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24 Jan, 2017

Indonesian President Wants Ministers To Cut Speeches To 7 Minutes

Compiled by Imtiaz Muqbil

A compilation of stories of interesting events and developments in the world of Islam for the week ending 23 January 2017 (24 Rabee’ al-Thaani 1438). Pls click on any of the headlines below to go to the story.



Win FREE trips in Malaysia by entering this Photography And Short Video Competition

The Ministry of Tourism and Culture Malaysia is organising a photography and short video competition on social media with the sub-theme #MyCuisine from 1 January 2017 to 28 February 2017. To enter, participants need to submit a creative photo or short video related to the uniqueness and diversity of the food and beverage of Malaysia’s multicultural society via Instagram or Facebook. For the short video competition, participants need to upload a 30- to 60-second short video on Instagram with the hashtags #SayangMalaysia and #MyCuisine. The competition offers various attractive prizes for the top three winners and five consolation prizes, which include domestic flight tickets, accommodation at popular domestic destinations, theme park tickets, shopping vouchers, and many more. In the #Sayang Malaysia Campaign, the public will get the chance to participate in six photography and short video competitions throughout 2017 under six sub-themes, which are as follows: i. #MyCuisine – January to February; iv.#MySports- July to August; vi.#MyFamilyFun – November to December.

The competition is to make Malaysia a premier tourist destination and to encourage both domestic and international tourists to use social media to share all their beautiful and unique holiday experiences in Malaysia. The #SayangMalaysia Campaign is an initiative under Malaysia’s National Blue Ocean Strategy (NBOS) between Government Departments/Agencies and the private sector, including the Ministry of Communications and Multimedia Malaysia, National Service Training Department, iM4U, Non-Government Organisations (NGOs), and tourism industry players.

Further details: http://www.motac.gov.my/en/sayangmalaysia

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.





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Indonesian President Wants Ministers To Cut Speeches To 7 Minutes

JAKARTA, 21 Jan 2017, (Bernama) – “Less talk, more action.”

That’s the gist of a circular President Joko Widodo of Indonesia has circulated to people holding public office, instructing them to restrict their speeches at events and media conferences to just seven minutes.

“We should not talk a lot because there is much work to be done” seems to be the principle behind Joko’s issuing the circular to ministers, heads of department, the Attorney-General’s Office, the Chief of the Armed Forces and the Chief of Police.

Local media quoted the circular as saying that ministers could only speak for up to seven minutes and the content must be akin to a seven-minute talk.

Cabinet Secretary Pramono Anung was quoted as saying that Joko did not like long-winded speeches and that each brief speech should convey the intended message only.

“At events attended by President Joko Widodo, ministers or other leaders should only report what they intend to convey and not lecture before the President,” he said.

Pramono said they should deliver in the seven minutes what they intended to convey or the activity they wanted to implement.

Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Wiranto was quoted as saying that he most welcomed the directive because he also felt that the speeches of ministers and heads of department should be concise.

He said that without such a restriction on time, a minister might speak even longer than the President and an event could drag on for hours.

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Malaysia to Ensure Success of ‘Visit ASEAN Year 2017’ Campaigns

SINGAPORE, 20 Jan 2017, (NNN-Bernama) – Malaysia will play an active role to ensure the success of ‘Visit ASEAN Year 2017’ and ‘Visit ASEAN@50’ campaigns, said Tourism Malaysia’s Deputy Director-General (Advertising & Digital), Abdul Khani Daud.

He said among the efforts were cooperation with hotel chains and local travel agents to promote the Visit ASEAN Year logo and travel packages.

“The country has also helped promote ASEAN tourism packages via ASEAN website and Tourism Malaysia website,” he told reporters at the Asean National Tourism Organisation (NTO) briefing here.

The event was held in conjunction with the ASEAN Tourism Forum (ATF) 2017, which is held from Jan 16-20, 2017 at Marina Bay Sands Convention Centre.

Abdul Khani said the forum was an important platform for the ministers to come out with more intiatives and strategy to promote ASEAN as a destination.

On the statement by Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at ATF opening ceremony on Wednesday that ASEAN must promote the destination as one to the world, Abdul Khani said: “If we promote ASEAN together as a destination, there will be more tourists.”

He said Tourism Malaysia would talk to other airlines and at the same time bring tourists to Malaysia and other parts of ASEAN.

“So this is important. If more people come to ASEAN they will benefit other ASEAN countries. Those coming to Kuala Lumpur will eventually extend their visits to other parts of ASEAN.

“The Europeans, when they plan their holidays to this part of the world, will always say they are going to ASEAN … not to Singapore or Indonesia,” he told Bernama News Channel.

Forty-five hoteliers, travel agents, theme park operators and state tourism boards (Sabah Tourism Board, Sarawak Tourism Board, Tourism Johor and Tourism Selangor), are set to attract over 300 international buyers at the TRAVEX (Travel Exchange), which is an important component of the forum.

Secretary-General of the Ministry of Tourism and Culture Malaysia, Ghaffar A. Tambi, is leading the Malaysian delegation to ATF 2017.

Ab Ghaffar represented the Minister of Tourism and Culture Malaysia at the 20th Meeting of ASEAN Tourism Ministers, the 16th Meeting of ASEAN, China, Japan and South Korea Tourism Ministers, and the ASEAN Tourism Ministers Press Conference for ASEAN and Dialogue Partners Ministers.

In 2017, Malaysia is scheduled to organise and host several events to promote ASEAN, such as ASEAN Celebrity Explore Quest 2017, 29th SEA Games Kuala Lumpur, ASEAN Para Games 2017 and ASEAN Fashion Show.

Malaysia has also produced the ASEAN Adventure Travel brochure to promote adventure travel products within ASEAN and international markets. The effort is supported by all ASEAN member states.

The adventure products promoted in the brochure were recommended by ASEAN NTOs. It is available in e-brochures on www.aseantourism.travel and also Tourism Malaysia website http://www.malaysia.travel.

Abdul Khani said Tourism Malaysia has collaborated with Singapore Airlines to promote five cities in Malaysia — Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Langkawi, Kota Kinabalu and Kuching — to UK, Germany, France, Switzerland, Spain, Italy, Scandinavia, Russia, US, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, India and China.

He said this marketing collaboration, which is from January 2017 to March 2018, will not only bring tourists to Malaysia but also to other ASEAN countries.

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Malaysia Digital Hub to be Launched in March

KUALA LUMPUR, 18 Jan 2017, (NNN-Bernama) – A Malaysia Digital Hubs for the start-up community in the digital economy is expected to be launched in March, says Treasury Secretary-General, Dr Mohd Irwan Serigar Abdullah.

The launching, together with other details including on the location of the hub, are expected to be announced by the Prime Minister Razak at the Global Transformation Forum (GTF) 2017.

He said the digital hub would be an endeavour through multiple collaborations involving the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI), Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) and private sector collaborations.

“We are currently working with MITI and MDEC to structure what is that digital hub going to be, in term of tax incentives and the kind of industries involved… whether cloud computing or big data companies,” he told reporters after the Coach and Grow Programme (CGP) Awards 2015/2016 ceremony here.

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Malaysia to have 35% Skilled Workers by 2020

KUCHING, Sarawak state, Malaysia, 10 Jan 2017, (NNN-BERNAMA) – Thirty-five percent of Malaysia’s workforce by 2020 will comprise skilled manpower.

Human Resource Minister Richard Riot Jaem said this would enable the country to be “well on track to achieve the high-income nation status by then”.

He was speaking at the graduation ceremony of 300 participants of the 1MalaysiaGRIP (1Malaysia Globally Recognised Industry and Professional Certification Programme) who had completed their various certificate level upskilling and reskilling courses here today.

“With three more years to 2020, I am proud to say Malaysia is well on track.

“And it is in part due to the efforts and initiatvies put in place by the Human Resource Development Fund (HRDF) established in 1993 to develop quality human capital and a world-class workforce,” he said.

Riot said the HRDF, under the auspices of his ministry, had done a great job in providing various up-skilling and re-skilling and soon multi-skilling programmes for Malaysian workers in various positions across a wide range of industries.

“As at Dec 31 last year, a total of 23,730 employees of HRDF registered and non-registered employees had participated in this programme featuring over 1,000 certification courses.

“In Sarawak alone, we have more than 1,000 employees who had participated and which had cost the ministry some RM9 million to provide,” he said.

Riot said it was necessary to include workers or employees who had not registered with the HRDF as the government had provided a fund of RM150 million for the purpose.

With three more years to 2020, he said it was now time for the country to intensify its efforts to produce more high quality human capital to meet the challenging demands of the local, regional and global marketplace.

“HRDF will continue its mandate to help the less academically-inclined demographic of the Malaysian labour force to reduce the competency gap that we are actually facing,” he said.

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Malaysia: Foreign Workers Allowed in only Six Sectors

PUTRAJAYA, Malaysia, 20 Jan 2017, (NNN-Bernama) – Foreign workers are only allowed to work in six designated sectors, says Home Ministry secretary-general Alwi Ibrahim.

The sectors which allow employment of foreign workers are manufacturing, construction, plantation, agriculture as well as mining and quarrying, he said.

He said the matter was decided at the 16th Meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Foreign Workers and Illegal Immigrants on Tuesday.

“Foreign workers are allowed to work in the service sector among them as cooks in restaurants, cleaning and cleansing, island resort, hotel, spa and reflexology, caddy and cargo handlers at ports and airports,” he said in a statement here yesterday.

In this regard, Alwi stressed that foreign workers were only limited to fill vacancies shunned by locals.

“The government is still giving priority to locals to fill positions and specified that employment at supervisory level is reserved for locals,” he said.

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Malaysia: Iflix Now Available in Pakistan

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, 20 Jan 2017, (NNN-Bernama) – Online streaming service provider, iflix, is now available in Pakistan for 300 Pakistani rupees per month with unlimited access.

In a statement today, iflix said, customers could sign up for a 30-day free trial with no credit card obligations via its website www.iflix.com.

It said the customers with annual subscriptions would receive a 20 per cent discount off the monthly rate for 2,880 rupees per year, it said.

“Each subscription includes, among others, unlimited access to iflix’s vast library of exclusive shows, award-winning television (TV) series, blockbuster movies, local and regional children’s programmes,” it said.

With over 160 studios and distributor partnerships, iflix offered subscribers the most extensive selection of iconic and critically acclaimed TV series and fan-favourite films, internationally and locally, it said.

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Malaysia’s Malindo Air to Double Traffic to 10 MLN this year

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, 17 Jan 2017, (NNN-Bernama) – Malindo Air aims to double its passenger traffic from 5.6 million in 2016 to 10 million this year.

Chief Executive Officer Chandran Rama Muthy said to achieve the target, the airline would take delivery of 10 new aircraft this year.

Speaking to reporters after the launch of the Malindo KL Sentral ticketing office and check-in counter here today, he said the additional aircraft would enable the airline to increase its flight frequency to several regional destinations.

“We are planning to double our flight frequency to Jakarta and Bali from twice a day to four times daily, and we will also increase our flights to Medan from once a day to twice a day,” said Chandran.

Officiated by Deputy Transport Minister Aziz Kaprawi, the Malindo KL Sentral ticketing office provides 16 ticket counters with the capacity to serve 20,000 customers a month.

“With the new ticketing office and check-in service, customers will be able to check-in at Malindo Air’s counter at the KLIA Ekspres Departure Hall,” he said.

Passengers can check-in their luggage three hours before their flight at the KL Sentral office.

The three hours cut-off time is necessary to facilitate their check-in baggage transfer to the KLIA. Travellers are required to purchase a valid KLIA Ekspres train ticket to use the service.

Malindo Air’s KL Sentral check-in counter is open daily from 5 am-9 pm and customers can proceed to the KLIA Ekspres Departure Hall to check-in for their flight.

Malindo Air’s ticketing office is open from 9 am to 8 pm from Monday to Friday and from 9 am to 4 pm on Saturday and Sunday.

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Malaysia’s Firefly Lowers Passenger Target for 2017 to 1.6 MLN

SUBANG JAYA, Malaysia, 20 Jan 2017, (NNN-Bernama) – Firefly Airlines has lowered the passenger target for 2017 to 1.6 million from 1.7 million last year due to lower demand and increased operational costs on the back of a softer ringgit.

Chief Executive Officer Ignatius Ong said although the ringgit’s depreciation was good in attracting foreign customers into Malaysia, it also needed to allow Malaysians to travel abroad to places as Singapore, Indonesia and Thailand.

“The market has to work both ways. It is not cheap for families to go on holiday to neighbouring countries. Furthermore, we have experienced a 30 per cent increase in our overall costs, which has affected some of our transactions denominated in the US dollar,” he added.

Ong told the media this at the launch of the FY e-wallet with Firefly Airlines campaign here today.

He said the company has already cut capacity by six aircraft last year to a total of 12 as the load factor was only reaching about 60 per cent.

“When we see an increase in demand of 70 to 75 per cent in our load factor, we may then press one or two more aircraft into operation,” he added.

Ong also hoped for the ringgit’s value to strengthen to a sustainable level.

Meanwhile, he said the FY e-wallet is a cashless convenience that allows travellers to purchase tickets with Firefly anytime, quicker and easier.

“Travelers need not worry about unsuccessful transactions when utilizing debit or credit cards.

“They will also get an additional bonus amount of up to 25 per cent based on their purchase category of RM1,000, RM5,000 or RM10,000. The amount validity is three months for the RM1,000 deposit and six months for the balance,” he said.

Ong said the FY e-wallet is targeted to achieve sales of between RM10 million-RM15 million from registered members which currently number close to 500,000.

The FY e-wallet which had its soft launch in mid-December last year, has currently achieved sales of about RM1 million.

Firely is Malaysia’s premium short-haul airline which began operations in April 2007.

For more information on the latest products and services of Firefly Airlines, log on to www.fireflyz.com.my.

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Malaysian Business Confidence Sees Slight Improvement

KUALA LUMPUR, 20 Jan 2017, (Bernama) – Malaysian business confidence rose slightly in Q4 2016, but remained subdued compared to previous years, according to the latest Global Economic Conditions Survey from ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) and IMA (the Institute of Management Accountants).

The low confidence can be attributed to various factors, including the price of oil and the decline in the ringgit, explains Vilashini Ganespathy, acting head of ACCA Malaysia.

“The low price of oil has had an impact on economic confidence, as it hit export revenues hard and led to a sharp drop in government revenue. The subsequent need to cut government spending to balance the books is reflected in the depressed level of the government spending expectations index for Malaysia,” she said.

This cut in government spending is also seen in developed markets, where the survey noted how the fall in government spending index is at its lowest level since the start of 2016 reflecting that major developed markets remain firmly in austerity mode.

“Another significant factor has been the recent decline in the ringgit, which has fallen to its lowest level against the US dollar since the Asian financial crisis of 1997-98. Our high level of foreign currency debt means that the central bank needs to keep monetary policy tight,” added Vilashini.

However Vilashini also noted that the low likelihood of a rate cut appears to be reducing investment prospects, referring to the low indices recorded for investment opportunities and capital expenditure.

Global perspectives

The Malaysian rise in confidence belies international conditions, with the survey finding that global business confidence dropped in Q4 amid on-going global political and economic uncertainty.

Across the Asia Pacific, 52% of respondents reported feeling either much less or slightly less confident about their outlook over the next three months. This reflects the fact that although most countries are still growing at a decent pace, challenges are mounting.

Globally, declining incomes are companies’ main concern with 44% citing this as a worry. The decline in global confidence has been matched by a fall in hiring, with 52% reported they are considering staff cuts or staff freeze, compared with 16% who are planning to create new jobs.

Similarly, there were more companies planning to scale back investment in capital projects (38%) than increase investment (14%).

Changes in the political landscapes of Europe and the US, along with uncertainty over US/ China trade developments and a decline in government investment were contributing factors, with the Eurozone hitting its lowest confidence levels since 2011.

Commenting on the global findings, Faye Chua, head of business insights at ACCA said: “Current political uncertainty is clearly having an impact on global business confidence. In the US the Trans-Pacific Partnership is unlikely to be ratified while likely restrictions on trade with key markets including China and Mexico are also major factors here.

“In Europe, uncertainty over the outcome of elections in the Netherlands, France and Germany – which could lead to major policy shifts for regional trade and the future direction of the Eurozone – all contribute to a gloomy outlook going into 2017.

“However, it is not all bad news. Despite these concerns, the global economy may be on course for growth in 2017 as China responds positively to its economic stimulus programme and the US maintains a partial recovery.”

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Malaysia’s Budget AirAsia Increases Flights for Chinese New Year

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, 17 Jan 2017, (NNN-Bernama) – AirAsia Bhd is increasing its flights for the Chinese New Year (CNY) period, offering 84 additional domestic and international trips.

In a statement here, its Head of Commercial, Spencer Lee, said CNY has always been one of the busiest periods for the company as guests would travel back home or go for a short getaway during the long weekend.

“As part of the airline’s festive promotions to welcome the Year of the Rooster, we have launched ‘#AyamComing’ campaign, offering all-in-fares from as low as RM29 (one-way), festive in-flight meals and online pre-booking discounts at its duty-free shop,” he said.

He said the special low fares would be available for booking starting from today until Jan 22, for travel up to July 31, 2017.

“Aside from adding more flights to meet the demands, we want our guests to enjoy the exceptional connectivity of our flights,” he said.

Lee said AirAsia X, the company’s long-haul affiliate, introduced 12 new routes last year, nine of which were exclusively operated by AirAsia and AirAsia X.

As part of the promotion, Big Duty Free, AirAsia’s online duty-free shop, is offering 38 per cent discounts on all items from now until Feb 12, he said.

“Guests can also spend and earn eight times AirAsia big points (loyalty programme) when they shop online,” he said.

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Suria KLCC Holds ‘Peranakan Home Coming Reunion’

KUALA LUMPUR, 19 Jan 2017, (Bernama) – The essence of Chinese New Year is reuniting family members on the eve of the celebration. Families congregate for a reunion dinner and eat dishes with auspicious names. With that in mind, Suria KLCC’s decoration this year is themed, ‘A Peranakan Homecoming Reunion’ where a replica of the dining hall of an opulent double storey ‘Peranakan’ manor had been constructed at the centre court.

“We wanted to showcase to shoppers and visitors, a glimpse of the rich ‘Peranakan’ community opulent lifestyle and their mixed customs and traditions during this Chinese New Year. Some of the unique elements of ‘Peranakan’ community can be seen through the choice of furniture and ornaments decked out at this centre court,” said Andrew Brien, Executive Director/Chief Executive Officer of Suria KLCC Sdn Bhd.

Besides bringing family members together, the Lunar New Year is also an essential time to unite Malaysians irrespective of religion, creed and background. In its effort to celebrate the unique ness of Malaysia and to bring Malaysians together during the festive season, Suria KLCC once again constructed the tallest Chinese lantern made of small Chinese lanterns and cherry blossom ornaments at KLCC Esplanade. This majestic structure is 72 feet high and 40 feet wide. Visitors can take pleasure in the structure and take photos with friends, loved ones or family members from today until 5 February.

