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

19 Dec, 2016

Islamic Information Ministers to chart anti-Islamophobia strategy

Compiled by Imtiaz Muqbil

A compilation of progressive, positive, inspiring and motivating events and developments in the world of Islamfor the week ending 19 December 2016 (19 Rabee’ al-Awwal 1438). Pls click on any of the headlines below 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 Wins Funniest Person In The World Competition

PETALING JAYA, Dec 10 (NNN-THE STAR)– Malaysian comedian Harith Iskander is the funniest person in the world after emerging triumphant in the finals of the Funniest Person in the World competition held in Levi, Finland on Saturday

He beat out four finalists – Alex Calleja from The Philippines, Katerina Vrana from Greece, Mino van Nassau from India and David Kilimnick from Israel – to win the title.

“Congratulations @HarithIskander- LaughFactory’s Funniest Person in the World for 2016,” said contest organiser Laugh Factory on their official Twitter account on Saturday.

As the winner of the “The Funniest Person in the World” title, Harith will receive the grand prize of USD$100,000 (RM444,845).

The Funniest Person in the World competition is organised by Laugh Factory, a global comedy chain in the United States.

Harith and the other comedians had performed in the competition finals at the Hullu Polo Arena in Levi, Finland on Dec 8.

The winner was chosen through global online fan voting, which was open for 24 hours after the finals.

Harith had previously defeated 88 other comedians from all over the world, including fellow Malaysian Dr Jason Leong to reach the finals of the competition.

Back to top

Malaysia Targets 4 Million Tourists from China in 2017

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, 15 December 2016, (NNN-Bernama) — The Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (Matta) is optimistic of achieving the target of four million visitors from China for next year.

Its president Hamzah Rahmat said this could be achieved through the new Shenzhen Airlines flight trip to Kuala Lumpur daily, (one flight each day) which started on Dec 9.

“This is the re-entry (second time) of Shenzhen Airlines to Malaysia, after six years because they see the high potential of tourism and trade here, and also the increasing tourists who opt to visit our country.

“This will create a wider opportunity for those in the hospitality industry here in Malaysia and also for economic growth,” he told reporters after a networking dinner with Chinese outbound agents from Shenzhen, China, here yesterday.

Hamzah said Matta is also considering the operation of direct flights to Penang and Johor Baharu.

“In a way, the visitors will have the chance the visit the other states of Malaysia instead of the city centre only,” he added.

Meanwhile, the airline’s sales manager Wang Xizhang said they are excited with the re-entry and hoping to increase the flight frequencies to Kuala Lumpur.

“Shenzhen is near to Hong Kong and its a strategic venue too whereby they can use our service for their Malaysia trips,” he said.

Adding on the reasons why China tourists do love Malaysia, Xizhang said it is because of the food, no language barrier, good weather and also as a shopping destination.

Back to top

Malaysia to usher in 2017 with Putrajaya Lights Festival

PUTRAJAYA, Malaysia, 13 December 2016, (NNN-Bernama) – The 2016 Putrajaya Festival of Lights and Motion (LAMPU) will showcase a digital fireworks display at Dataran Putrajaya from Dec 30 to Jan 1, 2017.

Putrajaya Corporation (PPj) president Hasim Ismail said the six-minute fireworks display would be projected on the facade of the Palace of Justice building to usher in the 2017 New Year.

He said the projection mapping applied the latest techniques and technology to display 3D images on the building’s facade which would highlight its unique architectural details.

“When the actual fireworks light up the night sky of Putrajaya, it will be coordinated with the digital fireworks show.

“It will apply creative techniques, with high resolution, sound system and visual content on the building’s facade,” he told a press conference on the LAMPU here today.

LAMPU, which enters its fourth year, will also introduce several new shows like the LAMPU Skywave which uses motion art technology and light animation.

“The Star Wars Fusion show, a wayang kulit version of Star Wars, is specially for local and foreign tourists,” said Hasim.

He said the colourful lights festival this year would retain its usual content which included Garden Lighting, Lighted Structures, Car and Bike Light Show, Big Bike Lights Exhibition and the LAMPU forum.

“These efforts aim to make Putrajaya a hub of the lighting industry, in line with the Putrajaya Lighting Master Plan, to support the lighting of a township which is systematic and dynamic,” he added.

Themed ‘Archipelago’, the three-day LAMPU will be held from 7.30pm to midnight. It is expected to attract more than 700,000 local and foreign visitors.

At the event, Hasim also presented certificates to strategic partners and sponsors of LAMPU 2016.

Back to top

High-Speed Rail Linking KL and Singapore to Benefit Johor

JOHOR BHARU, Johor state, Malaysia, 15 December 2016, (NNN-Bernama) – The High-Speed Rail (HSR) project linking Kuala Lumpur and Singapore is expected to contribute to Johor state’s economic growth and benefit its people, said Menteri Besar (Chief Minister) Mohamed Khaled Nordin.

He said the high-impact project would also help improve connectivity between districts in the state.

“Hence, the state government is drawing up appropriate plans to strengthen development efforts, including focused projects in the areas involved.

“A thorough planning will be made after the alignment of the rail tracks and stations is determined to maximise the HSR project.

“We believe the implementation of the HSR project will provide opportunities, as well as benefit Johor’s development and economic growth, especially along the rail line,” he told reporters after visiting the Paragon Private and International School here today.

On Tuesday, Malaysia and Singapore concluded a two-way agreement for the implementation of the HSR project at the 7th Malaysia-Singapore Leaders’ Retreat in Putrajaya.

Upon its completion in 2016, the 350km HSR will cut travel time between Kuala Lumpur and Jurong East, Singapore to 90 minutes, with the trains travelling at a maximum speed of 300 kilometers per hour.

Back to top

Malaysia Launches First Phase of Mass Rail Transit in KL

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, 15 December 2016, (NNN-Bernama) — Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak today launched the first phase of the Sungai Buloh-Kajang (SBK) Mass Rapid Transit (MRT), which became the latest addition to the public transport mode in the Federal capital.

The first phase of the route, which involves 12 stations between Sungai Buloh and Semantan suburbs and covering a distance of 21 kilometres, will start Friday (Dec 16) from 6 am.

It covers the stations of Sungai Buloh; Kampung Selamat; Kwasa Damansara; Kwasa Sentral; Kota Damansara; Surian; Mutiara Damansara; Bandar Utama; Taman Tun Dr Ismail; Phileo Damansara; Pusat Bandar Damansara and Semantan.

Also present to witness the launch at Kwasa Damansara MRT station here were Nepal’s Deputy Prime Minister Krishna Bahadur Mahara, Chief Secretary to the Government and MRT Corp Chairman Dr Ali Hamsa, Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai, Second Finance Minister Johari Abdul Ghani, Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) Chairman Syed Hamid Albar and MRT Corp Chief Executive Officer Shahril Mokhtar.

A total of 120 feeder buses will also be provided through 26 routes in and around the 12 stations.

Meanwhile the second phase, which covers a distance of 30 kms and involving 19 stations from Semantan to Kajang, is expected to be fully operational from July 31, 2017.

Najib said it is a holistic and people-centric project, and not just a public transport project. “The government conducted an in-depth study in terms of the people’s life, the network, the population density, the traffic flow, the needs of the people and so on.

“More than that, we also give special emphasis to the first and last mile connectivity,” he said in his latest entry on his blog NajibRazak.com yesterday.

Najib said the government has made adjustment and transformation of public transport as one of the main focus by making improvements to ease access to LRT, KTM Komuter, buses, taxis and the MRT.

For Phase 1 of MRT SBK, around 112 buses will be available at stations with their route including areas of focus and residential areas.

This provide consumers the choice of whether to use the feeder buses to MRTstations and the final destinations in the city, or drive their own vehicles and use the Park-And-Ride facility available at selected MRT stations.

Back to top

Malaysia-China Trade Hits RM191.65bln

KUALA LUMPUR, 16 December 2016, (NNN-BERNAMA) – Bilateral trade between Malaysia and China from January to October 2016 hit RM191.65 billion, up 1.2 per cent from the same period last year.

For the same period, exports fell 7.2 per cent year-on-year (y-o-y) to RM77.40 billion while imports rose 7.9 per cent y-o-y to RM114.25 billion, said the Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation (MATRADE) in a statement Friday.

“Electrical and electronics products contributed 42.7 per cent to the total exports, worth RM43.22 billion, followed by chemicals and chemical products (10.4 per cent), petroleum products (10.2 per cent), palm oil and palm-based products (six per cent) and manufactures of metal (4.5 per cent),” it said.

For the first 10 months of the year, the trade deficit widened to RM36.84 billion from RM22.51 billion in the same period last year, it said.

International Trade and Industry (MITI) Deputy Minister Chua Tee Yong attributed the lower export growth to the downtrend in commodity prices.

“The weakening commodity prices, including oil and gas prices, have posted a challenge to the trade,” he told a press conference after officiating the China-ASEAN Small and Medium-sized Enterprise (SME) Trade Promotion Platform (CASTPP) here Friday.

However, Chua said, he believed the recent official visit by Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak to China would help to balance the trade between the two countries as palm oil prices have shown signs of improvement following the state visit.

It was reported that China had expressed a positive response towards increasing oil palm imports from Malaysia after Najib’s October visit.

Meanwhile, Chua said efforts by MATRADE, such as its participation in more than eight promotions and fairs thus far this year, had also helped to increase the SMEs’ exports to China.

“The sales generated from the eight events in China reached RM1.6 billion, up around 10 to 15 per cent from the previous year,” he said.

He revealed that the Malaysia Promotion Programme in Shanghai last month also registered more than US$60 million (RM268 million) in sales.

“Therefore, we encourage more SMEs to grab the opportunities to participate in the CASTPP to tap into the mega Chinese market with a population of 1.9 billion,” he said.

CASTPP is a one-day seminar which aims to provide insights on export opportunities for Malaysia and China through strategic collaborations, partnerships and joint ventures.

It also serves as a platform to increase Malaysian exporters’ knowledge of business opportunities and enhance the bilateral trade with China.

Back to top

Malaysia, Sri Lanka to Explore New Ideas of Cooperation

PUTRAJAYA, 16 December 2016, (NNN-Bernama) — Malaysia and Sri Lanka have reaffirmed determination to take bilateral relations between the two countries to a higher level by exploring new areas of cooperation.

According to a joint statement issued in conjunction with the official visit of Sri Lanka’s President Maithripala Sirisena to Malaysia, the new areas of cooperation include those in the political, trade and investment, education, tourism, human resource, training and cultural relations as well as people-to-people contact.

“Both leaders recognised the need to engage at the highest level towards further enhancement of bilateral relations between the two countries.

“The two sides agreed that every effort will be made to encourage and promote exchanges between government officials and leaders of private sector with a view to further expand the relations at official and private sector levels,” the statement said.

The joint statement added that Malaysia and Sri Lanka reaffirmed their desire to promote greater opportunities for students to pursue their higher studies in each other’s country.

The two leaders also acknowledged the increasing two-way tourist movement and recalled the close cultural affinity of the peoples of the two countries, including the presence of a large Sri Lankan community in Malaysia, it said.

The joint statement said both leaders were unanimous in their rejection of violent extremism and, in expressing their strong condemnation of terrorism in all forms and manifestation, called upon all states to reject terrorism and bring the perpetrators of terrorism to justice.

“Both sides agreed to continue sharing information and best practices with a view to address the challenges posed by terrorism and other traditional and non-traditional threats,” the statement added.

Najib and Sirisena also witnessed the signing of five memoranda of understanding (MoUs).

The MoUs are cooperations in the field of tourism related activities; youth development; culture, arts and heritage; MoU on recruitment, employment and repatriation of workers; and MoU between the Sri Lanka Council for Agricultural Research Policy (SLCARP) and Malaysian Agricultural Research and Development Institute (MARDI) on scientific research and technical cooperation.

The joint statement said Malaysia and Sri Lanka recognised each other’s responsibility in the promotion of peace, development and security of the region and beyond based on a convergence of political and socio-economic interest and aspirations.

It added that Malaysia and Sri Lanka underscored the need to adhere to the main objectives and principles of the Charter of the United Nations and norms of International Law based on trust, equality and cooperation.

“The two leaders emphasised the need for concerted efforts to build confidence and mutual understanding and strengthen stability regionally and internationally.

“The two leaders agreed that international issues should be resolved through peaceful dialogue and diplomatic means,” the joint statement further said.

The statement added that Malaysia would continue to promote the moderation agenda and mediation approach, promote the enhancement of United Nations peacekeeping operations, support peace building in countries emerging from conflicts and encourage continued discussion on the comprehensive reform of the United Nations Security Council.

Back to top

Malaysian Bank launches First Lifestyle Mobile Wallet

13 December 2016, (Bernama) – Also the first Malaysian mobile wallet that can store cards issued by both Mastercard and Visa

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 13 (Bernama) — CIMB Bank Berhad (“CIMB Bank” or “the Bank”) today announced the launch of CIMB Pay – a lifestyle mobile application (“app”) which is the first to combine secure cashless payments with deals and offers. CIMB Pay enables the Bank’s seven million customers to experience faster, easier and more secure payments at over 1,800 contactless terminal-enabled merchants nationwide, and search nearby location-based deals that could bring real-time, providing instant value to the consumer.

With CIMB Pay, the Bank’s customers can now park all their CIMB Mastercard and Visa credit cards, as well as debit cards in their mobile phone. Users can make payments by simply tapping their phone on any contactless terminal based on Near Field Communication (NFC) technology. The app also has an in-built notification system that alerts customers on nearby contactless terminals as well as any flash deals.

“We are proud that CIMB Pay is the first mobile wallet app that enables consumers to not only make cashless payments, but also allows them to take advantage of lifestyle deals. Combined with the ability to store cards issued by both Mastercard and Visa, CIMB Pay is the leader among similar apps. The launch of CIMB Pay further strengthens our suite of digital offering, reaffirming our position as a customer-centric Bank with cutting edge technology in the region. This initiative also supports Bank Negara’s move to reduce the use of cash in our economy.” said Samir Gupta, CEO of Group Consumer Banking, CIMB Group.

Commenting on the app’s security features, Samir said, “Security and privacy are at the core of CIMB Pay. All card details are tokenised and no information is stored on the devices. Users will also be required to authenticate transactions either using the mobile fingerprint or a six digit PIN.”

More functionalities will be added onto CIMB Pay in Q1 2017 such as simplified online payment and express checkout solutions powered by Mastercard’s Masterpass. With Masterpass,shoppers will be able to use their CIMB Mastercard debit or credit card along with the shipping information saved on CIMB Pay to quickly complete online transactions.

