparations for the Christmas celebration at the HKBP Church in Menteng, Central Jakarta, on Saturday evening.

“On behalf of the government, we wish Merry Christmas to the Christians. Peace in the heart, peace in the world, peace on earth and peace in our beloved Indonesia,” said Tjahjo at HKBP Menteng, Central Jakarta.

Furthermore, he noted that differences in ethnicity, race, religion and class are the elements that will eventually form the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia (NKRI).

“Therefore, it is the duty of the government, the police, the military and also all citizens of Indonesia to continue to maintain the Homeland, while preserving its diversity,” said Tjahjo.

Also attending during the visit were National Police Chief Gen. Tito Karnavian, TNI chief Gen. Gatot Nurmantyo and Acting Governor of Jakarta Sumarsono.

Further, Priest Tulus Sihombing, as leader of the congregation, expressed his gratitude to all government officials and security forces who visited the church.

“On behalf of the entire congregation of church HKBP Menteng, we thank you for coming. Greetings from the entire Christian people,” said Tulus.

Back to top

Int’l Islamic University takes first steps in Indonesia

Jakarta,, 27 December 2016, (ANTARA News) – Deputy Police Chief Commissioner General Syafruddin held a meeting with prominent Muslim figures to discuss the establishment of an International Islamic University in Indonesia.

“The meeting was arranged to discuss the concept and the land for the construction of the International University of Islam in Indonesia,” Muslim intellectual Komaruddin Hidayat said at the official residence of the deputy police chief, here, Tuesday.

Islam in Indonesia is considered moderate and could contribute to the world, Hidayat noted, explaining the reason why the university is being built in Indonesia.

Many people had also suggested that Indonesia should have an Islamic study center that invites esteemed professors to join its ranks, so that Indonesian and foreign students could study there, former rector of the Syarif Hidayatullah Islamic University remarked.

The planned university is also expected to help counter radicalism in education, he added.

Meanwhile, Syafruddin said the International Islamic University is expected to promote Indonesia as the center of Islamic civilization in the world.

To counter radicalism, the police has established cooperation with the National Counter-Terrorism Agency (BNPT) and the ministries of education and culture; religious affairs; and research, technology, and higher education.

“Many programs by the National Police and BNPT have been included on campuses, in high schools and in elementary schools, and those programs have been included in the curricula,” he added.

Back to top

Pakistan to host Int’l Conf on language, literature, society

ISLAMABAD, 26 December 2016, (APP) – The 4th four-day International Conference on “Language, Literature and Society” (ICLLS) would be held in Federal Capital from January 5 to 8.

Pakistan Academy of Letters (PAL) is organizing the event in collaboration with various universities under the supervision of Chairman PAL Prof. Dr. Muhammad Qasim Bughio.

Prof. Dr. Muhammad Qasim Bughio told APP that the conference will bring together more then 200 academics, researchers and scholars in the domain of interest.

He invited the interested candidates from all over the world to present oral presentations, poster presentations and panel discussions at conference.

He said that all accepted papers will be peer reviewed by members of the programme committee and will be published in the proceedings book of Conference.

“A certificate of presentation will be awarded to all registered participants presenters as well as observers /companions,” he said.

He said that the main goal of the conference was to seek and explore new and innovative trends and challenges of research in Language and Literature across the world and its impact on society.

Prof. Dr. Qasism Bughio said that PAL aims to develop academic relationship among the world researchers by providing the premier interdisciplinary forum for national and international researches of different backgrounds and languages.

He said that the Conference will promote studies in the field of languages, linguistics and society and will serve as an international forum for researchers, scholars, educators, practitioners, postgraduate students and experts in relevant fields to exchange ideas, research results and good practices.

Chairman PAL said that the literature being a part of cultural heritage of any country plays a vital role in projecting country’s soft image at home and abroad.

“Literature has deep rooted relation with the society as it is said that literature is the mirror of society,” he said.

He said that Academy not only preserves this heritage but also promotes and develops it by organizing conferences, seminars and workshops at various forums at home and abroad.

Back to top

Pak tennis ace to compete in Australian Open

LAHORE, 26 December 2016, (APP)- Pakistan’s tennis star, Aisam ul Haq will be leaving here tonight (Monday) for Australia to participate in Australian Open Grand Slam Tennis Championship being played from January 16.

Before the Australian Open, he will feature in tthe ATP World Tennis Championships in Brisbane (Australia) and Auckland (New Zealand).

“It is going to be a tough event (Australian Open) but I am in good shape and spirit to do my best,” he told APP before his departure.