Suria KLCC has also not forgotten the underprivileged community. For this Chinese New Year, Suria KLCC and Alamanda shopping centre pledged their support towards spreading lunar happiness to ‘Shelter Home for Children’ through ‘Share the Care’ fundraising effort. Shoppers and visitors who donate RM10.00 for the cause will receive a ‘kuih kapit’ shaped card as a gesture of appreciation for their support. Donors will be asked to write down their name on the card and the card will be hung on a cherry blossom tree placed at a designated area in both malls.

Shelter Home for Children is a registered welfare organization established in 1981 to help abused, abandoned, neglected or at risk children. For more information about Shelter Home for Children, members of the public can contact 03-7956 2382 or visit www.shelterhome.org.

At Suria KLCC, shoppers who spend a minimum of RM800 in a single receipt at any specialty stores are entitled to redeem two exclusive condiment pots and red packets, while the top weekend spender will receive an exquisite pendant from Lukfook Jewellery.

Suria KLCC will also entertain shoppers and visitors with a variety of performances including LED dragon dance, acrobatic lion dance, hands percussion performance, traditional Chinese orchestra, God of Prosperity walkabout and many more from 19 January until 5 February.

For more information about Suria KLCC’s Chinese New Year promotion and performances, please visit www.suriaklcc.com.my

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14 Malaysian Exhibitors to Take Part in India Tourism Fair

NEW DELHI, India, 19 January 2017, (NNN-Bernama) – A total of 14 Malaysian exhibitors will be participating in the South Asian Tourism and Travel Exchange (SATTE) show here next month.

A Tourism Malaysia spokesperson said the Selangor and Penang state tourism promotion boards would also be taking part in the annual travel fair to be held from Feb 15-17.

Malaysian tour operators and hospitality groups, including Sunway group, will also be showcasing their products and services to attract more Indian tourists.

Malaysia is one of popular holiday destinations in Southeast Asia for Indian travellers.

A recent survey by travel search engine Skyscanner indicated that Malaysia will remain a favourite destination among Indian travellers in 2017.

In 2015, an estimated 720,000 Indian tourists had visited Malaysia.

The Malaysian tourism industry is increasing its focus on the Indian market, with strong growth expected in various segments such as shopping, honeymoon, business and corporate events, and sports tourism.

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Discounts & Freebies Galore with AirAsia’s “Ayamcoming CNY Promotion

SEPANG, 17 Jan 2017, (Bernama) – AirAsia launched its #AyamComing campaign to welcome the Year of the Rooster with a series of special offers which include all-in-fares from as low as RM29* one-way for immediate travel, festive inflight meals at RM10, 38% online pre-book discount on all BIG Duty Free items and many more.

AirAsia also has 84 additional domestic and international flights during the Chinese New Year week in anticipation of the strong travel demand.

Spencer Lee, AirAsia Berhad’s Head of Commercial said: “Chinese New Year is always one of the busiest periods for us as our guests travel back home to celebrate the festivity or take the long weekend to go on a short getaway. Other than adding more flights to meet the demand, we want our guests to enjoy the exceptional connectivity of our flight.

“Together with our long-haul affiliate AirAsia X, we have launched 12 routes in just last year alone, out of which 9 are unique routes exclusively operated by AirAsia and AirAsia X. We hope that our guests will grab the low fares and make good use of these special festive offers for a great celebration.”

AirAsia X’s award winning Premium Flatbed is also included with all-in-fares starting from RM799* one way. These special low fares are available for booking at airasia.com or AirAsia’s mobile app on the iPhone and Android devices from now until 22 January 2017 and guests can depart immediately for travel until 31 July 2017.

The airline groups’ inflight gourmet menu SANTAN introduces the all-new Nyonya Prawn Curry with Rice for AirAsia flights (Flight Code AK) and Sweet & Sour Chicken Meatballs with Garlic Rice for AirAsia X flights (Flight Code D7), available for online pre-book at RM10 and RM15 respectively with complimentary water, coffee (for flights exceeding 90 minutes) or soft drink.

BIG Duty Free is also offering 38% discount on all items available on bigdutyfree.com from now until 12 February 2017.

Guests can also earn 388 AirAsia BIG points for any purchase of ROKKI Chats Plan and 888 AirAsia BIG points for purchase of ROKKI Internet Plan.

All guests are encouraged to conduct self check-in via the website, mobile devices or the kiosks at the airport; and arrive at the airport at least 3 hours prior to flight departure with their boarding pass readily printed for a smoother and faster travel experience.

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Malaysian banks to Service the Agriculture Community Better

PUTRAJAYA, 18 Jan 2017, (Bernama) – Kemubu Agricultural Development Authority (KADA) and Agrobank today celebrated the completion of their cash management project. The ceremony was held in conjunction with monthly assembly of the Ministry of Agriculture and Agro Based Industry (MOA) at Wisma Tani, Putrajaya.

A symbolic was held with YB Datuk Md Alwi Che Ahmad, Chairman of KADA receiving a mock card by Tan Sri Mohamad Zabidi Zainal, Chairman of Agrobank. The event was witnessed by YB Dato’ Sri Ahmad Shabery Cheek, Minister of Agriculture and Agro-based Industry, Dato’ Wan Mohd Fadzmi Wan Othman, President / CEO of Agrobank and Encik Mohd Ridzuan Ismail, General Manager of KADA.

Last year, KADA and Agrobank has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that outlines three (3) areas of collaborations, cash management solutions through AgroNetBiz, takaful protection and banking agents known as AgroAgent.

According to Tan Sri Mohamad Zabidi Zainal, Agrobank is honored to be entrusted by KADA to provide banking and financial services to the agency. “Cash management solutions is the latest financial services provided by Agrobank to meet the needs of commercial and corporate banking customers.

The solution is using Agrobank online banking system known as AgroNetBiz. With this solution, Agrobank work with KADA in one transition payment system using cheque to online payment (e-payment). We are proud with KADA management for being optimist and visionary in supporting government’s efforts to promote online payment system (e-payment), “said Tan Sri Mohamad Zabidi.

According to YB Datuk Md Alwi Che Ahmad, “The history of collaborations between KADA and Agrobank has started way before because both agencies shared the same mandate and target groups, which is to develop and growth focus the agricultural community. This collaboration focus on cash financial management, takaful coverage specifically for KADA members and appointment of agent banking, AgroAgent.

“The collaborations between Agrobank and KADA is focus on strengthening the synergy between two government agencies under the Ministry of Agriculture and Agro-based Industry. It aims to improve operational efficiencies and creates more benefits our the target group, “said Datuk Md Alwi.

Through this collaborations, Agrobank has upgraded the existing system to make it compatible with the SAGA (System Accounting for Government Agencies) to simplify the payment process to suppliers. Among the services covered are including services for bulk payments, salary payments, standing orders, bill payment and zakat distribution and many more.

In addition, under the program “Satu Petani Satu Takaful” 2,459 members of KADA have subscribed the takaful coverage with the minimum package a total of , RM20 per year.

Under the same collaboration, all 13 PPK (National Farmers Organisation) under KADA has been appointed as Agrobank agent banking, AgroAgent. With this appointment, it allows agents to provide basic financial services such as depositing and withdrawing money, paying utility bills and pre-paid card reload to the community in their areas.

About Agrobank

Agrobank is one of Malaysia’s leading banks providing a holistic array of financial services and banking facilities, with focus on agriculture sector. The Bank is a Government-owned Bank under the purview of the Minister of Finance Incorporated. The Bank’s financing of the agricultural sector is driven by a policy set forth by the Ministry of Agriculture and Agro-Based Industry (MOA).

As a DFI (Development Financial Institute) that focus on strengthening the agriculture sector in Malaysia, Agrobank aims to balance its developmental and commercial roles to benefit the agriculture sector. Agrobank provides a comprehensive financing solution for agriculture; that includes upstream activities such as the supply of agricultural production inputs to downstream activities such as processing and selling of agricultural products to consumers.

With more than 46 years of experience, Agrobank is actively shaping the country’s agricultural development across eight regions it operates, via 188 branches; offering products and services in the areas of corporate, commercial and micro financing as well as trade finance, personal financing, electronic banking and deposit & services.

On 1st July 2015, Agrobank has become a full-fledged Islamic bank.

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Kunming-Penang Flights to Bring in More Tourists From China

GEORGE TOWN, Malaysia, 17 Jan 2017, (NNN-Bernama) – Direct flights between Penang and Kunming, China by Lucky Airlines, a low-cost carrier in China, is envisaged to draw more tourists to the state.

State Tourism Development and Culture Committee chairman, Danny Law Heng Kiang said the direct flights launched last Dec 20, was a way to promote Penang to the people in Kunming, besides encouraging two-way tourist inflow between the two destinations.

Law was met by reporters at the Penang International Airport, Bayan Lepas today before flying off to Kunming with 55 other passengers.

The direct flights from Penang to Kunming Changshui International Airport are twice a week, on Tuesday and Saturday.

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Indonesia among Asia’s top destinations attracting investors

Jakarta, 19 Jan 2017, (IINA) – Indonesia is among Asia’s most attractive investment destinations, thanks to a robust private demand combined with expectations of improvements in its business climate, a survey from The Economist Corporate Network (ECN) showed.

Published on Tuesday, the survey — titled “Navigating Asia’s Risks and Rewards: Asia Business Outlook Survey 2017” — asked 223 Asia-based business executives in November last year about how their businesses were performing and their expectation for 2017.

ECN is The Economist Group’s global advisory service that offers business intelligence briefings, presentations and advice to its subscribers in the so-called “growth markets.”

“Respondents viewed government responses to political and economic risks in Indonesia, Myanmar, Vietnam, and India as most likely to positively impact business prospects in 2017,” the report said.

The survey also said that “executives were most optimistic about Indonesia, Myanmar, Vietnam and India. These countries were ranked by around 50-60 percent of those surveyed as having responded to risks in ways that will result in some kind of improvements for business.”

About 53.7 percent of the respondents said they will increase their investment in Indonesia, Southeast Asia’s largest economy.

The archipelago nation comes third in the region behind China and India, which had 71.6 percent and 55.7 percent respondents respectively saying they will invest in them.

The ECN said Indonesia will comfortably remain ASEAN’s largest economy next year, with a GDP in cash terms about two-and-a-half times that of Thailand, the bloc’s next-largest economy.

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Indonesian govt approves Rp6.43 trillion for infrastructure

Jakarta, 18 January 2017, (ANTARA News) – The Ministry of Public Works and Public Housing has approved 952 contracts for infrastructure improvements in Indonesia worth Rp6.43 trillion.

Minister of Public Works and Public Housing Basuki Hadimuljono, said on Wednesday that at least 68 contracts out of the 952, worth RP1.58 trillion, have been approved by committee officers and contractors at the ministrys working meeting last Tuesday.

The approved construction projects include road maintenance, bridge construction, road construction at border areas, as well as some housing projects.

Other projects including extension of fresh water pipeline and restoration of irrigation channels have also been approved. The contracts were allocated during a project auction held in October 2016.

Hadimuljono appointed staff from his ministry to oversee all project auctions, where 10,403 contracts worth RP69.61 trillion up to March 2017 are up for auction.

He said his target for the ministry is to allocate 1,523 construction projects, worth RP11.58 trillion, by the end of January 2017.

He added that many local contractors participated and won construction projects at the auction. He hoped that these local contractors can improve both the quality of their work and their competitiveness.

The signing of the contracts also reflects an acceleration of infrastructure developments in Indonesia.

Hadimuljono hopes that his ministry’s efforts can provide additional employment and improve Indonesia’s national development, as well as support its economic growth.

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Indonesia to Attract Foreign Visitors Vacationing in Thailand

JAKARTA, Indonesia, 19 Jan 2017, (NNN-Xinhua) – Indonesia sets ways to attract foreign visitors vacationing in Thailand, keen to gain benefit from Thailand’s tourism sector which successfully welcomed over 30 million ones throughout last year.

To address the aim, Indonesia would extensively promote its tour destinations in Thailand’s upcoming landmark umbrella festival of Bo Sang slated for Friday to Sunday this week.

“Massive promotion in Bo Sang Umbrella Festival this year is highly expected to make Indonesian tour destinations more popular among Thailand natives and foreign visitors vacationing in Thailand as well,” Tourism Deputy Minister for Overseas Marketing Affairs I Gde Pitana said in a statement on Thursday.

Pitana added that Indonesia’s diverse cultures and the beauty of the nation’s geographical sceneries would be significant selling points to be promoted to foreign visitors vacationing in Thailand.

Indonesia, the Southeast Asia’s largest nation, is home to 1,340 ethnic groups and tribes inhabited in over 17,000 islands.

The archipelago nation has award- winning coral reefs and undersea tour destinations as well as volcanoes and diverse cultural attractions in each of its region.

Pitana said that Thailand’s annual Bo Sang Umbrella Festival is the sister event of Indonesia Umbrella Festival (FPI) periodically held in Central Java province’s city of Surakarta, highly expected to further increase Indonesia-Thailand cultural interaction.

The highly anticipated Bo Sang Festival is annually held in Bo Sang village, San Kampheang district located in Thailand’s Chiang Mai province.

The festival, which has been held in the past 34 years, is filled with display of hundreds of colorful umbrellas and silk in resident’s houses and stores within three days.

Indonesia’s tourism ministry has regarded Thailand’s tourism sector as its benchmark to further enhance the sector at home which has been declared as the nation’s core business.

Indonesia has set target to attract 20 million foreign visitors by 2019, to earn more than 24 billion U.S. Dollars from the sector by that time.

Indonesia expects to welcome 15 million foreign visitors, earn 200 trillion rupiah (about 14.9 billion U.S. Dollars) from the sector this year.

To cope with growing targets in tourism sector, Indonesia develops ten new tour destinations across the country, designed to par with resort island of Bali which has been favored by foreign visitors for years.

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Indonesia among Asia’s top destinations attracting investors

Jakarta, 19 January 2017, (IINA) – Indonesia is among Asia’s most attractive investment destinations, thanks to a robust private demand combined with expectations of improvements in its business climate, a survey from The Economist Corporate Network (ECN) showed.

Published on Tuesday, the survey — titled “Navigating Asia’s Risks and Rewards: Asia Business Outlook Survey 2017” — asked 223 Asia-based business executives in November last year about how their businesses were performing and their expectation for 2017.

ECN is The Economist Group’s global advisory service that offers business intelligence briefings, presentations and advice to its subscribers in the so-called “growth markets.”

“Respondents viewed government responses to political and economic risks in Indonesia, Myanmar, Vietnam, and India as most likely to positively impact business prospects in 2017,” the report said.

The survey also said that “executives were most optimistic about Indonesia, Myanmar, Vietnam and India. These countries were ranked by around 50-60 percent of those surveyed as having responded to risks in ways that will result in some kind of improvements for business.”

About 53.7 percent of the respondents said they will increase their investment in Indonesia, Southeast Asia’s largest economy.

The archipelago nation comes third in the region behind China and India, which had 71.6 percent and 55.7 percent respondents respectively saying they will invest in them.

The ECN said Indonesia will comfortably remain ASEAN’s largest economy next year, with a GDP in cash terms about two-and-a-half times that of Thailand, the bloc’s next-largest economy.

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1,500 cyclists expected to participate in Tour de Central Celebes

Palu, 27 December 2016, (ANTARA News) – The Central Sulawesi administration plans to invite 1,500 domestic and foreign cyclists to participate in Tour de Central Celebes (TdCC) to be held in September next year.

The number of participants may increase when its promotion is optimal, Siti Norma Mardjanu, head of the Central Sulawesi tourism and creative economic office, said here on Tuesday.

Invitations will be sent to 250 cyclists in Association of Southeast Nations, Australia, the United States, and Europe.

The remaining 1,250 participants are expected to come from various provinces of Indonesia.

TdCC is a tourism promotion event as participating cyclists will be taken to tourist sites within the province, and be introduced to local culture, traditions as well as culinary dishes of Central Sulawesi, she remarked.

The TdCC route stretches 300 km from Tojouna-una District to Palu City against the backdrop of a panorama of mountains, lakes, hills, rivers, waterfalls, and valleys.

The cyclists will also be entertained with traditional dances and songs of South Sulawesi.

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Chinese Company To Set Up JV for Indonesian Grid Construction

CHANGSHA, China, 16 Jan 2017, (NNN-Xinhua) — Gold Cup Electric, a Chinese electrical wire and cable producer, will establish a joint venture with an Indonesian firm to offer products for the construction of Indonesia’s national grid.

The Hunan-based Gold Cup Electric will contribute 55 percent of the total investment of 560 billion Indonesian rupiahs (42 million U.S. dollars), and the remaining 45 percent will come from PT Bukaka Teknik Utama Tbk, an Indonesian company engaged in engineering, procurement and construction, according to the Chinese company.

The factory will be built in Indonesia with technology exported from China, and the products will supply Indonesia’s national electric power company.

Deng Shaokun, official with Gold Cup Electric, said the company has done research in Indonesia and gained ample knowledge about the country’s electronic cable market.

If cooperation goes smoothly, Gold Cup Electric will increase its investment and extend its presence in Indonesia, he said.

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Indosat Ooredoo ready to launch 4.5G technology

Jakarta, 18 January 2017, (ANTARA News) – PT Indosat Ooredoo is ready to launch its 4.5G technology in 2017 that is two times faster than its 4G predecessor, said a company spokesman.

“We have been developing the 4.5G technology since 2012 and we are ready to launch this year, starting with the introduction of new technological infrastructures such as modernized BTS (Base Transceiver Station) in several regions,” according to its Group Head of Network Strategy and Solution, Yune Marketatmo, on Wednesday.

Singapore and Malaysia are already ahead of Indonesia in launching the 4.5G technology, along with some European and Middle Eastern countries.

Marketatmo also noted that in order to prepare for its introduction, the company has been working to place 4.5G data centers in several areas around Java since 2016, while the headquarters will be in Jakarta.

“The data centers will be built in strategic locations close to customers so they can communicate easily and take advantage of this new technology,” he added.

Marketatmo further explained that existing customers who are currently using 4G would be automatically upgraded to 4.5G. This will also apply to mobile devices that are compatible with the 4.5G technology.

Indosat Ooredoo currently has 81.6 million customers and the company saw an increase of their data usage by 114.2 percent compared to previous years.

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Express train enough for Jakarta-Surabaya: Study

Jakarta, 19 January 2017, (ANTARA News) – The Technology Application and Study Center (BPPT) said express train with a speed of 160 kilometer per hour is enough to cope with traffic congestion between Jakarta and Surabaya.

A preliminary feasibility study by BPPT, the transport ministry, PT KAI (state railway company) and Japan, showed that medium speed train is enough to reduce the land and air transport burden between the two countrys largest cities, BPPT chief Unggul Priyanto said here on Thursday.