“This is an exciting time for us as we look to enable commerce across any device to meet the evolving needs of consumers. Today’s launch with CIMB marks our continued efforts as partners in offering more innovative and secure ways to pay as Malaysians embrace newer technologies in today’s increasingly digital world.

By leveraging our secured tokenisation platform Mastercard Digital Enablement Service and global digital payment service Masterpass, consumers in Malaysia can look forward to simpler, safer and smarter digital payments across any device and channel – be it online orin-app,” said Perry Ong, country manager, Malaysia and Brunei, Mastercard.

CIMB Pay is now available for download on Google Play for NFC-enabled smartphones running on Android 4.4 and above.

CIMB Bank is the consumer banking arm of CIMB Group, offering retail and commercial banking services.

CIMB Group is Malaysia’s second largest financial services provider and one of ASEAN’s leading universal banking groups. It offers consumer banking, investment banking, Islamic banking, asset management and insurance products and services. Headquartered in Kuala Lumpur, the Group is now present in nine out of 10 ASEAN nations (Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, Cambodia, Brunei, Vietnam, Myanmar and Laos). Beyond ASEAN, the Group has market presence in China, Hong Kong, India, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Korea, the US and UK.

CIMB Group has the most extensive retail branch network in ASEAN of close to 1,000 branches as at 31 October 2016. CIMB Group’s investment banking arm is also one of the largest Asia Pacific-based investment banks, offering amongst the most comprehensive research coverage of more than 1,000 stocks in the region.

CIMB Group operates its business through three main brand entities, CIMB Bank, CIMB Investment Bank and CIMB Islamic. CIMB Group is also the 92.5% shareholder of Bank CIMB Niaga in Indonesia, and 93.7% shareholder of CIMB Thai in Thailand.

CIMB Group is listed on Bursa Malaysia via CIMB Group Holdings Berhad. It had a market capitalisation of approximately RM44.6 billion as at 31 October 2016. The Group has about 40,000 employees located in 16 countries.

Back to top

Malaysian Accountants: Why Audit Matters to SMEs

KUALA LUMPUR, 14 December 2016, (Bernama) – The Malaysian Institute of Accountants (MIA) launched a booklet ‘Why Audit Matters to SMEs’ today to illustrate the value of an external audit for owners and managers of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs).

The publication of this booklet is timely in light of the current market discourse on the issue of audit exemption of dormant and small private companies. The booklet provides a quick guide in illustrating the value of an audit to various stakeholders and emphasises the benefits derived from the decision to have accounts audited.

The main message of the booklet conveys that the cost of audit to an entity should not be considered in isolation of the benefits to be derived by that entity. An audit is an important undertaking designed to yield a reasonable level of assurance, through independent verification, of important financial information. Whatever cost savings that may be achieved, the benefits of having an audit outweigh them.

MIA is of the view that a comprehensive analysis needs to be carried out and appropriate dialogues conducted with all relevant stakeholders, given the far-reaching consequences of audit exemption across the regulatory and financial reporting ecosystem.

Currently, all companies enjoying the privilege of limited liability must subject their businesses to mandatory audits to safeguard the interest of third party users and other stakeholders. An audit can be considered to be a service to the public at large and it is a small price to pay for the limited liability protection that a company enjoys. The booklet illustrates the value of an audit to various stakeholders and emphasises the benefits derived from the decision to have accounts audited.

Among others, audit brings financial discipline, which is especially important as under the new Companies Act 2016, increased liabilities will be imposed on company directors for failing to prepare adequate financial statements. The penalty imposed under the new Act is a fine not exceeding five hundred thousand ringgit or imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years or both.

Furthermore an external audit ensures proper tax returns are filed with the Inland Revenue Board (IRB).Section 77A(4) of the Income Tax Act requires tax returns furnished by companies to be based on audited accounts. Proper tax returns based on audited accounts could actually save SMEs from penalties which could exceed their audit fees.

Given the importance of audit and its relevance to various stakeholders, MIA had pro-actively published this reader-friendly booklet which will be distributed to SMEs and the relevant stakeholders during MIA engagement sessions in early 2017.

Back to top

Malaysian MIGHT experts seek new approach to global problems

KUALA LUMPUR, 14 December 2016, (Bernama) – The “business as usual” approach to scientific problem-solving — characterized too often by narrow, disconnected, uni-dimensional research — simply isn’t up to the vital task of addressing the world’s increasingly complex, inter-connected problems.

That’s the quandary inspiring a high-level international experts meeting in Malaysia Dec. 19-21 to be conducted under the auspices of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

The meeting’s mandate: Recommend how to stimulate worldwide the large-perspective, trans-disciplinary scientific approach needed to slow and reverse increasingly complex threats to human well-being on track to worsen in the near future.

For example, energy, water and food security are recognized as a highly-interrelated trio of fundamental issues confronting policy-makers, who must weigh and balance choices related to one part of the nexus against impacts on the other two.

Urban planning, infrastructure design and climate science is another combination of natural, industrial and social sciences that need to be bridged and dots connected, informed by a wealth of relevant indigenous and local knowledge. The combination of human health and livestock production sciences is among a myriad of other examples.

UNESCO’s two-year “Sustainability Science Approach” project aims to foster more collaborative, multi-disciplinary research and education worldwide.

It was initiated in October 2015 by two UNESCO sectors — Natural Sciences, and Social and Human Sciences — together with the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (Japan/MEXT), which hosted the first symposium last April.

This second symposium in Kuala Lumpur, hosted by the Malaysian Industry-Government Group for High Technology (MIGHT), the Office of the Science Advisor to the Prime Minister, and UNESCO, will air regional experiences and help formulate concrete new international “Sustainability Science Policy Guidelines,” being readied for UNESCO member states’ consideration at the third and final symposium, in Paris next fall.

Among reforms suggested to date:

  • Co-design of well-funded research
  • Better institutional co-ordination and research direction-setting
  • Mainstreaming knowledge on sustainability issues
  • Shaping the education system to develop a generation of trans-disciplinary scholars and practitioners

Malaysian Industry-Government Group for High Technology (www.might.org.my)

The Malaysian Industry-Government Group for High Technology (MIGHT) is a not-for-profit company limited by guarantee under the purview of the Prime Minister of Malaysia. MIGHT is an organization built on the strength of public-private partnership with members, both local and international, from industry, government and academia. MIGHT is dedicated to providing a platform for industry-government consensus building in the drive to advance high technology competency in Malaysia.

Back to top

LEAD STORY: Islamic Information Ministers to chart anti-Islamophobia strategy

Jeddah, 12 December 2016, (IINA) – Saudi Arabia will host the 11th session of the Islamic Conference of Information Ministers on December 21 and 22 to discuss the challenges of terrorism and Islamophobia.

The meeting, which will be held under the slogan of “New Media to Counter Terrorism and Islamophobia,” will address the growing challenges of extremist ideology, and anti-Islam tendencies.

The ministers will discuss ways to strengthen the capacity of the media in the OIC member states to confront terrorism by raising awareness in the Islamic world about the dangers of extremist ideology, and the intensification of media campaigns to apply moderation in public life.

During the meeting, OIC information ministers will discuss the adoption of a media strategy to counter Islamophobia, and ways to confront Western media that promotes hatred of Islam and Muslims, and how they are working to discredit the image of Islam.

The ministers will also highlight the Palestinian issue in the media channels of OIC member states by focusing on the subject of supporting the city of Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa Mosque, and expose the violations of the Israeli occupation forces against the Palestinian people.

The meeting will also discuss the OIC satellite channel project, plans to attract financiers, as well practical measures for the launch of the channel.

The ministers will discuss setting up a new international award for journalists, in implementation of the resolution in this regard at the recent OIC Council of Foreign Ministers’ meeting in the Uzbek capital city of Tashkent.

They are also expected to sign an OIC information strategy through 2025, which aims to provide a fair and objective picture of Islam and issues concerning Muslims.

The meeting will also seek the implementation of the African continent special information program to highlight its position in the Islamic world, erase stereotypes that Africa is a continent of poverty and instability, as well as highlight its economic investment opportunities.

The ministers will also discuss the empowerment of women in the information sector of member states through the preparation of a manual on best practices to empower women in media organizations, employing the media in monitoring the achievements of women and their current concerns in order to raise awareness of their issues in Islamic countries.

Back to top

Garuda Indonesia Launches Service to Indian City of Mumbai

NEW DELHI, India, 13 December 2016, (NNN-Bernama) – Indonesian flag carrier Garuda Indonesia has started flying to Mumbai.

It marks a vital air link between Indonesia and India as the two countries discuss closer relations.

The inaugural flight from Jakarta via Bangkok touched down at Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport on Monday evening.

Garuda Indonesia in a statement said it was using a Boeing 737-800 aircraft in a two-class configuration, offering 12 seats in business and 144 in economy, for the flight.

The launch of the thrice weekly service coincided with the state visit of Indonesian President Joko Widodo to India.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Widodo on Monday welcomed the new air link in their joint statement, which noted the importance of connectivity for enhancement of trade, tourism and people-to-people contacts.

They also encouraged direct flights from India to Indonesia.

The two countries are looking to promote direct shipping links and private sector investment in ports and airport development.

Back to top

Indonesia-India Trade Can Triple in Nine Years, Says Report

NEW DELHI, India, 15 December 2016, (NNN-Bernama) – Indonesia and India can more than triple their annual trade to US$50 billion in nine years, according to an expert group of the two countries.

“By 2025, India-Indonesia bilateral economic cooperation shall blossom to reach a bilateral trade volume of US$$50 billion and two-way investment of US$50 billion,” said a report prepared by the India-Indonesia Eminent Persons Group.

Their bilateral trade was about US$16 billion last year, with the balance of trade in favour of Indonesia, a major exporter of coal, palm oil, rubber, copper and ores to India.

India is keen to grow its exports to Indonesia, and hopes to invest in maritime infrastructure, pharmaceuticals, energy and education projects. Indian companies also see huge potential for tapping the Indonesian services sector.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo in his talks with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi during the Dec 12-13 state visit agreed to deepen their relations, with strong focus on economic and military ties.

The blueprint for building this relationship over the next decade is laid out in the “Vision Statement 2025” prepared by the Eminent Persons Group consisting of experts from India and Indonesia.

Widodo, making his first India visit since becoming president in October 2014, was accompanied by his wife Iriana Widodo, key cabinet ministers and a 22-member business delegation.

His entourage included Coordinating Minister for Economic Affairs Darmin Nasution, Industry Minister Airlangga Hartarto, Trade Minister Enggartiasto Lukito, Foreign Affairs Minister Retno LP Marsudi, and Chairman of the Investment Coordinating Board Thomas Lembong.

The vision document proposes a New Comprehensive Strategic Partnership between the two countries. It calls for deep security cooperation in the Indian Ocean and maritime infrastructure.

“India and Indonesia shall have ever closer security and defence relations, marked by close military-to-military relations, counter-terrorism collaboration, naval cooperation including combined maritime patrols, regular exchanges and joint exercises, intelligence sharing, and joint production of defence equipment and systems,” it said.

Regional maritime security issues figured prominently in the talks between Indian and Indonesian officials.

On the South China Sea issue, where China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei have competing territorial claims, a joint statement on Monday called for “resolving disputes by peaceful means, in accordance with universally recognised principles of international law including the UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea).”

Without directly referring to China, the two leaders “reiterated their commitment to respecting freedom of navigation and overflight, and unimpeded lawful commerce.”

Indian President Pranab Mukherjee on Tuesday said India was ready to support Jakarta’s Maritime Fulcrum Vision and “contribute to the security of the Indo-Pacific.”

The maritime doctrine, announced by Widodo in 2014, aims to strengthen Indonesia’s naval defences and eliminate the sources of sea conflict such as illegal fishing, violations of sovereignty, territorial disputes, piracy and marine pollution.

Back to top

Indonesia targets 20 Million Tourists by 2019

JAKARTA, 10 December 2016, (NNN-ANTARA) – President Joko Widodo’s administration has set a target of attracting 20 million foreign tourist arrivals in the country by 2019, that is, by the end of his term in office.

To meet this target, since the beginning of his administration in October 2014, he has established policies that led to a progressive increase in foreign tourist arrivals while continuing to promote the countrys tourism attractions both at home and abroad.

The government aggressively develops the country’s tourism by promoting different activities such as Sail Indonesia, sports tourism, and cultural events, and by developing 10 major tourist destinations in addition to the already popular tourist resorts such as Bali and the Buddhist Temple of Borobudur in Java.

Based on the success of its efforts to intensively develop Indonesia’s tourism potential, the government is convinced it will achieve its target of 20 million foreign tourist arrivals in 2019.

Starting its tourism program in 2015, Jokowi’s government set a tourist arrival target of 10 million in 2015, up from the 9.4 million arrivals of foreign tourists recorded in 2014.

The number of foreign tourists arriving in 2015 stood at 10,406,759, exceeding the target.

Therefore, the government this year has set its target at 12 million. For 2017, it has announced a target of 15 million. This progressive increase in the target is expected to reach 20 million by 2019.

This year’s target must be achieved to decisively measure the success of the governments tourism development and promotion initiatives.

Early this year, there was concern over the potential impact on tourism of a bomb attack that took place in the business district center in Jalan Thamrin, Central Jakarta, in January. However, tourism did not appear to be affected by it as foreign tourists continued to arrive. Last July saw the highest number of arrivals, recorded by month, at over one million visitors, or 17.67 percent higher than the 877.6 thousand visitors arriving in the same month in 2015.

Unfortunately, the tourism ministry has not yet released its official data on the number of foreign tourist arrivals in the country from January to November this year. Based on the data on its website kemenpar.go.id, the number of foreign tourist arrivals in the country between January and September 2016 was 8,362,963.

This means the country has to attract a total of 3,637,037 foreign tourists in the remaining months of October, November, and December to meet its target of 12 million arrivals this year.

The number of foreign tourist arrivals in October-December 2015 was 2,699,725. If this figure is added to the 8,362,963 arrivals seen in January-September 2016, then the total is only 11.06 million.

To attract more foreign tourists, the government is developing 10 priority tourist destinations. Tourism Minister Arief Yayha described the 10 destinations as Indonesia’s “New Bali,” saying they had been chosen by President Jokowi this year.

