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13 Feb, 2017

Afghan cricketers to play for first time in Indian Premier League

Compiled by Imtiaz Muqbil

A compilation of progressive, positive, inspiring and motivating events and developments in the world of Islam for the week ending 13 February 2017 (16 Jumaada al-Awwal 1438). Pls click on any of the headlines below to go to the story.



Islamic Travel Newswire, an influential and widely-read weekly compilation of progressive, positive, inspiring and motivating events and developments in the world of Islam, seeks sponsors to fund its continued publication. Due to budget cutbacks, Tourism Malaysia has been forced to discontinue its 10 years of invaluable support. Executive Editor Imtiaz Muqbil will self-fund this publication in February and March 2017. After that, in the absence of sponsorship support, it will be shut down. If anyone is interested in providing sponsorship support, please email at imtiaz@islamic-travel-newswire.com.


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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Afghan cricketers to play for first time in Indian Premier League

Sunday February 12, 2017, Kabul (BNA) Afghanistan cricketers will feature in the Indian Premier League auction for the first time ever this year. As many as five players from Afghanistan, an associate nation, will go under the hammer in Bengaluru on February 20.

The 29-year-old wicketkeeper batsman Mohammad Shahzad is seen as a favourite. Last year, Shahzad won the ICC Associate/Affiliate Cricketer of the Year award, becoming the first Afghan player to win such honour. He was also the first Afghanistan player to hit an ODI century when he scored 110 against Netherlands in 2009.

Speaking exclusively to India Today, Ambassador of Afghanistan to India, Shaida Mohammad Abdali, said this will be a big opportunity to boost Afghan cricket. (Ishant Sharma, Eoin Morgan in top base price bracket in IPL 2017 auction)

He also expressed hope that the players would get picked by the franchises.

“Cricket is cementing people to people ties. IPL is a big opportunity to boost Afghanistan cricket. Hope team owners pick players,” Abdali told India Today.

Abdali mentioned that there was a huge interest for IPL in his country. “Tremendous interest in Afghanistan for IPL,” he said. (IPL 2017 to start from April 5 as scheduled, confirms Committee of Administrators)

Interestingly, Afghanistan cricket shifted its base from Sharjah to Greater Noida, Uttar Pradesh in 2015. The team now uses the Shaheed Vijay Singh Pathik Sports Complex in Greater Noida as its home ground.

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Visa-Free Entry Into Malaysia For Indian Nationals Living Abroad

DOHA, 6 Feb 2017, (NNN-Bernama) – Indian nationals living outside India will now also enjoy visa-free travel to Malaysia for tourism, said Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.

The Deputy Prime Minister said that it was appropriate that the Cabinet decision to provide the facility to tourists from India be extended to Indian nationals living outside the country so as to encourage them to come to Malaysia.

“We welcome them to visit Malaysia as tourists. This will help increase our foreign exchange earnings as tourist arrivals will go up,” he told the Malaysian media here yesterday.

Ahmad Zahid is on a four-day working visit to Qatar at the invation of Qatar’s Prime Minister and Minister of Interior Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa Al Thani.

Ahmad Zahid, who is also Home Minister, however, said this did not mean that security would be compromised as they too would have to undergo Airline Passenger Security Screening (APSS) before they are allowed entry into Malaysia.

According to Ahmad Zahid, this flexibility would attract the approximately 500,000 Indian nationals residing in Qatar as businessmen, professionals and technical experts, to visit Malaysia.

He said as chairman of the Cabinet Committee on Tourism, among his 
objectives during this visit to Qatar was to attract more tourists from this country to visit Malaysia.

“Last year, only 5,000 tourists from Qatar were recorded. We need to increase efforts on attracting more tourists from West Asia through the support and cooperation of travel agents and companies,” he said.

Ahmad Zahid said it was also his intention to increase the number flights from this region to Malaysia through collaboration with companies and agents handling umrah (minor Haj) packages.

“I will discuss on this with companies offering umrah packages while I am 
here,” he said.

The Deputy Prime Minister said during his visit to Qatar, he would also hold bilateral talks with the country’s leadership in an effort to increase trade between the two countries.

He said in the last two years, the trade volume between the two countries 
saw a decline, following the drop in oil and gas prices which had affected both countries.

“I want to prove the commitment made before this, which is to reinstate Qatar as a country with big potential to Malaysia,” he said.

He said in this regard, several agreements which were still being drafted by by the business councils of both countries, would be finalised soon.

He said apart from agreements involving the travel and investment industries, agreements on exchange of security and defence information, staff exchanges and training would also be signed.

Ahmad Zahid added that following Qatar’s selection to host the FIFA World Cup in 2022, companies from Malaysia would have the opportunity to be involved in the supply of goods and equipment necessary for Qatar’s successful organisation of the most prestigious football tournament.

Earlier yesterday, Ahmad Zahid had an audience with the Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim Hamad Al-Thani and later with Sheikh Abdullah.

Later yesterday, Ahmad Zahid scheduled toll attend a dinner with the Malaysian diaspora in Qatar at a hotel here.

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Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia to expand Arabic language study

DOHA, 8 Feb 2017, (NNN-Bernama) – The World Organisation for Renaissance of Arabic Language (WORAL) has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia (USIM) to establish an Arabic language section at USIM’s library, Qatar News Agency (QNA) reported.

The MoU aims to promote the use of Arabic in Malaysia and other Asian countries, and will see WORAL offering educational and cultural programmes across Malaysia.

The document was co-signed by Dr Abdulaziz Al-Subai’ei, Chair of the Board of Trustees of WORAL, and Dr Musa Ahmad, Vice-Chancellor of USIM, in the presence of officials, academics and researchers who share a mutual interest in the promotion of Arabic language and Islamic culture.

Dr Abdulaziz Al-Subai’ei said: “We are very happy to collaborate with USIM in order to promote Arabic language programmes in Malaysia and other Asian countries.”

“This agreement reflects the importance we attribute to building partnerships around the world, as well as building bridges for cultural interaction and support of the Arabic language,” he said.

The MoU facilitates the improvement of Arabic language standards for teachers, equipping them with skills to teach non-Arabic speakers, enhance content on the Internet, as well as promote the exchange of experimental research studies.

Dr Ali Al Kubaisi, Director General of WORAL, said that as part of their efforts to promote the renaissance of Arabic throughout the world, we selected USIM library to house an Arabic section.

“This is because we recognise the countries that are interested in learning more about our language and culture. We look forward to taking this experience to other countries in the future,” he said.

Dr Musa Ahmad, Vice Chancellor of USIM, in thanking WORAL, said that the agreement will focus on the enhancement of Arabic language education, not only in Malaysia, but in other Asian countries, too.

“I would also like to thank Qatar Foundation for partnering to establish an Arabic language corner in our country, and for their commitment to providing training and lifelong learning,” he said.

The World Organisation for Renaissance of Arabic Language, a member of Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development (QF), established in 2013, aims to promote the Arabic language by implementing creative initiatives to highlight its stature as a language associated with research, science and culture.

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Malindo Air Expanding Network To Jeddah & Guangzhou

KUALA LUMPUR, 8 FEB 2017 – Malindo Air, CAPA 2016 Asia Pacific Regional Airline of the Year, announced today that all bookings are now open for its two new services from Kuala Lumpur to Jeddah, which will commence effective 21 February 2017, offering a seamless connectivity between Malaysia and Saudi Arabia, and from Kuala Lumpur to Guangzhou, China, with the inaugural flight scheduled to commence on 15 March 2017.

To celebrate the announcement of the new services, Malindo Air is offering special promotional all-in fares as follows:

• Kuala Lumpur – Jeddah: Business Class starts from RM3,999.00 and Economy Class starts from RM2,799 return all-in Booking period for this promotion is from 8 February 2017 onward for the travel period from 21 February 2017

• Kuala Lumpur – Guangzhou: Business Class starts from RM1,299.00 and Economy Class starts from RM299.00 one-way all-in Booking period for this promotion is from 8 February 2017 onward for the travel period from 15 March 2017

Fares are all-inclusive with perks such as free baggage allowance, in-flight entertainment and meals.

Malindo Air begins services to King Abdul Aziz International Airport, Jeddah from KLIA Main Terminal Building with two times a week flight starting from 21 February 2017 until 25 March 2017, and then increasing the frequency to daily flight from 26 March 2017 onwards.

From 21 February until 25 March 2017, Malindo Air flight OD267 will depart Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday and Saturday at 1.30am and arrive Ahmedabad, India at 4.30am. It will then depart Ahmedabad at 5.25am and arrive Jeddah at 8.15am. The return flight OD268 will depart Jeddah at 9.45am and arrive Ahmedabad at 5.35pm. After one hour transit, the flight will depart Ahmedabad at 6.35pm and arrive KLIA at 2.30am.

change in the flight timings

Flight OD267 will depart KLIA every day at 8.35am and arrive Ahmedabad, India at 11.35am. It will then depart Ahmedabad at 12.35pm and arrive Jeddah at 3.25pm. The return flight OD268 will depart Jeddah at 4.25pm and arrive Ahmedabad at 12.15 midnight. After one hour transit, the flight will depart Ahmedabad at 1.15am and arrive KLIA at 9.10am.

The narrow-body B737-900ER with a seat capacity of 180 (12 Business Class and 168 Economy Class seats) will be deployed on this new route to Jeddah. There will be a one hour transit stop for refuelling in Ahmedabad on both ways.

As for Malindo Air’s new route to Guangzhou, flight OD612 will depart Kuala Lumpur every day at 10.00pm and arrival at Guangzhou will be at 2.10am. The return flight OD613 will depart Guangzhou at 3.10am and arrival at Kuala Lumpur is at 7.30am. There is no time difference between Kuala Lumpur and Guangzhou and the flight time is 4 hours and 10 mins.

Chandran Rama Muthy, CEO of Malindo Air said, “We are very delighted to provide another travelling option at affordable prices for our Muslim guests from Malaysia and throughout the region, to Jeddah, which is the main gateway to the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah for their holy pilgrimage of Hajj and Umrah. At the same time, Malindo Air will provide KLIA as a hub for Saudi tourists to visit Malaysia and the far-east.”

Chandran also said that with the recent extension of the simplified visa application process for short stays to Chinese nationals by Malaysia, more Chinese tourists are expected this year to Malaysia. “Chinese travellers constituted the largest source of tourists in 2015, whereas the first eight months of 2016 saw 1.7 million tourists from China visiting Malaysia. This latest travelling option that Malindo Air provides will hopefully spur even more visitors from China to Malaysia as their preferred destination.”

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Malaysia: Proton’s Strategic Partnership Will Help It Build Better Cars

GOPENG, Malaysia, 11 Feb 2017, (NNN-Bernama) – Proton Holdings Bhd’s (Proton) strives to secure a foreign strategic partner to enable it to produce better quality cars and expand its market overseas, Second International Trade and Industry Minister Seri Ong Ka Chuan said.

He said the strategic partnership would enable Proton to revive its performance to regain customer confidence.

“It will also support Proton’s research funding and development as the foreign carmakers (shortlisted) are strong and stable, hence making Proton more competitive.

“The cooperation is expected to be established by the middle of this year,” he told reporters after attending a Chinese New Year celebration hosted by Tea Gaharu Valley here today.

Proton has shortlisted three foreign carmakers as it seeks a strategic 
partner to improve its global competitiveness.

Ong said Proton was focusing on a very small local market of only about 200,000 vehicles per year, which was inadequate for its growth.

However, the decision lies entirely on Proton as it is now a private company and no longer owned by the government, he said.

“The government does not intend to interfere in its business because we do not have any interest and they are free to make their own decision. However, we will continue to give ours views to Proton,” he said.

In another development, he said Proton would move its plant from Shah Alam to Proton City in Tanjung Malim next year.

The move is aimed at increasing production capacity besides centralising the group operations and create 10,000 jobs for the local community, he added.

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Malaysian 2016 Tourism Revenue Estimated At Rm92 Bln

PADANG RENGAS, Malaysia, 6 Feb 2017, (NNN-BERNAMA) – Revenue from the tourism sector is expected to increase to RM92 billion last year compared with RM72 billion in 2015.

Tourism and Culture Minister Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz said even though tourist arrivals to Malaysia rose by only four per cent, it was important to note the sector was one of the major contributors to the nation’s revenue.