“Building speed train as Japans Shinkansen would cost hugely. Development of express train is urgent , and its development should start in 2017 although not many are interested in the project, Unggul said.

The study also showed that the existing rails could still be used for medium speed train, he said.

“The existing rails, therefore, could be used more optimally and no need to build new track,” he added.

In 2016, BPPT provided technical support for the development of the Light Rapid Transit (LRT) in Palembang and study on the Greater Jakarta LRT system together with the transport ministry and on the Jakarta-Bandung speed train project.

Earlier Transport Minister Budi Karya Sumadi said based on the result of a recent meeting between President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the Indonesia government offered an opportunity for Japan to submit proposal for the plan to revitalize Java northern rail tracks.

Budi said the government had offered Japan the opportunity to take part in the project estimated to cost Rp80 trillion.

The government will also offer this project to other countries, including China, who won the high-speed railway project linking Jakarta to Bandung, West Java.

The government expects the upgraded line will shorten the trip to six hours from the current 13 hours using regular trains of state railway company PT Kereta Api Indonesia (KAI).

The prospective contractors would prepare pre feasibility study including on the value of investment, and the result of the study would be compared with one by the National Development Planning Board (Bappenas).

The minister said the offer to Japan and other foreign countries was made because of the governments limited budget for transportation projects.

He said the medium-speed train would operate on the existing line, with the government planning to eliminate 1,000 level crossings from the track from Jakarta to Surabaya.

Coordinating Maritime Affairs Minister Luhut Pandjaitan delivered an official letter offering the project to the Japanese government during his recent visit to Tokyo.

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Hoshino Resorts Opens its First Hotel Abroad in Bali, Hoshinoya Bali

TOKYO, 19 Jan 2017, (Bernama-BUSINESS WIRE) – The leading Japanese hotel management company, Hoshino Resorts Inc. (Yoshiharu Hoshino, CEO) is opening its first HOSHINOYA brand hotel abroad in Bali, the Republic of Indonesia on January 20th, 2017.

“HOSHINOYA Bali” is enveloped by the lush green hills of Ubud, known as a center for Balinese traditional crafts and dance, surrounded by an environment of untouched rich nature. HOSHINOYA Bali overlooks the Pakerisan River, with sacred water canals running through the property, part of the island’s age-old water temple network recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Landscape.

The surrounding dense rainforest and terraced rice paddies as well as the extended mountain range are among one of Bali’s most famous landscapes. The beautiful land provides the ultimate fresh-air vacation, but also the landscape dotted with Bali Hindu temples and shrines offers a spiritual atmosphere to the visitor. HOSHINOYA Bali provides the perfect relaxation experience, allowing guests to feel in true harmony among the nature, people and God of Bali.

In HOSHINOYA Bali, we offer an exclusive and comfortable alternative to hotels. We offer 3 types of private, luxury villas enveloped in the lush green and mystical river valley, all connecting with the semi-private pool area allowing the guests to descend from the terrace of their villa. The architecture of the villas represents Bali’s traditional beauty and ancient wisdom. On the inside of the villa, there are many beautiful walls and furniture covered with carvings, which techniques have traditionally been inherited and conveyed as the traditional culture. To stay in HOSHINOYA Bali means enjoining the custom, culture and tradition in the heart of Bali but also experiencing great moments of contemporary lifestyle.

Founded in 1904 as a forestry business in Karuizawa, in the Japanese Alps, it opened its first hot spring resort in 1914. Rebranded by Yoshiharu Hoshino in 1995 as Hoshino Resorts, it has expanded across Japan with a focus on local culture and tradition. Hoshino Resorts has developed three separate hospitality brands, HOSHINOYA, KAI and RISONARE. Now it operates 36 properties around Japan and abroad.

For more information please visit Hoshino Resorts (hoshinoresorts.com).

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World Bank estimates Indonesia to grow at 5.3 percent

Jakarta, 18 January 2017, (ANTARA News) – In the Indonesia Economic Quarterly report released here on Wednesday, the World Bank has forecast that Indonesias gross domestic product will reach 5.3 percent in 2017.

According to the report, Indonesias fiscal policy credibility has been improving coupled with more realistic revenue setting mentioned in the Budget 2017.

“In the Budget 2017, there has been an improvement in the quality of government spending, and fund allocation has been maintained for development in areas of infrastructure, health, and social assistance,” World Bank Country Director for Indonesia Rodrigo Chaves stated.

He believes that the government budget is allocated to realize better targets for energy subsidies and social assistance programs for the poor.

“It is important for Indonesia to maintain the momentum of the reforms in order to achieve development targets effectively,” Chaves noted.

According to the World Bank report, two steps can be taken to improve the quality of government spending.

Firstly, expenditure should be relocated to the priority sectors of infrastructure, health, and social assistance, with low-level expenditure that can have a positive impact on poverty reduction and growth.

Secondly, maximizing the impacts of spending in all sectors, including agriculture, education, and social assistance.

The report also highlighted that better growth in 2017 will be supported by private investment, which has shown an increase, due to the monetary policy in 2016 and a better investment climate.

Private consumption is also expected to increase in 2017 due to low inflation and improving consumer confidence, which is supported by the stable value of the rupiah.

However, low revenue poses risks in lowering the growth due to global policy uncertainty and financial turmoil in financial markets.

To increase tax revenues, Indonesia needs to accelerate administrative reforms and tax policies.

Meanwhile, continuous recovery in the commodity prices can increase growth risk.

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Pakistan ready to do business with world

20 January 2017, (MENAFN – Gulf Times) – Pakistan is on track of sustainable growth and is ‘ready to do business with the world’, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said in Davos, on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum (WEF).

In his address to businessmen on the sidelines of the 47th WEF, he said, ‘Offering attractive investment policies, Pakistan is a destination that no global player can miss. I invite you to take benefit from the economic revival of Pakistan and enjoy the first mover’s advantage.

Stressing the need for collaboration and co-operation, he said, ‘Without peace and stability, development remains an elusive dream.

He mentioned that Pakistan’s Vision 2025 served as a comprehensive strategy for achieving sustainable growth and mapped the country to join the top 25 economies in the world leading to upper middle income country status by 2025.

He said the economy was targeted to grow over 8% between 2018 and 2025 while maintaining single digit inflation.

The PM told the businessmen there was no minimum requirement for the amount of foreign equity, investment or upper limit on the share of foreign equity allowed except in the airline, banking, agriculture and media sectors and foreign companies were allowed to repatriate 100% profits.

The prime minister highlighted that Pakistan was the fourth largest milk producing country with third largest livestock population in the world.

The recent decision of Dutch leaders to invest US$460mn in Pakistan’s food and dairy sector is a testament of our potential, he stressed.

He said the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) was a key regional initiative for connectivity and shared prosperity of nations.

Meeting with Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg on the sidelines of WEF, Prime Minister Sharif said Pakistan greatly valued its relations with Norway.

He apprised the Norwegian premier of his government’s focus on trade and economic co-operation, rather than aid. The Norwegian premier appreciated Pakistan’s economic revival.

On the occasion, Sharif extended an invitation to the Norwegian premier to visit Pakistan.

Pakistan has devised a comprehensive plan to create an investment friendly environment and is liberalising its policies to welcome foreign entrepreneurs, PM Sharif said.

He was talking to heads of top ranking companies at a roundtable on the sidelines of WEF.

‘We offer incentives to attract new capital inflows, including tax exemptions, tariff reductions, infrastructure, and investor facilitation services,’ the prime minister said.

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Nine SEZs to be set up under China-Pakistan Economic Corridor

ISLAMABAD, Jan 16 (APP): Minister for Planing Development and Reforms Ahsan Iqbal Monday said that nine Special Economic Zones (SEZs) would be established in all four provinces, Gilgit-Baltistan (GB), Azad Jammu and Kashmir and two at federal level.

Talking to media after attending the meeting of parliamentary committee on China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), he said the committee was briefed about the proceedings of 6th Joint Cooperation Committee held in Beijing.

The parliamentary committee met here with Mushahid Hussain Seyed in the chair to discuss progress on CPEC projects and proceedings of 6th JCC held in Beijing (China) during last month.

He said the meeting was also informed about the projects included in CPEC by the Chinese government suggested by the provinces and approved by the prime minister.

Peshawar Circular Railway project, Gilgit Chitral to Cakdarah road projects were also included in the CPEC on the recommendation of government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, he added.

He said Noshki to Nokandi road project was also included in multi billion dollars deal as it was suggested by the Balochistan Government.

Ahsan Iqbal said the provincial governments were also asked to allocated place for the establishment of special economic zones in their respective provinces.

The JCC also approved the installation of North South transmission line which would also provide electricity for Peshawar and Dera Ismail Khan from the national grid, he added.

The parliamentary committee, he said was also apprised that the JCC also accorded approval for the development of water plant and 300 MW electricity plant at Gwadar.

The minister said work on the construction of Diamir Basha Dam would be started during current financial year and government would also allocate funds in its next year’s Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP).

The mega project would be able to store about 10-12 million acres feet water and to be completed in 10-12 years time, which would enhance water storage capacity of the country.

He said country was able to enhance electricity generation capacity to 15,000 to 16,000 MW in last 66 years, adding that government was working on different power generation projects to produce about 18,000 MW electricity in three years.

Speaking on the occasion Chief Minister Gilgit Baltistan Hafiz Hafeez Ur Rahman said all the provinces were presented in 6th JCC which give a good message to the Chinese government.

He said that China was intended to include Diamir-Basha Dam project in CPEC as about 48,000 hectares of land was acquired by spending Rs56 billion.

He said the historic project of the country would cost about US$ 15-16 billion, whereas about US$ 2 billion would be spent on the installation of transmission line.

The CM GB said construction of the dam would reduce the silting of Tarbela dam and Mangla Dam and enhance their life span, besides increasing the water storage capacity.

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Pakistani, Chinese artists hold joint exhibition

ISLAMABAD, Jan 19 (APP): A joint exhibition of Chinese and Pakistani art works is being displayed at the National Art Gallery in Islamabad.

The exhibition is part of the celebrations of 67th Anniversary of the Founding of the People’s Republic of China organized by the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in collaboration with Pakistan National Council of the Arts, Ministry of Information, Broadcasting and National Heritage.

The artists include He Dong an, Zhang Jinlian, Yang Baono Sun Jianhua, Yan Fuchu, Li Zhe, Wang Qi, Yuan Youqi, Liu Huilong from China, Mughees Riaz, R.M. Naeem, Abdul Jabbar Gul, Zahid, Anjum Ayub, Najam ul Hassan Kazmi, Asad ur Rehman, Farrukh Shahab from Pakistan.

The exhibition is comprised of about 56 paintings and 150 photographs, calligraphy and paintings reflecting the picturesque scenery of Hunan province, traditions and socio cultural life.

The exhibition also include the works of ten renowned Pakistani artists.

The Chinese artists in a talk held at PNCA today shared their experiences with the art students of different institutions of Rawalpindi/Islamabad and demonstrated their skill for education of the students.

The participants were briefed about the history of Chinese calligraphy and paintings.

The Chinese calligraphy is divided in 8 periods and that periods are of different dynasties like Han dynasty, pre Qin and Qin dynasties and Ming etc. All these period have different styles.

The artists will create art works also on spot painting during the show to provide opportunity to the audience to see and enjoy the special charm of Chinese calligraphy and paintings.

A large number of art students attended the session with Chinese artists and benefited from it.

Earlier Director General Jamal Shah met the artists and welcomed them to Pakistan and hoped that their visit will be beneficial for artists of both the countries.

He said such interaction and sharing of experiences will take the art of both countries to new heights. The artists invited Jamal Shah to visit China.

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Mosharraf inaugurates digital fair in Faridpur

FARIDPUR, 21 Jan 2017, (BSS)- LGRD and Cooperatives Minister Engineer Khondoker Mosharraf Hossain said here yesterday that the implementation of present government’s digitization process would bring an end to all sorts of exploitation and miseries of the common people.

Inaugurating a three-day Digital Innovation Fair-2017, organized by Faridpur district administration with the assistance of A2i programme, at Ambica Memorial ground, the minister said that the digitization process has already brought relief for people living in the rural areas.

The digitization process, he said, has created employment opportunities, including outsourcing, selling of products through Union Digital Centers (UDC).

The inaugural function was chaired by Deputy Commissioner Umme Salma Tanzia and addressed by ADC (Education & ICT) Eradul Haque, Additional Police Super Jamal Pasha and district Awami League president Advocate Subal Chandra Saha.

Mosharraf said that digitization would bring down corruption and ensure transparency in land administration.

The minister further said Bangladesh has achieved tremendous development in the field of digitization due to firm determination of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and the innovative ideas of her ICT advisor Sajib Wajed Joy.

In the fair a total of 56 stalls have been set up.

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Agri-Technology fair begins in Gaibandha

GAIBANDHA, Jan 21, 2017 (BSS) – A 5-day long Agri-Technology Fair-2017 is being held on the premises of Independence Square of the town here since Wednesday amid much enthusiasm.

Department of Agriculture Extension (DAE) has arranged the fair under the project of Nutrition and Food Security Ensuring through Integrated Agriculture Development in cooperation with district administration.

The main purpose of the fair is to familiarise the farmers with the latest and modern agri-technologies innovated by the agri-scientists to ensure food security in the country, said deputy director of DAE AKM Ruhul Amin.

To inspire the farmers to boost production of crops, and vegetables through using the latest agro-technologies to get desired output against the yield is another objective of the fair, he also said.

A total of 30 stalls had been set up in the fair and all section of people particularly the farmers are visiting the fair and familiarizing the technologies being displayed for them enthusiastically.

Earlier, whip of the Jatiya Sangshad and local lawmaker Mahbub Ara Begum Gini formally inaugurated the fair on Wednesday afternoon.

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196 Development Projects Executed In Parwan

January 18, 2017, Charikar City (BNA) At a cost of AFN 92,523,000 funded by the National Solidarity Program of the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development (MRRD/NSP) 100 infrastructure projects were completed in central Parwan province.

According to information of relation and publication department of MRRD to BNA, these development projects include the construction of roads, culverts, water canals, agricultural water supplies, protection walls and extension of water supplies networks that completed in Siagard district of the province.

During the works of these projects opportunities have been provided to numerous skilled and unskilled workers for short time.

Large number of families in various communities will have adequate access to basic human needs upon completion of these projects.

Since its inception in Parwan province, the NSP has able to cover 362 villages and implemented the construction work of 296 development projects in different sectors throughout the province.

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Contract On Construction Of Dare Souf-Yakawlang Road Signed

Saturday January 21, 2017, Kabul (BNA) Last week, a Chinese construction firm signed a contract to construct a key road in central Afghanistan. Minister of Public Works, Mr. Baligh and Vice-Chairman of China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC) Lu Shan signed the $204.9mln contract during a ceremony held at the Presidential Palace which was also attended by President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani and some other government officials.

In the ceremony, Minister Baligh said, “Launching of Dare Souf and Yakawlang road project by the Chinese firm will be undoubtedly effective in Afghanistan’s economic growth and it is a significant step for connecting of provinces. The road which goes through more than 37 villages will connect Dare Souf district in northern Samangan province to Yakawlang district of the neighboring central Bamyan province.”

The 178-kilometer road project was the second part of a National North-South Corridor and the first phase of the corridor which connects northern Mazar-e-Sharif city to Yakawlang has already been completed, and the ministry is currently in the process of planning and surveying of the third phase of the corridor, a 550-Km road, which connects Bamyan to southern Kandahar province, Minister Baligh added.

The project will definitely improve the connectivity in the country and the region at large, he said, adding that the project would further bring facilities for local farmers and it will also help the government to exploit a coal mine which is locating along the project.

The project comprises of building of a seven-meter road, eight big bridges as well as construction of 194 small bridges, according to Baligh. A number of experts told that the people are faced with many problems in the winter due to lack of proper roads and streets.

Calling construction of highways and roads important in daily life of people, a Kabul University lecturer, Abdul Ahad Moed said that people would face many problems if they didn’t enjoy proper roads. At the same time, the people hope that by launching big road-construction projects, the ground is paved for job opportunities to hundreds of people.

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Tehran to host Iran-Russia Historical Documents Seminar

Tehran, Jan 22, IRNA – The Iran-Russia Joint Historical Documents Seminar and Exhibition will be held at the Foreign Ministry’s Center for International Research and Education on January 30.

Distinguished political, cultural and scientific officials and personalities will be present in the meeting.

Diplomatic exchanges between Iran and Russia started since the establishment of the Safavid Dynasty and continued for five centuries.

Relations in different economic, political and cultural arenas have influenced the two countries’ and region’s destiny in the course of history. For the same reason, officials of the two countries decided to organize a historic conference with scientific and cultural elites of the two countries in attendance, in addition to displaying a selection of documents featuring bilateral relations.

Conference and Exhibition of Iran-Russia Joint Historic Documents will open on January 30 and will continue until February 5.

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Iran-Arab World Cultural Dialogue Conference ends in Qom

Qom, Jan 22, IRNA — The First International Conference on Iran-Arab World Cultural Dialogues on Moderation and Rationality ended in Qom on Sunday and moved to Mashhad for its closing ceremony.

The participants in a statement underlined the role of rationality and moderation in resolving implications and challenges facing the Islamic world and significance and continuation of dialogue among the Iranian and Arab elites.

They also called for promoting convergence among the Islamic Ummah.

The statement also highlighted the need for promotion of the culture of dialogues with a focus on rationality and moderation in the social and cultural spheres and making optimal use of capacities of the Islamic states’ civil institutes in the domain of rationality and moderation.

The statement also proposed the establishment of ‘Assembly of Scientific and Cultural Dialogues Among Iran-Arab Elites and Thinkers’ to prepare the way for regular and constructive dialogue between the Iranian and Arab thinkers. Qom will host the secretariat of the assembly.

Head of the Research Center for Islamic Sciences and Culture, Hojjatoleslam Najaf Lakzaei told the inaugural ceremony that over 100 people participated in the specialized panels of the conference.

The conference, attended by 85 Arab elites from over 10 Arab states, opened in Qom on January 21 and its closing ceremony will be hosted by Mashhad on January 24.

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Discovery of unique 7000-year old pottery in West of Iran

Tehran, Jan 23, IRNA – Pottery pieces unique in terms of the single color and bi-color illustrations dating back to the Dalma Culture have been unearthed in Nadali Beig Hill, Kermanshah Province, the Public Relations Office of the Research Institute of Cultural Heritage and Tourism (RICHT)reported.

RICHT quoted head of the exploration team in Nadali Beig Hill, Hannan Bahranipour, as referring to the background of the excavations in the region.

“Explorations were conducted with regard to the risk of destruction of Nadali Beig Hill located in the southwest of the city of Sonqor due to the building of a dam over Jamishan River.”