Aisam said he is playing every international with a mind set to lift the level of his game and he is quite confident to rise to the occasion during the tour of Australia and New Zealand.

“Participation in high profile tennis events requires top physical fitness and best of your playing abilities and I will be getting into rhythm by taking part in the ATP World Tennis Championship in Australia and New Zealand”, he said.

After Australian Open, he will be returning home to be a part of the Pakistan team to play in the crucial Davis Cup Tie against Iran in the first week of February.

“Davis Cup tie will be a challenging event as the Iranian side is a tough side to beat and as an experienced team player I will be having much load of responsibility on me to play my due role for living up to the expectations”, said a confident Aisam.

He said participation in elite tennis events in Australia and New Zealand will be an added advantage for him and he will be fully prepared when Pakistan takes on Iran in Davis Cup encounter.

Answering a question, Aisam said he is enjoying playing tennis by maintaining top fitness and he wants to inspire the fellow young tennis players to win glory for the country.

Back to top

Pakistan’s first kids band releases maiden song

ISLAMABAD, 25 December 2016, (APP) – Pakistan’s first ever children’s band ‘Jashn’ released its maiden song ‘Champion’ on Sunday, which was aired by various radio and television networks.

The band comprises Ibrahim, 12, Maham, 10, and Haadi, 7. The composition is played by Ibrahim and synthesized by all the three siblings by pooling in their creative abilities, said a press release issued here.

The song ‘Champion’ is a motivational song sung by the band to inspire and encourage the spirit of perseverance and resilience among people.

The song was been released on the 141st birth anniversary of Quaid i Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah to highlight his vision of seeing the youth as being the real builders of Pakistan.

“We are inspired by the Quaid’s faith in the youth of the nation, particularly the students, whom he called the nation builders of tomorrow if they equip themselves with discipline, education, and training for the arduous task lying ahead of them,” Ibrahim said.

Being students, the three siblings get their inspiration from daily school experiences and the tough routine confronted by today’s children. The lyrics are simple yet meaningful with a solid beat and strong engaging rhythm that grabs attention instantly.

The song focuses not only on the established high achievers of life but also on the average individual who goes through the rigours and hardships of life with a firm belief in himself.

Its heartwarming melody, is a calming respite from the everyday stress of life. This mid tempo, contemporary melodic song is a message oriented track highlighting the value of self conviction and hard work for achieving excellence in life.

“Nobody is born a champion,” it asserts, “but becomes one with conviction and purpose of character. Nothing can be more motivating than the conviction that there is a champion within each individual which can be unleashed with his personal efforts and positive traits of character.”

The band is working on its album which they plan to release in the summer next year.

Back to top

Pakistan introduces business friendly reform measures

ISLAMABAD, 27 December 2016, (APP) – In order to further promote corporatization in the country, the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) has revamped operations at its three major offices located at Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi.

Incorporation and Facilitation Desks have been established at these Company Registration Offices which would ensure facilitation to the investors so that the companies are incorporated within a day, said a SECP statement issued here.

Further, in order to reduce the turnaround time in business start-up and ease the process of incorporation, registration of companies with a single object has been allowed, which will enable registration of companies on the same day subject to the condition that the registration documents are filed under online mode.

This swift mode of registration is likely to further corporatization of the business sector, the statement added.

A number of other business friendly measures have been introduced resulting in substantial reduction in registration fee for small companies and filing fee of companies with small capital base, waiving of name availability fee, provision of complimentary certified true copies of company formation documents, reduction in time to register by merging the name availability and incorporation processes.

Further, optimal utilization of information technology in service delivery is ensured through enabling online payment of fee through credit card and online funds transfer facility, enabling online issuance of digital signatures.

The Commission has also expanded its physical outreach through establishment of its registration office at Gilgit Baltistan, a Capital Market Hub at Abbottabad, and Facilitation Center at Sialkot.

All these measures are likely to provide investor-friendly environment for the corporate sector, the statement added.

The reforms are also likely to improve the country’s starting-a-business and doing business rankings annually published by the World Bank to provide a comparative analysis of the doing business reform activity across the globe. It will also ensure documentation of the economy.

Back to top

Pakistan lauds cultural events at UN in 2016

UNITED NATIONS, 27 December 2016, (APP) – While articulating and defending Pakistan’s policies on major international issues at the United Nations, the Pakistani Mission to the U.N. also promoted the soft side of the country, hosting a number of cultural events in 2016 that attracted diplomats, academics, art lovers as well as music and film fans.