“If it (tourism) generates RM92 billion, six per cent of that or more than RM5 billion is government revenue under the Goods and Services Tax,” he said.

He said this to reporters after officiating at the Entrepreneurs gathering and launch of the Padang Rengas Parliament Superior Usahanita Club here, yesterday.

Nazri was optimistic that the revenue would continue to increase this year following the influx of foreign tourists particularly from China and India.

“The two countries not only contribute to the large number of tourists but also the huge spending in Malaysia,” he said.

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Malaysia’s Largest Laser Projection Mapping Latest Attraction In Langkawi

LANGKAWI, Malaysia, 10 Feb 2017, (NNN-Bernama) – A 556-square metre, three-dimensional (3D) laser projection mapping, the largest of its kind in Malaysia, is the latest tourist attraction featured at the Oriental Village’s 3D Art Langkawi Museum, here.

The state-of-the art show which utilises creative technology display has been recognised by the Malaysia Book of Records (MBR) as a new achievement.

“This will definitely be another addition to the unique products in Langkawi to attract more tourists,” said Langkawi Development Authority (LADA) chief executive officer, Azizan Noordin after the product launch, yesterday.

In addition, he said, the museum was also recognised by MBR yesterday for having the biggest 3D mural in the country with a size of 1,200.73 square metres.

He said LADA’s subsidiary, Panorama Langkawi Sdn Bhd, had formed a partnership with a private company which had invested about RM3.5 million to set up the laser projection equipment which could display various scenes from around the world.

“These scenes will give tourists the feeling of being in places like the Niagara Falls, ancient Egypt, the fantasy world and during the Roman empire age, said Azizan.

Meanwhile, the waiting time for tourists wishing to experience the Langkawi Sky Cab cable car ride at the Oriental Village has been shortened following the addition of 20 new gondolas.

Azizan said the new units had increased the number of gondolas to 80 to enable the waiting time to be shortened from around one hour to 30 minutes.

“The new products and additional improvements made on the existing ones augur well with our target of bringing in four million tourists to Langkawi this year,” he added.

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Nepal Airlines To Add Flights Frequency To Malaysia

KATHMANDU, Nepal, 8 Feb 2017, (NNN-Bernama) – Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC) plans to increase flight frequency to Kuala Lumpur and other key destinations like Hong Kong and Doha in Qatar, apart from launching four new destinations namely Seoul in South Korea, Tokyo, Japan and Dammam, Saudi Arabia.

NAC, Nepal’s state owned airlines, plans to increase flight frequency on Kathmandu- Kuala Lumpur route from the present three flights a week, NAC managing director Sugat Ratna Kansakar said.

Kansakar, however, did not say how many flights NAC plans to add to the Kathmandu- Kuala Lumpur route.

NAC will also launch four new long-haul routes soon besides resuming its London flights, he said.

London flights will resume only next year once the NAC acquires two side-body jets, according to NAC.

Kansakar said two new wide-body jets will arrive in 2018 and NAC will expand its wing in Asia, Europe and Australia.

European Union has banned Nepalese airlines from flying to European countries citing their poor security measures.

NAC has requested Nepal Government to take necessary measures to clear the EU ban on Nepalese airlines to facilitate its London flights.

NAC has signed a memorandum of understanding with US-based AAR Corp to buy two Airbus A330-200 long-range jets.

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Isetan Kuala Lumpur Set To Open Authentic Japanese Restaurants

TOKYO, 10 Feb 2017, (Bernama-AsiaNet) – “ISETAN The Japan Store Kuala Lumpur,” the world’s first Japanese lifestyle specialty store launched in Malaysia by Isetan Mitsukoshi Holdings Ltd. last autumn, is set to open five authentic Japanese restaurants at 11 a.m. on February 17, 2017.

The store was opened in collaboration with Cool Japan Fund on October 27, 2016. To cater for the increasing global interest in Japan, the store brings products and services that represent Japan’s way of living to overseas customers. This store aims to be a go-to center, exposing people abroad to all aspects of Japan’s rich history, culture, technology and diversity.

ISETAN wishes to inspire the daily lives of its customers, starting with Malaysia before expanding its wings to other countries.

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Indonesia targets US$20 billion revenue from tourism sector

Ambon, 10 February 2017, (ANTARA News) – The government has targeted the revenue from the tourism sector to reach US$20 billion by 2019, the Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs Luhut Binsar Panjaitan said here on Thursday.

“For the development of Indonesias tourism sector in the future, we have targeted the number of tourists visiting the country to reach 20 million, of which 10 million tourists would come from China,” Luhut stated.

Chinese tourists on an average spent $2,385 on each trip, higher than Americans, he said.

The minister noted that Indonesia has a huge potential in tourism sector, including Maluku province with its remarkable underwater views, coral reefs and ornamental fish, as well as cultural and historical sites.

However, such potential would require adequate development in infrastructure and human resources.

Luhut remarked that the central and regional administrations should have an integrated development program.

“We have developed the Patimban port in West Java worth $3 billion, and it would be functional by the third quarter of this year in cooperation with Japan. It is expected to have significant economic impact on Indonesia,” he continued.

The government has prepared Rp387 trillion of fund for infrastructure development in five years, higher than the previous budget of Rp152 trillion.

“I have received a report from Waskita Karya that by 2019, it will finish more than 1.4 thousand kilometers of toll road,” he asserted.

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Indonesia seeks to enhance trade, investment with Mozambique

Jakarta, 8 February 2017, (ANTARA News) – Indonesia is keen to intensify trade and investment cooperation with Mozambique following Foreign Affairs Minister Retno Marsudis visit to the African country on Tuesday (Feb. 7)

“Businessmen from Indonesia and Mozambique should utilize all opportunities to revitalize trade and investment relations, which had weakened last year,” Minister Marsudi stated during an Indonesia-Mozambique business forum in Maputo, Mozambique, as quoted by the ministrys official website here on Wednesday.

At the forum, Minister Marsudi highlighted the economic reforms in Indonesia and offered several Indonesian industry products to Mozambique, such as railway carriages, since the latter is developing its railway transportation infrastructure.

Railway carriages made in Indonesia are of good quality and have been exported to several countries, Marsudi remarked.

“Indonesia is ready to support the railway transportation system being built by Mozambique,” the minister noted.

Marsudi also offered cooperation to process Mozambiques cotton products in Indonesian textile companies and expected to further enhance cooperation through the transfer of capacity and investment cooperation in the textile industry.

“Mozambique requires several strategic industry products, and I believe Indonesian companies are ready to cooperate,” Marsudi stated.

More than 50 business enterprises of Mozambique attended the forum to explore opportunities.

The enterprises expressed interest in some products, such as the railway carriages of Indonesian state-owned train manufacturer PT. INKA and cargo ships of state-owned ship builder PT. PAL.

African enterprises also showed interest in the tourism industry to develop tourism islands and travel agencies.

One of the challenges faced in the cooperation with Mozambique was financing, Marsudi pointed out.

The representative of Indonesia Eximbank received a warm welcome during the forum by the businessmen and government representatives of Mozambique to offer financing assistance.

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Indonesia-Al Azhar seek to promote interfaith dialogue

Jakarta, 7 February 2017, (ANTARA News) – Indonesia and Al-Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt are seeking to enhance cooperation to conduct interfaith dialogue to promote harmony, tolerance and worlds peace.

“Indonesia is committed to keep promoting constructive efforts to create worlds harmony, peace stability and welfare,” Indonesia Minister of Foreign Affairs Retno Marsudi said during her visit to Cairo, as quoted in a press statement received here on Tuesday.

Minister Marsudi met the Grand Sheikh of Al Azhar, Ahmed Mohammad Ahmed Al Tayyeb in Al Azhar complex, Cairo, Egypt to discuss the importance of interfaith and inter-community dialogue to deliver the peaceful values of Islam.

The grand sheikh Al Tayyeb underlined that Islam has been facing great challenges these days.

Therefore, a strong will and cooperation are necessary to create a conducive condition for world peace and stability as well as inclusive development not only in the Islamic countries but also in the world.

Al Tayyeb also appreciated Indonesias effort to promote peace and in Rakhine State, Myanmar and said that Al Azhar is willing to help Indonesia, Myanmar and other countries to improve the condition in the state.

Meanwhile, Minister Marsudi appreciated the support given by the Al-Azhar to around 3,500 Indonesian students studying in the university.

The minister also expected the university and local authority to improve security as well as to provide protection to the Indonesian students following several crimes experienced by the students in Cairo.

Grand Sheikh Al Tayyeb promised to put this matter into account and to have coordination with the local authority.

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Indonesia To Display Longest Ever Dragon Lantern During Chinese Culture Week

JAKARTA, Indonesia, 10 Feb 2017, (NNN-Bernama) – Indonesia’s longest-ever dragon lantern is scheduled to be paraded during Chinese Lantern Festival on Saturday in Singkawang, the West Kalimantan province, officials announced Friday.

China’s Xinhua news agency reported the 178-meter dragon lantern was recognised by Indonesian record museum as the longest one that has ever been built in Indonesia.

“The dragon lantern is now on display at Singkawang Grand Mall. It would be paraded during Lantern Festival,” Tourism Deputy Minister for Domestic Tour Marketing Esthy Reko Astuti said in a statement.

Making of the giant dragon lantern was initiated in October last year.

Asia’s longest batik dragon will also be on display during the Chinese Culture Week event on Feb 5-11.

Co-organiser of Singkawang Lantern Festival Andy Victorio said that hundreds of Tatungs are expected to enliven the upcoming event, displaying their resilience against sharp weapons pierced into their bodies.

Presence of Tatungs is an essential part of in Lantern Festival, symbolising efforts to get rid of misfortune.

Andy also said some 20 foreign country ambassadors are expected to witness the parade. The parade itself would showcase cultural creations resulting from the mixture of Chinese culture with local ones.

Lantern Festival, which falls on Feb 11 this year, is held to mark the first full moon of the new lunar year. It falls on the 15th day of the first lunar month.

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Indonesia plans law to boost cultural resilience

Jakarta, 8 February 2017, (ANTARA News) – The Ministry of Education and Culture is optimistic that the law on culture would foster cultural resilience.

“The draft bill on culture essentially encourages cultural resilience and helps to shape the character of the nation. Nowadays, most children do not understand their local languages and the culture properly. Hence, cultural resilience becomes the main issue in the law,” Director General of Culture of the Education and Culture Ministry Hilmar Farid stated at a national seminar here on Wednesday.

The law is expected to help drive people to bring about innovation based on science and identity.

“The school only provides knowledge. When students master a foreign language, they forget their identity,” he pointed out.

In addition, the law was expected to build a society that can face changes, establish cross-cultural communication, and encourage critical thinking.

“Cross-cultural communication is the advanced principle of diversity. Diversity only recognizes the differences,” he said.

Meanwhile, Ferdiansyah, chairman of a working unit for the draft bill on culture, stated that cultural resilience would help to build a strong community that will not collapse easily.

He said the law did not restrict cultural activists from expressing their thoughts.

“Freedom of expression will be guaranteed. However, it must be in accordance with the principles of Pancasila,” he emphasized.

Discussion of the bill is to implement the mandate of Article 32, paragraph (1) of the 1945 Constitution on the states role in promoting the nations culture in the midst of the global civilization.

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Indonesian marine tourism could contribute US$4 billion

Jakarta, 7 Feb 2017, (ANTARA News) – The marine tourism sector is expected to contribute US$4 billion in 2019, or a four-fold increase from the present contribution, according to Tourism Minister Arief Yahya.

“We hope that the foreign exchange earnings from marine tourism will increase in 2019 from $1 billion this time,” Yahya remarked, during the signing ceremony of cooperation between the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries and the Ministry of Tourism in the field of marine tourism here, on Tuesday.

The minister admitted that the contribution of marine tourism to the foreign exchange at present was still lower than that of the tourism sector as a whole.

He said that the marine tourism currently contributes to only about 10 percent of the overall foreign exchange of national tourism that reaches $10 billion per year. Thus, the contribution of marine tourism is only about $1 billion.

The minister compared this to Malaysia, where marine tourism contributes to about 40 per cent of the total foreign tourists.

Malaysia itself is expected to rake in tourism foreign exchange of about $25 billion per year.

Yahya argued that the factors that lead to minimal contribution of marine tourism in Indonesia, among others, were regulatory factors, human resources, and the approach on being more concerned about security than services.