The archaeologist said that in this exploration season two trenches with the size of 5×5 meters and a stair bore hole with a size of 3×5 were studied in the western and central sections of the hill under investigation.

According to Bahranipour, on the basis of the results achieved in the explorations it was specified that the thickness of the deposits in Nadali Beig Hill is over four meters mainly dating back to the Copper and Middle Stone Age and the Dalma Culture.

He listed the findings in the explorations in Nadali Beig Hill as identification of several construction stages, remains of residential units, remains related to industrial activities and a large number of various potteries belonging to the Copper and Middle Stone era the architecture of which is made of adobe with clay mortar and built with the orthogonal plan.

The archaeologist described the variety of the pottery as unique and said the objects included pieces in single color and bicolor Dalma illustrations, the Dalma pressure pottery and pottery with thick red mud covering.

The head of the exploration team in Nadali Beig Hill said according to the preliminary study of the findings it seems that the most important settlement era on the Nadali Beig Hill dates back to the fifth Millennium BC and the Dalma Culture.

He noted that of course in recent centuries parts of the area had been used as the cemetery of the Islamic era and in some of the trenches remains of the burials could be observed.

Bahranipour said exploration in the Nadali Beig Hill was important as four decades have passed since the last excavations in the area with such an antiquity and all the archeological information about the Copper and Stone Age in Central Zagros are based on foreign archeological studies in pre-revolution period.

Stressing that such explorations have provided outstanding results in the field of archeology of the Copper and Stone eras in Central Zagros, he expressed hope that with the completion of the studies on the findings new light would be shed on the Copper and Stone Age in Central Zagros.

It should be noted that the Dalma pottery tradition including illustrated pottery, pottery with volumetric carving, pressure, punchy and added decorations, simple pottery with thick red mud covering enjoys a relatively vast area from northwest Iran to Central Zagros.

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Agreements to draw foreign investment signed in Chabahar

Zahedan, Sistan-Baluchestan prov, Jan 23, IRNA – Seven agreements on attraction of foreign investment were inked here on Monday in the presence of First Vice-President Eshaq Jahangiri.

The signing ceremony was held on the sidelines of an international conference on investment opportunities and sustainable development in the Makran coastal area that started work in Chabahar in this southeastern Iranian province.

The agreements, valued at three billion dollars, were signed by Indian, Omani, Chinese and South Korean investors.

Also, the first Iran’s oceangoing vessel was unveiled by Jahangiri at the Makran coastal area exhibition on investment opportunities.

The international conference on investment opportunities and sustainable development in the Makran coastal area will run for two days.

Chabahar in this Iranian province- neighbor to Pakistan and the Sea of Oman- has considerable economic capacities that can flourish the southeast of the country after being developed.

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Iran, Iraq, Syria to Launch Fibre Optic Link

TEHRAN, 18 Jan 2017, (NNN-IRNA) – Syrian Communications Minister Ali al-Zafir said that launching optic fiber between Tehran, Baghdad and Damascus is something necessary which should be implemented after the defeat of terrorism in that country.

Zafir made the remarks in a meeting with Iranian Communications and Information Technology Minister Mahmoud Vaezi in here on Tuesday.

‘Launching this project which has been considered since a time ago can broaden the trilateral cooperation,’ he added.

Al-Zafir also said that launching mobile phone’s third operator in Syria is very important, adding, ‘Its implementation should be materialized sooner.’

Vaezi, for his part, said that launching the third operator will result in boosting mutual cooperation.

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Turkish Airlines to fly to Guinea’s Conakry

ANKARA, Anadolu Agency — Turkish Airlines said Friday it would begin operating flights from Istanbul to Guinea’s capital Conakry — a port city on the Atlantic coast — by the end of January.

Guinea will be the national flag carrier’s 120th country it flies to while Conakry will be its 51st destination in Africa, according to the statement.

Flights between Istanbul Ataturk and Conakry International airports will be two days a week — Monday and Thursday — at costs as low as $699 all-inclusive, starting on Jan. 30.

Turkey’s flag carrier has over 330 aircraft and flies to almost 300 destinations around the world, more than any other airline, according to the company.

The airline increased its total number of passengers by 2.5 percent year-on-year to reach 62.8 million in 2016, according to a stock exchange filing report revealed on Jan. 11.

Turkish Airlines was named Airline of the Year by Air Transport News magazine readers in March 2016.

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2016 sees 2.5% rise in Turkish Airlines passengers

ANKARA, 11 Jan 2017 – Anadolu Agency — Turkish Airlines increased its total number of passengers by 2.5 percent year-on-year in 2016, a stock exchange filing report revealed on Wednesday.

Passenger numbers rose to 62.8 million in 2016 from 61.2 million the previous year, according to the filing posted on a public disclosure platform website.

The numbers of passengers carried in domestic and international flights were up 3.8 percent and 1.5 percent respectively in the same period.

“International Business Class passengers remained the same, while international-to-international transfer passengers increased by 14 percent,” the company said.

Seat occupancy declined by 3.1 points to 74.6 percent last year compared to 2015.

Turkish Airlines also said its number of destinations went up to 295, consisting of 49 domestic and 246 international locations — up from 284 the previous year.

The number of aircraft operated by the airline increased by 35 to 334, including 13 cargo planes, up from 299 in 2015.

Turkish Airlines was named Airline of the Year by Air Transport News magazine readers in March 2016.

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Abu Dhabi to Build Waste-To-Energy Plant in Sharjah

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates, 19 January 2017, (NNN-WAM) – Masdar, Abu Dhabi’s renewable energy company, signed an agreement with Sharjah Environment Company (Bee’ah), to develop a cutting-edge waste-to-energy plant in Sharjah.

The agreement was signed at Abu Dhabi’s Sustainability Week 2017, in the presence of Dr. Sultan bin Ahmad Sultan Al Jaber, Minister of State.

Diverting as much as 300,000 tonnes of solid waste from landfill each year, the project will help Sharjah reach its “zero waste-to-landfill” target by 2020, and the UAE deliver on its 2021 goal of diverting 75 percent of solid waste from landfills.

Masdar and Bee’ah signed the agreement to collaborate in the development of new energy projects, at ADSW 2016. The facility will incinerate up to 37.5 tonnes of solid waste per hour, to create 30 megawatts (MW) of energy. This will add more power to what is produced by Bee’ah’s auxiliary waste-to-energy project, which will eventually produce a total of 90 MW and will be supplied to the Sharjah electricity grid.

Khaled Al Huraimel, Group CEO of Bee’ah, said, “Today marks the first venture in the realisation of the partnership that we announced with Masdar last year. The cutting-edge Waste-to-Energy plant in Sharjah is a concrete example of what this strategic partnership will deliver to the UAE and the communities that we serve. We, at Bee’ah, have always been driven by our mission to make the UAE an icon of environmental best practices, and this plant will help us achieve our ambitious environmental goals for the Emirate.”

“The cooperation will lead to more projects and bold initiatives that will help the partnership to ensure a sustainable and green future for the UAE.”

“As one of the leading renewable energy developers in the Middle East and North Africa, we are proud to enter into a partnership with Bee’ah that will both diversify our clean energy portfolio and help commercialise sustainable solutions to Sharjah’s and the UAE’s waste management challenges,” said Mohamed Jameel Al Ramahi, Chief Executive Officer of Masdar.

“With GCC countries having among the highest rates of per-capita waste production in the world, sustainable waste management solutions are both critically important and a clear business opportunity. Masdar will combine its proven expertise in renewable energy project development over the last ten years with Bee’ah’s track record in environmentally responsible waste management, to deliver a project that will catalyse further investment in waste-to-energy infrastructure in the UAE and beyond,” he added.

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ISESCO, Al Qasimia University sign cooperation pact

Sharjah, UAE, 19 Jan 2017, (IINA) – The Sharjah-based Al Qasimia University and the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO), an affiliate of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), signed here on Thursday a cooperation agreement to initiate collaboration and joint projects in educational, intellectual, academic and cultural fields.

The agreement was signed by ISESCO Director General Dr. Abdulaziz Altwaijri and Vice Chancellor of Al Qasimia University Dr. Rashad Salem, in the presence of Dr. Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, ruler of Sharjah and president of Al Qasimia University, and a number officials.

The agreement envisages for cooperation between ISESCO and Al Qasimia University in the areas of education and scientific research as well as in training of academic staff in different specialties through joint projects including seminars, meetings and workshops.

The agreement also provides for collaboration between the two sides in the development of curricula and support of academic research works and their translation and publication.

By virtue of this agreement, the university will dedicate scholarships and enrollment opportunities at the different stages of higher education (BA, MA, and PhD) for the benefit of students and researchers from Islamic countries to be nominated by ISESCO in conformity with specific academic criteria.

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Ethiopians Sweep Medals at World’s Richest Marathon in Dubai

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates, 21 Jan 2017, (NNN-ENA) – Tamirat Tola Adere, won, on Friday, the world’ s richest long distance run, the Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon 2017, while his countrywoman, Worknesh Degefa, won her debut Marathon in the women’s category, at a time of 2 hours 22 minutes and 35 seconds.

Tola was victorious with a new personal best time of 2:04:11. He and Degefa will receive some 200,000 dollars in prize money. “In the first quarter of the race, I was confident I could be on top of this marathon,” said Tola.

Degefa said, she wants to spend the money mostly on charity for poor children in her country.

Tola’s compatriots, Mule Wasihun and Sisay Lemma Kasaye, passed the finish line near Dubai’s landmark hotel Burj Al Arab, as second and third, respectively, with times of 2:06:46 and 2:08:04. As in recent years, Ethiopians swept the podium to the joy of the thousands of Ethiopian fans and aficionados along the track, along the Dubai Jumeirah road and at the finish line. For the women, Ethiopians Shure Demise and Arage Yebrgual passed second and third at times of 2:22:57 and 2:23:13, respectively.

The 25-year-old winner, Tola, bronze medallist in the 10,000-metre run, at the Summer Olympics in Rio last year, kissed the ground after completing the 42.195 kilometre-long track, before opening his arms toward the sky.

Men’s top seed and three-time Olympic gold medallist, Kenenisa Bekele, also from Ethiopia, dropped out at kilometre 21. It was the second time for Bekele to quit the Dubai race during the run. The 34-year-old Ethiopian also dropped out in 2015.

Bekele missed the men’s world record (2 hours 2 minutes and 57 seconds) of Dennis Kimetto from Kenya, by just six seconds, when he won the Berlin Marathon on Sept 25, 2016.

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Oman Air sees its contribution to economy hit RO900mn in 2017

Muscat, 19 Jan 2017, (MENAFN – Muscat Daily) – Muscat- Oman Air increased its contribution to the sultanate’s gross domestic product (GDP) by six per cent last year to RO415mn. And this contribution to the national economy, the national carrier said, is projected to RO900mn in 2017.

‘Even in the context of increasing global volatility, economic downturn and drastically reduced government support from over RO100mn to just RO20mn in 2016, Oman Air increased its contribution to Oman’s GDP by six per cent last year to RO415mn. This is projected to grow further to a staggering RO900mn in 2017; creating employment opportunities for Omani nationals, bringing tourists to the sultanate, building global connections and last but not the least, supporting SMEs,’ Oman Air said in a press release issued on Wednesday.

Continued fleet and network expansion, together with a renewed focus on on-board services and developments will be a priority for Oman Air in 2017. These will help the airline drive up revenues, increase its growing contribution to the national economy and deliver against its ten-year development plan, the carrier said.

This message will be reiterated at Oman Air’s major global conference to be held in Muscat on Thursday.

The conference will be opened by H E Maitha al Mahruqi, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Tourism and deputy chairman of Oman Air, and hosted by Paul Gregorowitsch, chief executive officer of the airline.

Hundreds of staff from all over the world will congregate in Muscat, where they will hear an update on 2016 results and discuss the outlook for Oman Air in 2017. The focus will be on achieving improved results and providing the best possible customer experience, despite the continuing unpredictabilityin the market.

The airline continued to prove its worth on the international stage in 2016 with a raft of industry awards to add to its growing collection.

Oman Air signed a revised flight agreement with the Indian government resulting in increased frequencies to five of Oman Air’s 11 Indian destinations. It plans to launch a new four-times weekly flight from Muscat to Nairobi, Kenya at the end of March this year. A new daily flight to Manchester, UK will start from May 2017 services to Pakistan will be boosted with the launch of a new Muscat to Peshawar flight set for later in the year.

Oman Air said fleet expansion is critical to support the network expansion and 2016 saw the introduction of six new Boeing 737-800s joining its fleet. With the addition of the new Boeing 737-800, Oman Air’s fleet stands at 46. Currently Oman Air’s fleet consists of four Boeing 787 Dreamliners, six Airbus 330-300s, four Airbus 330-200s, five Boeing 737-900s, 22 Boeing 737-800, one Boeing 737-700 and four Embraer 175s. Three more Boeing 737 – 800s are scheduled to join the fleet and this year, Oman Air will be unveiling new B787-9 Dreamliners and revamping the existing Airbus fleet.

Gregorowitsch said, ‘2016 was a year of significant growth. Our progress in the past year could not have been achieved without the ongoing support of all our business partners. These include the Public Authority for Civil Aviation (PACA) in securing our increasing entitlements and the Oman Airports Management Co (OAMC) who tirelessly helped us to accommodate increasing flights and passenger numbers at a constrained airport; we look forward to the new passenger terminal opening later this year.’

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Saudi Investors Briefed on Opportunities in Heritage Villages

Riyadh, 19 Jan 2017, (MENAFN – Saudi Press Agency) – Investors, media representatives and government officials were briefed yesterday on the promising investment opportunities in the traditional heritage villages, rural guest houses and agricultural hostels in the tourist track in the north of Riyadh region.

During its tourist trip organized by the branch of Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTNH) in Riyadh, the delegation watched many historical sites and heritage and tourist places in Shara’a governorate, Ashiqar center and Al-Qasab village, 180 kilometers north of the capital Riyadh.

The nearly 48 participants in this tourist and cultural journey, consisting of reporters, writers, academics, retired officers and businessmen have enjoyed visiting a number of tourist, cultural and historical attractions such as private museums, historical sites, heritage villages, popular Souqs (markets) and buildings of architectural heritage.

They were also briefed on the traditional professions, famous products of craftsmen and productive families in these sites as well as the popular meals and drinks.

This visit comes within the framework of the support being provided by the SCTNH in Riyadh region in facilitating and organizing many tourist trips to the most famous tourist attractions and archaeological heritage in the region for various segments of the society.

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Unifying Medicines Prices in GCC Countries Necessary – Kuwait

KUWAIT, 15 Jan 2017, (NNN-KUNA) – Kuwait’s Ministry of Health on Saturday called for unifying prices of medical and pharmaceutical products in the six member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) for “securing safe medicines at competitive costs.”

The 30th meeting of the GCC committee for pricing pharmaceutical products, due in Kuwait on Monday, aims at coordinating among the member states at this level, said Dr. Mahmoud Abdulhadi, the assistant undersecretary for legal affairs at the MoH, in a statement.

In view of new international measures for registering pharmaceutical companies and their products, the GCC commission has mapped out pricing policies to set the rates of medical drugs ahead of registration.

Moreover, previously-taken ministerial decisions by the GCC countries can pave way for unifying the regulations related to the medicines drugs’ pricing.

Separately, the head of the implant department at Hamed Al-Issa Center, affiliated to the MoH, affirmed in a statement significance of the third GCC conference for kidneys and organs implant, due in Kuwait on Thursday.

Kuwait, since launch of the kidney implant program in 1979, has developed into one of the leading regional countries in the field, he said.

The conference, due to proceed till January 22nd, will involve participants from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, the United States of America and the United Kingdom.

Heads of international implant associations will also take part in the convention.

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Dubai Holding launches Sandstorm, UAE’s largest obstacle race

DUBAI, 16th January, 2017 (WAM)– The global investment company Dubai Holding announced today the launch of Sandstorm, an exciting obstacle race open to all fitness levels and backgrounds, under the patronage of H.H. Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of Dubai Executive Council.

Sandstorm is set across 5km and 10km distances through four terrains – rock, sand, water and mud with more than 30 unique obstacles that blend perfectly into a backdrop of sand dunes, lakes, greenery and wildlife right in the heart of Dubai’s desert landscape.

The first edition of the race will be held on 27th January 2017 at the Al Qudra Lakes, within the Al Marmoum Conservation Reserve Dubai.

Designed by an award-winning team of international course designers, the course features more than 30 and 40 unique and challenging obstacles for the 5km and 10km races respectively. Sandstorm will also include a dedicated Race Village facility, which will offer a range of entertainment and leisure activities for race participants and families.

Commenting on the launch, Vice Chairman and Managing Director, Dubai Holding Ahmad bin Byat said, “Dubai Holding is pleased to launch the UAE’s largest obstacle race – Sandstorm, an exciting obstacle challenge that takes advantage of Dubai’s unique energy and landscapes. Sandstorm marks the onset of 10th year anniversary celebrations of Dubai Holding Corporate Wellness Programme. It also underscores our organisation-wide commitment to supporting initiatives that encourage health and well-being in a variety of forms, from simple healthy eating campaigns to organising and participating in national competitive events.”

He further commented, “We are very encouraged to see growing interest and enthusiasm for Sandstorm, and we look forward to welcoming participants from across the UAE and beyond to participate. Sandstorm demonstrates Dubai Holding’s commitment to preserving the UAE’s natural environment, while encouraging sustainability by promoting eco-awareness with minimal environmental impact.”

Registration is now open for participants of all fitness levels. Sandstorm is a fun, and achievable course, staffed by qualified professionals. To ensure the safety for all involved, full risk assessments have been completed by qualified experts, and trained marshals and first aid personnel will be onsite throughout the event.

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Jordan’s Pharmaceutical Exports Reach US$958mln in 2016

AMMAN, Jordan, 19 Jan 2017, (NNN-PETRA) – Jordan’s pharmaceutical exports expanded by nine percent in 2016, amounting to JOD 676 million (USD 958 million), while imports dropped by 10 percent to JOD 457 million (USD 648 million), according to an industry source.

Muhammad Shahin, President of the Jordanian Association of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers, said, the industry is working to raise exports to JOD 1.3 billion (USD 1.84 billion) and cover more than 50 percent of local demand.

He explained that, the rise in the Kingdom’s pharmaceutical exports is the fruit of cooperation between the private and public sectors, emphasising that, the pharmaceutical industry remains a cornerstone of the national economy and a source of foreign currency.

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Islamic Art Museum to reopen in Cairo

19 January 2017, (Al-Ahram Weekly) – On Port Said Street in the Bab Al-Khalq neighbourhood of downtown Cairo stands the honey-coloured edifice of the Museum of Islamic Art (MIA) with its neo-Mameluke architecture and luxurious decorated façade.

In January 2014 a car bomb aimed at the adjacent Cairo Security Directorate blew a six-metre crater in Port Said Street while also ripping into the façade of the MIA building whose second floor is shared by the National Library and Archives.