“Today, the amazing outpouring of art, literature, music and films in Pakistan is the most forceful response to a tiny minority that seeks to impose an alien orthodoxy,” Ambassador Maleeha Lodhi, who made the holding of public diplomacy events events as part of her outreach efforts at the world stage, said.

These events included the first-ever Pakistan Film Festival, a Sufi music concert at the UN General Assembly to celebrate Pakistan Day, an exhibition of modern Pakistani art at the United Nations, screening the Oscar-winning documentary “Girl in the river” at the UN and a photo exhibition highlighting Pakistan’s role as a major contributor to UN Peacekeeping, that was opened Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Well managed by the mission officers and staff, the audiences here applauded the the string of events.

Pakistan’s top-rated movies were screened at Asia Society, New York, to packed houses. The presence of Pakistani actors and film personalities, who traveled to New York from Pakistan, was a source excitement for audiences who cheered them when they came on stage. The stars included Mahira Khan, Mawra Hocane, Nabeel Qureshi, Saba Qamar, Wajahat Rauf, Yasir Hussain, Sheheryar Munawar, Asim Raza, Tooba Siddiqui, Adeel Hussain, Sanam Saeed, Jerjees Seja (JJ), Producers Afia Serena Nathaniel and Mehreen Jabbar.

On 23rd March, Ustad Rahat Fateh Ali Khan enthralled the jam-packed UN General Assembly Hall with his Sufi music, spreading the message of peace, tolerance and harmony, as Pakistan celebrated its National day for the first time at the world organization.

In June, Ban, the UN chief, spoke at photographic exhibition, organized by the Pakistan Mission, to mark the Pakistani Peacekeeping Day at UN Headquarters.

Pakistan, a leading troop contributor, currently has 7,161 personnel serving UN missions, including 280 police, 84 military observers, and 6,797 troops, deployed in 7 missions: Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO), Liberia (UNMIL), Cote d’Ivoire (UNOCI), Darfur Sudan (UNAMID), Haiti (MINUSTAH), Western Sahara (MINURSO), and Kosovo (UNMIK).

A website on Pakistan’s contributions to UN peacekeeping was also launched at the event. A special feature of this website is the “Wall of Valour” honouring the 147 fallen who gave the ultimate sacrifice in the cause of international peace and security.

Lauding the services of Pakistan to UN Peacekeeping, the secretary-general said that he has had the privilege of seeing first-hand the professionalism and commitment of Pakistani police and military personnel.

A month before that event in May, Asia Society hosted the Lahore Literary Festival, the holding of which for the first time in New York was facilitated by Ambassador Lodhi.

New Yorkers experienced at first hand the celebrated festival featuring lively discussions among well known literary figures from Pakistan and the United States on a variety of subjects. The two-day event also showcased Pakistan’s cultural mosaic of music, art, film-making and literature that kept the audience engrossed for more than seven hours.

“After all those efforts, I hope the international community will see our country through a different lens,” Ambassador Lodhi said, reflecting over the outcome of the cultural events.

Back to top

UN technology bank to have HQ in Turkey

ANKARA, 24 December 2016, (Anadolu Agency) – The UN said Friday that next year it is setting up a technology bank to speed the advancement of the world’s least-developed countries, headquartered near Istanbul, Turkey.

The new bank is a “vital milestone” for the world’s poorest countries, said Gyan Chandra Acharya, the UN’s high-representative and undersecretary-general for the least developed countries, landlocked developing countries, and small island developing states.

“I thank the government of Turkey for hosting it and call on the government of Turkey and all the development partners to provide committed and sustained levels of support for its effective operationalization,” he added.

According to the website of the Turkish Scientific and Technological Research Council (TUBITAK), the new facility is due to be housed in Gebze, in Kocaeli province, some 70 kilometers east of Istanbul, where TUBITAK already has its Marmara Research Center.

“The new UN institution is viewed as a significant achievement for the development of science, technology, and innovation in the world’s poorest countries,” the UN said in a statement.

According to Aharya, “The poorest countries in the world cannot eradicate poverty, achieve strong and sustainable development, and build resilience without expanding their scientific and technological bases.”

Acharya said poor countries need to effectively utilize technology to leapfrog various stages of their development process in order to meet the goals of the Istanbul Program of Action and the 2030 Agenda.

He added the global community has a responsibility to ensure that these nations are supported as they make progress towards strengthening their science, technology and innovation capacities for eradicating poverty, accelerating structural transformation, and building resilience.