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Marine tourism will enhance Indonesian coastal communities

Jakarta, 7 Feb 2017, (ANTARA News) – The development of marine tourism in Indonesia, with an active cooperation with the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries (KKP), is aimed at the welfare of coastal communities, Tourism Minister Arief Yahya said.

After signing a cooperation agreement with the KKP on Tuesday, Yahya noted that the final purpose of developing marine tourism was for the prosperity of the fishermen.

He explained that the business industry was generally divided into three parts, namely production, trade and services.

While the smallest added value normally existed in the production aspect, such as agriculture and fisheries, Yahya claimed that the greatest value was in services.

“Hence, if the coastal communities, including fishermen, can take advantage of the services in marine tourism development, then they will be more empowered and potentially be able to increase their income,” he stated.

The process of developing marine tourism still requires human resources contribution as tourists guides. As many as 4 thousand people are needed in 2017, and in the next two years, the number will rise to 12 thousand people.

The Tourism Ministry is also targeting to certify marine tourism services to approximately 1 thousand business units and predicting to certify more in 2019, with as many as 2 thousand business units.

Meanwhile, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti believed that marine tourism in Indonesia could actually bring more advantages for the local people compared to the same tourism theme in other countries, such as Maldives.

Earlier, the Speaker of Peoples Consultative Assembly (MPR), Zulkifli Hasan, reminded that public policy should always support fishermen, especially those traditional fishermen who are often marginalized and need to be optimally empowered by the state.

The fishermen are often facing challenges related to fishing permits, as well as restrictions at the local or central government level.

He acknowledged that the reformation era has brought a lot of significant progress, such as regional autonomy and infrastructure development, but at the same time, it has also caused disparities in many aspects of life.

“Disparity is a fact that has not been overcome. It is the result of the long development process,” Hasan noted.

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Two ministries to develop maritime tourism curriculum

Jakarta, 7 Feb 2017, (ANTARA News) – The Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries and the Ministry of Tourism will develop the curriculum of various educational institutions in order to develop maritime tourism in the country.

“We will utilize the existence of educational institutions in the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries,” Tourism Minister Arief Yahya said here on Tuesday.

The tourism minister hoped that the syllabus would focus on the development of maritime tourism in the country.

He also hoped that the Creative Economy Agency (Bekraf) could be involved in formulating a program of study in terms of innovation and creativity development.

Meanwhile, Minister of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Susi Pudjiastuti stated that European countries develop their lands through tourism.

“Such efforts can also be taken by Indonesia to develop maritime tourism,” the minister added.

She also highlighted the unhygienic conditions prevailing in fishing harbors. Therefore, the Ministry of Tourism can also help improve the cleanliness of the port.

She also stressed the importance of changing the paradigm and attitudes, as part of the efforts to develop the maritime tourism in Indonesia.

“Domestic and foreign tourists have expressed interest in maritime tourism in the country,” she remarked.

Earlier, the government was also expected to maximize the potential of maritime tourism in sea and coastal areas in an effort to optimize the management of marine resources and fisheries in the country.

“The Commission IV continues to encourage the government to maximize the potential of maritime tourism in coastal areas,” a member of Commission IV Andi Akmal Pasluddin said.

He noted that Indonesia, with 13.466 islands and 5.8 million square kilometers of sea, had huge potential to boost the economic activity of coastal communities.

“There are 10.660 coastal villages scattered around 300 districts in the country,” he noted.

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Tour d’Indonesia 2017 to start from Jakarta

Jakarta, 9 Feb 2017, (ANTARA News) – Tour d’Indonesia (TdI), the most prestigious bike road race in the country, will take place in July, after a five-year hiatus, with a start from Jakarta, an official has said.

A total of 25 teams will participate in this international cycling event, according to Sondi Sampurno, the Referee Commission Chairman of the Indonesian Sport Bike Association Executive Board (PB ISSI), here on Wednesday.

The bike race will end in the East Java provincial District of Banyuwangi, Sondi said, adding that 20 out of the 25 teams were foreign racers.

Sondi further stated that all the racers will leave from Jakarta for Bandung in West Java Province, from where they will continue racing at the second stage.

At the (second) stage, they will compete from Bandung to Ciamis District, which is still in West Java.

Then the racers will compete from Ciamis to Purwokerto and then move to Yogjakarta or Solo in Central Java Province.

From Yogyakarta or Solo, the racers will move to Madiun and head to Surabaya or Sidoarjo and then to Jember in East Java.

Additionally, Sondi stated that the racers will pass through the lane from Jember to Situbondo and enter Banyuwangi or through the mountainous road of “Gunung Gumitir” before finishing in Banyuwangi.

In the meantime, general chairman of the Indonesian Cycling Association Executive Board (PB ISSI) Raja Sapta Oktohari said that preparations for TdI 2017 event have taken place as planned.

The TdI is an annual professional road bicycle race held in Java, Indonesia, since 2004.

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Angklung mesmerizes visitors at One World Festival in Osaka

Jakarta, 7 February 2017, (ANTARA News) – The performance of traditional Indonesian dances and Sundanese musical instrument known as angklung enthralled the visitors at the 2017 One World Festival in Osaka.

“Indonesias Consulate General in Osaka, in collaboration with the Ministry of Tourism and Garuda Indonesia, participated in the One World Festival and set up an Indonesian booth in an attempt to promote tourism,” according to a press statement of Indonesias Consulate General in Osaka received here on Tuesday.

During the festival, the Ministry of Tourism organized Legong, Zapin, Kembang Jakarta, and Jejer Banyuwangi dances as well as Riaus traditional song, Zapin.

Meanwhile, Japanese people played several Japanese and Indonesian songs, including Bengawan Solo and Indonesia Pusaka, on the angklung.

One World Festival is one of the biggest annual events in Osaka aimed at improving the understanding of Japans culture and foreign communities in the country as well as the role of Japanese institutions abroad, especially in the areas of development, peace, and nature conservation.

The festival comprises exhibitions, workshops, and a stage featuring dance, music, and cultures of various countries.

The exhibition, held on February 4-5, 2017, featured some 150 booths of various institutions.

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Telkom’s 3S satellite to support tourism development

Jakarta, 7 February 2017, (ANTARA News) – The launch of Indonesian Telkom 3S satellite, scheduled on Feb 15, 2017, at the Guinea Space Center, Kourou, Guinea, France, is viewed to have a positive impact on the countrys economy, notably the tourism sector.

“I appreciate the launch of Telkom 3S satellite, because it becomes the solution to the development of national tourism. Hopefully, the launch will run smoothly,” Tourism Minister Arief Yahya said in Jakarta on Tuesday.

According to Yahya, Indonesia is geographically an island country with thousands of islands, which has a tourism potential but cannot be maximally accessed by telecommunications infrastructure and Internet.

“With increasingly wider Internet access across the country, the tourism sector, particularly the development of the 10 primary tourism destinations, could be boosted from now as the fourth biggest foreign exchange contributor to the national economy,” noted Yahya.

In the meantime, Telkoms Director of Network and IT Solution, Abdus Somad Arief, said on Monday last week that all the preparations are already on schedule.

“Until now, all the preparations are on schedule,” Arief said on the sidelines of the pre-launch at the Telkoms master control station, Bogor, West Java.

According to him, Telkom 3S satellite will occupy an orbital slot of 118 degrees east longitude at above Kalimantan, which is occupied by Telkom 2.

With the active period of the satellite being about 15 years since its launch, Telkom 3S has a capacity of 49 transponders, comprising of 24 transponders of C-Band (24 TPE), 8 transponders extended of C-Band (12 TPE) and 10 Ku-band transponders (13 TPE).

Telkom 3S is manufactured by Thales Alenia Space (TAS) of France, launched with the Ariane 5 ECA rocket VA235 owned by Arianspace Europa.

“Telkom 3S will replace Telkom 1, which will expire in 2018,” Somad noted.

Telkom 3S satellite will be launched with an investment of around US$300 million, which will function to improve and expand the scope of telecommunications services, especially in remote areas that cannot be traversed by the optical cable.

“It provides communication services with higher bit-rate, resulting in better quality of communication. Thus, the television broadcast, mobile communications services and broadband Internet can reach all areas of Indonesia, Southeast Asia and some East Asian states,” Somad explained.

He added that with Telkom 3S satellite, the telecommunications company will have three active satellites in orbit, namely Telkom 1, Telkom 2 and Telkom 3S.

Meanwhile, Project Head of Telkom Indonesia, Tonda Priyanto, said the operation of 3S Telkom is expected to reduce dependence on foreign satellites.

According to Tonda, currently, two-thirds of Indonesian areas cannot be reached by terrestrial communication systems, while satellites are helpful to address the disparity of access to information in the country.

Towards the launch, Telkom is inviting 250 students to explore the master control station in Cibinong, Bogor, to learn more about satellites.

The students have an opportunity to conduct studies on aerospace using virtual reality video 360.

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Ahsan urges stakeholders to support Pakistan in achieving SDGs

ISLAMABAD, Feb 10 (APP): Minister for Planning, Ahsan Iqbal has urged all development partners to use SDGs agencies to synergize and coordinate their efforts to support Pakistan in achieving SDGs.

This he said while inaugurating SDG Support Unit here at P-Block on Friday.
United Nations Resident Coordinator Neil Buhne, representatives of federal, provincial and districts governments, representative of UN Agencies and international Development Partners, representatives of academia and civil society were also present.

The Minister expressed satisfaction over the efforts made so far in regards to incorporation of SDGs in Pakistan.

The Minister said that Pakistan is considered as one of the early adopters of SDGs and has been cited as an early adopter in a number of UN publications. He said that it was a personal privilege that UNDP designated me SDG Champion Minister for Asia Pacific.

Ahsan Iqbal said that the seven pillars of Vision-2025 are fully aligned with the SDGs.

The minister said that the Vision-2025 provides a comprehensive long-term strategy for achieving inclusive growth and sustainable development. This agenda is central to UN as well as Pakistan as SDGs are core of Vision 2025.
The Minister said that the National Assembly of Pakistan passed a unanimous resolution to adopt the 2030 Agenda and SDGs as the national development agenda in February 2016.

Ahsan expressed his delight on the occasion of inauguration of SDG Unit at the Ministry of Planning, Development and Reform.

He stated today’s event as a testimony of Pakistan’s commitment towards SDG.
He said “ we have already established SDG units in Punjab and Sindh, and we are at an advanced stage in Baluchistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces and the regions (AJK, GB, FATA).

The Minister said that “growth alone does not lead to development therefore we have to be inclusive. Everyone at every level is entitled to play its part.”

He said that the real challenge has begun as the implementation process is starting.

He further added that there is a need to strengthen coordination.

He highlighted that government is spending Rs 35 billion on implementation of SDG agenda from federal budget. Local governments will be taken on the board to make them active partner, he added.

He said that the status and progress of the SDGs Units is discussed regularly at interprovincial Planning Minister Meeting.

Federal and provincial government, through the SDGs Units, will be leading the process to develop the national/provincial SDGs framework, following a participatory and inclusive consultative process, he added.

The Minister said that the Government of Pakistan has demonstrated its commitment to the achievement of SDGs by setting up these Units with its own resources.

He said the Prime Minister is taking personal interest in the SDGs and has been following up on their implementation in Pakistan.

He said that the government has also established an SDG fund, which will finance priority activities at the community level.

The SDG Units are expected to provide guidance and analysis as to how could those funds can be best targeted to the priority SDGs in each area.

“Through such broad alliance, we hope to achieve SDG agenda by overcoming the problems of the past,” he said.

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Pakistan Heritage Museum first ethnology museum: Dr. Fouzia

ISLAMABAD, 9 Feb 2017, (APP) – Lok Virsa Heritage Museum is the first state museum of ethnology in Pakistan which presents the history and living traditions of people of Pakistan, both from mainstream and remotest regions of the country.

Executive Director, Lok Virsa, Dr. Fouzia Saeed told APP that the primary purpose of the museum is to educate present and future generations and to create a treasure house for the nation, more valuable in the world.
She said that most museums in the country are archaeological.

She said that the location of this landmark achievement at
Islamabad enriches the federal capital and adds to its attractions.

Dr. Fouzia Saeed said that the museum has a covered area of 60,000 sq. ft. featuring exhibit halls, making it the largest museum in Pakistan.

She said that this is a museum for the people of Pakistan, who are the real bearers of our cultural traditions, which make country truly great.