After two years of hard restoration and rehabilitation work, the museum has been renewed, and as Al-Ahram Weekly went to press President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi was scheduled to officially re-inaugurate the museum.

The restoration work started in 2015 when the United Arab Emirates responded to a call for funding for the campaign, making a grant of LE50 million and working hard in collaboration with the Ministry of Antiquities to rescue the MIA and its priceless collection that reflects the glory of Islamic civilisation.

“We are thankful to the UAE for its support in bringing the museum back to its former glory in collaboration with Egyptian and foreign experts,” Minister of Antiquities Khaled Al-Enany told the Weekly, adding that the UN cultural agency UNESCO had contributed $100,000 for the restoration of the museum’s laboratories.

Other countries, NGOs and the private sector had provided additional support, he said. The Italian government had given €800,000 to buy new showcases and provide training for the museum’s curators, the American Research Centre in Cairo in collaboration with the Swiss government had contributed LE1 million to restore the museum’s façade, and the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History and the Metropolitan Museum in New York, together with the German and Austrian authorities, had helped train museum curators and restorers.

“These contributions highlight Egypt’s strong and deep friendship with many countries,” Al-Enani said, expressing his happiness at the official re-opening of the MIA. “The restoration and re-inauguration of the MIA embodies Egypt’s victory against terrorism and its capability and willingness to repair what terrorism has damaged as well as stand against any terrorist attempts against its heritage,” he said.

Elham Salah, head of the Museums Sector at the Ministry of Antiquities, told the Weekly that the museum’s façade, building and halls had been restored and new state-of-the-art security and lighting systems installed. All the mountings required to erect large artefacts had been replaced and new showcases put in their display positions.

The collection had been rearranged the way it was before the bombing, with the exception of the souvenir hall, previously located at the centre of the museum, she said. This has now been relocated outside the museum at the end of the visitor route.

A hall displaying Islamic coins and weapons has been inserted in the exhibition design as well as another hall for Islamic manuscripts. One hall exhibits the daily lives of people down through the Islamic period, along with musical instruments and children’s toys.

“With the addition of these objects the MIA’s collection has increased to 5,000 artefacts from the 1,874 items that had previously been on display,” Salah said, adding that among the items were 2,000 coins.

MIA director Ahmed Al-Shoki said the original plan had been to re-display the MIA collection according to its previous exhibition design, but that a few changes had been made in order to introduce a new display concept to MIA visitors.

A study had been carried out by the museum’s curators to see if anything could be improved in the MIA’s original exhibition design. As a result, the gift shop has been relocated and in its place has come a hall for Islamic weapons and coins.

All the open showcases had been closed, Al-Shoki said, to prevent dust affecting the artefacts. 14 new showcases have been installed and a new display concept has been designed for the museum’s entrance hall to reflect the contributions of Islamic civilisation.

The entrance hall now had five showcases, Al-Shoki explained, displaying objects reflecting main elements that contributed to the birth of Islamic civilisation. In the middle is a showcase displaying a copy of the Holy Quran from the Umayyad period and near it is an ancient key to the Kaaba in Mecca representing the pilgrimage.

The remaining three items are lamps decorated with Kufic writing representing Arabic literature, a ceramic vessel from Iran to show the contributions of non-Arab countries to Islamic civilisation, and an astrolabe showing the development of Arab science. A wooden door decorated with foliage and geometric elements is also among the objects on display.

“Artefacts that were damaged in the explosion and have been restored are also on display within the collection, and they have been distinguished from the others by special labels,” Al-Shoki said.

He said the blast had damaged 179 artefacts. 169 have been completely restored, while 10, all carved in glass, are beyond repair. Among the most important are a rare decorated Ayyubid jar and an Umayyad plate in porcelain.

A three-month exhibition of the damaged and restored objects is being held for the re-opening of the MIA, with materials showing the efforts made to return the objects to their original condition and the restoration carried out at the Museum.

Al-Shoki said a showcase displaying objects from the former ruling Mohamed Ali family was being added to the exhibition. This includes a golden copy of the Holy Quran being exhibited for the first time, clothing worn by former Kings Fouad and Farouk, and documents concerning Farouk’s marriages, including wedding invitations.

The museum’s funerary arts hall has been converted into a hall exhibiting Arabic calligraphy. The new hall shows the different styles of Arabic calligraphy through a collection of manuscripts and inscribed wood and stone. The hall originally dedicated to calligraphy has been converted into a hall showing instruments used in daily life.

The hall resembles a residential house from the Islamic era, and includes children’s toys, jewelry, pots and pans and musical instruments.

“The void in front of the hall is dedicated to a three-dimensional sound-and-light show telling stories about distinguished sultans, scientists and artists from the Islamic era,” Al-Shoki told the Weekly. He added that the narration would be in English, French or Arabic at different times during the week.

“The MIA storage areas were not affected by the explosion. All of them are safe and sound, except gallery 16 which had not been touched since 1903,” he added, explaining that this gallery had now been improved by the Emirates team.

The MIA was first proposed in 1869, even before the establishment of the Committee of Arab Antiquities that was set up to form a national collection of Islamic art. The Museum of Islamic Art opened its doors in 1881 with an initial display of 111 objects gathered from mosques and mausoleums across Egypt initially exhibited in the arcades of the mosque of the Fatimid Caliph Al-Hakim.

Owing to a rapid increase in the size of the collection, a new building was constructed in the courtyard of the mosque in 1883 to house what had now become a considerably enlarged museum. In 1899, the government began construction work on the present building, and in 1903 the Islamic Museum opened with a display of 3,154 objects originating from Egypt and other countries.

While the museum’s name has been changed over the years, in 1952 its trustees settled on the institution’s present name, the Museum of Islamic Art, in recognition of the contributions of non-Arab Muslims. Since then, the museum has become the main repository for the Egyptian national collection of Islamic art and, owing to new discoveries, purchases and donations, this now boasts some 100,000 objects.

Nevertheless, by the time renovation work started on the museum in 1999, it had been beset by negligence. In all the 100 years or so of its existence the museum had never once been renovated, except for an attempt to clean the institution’s walls and renovate the displays in 1983. Attempts at a more comprehensive renovation were frustrated in part by the building’s upper floor being occupied by a separate institution, the National Library and Archives.

In 2003, the Ministry of Culture launched a comprehensive restoration plan for the museum in order to reinstate its original function and splendour. The master plan for the renovation work and the new exhibition design was drawn up by French designer and museographer Adrien Gardère in cooperation with the Islamic Art Department of the Louvre Museum in Paris, which had recommended the reorganisation of the museum’s collections.

The plan shifted the museum’s main entrance to Port Said Street, where it had originally been. From there, visitors first encounter an introductory gallery that presents Islamic arts and Muslim countries and their locations in the world in a mixed display made up of panels, maps and objects from the collection.

They also get an idea of the geography of Cairo and the early Islamic city of Fustat, the oldest Islamic settlement in Egypt. In 2010, the restored museum was officially inaugurated with 1,874 objects distributed among 14 galleries and open courts.

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Egyptian Art And Liberty On Display in Paris Gallery

Egypt, 19 Jan 2017, (Al Ahram Weekly) – The Pompidou Centre in Paris, home to one of the world’s most important collections of modern and contemporary art, has been playing host to an intriguing exhibition of Egyptian Surrealism, reminding visitors that this early 20th-century international movement in the arts was very far from being confined just to Western Europe.

Though it opened last October, there are still a few days left to catch the exhibition, entitled Art et liberté, rupture, guerre et Surréalisme en Egypte in its Paris iteration, before it closes later this month and moves to the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid and the K21 Museum in Dusseldorf before ending up at the Tate Liverpool in northern England in 2018.

This is a suitably international trajectory for an exhibition showcasing the Egyptian expression of what was always an international movement in the arts, even if it is unfortunately one that does not include a visit to Egypt or any other Arab country.

The exhibition is curated by independent curators Sam Bardaouil and Till Fellrath, also responsible for the “Nefertiti Theorem” exhibition shown at the Institut du monde arabe in Paris a few years ago (reviewed in Al-Ahram Weekly in September 2013).

According to a catalogue note by Bardaouil, as well as being the first time Egyptian Surrealism has been exhibited on a museum scale anywhere in the world, the exhibition is the culmination of years of research into the Egyptian art world of the 1920s and 1930s of which the Nefertiti exhibition was also a part.

Surrealism, a revolutionary movement associated with the desire of the early 20th-century European avant-gardes to break the authority of established artistic conventions, to reject tradition, and to reveal the world afresh in unexpected, unnerving and, for some at least, politically revolutionary ways, originated from Dadaism and other movements that thrived in Europe in the wake of World War. It was perhaps associated particularly with the Frenchman André Breton, who served as the movement’s entrepreneur and overall ideologue.

Yet, it was also more cosmopolitan than Breton’s Paris base might sometimes have implied. There were Surrealists at one time or another in most Western European countries, and figures as different as the Belgian artist René Magritte, also the subject of a current Pompidou exhibition, and the Spaniard painter Salvador Dali were for a time at least paid-up members of the Surrealist cause.

Inevitably there were schisms, and the Surrealist message was susceptible to becoming muffled or watered-down as time wore on, with both Magritte and especially Dali choosing to present the public with what could look like a set of intellectual conundrums or feeble puns.

But Breton insisted to the end that Surrealist doctrine, reflected in the movement’s early manifestos, implied both intellectual purity in the face of art market compromise and political domestication and the kind of radical charge associated with the breaking up of the complacent surfaces of everyday life, the liberation of the subversive mix of unconscious processes, and the engagement of the kind of dérèglement de tous les sens – in the French poet Arthur Rimbaud’s famous words – that called into question the solidity of the social world by “deranging” or fundamentally changing the ways in which it was viewed.

To what extent Surrealism was a European import into Egypt and to what extent it grew from native ground is a question the exhibition tackles head on, with joint curator Sam Bardaouil’s gently polemical catalogue essay arguing that neither option quite captures what was special about the Egyptian movement.

The Egyptian surrealists were influenced by European art practices, and some, perhaps most, had been trained and saw the most significant market for their work in Europe, in so far as it had one at all. But this did not mean that Egyptian Surrealism was simply a European import and a colonial-era cultural movement that, lacking native roots and a local audience, inevitably shrivelled when the political framework supporting it disappeared.

On the contrary, Bardaouil says, the movement drew on local practices and intervened in genuinely local debates. It was at least as authentic an expression of modernity in Egyptian art as its contemporary competitors, themselves the products (in an uncharitable view) of established European art practices, except this time ones more acceptable to larger audiences both in Egypt and abroad.

While comforting impressionist landscapes, romanticised figure paintings, and, generally, the whole repertoire of the styles and iconography of post-19th-century European art found fertile ground to grow in Egypt where it ruffled few if any feathers, looking attractive on salon walls, Surrealism was deliberately challenging of established taste and was designed to be socially and politically subversive.

It was often ugly and even unpleasant, and it was hardly well-adapted either for decorative purposes or for comforting the social and political status quo. The arbiters of official taste at the time, and the leading art collectors, at least at first showed little interest in legitimating or acquiring Egyptian Surrealist works.

Bardaouil has some amusing comments in the catalogue on the response of Mohamed Mahmoud Khalil, Egypt’s foremost private collector at the time, to Egyptian Surrealist art. Khalil’s collection, today on display at the Mahmoud Khalil Museum in Cairo, was made up of museum pieces even at the time it was put together, since he was interested chiefly in connoisseurship and collecting the art of previous generations.

This was not at all the kind of work the Egyptian Surrealists were interested in producing, and they saw their work as having an altogether more disruptive charge. As a result, they were blackballed by the official art institutions of the time, the price to be paid, they thought, for insisting on the liberty of the arts to produce discomfort and challenge the status quo.

AROUND THE EXHIBITION: It is with the official art institutions of the time that the Paris exhibition begins, the first room being arranged around a film clip of Egyptian king Farouk visiting the Cairo Salon in the later 1930s organised by the Society of the Friends of Art.

According to the exhibition notes, it was this state-endorsed culture of exhibition practice that the Art and Liberty Group, a group of young Egyptian artists drawn to experiments in contemporary international art, was particularly concerned to fight. In a conservative domestic context in which artists were invited either to align themselves with nationalistic forms of art in line with the needs of the political regime or to produce the conservative material that covered the walls of the annual Salons, those associated with the Art and Liberty Group were determined both to look outwards and to bring art shudderingly down to earth.

Their polemical intent was signalled early on in a document, included in the exhibition, that could almost be taken as a manifesto. Published in December 1938 in Cairo, this document, entitled yahya al-fann al-munhat (Vive Degenerate Art), was produced in the same month that the Art and Liberty Group was founded.

It joined Group members – among them the poet Georges Henein, the painter and later film director Kamel Al-Telmisany and the painters Fouad Kamel and Ramses Younan – to the fight against fascism in Europe, where so-called “degenerate art,” including Surrealism, had been proscribed by the Hitler regime. It identified the Group with international experiment, chiefly Surrealism, and with an international politics of art.

As well as signalling the desire of its signatories to join the international anti-fascist cause, the document also broke with the provincial nationalism and political conservatism of much of the Egyptian art of the time, often more concerned to resurrect the vanished glories of ancient Egypt in, for example, Neo-Pharaonism, or sentimentalise traditional, chiefly rural, life in sugary neo-impressionist painting, than to bring contemporary politics into the reassuring world of art.

These were options rejected by the Art and Liberty Group members, who wanted to see a modern Egyptian art that not only thought of its Egyptian-ness in more challenging terms, but also called into question the conventional geo-politics of art. Committed to the anti-fascist struggle in Europe and the struggle against vertiginous social inequalities at home, interested in Marxism, with its criticisms of the domestic and international economic order, in psychoanalysis, with its critique of the ego, and other cultural movements of the time, they were unwilling to be confined within a limited art paradigm.

The exhibition makes these points by showing the pomp and circumstance associated with the Cairo Salons and the reality of most Egyptian lives at the time. The Group organised its first exhibition in February 1940, some months into the Second World War at a time when Egypt had been pressed into what was still a European war by the 1936 Anglo-Egyptian Treaty which guaranteed British use of the country in time of war. British and Commonwealth soldiers roamed the streets of Cairo, much as they had in World War I, and the dire economic circumstances of the period pushed hundreds, probably thousands, of women into prostitution.

There is an interesting echo of this situation in Egyptian Nobel laureate Naguib Mahfouz’s contemporary novel The Beginning and the End, in which a young woman, pushed into prostitution by economic circumstances, is forced to commit suicide by her brother in a well-known literary depiction of an “honour crime.” The Egyptian film director Salah Abou Seif later made a famous film version of this book, and Midaq Alley, another novel from this period in Mahfouz’s career, also deals with economic deprivation in strikingly frank terms.

As far as the exhibition is concerned, such brutal realities are illustrated by rooms devoted to the British military occupation of Egypt during World War II and the often frightful living conditions of much of the Egyptian population at the time. Room two of the exhibition, “the Voice of Canons,” examines the responses of the Art and Liberty Group to the War and brings together some fascinating original materials, among them film clips, interviews, and publications from the period.

Room three, “Fragmented Bodies,” examines the Group’s depictions of the human figure, particularly those of women, in the circumstances of the War, substituting the idealised representation of even the most wretched human figures in traditional Symbolist and Realist art for “deformed, dismembered and distorted bodies…(that) poignantly illustrate the injustices of the time,” as the exhibition notes put it.

This theme is continued in room five, “the Woman of the City,” in which the Group’s criticisms of sexual difference are presented, often in explicitly feminist terms. Material protesting against the exploitation of women is presented by Henein, Al-Telmisany, Younan and others, including articles that appeared in the Group’s Arabic and French-language publications. Paintings and photographs by Amy Nimr and the painter and activist Injy Afflatoun, joining the Group at the age of just 18 for its third group show in 1942, draw attention both to the circumstances of the War and the ways in which these pressed with particular force on women’s lives.

Perhaps rooms four and six, on “Subjective Realism” and “the Contemporary Art Group,” make up the exhibition’s core, and it is in them that Bardaouil and Tellrath have been most able to further their arguments about the original ideological content and lasting importance of the Art and Liberty Group’s programme. Writing in the exhibition catalogue, Bardaouil draws particular attention to Al-Telmisany and Younan’s writings of the time, which debate questions of European influence, local and imported styles, popular traditions, artists’ training, and the appropriate styles and content of modern Egyptian and by extension Arab art at a time of thorough-going social change.

The imitation of European academic styles could not be the answer, as this made Egyptian artists the prisoners of the established order, reproducing the familiar political and economic division of colonial centre and colonised periphery. Pastiche Neo-Pharoanism ran the risk of reactionary nationalism, comforting to the regime, but ultimately sapping the artist’s independence of mind. The adoption of popular traditions in the name of authenticity could result in “reverse orientalism,” freezing artistic innovation and producing at best a decorative and at worst a reactionary form of art.

In these circumstances, Al-Telmisany wrote, what could be a more appropriate for Egyptian art than Surrealism? “Have you never been to the Egyptian Museum,” he asked one hostile critic, quoted in the catalogue. “A large proportion of Pharaonic art is Surrealist. Have you never been to the Coptic Museum? A lot of Coptic art is Surrealist… The word ‘Surrealism’ is simply the technical term for what has always been identified as the freedom of the imagination. Freedom of expression, freedom of style – the Orient has been the home of these things for an eternity.”

ART AND LITERATURE: European Surrealism was a movement across the arts, and this was also true of its Egyptian cousin. Rooms eight and nine of the exhibition, on the contributions of Georges Henein to the Group and “Writing with Pictures,” draw attention to the movement’s work in literature as well as in the visual arts.

Born in 1914 and the son of diplomat Sadik Henein Pasha, Henein was one of the Art and Liberty Group’s chief ideologues as well as a distinguished poet and critic in his own right. His international connections and private means allowed him to assist both in organising the Group’s joint shows and in supporting its publications, notably the Arabic-language periodical Al-Tatawwur and the French-language journal and publishing imprint La Part du Sable.

Al-Tatawwur served, with the French-language periodical Don Quichotte and the Group’s exhibition catalogues and bilingual bulletin Art et Liberté, as a forum in which writers and critics associated with the Group could publish their work. La Part du Sable and the associated imprint Editions Masses published a series of literary and critical works from 1944 onwards, many of them included in the exhibition. Among these were works by Henein himself as well as La Maison de la mort certaine, a first novel by the Franco-Egyptian writer Albert Cossery, whose Arabic-language short stories had previously appeared in Al-Tatawwur.

The final rooms of the exhibition draw attention to the Art and Liberty Group’s influence and afterlife, presenting the new adventures of selected careers. Some members of the Group, particularly those with strong international connections, left Egypt for France or other countries. Others struggled with changing political circumstances at home.