The 10 prioritized tourism destinations in 2016 are Lake Toba (North Sumatra), Belitung (Bangka Belitung), Tanjung Lesung (Banten), the Seribu Islands (Jakarta), Borobudur Temple (Central Java), Mount Bromo (East Java), Mandalika Lombok (West Nusa Tenggara), Komodo Island (East Nusa Tenggara), Wakatobi National Park (Southeast Sulawesi), and Morotai (North Maluku).

Arief said the acceleration of the development of these destinations is aimed at improving the infrastructure and accessibility, particularly through the development of airports, seaports, roads, and energy, to promote it to investors.

“The development of the 10 prioritized tourism destinations is intended to support the effort to achieve the target of 20 million visitors in 2019. It is a strategy to maintain double-digit growth. We have the projection that the 10 destinations will attract additional visits of up to 12 million tourist arrivals,” the tourism minister stated.

To this end, the Ministry of Tourism has set a progressive target from 10 million in 2015 to 12 million in 2016 and 15 million next year.

President Jokowi has asked all ministries to support the ministry of tourism in achieving its target.

“The 15 million arrivals target is not a small one, but the minister of tourism has set it. I think all ministries should support this program,” noted Jokowi when chairing a cabinet plenary meeting at the Presidential Office on Wednesday (Dec 7).

According to the president, the tourism sector will rejuvenate the economy, so all ministries must support it in achieving its target.

For instance, the Ministry of Transportation had relations with airlines and tourism transportation, the president stated. Everyone must be encouraged so that businesses related to tourism can progress, he noted.

Infrastructure linked to tourism such as airports, roads and other facilities that support the 10 priority tourism destinations must be developed soon, he said.

“The 10 destinations should really be prepared to receive domestic and foreign tourists,” asserted Jokowi.

Transport Minister Budi Karya Sumadi said his ministry was supplementing efforts to boost tourism at Lake Toba in North Sumatra Province. “Lake Toba tourism development in Samosir District, North Sumatra, is part of the central governments program and the Ministry of Transportation is involved in making it a success,” Sumadi remarked here on Thursday night.

Lake Toba, the largest in Southeast Asia, is both a domestic and international tourist destination, so the Ministry of Transportation is determined to make every effort to help increase the number of tourist arrivals at the lake.

Lake Toba is among 10 leading tourist destinations in Indonesia, apart from Thousand Islands, Tanjung Kelayang, Tanjung Lesung, Borobudur, Mandalika, Wakatobi, Morotai, Labuan Bajo, and Bromo-Tengger-Semeru.

Developing tourism in Lake Toba involves ecotourism, extending Silangit airports runway, and constructing a resort and Medan on Prapat toll road, and hotels. “Even President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) has instructed all ministries to help build and develop the tourist attractions around the world-famous lake,” Sumadi stated.

Back to top

Indonesia, Iran to boost Economic Cooperation

TEHRAN, 16 December 2016, (NNN-ANTARA) – President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) began his state visit to Iran by holding a meeting with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to discuss bilateral economic cooperation.

The Indonesian head of State was also scheduled to hold meetings with Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khomeini and Iranian House Speaker Ali Larijani, according to Bey Machmudin, head of the Presidential Secretariats Press, Media, and Information Bureau.

Jokowi and Rouhani will witness the signing of memoranda of understanding (MoUs) and issue a joint press statement.

The MoUs include cooperation on extradition and mutual legal assistance, to be signed by Foreign Affairs Minister Retno LP Marsudi; cooperation on electricity, to be signed by Energy and Mineral Resources Minister Ignasius Jonan; and investment cooperation, signed by Chairman of the Investment Coordinating Board (BKPM) Thomas Lembong, alongside their Iranian counterparts.

In the evening, before returning home, Jokowi will meet the Indonesian community in Iran at Espinas Palace Hotel, Tehran.

Members of the presidential entourage on the one-day state visit to Iran included Coordinating Minister for Economic Affairs Darmin Nasution, Minister/State Secretary Pratikno, Foreign Affairs Minister Marsudi, Energy and Mineral Resources Minister Jonan, BKPM Chairman Lembong, Chairman of the Financial Service Authorities Muliaman D. Hadad, and Indonesian Ambassador to Iran Octavino Alimudin.

Back to top

Tunisia can “become Maghreb’s Switzerland,” says Eurogroup President

Tunisia, December 15, 2016 – Gilles Bonnenfant, President of Eurogroup Consulting, who is helping the Tunisian government fine-tune its strategic directions and participated in the International Investment Conference, spoke to “Jeune Afrique” about the current challenges and the future of Tunisia.

“Foreign governments, donors and international bodies were there and accompanied their presence with announcements. Now we must act. International and Tunisian operators say very clearly that the time for action has come.

By their statements, politicians seem to have become aware of this imperative. The real issue, ultimately, is neither the financing, since it is there, nor the capacity to act, since it exists, but the choices to be made; because choosing means eliminating,” he said.

He added: “We will have to implement a number of programs, but obviously we cannot build four or five deep-water ports or create logistical shelves everywhere, even though it’s important to look after regions.

There will necessarily be more agricultural than digital or industrial, depending on the region. A mix of a balance must emerge, knowing that the Tunisian government and all investors have obligations of result in the short and medium term (…). But productivity is too low.

It would not take much if the overall cost of labor-efficiency ratio were to perform very well in comparison with some competing countries, such as Morocco, where social upheaval poses a risk to firms because they are compelled to compete for skilled collaborators, while the pool of Tunisian skills is very rich and at a reasonable cost. This is an essential window of opportunity for Tunisia, in particular in the automotive and aeronautical industries”.

Finally, Mr. Bonnenfant said: “If the integrated Maghreb were to emerge, it would constitute a platform with great potential for its citizens.

The countries concerned should assess the costs of this non-Maghreb and the phenomenal losses it entails. Comparison is not right, but Tunisia, starting from the democracy that is set up, could become the Maghreb’s Switzerland and play a role of gateway for a basin of 90 million inhabitants. The beginnings of such a destiny are there, in germ “.

Back to top

Oman, Tunisia sign visa-waiver pact for official passport-holders

Tunisia, December 15, 2016 (Times of Oman)- Oman and Tunisia signed an agreement on exemption from visa by both the countries for holders of diplomatic, special and service passports.

The meeting of the Third Session of the Political Consultations Committee between the Sultanate’s Foreign Ministry and Tunisia’s Foreign Ministry was held, yesterday, at the premises of the foreign ministry.

The Omani side was chaired by Yousuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah, Minister Responsible for Foreign Affairs while the Tunisian side was chaired by Tunisian Foreign Minister Khamis Al Jehinawi.

The two sides reviewed the bilateral relations between the two countries and expanding the scope of common interests between the two countries to cover the various economic and cultural spheres.

The two sides also discussed a number of regional and international issues of common concern and reaffirmed the necessity for dialogue and negotiations as an ideal way to solve political conflicts.

The meeting was attended from the Omani side by Dr. Mohammed bin Awadh Al Hassan, assigned with the duties of the Foreign Ministry’s Undersecretary for diplomatic affairs. From the Tunisian side it was attended by the Tunisian ambassador accredited to the Sultanate, the delegation accompanying the guest and a number of officials from the Tunisian foreign ministry.

Back to top

10 fun days to enthral Brunei Capital

16 December 2016, Borneo Bulletin – An assortment of fun-filled and sporting events are set to take place in the capital Bandar Seri Begawan, with the 10-day ‘Sales and Traditional Boat Race Fest’ beginning from December 24, 2016.

The announcement was made yesterday during a press conference at the Brunei-Muara District Office, by members of a panel that included Rosdin bin Haji Abdul Aziz, the Acting Assistant Brunei-Muara District Officer; Haji Damit bin Haji Laidin, the Village Head of Kampong Kota Batu and the Acting Village Head of Kampong Pintu Malim and Kampong Sungai Lampai; and Mohd Hasmawi bin Ghani, the Manager of MHG Event and Entertainment Management Services.

All events and activities will take place from 10am to 10pm at the Dermaga Diraja Art Gallery, except on Friday, where they will be held from 2pm to 10pm. The festival will be concluded on January 2.

The festival’s official launch has been scheduled for 2pm on December 26, and one of its major highlights will be the Traditional Boat Race along the Brunei River on New Year’s Day 2017, which is certain to attract boating enthusiasts and other members of the public.

Haji Damit, the organiser of the Traditional Boat Race, has urged boat racers from all four districts to come forward and register for the competition.

Registration is free and the race is divided into two categories. All queries should be directed to Haji Damit, at +6738787031.

Other main attractions for the public include a Cultural Night, singing and colouring competitions and a ‘Mukun’ contest.

Festive stalls are available for rent, and registration is open until 6pm on December 21. All completed registration forms are to be submitted to the Muhibbah Hall of the Brunei-Muara District Office, and for more details on stall bookings, the public can contact the event organiser, Mohd Hasmawi bin Ghani, at +6738141794.

According to Mohd Hasmawi, these stalls will comprise 20 sections for small and medium enterprise (SME) products, 30 sections for food and takeaways, 15 sections for One Village, One Product (1K1P) items and nine sections for ‘salai-salaian’, or freshly grilled food.

All rental sections will be provided with a desk, two chairs and a 13amp electrical plug.

Meanwhile, 10 per cent from the rental proceeds will go to the Brunei-Muara District Orphans’ Fund.

Among the primary objectives of the ‘Sales and Traditional Boat Race Fest’ are to create a festive atmosphere in the Capital; encouraging Bruneians to celebrate the holiday season in the country; to assist SME operators and businesses through various consultative councils; and to promote traditional boat racing among all sections of the local community, especially youths.

The ‘Sales and Traditional Boat Race Fest’ is jointly organised by the Mukim and village consultative councils of the Brunei-Muara District, with the cooperation of the Mukim and Village Institution of the Brunei-Muara District Office.

Back to top

12,500 apply for volunteer work at Baku 2017 Islamic Solidarity Games

Baku, 5 December 2016, AZERTAC – “Although registration for Baku 2017 Volunteer Program launched almost two months ago, 12,500 candidates applied for working as a volunteer at Baku 2017 Islamic Solidarity Games. This number has exceeded all expectations and expressed our young people’s enthusiasm for representing their country with pride and their will to make this sporting event unforgettable,” Azerbaijan Islamic Solidarity Games Operations Committee (AISGOC) said.

“We thank the dynamic and enthusiastic young people for being much active and we believe that this success is just a beginning of our future achievements. Registered candidates are being interviewed at the currently operating Baku 2017 Volunteer Center in the Azerbaijan State Academy of Physical Culture and Sport.”

“At the end of the selection process, only 8,000 volunteers will get the opportunity being a part of the prestigious sporting event. Successful volunteers will take advantage of different trainings and apply gained theoretical knowledge into practice during the Games time, which would be useful experience for their successful future,” AISGOC added.

Back to top

Training Course on Agroforestry in Sustaınable Rural Development

Date : 13-16 December 2016 Venue : Banjul, Gambia

SESRIC will organise a training course on “The Future Prospects of Agroforestry in Sustaınable Rural Development” within the framework of the Environmental Capacity Building Programme (Environment-CaB) in Banjul, Gambia on 13-15 of December 2016.

(+) The training course will mainly focus on the following topics:

(+) Forestry and its prospects in Gambia

(+) History, definition and concept of agro-forestry

(+) Classification of agro-forestry systems

(+) Concept of sustainable forest development/growth

(+) Role of agro-forestry in sustainable forest development

(+) Benefits of agroforestry systems

(+) Agroforestry practices in the world

(+) Thematic areas for sustainable forest management

(+) Challenges and prospects to sustainable forest development

(+) Prospects of sustainable forest management in Gambia

(+) Deforestation a threat to mankind

(+) Reforestation/Afforestation a way forward to overcome deforestation

Back to top

Abu Dhabi Expects 20% Growth in Indian Tourists

MUMBAI, 11 December 2016,(NNN-PTI) – Abu Dhabi, the capital and the second most populous city in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), is expecting more than 20 per cent growth in Indian tourist arrivals this year.

“India has been the number one source market for us globally and we have been witnessing a steady growth in tourists coming to Abu Dhabi from the sub-continent.

“We are already in the last month of 2016, and are confident of seeing over 20 per cent growth this year,” Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority Country Manager, India, Bejan Dinshaw told PTI here.

Abu Dhabi saw 2.8 lakh Indian tourists checking into hotels in 2015.

With a large number of Indian expats living in Abu Dhabi, the actual number of visitors to the capital city is much more, he said.

The capital of UAE has already witnessed 2.36 lakh Indians staying in hotels and spending an average 3.2 nights till September this year, Dinshaw said.

After India, the other top tourist-generating markets for Abu Dhabi are Britain, China, Germany and France.

Indian are also among the top spenders in Abu Dhabi, he said.

“Indians love shopping and are the leading spenders in Abu Dhabi. To attract shoppers we celebrate ‘Summer Season’ (from June-September) during Ramzan, where many discounts and other schemes are offered,” the official said.

Abu Dhabi, placing itself as an affordable luxurious destination for Indians, is mainly targeting segments like wedding, honeymoons, family, single travellers and meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE).

With good connectivity – 250 flights a week connecting 15 Indian cities directly with Abu Dhabi – India will continue to remain a major source of holiday-makers coming to the city, he said.

“For this purpose we are bullish on roadshows and joint marketing promotions (JMPs) with travel companies and local travel agents in tier 1, 2 and 3 cities.

“We aim to make Abu Dhabi the first choice of destination for Indians looking for long weekends and short breaks. And proximity and good connectivity gives Abu Dhabi an edge in this regard,” Dinshaw added.

Back to top

Japanese group hails Azerbaijan as key destination

Tokyo, 9 December 2016, AZERTAC – Well-known Japanese Cross Border Club tourism company has hailed Azerbaijan as an essential destination.

At an annual meeting of the company, its general manager, economic expert Kazuyasu Ishida noted that Azerbaijan was selected by Japanese businessmen as the main destination to be visited in 2017. He hailed Azerbaijan’s rapid development, saying this was possible thanks to reforms carried out by the country’s leadership.

Emphasizing President Ilham Aliyev’s critical role in the achievements of Azerbaijan, Ishida expressed his confidence that the country will make even greater strides.

First Secretary of the Embassy of Azerbaijan to Japan Rovshan Mirzayev, head of the Japanese center at Azerbaijan University of Languages Yashar Ibrahimov, founder of Kurosaka library at the university Munehisa Kurosaka and other speakers described Azerbaijan as an important hub that organizes high-profile international events.

They also praised what has been done to development cooperation between Japanese and Azerbaijani districts.