The new bank is intended to help least-developed countries strengthen their science, technology, and innovation capacities, foster the development of national and regional innovation ecosystems that can attract outside technology, and generate homegrown research and take these advancements to market, according to the UN.

The bank will be financed by voluntary contributions from member states and other stakeholders, including the private sector and foundations.

The technology bank also aims to assist the world’s poorest countries in building their national and regional capacities in the areas of intellectual property rights and technology related policies.

In 2011, The Istanbul Program of Action called for the creation of a Technology Bank as a new UN institution and this objective was reaffirmed in the 2015 Addis Ababa Action Agenda, and Sustainable Development Goal 17, the UN added.

Back to top

Handicrafts lead boom in Turkish cultural exports

ANKARA, 21 December 2016, (Anadolu Agency) – Handcrafts took the lion’s share of Turkish cultural good exports in 2015, according to official data released Wednesday.

Handcraft exports made up 70 percent of the country’s cultural good exports, totaling 12.48 billion liras ($3.57 billion) last year, followed by audio and visual media with a 26.4 percent share, said the Turkish Statistical Institute (TurkStat).

Turkey’s exports of cultural goods rose 120 percent from 8.1 billion liras ($2.3 billion) in 2011 to 17.8 billion liras ($5 billion) in 2015, according to official data.

Cultural goods’ share of Turkey’s overall exports last year was 4.6 percent, up from 3.6 percent in 2011, said the data.

Imports of cultural goods rose 66.1 percent to around 14.79 billion liras ($4.23 billion) in 2015 from 8.43 billion liras ($2.41 billion) in 2011. The share of cultural good imports in Turkey’s yearly imports total rose from 2 percent in 2011 to 2.5 percent in 2015.

Turkey’s cultural expenditures in 2015 reached 32.9 billion Turkish liras (around $9.41 billion), according to TurkStat data. In the country, 61.5 percent of that sum was laid out by the government while the rest – 38.5 percent – was spent by private bodies.

Back to top

Turkey opens tunnel linking Black Sea, Central Anatolia

ANKARA, 26 December 2016, (Anadolu Agency) – A tunnel connecting Turkey’s West Black Sea region and Central Anatolia opened Monday with a ceremony attended by Prime Minister Binali Yildirim.

Speaking at the inauguration ceremony, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said the project will produce some 40 million liras ($12 million) in savings annually.

“We will save 8.3 million liters of fuel and 345,655 hours’ driving time in a year.”

Mentioning the many traffic accidents on the existing route, Yildirim said the tunnel is also very important in saving lives.

“Lives are invaluable. Saving one person is the same as saving mankind. Hopefully this tunnel will also save lives,” Yildirim said.

The tunnel will slash the travel time on the Mt. Ilgaz highway from 35 minutes to just eight, cutting the existing route by 5.4 kilometers.

The Mt. Ilgaz Tunnel boasts two tubes nearly 5,400 meters long and was constructed to connect Turkey’s western Black Sea and central Anatolia regions.

Appearing at the opening ceremony via video, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that thanks to this project, people will be able to traverse Mt. Ilgaz safely and comfortably, avoiding the difficulties the road posed in past years, especially during winter.

“The series of inauguration ceremonies which started with the Osmangazi Bridge in June and continued with the opening of the Yavuz Sultan Selim bridge and Eurasia Tunnel recently continued with Ilgaz’s July 15 Liberty Tunnel,” named after the defeat of this summer’s failed coup, Erdogan said.

“In 2002 Turkey had 83 highway tunnels. Over the last 14 years we have added 183 new tunnels to this number,” Erdogan said, stressing they are fully committed to the country’s 2023 centennial vision targets.

Mentioning how the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development now classifies Turkey as a high-income country, Erdogan said Turkey is set to move on despite challenges inside and outside of the country.

“Certainly we have some challenges. We did not forget the heinous July 15 coup bid. We did not forget the losses. We did not forget our martyrs and veterans. We did not forget the sacrifices made in the fight against terror,” he said.

“But all of these circumstances did not change the fact that Turkey keeps developing and growing. Turkey is a country which has proved itself in being able to grow even amid security concerns.”

Back to top

Anadolu Agency opens coup exhibit at US convention

CHICAGO, 27 December 2016, (Anadolu Agency) – Anadolu Agency opened a photo exhibition here Monday at a U.S. Muslim convention that portrays the democratic struggle of the Turkish people against a bloody coup attempt this past summer.

The “July 15: Rise of the National Will” exhibition was inaugurated at the annual MAS-ICNA convention by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s daughter, Sumeyye Erdogan Bayraktar and Ankara’s Ambassador to the U.S., Serdar Kilic, as well as other dignitaries.