According to the catalogue, Henein was “forced into exile” in 1962, living for the rest of his life in Paris. Cossery left Egypt in 1945, publishing his next eight novels in Paris and becoming a fixture of literary life in the French capital. Al-Telmisany was arrested for political activities in 1946, subsequently seeing periods in and out of gaol but eventually making a career in cinema. The editor of Al-Majalla Al-Gedida, a left-wing newspaper, until it was banned by the government, Younan was imprisoned for political activities before leaving Egypt in 1947.

Other members of the Group stayed in Egypt, where two of them at least had remarkable careers. Injy Afflatoun became one of the best-known artists of her generation, not only for her artistic work but also for her political commitments and conflicts with successive political regimes. Abdel-Hadi Al-Gazzar, associated as a young man with the Art and Liberty Group before becoming one of the best known members of its successor the Contemporary Art Group, produced pictures that brought together European technique with vernacular iconography, becoming one of Egypt’s most celebrated artists before his death in 1966.

Taken as a whole, Art et liberté, rupture, guerre et Surréalisme en Egypte is a remarkable exhibition that appeals on several levels. For those familiar only with modern European art, it provides a welcome excursus into extra-European modernism. For those having some familiarity with both, it modifies standard accounts of Surrealism and complicates ideas of self and other in 20th-century art.

Sponsored by Qatari national Hassan Al-Thani, from whose personal collection some of the works on show are drawn, and by the Sawiris Cultural Foundation in Egypt, it opens up intriguing questions for research on the global reach and local manifestations of 20th-century experiments in the arts.

An earlier Pompidou Centre exhibition, Modernités plurielles, a stimulating rehang of its permanent collection, sought to re-examine conventional Eurocentric narratives of the origins and development of modern art. The present Egyptian Surrealism exhibition continues this ambition, with Bardaouil and Tellrath’s catalogue containing much previously inaccessible material that will appeal to anyone interested in Egyptian and international modern art.

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New Hopes for Tourism in Egypt

Egypt, 19 January 2017, (Al-Ahram Weekly) – Egypt is pinning high hopes on this year lifting the country’s ailing tourism sector, which has been struggling since the 25 January Revolution in 2011.

Minister of Tourism Yehia Rashed said at the end of last year that 2017 could be the “year of the rebirth of the tourism industry”.

The sector, which has been suffering since the revolution, received its biggest blow in late 2015 when a Russian passenger airliner crashed over Sinai, killing all 224 people on board.

Since then Russia, the UK and several other countries have halted flights to the popular Red Sea resort of Sharm El-Sheikh, making 2016 the worst ever year for the industry.

Only three million tourists visited Egypt in the first six months of 2016, dropping by 50 per cent compared to the same period last year, with the country netting just $500 million in tourism revenues in the first quarter of 2016.

A total of 5.3 million tourists came to Egypt in 2016, down 40 per cent compared to the previous year, Rashed said.

The number of tourists visiting the country is now slowly growing, with some countries resuming air travel, such as Germany and Belgium, and raising hopes for the imminent resumption of flights from Russia and the UK.

These two countries send the majority of foreign tourists to Egypt.

Ahmed Al-Gabri, the owner of a shop in Sharm El-Sheikh’s Neama Bay, said that the situation was still difficult in the Red Sea town, although there had been a slight improvement over the last couple of weeks because of the Christmas holidays.

“Unless flights from Russia and the UK are restored, the situation will continue to be bad,” Al-Gabri told Al-Ahram Weekly.

He said that although Germany and Belgium had lifted their flight bans, the numbers of tourists coming from these countries were small compared to Russia and the UK, which account for 75 per cent and 20 per cent of tourists coming to Sharm El-Sheikh, respectively.

He said he believed flights would resume in the first three months of 2017, after which tourism could rebound.

The Colliers MENA Hotel Forecast shows that occupancy rates in Egypt’s tourist resorts of Sharm El-Sheikh and Hurghada have remained weak, standing at 26 and 29 per cent, respectively, in a three-month forecast from December 2016 to February 2017. Colliers is a global leader in commercial real estate services.

Egypt has been implementing tighter security measures at airports since the Russian plane crash, and the authorities have repeatedly said that everything possible has been done to ensure security and safety at Egyptian airports.

Several Russian delegations have visited Egypt to inspect the security measures, with experts giving positive assessments of the equipment and security measures taken at the country’s airports. However, flights have not been resumed, and different deadlines have been given for their resumption.

It is unclear how many checks it will take to resume the flights between the two countries, but they once again agreed to exchange visits this month.

Russian President Vladimir Putin told President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi in late December that Russian flights between Moscow and Cairo would resume soon, the Egyptian presidency said in a statement.

Vacationers who went to Sharm El-Sheikh during the Christmas holidays told the Weekly that security measures at Sharm El-Sheikh Airport had been tightened significantly.

They said they were thoroughly searched by highly trained personnel from the National Falcon Company for Airport Security, which is now responsible for security screening at Sharm El-Sheikh Airport.

Falcon signed an agreement in June last year with British company Restrata for Consulting and Training to develop the skills of 7,000 Egyptian Falcon Group personnel in airport security procedures.

In November, The United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) and the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) called on the UK government to lift the ban on UK flights to Sharm El-Sheikh.

In a letter to British Prime Minister Theresa May, the two organisations stressed the importance of resuming flights to the Egyptian coastal resort, saying that the ban was having devastating effects on Egypt’s economy and social stability.

The letter added that the Egyptian authorities had taken significant measures to step up the level of security at airports and surrounding areas.

Though the UK has recently reinstated direct flights to Luxor, there is little indication yet as to whether direct British flights will resume to Sharm El-Sheikh.

The UK’s and Russia’s ban on flights are related to political issues rather than security, said Ahmed Balbaa, head of the tourism committee at the Egyptian Businessmen Association (EBA).

He said that the bans had been in place for more than a year, indicating that they were politically motivated. Balbaa said that should the bans be lifted, the sector would be poised for a rebound. But there were other problems in the sector that needed to be addressed in order for it to take off, he said.

Balbaa said that the government needed to help finance the refurbishment and renovation of hotels after years of deterioration and also help improve other tourist-related services, such as transportation and training.

In Colliers MENA Hotel Report, Egypt lost one position on the Guest Experience Index (GEI) that indicates hotel guests’ general perception of a property’s quality in the MENA region. It ranked fifth in 2016, down from the fourth in 2015. The top two countries on the Index were Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Balbaa said that the Central Bank of Egypt had announced a LE5 billion fund for hotel refurbishment, an initiative that he described as “good”.

He also stressed the importance of setting minimums for hotel prices, depending on the category of hotel, in order to preserve the quality of services and the industry overall. “There should be no such thing as a five-star hotel offering a room for $20 per night,” Balbaa told the Weekly.

Hotels in Egypt have been making promotional offers at low prices in a bid to attract visitors after instability after the Revolution scared off tourists.

Balbaa added that the country had a problem in marketing and reaching out to new markets, saying that the sector would not rebound if these problems persisted. “It’s not only about the travel bans. We also need to address these issues,” he said.

The J Walter Thompson Company (JWT) will launch a promotional Egypt tourism campaign in Russia one week after the flights resume, according to press reports. The company won a $68 million three-year contract to market Egypt abroad, but suspended its campaign after Russia suspended flights to Egypt in late 2015.

There is another reason for tourism to rebound in 2017, which is the US financial company Bloomberg’s list of 20 destinations to visit this year.

Bloomberg listed Egypt as among 20 destinations to visit in 2017, saying the country was now ready to receive tourists after overcoming years of political turmoil. “In addition to heightened safety, many brand-name hospitality firms have started recommitting to Egypt,” it said.

It ranked the Giza Pyramids at the top of its list of sites to visit in Egypt and pointed to the opening of the tombs of Queen Nefertari and the Pharaoh Seti I after years of restoration, adding to the rich array of attractions Egypt had to offer.

“Travelers will find the country offers a more rewarding experience than ever before,” Geoffrey Kent, founder of luxury tour operator Abercrombie & Kent, was cited as saying.

Egypt’s tourism sector is one of the country’s main foreign-currency earners. More than 14.7 million tourists visited Egypt in 2010, dropping to 9.8 million in 2011 after the revolution took place.

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Egypt Plans to Open Long-Awaited Civilisation Museum

CAIRO, Egypt, 19 Jan 2017, (NNN-XINHUA) – In the heart of Egypt’s ancient Islamic capital, near Cairo, the National Museum of Egyptian Civilisation (NMEC), the first museum of civilisation in the Arab world, will partially open within weeks.

The museum will be the only one in the North African country, to present the full range of the richness and diversity of Egyptian civilisation, throughout the ages.

For now, and due to financial difficulties, only one temporary exhibition gallery will be opened soon, with costs estimated at over two million U.S. dollars.

The ministry will rely on local and international fund-raising campaigns, as well as, profits made by the museum itself, to cover the costs of completing the whole project.

Although only one showroom will be inaugurated, the long-awaited museum still means much, with regards to Egyptian and human civilisation.

“The museum will focus on intellectual achievements in historical stages of Egypt’s ancient civilisation,” Saeed Mahrous, supervisor-general of the museum, told Xinhua. “The museum will also display rare antiques from the prehistory stage.”

Mahrous said, it will portray Egyptian contribution to world civilisation, in a way that extends beyond what is visible, to include information about knowledge, skills and values.

The museum’s 5,000 collections will be displayed in a core permanent exhibition of the principal achievements of Egyptian civilisation, with six thematic galleries covering the Dawn of Civilisation, The Nile, Writing, State and Society, Material Culture, Beliefs and Thinking and the Gallery of Royal Mummies.

“It will also have temporary exhibition spaces, an auditorium and an education and research centre, as well as, an exhibition on the development of the modern city of Cairo,” the official said.

The museum is built over some 130 acres in the archaeological site of al-Fustat.

It lies to the north of Coptic Cairo, which encompasses the Babylon Fortress, the Coptic Museum, the Hanging Church, the Greek Church of St. George and many other Coptic churches and historical sites.

Its corner stone was first laid in 2002, and construction work started in 2004.

The museum was scheduled to be inaugurated in 2011. However, construction was suspended for some three years after the 2011 revolution, which dethroned former leader, Hosni Mubarak, after his ruling of 30 years.

The museum’s cost is estimated at over 80 million dollars, that are fully covered by the Egyptian government. However, UNESCO is providing technical support in the construction process.

The museum was designed by Egyptian architect, al-Ghazzali Kosseiba, and Japanese interior designer, Arata Isozaki.

“Its collection will include archaeological and ethnographical artefacts, paintings and jewellry, intangible heritage collection and master pieces, ranging from prehistory to nowadays,” Mahrous said.

The museum will also act as a venue for a variety of events, including film screenings, conferences, lectures and cultural activities.

“It utilises state of the art exhibition methods, to present innovative and interactive visions of Egyptian civilisation, thus connecting the past with the present,” Mahrous explained.

Egypt, one of the most ancient civilisations, has been working hard to preserve its archaeological heritage and discover the secrets of the archaeology of the Pharaohs and other ancient civilisations across the country.

It’s in a bid to revive the country’s ailing tourism sector, which has been suffering an acute recession over the past few years, due to political turmoil and relevant security issues.

The North African country netted just 6.1 billion dollars in tourism revenues in 2015, a drastic downturn from 12.5 billion in 2010, according to the country’s Central Agency for Public Mobilisation and Statistics.

In an age of globalisation, Mahrous added, the museum stands as an educational lighthouse, projecting different facets to Egyptians.

“The museum is not only focusing on showing Egyptian civilisation, it will be a pioneering institution in the region; it can thus become a world-wide hub for inter-cultural dialogue,” the official said, adding that, it is also a national centre for research, conservation, restoration and a secure antiquity storage facility.

Designed as a major attraction for visitors to Egypt, the museum will have an important role to play, in raising awareness of modern and contemporary Egyptian history and society, hosting events and temporary displays and exhibitions, and providing an important centre for the country’s youth.

“It is not just a museum. It is a cultural facility showing the cultural, social, economic and artistic evolution of Egypt’s 7,000-year-old civilisation,” Mahrous Sanadidi, the museum’s chief archaeologist, told Xinhua, as he observed workers setting up shelves in the temporary showroom.

Unlike other museums which show artefacts, Sandidi said, it will view Egypt’s intangible heritage through documentaries and multimedia-based tools, showing Egyptian daily life traditions, industries, agricultural development and many other cultural aspect.

The official said, the museum will help restore the ailing tourism industry in Egypt, pointing out that the location of the museum helps make it a tourist attraction.

“The museum is surrounded by many significant tourist and archaeological sites. It is hugged by many ancient monuments, as well as, Cairo’s only remaining lake,” he said.

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Solo exhibition by Algerian virtual artist in Illinois

CHICAGO (United States), 19 Jan 2017 (Algeria Press Service) – French-Algerian visual artist Kader Attia is to hold a solo exhibition from Jan 21 (until Apr 16) in the Museum of Art at the Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois, the museum’s website reported.

Under the theme “Reflecting Memory,” Kader Attia presents a 40-minute video dealing with memory.

The artist was awarded a Marcel Duchamp prize in October 2016, which is one of France’s most prestigious art awards.

Born in France in 1970, Kader Attia is an internationally renowned artist whose works deal with the post-colonial era and the heritage of the United States and Europe.

In 2014, he received the award of the Academy of Arts in Berlin.

The artist, who lives in Berlin and Paris, took part in a collective exhibition at Guggenheim Museum in New York, along with other artists from the Middle East and North Africa.

Attia appeared in the list of the 100 most distinguished artists in Africa, ranking eighth, in a report by a magazine specialized in the African modern and contemporary art market in 2015.

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11th Int’l Hotel Equipment & Catering Exhibition Opens in Algiers

ALGIERS, 17 Jan 2017, (NNN-APS) – The 11th International Exhibition of Equipment and Services for Hotels and Catering (SIEL-Algeria) opened here Monday with the participation of more than 110 exhibitors, which are presenting their experience and equipment and furnishing for hotel establishments.

This exhibition, organized under the patronage of the Minister of Tourism and Craft Industry and held until Thursday, “will make known the innovations in equipment and hotel and restaurant decoration, according to current international standards”.

This exhibition provides an opportunity for professionals to exchange experiences, notably in the field of equipment and furnishing of hotel establishments and restaurants.

The Ministry said it was being held at a time when several tourism projects, notably hotels, are underway, which involves their equipment according to current international standards to improve their service and contribute to the creation of sustainable economic growth.

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US to Help Egypt Restore Hundreds of Pharaonic Era Coffins

CAIRO, 18 Jan 2017, (NNN-AGENCIES) – Egypt will restore hundreds of coffins dating back thousands of years to the time of the pharaohs as part of a joint American-Egyptian project to document and preserve one of the world’s oldest civilisations, a director of the project said.

The conservation effort, funded by a United States grant, will restore over 600 wooden coffins that date to various eras of ancient Egypt and which are currently being stored at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.

“There has been no other project like this worldwide with this number of coffins being documented or restored,” said head of the museum’s restoration department Moemen Othman.

Egypt was awarded the conservation grant, worth US$130,000 (105,034 pounds), in December 2015.

That project is part of a larger U.S.-Egypt treaty signed in 2016 to curtail illicit trafficking of the country’s rich cultural heritage.

Antiquities theft flourished in Egypt in the chaotic years that immediately followed its 2011 uprising, with an indeterminate amount of heritage stolen from museums, mosques, storage facilities, and illegal excavations.

Global interest in Egypt’s pharaonic era remains high. The hunt for the resting place of the lost Queen Nefertiti grabbed international headlines in 2015, though the search has yet to bear fruit.

The gilded ancient relics and resting sites of the pharaohs were once the cornerstone of a thriving tourism sector, a vital source of foreign currency that has suffered near endless setbacks since the uprising that toppled autocrat Hosni Mubarak in 2011.

The Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation, a United States programme founded at the turn of the century, has been responsible for the conservation and restoration of countless ancient sites, museums, and artefacts around the world.

The fund previously helped Egypt conserve a mausoleum in historic Cairo and an ancient temple in Upper Egypt.

“One of the main goals of the project is to ensure that the (Egyptian) museum has a full inventory of the objects and understands their conservation needs, so that the coffins can be made available for research by scholars but also for the public,” Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation Program Director Martin Perschler said.

“It means that in the long run more people here in Egypt and people from around the world will have the opportunity to discover and appreciate the full range of heritage and of history within this single collection of coffins,” he said.

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Next 20 Years an Era for Sustainable Energy Development in Algeria

LONDON , 20 Jan 2017, (NNN-APS) – Algeria is determined to make the next 20 years an era of real development for sustainable energy, says Energy Minister Noureddine Boutarfa.

“We have set ambitious and promising targets for renewable energy, and we are determined to make the newt 20 years an era of real development for sustainable energy,” he says in an interview with the Oxford Business Group published here this week in its 2016 report on Algeria.

The Minister recalled that Algeria’s national renewable energy programme envisages 47 to 57 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030, of which more than 9.0 TWh should be installed by 2020.

“The initial phase of our programme has already been launched, and since the end of 2016, Algeria has developed a capacity of 343 megawatts (MW) distributed throughout 14 provinces,” he said, underlining that currently, 16 plants, with a capacity of 195 MW are already functional and provide renewable energy to the network, and another six are set to come on-line shortly.

These first plants had enabled Algeria to identify constraints and challenges which can arise during the development of large-scale renewable energy projects, explained the minister.

Boutarfa stressed that the national renewable energy development programme will allow for the large-scale development of renewable energy facilities combined with a national industry, which will include all elements of the renewable value chain, including engineering, equipment and construction.

“We are paying particular attention to creating the best conditions to achieve the objectives assigned to the new renewable development strategy,” he said.

The assessment of the national energy sector has confirmed that it possesses the needed competencies and capacities, and as such Algeria’s strategy will aim to help participating companies grow by guaranteeing them an environment suitable for their continued development, he added.

Boutarfa added that in order to accelerate the programme’s implementation, a call to investors to participate in the development of 4,000 MW in solar energy projects was being finalized by the energy sector for the installation of electricity-generating facilities from renewable sources.

“The call makes it possible for investors to build power plants for energy at pre-selected sites, which will facilitate the procedural aspects for investors, as well as increase the pace of implementation,” he said.

Studies concerning the connection of these sites to the electricity grid are underway to determine the capacity of the power stations to be installed, he added.

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Algeria to Build Six New Dams in 2017

ALGIERS, 19 Jan 2017, (NNN-APS) – Algerian Water Resources and Environment mINISTER Abdelkader Ouali has announced that six new dams will enter into service in the country this year, including the Mellague Dam in the province of Tebessa which will be commissioned in the forthcoming days.

These infrastructures are being added to the national complement of dams which now comprise 75 dams compared with just 31 in 1999, Ouali told members of the Parliamentary Committee of Finance and Budget of the People’s National Assembly (Lower house of Parliament) here Wednesday.