Back to top

ITU chief hails Algeria as “most dynamic Arab country” in ICTs

13 December 2016, Algeria Press Service – ALGIERS- Algeria is the most “dynamic” Arab country in the field of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs), affirmed Monday, in Algiers, the Secretary General of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) Houlin Zhao, adding “relying a lot” on it to improve ICTs in the world.

“According to ITU’s latest report, Algeria is recognized as being the most dynamic country in the Arab world given that out of the 170 countries concerned by the ranking, it has won nine positions,” Zhao told the press at the end the audience granted to him by Minister of State, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Ramtane Lamamra.

Underlining that this advance “is not easy as every country tries to improve its position,” he pointed out that “even the most developed States manage to win only one or two positions” in this global ranking.

While reiterating his “congratulations” to Algeria for this progress, he encouraged it to “go further” in this field. “We rely a lot on Algeria for the improvement of ICTs in the world,” he added.

Back to top

Algerian novelist named UNESCO Artist for Peace

Paris, 15 December 2016,(NNN-APS) – The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) says Algerian novelist Ahlem Mosteghanemi will be named the Unesco Artist for Peace on Friday.

“The Director-General of Unesco, Irina Bokova, will name Algerian author Ahlem Mosteghanemi the Unesco Artist for Peace in a ceremony at the organization’s headquarters on 16th December,” Unesco said in a statement here Wednesday.

The Algerian writer was recognized for her books’ advocacy for social justice, the education of young people affected by conflicts and her dedication to Unesco’s goals and ideals, added the statement.

“Ahlem Mosteghanemi was the first woman to publish a collection of poems in Arabic in Algeria in 1973,” noted the statement.

Her numerous books, which have sold millions of copies, have contributed to Arab literature and poetry and raised readers’ awareness of many issues such as corruption, injustice and women’s rights, added the statement.

Ahlem Mostaghanemi is also the ambassador of the Algerian Foundation for Children (FOREM), which cares for 13,000 orphans. Forbes Magazine has picked her as one of the ten most influential women in the Arab world.

Unesco Artists for Peace winners are internationally renowned personalities who use their influence, charisma and prestige to help promote Unesco’s message and programmes.

Back to top

Algeria’s cultural week opens in Teheran

13 December 2016, Algeria Press Service – TEHERAN (Iran)- Algeria’s cultural week opened Monday evening at the National library of Teheran, Iran, with a rich and varied programme, reflecting the authenticity and singularity of Algeria’s civilizational and cultural heritage.

Inaugurating the event (Dec. 12-16), Minister of Culture Azeddine Mihoubi stressed its paramount importance as it allows Iranian people to discover the richness of Algerian culture.

The opening ceremony was attended by Iran’s minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance Reza Salehi Amiri and the head of the Iranian league of Culture and Islamic Relations Abu Dher Ibrahimi Turkman.

Mihoubi expressed the wish that the event would be as successful as Iran’s cultural week in Algeria, held during “Constantine, Capital of Arab Culture 2016” event.

The Iranian minister dubbed “special” the cultural cooperation between Algeria and Iran, calling for extending it to other fields.

Back to top

Arab Identity Values Must Transcend Internal Divisions – Saudi Prince

MANAMA, 16 December 2016, (NNN-BNA) – Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, the Crown Prince, Deputy Supreme Commander and First Deputy Prime Minister of Bahrain, attended the 15th Fikr Conference, organised by the Arab Thought Foundation, in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

The conference, held under the patronage of Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the United Arab Emirates, and in partnership with the Arab League, this year focused on the theme of “Arab Integration: The Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf (GCC) and the United Arab Emirates (UAE)”.

In a special session at the high-level event, His Royal Highness gave a wide-ranging interview to Turki Al Dakhel, the General Manager of Al Arabiya, for his show ‘With Turki Al Dakhel’.

The Crown Prince shared his views on Bahrain and the GCC’s significant progress, their respective plans for the future, and the prospects for greater integration in the region, as well as commenting on many other important and topical issues.

Back to top

Arab Women of the Year Awards Honour the Late Ameera Binkaram

LONDON, 15 December 2016, (NNN-WAM) – The UK based Arab Women of the Year Award 2016, one of the most prestigious awards dedicated to recognising the significant achievements of outstanding Arab women, has honoured the late Ameera BinKaram, Emirati entrepreneur and advocate for women’s issues, for her exceptional accomplishments attained throughout her life.

The ‘Creativity in Humanitarian Relief Award’, a category especially created for the inspirational Emirati businesswoman, recognised her numerous contributions to social and humanitarian initiatives, and her tireless efforts in voluntary and charitable work.

BinKaram was the Vice-Chairperson of NAMA Women Advancement Establishment, Chairperson of Sharjah Business Women’s Council, President of the Board of Trustees and Founding Member of the Friends of Cancer Patients, member of the Honorary Council of Founding Members at the Sharjah Tatweer Forum and member of several national committees, including the Higher Committee of the Emirates Women Award and the UAE Genetic Diseases Association.

Sulaiman Hamid Al Mazroui, UAE Ambassador to the United Kingdom, received the award on behalf of BinKaram’s family during a ceremony at the Jumeirah Carlton Tower Hotel in London.

“I was honoured to receive this special award on behalf of Ameera BinKaram and her family. The UAE is proud of Ameera as she is a shining example of the country’s 45 years’ worth of efforts to empower women. Ameera was renowned for her creativity, her persistence and sincerity, and her tireless contribution to good causes. She stood out as a role model for others to follow,” said Al Mazrouei.

Omar Bdour, one of the award ceremony attendees, and CEO of Arab Women of the Year Awards, said, “This special appreciation award pays tribute to BinKaram and honours her remarkable achievements in the field of Arab women’s work. Her contributions exemplified caring, tenderness, devotion, and love. She did not ever hesitate to give her all with the aim of elevating women and helping them realise their full potential. She was an ambassador of generosity and will forever be a role model for Arab women.”

“Because of her untimely passing, one of the brightest stars in the Arab firmament has extinguished. Ameera’s death is an irreparable loss to the UAE and the Arab world as her dedication to serving her community and supporting women was indefatigable. No words will be able to express our sorrow at her passing, and our deep appreciation and gratitude for her efforts that have been instrumental in elevating the status of women at all levels,” he added.

BinKaram received an array of accolades over the years in recognition of her outstanding contributions and accomplishments, including Sheikha Jawaher Al Qasimi Award for Excellence, the ‘World of Difference Award’ from Washington-based International Alliance for Women, and the ‘Excellence Award’ from Hospitality Management Holdings Company, for her unparalleled contribution to the UAE’s crusade against cancer.

Back to top

Algerian award-winning novelists named

Algiers, 15 December 2016, Algeria Press Service – ALGIERS- Novelists Samir Kacimi, Lynda Koudache and Djamel Mati won Wednesday, in Algiers, Assia Djebar Grand Novel Prize, awarded for the second consecutive year for literary works in Arabic, Tamazight and French.

This grand prize, named after the famous Algerian writer, historian and filmmaker who died in 2015, went to Samir Kacimi for “Kitab El Macha’a” ( The book of the walker) in Arabic, Lynda Koudache for “Tamacahut Taneggarut” (The last story) in Tamazight and Djamel Mati for “Yoko et les gens du Barzakh” (Yoko and the people of Barzakh) in French.

A total of 76 novels (34 in Arabic, 32 in French and 10 in Tamazight) competed in this second edition of Assia Djebar Grand Prize, said the head of its jury the academic Nadjet Khedda.

Co-financed by Anep (National Company of communication, Publishing and Advertising) and Enag, which come under Ministries of Communication and Culture, Assia Djebar Gand Prize is estimated at 1,000,000 dinars for each language.

Back to top

Bangladesh to Create $5B Fund for Mega Projects

DHAKA, 16 December 2016,(NNN-BSS) – Finance Minister AMA Muhith said the Bangladesh government will create a sovereign fund worth US$ 5 billion from the Bangladesh Bank’s forex reserves to issue sovereign bond for implementation of mega projects smoothly.

“We have surplus foreign currency reserves at about $31 billion. If we can take money from the reserves instead of borrowing money from foreign sources, it will be good for the country. The size of the fund would be at least $5 billion” he said.

The minister said this while briefing journalists after emerging from a meeting with a committee in this regard led by BB Deputy Governor SK Sur Chowdhury at the secretariat in the city.

The committee handed over a report with recommendations to the finance minister for formulating the fund.

Sovereign bond, a new idea for Bangladesh, Muhith said, must be used for implementing economically sound projects. Formulation of the fund will take time as a new law is likely to be made in this regard according to the report of the committee, he added.

Muhith said, the government will pay the interests to the BB, so that it can earn from the reserve money through investing in different sectors.

Back to top

Burkina Faso team tests new way to beat malaria with soap

OUAGADOUGOU, 16 December 2016, (BSS/AFP) – Thrusting their arm into a box full of hungry mosquitoes, a group of brave volunteers in a Burkina Faso laboratory test an innovative weapon in the fight against malaria — soap.

The team behind the “Faso Soap” project aims to create a cheap, accessible product to repel mosquitoes and protect people from a disease that claimed nearly 500,000 lives in 2015, most of them in Africa.

With one eye on a stopwatch, Gerard Niyondiko, the Burundian researcher behind the special soap, watches the behaviour of around a hundred hungry female mosquitoes.

The volunteers wait to be bitten, but the odorous liquid — a secret mix of local plant oils — applied to their skin beforehand protects them from the cloud of hungry insects.

In the small laboratory in Burkina Faso’s National Centre for Malaria Research and Training in Ouagadougou, Niyondiko has been working since June to test the effectiveness of the soap at repelling mosquitoes and refine the recipe using different oils.

In West Africa, “malaria kills a child every two minutes”, Niyondiko says. Of the 214 million people infected with malaria in 2015, 88 percent of cases were registered in Africa, according to the World Health Organization. Among them, 438,000 died and children are the most vulnerable.

  • Protection for all –

The idea of using soap came from seeing that malaria continued to spread despite the distribution of mosquito nets.

“Mosquito nets offer protection during sleep but they keep the heat and the most vulnerable populations can’t afford to buy repellent for the whole family to protect them the rest of the time,” Niyondiko said.

“So we thought about a product used in the everyday life of these populations, which doesn’t require any change of habits.”

Soap was ideal, he said, because “it’s a product that even the poorest households buy and the whole family can share it”.

“If we manage to integrate (malaria) prevention into this product which is already available at an accessible price, it will mean we can save people who are unwilling or unable to spend more to protect themselves,” he said.

The project is targeting the six countries worst affected by malaria in sub-Saharan Africa, which includes Burkina Faso.

“We are working on prevention with a new tool: bringing together two things which don’t at first glance have anything in common: hygiene and malaria,” said Lisa Barutel, 28, one of Niyondiko’s two associates on the project.

By using local essential oils as repellent, Niyondiko and his team hopes to keep costs to a minimum.

“Our aim is not to get rich. We want to save 100,000 lives by 2020,” he said, echoing the project’s slogan.

  • ‘Invention for everyone’ –

After training first as a chemist, Niyondiko won a bursary to leave Burundi and study for a master’s degree at the International Institute for Water and Environmental Engineering in Ouagadougou.

There in 2013 he met Frenchwoman Barutel, who was in charge of helping students with their projects. She set up an incubator for projects with a social aspect in Ouagadougou and helped Niyondiko gather funding.

Faso Soap hit the headlines in 2013 when it won the $25,000 Global Social Venture Competition, an international award run by a network of business schools around the world.

But a lack of funding put the project into standby mode until 2015, when it relaunched with a more scientific approach and partnered with a French start- up specialising in micro-encapsulation, a technique to allow the soap’s active ingredients to work effectively for longer.

A crowdfunding drive earlier this year raised 70,000 euros ($73,000).

The laboratory tests now are being done in line with a scientific protocol so the soap can be approved by WHO and afterwards used in other countries.

There are two stages of development to go before the soap can be released to the public, and Barutel said she hopes to “help a whole country” with their “invention for everyone”.

Back to top

Islamic group to present first “Defender of Liberty” award to Jewish Group

Washington, 13 December 2016, (IINA) – The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) on Monday announced that it will present the first-ever “Defender of Liberty” award to Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) and the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) at the Washington-based Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization’s 22nd annual banquet in Arlington County in Virginia.

CAIR designed the new award to be given to organizations that have had “a powerful and positive impact in defense of civil rights and religious freedom.” Representatives of JVP and CCR will receive the awards at CAIR’s banquet on Saturday.

With the theme of “Uniting America: Building Bridges, Not Walls,” the evening dinner will also feature Gold Star father and constitutional activist Khizr Khan and his wife Ghazala Khan, Linda Sarsour, executive director of the Arab American Association of New York, and Dalia Mogahed, director of research at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding in Washington, D.C.

Banquet attendees will be entertained by comedian preacher Moss and will meet the recipients of CAIR’s Community Service Awards.

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

Kyrgyzstan seeks visa free regime with Iran

Bishkek, 16 December 2016, (Kabar) – Speaker of the Kyrgyz Parliament Chynybay Tursunbekov met on Friday here in Bishkek with Ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Iran to Kyrgyzstan Ali Mojtaba Ruzbehani.

The press service of the Parliament reports that, the sides discussed a wide range of issues concerning the strengthening of cooperation in political, trade and economic spheres, as well as the further development of inter-parliamentary dialogue.

The Kyrgyz Speaker congratulated Ali Mojtaba Ruzbehani on the beginning of his diplomatic mission in Kyrgyzstan. “The relationship with Iran is a priority for us. Between our countries there are no contradictions, both within the framework of bilateral cooperation, as well as in multilateral formats. We reacted positively to the adoption and the practical implementation of “comprehensive plan of action to resolve the situation around the Iranian nuclear program.” I am convinced that the abolition of sanctions will positively impact not only on the economy of Iran, but also other countries, including Kyrgyzstan,” Chynybay Tursunbekov said.

Chynybay Tursunbekov stated with regret that the turnover between Kyrgyzstan and Iran does not meet the existing potential, and therefore called for joint efforts to enhance cooperation in trade and economic sphere.

In turn, Ali Mojtaba Ruzbehani congratulated Chynybay Tursunbekov and Kyrgyz people on the successful holding of the referendum on constitutional changes. He said that Kyrgyzstan is rightly considered the most democratic republic in the region.

The Ambassador agreed with the Speaker’s opinion on the need to strengthen cooperation in trade and economic sphere. He stressed that the simplification of visa procedures and the establishment of direct air links between the two countries would have a positive impact on the increase in turnover and the number of tourists from Iran to Kyrgyzstan.