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Pakistan plans International Calligraphy Exhibition

ISLAMABAD, 13 Feb 2017, (APP) – Research Centre for Islamic History, Arts and Culture (IRCICA), Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in collaboration with National History and Literary Heritage (NHLH) Division will arrange International Calligraphy Exhibition in Pakistan after the holy month of Ramzan.

Director General IRCICA, Dr. Halit Eren through a letter to Adviser to Prime Minister on NHLH, Irfan Siddiqui, has given formal approval to organize International Calligraphy Exhibition as a part of his endeavours to revive and promote the noble Islamic art of calligraphy.

Dr. Halit Eren has requested the Advisor to Prime Minister, Irfan Siddiqui to identify some suitable date for the exhibition and invited him to Istanbul next month for discussing the arrangements in this regard.

He appreciated the efforts of NHLH division, through the letter, for arranging National Calligraphy Exhibition ‘Noon Walqalam’ last month and its efforts for strengthening and raising this noble art to higher level.

Dr. Halit Eren said that arranging calligraphy exhibition by the division in Islamabad was a milestone toward promotion of great Islamic art of calligraphy.

“Participation of President of Pakistan, Mamnoon Hussain in National Calligraphy Exhibition and his kind patronage and care of calligraphers reflected his commitment to elevate this great form of art”, he stated in the letter.

He said calligraphy and all such arts can never reach the level of perfection unless are not given support at the government level.

He hoped that the upcoming International Calligraphy exhibition will be a huge success and foster relations of both the countries in the field of art and culture.

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Pakistan’s Falconry Cultural heritage gets recognition

ISLAMABAD, 12 Feb 2017, (APP) – The addition of Pakistan’s Falconry Cultural heritage to the Representative list of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity of United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) would further boost the efforts to safeguard the living heritage of falconry.

The other countries which are on this list included United Arab Emirates, Austria, Belgium, Czechia, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Kazakhstan, Republic of Korea, Mongolia, Morocco, Pakistan, Portugal, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Spain and Syrian Arab Republic.

Falconry, as a traditional art and practice of keeping, training and flying a bird of prey to take quarry in its natural state, practiced by people of all ages, genders and statuses, is recognized by its community members as part of their cultural heritage.

It is a social tradition promoting respect for nature and the environment, transmitted for generation to generation through formal and informal means and providing its communities with a sense of belonging, pride, continuity and identity.

Taking to APP, Joint Secretary, National History and Literary Heritage (NHLH) Division, Mashhood Mirza said inclusion of Pakistan like other countries in the list of the intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO’s committee is indeed a matter of pride for the whole country.

He said UNESCO has recognized Pakistan’s contribution in Falconry as well as of the communities and families who are involved in this practice and passing on this heritage to the next generations.

Pakistan has received the certificate from UNESCO of its inclusion in the list of intangible cultural heritage by the end of last year after a thorough representation by the experts of NHLH Division.

The team of experts looked into the presentation of Pakistan about Falconry and recognized its contribution in preserving and promoting this living heritage, he said.

The inscription of the element on an extended basis on the Representative List could further contribute to fostering cultural diversity, mutual understanding and intercultural dialogue worldwide, thus enhancing visibility and awareness of intangible cultural heritage and its importance in connection with its natural environment.

It could further highlight the diversity of human creativity in the expression of a common traditional practice.

Efforts already underway in many countries with the full involvement of communities to safeguard falconry and ensure its transmission, focusing especially on apprenticeship, handicrafts, research and conservation of falcon species, are supplemented by planned measures to strengthen its viability and raise awareness both at national and international levels.

Communities, associations and individuals concerned have participated in the elaboration of this nomination at all stages and have provided plentiful evidence of their free, prior and informed consent.

Falconry is included on inventories of intangible cultural heritage in each of the submitting States.

These inventories are maintained by relevant authorities in each submitting State and are regularly updated.

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PNCA Offers Music training for music lovers

ISLAMABAD, 8 Feb 2017, (APP) – Pakistan National Council of the Arts (PNCA) has invited applications for classes of Music to impart training of basic music to the music lovers.

The six month course is to start from 1st of the March 2017 and training will be imparted in singing, Key board, Guitar and Violin.

The lower age limit for admission is twelve years and admission forms can be obtained from PNCA Office Islamabad or can be download from PNCA website wwww.pnca.org.pk, said a notice of PNCA on Wednesday.

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PTDC to produce documentaries,films of famous tourist resorts

ISLAMABAD, 13 Feb 2017, (APP) – PTDC would produce documentaries and films of famous tourists resorts of Norfthern areas and Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK).

Talking to APP, Managing Director Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation (PTDC) Abdul Ghafoor Monday said that the documentaries would be produced with an aim to promote tourism of beautiful parts
of the country.

He said that PTDC is making efforts to promote the tourism industry across the world. He said that Pakistan can be the best destination for tourists from across the world.

He said that as law and order situation improve, number of foreign tourists also increased.

He said that PTDC also planning to initiate new projects in collaboration with AJK govt, adding that recently he held a meeting with AJK officials for planning new projects.

He said soon PTDC would establish motels in various resorts of AJK and offer all possible facilities to tourists.

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Bangladesh Spring knocks door as Falgun arrives

DHAKA, Feb 13, 2017 (BSS) – The colourful Bengali month of Falgun begins today coinciding with the arrival of spring, better known as ‘Bashanto’ which is celebrated as a symbol of yellow and orange colour festival and the rebirth of nature.

The nature gets a new look in vivid clours as trees discard old leaves paving ways for new cohorts to grow and resemble the farewell of winter and emergence of summer in the typical Bengali calendar each year.

Girls and women along with their male counterparts wear different hues of yellow and orange to welcome the season by dancing and singing with immense zeal and laughter. This is also considered as the best time for modest weather when temperature hovers between around 27 and 13 degree Celsius with sweet breezes.

Known as Pohela Falgun, first day of Spring and Bengali month Falgun of the Bengali calendar, celebrated in Bangladesh and West Bengal and in the other Indian states, including Assam, Tripura, Jharkhand and Odisha. The first of Falgun usually falls on 13 February of the Gregorian calendar.

This day is marked with colourful celebration and traditionally, women wear yellow saris and put garlands to celebrate this day. This celebration is known as ‘Bosonto Utsob’.

In next two months, the current Bengali year 1424 will bid farewell and the New Year 1425 will be welcomed in mid April amid much fanfare and festivity in capital Dhaka and other parts of the country. The Bashanto or spring carries a huge importance in politics too.

The very mass protest to protect the Bengali language from Urdu was launched in this month and it has later been recognised as the International Mother Language Day by the United Nations. The seeds of the independence of Bangladesh’s birth in 1972 were also sowed in this language movement of 1952.

The Jatiya Bashanto Utshob Udjapan Parishad, in consistence with the last years, has taken elaborate programmes to celebrate the day. The programmes include: holding a colourful rally, recital of flute and playing of other local instruments, classical music festival, and other cultural activities in the city.

A dance troupe from neighboring Agartala, India, is also scheduled to perform in capital Dhaka.

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Book-reading habit for building enlightened nation stressed

RANGPUR, Feb 13, 2017 (BSS) – Book reading habit can enhance knowledge of the young generation removing ignorance about the way of life to build an enlightened society as well as a civilised nation.

The opinion came at an inaugural ceremony of the first ever four-day Book Fair- 2017 held on the Independence Memorial premises in Begum Rokeya University, Rangpur (BRUR) campus here on Sunday.

The BRUR units of cultural organisations ‘Gungun’ and ‘Ranon’ jointly organized the fair that will remain open from 10 am to 8 pm daily.

A total of 17 stalls were set up by different organisations and book publication houses in the fair.

Fiction writer Haider Basunia formally inaugurated the fair by cutting ribbon as the chief guest.

President of Begum Rokeya University Teachers’ Association (BRUTA) and Associate Professor of the Department of Bengali of BRUR Dr Abu Saleh Mohammad Wadudur Rahman (Tuhin Wadud) presided over the function. Associate Professor and Head of the department of accounting of BRUR Apel Mahmud, its Assistant Professor Umar Farooque and Head of the Department of Marketing Sheikh Mazedul Haque addressed, among others.

The chief guest stressed the need for arranging such book fair frequently in all educational institutions to generate interests among the students, common people, especially young generations to enrich cultural and literary heritages.

“Reading of books always enhances knowledge through removing immorality from the mindset of everybody to enlighten the society as well as the nation as a whole,” he said.

Dr Tuhin Wadud put emphasis on increasing habit of reading books by all people and encouraging others to acquire more knowledge in building an enlightened society.

He called upon all concerned to uphold the values and sprit of the great Language Movement that sowed seed for the struggle for Independence which was achieved by the nation in 1971 through the War of Liberation.

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Boro farming progressing fast in Gaibandha

GAIBANDHA, Feb 13, 2017 (BSS) – Farming of Boro paddy, a high value crop, is progressing fast in the project command areas of Barind Multipurpose Development Authority (BMDA) in the district during the current season.

Official sources said the BMDA set a target to bring a total of 8,325 hectares of land under Boro cultivation this year with the production target of 49,950 tonnes of paddy providing irrigation facilities to the farmers at low cost.

The farmers of the district are now so much busy to prepare the land and transplant the seedlings raised from the seedbed and nurture the transplanted seedlings in the fields following the suggestions of the field level officials of Department of Agriculture Extension (DAE) to get desired production.

To ensure the supply irrigation water to the paddy field smoothly, a total of 335 electricity run deep tube wells of the authority were kept fully functional in the command areas of the district.

To check about 40 percent water wastage in the faulty earth drains, to use the lifted water properly and to save 17 percent arable land for drain construction, UPVC pipes were also installed under the ground to supply water from most of the deep tube wells to Boro land, said M. Noor Islam, executive engineer of BMDA.

Abdul Hai, a Boro paddy grower of Barobaldia village under Sadar upazila said, “Generally, the farmers are to pay Tk 1,500 to 2,000 against a bigha of land to purchase irrigation water from the local providers who operate their power or diesel run shallow machines”.

On the contrary, the farmers of BMDA command areas are to pay only TK 900 to 1,000 to the authority on irrigation charge through coupon system to get irrigation water for one bigha of land from the BMDA operated deep tube wells, he also said.

All the farmers of BMDA command areas of seven upazilas in the district expressed their deep satisfaction over the irrigation activities being implemented by the authority since 2005 here.

Talking to BSS, executive engineer of BMDA Qudrat-e-Elahi said over 80 percent Boro farming had already been completed in the command areas of the district.

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Anisul for lodging case against World Bank

DHAKA, Feb 13, 2017 (BSS) – Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Anisul Huq yesterday called upon all who got victimized by the false allegation of graft in Padma Bridge Project to file case against the World Bank.

“After the recent verdict of Canadian court, it has been proved that there was no corruption in Padma Bridge Project. The attempt to disgrace us as a nation, has failed. A case of graft has been filed with an European court against that Okampa, who tried to take charge of investigating the case of corruption in Padma Bridge Project, himself,” Huq said at a freshers’ reception at Mirpur Marks Medical College yesterady.

While answering a question whether Bangladesh has suffered because of that false allegation of the World Bank, the law minister said it was actually a blessing in disguise.

“Today because of the firmness of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, we are being able to construct the Padma Bridge by our own funding. It is a matter of pride. As a result of their withdrawal of funding from the project, we have made two benefits. Now we don’t have to pay the interest and also we have proved the fact that we can carry out such a big project by our own funding,” Huq added.

Presided over by chief executive officer of Marks Group Tarique Masud Khan, the function was addressed by, among others, Marks Group chairperson Farida Masud Khan, Prof Dr Iqbal Arslan, Marks Medical College Principal Major General (retd) Prof Md Nasir Uddin.

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Afghanistan Ministry Promises 20pc Cut In Internet Costs

Sunday February 12, 2017, Kabul (BNA) Afghanistan ministry of telecommunication and information and technology (MCIT) announced the other day that it would cut a 20 percent cut in the internet prices, amid the growing complaints from the citizens of both high price and low quality telecommunication networks.

Sayed Ahmad Shah Sadat, Deputy MCIT Minister, told a press conference that the government-run Afghan-Telecom and Salam communication would offer hence after an internet service of up to 20 per cent decrease for the citizens hoping the private companies resort same practice to help citizen the best lowest prices in the internet services across the country.