In this regard, he said, Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal would be officiating at the inauguration of Mellegue Dam (Tebessa), while adding that five other dams would become operational in the second half of 2017.

He also told the committee that his Ministry had identified 80 more sites for the construction of new dams.

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China, Egypt to Boost Digital, Environmental Cooperation

CAIRO, Egypt, 17 Jan 2017, (NNN-XINHUA) – Egypt and China inked, on Monday, a memorandum of understanding (MoU), to develop digital, trade and industrial projects between the two countries.

The MoU was signed by Li Pumin, secretary general of China’s National Development and Reform Commission, and Yasser Qadi, Egyptian minister of communications and information technology.

The memo aims at setting up a database for e-commerce and investment, as well as, developing digital cooperation through “Online Silk Road,” a new programme that seeks to link Egyptian cities with their Chinese counterparts.

Also on Monday, Li and officials from Egypt’s ministry of environment, signed another MoU, to boost mutual cooperation on environmental issues.

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Diversity of Morocco’s tourism offer highlighted at FITUR in Madrid

Madrid (IINA) – The diversity and richness of the Moroccan tourism offer are highlighted at the 37th edition of the International Tourism Fair in Madrid (FITUR 2017), which opened on Wednesday with the participation of exhibitors, professionals, and experts from all over the world

The Moroccan stand, which spans over an area of 312 m2, offers a full panorama of Morocco’s tourist attractions, notably its cultural and natural richness as well as the quality of its tourism and leisure infrastructure, Morocco World News reported

In a statement to MAP, director of Morocco’s Tourism Office (ONMT) in Spain, Mohammed Sofi, stressed the importance of the Moroccan participation in this fair in order to promote the national tourism product and highlight its diversity

During the event, the Moroccan delegation will hold several B2B meetings with tour operators, airlines, and professionals in order to strengthen links with international partners and prospect new markets, he added.

He also noted that Morocco continues to be among the favored destinations of Spaniards, with a 2 percent increase in arrivals in 2016 despite a tense international situation.

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Tunisian businessmen to participate in packaging and process fair

Tunisia, January 18, 2017, Tunis Daily News – 150 Tunisian businessmen will take part in the “Interpack 2017” packaging and process fair, to be held in Dusseldorf on May 4 10, 2017. They will be supervised by the Tunisian-German Chamber of Industry and Commerce (AHK), said Natascha Boussiga, Deputy Director General of the Chamber, at a news conference in Tunis, reiterating the AHK’s commitment to support industrialists and business leaders, and boost the Tunisian-German economic relations.

“Interpack 2017″, which is held every three years, will bring together over 2,700 exhibitors from 60 countries, Thomas Dohse, director of the exhibition, reminding that the last edition of the show attracted nearly 174,798 visitors, 95% of them said their expectations were met and 67% said they were able to attract new suppliers. ”

The main theme of Interpack 2017 will be the reduction of food waste. The third World Food Security Conference will take place on May 4, 2017, on the fringes of the fair with the participation of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the United Nations World Food Programme.

According to Dohse, “this event will be the occasion to organise an additional exhibition for the subcontractors active in the sector of packaging technologies and interested in the latest technical developments in this field. Packaging machines and apparatus for food products, beverages, confectionery, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, industrial products and services will be displayed.

The packaging industry is one of the main economic sectors on a global scale. The international packaging market is growing at an annual rate of 3.5% and will reach 900 billion Euros by 2020.

According to statistics from the research institute Euromonitor International, 4,258 billion packaging units were sold in 2015, 50% of which are made of plastic. 753 million tonnes of packaged food products were also sold, with an overall value of 2 billion Euros (2015). This value would be increased to 3 billion Euros in 2020, an increase of 13%.

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Harvard’s Center opens field office in Tunisia

Tunisia, January 18, 2017 – Tunis Daily News – – The Center for Middle Eastern Studies (CMES) at Harvard University on Wednesday opened its first overseas office, in Tunisia, home to a tradition of learning and research that extends from Antiquity to the present.

The office and the year-round programs run from the location are made possible by the support of Harvard College alumnus Hazem Ben-Gacem (AB ’92), said a senior official.

“The Middle East is a part of the world that you’ll never fully understand unless you get your feet on the ground and experience it first-hand,” remarked William Granara, CMES director and Professor of Arabic.

“Thanks to Hazem’s generosity, Harvard students and scholars have greater resources to pursue in-depth field research and can more substantively engage in language and cultural immersion experiences,” he noted.

“From the beginning the hope has been to establish an outpost where Harvard faculty and students would come to discover Tunisia – its history, language, culture, art, and people – and integrate this experience into their scholarship and education,” remarked Ben-Gacem.

“I am very excited by this first step towards a substantial Harvard presence in Tunisia,” he stated.

Founded in 1954, CMES, through interdisciplinary teaching and research, has produced hundreds of graduates with Middle East and North Africa (Mena) expertise who have gone on to directly impact students, scholars, and the public both in the US and around the world.

Its Tunisia office will provide students and scholars with a bridge to renowned Tunisian archival facilities, serve as an incubator for analysis of the evolving social, cultural, legal, and political movements in the region, and offer an intellectual hub for scholars of, and from, Tunisia, the Maghreb, the Mediterranean, and the wider Middle East region.

“Broadening the contexts in which teaching and learning happen at Harvard is a crucial element of our engagement with the world,” noted Harvard president Drew Faust.

“We are always seeking opportunities to make the University more intentionally global, and the field office in Tunisia will bring the world to Harvard and Harvard to the world in exciting new ways that will shape important work across fields and disciplines,” he stated.

Programs available at the Tunis location for students and faculty from across the University include Harvard Tunisia Scholarships for Harvard graduate and undergraduate research, funding for Harvard faculty sabbatical research, an Arabic language summer program for Harvard graduate and undergraduate students, and a three-week Winter Session course for Harvard students, he added.

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Three Tunisian industrial companies awarded national quality prizes

Tunis, January 18, 2017 – Tunis Daily News – The 2016 National Quality Awards were given Tuesday to three Tunisian industrial companies. Coficab, which specialises in automotive cables, was awarded the top prize. Airliquide, operating in chemical industries, and electronics manufacturer Phoenix Mecano Digital got the second and third prizes respectively. The prizes are meant to promote the culture of quality in national companies and encourage those that attained high quality levels.

The quality system put in place in Coficab helped supply large car manufacturers, CEO Awatef El Goul told TAP. About 80% of automotive cables for Mercedes cars and 70% for Peugeot are manufactured in Tunisia, she indicated.

Nearly 2,150 Tunisian industrial firms were certified in 2015 as meeting quality standards, said Director General for the National Quality Programme Management Unit at the Industry and Trade Ministry Anis Gaida Mahjoub. The programme targets at least a further 150 companies in 2017.

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Five Tunisian shoes exhibitors attended ‘Expo Riva Schuh’ in Milan

Tunisia, January 18, 2017 – Five Tunisian companies took part in the Expo Riva Schuh International Shoe Show, held in Milan, Italy, from January 14 to 17, 2017.

These companies have exhibited a wide range of products fairly representative of the variety of Tunisian offer to export.

This participation aims to increase Tunisian know-how in the leather and footwear sector, representing 8% of Tunisian exports to Italy, with the aim of attracting more buyers and potential customers.

The “Expo Riva Schuh” is dedicated to the medium-priced product and the footwear business for large-scale retailers. The fair, whose frequency is biannual, is at its 87th edition. This edition attracted over 1,449 exhibitors from more than 40 countries.

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Diversity of Morocco’s tourism offer highlighted at FITUR in Madrid

Madrid, 19 Jan 2017, (IINA) – The diversity and richness of the Moroccan tourism offer are highlighted at the 37th edition of the International Tourism Fair in Madrid (FITUR 2017), which opened on Wednesday with the participation of exhibitors, professionals, and experts from all over the world.

The Moroccan stand, which spans over an area of 312 m2, offers a full panorama of Morocco’s tourist attractions, notably its cultural and natural richness as well as the quality of its tourism and leisure infrastructure, Morocco World News reported.

In a statement to MAP, director of Morocco’s Tourism Office (ONMT) in Spain, Mohammed Sofi, stressed the importance of the Moroccan participation in this fair in order to promote the national tourism product and highlight its diversity.

During the event, the Moroccan delegation will hold several B2B meetings with tour operators, airlines, and professionals in order to strengthen links with international partners and prospect new markets, he added.

He also noted that Morocco continues to be among the favored destinations of Spaniards, with a 2 percent increase in arrivals in 2016 despite a tense international situation.

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Moroccan expatriates’ remittances up by 3.4% in 2016

Rabat, 17 Jan 2017, (IINA) – Remittance outflows from Moroccans living abroad increased by 3.4 percent in 2016, according to the Exchange Office.

Last year, the remittances reached 62.2 billion dirhams compared to 60.2 billion dirhams in 2015, the Rabat-based Exchange Office said in its preliminary indicators of 2016.

For its part, the travel balance showed a surplus of 49 billion dirhams, a 3.3 percent increase compared to 47.5 billion dirhams a year ago, the Office noted, explaining that this performance is due to an increase in tourism receipts by 2 billion dirhams, Morocco World News reported.

Foreign direct investment (FDI) reached 22.7 billion dirhams in 2016, compared to 31.8 billion dirhams a year earlier.

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Vietnamese President hails his country`s relations with Azerbaijan

Baku, January 20, AZERTAC – Vietnamese President Trần Đại Quang has hailed his country`s relationship with Azerbaijan as he met with a delegation led by Energy Minister, co-chair of Azerbaijan-Vietnam Intergovernmental Commission Natig Aliyev.

He noted the role of national leader Heydar Aliyev and former Vietnamese President Ho Chi Minh in establishing Azerbaijani-Vietnamese ties.

President Trần Đại Quang expressed his confidence that the Intergovernmental Commission will contribute to developing the bilateral ties between the two countries in the fields of trade, economy, education, public diplomacy, culture, tourism and energy.

Minister Aliyev said he believes that the Vietnamese President will visit Azerbaijan soon at the invitation of President Ilham Aliyev. “The visit will be a remarkable event in the history of relations of the two countries,” he said.

Aliyev hailed Azerbaijan-Vietnam political dialogue. He praised the outcomes of the first meeting of the Intergovernmental Commission that took place in Hanoi.

The minister pointed out great potential for energy cooperation between the two countries. Aliyev also noted the necessity of the opening of Azerbaijan`s Embassy in Vietnam so that “we can develop our bilateral cooperation in all areas”.

President Trần Đại Quang expressed his hope that he will have the opportunity to pay a visit to Azerbaijan in the near future.

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10 Reasons to travel to Central Asia

Posted By Dave and Deb

15/01/17, Kazinform – Not many people know about Central Asia. Places like the Middle East and Asia are spoken about among travellers, but where is Central Asia? This jigsaw puzzle of countries is situated south of Russia, west of China and north of Iran and Pakistan. Commonly referred to as “the Stans“, the countries that make up this region are: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. Afghanistan is also sometimes included in the list.

This ancient land is drenched in history and culture and with so few tourists daring to venture here, you’ll have the sites, people and experiences virtually all to yourself!

Here are 10 Reasons To Travel to Central Asia:

  1. It’s The Perfect Time

Central Asia is slowly starting to become noticed by travellers. Little Kyrgyzstan has already eased visa restrictions and has set up homestay and adventure programs, making it fairly simple for you to visit and experience the country. There’s just enough tourism infrastructure in the region at the moment, yet it retains it’s authenticity and still feels like an epic place to travel. Currently there are only a handful of tourists travelling here, however, things are definitely picking up and soon (we predict) this part of the world will be swarming with backpackers and travellers all wanting a piece of The Stans.

  1. The Adventure

This isn’t a part of the world for beach-bumming and sauntering around in flip-flops, this region is rugged, rough and ideal for intrepid travellers. Horse-trekking, camping, helicopter rides, road trips through the mountains and hiking over high passes are just some of the adventures waiting for you in Central Asia.

  1. The Culture

Central Asian people lead very interesting lives. Each country has its own unique culture and customs, but there are many similarities between them. Throughout the region, Islam is the faith of choice, people are traditionally nomadic, horses are the means of getting around in the countryside and everyone has a strong connection with their family and community.

  1. The Yurts

In Mongolia, round felt homes are scattered all over the countryside and they’re typically called gers, in Central Asia, they are called yurts. Today, people in the countryside commonly sleep in these circular structures, which are movable and therefore perfect for nomadic people. Made from wooden beams, latticework, sheep’s wool, felt and canvas, these homes are warm in the winter, yet cool in the summer. Sleeping in a yurt beside a burning stove is a highlight of any trip to Central Asia.

  1. The People

Due to its proximity to China, Mongolia, Iran and Russia, this part of the world is an interesting melting pot of people and ethnicities! You may be in Tajikistan, but find yourself looking at someone with green eyes, light skin and a thin nose. Tajiks are actually descendents from the Aryan people, meaning they are closely related to Iranians/Persians. Regardless of whether the people look Asian, Persian, European or Arabic, everyone is extremely warm and welcoming here. Most people are very interested in foreigners, as they don’t see too many of us. Just make sure to bring a Russian Phrasebook so you will be able to communicate a few key sentences with your new friends.

  1. The Mountains

The towering mountains in the Central Asian region are some of the highest in the world. The Pamir Mountains are formed by the meeting of the Himalayas with the Tian Shan, Karakoram, Kunlun and the Hindu Kush ranges. These massive, snow-capped peaks are commonly referred to as “The Roof of The World”. The Pamir Mountains are mostly situated in Tajikistan and Afghanistan, but span north to Kyrgyzstan, south to Pakistan and east to China. Seeing these beautiful ranges is a once in a lifetime opportunity.

  1. The Pamir Highway

At 4,655 meters (15,270 feet), this is the second highest highway in the world! This is the only continuous route through the difficult terrain in the Pamir Mountains, and is the main supply line for Tajikistan’s Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Province. The Pamir Highway was also an important road during the Silk Road days. Today, many people cycle, hitch-hike or hire a jeep to take them through this volatile land filled with lakes, mountains, historical sites and friendly faces.

  1. The Markets

Some of the most interesting markets in the world can be found in Central Asia, which is no surprise given its Silk Road Trading Route legacy. Spices, dried fruits, nuts, fresh meat, clothing and house wares can all be found at the bustling local markets of the stans. Some of the best markets are in Osh (Kyrgyzstan), Almaty (Kazakhstan), Ishkashim (Afghanistan/Tajikistan border) and the covered bazaar in Bukhara (Uzbekistan). Markets play a huge part in the day-to-day life in Central Asia, make sure you visit one… or as many as you can!

  1. The Nature

Being out in nature is good for the soul, there’s no doubt about it. Central Asia has its large cities, but outside of them, you’ll find miles and miles of uninhabited lands. Rivers cut through the mountainside, flowers bloom in the meadows and the sky is as blue as the alpine lakes. This is the perfect place to enjoy peace and quiet, go for a walk and spot some interesting wildlife on the way (like the Marco Polo Sheep, and if you’re very lucky, a snow leopard).

  1. The Historical Sites

Given the history here, it’s no surprise that there are some interesting sites to explore. Check out the petroglyphs (rock engravings) along the Pamir Highway, visit towering fortresses and bathe in the age-old Bibi Fatima natural hot springs. The history and archeological sites in this region of the world (both man-made and natural) are fantastic.

Have we convinced you to travel to Central Asia?! If you’re interested in visiting a land filled with history, fantastic sights, colourful people and unbelievable nature, consider Central Asia. Now is the time to get here, before the crowds arrive.

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Kazinform: Central Asia’s population to exceed 70 million in 2017

09/01/17 ASTANA. KAZINFORM – This year the population of Central Asia is expected to exceed 70 million, according to Yerlan Karin, Director of the Kazakh Institute for Strategic Studies under the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan.

“It is expected that this year the population of Central Asia will hit the mark of 70 million and even exceed it. Why is it so important? Because 25 years ago the population of all Central Asian countries taken together amounted to only 50 million people. It has grown by 34 per cent over the past two decades. This is a high figure given that the population growth in Central Asia is influenced by such favorable factors as life span growth and reduction of mortality,” Mr. Karin said while speaking about the 10 most important events in Central Asia in 2017 at the KazMediaCenter on Monday.

In his words, those factors will help preserve the pace of life span growth and reduction of mortality in the future. “In our opinion, this is a historic milestone that should be taken into account by the governments of Central Asian countries in their socioeconomic and other policies. It will also shape new reality for the region,” he concluded.

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Chinese musicians organized “Happy Spring Festival” in Astana

19.01.2017, Kazinform – Chinese musicians organized “Happy Spring Festival” in Astana. The gala concert was dedicated to the Chinese New Year and the 25th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Kazakhstan and China. The beauty and elegance of the traditional Chinese music was presented by Guangdong Orchestra. Founded in 1949, it is considered one of the leading orchestras in China. For the Kazakh audience, the musicians performed such popular Chinese works as “Dragon Boat Festival”, “Pleasant night,” and “Village rhythm”

ZHANG HANHUEY, AMBASSADOR OF CHINA TO KAZAKHSTAN: Guangdong music is a specific southern music. It is very soft and beautiful. Our New Year’s celebration is a spring festival. So, we want to share the joy of the festive atmosphere together with the Kazakh people.

ZHANG LI, CONDUCTOR, DIRECTOR OF ORCHESTRA: It is our first time in Kazakhstan and we are very happy to perform here. Our countries were located along the Silk Road and have always been good neighbors. We have established trade relations, but we also want to develop cultural ties. Kazakhstani people were able learn more about Chinese culture through our performance.

“Chunjie” or Spring Festival is the bright traditional holiday in China. According to the Eastern calendar, it is held on January 28th. The concert organizers wished that this year marks a new stage in the development of the Kazakh-Chinese relations, and said they were looking forward to performances of the Kazakh artists in China.

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Arts and games fair celebrates Kazakh traditions

Astana, 20.01.2017, Kazinform – Kazakh national competitions are reviving in Kazakhstan. One of the most exciting among them is Zhamby atu. It is an equestrian competition, in which men are tested for agility and combat skills, traditionally, the game attracts great interest.

Zhamby atu is, perhaps, one of the most ancient Kazakh shooting competitions. According to the rules, competitors should unseal a hanging disc with an animal skin on it by riding a galloping horse and shooting an arrow at the same time. There is a time limit. According to the rules, the jury award top marks for speed and accuracy. In ancient times, these competitions were considered as a test for the strength of men. At present, this is just art.

AITBEK SARYBAI, SHOOTER: You should control a horse’s speed and place the arrow shaft on the arrow rest at the same time, and finally hit the target. It is not easy to do it while you are galloping. Therefore it is necessary to train yourself to participate in such sort of competitions.

GANI AKHMETBAYEV, CHIEF MEMBER OF JURY : There are world championships in Zhamby Atu held worldwide nowadays. Qualifying competitions are held here to select the best shooters for large-scale championships. We hope that we will be able to select the strongest participants so they could perform well on international arena.