Chynybay Tursunbekov said that the abolition of the visa regime with Iran is interesting for Kyrgyzstan and requires careful consideration. “We are certainly interested in attracting Iranian investments and tourists. Therefore, we need to work together to address all the barriers to full cooperation,” he concluded.

Back to top

Denmark celebrates Pakistan’s art, culture

ISLAMABAD, 16 December 2016, (APP) – The Danish government in collaboration with the Danish Centre for Culture and Development (CKU) celebrated the diversity of culture in Pakistan while highlighting art and culture as a tool for socio economic change.

According to a press release of embassy of Denmark issued here Friday, the event which marked the official closing of the cultural cooperation between Denmark and Pakistan was held at the Pakistan National Council of Arts (PNCA).

The event highlighted the Danish experience with the power of art, culture and creative industries through its development cooperation in Pakistan.

Speaking at the closing ceremony, Ambassador of Denmark Ole Thonke underlined how art and culture enlighten, enrich and create a feeling of a common identity and understanding and help to create a more humane world by connecting people from across different countries and cultures.

He stressed on the importance of working together to build a free and fair world, where everyone enjoyed equal rights. Concluding his speech, Ambassador Thonke said Danish support to the cultural sector aimed to help Pakistan reclaim and revive public space and use its culture as a tool for promoting tolerance and peace.

He also saw it as an important way to revive the creative industries and create economic opportunities for the people of Pakistan. Although the program was now closing, the seeds had been sown and he hoped to see the local partners continue their great work in Pakistan.

The event included an exhibition of the work carried out by the local partners AHAN, Ajoka, The Little Art, BNU/LBF, Hashoo Foundation, Shirkatgah, Punjab University, Khawendo Kore, CWSA, CYAAD, Alhamra Arts Council, Olomopolo/KSS, UNESCO and Freemuse.

These 14 organisations and their local partners were working with art and culture in a social context with the aim to reduce poverty, support peace and stabilization as well as strengthening democratization, human rights and gender equality.

This was done by empowering people through active participation in art and culture, enhanced economic growth through support to creative industries, and promoting intercultural dialogue and intercultural collaboration.

CKU-Programme Manager Pakistan Ole Ramsing shared his views saying that Pakistan had a long and proud cultural tradition, but the privilege to partake in cultural activities was unevenly distributed.

Back to top

Dubai to open USD1.17bn flagship Project

15 December 2016, (MENAFN) Skai, the Dubai-based real estate group proclaimed that it has finished its flagship Viceroy Palm Jumeriah Dubai Hotel and residences project and will open in March.

Additionally, the USD1.17bn project was given its building permit and completion certificate from Tarkhees on Nov 14. The USD348.4mn tower will features 247-hotel rooms and suites as well as 221 one and two-bedroom hotel apartments and 33 four-bedroom hotel apartments.

Back to top

Indonesia to restore 2.4 million hectares of damaged peat lands

Yogyakarta, 11 December 2016, (ANTARA News) – Indonesia’s Peat Land Restoration Agency (BRG) said it hoped to restore 2.4 million hectares of damaged peat lands until 2020.

By 2020, around 2.4 million hectares of damaged peat lands would be restored, BRG chief Nazir Foead said here.

Nazir said the country has 14 million hectares of peat lands in 17 provinces, but President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) wanted to focus on restoration of 13 million hectares of damaged and burnt peat lands in seven provinces.

The seven provinces are Riau, Jambi, South Sumatra, Papua, West Kalimantan, East Kalimantan and Central Kalimantan.

Approximately 875,000 hectares of peat lands in the seven provinces burned during forest fires and land in 2015.

“The president asked us to focus in the seven provinces. Of the 13 million hectares of peat lands there are only less than six hectares yet undamaged in the form of primary forests,” Nazir said.

Short term attempt to restore the damaged peat lands is by utilizing existing water resources around that area, he said.

BRG, however, is still waiting for the result of mapping survey in the form of geospatial map of peat land from the state run Gajahmada University (UGM), he said.

He said further, BRG wanted the process of restoring the peat lands is carried out with integration, that a guideline is needed as a reference for application in all regions.

Nazir said BRG cooperates with a team of experts from UGM to prepare the guidance map for the protection of peat land.

The geospatial map with a scale of 1:20,000 would show the map of area around the peat lands having water resources.

“I hope UGM would wrap up the process of mapping by the end of this year that it could be disseminate in all district areas having peat lands for restoration. We hope the physical restoration next year could properly follow the planning,” he said.

Concerned about the extensive damage to peat lands by big forest fires in Indonesia in 2015, President Joko Widodo formed BRG to coordinate and accelerate the restoration to preserve peat ecosystem health and biodiversity.

A recent Dialogue on Climate of the United Nations Development Program said that the restoration of peat lands in Indonesia has made progress with strategic planning, an action plan and the preparation of the indicative map of damaged peat lands.

Back to top

Emirates touches down in Fort Lauderdale, South Florida

ABU DHABI, 16 December 2016, (WAM) – Emirates launched its 11th destination in the United States with the start of a daily nonstop passenger service between Dubai and Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport today.

A VIP delegation and a contingent of international media were aboard the inaugural flight, which carried passengers from North America, the Far East, the Middle East, South Asia, the Asian subcontinent and Africa.

Fort Lauderdale is Emirates’ second destination in Florida, after launching Orlando more than a year ago. The new service, operated by a GE-powered Boeing 777, marks the first scheduled commercial service from the Middle East to Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport serving the South Florida area of Fort Lauderdale, Miami and West Palm Beach.

“Our new daily service to Fort Lauderdale will significantly enhance South Florida’s commercial and cultural connections. Emirates is proud to connect people across the globe and today’s inaugural flight illustrates the reach of our global network and the potential tourism and trade opportunities of our daily service,” said Hubert Frach, Emirates Divisional Senior Vice President, Commercial Operations, West. “The launch of this historic route will allow us to offer Emirates’ unique product and award-winning service to passengers flying to and from South Florida to our home in Dubai and onwards to more than 150 global destinations.”

“FLL is proud to welcome Emirates, one of the world’s premiere airlines to Broward County. This new service to Dubai, and ultimately to the rest of the world, will provide our community with tremendous business and travel opportunities. With an estimated annual economic impact to our region of more than $100 million and approximately one thousand new jobs as a direct and indirect result of Emirates arrival, we are confident this new service will mark the beginning of many more great things to come”, said Mark Gale, CEO/Director of Aviation.

“The Fort Lauderdale Hollywood International Airport is one of the fastest growing airports in the United States, servicing more than 29 million passengers this year. We are proud to partner with Emirates Airline as together we make history by offering the first non-stop flight service from South Florida to the Middle East and beyond. Broward County is a leading destination market for tourists and an economic hub for businesses large and small. We have recently invested US$2.4 billion to expand and renovate our airport to insure world class service now and in the future,” said Broward County Mayor Barbara Sharief.

Back to top

ADB to fund rehabilitation of Kyrgyz power plant

Bishkek, 13 December 2016, (Kabar) – The ceremony of signing of an agreement on the third and final phase of the rehabilitation of Toktogul hydro power plant (HPP) and increase the reliability of the national and regional power systems is held today at the Ministry of Finance of the Kyrgyz Republic, the press service of the Kyrgyz Ministry of Finance reports.

The agreement was signed by Minister of Finance Adylbek Kasymaliev and Director of ADB Permanent Mission to the Kyrgyz Republic Candice McDeigan.

During the meeting, Minister Kasymaliev thanked the ADB on behalf of the Government of the Kyrgyz Republic for the support and expressed the desire to further fruitful cooperation.

ADB support includes a loan in various currencies equivalent to $60 million and a grant not exceeding $50 million, both from ADB’s Special Funds. The government has requested the Eurasian Development Bank (EDB) to provide $40 million to cofinance part of the project.

The funds will finance the replacement of the two remaining turbine-generator units, refurbishment of the civil structures of Toktogul dam, and overhaul of the dam’s monitoring systems along the Naryn cascade. There will also be a public information campaign to explain sector reforms and efforts to improve power sector governance and management procedures.

ADB financed the rehabilitation of the first two turbine generator units and secondary electrical equipment of Toktogul HPP under the Power Sector Rehabilitation Project (Phase 1) and the Toktogul Rehabilitation Project (Phase 2). EDB cofinances the Phase 2 project. Implementation of both Phase 1 and Phase 2 projects is ongoing.

Toktogul HPP, in service since 1975, has an installed capacity of 1,200 MW. It plays a critical role as a power source for domestic use and export, and provides voltage and frequency regulation services to Central Asian Power System. The plant has had an increasing number of failures in recent years because of the ageing state of its equipment.

Back to top

Azerbaijan unveils its first jewelry brand

Baku, 15 December 2016, (AZERTAC) – “Resm”, the first Azerbaijani national jewelry brand has presented its unique collection “Wheels of history” at the Azerbaijan Carpet Museum on December 14.

The collection is dedicated to the regions of country.

The aim of the collection is to present and exhibit the beauty and cultural diversity of every region of the country, Resmina Gurbatova, the founder and designer of the “Resm” brand, said. At her words, the collection presents a modernist interpretation of ancient Azerbaijani ornamental patterns and symbols. “More than a fashion accessory, “Resm” pieces are a link to the culture, traditions and, above all, spirit of Azerbaijan”, she stressed.

With its timeless character and superb craftsmanship, “Resm” jewelry allows the wearer to transcend mere fashion trends and enter a realm of relived ancestry. All “Resm” pieces come with individual descriptions explaining the design’s historical context, the origin of ornaments and traditional patterns.

These unique and exclusive artifacts make an ideal gift for anyone with a natural penchant and affinity toward beauty and heritage.

Back to top

GCC States invest USD100bn in airport expansion projects

15 December 2016, (MENAFN) – The GCC States are investing USD100bn in airport expansion projects with a view to provide to the rapid increase in the number of travelers.

Moreover, the number of passengers is predicted to double by 2035 and expanding fleets of airlines, especially their national carriers.

Meanwhile, the UAE will lead the Middle East growth in number of air travelers with more than 6.3 percent annual growth.

In addition, the region is expected to view a robust 5 percent annual growth, which predicts 7.2bn passengers to travel in 2035.

Back to top

SMES To Benefit From Collaboration from more than 25 MNCS’

KUALA LUMPUR, 15 December 2016, (Bernama) – “To date, more than 8,000 companies which include MNCs from over 40 countries have made Malaysia their offshore location for manufacturing and related services operation. These MNCs have contributed much to the development of our economy. We believe there is more room for collaborations between MNCs and our SMEs to take place. SMEs make up about 97% of the total establishments in the country. Thus, it is imperative for us to develop resilient and sustainable SMEs towards achieving inclusive and balanced growth,” said YB Dato’ Sri Mustapa Mohamed, Minister of International Trade & Industry in his keynote address during the MNCs & SMEs Supply Chain Development and Opportunities Conference held at MITI Tower today.

The Minister also highlighted some examples of MNCs that have been playing an integral role in developing and building the capacity and capability of Malaysian companies. Intel is one of the eight pioneer companies that set their foothold in Malaysia in the 1970s when Malaysia was about to embark on our industrialisation journey.

To achieve operational efficiency and effectiveness, Intel outsourced locally via more than 100 Malaysian-based vendors and suppliers. The company instituted development programmes for these local partners to ensure delivery of local content of the highest quality that suit its requirements. Consequentially, such programmes incubated home-grown stars like Globetronics and Inari that are making successful forays into the international markets.

Nestle, a renowned Swiss food and beverage company is another fine example of an MNC that has benefitted the local supply chain. The company has thus far trained about 400 Malaysian companies through the SME Mentoring Programme. Participating SMEs have certainly benefitted from the programme as the company shares its knowledge and experience from Nestle’s good practices in Halal and manufacturing excellence.

Spirit Aerosystems, one of the top investors in Malaysia’s aerospace ecosystem and the world’s largest first-tier aerostructure manufacturer, the company’s operations has also created exponential spill over benefits to the country. Through its vendor programme, Spirit’s operations may seem to only benefit its 5 direct suppliers that are located in Melaka, Penang, Kedah and Selangor.

However, a closer look would reveal that Spirit’s presence in the country has created gains beyond that. Indirectly, Spirit has stimulated the development of local supporting industries by providing diverse business opportunities and 2,700 job opportunities for more than 80 local suppliers in the areas of composites fabrication, metal fabrication, tooling and jigs, machining, logistics and consumables.

“We continue to welcome such MNCs which not only continue to invest in Malaysia, but more importantly, invest in quality projects, incorporating the latest technology and in high value added activities. These companies also provides forward-and-backward linkages, transfer of new technologies and local sourcing – creating quality jobs and developing the overall supply chain,” said the Minister.

This inaugural conference that brought together more than 400 participants, is a collaborative effort by MITI and its nine agencies with the Malaysian Investment Development Authority (MIDA) as the lead organiser of the event. It featured three plenary sessions focusing on the Electrical & Electronics, Aerospace, and Food & Beverages industries, all of which have an established presence of a strong supporting ecosystem in Malaysia. Business meetings with 25 MNCs were also arranged. The meetings provided immense opportunities for deeper commercial collaboration between large and small companies across the board. Participating anchor companies include Intel, Jabil, Nestle, Infineon Celestica, Shimadzu and Nippon Electric Glass.

Back to top

CIMB Launches BE$MART Targeting Malaysian Youths

KUALA LUMPUR, 15 December 2016, (Bernama) – CIMB Foundation launched Be$MART, its maiden financial literacy programme targeted at youths, in a bid to provide fundamental financial management skills to set them on a successful life journey and to mitigate the growing number of bankrupt youths today.

Be$MART is a specially curated two-day workshop for pre-university students and undergraduates, and will be run nation-wide over the next few years. The workshop is both engaging and entertaining as it combines interactive lectures with fun simulation games. CIMB Bank representatives will also play an integral part in delivering a holistic and practical overview of sound financial management.

Dato’ Hamidah Naziadin, Chief Executive Officer of CIMB Foundation said, “Through the Be$MART programme, CIMB Foundation aims to leave a legacy of well-informed and educated youths who are well-equipped in managing their finances for themselves and become exemplary models for future generations.

Leveraging on the financial expertise of CIMB Group, a leading Asean universal bank, CIMB Foundation is proud to have curated a holistic financial literacy programme to facilitate the development of the communities we serve in. We recognise that today’s youth will play an integral part of shaping the country’s future and therefore it is important for them to understand how best they can take ownership of their finances and be financially independent.”