The discount in prices in Afghanistan would be effective from Wednesday (last week) and the MCIT would monitor the prices of ISPs, he said, adding the discount would be retaken from private companies if they did not reduce the internet prices, according to the deputy minister.

According to a report, the ministry has been trying to pave the ground for fourth generation (4G) mobile telecommunication technology, Sadat said adding currently four million people in Afghanistan use internet and efforts were underway to increase the number of users to 15 million in the next four years.

According to him, efforts were ongoing to prevent distribution of illegal SIM cards and a mechanism in this regard was under process.

When asked about collection of taxes from mobile users, he said 5.6 billion afghanis had been collected since September 22, 2016. Work on a new tax collection system is also underway for more transparency in the revenue. Previously Kazakhstan offered per MB of internet to ISPs for $336, Pakistan for $120 and Iran $180, but Kazakhstan recently reduced the rate to $268, Pakistan to $96 and Iran $144 to ISPs, he said.

Shahnaz and Ahmad Farid two Kabul citizens strongly complained about the poor services of both communication and internet services. They said poor network services have exhausted them with when they want to activate an application, they related network fail to complete them, but their moneys are spent.

Fraidoon another complainer said the money collected as tax revenues should be used transparently in rising the quality of the networks services. But, Afghanistan Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (ATRA) said the plan was expected to be practiced to encourage the private network companies reduced their rate of services for the costumers including internet to help the country’s telecommunication system take a high position at the regional level.

“Whenever, we brought reduction in the Afghan telecom prices by 20 percent the private companies also brought reduction however by only five 5 percent. We want to bring high reduction in the prices as it would lay positive impact on the telecommunication networks directly, said Najib Azizi who added the optical fiber has now covered all 23 three provinces of the country, hoping the prices could reduce eye-catchingly by the end of this year.

He said they had come along with the World Bank to invest more than 100 million USD to help Afghanistan change into the fiber optic center in the region and connect with the Central Asian nations and in the same time with the south Asian countries.

The Afghanistan Telecommunication Regulatory Authority (ATRA) said it would never allow anyone to misuse the costumers’ payments and that is committed to rise the quality of the internet. He said in case any companies rise in the prices and offer lowest network services would be fined from two million to 100 million afghanis.

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Afghanistan plans Art Programs To Help Reduce Extremism

Sunday, February 12, 2017, Kabul (BNA) Artists of Zahak house performed their art shows titled ‘It Is Enough’ in Kabul.

In the art shows including singing, sport actions and holding photo exhibitions, artists tried to show social violence and ways to reach peace, pains of immigration, violence and war in their performance.

At the beginning of the show, head of Zahak house Sayed Mehdi Zahak considered aim of the art program to support peace, reduce violence and showing difficulties of immigration.

Acting minister of information and culture Dr. Kamal Sadat considered role of such art programs in support of peace and reduction of violence as beneficial, adding that holding such art programs could be one of ways of counter violence and war in the country.

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South Africa, Iran Hold Talks On Boosting Tourism Ties

PRETORIA, 8 Feb 2017, (NNN-SA NEWS) – South Africa and Iran have held discussions on growing tourism relations between the two countries during Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom’s current working visit to Iran.

The Department of Tourism said in a statement here that Hanekom met his Iranian counterpart, Vice-President Dr Zahra Ahmadipour, as well as the head of the Iranian Cultural, Heritage, Handicraft and Tourism Organization on Tuesday.

Hanekom also engaged members of the tourism trade in Tehran to discuss ways of increasing tourist arrivals from Iran to South Africa.

“We have a good base to work from and grow tourism between our countries. We have been very warmly received in Iran, and the government and tourism trade has responded very positively to our effort to promote further tourism ties,” the statement quoted him as saying.

“We have a great opportunity to grow tourism between our countries, and we are working together with our Iranian counterparts to do this.”

Iran is among South Africa’s top three source markets for inbound tourists from the Middle East and more than 4,000 Iranian tourists visited South Africa in the first 11 months of 2016.

South Africa is among the most popular destinations in the world for Muslim travellers, according to the MasterCard-Crescent Rating Global Muslim Travel Index for 2016, which covers 130 global destinations.

About 117 million Muslim visitors travelled the world in 2015, representing 10 per cent of the entire travel market. This is expected to grow to 168 million visitors by 2020, according to the Index.

South Africa and Iran already have a strategic partnership that will benefit the people of both countries. The Department of Tourism is now working with their Iranian counterparts on finalising a Memorandum of Understanding on Tourism Co-operation, said Hanekom.

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Scania, Iran ink deal to receive 1,350 buses for public transport

13 Feb 2017, (MENAFN) – Scania has inked a deal with the Iranian province of Isfahan and Shahr-e Atiyeh investment firm for the delivery of 1.350 buses for public transport.

Furthermore, there is a notable need to increase and renew public bus systems in Iran, while the 2 signed deals will get sustainable public transport solutions.

In addiion, the new buses are equipped with engine tech that provides the lowest emissions levels in the country.

Iran is one of Scania’s major 10 bus markets globally, while privately owned Oghab Afshan has been Scania’s bus partners in Iran since 2000.

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Turkey’s real estate sector expects USD1b revenue in 2017

13 February 2017, (MENAFN) – A Turkish senior economy official said that Turkey’s real estate sector is expected to see more than USD1b in additional revenue in 2017 after giving citizenship to some foreigners who buy and hold Turkish property.

The official stated: “We expect over USD1b revenue upon our move to grant citizenship to foreigners who buy property here or who bring their money into Turkey.”

Also, some 22,830 properties were sold to foreigners in 2015 with a 20.4 percent of increase from the previous year.

Specifically, investors from Syria and Russia have been showing an interest in properties especially in Istanbul.

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UNEC to exchange experiences with Turkish Universities

Baku, 4 Feb 2017, (AZERTAC) – A delegation of professors and teaching staff are being sent to Turkey to expand Azerbaijan State University of Economics (UNEC) cooperation with the world’s most prestigious universities. The trip is also targeted in enhancing the scientific capacity of the teaching staff and benefitting from the experience of foreign universities.

The delegation consisting of 18 members is represented by the deans and heads of departments. They will be on business in groups of 6 people at the Uludagh, Sakarya and Suleyman Demirel Universities of Turkey. Getting closer acquainted with the higher education system of the universities they were sent to, the academic staff will conduct exchange of experiences.

At the same time they will become familiar with the major disciplines, syllabuses, textbooks, exams, laboratories and library system of the universities. They will make discussions on conducting scientific researches, writing joint scientific articles and development of the relevant textbooks with their Turkish colleagues.

Meeting with the delegation, UNEC Rector, Professor Adalat Muradov stressed the role of exchange of experiences in teachers’ capacity- building. Bringing to attention the fact when 15 UNEC professors benefited from the experience of the most prestigious Turkish Universities last year, Rector expressed confidence for this visit to be significant and made recommendations to the delegation.

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Malabar Gold & Diamonds opens 11th outlet in Saudi

13 February 2017, (MENAFN – The Peninsula) – Malabar Gold & Diamonds, the leading jewellery retailer across the globe, launched its 11th showroom in Saudi Arabia at Jeddah Street, Jubail, and reopened its renovated and expanded showroom at Ladies Market, Gold Souq, in Dammam on Thursday, February 9, 2017.

The showroom at Jeddah Street in Jubail was inaugurated by Meshary M Al Oqaily, Chairman Board of Businessman, Jubail Ashraqia Chamber, in the presence of MP Ahammed, Chairman, Malabar Group; Shamlal Ahamed Managing Director International Operations, Malabar Gold & Diamonds; Ameer CMC, Director Finance & Admin; Gafoor Edakkuni, Regional Director; Waseem M Al Qahtani, other dignitaries, well-wishers and guests.

The renovated and expanded showroom at Ladies Market, Gold Souq, Dammam was inaugurated by MP Ahammed, Chairman, Malabar Group in the presence of Shamlal Ahamed Managing Director International Operations, Malabar Gold & Diamonds; Ameer CMC, Director Finance & Admin; Gafoor Edakkuni, Regional Director; Waseem M Al Qahtani, other dignitaries, well-wishers and guests.

The company will also open two more new showrooms in Saudi Arabia soon at Lulu Hypermarket Hail and Lulu Hypermarket Al Hassa.

The outlet unveiled a significantly large collection of traditional as well as contemporary designer jewellery. The exquisite range of collections in the new outlet can hold you spell-bound with their awe-inspiring beauty and classic designs. Like all their other outlets, this outlet will also exhibit a wide range of diverse and trendy designs in gold (18K and 22 K), IGI certified diamonds and precious gem jewellery from Italy, Singapore, Bahrain and India.

The launch of two showrooms will be celebrated by exhibiting the finest collection of gold and diamonds in addition to offering exciting promotions for customers. Celebrating the launch, the outlet will offer special promotions on purchase of diamond jewellery. Customers who spend SAR5,000 on diamond jewellery will get a 2 gramme gold coin free and those who spend SAR3,000 on diamond jewellery will get a 1 gramme gold coin free. Customers can also avail zero deduction exchange offer on 22K old gold exchange. These offers are valid until February 18, 2017.

The branded jewellery segment of Malabar Gold & Diamonds is renowned globally for its flawless craftsmanship and impeccable style. The exclusive brands available include Ethnix – Handcrafted Designer jewellery, Era – Uncut Diamond Jewellery, Mine – Diamonds Unlimited, Divine- Indian Heritage jewellery, Precia – Gem jewellery and Starlet – Kids jewellery. Malabar Group has established its presence in the Middle East market in a surprisingly short span of time. The group strives to continue embarking on its journey by further expanding in the near future.

In Saudi Arabia, Malabar Gold & Diamonds operates in Al Khobar, Dammam (two showrooms), Makkah, Riyadh (Murabbah, Batha & Khurais Road), Jeddah (two showrooms) and now two showrooms in Jubail. Malabar Gold & Diamonds has always been at the forefront in gold jewellery manufacturing, wholesaling and retailing and plans on being the ‘most- preferred’ choice in the market in the following years.

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3rd Annual Women’s Heritage Walk Honours UAE Women

ABU DHABI, 9 Feb 2017, (NNN-WAM) – Fifty women begins a historical journey on Feb 9, tracing the footsteps of generations of Emirati women along the 120-kilometre trek from Al Ain to Abu Dhabi through the desert.

The third annual Women’s Heritage Walk honours the traditions and customs of the UAE by following an ancient path that was travelled twice a year, offering a unique perspective into the sights, smells, sounds, tastes and experiences of Emirati culture.

The initiative is supported by Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority, TCA Abu Dhabi, as part of its mission to support cultural, intellectual and artistic activities to nurture a rich cultural environment and honour the emirate’s heritage.

Bodour Al Tamimi, Ambassador for the Women’s Heritage Walk, said, “Since my first time embarking on this historic journey in 2015, I have been in awe of the strength and courage of the women who endured the harsh conditions of the walk through the dunes twice a year. Their strength gives me great hope for the potential of women all around the world, the effect their satisfaction and happiness has on society, and how much they can accomplish when they have confidence in themselves.”

Setting off from Al Ain National Museum on Thursday, the women, of various nationalities, will walk through Al Ain’s historic oasis, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, before venturing beyond the city and into the desert. They will take part in traditional handicraft workshops in their desert camps and will learn more about Emirati customs and traditions at difference stages along the journey.

Ranya Nasser, Head of Education Programmes and Initiatives at TCA Abu Dhabi, said, “This journey is in line with TCA Abu Dhabi’s continuing commitment to increasing community engagement and understanding of the intangible cultural heritage elements that are at the core of Emirati identity. Throughout the journey the participants will gain insight into local traditions and rituals through interactive workshops. Beginning this journey in Al Ain oasis, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, reinforces the history and significance of the oases as a key trading point for our ancestors.”

The Emirati and expatriate women taking part in the 2017 Women’s Heritage Walk have trained six days a week for the past three months in preparation for the six-day trek through some challenging terrains.

They will arrive in Abu Dhabi on Feb 14, where they will be welcomed with a celebration in Umm Al Emarat Park. Further details and the full programme of events and timings can be found on the event’s official website.

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27 Saudi Airports to be Privatised by mid-2018

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia, 7 Feb 2017, (NNN-XINHUA) – The 27 Saudi airports will be fully privatised, by the middle of 2018, to make airports independent bodies, Al Sharq Al Awsat newspaper reported.