The MAS-ICNA convention will be attended by thousands of Muslims across the globe and will continue through Wednesday at the McCormick Place, the largest convention center in North America.

An “extremely heinous coup attempt” took place July 15, Bayraktar said. “It is significant that Anadolu Agency does a beautiful job of displaying the intense, emotional moments of that night in such exhibitions,” Bayraktar told Anadolu Agency.

Bayraktar, who studied at Indiana University, praised the convention and stressed the importance of informing Americans about the overthrow attempt during an organization on the scale of the convention.

She said Turkey set an example for other Muslim countries in the way its people defied the putsch.

“I think the admiration toward people in Turkey has increased since the heroism at full display during the July 15 coup attempt. I think the whole international community, the Muslim world in particular, understand how the Turks claim and cherish their democracy,” she said.

Bayraktar criticized the West for “double standards” in its approach toward challenges to democracy across the world. “Unfortunately, those countries that are expected to take the lead in defending democracy are unwilling to do so vis-a-vis Muslim countries. This is a very bitter thing,” she said.

In remarks delivered during an ICNA panel organized by the Turkish American National Steering Committee, Bayraktar stressed that the recent overthrow attempt was a defining moment for Turkey.

“July 15 marked a turning point in Turkey’s contemporary history,” she said.

Past coup attempts were successful and disrupted democratic institutions, according to Bayraktar. “The most recent coup attempt, in contrast, established beyond doubt that the Turkish people would not tolerate another assault. It became clear that there was no room for tanks rolling down the streets and Turkish taxpayers to be threatened with weapons for which they paid in the first place.”

Representing the Syrian-American community at the panel, Safa Zarzur thanked Turkey for helping Syrians.

“We will never forget, we will never forget what Turkey has done for us. Thank you for that,” Zarzur said.

“Three million Syrians today reside in Turkey. They are not treated like refugees, though even in some Arab countries they are treated like refugees,” Zarzur said. “In Turkey, they call them the Muhajirun and they are the Ansar.”

The Muhajirun are a historical name for the companions of Prophet Muhammad who emigrated from Makkah to Madinah to flee persecution, and the Ansar are the Muslims of Madinah who helped them.

“On July 15, our hearts were about to stop because they succeeded in squashing the hopes of the Arab nations one after the other from Egypt to Libya to Yemen,” Zarzur said.

“I watched the brave, the faithful Turkish people putting their bodies in front of tanks and dying for the sake of Allah and for the sake of their country. You taught us a lesson, and you became more the hope for all Muslims, particularly for Syrians,” he added.

Zarzur said the Syrian-American community has learned to utilize channels of advocacy and aid to support Syrians.

“We have 14 relief agencies that work to help Syrian refugees and I can tell you that the aid we receive, the help and support that we receive from Turkey, we do not receive from any other country,” he said.

“But we ask you that you continue that under all the pressure that we know you have from everywhere to stop it,” he said.

Ankara is bearing the brunt of an ongoing war in its next-door neighbor. Turkey hosts 3 million Syrians and has spent billions of dollars in aid.

The government is working to offer citizenship to Syrian nationals and has made efforts commended by the international community to integrate them into the workforce.

Back to top

Kuwait- Arab Islamic Takaful insurance firm launched

KUWAIT, 26 December 2016, (MENAFN) – A new Takaful insurance firm has been launched as a Kuwaiti joint stock close company with capital worth KD 5 million (about USD 16.32 million), according to a new report.

The Arab Islamic company for Takaful insurance conducts all forms of local insurance and reinsurance, besides life insurance both at home and abroad, Kuwait Al-Yaum wrote on Monday.

The new company can manage saving work, and accumulation of funds as well as insurance against fire, emergencies, transport accidents, and other forms.

The new firm can also invest its funds and handle them the way it opts for and conduct all relevant financial operations, the paper said. (end) mam.amj.msa

Back to top

Call for speedy implementation of Dubai Industrial Strategy

DUBAI, 26 December 2016, (WAM) – H.H. Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of Dubai Executive Council, has directed the Dubai Industrial Strategy to be implemented expeditiously in order to ensure that Dubai becomes the main axis of the global economy.

Sheikh Hamdan instructed that implementation of the strategy should begin with the advent of 2017.

The statement was made on the heels of the steps initiated to implement the Dubai Industrial Strategy, launched by Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.