The pilot Be$MART programmes yielded highly encouraging results and feedback. Most of the participants found the programme impactful and understood how important it is to have a purpose for money; and how, armed with the right knowledge, habits and mindset, they can take charge of their finances and achieve financial independence.

Modules of the Be$MART programme cover a wide range of money management lessons such as delayed gratification, goal setting with Financial IQ, Risk Assessment & Profiling, Property Investment, Debt Management, Financial Lifestyle Changes, Unit Trust Investments, Wealth Multiplier Lifestyle, Budgeting and Tracking, Share Investments, Financial & Investment Planning and Identifying Scams. The Be$MART programme is fully-financed by CIMB Foundation and higher-learning institutions that would like to organise the programme at their institution should contact CIMB Foundation at +603 – 2261 8859.(+)


Established in November 2007, CIMB Foundation is tasked with strategising and implementing corporate responsibility initiatives, disbursing millions to various programmes related to community development, sports and education.

CIMB Foundation is a non-profit organisation set up to implement CIMB Group’s corporate social responsibility and philanthropic initiatives. The Foundation believes in long-term sustainable growth and giving back to society. Its initiatives are aimed at empowering communities in a transparent, measurable and accountable way to enable them to stand on their own. The Foundation focuses on three specific areas: Community Development, Sports and Education.

CIMB Foundation has disbursed about RM94 million to over 800 projects benefiting thousands of people in the communities served by CIMB Group, making CIMB Foundation one of ASEAN’s leading CSR advocates.

Back to top

IFC to invest $85M bond in Next-Gen Turkish health

Ankara, 8 December 2016, (Anadolu Agency) – The International Finance Corporation (IFC) announced Thursday it would invest €80 million ($85.3 million) in a project bond to support construction of next-generation health care facilities in Elazig, eastern Turkey.

“The 20-year bond, which totals €288 million (approx. $307.3 million), is the first project bond financing of a hospital under a public-private partnership (PPP) in Turkey,” a member of the World Bank Group said in a statement.

The IFC, which is a member of the World Bank Group, noted that the project seeks to improve access to high-quality public health services in the region.

“We highly value IFC’s participation in this transaction” said Kamil Yanikomeroglu, board chairman of Ronesans Healthcare and Real Estate divisions. “IFC has played an important role in helping us tap into a diversified set of institutional investors.”

The bond is also the first “green and social” project bond in Turkey, according to rating company Vigeo, IFC said. “The proceeds will finance construction of a campus, equipped with climate-friendly technologies,” it said.

“Capital markets create access to long-term, stable financing, that can play a critical role in expanding affordable health care services for a large part of population,” Aisha Williams, IFC Country Manager for Turkey, said.

“Successful issuance of the bond for the health campus in Elazig is expected to pioneer the market, allowing other projects to explore similar structures for mobilizing long-term financing for Turkey’s health care sector,” she added.

Back to top

Int’l Day of Arabic language celebrated in Kyrgyzstan

Bishek, 16 December 2016, (IINA) – An event devoted to the International Day of the Arabic language was held here on Wednesday at Bishkek Humanities University, official Kyrgyzstan news agency Kabar reported.

The University President Abdylda Musayev, Ambassador of Saudi Arabia to Kyrgyzstan Abdurrahman bin Said al-Juma, President of the World Assembly of Youth Said Bayoumi, as well as representatives of the embassies of Saudi Arabia and Qatar, and other officials participated in the event.

In 1973, the General Assembly of the United Nations included the Arabic language in the number of official and working languages of the UN. The UNESCO late chose December 18 to celebrate the Arabic Language Day.

According to Kabar, around 300 million people speak the Arabic language and its variants. More than 240 million of them are native Arabic, and about 50 million use it as a second language.

Back to top

Iran’s Culture Minister Calls for Strengthening of Relations with Algeria

TEHRAN, 14 December 2016, (NNN-APS) – Iran’s Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance, Reza Salehi Amiri, has stressed the importance of strengthening and expanding co-operation between Algeria and Iran, especially in the cultural field, as the will to do so already exists.

In a meeting with visiting Algerian Culture Minister Azeddine Mihoubi here Monday, Reza Salehi Amiri said it was necessary to expand dialogue between the two sides to define the areas of co-operation such as in books, publishing, exhibitions and cinema.

“Culture allows the deepening ties between the two people. For that, we will work in the long term to promote co-operation to a strategic level,” said the Iranian minister.

Mihoubi, who is in the country in conjunction with the holding of Algerian Cultural Week in Iran, highlighted the importance to strengthen cultural co-operation through the conclusion of conventions in various areas such as cinema, libraries, fine arts, restoration of manuscripts and the organization of specialized exhibitions and others, underlining the role of culture in bringing people together.

Speaking about the Algerian Cultural Week being held in Tehran, Mihoubi said all the conditions must be met to promote Algerian culture through the wise choice of artists and programmes, expressing the wish that this cultural event could arouse the admiration of the Iranian people.

The two ministers called for co-operation between the two countries in international events through the organization of cinematographic exhibitions and works that highlight the true image of Islam.

Mihoubi has visited the contemporary museum of Tehran (built in 1979) which includes paintings of great foreign and Arab painters including Algerian artists such as Mohamed Khedda, Abdelkader Guermaz and Rachid Korichi.

The Algerian cultural week started Monday, at the National Library of Tehran.

Back to top

Islamic Development Bank promotes anti-corruption agenda

15 December 2016 -The Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) Group has introduced several key instruments against corruption, said Bank President H.E. Dr. Bandar Hajjar during a meeting at IsDB headquarters marking 9th December as International Anti-Corruption Day.

The instruments include IsDB’s Integrity Principles and Guidelines; Whistleblower and Witness Protection Policy; Integrity Amendments to the Guidelines for Procurement of Goods and Works; and the Use of Consultants under IsDB financing.

“The recent Financial Disclosure and Conflict of Interests Program will further complement the new version of our Code of Conduct to guide the staff and remind them of their rights and obligations towards their institution,” Dr. Hajjar said.

Dr. Hajjar emphasized that corruption is a threat not only to sustainable development, but also to the ultimate goal of ending extreme poverty and boosting shared prosperity.

“It goes without saying that corruption deters investment and erodes support for development assistance,” he said. “Therefore, the IsDB Group, in accordance with Islamic principles and values, plays an active role in the fight against corruption and maintains an environment where proper ethical conduct prevails, as corruption is not only an illegal issue but immoral behavior.”

Dr. Hajjar added that IsDB holds its own Islamic values, the most important of which is the promotion of integrity and the fight against corruption.

“Article twelve of the IsDB Articles of Agreement stipulates that the Bank has an obligation to ensure its resources and facilities used solely for their intended purposes.” He said. “As a major development financing institution of the Muslim world, IsDB is expected to play a leading role in addressing the daunting challenges facing member countries and contributing to introduction of real change to people’s lives. This is a fundamental prerequisite for achieving good governance and maintaining our AAA rating.”

Encouraging the staff to go the extra mile to enhance and strengthen the anti-corruption measures at the Bank, Dr. Hajjar reiterated that individuals have a major role to play to enforce the current Integrity Policy and reinforce a zero-tolerance culture as effectively as possible.

He expressed full confidence that the collective effort of staff will enhance integrity and ethical values in all activities of the IsDB Group.

Since 2003, December 9th has been regularly celebrated as International Anti-Corruption Day. It marks the date when 129 member states signed the United Nations Convention Against Corruption in Merida, Mexico. Since then, the number of signatories to the convention has reached 140 states. Fifty-four member countries of IsDB have so far joined the Convention in recognition of corruption as a major obstacle impeding socio-economic development and consequently undermining poverty elimination policies, programs and projects.

Back to top

Trans-Saharan road corridor to link Africa

Algiers, Algeria, 11 December 2016 – Leading experts have called for the speedy completion and commercialization of the Trans-Saharan Road Corridor linking six countries in Africa; Algeria, Chad, Mali, Niger, Nigeria and Tunisia. The Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) has already contributed US $454 million to the corridor in the form of 19 operations.

The experts made the call at a workshop organized by the IsDB during the African Investment and Business Forum (Algiers, 3-5 December 2016). The theme of the workshop was “Commercialization of the Trans-Saharan Road Corridor”, which was held in Algiers on 4th December 2016.

The workshop was organized in partnership with a host of authorities from the African Forum as well as the Secretariat of the Trans-Saharan Road Liaison Committee (TRLC).

“The smooth movement of people and goods in IsDB member countries is a top priority for the Bank. By linking these six countries through the Trans-Saharan road corridor, we are providing a platform for the economic integration of the region. This will help in addressing several development challenges such as poverty alleviation, job creation and easy transfer of goods and services among African member states,” said Dr. Abdulhakim Elwaer, IsDB’s Director for Cooperation and Resource Mobilization.

The workshop highlighted the need for preparation of a Corridor Master/Development Plan for addressing soft and hard aspects and requirements of the corridor, and establishment of a corridor management mechanism with participation of en-route countries, regional organizations and development community.

Participants at the event shared success stories on collaboration at national and regional levels for development of multi-country corridors. The event came up with recommendations for commercial operation of the Algiers-Lagos axis of the Trans-Saharan Corridor after completion of construction works in Arlit-Assamaka section in Niger by the end of 2017.

The workshop also stressed the need for expeditious completion of construction works in the remaining missing links connecting Chad and Mali to the Corridor. This could be realized through cooperation between these countries and development partners. The participating member countries and regional/international institutions expressed their support to IsDB’s initiative for commercialization of the Trans-Saharan Road Corridor.

Ministers and other senior officials were in attendance from the ministries of transport and trade as well as chambers of commerce and industries of the IsDB member countries en-route the Trans-Saharan Corridor i.e. Algeria, Chad, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, and Tunisia.

Relevant regional and international organizations and development institutions were also present at the event including the African Development Bank (AfDB), the Center for Transportation Studies in Western Mediterranean (CETMO), Islamic Corporation for Development of the Private Sector (ICD), Islamic Development Bank (IDB), International Road Transport Union (IRU), International Trade Center (ITC), Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), Organization for Islamic Cooperation (OIC), and the World Bank.

Back to top

Kyrgyzstan, China’s Panjin city sign cooperation pact

Bishkek, 14 December 2016, (Kabar) – Memorandum on cooperation is signed between the State Agency for Investments and Export Promotion at the Ministry of Economy of the Kyrgyz Republic and China’s Panjin city government, the press service of the Ministry of Economy of the Kyrgyz Republic reports.

The memorandum “On the intentions of cooperation in the implementation of investment projects” was signed by director of State Agency for Investments and Export Promotion Alymbek Orozbekov and representative of Panjin city government Hu Desian with the participation of Minister of Economy of Kyrgyzstan Arzybek Kozhoshev.

The main objectives of the memorandum are the development of cooperation between Panjin city government and State Agency for Investments and Export Promotion; implementation of projects of the company “Land Ocean Energy Service Co. Ltd.” and CJSC “AMG Gidrokarbons” (construction and reconstruction of refineries, reconstruction processing section, pumping oil and development of oil fields in Kyrgyzstan).

Back to top

Lebanese Bank Launches Next Gen Payments for Taxi Services

BEIRUT, Lebanon, 14 December 2016, (NNN-NNA) – In line with its strategy, to build and implement a cashless society in Lebanon, Bank Audi has launched the first of its kind, next generation payment solution for taxi drivers in Lebanon. This new payment solution enables taxis to accept payments with MasterCard, Visa, PayPass and Paywave, thus providing consumers with payment ease and avoiding the risk of carrying cash.

“We live in an era where technology is leading more and more businesses to improve their services, and we are excited to be part of this innovation, with the launch of our next generation Wireless Taxi Terminals,” said Randa Bdeir, Group Head of e-Payment Solutions and Card Services at Bank Audi. “Introducing innovative technology is an additional testimony of Bank Audi’s numerous endeavours, to deliver safe and convenient payment solutions,” she added, especially since “Lebanese citizens expect flexibility and security, when settling their taxi fares digitally.”

With the newly implemented Wireless Taxi Terminals, transactions are processed and cards authorised in real-time, money is processed and settled to companies swiftly, so that drivers can get back out to the next fare and that taxi users are satisfied.

“Bank Audi is committed to providing solutions that make life easier, because we understand that there is an increasing need to save time and money, and this is yet another service we are proud to be the first to deliver in Lebanon” she underlined.

The Wireless Taxi Terminals payment service was developed to meet the needs of both the travelling public and taxi drivers. It includes two control units:

“The drivers’ control unit, which is mounted in the front of the cab and allows drivers to enter each transaction, print receipts and login to their own secure portal.

“The passengers’ PIN pad and card reader unit, which is securely mounted in the passenger compartment. At the end of each trip, the PIN pad screen provides instructions to passengers, who wish to pay by credit or debit card, as well as an encouragement to add a tip to the fare.

Wireless Taxi Terminals can accept swipe, Chip & PIN, and contact-less transactions. The money from each transaction is credited directly to the drivers’ or companies’ bank accounts.

Bank Audi is launching this service with Allo Taxi, Taxi Première, Charlie Taxi and Geryes Taxi, and will be rolling out The Wireless Taxi Terminals to other reputable taxi service providers, in the coming months.

Back to top

Indonesia launches government openness action plan

Jakarta, 16 December 2016, (ANTARA News) – Minister for National Development Planning/Head of Bappenas Bambang Brodjonegoro has launched the Government Openness Action Plan 2016-2017 to improve Indonesias competitiveness amid increasingly tighter global competition.

“In an era where society needs higher transparency (for democracy to work efficiently), the openness of the government becomes a necessity,” stated Bambang in Jakarta on Friday.

According to him, transparency in governance is intrinsically related to the governments functions, where the government has a duty to be transparent, accountable, participatory, and innovative.

Open governance is characterized by open space for debate and public access to information, as well as public participation in governance and controlled development.

“Some time ago, the president stated that an open government would build and strengthen public trust. The president reiterated that an open government is the best option for Indonesia,” Bambang said.

In the Government Openness Action Plan 2016-2017, the fourth release of the plan, 50 commitments were made, of which 22 were to be applied by 14 ministries/agencies and 28 were to be run by local governments.

Back to top

Oman Hosts Arabian Poetry Festival

MUSCAT, Oman, 13 December 2016, (NNN-ONA) – Sayyid Asa’ad bin Tariq Al-Said, has opened Atheer Festival for Arabian Poetry at Oman Press, Publication and Advertising Establishment.