Saudi Civil Aviation, highlighted to the newspaper that, the privatisation plan will increase the asset values of these airports, and attract huge foreign investments.

Deputy Chairman of the Civil Aviation Department, Dr Faisal Al Saqeer, expected that foreign investments are expected to represent 75 percent, in some of the airports.

Saudi Arabia announced last week, a plan to privatise 16 government authorities, as part of the economic vision 2030.

This is the first phase of the privatisation programme, while they were chosen among 147 government organisations and 85 state projects.

The privatisation plan aims to cut government expenditure, by reducing the operational cost of running various organisations, and promote the role of the private sector, as important contributors to the GDP.

Saudi Arabia, which is taking solid steps, to get ready for the post oil era, hopes the privatisation plan will attract local and foreign investments.

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‘Dubai-Opoly’ to promote Dubai as global hub for business and trade

DUBAI, 12 February 2017, (WAM) – Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry announced that it has launched “Dubai-Opoly”, a new recreational game as part of its efforts to promote Dubai as a global hub for business and trade.

Modelled after the world-famous “Monopoly” board game, Dubai-Opoly will soon hit store shelves in the UAE and GCC region, and feature some of the emirate’s most prominent landmarks and attractions. The new game complements the Dubai Chamber’s efforts to strengthen the emirate’s reputation as a thriving centre of commerce and a leading tourist destination.

Hamad Buamim, President and CEO, Dubai Chamber, explained that the Chamber adopted an innovative and creative approach when it comes to developing the board game.

“By launching this unique initiative, we will promote Dubai’s brand and boost its international profile. Last year, the Chamber received over 600 international delegations and participated in more than 70 events abroad. Dubai-Opoly offers an ideal platform to showcase what Dubai has to offer businesses and tourists, while it also merges these two concepts together in a fun and interactive way,” Buamim said.

He added that the Dubai-Opoly is expected to have a strong appeal among segments of the Dubai’s society as it celebrates some of the most popular aspects of living and doing business in the emirate.

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Dubai welcomed record 14.9 million visitors in 2016

Dubai, 13 February 2017, (MENAFN – The Peninsula) – Dubai welcomed a record 14.9 million visitors in 2016, the city’s tourism department said Tuesday, as the Gulf emirate capitalised on its reputed safety in a region wracked by turmoil.

The city-state, one of seven sheikhdoms that make up the United Arab Emirates, aims to attract 20 million visitors annually by 2020 when it hosts the global trade fair Expo 2020.

As turmoil hits traditional tourism destinations in the Middle East and North Africa, Dubai has benefitted from its reputation as a safe haven for tourism and business.

The desert emirate boasts opulent shopping malls, numerous luxury resorts and even an indoor ski resort.

The number of visitors to Dubai in 2016 increased by five percent compared to the previous year, the tourism department said in a statement.

Travellers from Gulf countries made up almost 23 percent of all visitors, it said, with Saudis alone accounting for almost half of them.

Western Europe followed closely with 21 percent of visitors, it said.

Travellers from China surged by 20 percent to more than half a million, while Russian tourism rose by 14 percent to 240,000 visitors.

Dubai International Airport retained its position as the world’s busiest hub for international passengers in 2016, handling 83.6 million travellers.

The economy of Dubai is seen as the most diversified in the Gulf, helped by trade and tourism, and is not dependent on oil revenues.

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Oman ranked first worldwide in dates consumption

MUSCAT, 13 Feb 2017, (KUNA) – Individual consumption in Oman reached 65 kg of dates a year, the highest consumption rate in the world, Oman Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries reported Monday.

According to statistics released by the Ministry, that there are around 8.5 million palm trees in the Sultanate, including 7.6 million in the agricultural sector, while 800,000 in home gardens, and 100,000 in streets and public parks.

The production of the Sultanate of dates amounted to 344.7 tons in 2015, and the agricultural sector occupies 35 percent of the total cultivated area, the report added.

Dates production in Oman extends from May to November, the highest period in the world.

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Abu Dhabi Crown Prince inspects Museum of the Future

DUBAI, 12 February 2017, (WAM) – Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, inspected the Museum of the Future, as part of the activities included in the fifth edition of the World Government Summit.

He was accompanied during the museum tour by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs. The tour was organised by the Dubai Foundation and the World Government Summit.

Museum officials described the innovative solutions created by farms to develop their food networks, in a bid to serve whole neighbourhoods, while catering to the nutritional needs of individuals.

Sheikh Mohamed also participated in the interactive section of the museum, where visitors get a glimpse of how cities will look in 2050.

The museum houses a section called “City Tools”, which is an automatic, robotic system that displays the cities of tomorrow and can also demonstrate how to rebuild a city after a disaster, or over a short period. It relies on advanced robotic technologies to construct buildings and infrastructure, and create sustainable and flourishing environmental systems.

Sheikh Mohamed’s tour also covered the ‘Creative Government Innovations’ exhibition, in which 12 participating countries showcased their innovations.

He emphasised that the World Government Summit, which has been hosted by the UAE annually since 2013, has become an outstanding international event, reflecting the special status the country has assumed under the leadership of President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, both in the regional, and international levels.

The World Government Summit, which is held under the patronage of Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, has opened its doors to all countries in the world, in a bid to encourage exchanges of experiences and ideas, noted Sheikh Mohamed.

He further praised the role of the World Government Summit, as a leading and innovative international platform to review the development of governments around the world.

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10,000 Saudi Women Receive Mobile Phone Repairing Training

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia, 7 Feb 2017, (NNN-SPA) – More than 10,000 Saudi women have received mobile phone repairing training, to improve the employment chances of females, Al Riyadh local newspaper reported.

The free training was provided by the Technical and Vocational Training Cooperation, to 10,769 female students, studying at 19 collages, in different parts of the country.

The spokesperson of the cooperation, Fahad Al Otaibi, said that, the training is part of a plan to localise jobs in the communication sector.

The cooperation also offers training on sales, consumer services and advanced repairing of smart phones.

He said that, the trained women are able to work at mobile phone shops, after gaining the basic skills for such job, and they can also obtain licenses to start their own businesses.

Saudi Arabia has been taking many steps, to open new opportunities for recruiting women, including the distance work scheme, that allows women to work from home.

Meanwhile, local news, reported late last year that, two ministries are negotiating the formation of women-only information technology firm, to open up new sectors for female job-seekers.

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Oman Development Bank To Organise Seminar On Financing SMEs

MUSCAT, Oman, 11 Feb 2017, (NNN-ONA) – A three-day seminar on Financing and Development of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) will start this Monday, at Crowne Plaza Muscat Hotel, under the auspices of Dr. Ali bin Masoud al-Sunaidy, Minister of Commerce and Industry.

The seminar is organised by Oman Development Bank in cooperation with the Association of National Development Finance Institutions (DFIs) in Member Countries of the Islamic Development Bank (IDB).

The seminar’s programme includes working papers and discussion sessions on financing and development of small enterprises. A group of experts in banking institutions, development finance, from the Sultanate and the Gulf states, Turkey, Pakistan, Iran and Jordan will participate in the seminar.

The participating experts seek to examine the reality of developmental financing for the SMEs and identifying the challenges it faces.

The experts will discuss over three days all the mechanisms and outputs that contribute to the SMEs development.

The seminar aims to attract a large number of agencies and experts in the field of developmental financing, and commercial banks, as well as focusing on the SMEs development in the Sultanate and the region.

The seminar will review the successful experiences of the participating countries, in order to take advantage of them.

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Qatar: Souq Waqif visitors get a chance for a close look at planets

13 Feb 2017, (MENAFN – The Peninsula) – Many visitors to the Souq Waqif have an opportunity to have a close look at some planets in the solar system through a telescope. An Egyptian astronomerAmro Mahmoud, with his powerful telescope, is attracting many sky-watchers.

They have the opportunity to see the Moon, Jupiter and Venus after the sunset, during the winter season, says Mahmoud, who has his telescope fixed opposite Fanar mosque.

‘People can see Venus and the Moon after the sunset, but the Jupiter and its 16 moons can be seen only after 11pm, he told The Peninsula.

‘Venus can be seen only for three months in the Doha sky from December, he added.

Jupiter, Saturn, and Mars could be seen during the summer for three months.

However, Mahmoud says that Mercury is not clearly seen compared with other planets since it is nearer to the sun.

‘Many people like to see the sun through the telescope. It can be seen early in the morning around 4am, but I don’t encourage it because the sun is very powerful and it can even harm the lenses and telescope, he said.

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Qatar Airways to unveil new Business Class seat at ITB Berlin

13 Feb 2017, (MENAFN – The Peninsula) – Qatar Airways is set to reveal its brand new Business Class seat at this year’s ITB Berlin exhibition to be held in Berlin from March 8 to 12.

The unveiling of this latest product will be held in a world exclusive ceremony at the opening day of the exhibition followed by a press conference expected to draw more than 200 international media and set to further detail Qatar Airways’ plans for the year ahead.

Guests and visitors to ITB Berlin will be invited to relax in the new Business Class seat at the airline’s exhibition stand in Hall 2.2, booth 208. The booth will offer visitors the opportunity to experience the comfort, entertainment and hospitality offered on board a Qatar Airways flight.

Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive, Akbar Al Baker, said: ‘I am delighted to officially announce that this year’s ITB exhibition will be the location at which we will premier our much-anticipated new Business Class product. As an airline we strive to offer our passengers the very best, not only in terms of our world class on board experience, but also our expanding global network.

“At this year’s ITB, I look forward to sharing the revolutionary new patented Business Class seat with the travel industry and worldwide media, alongside many other new and exciting developments to our network.”

The ITB Berlin is an annual event which showcases travel exhibitors from 187 countries and five continents, providing visitors with information on new products, services and facilities in the global tourism industry.

Qatar Airways operates 35 weekly flights to Germany itself, a country that continues to play an important role in the growth of Qatar Airways, departing from Hamad International Airport to Frankfurt, Munich and Berlin from a network of more than 150 destinations worldwide.

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Qatari businessmen keen to explore investment in Niger

13 Feb 2017, (MENAFN – The Peninsula)- Qatari businessmen are interested to explore the investment opportunities available in Niger, particularly in areas of mining and natural resources, oil and gas, gold and uranium, as well as other sectors, said Mohammed bin Ahmed bin Tawar Al Kawari, Vice Chairman of Qatar Chamber ,yesterday.

Qatar Chamber received Mahamadou Issoufou, President of Niger and his accompanying delegation. Qatar is now one of the countries attracting investments worldwide and Qatari private sector has managed to prove itself in many international markets said Al Kawari. This meeting represent great opportunity for Qatari businessmen to be informed about the available investment and business oppornities in Niger he added.

President Issoufou outlined that his country has realised economic growth of six percent over the past five years and can be a gateway for Qatari investment to The Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS which has population of over 300 million.

Niger has signed with Qatar the double taxation agreement and it is about to sign an agreement to protect the Qatari investment in Niger he added. Niger has investment opportunities in areas of infrastructures, energy, communication, agriculture, food security, tourism and hospitality and mining. The aim of this visit is to facilitate communication between the business community in the two country.

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QGBC promotes Qatar’s architectural heritage

13 Feb 2017, (MENAFN – The Peninsula)- Qatar Green Building Council (QGBC) specialists, Dr. Alex Amato and Dr. Cynthia Skelhorn, recently organised a series of lectures for students at Northwestern University in Qatar (NU-Q), outlining the significance of Qatar’s architectural heritage.

The presentations were given as part of an NU-Q course entitled ‘Advanced Online Storytelling.’

Delivered by industry experts drawn from QF Capital Projects, Qatar University, and Makower Architects, among others, the lectures provided students with an insightful and informed perspective of Doha’s recent rapid growth and its resulting architectural townscape.

Valuable skills were also demonstrated, such as the use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) in mapping Qatar’s architectural heritage.

Dr. Amato, Head of Sustainability at QGBC, said: ‘QGBC considers the cultural sustainability of Qatar’s built environment to be vital to the country’s long-term development. While Doha’s traditional architecture is important to this story, the city’s rapid urbanization since the onset of petrochemical wealth has resulted in the formation of many new neighborhoods that contain architecturally notable buildings that need to be acknowledged for their worth.