“Enhancing creativity and innovation in industry will be a cornerstone of the Dubai Industrial Strategy. This will be in line with our approach to establish a sustainable economy based on research, development and knowledge. All these components will contribute towards making Dubai an exceptional investment destination. Dubai also has a suitable and reliable infrastructure along with a comprehensive set of legislations,” the Crown Prince of Dubai said.

He stressed that all government departments and bodies in charge of implementation of the industrial strategy needed to intensify efforts as part of the framework identified by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid. The aim must be to promote team work, encourage positive energy and creative ideas, a expedite efforts to achieve the goals as defined in the strategy. This will serve the cause of sustainable development in the UAE.

Meanwhile, the General Secretariat of Dubai’s Executive Council affirmed that it has already started implementing the leadership’s instructions. It said it has been holding a series of meetings and workshops in co-operation with the concerned parties with the aim of achieving the goals defined in the industrial strategy.

The emphasis will be on promoting industrial co-operation, linking it with educational and research institutions to encourage creativity and innovation.

Also, the focus will be on ensuring an investment environment to attract targeted industries since the industrial strategy is expected to boost Dubai’s GDP by AED165 billion by 2030.

Abdullah Al Shaibani, Secretary General of Executive Council of the Emirate of Dubai said that Dubai’s Industrial strategy is deemed one of the pillars of achieving Dubai Plan 2021 through innovation to position the emirate as a main hub of the global economy.

“Through this strategy Dubai under the leadership of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid and follow up of H.H. Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid is proving its capability to be one of most advanced economic and industrial developed hubs around the world,” he added.

Back to top

E-gate exit, entry now free for expats at Doha Airport

27 December 2016, (MENAFN – Gulf Times) – The Ministry of Interior activates e-gate services for resident expatriates using their ID cards and passports

Easing the entry and exit process for resident expatriates through the Hamad International Airport, the Ministry of Interior (MoI) has activated e-gate services on their ID cards and passports free of charge.

This service can be accessed by resident expatriates with ID cards and their children above 18 years without the need for prior registration, MoI announced on Monday in a statement.

‘The use of the ID card does not need any prior registration or pay any fees, and (a resident expatriate) only need to have a valid ID card, Colonel Mohamed Rashid al-Mazroui, director of the Airport Passports Department, explained.

There are 19 e-gates in the departure lounge and 16 e-gates in the arrival lounge, he stressed.

‘The activation of this service comes as part of the smart passenger project, inaugurated by HE the Prime Minister and Interior Minister at the beginning of this year, the official recalled.

The objective of the smart passenger project is to facilitate passengers to complete the entry or exit process through self-service devices, depending on smart technology, without the need to approach the counter staff.

Maj Khalid Mohamed Mulla, head of the Airport Passports Section, explained that the use of electronic gates is very easy.

‘A passenger has to place his/her ID card or passport on the e-reader at the e-gate, which will read the vital data stored on the card or the passport and verify them.

‘Then the device will direct the passenger in Arabic r English to move ahead as the first glass barrier will be opened making access for the passenger to the middle of the e-gate.

‘Now the device will match the data obtained from the travel document by capturing his/her eye print and fingerprint and if the data matches the device will open the final exit gate which enables the traveller to move to the boarding gate or baggage collection area. This process does not take more than two minutes, whether to enter or exit, he added.

Maj Mulla also stressed it is mandatory for all resident expatriates to show his/her ID card at the airports and other ports of entry as well as at airline counter and as and when demanded by the concerned authorities.

‘All the authorities concerned in all countries have been notified on Resident ID card and all airline companies also were informed about it. The airlines can ensure the validity of ID cards through MOI web portal, he added.

Colonel al-Mazroui observed that that the activation of the electronic gates for residents will contribute to quick completion of their travel procedures without standing in long queues and waiting for passport control officer to verify their personal data and put the departure or arrival stamp on their passports.

‘All of these procedures can now be updated automatically through the e-gate system at record speed while taking care of their privacy, security and safety. This will also save passport pages for many residents as many of them suffer from rapid depletion of available pages in their passports due to the large number of travel stamps.

Back to top

CATS musical to be staged in Doha in February

27 December 2016, (MENAFN – The Peninsula) – The original production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s record-breaking musical Cats will be staged at the Qatar National Convention Centre (QNCC) from February 1 to 4 as part of the Shop Qatar 2017 festival.

The show is brought by Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA) and organised by Broadway Entertainment Group and SES.