Zhamby atu was included in the list of Kazakh national games two years ago. This made the ancient sports competition more popular not only in Kazakhstan but also in other countries. In addition, cooking contests were held in Southern Kazakhstan. They brought together participants from 20 ethno-cultural associations. Recognized masters of various ethnic groups competed in cooking the Kazakh national dishes. Representatives of each cultural center prepared a lamb following the traditional recipe, laid the table, and welcomed guests who, in return, evaluated their skills.

LATIFSHA ASSANOV, CHAIRMAN, TURKISH ETHNO-CULTURAL CENTER: The Festival is aimed at demonstrating that we know the Kazakh language, respect the Kazakh culture and can cook all types of Kazakh national dishes. For instance, today we cooked ‘zhanbas’ (lamb’s hip), that is what we show.

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Astana, Dubai to Boost World Expo Cooperation

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates, 19 Jan 2017, (NNN-WAM) – National Company (NC) Astana EXPO 2017 and EXPO Dubai 2020 Bureau, signed on Wednesday, a memorandum of understanding (MoU) and cooperation, in Abu Dhabi, according to a joint e-mailed statement.

The document was signed by Akhmetzhan Yessimov, the chairman of the board, at NC Astana EXPO 2017, and Najeeb Mohammed al-Ali, the executive director of EXPO Dubai 2020 Bureau, on the sidelines of the ongoing World Future Energy Summit, in the capital of the United Arab Emirates (UAE),

“The UAE is one of Kazakhstan’s key partners,” said Yessimov in the statement. “Given the fact that both countries will be hosting the EXPO, it is necessary to strengthen cooperation between the organisers of the exhibitions. We have agreed to share knowledge and experience, and provide the maximum support for each other.”

Construction works for the Astana EXPO 2017, slated to take place from June 10 to Sept 10 in 2017, are 95 percent complete, said the statement.

Dubai Expo 2020, expected to run from Apr to Oct in 2020, is the first World Expo organised by an Arab city.

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Azerbaijani carpets displayed at Int’l exhibition in Germany

Baku, January 16, AZERTAG.AZ – The carpet samples by Azerkhalcha carpet company are on display at the DOMOTEX International Exhibition in Hannover, Germany.

Spread across 12 exhibition halls, DOMOTEX 2017 features the world’s biggest offering of carpets and floor coverings. The innovations on display span multiple product categories, including machine- and hand-made carpets, textile and resilient floor coverings, parquet, laminate and wood flooring, outdoor flooring solutions, and application and installation technology. DOMOTEX gives front and center stage to exhibitors’ latest and greatest innovations, helping them get all the attention they deserve.

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Azerbaijan tourism up 11%

Baku, January 15, AZERTAG.AZ – The number of tourists visiting our country in 2016 increased by 11 per cent. I am sure that this figure will increase further this year, said President Ilham Aliyev at the meeting of the Cabinet of Ministers dedicated to the results of socioeconomic development of 2016 and objectives for the future.

The head of state said: “Last year, 35 hotels were built in our country, 25 are under construction. In general, there are more than 500 hotels in Azerbaijan. But demand is growing and domestic tourism is developing. I am very glad that our citizens prefer to rest in Azerbaijan. We have wonderful natural conditions, great facilities, excellent hotels and recreation areas. Today, tourists from all over the world come to Azerbaijan. And this brings the country’s economy large profits. In the future, we will receive billions of dollars from tourism, which will provide great support for our economic situation.

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Africa Records 8% Rise in Tourist Arrivals in 2016

HARARE, 20 January 2017, (NNN-NEW ZIANA) – The number of tourist arriving in Africa last year rose to 58 million from 54 million in 2015, an eight per cent jump, according to the latest data received from the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO).

The continent’s share of global tourist traffic continues to hover around five per cent, with authorities in the sector, including Africa’s candidate for the post of UNWTO secretary general, Dr Walter Mzembi, seeking ways to raise the figure to above 10 per cent.

The UNWTO figures show that Africa saw the number visitors increasing by four million last year compared with 2015 driven by a strong growth in sub-Saharan Africa which recorded an 11 per cent jump in arrivals.

“Available data for Africa points to an eight percent rebound in international arrivals last year after two troubled years, adding four million arrivals to reach 58 million,” the UNTWO said. “Sub-Saharan Africa (11 percent) led growth, while a gradual recovery started in North Africa (3 percent).”

The growth on the continent also contributed to the overall 3.9 rise in global arrivals last year, which went up by 46 million more tourists to 1.235 billion.

“2016 was the seventh consecutive year of sustained growth following the 2009 global economic and financial crisis. A comparable sequence of uninterrupted solid growth has not been recorded since the 1960s,” the UNWTO said.

By region, Asia and the Pacific as well as Africa led the pack in rise in tourist traffic at eight per cent growth while the Americas followed after registering a four per cent growth. Europe recorded a two percent growth while the Middle East, as a result of unending conflicts in the region, saw its arrivals decline by four per cent.

“Tourism has shown extraordinary strength and resilience in recent years, despite many challenges, particularly those related to safety and security,” said outgoing UNWTO secretary-general Taleb Rifai.

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Norwegian bank trials ‘halal loan’ based on Islamic principles

Baku, January 21, AZERTAC – A Norwegian bank has proposed a “halal” loan scheme based on Islamic principles which forbid charging interest, according to Independent.

Storebrand, which operates in Norway and Sweden, launched a website calling for feedback on an idea to launch new interest-free loans to appeal to Muslim home buyers who many not want to take out a traditional mortgage because of their faith.

The bank called on “interested parties” to get in touch and within a week around 300 people had expressed an interest.

Al Rayan Bank, based in West London, offers rental-based loans on similar terms to traditional interest rate mortgages.

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Sudan-Saudi Talks on Explotation of Red Sea Mineral Resources

KHARTOUM, 20 Jan 2017, (NNN-SUNA) – Sudan’s Ministry of Minerals hosted a workshop on the environmental vision for the exploitation of the Red Sea’s mineral resources here Thursday with participation of members of the Permanent Sudanese-Saudi Joint Committee for Exploitation of the Red Sea’s Mineral Resources, which is known as the “Atlantis 2”.

The workshop was organized by the Ministry in co-operation with the Manafie International Company, the owner of the concession for the extraction of minerals from the seabed of the Red Sea which separates the two countries.

The workshop was attended by Sudanese Minerals Minister Dr. Ahmed Mohamed Sadiq Al-Karuri and representatives from the Saudi side of the joint committee who arrived here Wednesday and were received by the Executive Director of the Atlantis 2 Project, Sadiq Abdul-Gadir.

Sadir said in a media after his meeting with the delegation that the workshop aimed to explore the capabilities of scientists in the environmental field as well as the provision of advice and consultations to the Manafie International Company in the preparation of the environmental impact study for the project.

Experts and specialists in the field of environment, mining and the economy also took part in the workshop, which discussed seven working papers on the Atlantis 2 project development stages and the mineral resources envisaged in the project, along with the environmental policies, plans and environment of the Red Sea.

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Sudan, US Discuss Economic Relations After Lifting of Sanctions

KHARTOUM, 20 Jan 2017, (NNN-SUNA) – Sudan’s Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Badr-Eddin Mahmoud Abbas, has held talks here with the Charge d’Affares of the United States Embassy in Sudan, Steven Koutsis, to review existing policieis so as to restore an investment to encourage US trade and investment following the recent lifting of economic sanctions on the country.

He confirmed that Sudan was creating a conducive investment climate along reviewing the policies to restore economic stability s as to enable American companies to engage in investment in strategic sectors in this country.

Thursday’s meeting, which was also attended by the US embassy’s Deputy Counselor for Economic and Political Affairs, Rashida Sansui Peru, also discussed the economic conditions that would prevail between the two countries after the lifting economic sanctions on Sudan.

The meeting also reviewed the possible expansion of co-operation in the financial and banking sector to increase commercial exchanges between Sudan and the US through the export of Sudanese products to the US and import of US products by Sudan, as well as co-operation in Sudan’s aviation, railways and tourism sectors.

The Minister referred to the US co-operation in assisting refugees in Sudan and in assistance to Sudan in hosting four million refugees.

An American mission will arrive in the country soon to consider the possibility of providing support as well as extending financial assistance to Sudan to combat human trafficking, which constitutes a major financial burden for Sudan without the help of the international community.

The minister pointed to the continuity of co-operation in the normalization and development of economic relations between the two countries besides the opening of the Sudanese market for US companies to benefit from Sudan’s trade relations with member countries of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and with the Gulf states.

Koutsis expressed his country’s desire to normalize relations with Sudan in all economic political sectors and co-operation in banking after the lifting of the sanctions.

He said American companies were interested to visit Sudan for a closer look at the major schemes such as Gezira Scheme to invest in the agricultural sector.

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Two Islamic insurance firms begin operations in Nigeria

Abuja, 16 January 2017, (IINA) – Two Islamic (Takaful) insurance companies have commenced operations in the country, thus, becoming the first set of fully-fledged Takaful Insurance businesses in Nigeria, The Leadership newspaper reported.

The two companies are Jaiz Takaful Insurance Company, with head office in Abuja, and Noor Takaful Insurance Company Plc. based in Lagos State.

The newspaper earlier reported that two insurance firms would commence operation in the country, latest by 2017.

Takaful insurance guarantees profit sharing between the insurer and the policyholders, a trait that is absent in the conventional insurance business as the conventional insurer takes the whole profit made from its investment.

However, the two Takaful operators are expected to rival conventional insurers for businesses, especially in the grassroots where this concept could sell faster.

With Takaful insurance selling faster in the North, investigation showed that the fully-fledged operators are targeting the North and the Muslim communities in the country for a start.

The newspaper’s findings showed that the two underwriters are mostly owned by foreigners, mainly, investors from the Middle East and Asia, who have the needed expertise in the area of Islamic insurance and had operated it to success in some parts of the world. They are now set to use the template to operate Takaful insurance business in the country.

The Takaful Guideline of 2013 put the capital base of any interested party willing to float Takaful insurance at N100million for either Family or General Takaful business. Although, there is still a misconception about Takaful Insurance that it is a scheme for the Muslims, the two operators believe that with increased awareness and education, they will correct this misconception, adding that this is a concept that could rival the conventional insurance in the nearest future, because there is a ready-made market for Takaful business to thrive.

The Chairman, Noor Takaful Insurance Plc., Ambassador Shuaibu Ahmed, said Takaful is about joint guarantee, whereby individuals in a community jointly insure themselves against any loss or damage. This function, he said, is undertaken by insurance companies whereby the ensuring public transfers their financial risks of loss or damage of their assets or lives to the insurance companies at a price called premium.

“In Takaful Insurance, claims are paid, and whatever that is left, some part of it comes to insurers. It is like mutual assurance, where a form of participants comes together and put funds together. At the end of the day, it is their money, not insurance firm’s money. Once claims are paid to some participants that record some calamities, whatever balance left in that funds belongs to participants,” he clarified.

Speaking on how his Takaful firm will make profits, he noted that “We make our profit from the contributions that are made by the participants. We, the company, normally takes an agency fees, because I want to play a role of managing those funds. We manage the claims, because if you don’t manage the claims, everybody will come and make claims, and some of them might not be genuine.

“So, we are supposed to invest those funds and also manage the claims. At the end of the day, we have an agency fee, and we also share in the profit that we are making the investment.”

On the other hand, the Managing Director/CEO of Jaiz Takaful Insurance, Momodou Musa Joof, said his company’s products are inspired by the need for customers to benefit from the contributions they pay as policyholders. He added that the concept is very transparent and practical, noting that Takaful has come to address all the objectionable about conventional insurance (Riba, Interest, Maysir).

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Brunei Kampong honoured at ASEAN Tourism Awards

January 21, 2017 – IT WAS a proud moment for Brunei when Minister of Primary Resources and Tourism Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Ali bin Haji Apong presented the Asean Community-Based Tourism Award to the Kampong Kiudang Village Consultative Council (MPK Kiudang) during the closing ceremony for the Asean Tourism Awards, held yesterday at the Pan Pacific Hotel in Singapore.

MPK Kiudang is among 26 recipients of the Asean Community-Based Tourism Award, which is fixed on standards containing performance indicators for the coordinated management of tourism products offered by respective communities.

Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Ali congratulated MPK Kiudang, and lauded its efforts in developing community-based tourism activities and a homestay, as well as local village products.

The minister also said that the Ministry of Primary Resources and Tourism (MPRT), together with the Brunei Tourism Development Department, will continue to provide assistance to MPK Kiudang as an incentive to other village to further develop their own tourism products.

He also expressed the hope that more local villages will go on to become main contenders at the Asean Tourism Awards by next year.

After the awards ceremony, Mohd Amir bin Haji Umarali, the Deputy Chairman and Head of the Community, Tourism and Public Relations of MPK Kiudang said, “I would like to thank Allah the Almighty for the recognition of the hard work by the Kampong Kiudang Village Consultative Council.”

He also extended his appreciation to the Brunei Government, especially to the Ministry of Primary Resources and Tourism, the Tourism Development Department, Tutong District Office, Ministry of Home Affairs, the Tutong District Tourism Promotion and Coordination Body, as well as several other agencies and members of the community for their strong support.

Kampong Kiudang’s tourism development began in 2011 through an eco-tourism initiative under the Ministry of Home Affairs’ ‘One Village, One Product’ programme which featured the Wasai Bedanu Recreational Park as the main attraction.

MPK Kiudang received the Excellence Village Award (AKC) at the national level in 2013, when the village introduced a visit package to several local attractions.

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Mauritania Gets U.S.$21 Million IFAD Grant to Boost Food Security.

Rome, 12 Jan 2017, (All Africa) — A total of 285,600 farmers, particularly women and young people in six regions in southern Mauritania will benefit from a financial agreement signed today between the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and Mauritania to improve their incomes, nutrition and food security.

The agreement for the Inclusive Value Chain Development Project (PRODEFI) was signed in Rome by Michel Mordasini, Vice-President of IFAD and Mariem Aouffa, Ambassador of Mauritania to Italy and Permanent Representative to Rome-based United Nations agencies.

The total cost of the project is US$45.2 million of which IFAD is providing a US$21 million grant including $6 million grant from the Adaptation for Smallholder Agriculture Programme (ASAP) Trust Fund.

It is co-financed by the national private sector ($2 million), the Government of Mauritania ($5 million) and by the beneficiaries themselves ($2.2 million). The remaining $15 million will be covered by other financing sources or by the next IFAD financing cycle for Mauritania (2019-2021).

“PRODEFI will build upon and replicate IFAD’s experience in Mauritania and elsewhere in the sub-region by adopting a poverty reduction approach based on supporting inclusive production, transformation and marketing systems,” said Philippe Rémy, IFAD Country Programme Manager for Mauritania. “In addition, it will reduce the country’s dependence on food imports, create jobs and increase the incomes of rural households, especially women and youth,” he added.

Mauritania imports 60 per cent of the staple food consumed in the country. Only red meat and fish are covered by domestic production while two thirds of the cereals are imported.

In addition, the food and nutritional situation of the population of Mauritania is of concern. According to the 2015 food security survey conducted by the National Food Security Commission supported by the World Food Programme, 23.8 per cent of households in southern Mauritania are food insecure.

The first phase of PRODEFI will focus on horticulture, poultry farming, goat milk and non-timber forest products. Inland fishing will be tested around Lake Foum Gleita at the beginning of the project.

Following market studies, new income generating crops or activities will be defined for the second phase of the project. In addition, the project will support the competitive production systems to respond to market demand. The farmers will receive training and advisory services associated with the production models.

To address the issue of climate change, the project will facilitate, through the ASAP grant, the use of solar energy — from production to storage and processing – and promote sustainable management techniques for natural resources such as water, pasturelands and plant resources.

PRODEFI will also promote a better match between supply and demand. It will develop the public-private-producers partnerships in the interest of smallholder farmers and facilitate their access to markets.

Since 1980, IFAD has financed 14 rural development programmes and projects in Mauritania for a total cost of $342.3 million, with an IFAD investment of $136.2 million directly benefiting 190,470 rural households.

IFAD invests in rural people, empowering them to reduce poverty, increase food security, improve nutrition and strengthen resilience. Since 1978, we have provided about US$18 billion in grants and low-interest loans to projects that have reached some 462 million people. IFAD is an international financial institution and a specialized United Nations agency based in Rome – the UN’s food and agriculture hub.

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O.I.C. Honours Leaders of Humanitarian Work

DOHA, Qatar, 19 Jan 2017, (NNN-QNA) – The Doha-based General Secretariat of humanitarian funds, of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), held a function on Wednesday, in the framework of a UN initiative, to honour the leaders of humanitarian work.

The event, held under the auspices of Qatari Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sheikh Mohammad bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, saw the honouring of Dr. Abdullah Maatouq Al Maatouq, adviser to Kuwait’s Amiri Diwan, who is also chairman of the International Islamic Charitable Organisations (IICO).

Dr. Ahmad bin Mohammad Al-Muraikhi, the UN Envoy for Humanitarian Affairs, was also among those honoured.

The event was attended by the GCC Secretary General, Dr. Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani, Rasheed Khalikov, the Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations for humanitarian partners, as well as, representatives from the United Nations and humanitarian sectors, and the Organisation of Islamic cooperation, the Arab League and the Gulf Cooperation Council.

In addition, representatives of a number of diplomatic corps, international and national organisations related to humanitarian affairs, were also in attendance.

On behalf of Sheikh Mohammad Al Thani, Dr. Ahmed bin Hassan Al Hammadi, Secretary-General of the Foreign Ministry, delivered a speech, where he greeted and praised the honourees for their humanitarian efforts.

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US Muslims to take part in 3rd “National Muslim Advocacy Day”

Washington, 18 Jan 2017, (IINA) – American Muslim delegates from across the nation will take part in the 3rd National Muslim Advocacy Day (NMAD) on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C on May 1.

The lobbying effort is sponsored by the US Council of Muslim Organizations (USCMO), a coalition of leading national and local American Muslim organizations. Muslim delegates are expected to meet with at least third of the House of Representatives and almost half of the Senate.

NMAD delegates will promote a legislative agenda in support of equality and social justice and will outline the domestic priorities of the American Muslim community.

“Because of the possible erosion of civil rights and religious freedom under the incoming administration, it is critical that American Muslims make their voices heard to their national elected representatives,” said Robert McCaw CAIR Director of Government Affairs Department.

The second NMAD on Capitol Hill took place in April of last year and was attended by 330 delegates from more than 28 states who met with some 225 congressional offices.

Founding members of USCMO are, American Muslims for Palestine (AMP), Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), Muslim Alliance in North America (MANA), Muslim American Society (MAS), Muslim Legal Fund of America (MLFA), Muslim Ummah of North America (MUNA), The Mosque Cares (Ministry of Imam W. Deen Mohammed).

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.

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