The opening ceremony started with a speech by Moosa al-Farie, media man and editor-in-chief of Atheer e-newspaper, during which he said that, organising the festival annually, document the higher values of beauty.

The ceremony included a short documentary about the Omani renowned scientist “Ibn Duraid.”

The renowned Arab poet, “Adonis” then read out some of his poems.

The poetess, Sa’adiyah Mufarreh, delivered the jury panel speech, during which she said that, as per the jury panel assessment, “Shamaa fi Al Adam,” by the Yemeni poet, Mohammed al-Mahdi, came first, “Tarkna Nawfizna Li Toyour,” by the Moroccan poet, Mohammed Areej, came second, and “Inni Qalil fa Kawny Kathiri,” by the Syrian poet, Yasser Al Atrash, came third.

At the end of the event, the chief guest handed over awards to winners, and a memento to the poet Adonis.

Back to top

Oman Hosts Expo Science Asia

MUSCAT, Oman, 14 December 2016, (NNN-ONA) – Oman has organised the 4th Expo Science Asia, under the patronage of Sayyid Taimour bin Asa’ad al-Said, Assistant Secretary General for Communications, at the Research Council.

The five-day exhibition seeks to refine scientific and innovative skills of students and youth, recognise efforts of students and supervisors working in the field of innovation, provide the chance for innovative entrepreneurs to meet businessmen, for exchange of cooperation and experiences among the participants, and involve the Sultanate’s students in innovative projects at such international scientific events.

More than 500 participants from the Sultanate, in addition to 200 participants from 30 countries, take part at the exhibition, which includes innovations by participants. It also includes a tourist tour that aims at highlighting the Sultanate’s rich history, culture and tourism potentials. It also includes a cultural night by participants, to highlight the cultural identity of the countries taking part at the expo.

The expo is one of the main platforms held bi-annually, for gathering youths and students from the Asian countries and other countries of the world, to display their scientific innovations and projects.

The expo provides an opportunity for sharing experiences and enhancing skills through several specialised workshops, that aim at polishing innovative skills and providing participants with the latest economic developments.

Back to top

Oman, Egypt Sign Tourism MoU

MUSCAT, Oman, 14 December 2016, (NNN-ONA) – The Sultanate of Oman and the Arab Republic of Egypt, today signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), in the tourism field, on the sidelines of meeting of the Executive Office of the Arab Ministerial Council for Tourism.

The MoU was signed from the Omani side by Ahmed bin Nasser al-Mahrizi, Minister of Tourism, whilst it was signed from the Egyptian side by, Mohammed Yahya Rashid, Minister of Tourism in Egypt.

The main objectives of the MoU are, to invest in the tourism and hospitality sector, participation in travel fairs, exhibitions in each other’s country, and encouraging cooperation between tourism stakeholders, including hotels and tour operators.

Additionally, they will exchange expertise in areas of promotion, marketing, destination development and management.

Back to top

Pakistan’s foreign reserves hit US$ 23.294 bln

ISLAMABAD, 15 December 2016, (APP) – The total liquid foreign reserves held by the country stood at US$ 23,294.8 million on December 9.

According to the break up of the foreign reserves position, foreign reserves held by the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) were at US$ 18,323.2 million and net foreign reserves held by commercial banks were at US$ 4,971.6 million, a SBP statement issued here on Thursday said.

During the week ending December 9, the country’s total reserves decreased by US$ 50 million to US$ 23,294.8 million on account of external debt financing.

Back to top

Algeria to launch payment by mobile phone in 2018

ALGIERS, 15 December 2016, (Algeria Press Service)- Minister for Digital Economy and Modernization of Financial Systems, Mouatassem Boudiaf announced Thursday that payment by mobile phone will be launched as from 2018.

In response to an oral question asked by MP Youcef Khababa (Alliance of Green Algeria) on the generalization of e-payment and the possibility to broaden the use of the Interpostal card (CIP), the deputy minister said that a working group has been set up to study the feasibility of the use of mobile phones as a payment method as of 2018.

Citizens will be able to use mobile phones as a payment mean through 3G and 4G, stated the minister.

E-payment for major billers (water and electricity bill), fixed and mobile phones, insurance, air transport and some administrations (taxes, treasure and customs) has been launched in early October.

Payment by mobile phone requires the increase of e-payment users to launch new investments, the same official insisted.

Back to top

Poco Poco best dance in ASEAN Night in Qatar

12 December 2016, (ANTARA News) – Illustration of Poco Poco, social dances typical of North Sulawesi, now international hosted naval personnel and guests in joint exercises Asia Pacific (RIMPAC) 2015. (ANTARA)

London (ANTARA News) – Poco Poco has been chosen as the best dance at ASEAN Night held by ASEAN embassies in Qatar grouped in ASEAN Community in Doha (ACD).

The ASEAN night at the Doha Hilton Hotel last weekend, was held to highlight transfer of chairmanship of the ACD from Philippines Ambassador Wilfredo C. Santos to Thai Ambassador Soonthorn Chaiyindeepum as new ACD chairman starting 2017.

The ACD groups ASEAN diplomatic representatives in Qatar including embassies of Indonesia, Brunei Darussalam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

The ceremonies were also highlighted with arts performance and golf tournament. Indonesia contributed with Poco Poco dance that was named one of the best shows at the ASEAN Night.

A member of the ACD Working Group, Boy Dharmawan, told Antara of London, on Monday the ASEAN Night was the climax of the series of ACD activities highlighting the transfer of ACD chairmanship marked with the ASEAN flag handed over to the new chairman.

Ambassador Santos said ASEAN relations with Qatar had expanded contributing to ASEANs growing role in regional economic growth and prosperity .

He expressed condolence and sympathy for victims of recent quake in Aceh saying ACD would consider discussing relief aid for the quake victims.

The new ACD chairman Soonthorn Chaiyindeepum said ASEAN is an example of regional cooperation playing an important role in regional stability and prosperity.

Indonesian Ambassador to Qatar Muhamad Basri Sidehabi said ACD would maximize the economic opportunity in line with Qatars policy of “look east”.

He said Indonesia would fully utilize cooperation between ASEAN and Qatars Chamber of Commerce and Industry by involving Indonesian business players.

ACD has succeeded in lifting ASEAN image in Qatar through joint promotion to international community in Qatar, he said, adding “ACD succeeded in promoting solidarity and unity among ASEAN people through synergy in economy, culture and sports.

Boy Dharmawan said ASEAN community of around 300,000 in Qatar is known to be active in taking part in various activities such as promotion of social culture.

He said ASEAN community took part in promoting Qatar as the host of the World Football Championship in 2022.

Back to top

Qatar- Friendly match draws over 5,000 tourists

15 December 2016, (MENAFN – The Peninsula) – The first-ever Match of Champions has attracted over 5,000 international visitors to Qatar particularly from the neighbouring Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and generated an estimated QR9.6m for the local economy.

The large number of football fans that visited Qatar to attend the friendly between FC Barcelona and Al Ahli SC, which took place at Doha’s Al Gharrafa Stadium on Tuesday night, illustrates the value that sporting events can have for the tourism sector in Qatar, according to a senior Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA) official.

Rashed Al Qurese, Chief Marketing and Promotion Officer at Qatar Tourism Authority said: ‘The hosting of this Match of Champions is testament to the growing strength of Qatar’s position as a destination for global sporting events and its potential to significantly contribute to the growth of the tourism sector and overall economy.

Supporters of Saudi Arabia’s Professional League champions, Al Ahli SC and Spanish giants, FC Barcelona, were able to benefit from enticing travel packages including air travel, accommodation and match tickets created by the match host, Qatar Airways, and QTA.

Identified as one of the four priority tourism sub-sectors in the Qatar National Tourism Sector Strategy (QNSS), sports tourism is defined as that which takes individuals temporarily out of their home communities to participate in sport and recreational activities, whether by competing, watching, or visiting sports associated attractions and facilities. Sports tourists also travel for sport education and sport-related business events, as well as to improve their health and well-being.

Al Qurese added, ‘We recognise the unique power that sport has in bringing people from around the world together in celebration of athletic excellence. With Qatar hosting a great number of world-class competitions across a multitude of sporting disciplines, we are working closely with our partners to attract international sports tourists to visit Qatar.

Later this month, Qatar will host the Italian Super Cup (Supercoppa Italiana) final between Juventus and AC Milan. The match, which is scheduled to take place on December 23 at the Jassim bin Hamad Stadium (Al-Sadd Stadium), is expected to bring an additional boost to visitor arrivals this month, with over 3,000 tickets sold to international fans thus far.

The match will mark the second time that the Italian Super Cup will be played in the Qatari capital after Juventus took on Napoli in 2014 at the same stadium.

Back to top

Algerian crowned BBC African Footballer of the Year 2016

12 December 2016, (Algeria Press Service) – LONDON – Algerian international of Leicester City (England Premier League), Riyad Mahrez has been crowned BBC African Footballer of the Year 2016, BBC announced Monday.

Riyad Mahrez and Senegal’s Sadio Mané were finalists of the poll following the elimination of the other five nominees.

Leicester City’s Mahrez was nominated alongside Gabonese Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Ghana’s André Ayew, Senegal’s Sadio Mané and Ivory Coast Yaya Touré.

The BBC highlighted Mahrez “stunning capacity” in football skills. This award is added to Mahrez cabinet for his renowned performances at the international level.

With 17 goals in the Premier League during the 2015/2016 season and 11 assists, Riyad Mahrez was elected the Player of the Year in England by the Association of Professional Football Players.

Back to top

San Jose city, California, comes out in solidarity with local Muslims

San Jose City, California, 14 December 2016, (IINA) – Hundreds of people from various faiths came together at the Evergreen Islamic Center in City in California, recently to express their solidarity with the local Muslim community, which had been the target of a hate letter.

The letter invoked the name of Donald Trump as “the new sheriff in town” who would “do to you Muslims what Hitler did to the Jews.” The Evergreen mosque was the first recipient of the letter, signed “Americans for a Better Way,” that was subsequently sent mosques elsewhere in California and to several other states.

A host of religious and political leaders spoke at the rally. Rabbi Dana Magat of San Jose Temple Emanu-El opened the event with the reminder that “we are all Jews, we are all Muslims, and we are all one.”

This theme of unity was sounded throughout the event. Former San Jose vice mayor Rose Herrera told the crowd, “Now is not the time to shrink back; now is the time to reach out.” She told of a mosque in Redmond, Washington that had its marble sign smashed and immediately, with full support from the local community, built a new one, People’s World News (PWN) reported.

The diversity of the crowd was a reflection of the variety of San Jose and Santa Clara County. Looking from the rear, this writer saw many Jewish yarmulkes, Muslim hijabs, Indian saris, and people of all cultures and ethnicities.

San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo likewise drew cheers and applause when he said to the Muslim and immigrant communities especially “we’ve got your back.”

He promised free legal counsel to immigrants threatened by deportation and pledged that San Jose police with not cooperate with Federal immigration agents. He said also, as did several other speakers, that if Trump attempted to institute a registry of Muslims he would be the first to sign up, and he reported, again to loud applause, that he would shortly be meeting with other mayors to confer on measures they would take to protect their communities from any “aggression” from the Trump administration.

Returning to the theme of nonviolence at the end of the rally, Evergreen’s Imam Tahir Anwar quoted Martin Luther King: “Love is the only force capable of turning an enemy into a friend.” It was clear from the speakers and the crowd that their love was by no means sentimental or passive; both seemed ready and determined for action to meet any challenge from the Trump regime.

Back to top

China-Pakistan Plan Stronger Business Development and Networking

KARACHI, 14 December 2016, (APP) – CPEC a part of China’s One Belt One Road global initiative has provided a golden opportunity for Pakistan to take off as a regional economic power.

Pakistan has been unable to grow as fast as its neighbors in South Asia, on account of poor infrastructure which is straining under demands of a large population growing at higher than world’s average, said a statement on Wednesday.

Chinese lending via CPEC for infrastructure and energy projects will bridge infrastructure development gaps in Pakistan.

The Industrial Phase of CPEC in Pakistan is now beginning and Govt.of Sindh is actively working on the development of industrial parks and Special Economic Zones in the province.

Research and Development International, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS-RDI) had worked extensively on the development of the “One Belt and One Road” Initiative and Govt of Sindh is supporting its efforts in bringing Chinese businesses to engage with Pakistani businesses to set up industries in the province.

Speakers at the event were, Senator Saleem Mandviwala, Naheed Memon, Chairperson SBI, Government of Sindh, Dr. Baige Zhao, Chair of the Advisory Committee of CASS-RDI while Co-Chair, Pakistan China Institute delivered the concluding address.

To further strengthen relations between the two countries, a Memorandum of Understating to establish Pak-China Real Estate Association (PCREA) was also signed.

Back to top

Suriname praises Islamic Bank’s role in supporting economy

Jeddah, 15 December 2016, (IINA) – Suriname’s Minister of Finance and Governor of the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) Gillmore Hoefdraad highlighted the importance of the partnership between his country and the IDB, especially in light of the economic fluctuations that the world is witnessing.

During his visit on Wednesday to the IDB headquarters in Jeddah, the minister discussed with IDB Group President Dr. Bandar Hajjar a number of issues, such as increasing investment in the country, investing in the human capital, increasing job opportunities, supporting income-generating activities, diversifying sources of national income, developing Islamic banking in the country as well as providing the legislative and technical assistance to it.

They also discussed ways for the Republic of Suriname to benefit from the exchange of experiences between the member states program, which was adopted by the IDB in order to transfer expertise available in some countries to others in need.

For his part, Dr. Hajjar stated the readiness of the IDB to stand by Suriname in the face of challenges and strengthen its efforts to overcome the results of the drop in oil prices and the fluctuations in gold prices.

He also stressed the keenness of the bank to transfer the required expertise in various fields, and build the human capital required in the sectors of the Surinamese economy.

To date, more than $123 million has been approved by the IDB to the Republic of Suriname, which contributed to 12 development projects.

Moreover, a number of development projects for the year 2017, with a funding of $59 million, has been approved by the IDB in its financing plan in the country.

In 2014-2015, the IDB adopted a temporary partnership strategy with the government of Suriname to enhance means of cooperation, in line with the government’s 5-year development plan in 2012-2016. The two parties are scheduled to sign a full partnership strategy in 2018.

Back to top

Tehran, Sarajevo approve to enhance economic relations

15 December 2016, (MENAFN) – Iran’s ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina has marked the necessity to improve Tehran-Sarajevo trade ties.