Saif AlKuwari, Director of PR and Communication at QTA said, ‘Family and urban entertainment is a priority area for tourism in Qatar and has been intricately woven into our plans for the country’s first ever edition of Shop Qatar, which will run from January 7 to February 7. The Broadway musical, Cats, comes as a welcome addition to the festival’s colourful live entertainment schedule, offering a rich array of cultural shows, performances by singing sensations and unlimited family-friendly entertainment.

Adapted from T S Elliot’s ‘Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats’, this wonderful blend of fantasy, drama and romance is set on the night that the Jellicle Cats meet for the Jellicle Ball in a sparkling fusion of music, dance and verse.

The show features an amazing musical score that includes the timeless ‘Memory, spectacular set designs, stunning costumes and breath-taking choreography.

David Ian, Producer of Cats for David Ian Productions said, ‘I am absolutely thrilled to be bringing Andrew Lloyd Webber’s iconic musical CATS to Doha. CATS is truly one of the greast musicals of all time and I cannot wait to present this incredible production at the QNCC Theatre in February.

This original production is one of the longest-running shows in West End and Broadway history. Seen by over 73 million people worldwide, Cats has enchanted audiences in over 300 cities around the world.

Liz Koops, CEO of Broadway Entertainment Group, said, ‘It’s an absolute pleasure to announce that we are bringing the greatest musical in the world to Qatar. Cats is one of the most successful musicals of all time and I am thrilled for it to come to Doha to wow audiences of all ages.

Ali Haidary, Founder and CEO of SES said, ‘I am delighted that SES along with Broadway Entertainment are bringing this world class, multi- award winning musical theatre experience Cats to Doha. Following the huge successes of Disney On Ice over the past three years at the QNCC, it’s a great privilege to be expanding our repertoire and bringing the highest quality shows for the enjoyment of audiences in Doha.

Cats held its world premiere at the New London Theatre in 1981 where it played for almost 9,000 performances.

The classic Lloyd Webber score includes ‘Memory, which has been recorded by over 150 artists from Barbra Streisand and Johnny Mathis to Liberace.

Tickets are on sale and start from QR150. Purchase tickets at www.ticktes.virginmegastore.me

Back to top

Egypt-UNDP pact to implement Alexandria 2032 strategy

26 December 2016, (MENAFN – Daily News Egypt) – Minister of International Cooperation Sahar Nasr and Minister of Housing Mostafa Madbouly witnessed on Monday the signing of an agreement regarding the participatory strategic urban planning for Alexandria until 2032.

The two-year agreement between the Ministry of International Cooperation and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) should have been completely planned out by 2016, but Nasr said that the deadline for planning was extended until 2018.

The reasons behind the extension are to establish the strategic plan, find new areas for development, and train employees in the regional centre for urban planning and development in Alexandria.

Nasr said that the UNDP’s partnership with Egypt aims at implementing sustainable development, especially in areas that are directly related to the Ministry of Housing, such as linking areas with drinking water.

She added that she mainly cooperates with the Ministry of Housing because it completes the role of the Ministry of International Cooperation by building houses, roads, and infrastructure.

The UNDP is one of the main supporters of the government’s programme to help the poorest societal segments and to create jobs, Nasr stated.

From his side, Madbouly said that the plan is a project that sets the vision of Alexandria for the next 15 years, and enables its connection with Borg Al-Arab.

It also includes planning to eliminate ashwa’yat (informal housing areas), he noted

The UNDP will be the project adviser and provide technical support for the project, Madbouly added.

Assem Elgazzar, head of the General Organization for Physical Planning (GOPP), is responsible for creating the plan for the city.

He added that the GOPP succeeded in the previous project for Alexandria from 2010 until 2015 due to its cooperation with experts and professors at Alexandria University.

Naglaa Arafa, assistant resident representative of the UNDP in Cairo, said that the project is a step towards Egypt’s vision to reorganise its sources and abilities to absorb excess population.

Madbouly stated that the rate of building social housing is currently four times faster than in previous years.

Back to top

Erdogan: Turkey is now a high-growth country

Istanbul, Turkey, 27 December 2016, (MENAFN – Kuwait News Agency (KUNA)) – Turkish President Tayyip Erdoga said the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) classified mid-income nations like Turkey as high and sustained growth countries.

In a speech aired by TV while inaugurating a tunnel connecting Turkey’s West Black Sea region and Central Anatolia Monday, Erdogan said the tunnel whose cost reached USD 205 million is the last project opened over the last months.

The number of tunnels are 393 compared with 83 in 2002 and airports rose from 26 to 55, he added.

Turkey has proven that it is able to make progress and growth, despite security problems facing the country, he noted.