Additionally, as part of the five-week course, NU-Q launched a website documenting the evolution of Qatar’s architecture and urban development. The website contributes to the further study and conservation of Doha’s unique architectural story. QGBC stressed that the students’ work was not at an end, and that it will hopefully act as a spark to generate further study.

Dr. Amato said: ‘We greatly appreciate the important work NU-Q’s students have carried out. It was a delight to work with them and their tutor as they immediately warmed to the project and recognized that Qatar has a rich and diverse architectural range which needs to be recorded for appreciation now and for future generations. Doha’s buildings should be acknowledged for their genuine architectural value as the city is becoming an engaging architectural hub for both experts and tourists alike.

Dr. Amato added: ‘The website developed by NU-Q students is one of the best ways to extol the true significance of Qatar’s architectural heritage and to communicate this with the wider community, especially with decision-makers.

We hope this is just the start, as there is still much that needs to be done, not only in terms of celebrating and recording, but also in terms of conservation, as some ‘architectural gems’ are either neglected or endangered by redevelopment.

Dr. Cynthia Skelhorn, Research Specialist at QGBC, said: ‘Doha has a considerable stock of traditional architecture that needs consistent effort to preserve and retrofit. One element of preservation is to document the exact locations of architecture that are particularly iconic, noteworthy, or representative of a particular era in Qatar’s development.”

“To this end, students were introduced to online story-maps as an effective technology for visualising Doha’s architectural sites. We are grateful for the opportunity to begin this documentation process with such a talented group of students, and we plan to continue recording these sites following the completion of the course.

Christina Paschyn, Assistant Professor of Journalism at NU-Q, mentored the students and oversaw the production of the website. ‘My students and I appreciate QGBC’s valuable contribution. We hope that through the website, local and international communities will learn more about why Doha, from its skyline to its traditional houses, looks the way it does, she said.

QGBC, a member of Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development (QF), advocates for best-practice sustainability and green buildings in Qatar, including cultural sustainability. Additionally, the Qatar National Vision 2030 acknowledges the need to recognize and encourage Qatar’s unique heritage, extending to the country’s architecture, both traditional and more recent developments.

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Jordan: Major Solar Power Project Gets Underway

IRBID, 10 Feb 2017, (NNN-Petra) – A government-run fund on Thursday kicked off a major project to install about 200,000 solar water heaters and 100,000 solar electric systems at homes across the Kingdom in a bid to encourage a nationwide shift towards renewable energy and, simultaneously, ease dependence on fossil fuel.

The Jordan Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Fund (JREEEF), signed agreements today with 20 charities in the northern governorate of Irbid to start the actual installation of the solar systems. Under the project, the fund will subside the cost for each home by 50 per cent while the other 50 per cent can be paid at cost price through various channels.

A ceremony was held to mark the inception of the project which also entails the installation of one million energy-efficient bulbs. JREEEF Director, Rasmi Hamza, said the project mainly targets homes whose monthly consumption of electricity is less than 600 kilowatts. He explained that the move aims to increase dependence on clean energy and slash a heavy bill the government pays to support the energy sector. He hoped that 20 per cent of homes in the Kingdom use solar water heaters.

At a later stage, Hamza noted, the fund will launch similar programs that target public buildings, including schools and places of worship and the services sector.

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Libya: Rare Islamic manuscripts restored

Thursday 09 Feb 2017 – 14:19 Makkah mean time-12-5-1438

Tripoli (IINA) – Elements of the Libyan army have found rare Islamic manuscripts stolen by terrorist groups affiliated with Daesh/ISIS from University of Benghazi.

Wahid Al-Zawi, an official of the 21st Commando Battalion media office, confirmed that during combing operations in Ghanfooda area after its liberation from the terrorist groups, hundreds of antique books and rare Islamic manuscripts stolen by terrorists from Benghazi University, were discovered on Tuesday night, Libyan News Agency (LANA) reported.

Al-Zawi explained that the terrorist groups transferred the manuscripts to the positions they controlled during the period of their seizure of the university. He said some of the manuscripts written in gold water and some in saffron, pointing out that “the manuscripts are considered historic treasure for the country, and now the property is restored to its owners.”

The media official noted that some of the manuscripts were willfully damaged by the terrorists, while other manuscripts decayed due to negligence, as they were kept in a poor storage environment.

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Concert tribute to Nelson Mandela performed in Algiers Opera

ALGIERS, 12 February 2017, (Algeria Press Services) – “Madiba Le Musical,” a varied show combining music, songs and dance, has been performed Saturday night at the Algiers Boualem-Bessaih Opera in tribute to Nelson Mandela, leading figure of the struggle against Apartheid regime in South Africa.

Organized by the Algerian Agency for Cultural Influence (Aarc), the musical play directed by Belgian Pierre-Yves Duchesne, commemorates the 27th anniversary of the liberation of Nelson Mandela (1918-2013), who became the president of South African Republic from 1994 to 1999, after 27 years in jail.

The show served up by a score of singers, dancers and comedians, puts the spotlight on the career of activist Nelson Mandela, evoking his struggle for tolerance, peace and cohabitation.

With African traditional songs “Zoulou” playing in the background, the show recounts an “impossible” love story between Helena, a white Afrikaner woman and William, a young black artist, who was victim of the Apartheid system. At the end, the pair will manage to live together and in peace, thanks to Mandela resistance for justice and racial equality.

For Minister of Culture Azzedine Mihoubi, who was among the audience, the musical is a sign of recognition to a figure that marked the world by his activism and his principles, recalling that Mandela had received his military training in Algeria in 1962.

Minister of State, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Ramtane Lamamra and representatives of the diplomatic corps accredited to Algeria, attended the show.

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Algerian PM Stresses Efforts To Preserve Nation’s Cultural Identity

ALGIERS, 10 Feb 2017, (NNN-APS) – Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal has stressed the efforts of the State to preserve Algeria’s cultural identity and protect its religious and historical values by the organization of several national and international colloquiums for the purpose.

Responding to oral questions at the People’s National Assembly (Lower House of Parliament) here Thursday on reasons for not organizing colloquiums on Islamic Thought over the past years, Sellal said in a statement read on his behalf by Minister of Relations with Parliament Ghania Eddalia that the State “has organized many national and international colloquiums aiming at preserving the cultural identity of our country and protecting our religious and historical values in the face of the cultural globalization”.

In this regard, the Prime Minister recalled the organization of a colloquium on the freedom of worship in 2009 and 11 other national and international colloquiums in 2011 as part of “Tlemcen, Capital of Islamic Culture” event.

He also mentioned the international colloquium on Malek Bennabi, and another on Islam against violence, and that on “the Fatwa: between Shariah (Islamic Law) and globalization challenges”, adding that these meetings were marked by large participation from different Islamic countries.

Sellal added that in 2012, Oran hosted the 20th session of the International Islamic Academy on Fiqh (Islamic Jurisprudence), which brought together more than 150 religious and scientific personalities from different Arab and western countries.

In this regard, he underlined that some of those meetings have become annual events, like the Colloquium on Malekite Rite in Ain Defla, which has reached its 12th edition, and the Colloquium on Okba Ibn Nafi in Biskra, the Colloquium on Sufism in Relizane, the Colloquium on the Prophet (PBUH) in Constantine, as well as the Colloquium on the Holy Qur’an in Chlef.

The Prime Minister added that the authorities concerned, represented by the Minister of Religious Affairs and Wakf, are in charge of organizing the annual international contest of Holy Qur’an Recitation as well as the National Week of Holy Qur’an.

Through these efforts, “the State aims at promoting the values of Islam, based on a moderate thought, with a view to preserving our identity and protecting our society from any form of extremism”, he said.

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Tunisair reports 8.6% increase in passenger traffic

9 Feb 2017, (African Manager) – Passenger traffic of national carrier Tunisair recorded an 8.4% rise in passenger traffic and a 70.4% drop in its load factor in January compared to the same period in 2016, according to data released Wednesday by the company.

All activities included, this traffic went up from 221,452 to 240,555 passengers with a 3.5% rise of regular traffic and “a remarkable growth” of charter activities from 205 to 6,977 passengers thanks to Umrah traffic. Additional traffic also went up to 5,096 passengers against 595 in January 2016.

As for the national carrier’s key markets, European countries had lion’s share with passenger traffic of 73.8%, i.e. a 4.9% increase. They are followed by African countries with 13.4% of traffic, recording a slight drop of 8.4%, while Middle East countries account for 11.7% of traffic with 1% rise.

2,462 passengers also used the Tunis/Montreal air service in January 2017. That service was operated from June 2016.

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Tunisia: working days lost in private sector down 75% in December 2016

9 Feb 2017, (African Manager) – A decrease of 75% was recorded in the number of working days lost in the private sector during the month of December 2016 compared to the previous month and 26% compared to December 2015, according to data provided by the Ministry of Social Affairs on the social situation in Tunisia last December.

Thus, the number of days lost in the private sector last December due to strikes reached 9,192 days against 36,886 days in November 2016 and 12,453 days in December 2015.

The number of employees participating in these strikes is estimated at 2,120 against 3,150 in November 2016 and 2,528 in December 2015.

According to the same sources, 20 strikes were observed, representing about 87% of the total strikes recorded in the private sector and that of public enterprises of industrial and commercial nature, which reached 23 strikes.

The same data show that the number of strikes in the private sector has dropped by 9% compared with November 2016.

The number of companies affected by strikes in the private sector also decreased by 10% compared with November 2016.

Twelve strikes were observed in foreign companies (6 French and 3 Spanish), or 60% of the total strikes.

Wages were the main claim of the strikers (46%), followed by improved working conditions (30%) and improved industrial relations (13%).

As a result, 50% of the strikes were observed in the textile, clothing and leather and footwear sector and 15% in the agricultural and construction materials industries.

Moreover, 20% of the strikes were observed in the region of Ben Arous and 15% in Monastir.

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Baku City Circuit to host conf on benefits of major sports events

Baku, 11 February 2017, (AZERTAC) – Baku City Circuit (BCC), promoter of the 2017 Formula 1 Azerbaijan Grand Prix, today announced it will host the inaugural Conference on the Benefits of Hosting Major Sports Events (BHMSE) in association with the American Chamber of Commerce in Azerbaijan at Baku’s Four Seasons Hotel, on Wednesday 15th February. The symposium will feature contributions from high-profile representatives of several current F1 Grand Prix races and is expected to welcome up to 200 delegates on the day.

This newly formulated event, the first of its kind to be staged in Azerbaijan, will feature speakers from BCC’s senior management team as well as key figures from within the Azerbaijani government and business community. Additionally, representatives from several major international sporting events, such as the Russian, Abu Dhabi and Bahrain Formula 1 Grand Prixs, will take to the stage to showcase how they have each benefitted from hosting global sporting events.

Speakers on the day will include Azad Rahimov, Minister of Youth and Sports of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Nazim Samadov, Deputy Minister of Culture and Tourism, Sergey Vorobyev, Promoter of the Formula 1 Russian Grand Prix, Richard Cregan, CEO Rasgaira & Special Consultant to Yas Marina Circuit, Fayez Ramzy Fayez, Operations Director at Bahrain International Circuit, Ilgar Veliyev, President of the American Chamber of Commerce in Azerbaijan, Davut Furkan Emen, General Manager at Shah Palace Hotel, Baku.

This special one-day conference will provide a unique platform for sporting promoters and businesses from across the region to come together to share their own experiences and learn from vast array of international guest speakers who will discuss and analyse the economic and social impact, importance and benefits that staging major sporting events can have on host cities and nations. Drawing from their extensive combined knowledge, they will outline the many opportunities and challenges that organisers face when bringing global sporting celebrations to their countries and how to maximise the huge potential these events offer.

Arif Rahimov, Executive Director at Baku City Circuit, commented on the announcement of BHMSE 2017 earlier this morning: “We are thrilled to host the first BHMSE conference to highlight the benefits of hosting a major sporting event. The importance of the F1 race to Baku and Azerbaijan cannot be underestimated.

After successfully hosting the European Games in 2015, the F1 race weekend continued the process of establishing Baku as a home of major international sporting events. There are many potential benefits that arise from hosting such a major sporting event.

The economic benefits are clear: increased tourism, increased spending in the wider hospitality industry, and increased investments from international companies. We are delighted to welcome this high calibre roster of speakers next week to continue discussing this important topic and are hopeful this will be the first BHMSE of many to take place in Baku.”