Furthermore, the ambassador has underlined, during his meeting with the chairman of the Bosnian Chamber of Commece, Iran’s abilities in economic, technical as well as engineering locations, and nanotechnology.

He stated that the Iranian firms are set to collaborate in service, investment, agriculture and industrial machinery sections.

Back to top

Three Japanese car makers to set up plants in Algeria

ALGIERS, 14 December 2016, (Algeria Press Service) – Three Japanese car makers are interested in the establishment of auto and truck manufacturing plants in Algeria and two of them have already taken the steps for the execution of their projects, said Tuesday, in Algiers, Japan’s ambassador to Algeria Masaya Fujiwara.

“Japan is much interested in the investment in Algeria in different areas. There are good signs as we already have car manufacturers like Nissan and Suzuki who have projects of vehicle assembly plants in Algeria and are only waiting for the green light of the Algerian authorities to execute them,” said Fujiwara.

The ambassador made a statement at the joint press conference with the head of the Algerian-Japanese Mustapha Mekideche following the second meeting of this club to which about thirty businessmen and representatives of Algerian economic institutions took part alongside their Japanese counterparts

Hoping that these projects could be executed “as soon as possible,” the ambassador also underlined the Japanese car maker Toyota is also interested in the building of an assembly plant in Algeria through its subsidiary Hino Motors, specialized in the manufacturing of trucks and buses.

In addition to their contribution to the creation of wealth and jobs, these projects will allow, according to him, the two sides to seize “the opportunities existing in different fields to develop our economic relations.”

Back to top

Tourism Ministry re-evaluates ‘Egypt in Our Hearts’ initiative

15 December 2016, (MENAFN – Daily News Egypt) – The Ministry of Tourism is reviewing the Egypt in Our Hearts initiative alongside the tourism and aviation committees, according to Alaa Abdel Wahab, adviser to the minister of tourism. Abdel Wahab said the ministry plans to promote the initiative in 2017, after reviewing its flaws from 2016.

He added that the ministry will not release the initiative during the mid-year vacation because it will be high season and most families travel to various destinations during this time. The initiative is meant to tackle the low season.

Abdel Wahab pointed out that domestic tourism is considered the solution for tourism problems in times of crises. It also helps to increase the awareness of citizens and help them learn more about their country.

Abdel Wahab said that there are more than 12 million Egyptian immigrants around the world and the ministry aims to collaborate with the Ministry of Immigration in order to encourage them to visit Egypt.

He further added that the ministry, represented in its foreign offices and the Tourism Development Authority, is cooperating with the ministries of foreign affairs and immigration to attract Egyptian expats in a bid to reconnect second and third generation Egyptian expats to their home country.

He added that the ministry has prepared an integrated programme at special prices, inuding visits to archaeological sites and a trip to the Path of the Holy Family, pointing out that there are large Egyptian Christian communities in foreign countries including Italy, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, France, and Canada.

Abdel Wahab said the programme began three months ago; however, there is no data regarding the number of visitors so far because the ministry does not quantify the number of Egyptians entering the country as they are not considered foreigners.

The ministry aimed to promote tourism through Egyptian immigrants in their countries, pointing out that if each Egyptian immigrant attracted one tourist from the country in which they live, Egypt would have about 24 million tourists annually.

He noted that the Egyptian communities can put pressure on governments that suspend flights to Egypt to review their decisions, adding that Egyptians in Russia and England have not stopped visiting Egypt by using different airlines and travelling through other countries.

Ambassador Nabila Makram said in previous statements that the children of second and third generation Egyptians will return to their countries to be the best promoters of Egyptian tourism and deliver an accurate picture of the country. They are akin to ambassadors who have enough knowledge to promote tourism destinations among their families and friends where they live.

Back to top

Turkey: Broadband Internet subscribers top 59 million

Ankara, 13 December 2016, (Anadolu Agency) – The number of broadband Internet subscribers in Turkey has topped 59 million, while the ranks of cellphone subscribers number nearly 75 million, the nation’s communications minister said Tuesday.

Ahmet Arslan told Anadolu Agency that in the third quarter of this year the number of broadband Internet subscribers in Turkey reached 59.1 million, the vast majority – 83 percent – of them mobile broadband Internet users.

Arslan also said the number of cellphone subscribers in Turkey had reached 74.5 million, 61.3 percent of them advanced fourth-generation (4G or 4.5G in Turkey) users.

Turkey’s total population stood at 78.7 million in 2015, according to the country’s statistics authority TurkStat.

“Since going operational on April 1, advanced 4.5G telecom services have been rapidly embraced by consumers, and our people have gotten used to high-speed mobile data. Monthly mobile data use per person rose to 2.2 gigabytes,” said Arslan.

Arslan also said the total revenue of licensed electronic communication services providers rose 12 percent in the third quarter, compared to the same period in 2015.

“Over 600 business licensed by the Information and Communication Technologies Authority (ICTA) got 11.6 billion Turkish liras ($3.7 billion) in revenue in the third quarter of this year, and they invested 1.4 billion Turkish liras ($460 million) in the same period,” Arslan added.

Turkey’s three mobile operators – Turkcell, Vodafone, and Turk Telekom – won the rights to the country’s advanced 4.5G network after paying more than €3.9 billion ($4.5 billion) in an ICTA tender last year.

Back to top

Turkey’s TAV is world’s top airport contractor

Ankara, 16 December 2016, (Anadolu Agency) – TAV Construction topped the Engineering News Record (ENR) 2016 list of international airport contractors, based on revenue, for the third year in a row, the company announced Friday.

TAV is also the only Turkish company in the list of top 30 international transportation contractors.

“We are glad and proud to maintain our top ranking in the ENR list for three years and successfully represent the achievements of our country in engineering and contracting fields. We will continue to be a true representative of our country as a global brand preferred throughout the world,” the CEO of TAV Sani Sener said in the statement.

TAV Construction undertook such construction expansion projects as the Istanbul Ataturk, Ankara Esenboga, Izmir Adnan Menderes and Gazipasa-Alanya airports in Turkey.

“The company will have built a total of 16 airports in the Middle East and North Africa region — seven of them are the gateways of the capital cities of their respective countries. The expertise and know-how of more than 30,000 employees lie behind this success,” Sener added.

ENR describes itself as “the bible of the construction industry, providing news and features about projects, products and people in construction, architecture and engineering.”

Back to top

UAE Launches Five-Year Foreign Aid Strategy

ABU DHABI, 15 December 2016, (NNN-WAM) — The UAE’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation has launched a five-year plan for the country’s foreign aid strategy.

Under the strategy, covering 2017-2021, the UAE will focus on three key pillars – women’s empowerment and protection, transport and urban infrastructure, and technical co-operation.

The plan was launched under the patronage of Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation, at a ceremony held at the Ministry in the presence of Reem bint Ibrahim Al Hashemi, Minister of State for International Co-operation, senior officials from the Ministry and other government departments, representatives of the Ministry’s partners from the private sector, civil society organisations and the UAE donors.

Al Hashemi also gave a presentation in which she highlighted the UAE’s foreign aid policy, its vision and elements, as well as the main goals of combating poverty and contributing towards sustainable development in recipient countries.

She underlined the role of foreign aid in fulfilling the UAE Vision 2021, launched by President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, and highlighted their contribution towards enhancing the UAE’s global stature.

“The main goal of foreign aid offered by the UAE is to reduce poverty and improve quality of life in underprivileged communities, promote relations between the UAE and other states, including the recipient countries and other donor states, and encourage creation of economic relations with developing countries based on mutual interests,” Minister Al Hashemi said.

Humanitarian aid accounts for a significant part of the UAE’s total foreign aid where the country responds to major crises through its charities and humanitarian agencies, as well as international organisations, she noted.

“The launch of the UAE foreign aid plan is an important occasion and comes as the culmination of years of serious work in which several government departments, the private sector and the civil society were involved,” she added.

“The UAE provides foreign aid in response to the directives from President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, extending help to the needy people around the world. This is based on the UAE’s commitment to support the goals of sustainable development that the international community has agreed to achieve in the coming 15 years to eliminate poverty,” Al Hashemi said.

“The UAE seeks to establish a new approach based on providing assistance through developmental projects that benefit the beneficiary countries. The wise UAE leadership has decided on a clear approach that does not link humanitarian aid with the policies of the beneficiary countries. This has earned the UAE high respect and appreciation globally,” the Minister said.

She also noted that the UAE’s foreign aid aims to improve the lives of people, reduce poverty, eliminate hunger, support initiatives for protecting children and promote child welfare as well as build and support relations with partner countries.

“The overall goal is to bolster security, social peace and stability in all other countries that are in need of assistance, in the Middle East and North Africa in particular,” she said.

According to Al Hashemi, the UAE will work on the principle of “regional partnerships for development” where aid programmes cover a wide range of activities in a number of sectors such as healthcare, education, water resources and renewable energy while creating and strengthening trade and investment.

Minister Al Hashemi also called for innovative approach to address global challenges and pursue constructive partnerships with the donors and international organisations to enhance the impact of this policy.

Back to top

Arab Tourism Council meeting held in Oman

MUSCAT, 14 December 2016, (WAM)- The UAE participated in the a meeting held today by Arab tourism ministers in Muscat, Oman to discuss efforts in developing the tourism industry in the Arab region.

The UAE delegation at the 19th Arab Ministerial Tourism Council, an affiliate of the Arab League, is headed by Mohammed Khamis Al Muhairi, Under-secretary at the Ministry of Economy.

Ministers from Arab countries, members of World Tourism Organisation as well as representatives of the Arab Centre for Tourist Media are participating in the two-day meeting.

The meeting will foster co-operation between Arab countries and help boost growth of the tourism sector, Omani Minister of Tourism Ahmed bin Nasser Al Mahrizi said in opening remarks.

In some states, including California, mosques were the recipients of terse messages which inform those present that the new President-elect is the sheriff who will clean up America and make the nation shine again. The analogy of this happening is whatever Hitler did to the Jews; the Americans will do to Muslims. About 300 Muslim leaders gave an open letter to President-Elect Trump where they expressed its grave concerns about policy proposals. They asked him to protect communities from such provoked attacks.

Back to top

US Travel Warnings for Visits to Algeria Described as Distorted

ALGIERS, 16 December 2016, (NNN-APS) – Algeria has described the periodic updating of travel advisories issued by Washington warning of risks to American citizens planning to travel to Algeria as perceiving the security situation in Algeria through a “distorting prism and outdated stereotypes which do not reflect reality”.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement here Thursday that the latest update warning against travelling to Algeria, published Tuesday on the official site of the Department of State, “reflects, as usual, the propensity of its authors to perceive the situation in Algeria through a distorting prism and outdated stereotypes which do not reflect in any way the reality of the security situation in Algeria”.

The Ministry recalled that security in Algeria is structurally and permanently established thanks to the national reconciliation policy advocated by President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, and the heavy toll that Algeria paid to defeat terrorism, as well as the mobilization and vigilance shown by the People’s National Army and security forces nationwide.

Algeria, which has made significant sacrifices in the fight against terrorism, said the Ministry, is “extremely concerned about the sanctity of human life”.

In this regard, Algeria “leads, for itself as well as for others, persevering actions of prevention of violent extremism and de-radicalisation in a coherent approach of the international co-operation against terrorism”, the statement added.

Back to top

Vietnam, UAE Seeks Closer Legislative Ties

ABU DHABI, 16 December 2016, (NNN-VNS) – Vietnam’s NA Chairwoman Nguyễn Thị Kim Ngân has suggested closer coordination between the legislative bodies of Việt Nam and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in implementing co-operation agreements between the two nations.

This would contribute to strengthening bilateral ties, she said at a meeting with Amal Al Qubaisi, President of the UAE Federal National Council.

The meeting took place on the sidelines of the 11th Global Summit of Women Speakers of Parliament.

Ngân affirmed that Việt Nam treasures friendship and cooperation with the UAE, and expressed her pleasure in the development of Việt Nam-UAE relations.

She lauded preparations made for the summit, saying it would contribute to enhancing the role and position of the UAE in the region and the world.

Highlighting the potential for the two sides to enhance economic links, especially in trade, investment, petroleum and labour sectors, Ngân said the UAE was likely to become one of Việt Nam’s leading economic partners.

For her part, Al Qubaisi shared the positive impressions of Việt Nam gathered during her trip to the country in 2015.

Appreciating the proposals made by the Vietnamese leader at the summit, she said Việt Nam’s experience offered good lessons and contributed to the event’s success.

On the basis of effective co-operation in many fields, the two countries should further expand connections in economy, trade and labour, she said.

Al Qubaisi said that the UAE foreign policy envisaged an important role in Asia for Việt Nam. The Vietnamese delegation’s attendance at the Summit would play an important role in bolstering bilateral relations, she said.

The UAE is one of Việt Nam’s leading partners in trade, investment and labour in the Middle East and the seventh largest importer of Vietnamese products.

Two-way trade in 2015 and the first nine months of this year hit US$6.3 billion and $4.3 billion, respectively. The UAE is also a big investor from the Persian Gulf in Việt Nam, with a total registered capital of $4 billion. At present, about 5,000 Vietnamese labourers work in the UAE.

Back to top

World Halal Summit 2016 to kick off in Turkey

Istanbul, 15 December 2016, (IINA) – The World Halal Summit 2016, which is set to kick off at the Istanbul Lütfi Kırdar Congress Center on Thursday, will bring together prominent people in the halal sector and producers from around the world along with 26 high-level speakers from Turkey and 26 countries.

The Turkish Standards Institute (TSE) and the Standards and Metrology Institute for Islamic Countries (SMIIC) are jointly organizing the three-day event.

The Halal Expo 2016, a pioneering event that guides the industry by combining the World Summit with the Halal Fair, will unite the leading figures in the sector. Considering the number of Muslims, a significant part of the world tourism industry with an economic volume of more than $1 trillion consists of buyers of halal tourism, Daily Sabah News reported.

Chairman of Discover events Yunus Ete, which organized the event that will determine the world halal standards, said they received requests for the participation from Muslim countries as well as countries like Russia and Spain.

Stressing that Spain, which has realized the size of the world halal market and has made a serious investment in halal tourism, is keen to participate in this fair, Ete noted that they are currently evaluating the country’s accordance with the criteria in cooperation with SMICC.

The halal tourism market is an important part of the halal sector, not only for Muslim countries but also for European countries, which have made serious investments in recent years. Halal tourism is expected to increase by 50 percent over the next four years and has an economic volume of $192 billion.

Back to top