As a result of this success, terrorist attacks have been targeting Turkey, he stressed, indicating that nobody could prevent Turkey from achieving its goals by 2030.

Speaking at the inauguration ceremony, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said the project will produce some 40 million liras (USD 12 million) in savings annually.

“We will save 8.3 million liters of fuel and 345,655 hours’ driving time in a year.” The tunnel will slash the travel time on the Mt. Ilgaz highway from 35 minutes to just eight, cutting the existing route by 5.4 kilometers.

Back to top

Oman’s Port of Duqm inks 3 land lease deals

27 December 2016, (MENAFN) – Port of Duqm Co. signed three deals with Oman Engineering LLC, Gold Fish Co. and Galfar Engineering and Contracting for a 25 year land lease deal for 10.5 hectares of land.

Additionally, Oman Engineering is 100pct owned by an individual investor and the firm is engaged in construction, maintenance and operation of oil and gas plant.

Moreover, OEL facilities cover of new pipe fabrication shop, building, asphalt plant, mixing concrete plant relocated and new administration building.

Gold Fish Co. is one of the market pioneers in the industry of manufacturing and exporting of steam dried fish meal and crude fish oil.

Back to top

Iran non-oil exports earn over $31b in nine months

Tehran, 25 December 2016, (IRNA) – Non-oil exports over the past nine months to December 20 stood at 31 billion dollars, Iran’s Customs House said in a press release on foreign trade.

Iran non-oil exports bring in over $31b in nine months Non-oil exports stood at 31.593 billion dollars during the period, showing an increase of 9.05 percent compared to the figure for the corresponding period last year.

According to the customs office the formalities to register 91.262 tons of exported goods and 24.867 million tons of imported goods have earlier been conducted nationwide.

Non-oil exports in nine months last year stood at 28.970 million dollars.

Iran’s imports in the past nine months reached 31.538 billion dollars, up by 4.38 percent compared to the figure for the same period last year. It indicates Iran’s commercial balance was positive in the past nine months.

Gas condensates worth of 5.124 billion dollars were major exports of Iran, accounting for 16.22 percent of total non-oil exports.

LNG stands next to them with 1.952 billion dollars, making up for 6.18 percent of the total non-oil exports.

Imported goods included soybean, auto parts, motor vehicles and rice. China was the biggest purchaser of the Iranian goods, as it imported goods worth of 5.697 billion dollars in the past nine months.

UAE, Iraq, Turkey and Korea followed China in terms of Iranian imports while China, UAE, South Korea and Turkey are also major importers to Iran.

Back to top

Printing, Packaging, Related Machinery Expo opens in Iran

Tehran, 25 December 2016, (IRNA) – The 23rd International Exhibition of Printing, Packaging and Related Machinery opened in Tehran Permanent Fairground on Sunday.

Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance Reza Salehi-Amiri attended the inaugural ceremony on Sunday.

Some 440 Iranian and 210 foreign companies from Germany, Austria, Spain, Turkey, China, Sweden, Singapore, Holland, India and Norway are displaying their latest achievements in the field of packaging, printing machinery, automation, printing services, cardboard digital systems ink and carton.

The 23rd International Printing, Packaging and Related Machinery opened Sunday and will work until Wednesday.

Back to top

8 new aircraft to be delivered to Iran

Tehran, 25 December 2016, (IRNA) – Eight new passenger planes are to be delivered to the Airline of the Islamic Republic of Iran (Iran Air) by the end of the Iranian calendar year (March 20, 2017) Deputy Minister of Roads and Urban Development for International Affairs Asghar Fakhriyeh-Kashan has announced.

The new aircraft will be delivered by France’s Airbus and the French-Italian aircraft manufacturer ATR, Fakhriyeh-Kashan told IRNA here on Sunday.

Based on the agreement with the Airbus, Iran Air is to receive an A330 and two A320 planes this year, the official added.

Referring to the foreign companies’ interest in striking deals with Iran, he noted that the country has no problems for funding such agreements.

Also, Iran Air and the American Corporation of Boeing signed an agreement on selling 80 aircraft to Iran on December 11.

The first batch of those passenger aircrafts are expected to be delivered to Iran in early 2018.

Iran’s Ambassador to London Hamid Baeedinejad in a post on his Instagram page on Saturday wrote that contract with Airbus for purchase of 100 passenger planes put an end to the most prolonged sanction against the country.

Despite all doubts about the possibility of a deal with France’s Airbus which continued to even the latest moments, the preliminary contract was signed during the historical visit of the Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to Paris in January, said the senior diplomat.

Back to top