Sergey Vorobyev, promoter of F1 Russian Grand Prix also spoke of his excitement at speaking at the conference next week: “I am honoured to have been invited to speak at next week’s inaugural BHMSE conference. Sochi has experienced first-hand how hosting major sporting events can achieve greater international recognition for a host city. With this in mind, the close cooperation among the local organiser, businesses and government is crucial to creating long lasting successful outcomes that are mutually beneficial to all parties.

The BHMSE is a great opportunity to gather an experienced pool of speakers from all over the world together in one place, who will share their knowledge and experiences of hosting such major events and how best to maximise the potential in social, cultural and economic terms.”

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Bishkek hosts exhibition on Soviet army pullout from Afghanistan

Bishkek, 13 Feb 2017, (Kabar) – A photodocumentary exhibition “Afghanistan is our memory and pain”, dedicated to the withdrawal of Soviet army from Afghanistan in 1989, will be open tomorrow at Frunze House Museum in Bishkek. The press service of the Ministry of Culture reports that, this year turns 28 years since the Soviet Union withdrew its troops from Afghanistan. More than seven thousand people from Kyrgyzstan participated in the Afghan war. 249 people were killed, 4 missing.

“The materials of the exhibition tell about the Afghan war – the causes of the war, the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan, about veterans from Kyrgyzstan and many other participants. Each of them has their own history, memories,” the report said.

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EBRD financed over 200 SMES in Kazakhstan in 2016

13 February 2017, (Khabar Agency) – European Bank of Reconstruction and Development financed over 200 small and medium-size projects last year.

According to the EBRD report, the total amount of the allocated grants made up more than 2 million euros. The financial institute provides support to small and medium-sized businesses via subsidizing the services of local consultants and international business advisers.

The enterprises receive help in developing a feasible business plan, in marketing, developing technical and quality standards and creating a new brand. As the EBRD notes, 142 projects were launched through the support of Kazakhstan’s Government, local consultants and 20 international advisers.

ALMA KASYMOVA, NATIONAL PROGRAM MANAGER, EBRD SME SUPPORT TEAM: An entrepreneur receives 10,000 euros as a grant which they use for consulting services.

If the cost of consulting services is 20,000, an entrepreneur may receive 10,000 as a refund. This is according to one of the programs. There is also the EBRD’s Women in Business Program. If a woman is an entrepreneur, the head of a company or a business owner, she is eligible for financial assistance as part of another agreement.

According to the official data, 5,797 loans have been granted as part of the women’s support program financed by the EBRD and the Kazakh government. Nearly 200 business women attended a series of training seminars.

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Kazakh cuisine restaurants will open ahead of Expo 2017

13 Feb 2017, (Khabar Agency) – Kazakh cuisine restaurants will open ahead of Expo 2017, the exposition organizers say. Kazakh restaurants will be located in foreign pavilions as well. At present, the exposition venue has 40 public catering points. Over 10,000 square meters is allocated for the food court.

As the representatives of the national Company Astana Expo 2017 say, the open selection of catering organizations is still underway. More than a half of the food court territory is already occupied. The selection committee paid particular attention to the quality of service, experience and pricing.

Therefore, Expo restaurants and cafes will satisfy various taste preferences and will be affordable for everyone. The staff and volunteers will be catered in a special canteen with 1,500 seats. According to the latest data, nearly 4,500 people will work there in day, evening and night shifts.

DAULET YERKIMBAYEV, DIRECTOR OF COMMERCIALIZATION, NC ASTANA EXPO 2017: As for the individuals who will buy food themselves, we made sure that cheap restaurants are available throughout the Expo territory. For instance, one meal will cost 700-800 tenge per person.

The International exposition in Astana is recognized one of the most grandiose by the number of participating counties. At present, 115 countries and 18 international organizations have officially confirmed their participation in Expo 2017.

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Kazakh food producers increase export volumes

13 February 2017 – Kazakhstan’s food producers are increasing export volumes. Kyzylorda region’s fish processing plant is set to increase production. In Aral district only, seven large newly opened fish processing plants have been equipped with the latest technology. Their annual production capacity is 17,500 tons. Last year, the yield of fisheries was over 7,000 tons; the major part of it was processed and sent to the European countries.

MUKHTAR ORAZBAYEV, GOVERNOR, ARAL DISTRICT: To increase food exports by 40% by 2021 – this task was set in the Kazakh President’s address. Aral district’s plants increase export potential as well. Last year, we exported 179,000 tons of salt and more than 4 million tons of fish that was processed in local plants. This year, we intend to increase these figures twofold.

Dairy producers intend to win the foreign markets too. Export oriented enterprises in East Kazakhstan region plan to conquer the Chinese market and establish a steady supply to Russia in the near future.

MUKHTAR KUL-MUHAMMED, FIRST DEPUTY CHAIRMAN, NUR OTAN PARTY: East Kazakhstan region was and remains the largest industrial region. The President’s address gives a unique opportunity to local industrial enterprises to modernize their production with the latest high-tech technology.

Akmola region is considered a leader in exports. The region exports wheat and flour to 20 countries worldwide. Last year, the farmers harvested almost 6 million tons of grain. Nearly 2 million tons is already dispatched.

Kazakhstan’s flour is valued for the good quality. A new mill was opened in Atbasar last autumn. Its capacity is 150 tons of eco-friendly pure products per day.

AMIR SAGITOV, TECHNOLOGIST: At present, we are dispatching three railway cars to Tajikistan. We have already dispatched 3,000 tons. We also send it to Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan and throughout Kazakhstan.

The Chinese love Kazakhstan’s honey. Kazakh producers have been exporting this product to the Chinese market for a long time. As the East Kazakhstan’s beekeepers say, the demand for honey grows every year in China. Urzhar bee gardens collected 250 tons of honey in 2016, 150 of them were exported to China.

SERIK SADVAKASSOV, DEPUTY GOVERNOR, URZHAR DISTRICT: The nature is very diverse and rich here. Therefore, the quality of the honey is very good. It was even tested in special laboratories. Our beekeepers plan to collect more than 300 tons of honey this year.

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Kazakhstan Develops National Export Strategy Concept

10 Feb 2017, (Khabar Agency) – Kazakh government approved the first half-year plan on improvement of state administration, business support and investment conditions. The plan encompasses nine key areas with nearly150 tasks.

Particular attention will be paid to the development of the manufacturing industry and the promotion of domestic products to foreign markets. For this purpose, the country plans to develop the concept of a national export strategy.

TIMUR SULEIMENOV, KAZAKH MINISTER OF NATIONAL ECONOMY: Within half a year, Kazakhstan will launch negotiations on free trade with a number of countries such as Israel, India, Egypt, Singapore, Serbia and others in order to expand exports and improve facilities. Kazakhstan will also continue trade and economic cooperation with China.

Foreign investors prioritize processing industry. Over 9 months of 2016, Kazakhstan’s processing industry covered almost 80% of the total inflow of direct foreign investments together with the mining and science. In total, Kazakhstan received over $14 billion of investments in this period. The analysts say that the third stage of modernization will foster Kazakhstan’s inclusion in global production and sales chains, with a help of foreign investment as well. It will be boosted by the introduction of special business ratings for the cities. The leaders of the rating will receive special awards.

TIMUR SULEIMENOV, KAZAKH MINISTER OF NATIONAL ECONOMY: To diminish the government’s involvement, it is planned to complete the privatization of enterprises by 2018, and to make largest companies publicly traded.

Another large-scale program adopted by the government is the national plan on implementation of the President’s address. It includes five tasks and nearly 70 specific points such as the development of transport infrastructure, technological re-equipment of basic industries, and the development of the digital industry. In particular, the program “Digital Kazakhstan” will be elaborated by June. The government also plans to adopt another strategic plan – “Kazakhstan’s National Technology Initiative” to be implemented by 2025.

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Kyrgyz drama wins Best Film award in Asian Cinema competition

Bishkek, 10 Feb 2017, (Kabar) – Kyrgyz drama, A Father’s Will, directed by Bakyt Mukul and Dastan Zhapar Uulu won the Best Film award in the Asian Cinema competition, the Times of India reports.

The ninth edition of the Bengaluru International Film Festival (Biffes) came to a close on February 9 in Mysuru (India). 
The much-awaited part of the evening was when the announcement of films that won awards in the Asian, Indian and Kannada competition categories was made.

Thus, Kyrgyz drama, A Father’s Will, directed by Bakyt Mukul and Dastan Zhapar Uulu won the Best Film award in the Asian Cinema competition.

The Indian Cinema competition award for Best Film went to the Kannada film directed by Ananya Kasaravalli, Harikatha Prasanga. Marathi film Lathe Joshi by Mangesh Joshi won the Jury Special Award while Malayalam film, Kaadu Pookkunna Neram by Dr Biju Kumar Damodaran got Jury Mention.

The FIPRESCI Critics Award was given to Haoban Paban Kumar’s critically-acclaimed Manipuri film, Lady of the Lake. In the Kannada Cinema competiton category, D Satya Prakash’s Rama Rama Re. Pallata and Godhi Banna Sadharna Mykattu took the second best and third best film awards, respectively. B Suresha’s Uppina Kaagada bagged the International NETPAC Jury Award for Kannada cinema.

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Newly renovated Baku Railway Station reopens

Baku, 10 February 2017, (AZERTAC) – The Baku Railway Station has today opened after the renovation.

President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev and his spouse Mehriban Aliyeva viewed the conditions created at the Baku Railway Station after the reconstruction.

The building of the Baku Railway Station was constructed in the style of Mauritania in 1884. In 1977, a new building of the railway station was constructed in the Baku Passenger Station.

The major reconstruction and repair work started here in March, 2015.

Elevators were installed for passengers and persons with disabilities. There are administrative rooms, modern commercial and catering facilities, waiting rooms, mother-and-child rooms and cloakrooms. The passengers will be able to use free Wi-Fi.

The head of state and his spouse were informed about the situation center created in the building of the Railway Station. The center monitors the territory of the Railway Station through surveillance cameras.

“ASAN kommunal” No.2 operates in the second floor of the building.

Head of Presidential Administration’s Department for Work with Law Enforcement Bodies Fuad Alasgarov and chairman of the State Agency for Public Services and Social Innovations under the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Inam Karimov informed the head of state and his spouse about the center.

The head of state and his spouse also viewed train stops in the Railway Platform.

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Art exhibition ‘The Breath of Color’ opened in Astana

13 February 2017, (Khabar Agency) – Art exhibition ‘The Breath of Color’ opened in Astana in support of the Winter Universiade held in Almaty and 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korean Pyeongchang. The exposition features the works of Kazakh painters who participated in the Olympic Committee’s competition last year. The paintings have no stylistic limitations and are experimental.

LEE DAE WON, DIRECTOR, KOREAN CULTURAL CENTER: We organized this exhibition to congratulate the successful outcome of Almaty Universiade and also to let people know that a year from now we have Pyeongchang winter Olympics in Korea. So, we brought, we invited artists to show their artistic paintings related to Olympics and sport and we are very honored to have this exhibition here at the Culture Center.

Triathlon became a source of inspiration for Marzhan Abildina. The painter says that doing this type of sport brings incredible experience and opens up new horizons in creativity. At present, the painter works in such directions as expressionism and abstraction. All her works are filled with deep philosophical perception of reality, light and tenderness.

MARZHAN ABILDINA, ARTIST: I do sport. It helps to accumulate lots of energy; you become stronger, with stronger immune system and cleaner aura. I think sport and art are quite compatible.

GULNAR ISSINA, ART DIRECTOR, ARAYGALLERY: Both athletes and artists are creators. Step by step, shaping themselves, fighting their ego and cultivating spirituality, an athlete and an artist climb to the top. The paintings give spectators a powerful charge of energy; such an expression, such internal strength!

According to critics, some similarities can be spotted between the Kazakh artists’ works and Korean folk paintings due to intense color palette and metaphorical expression. This is another proof that art and sport have no boundaries.

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Islamic Development Bank Group organizes Innovation Day 2017

Jeddah – The Islamic Development Bank Group has invited academics and students to participate in the IsDB Group Innovation Day 2017, which will be held Feb. 8, 2017, at the Bank’s Headquarters in Jeddah, where the activities will include an internal exhibition of 30 shortlisted innovative projects/ideas by the IsDB Group staff addressing three Global Challenges on Food Security, Water Resources Management and Health.

The winners of the IsDB Group Innovation Competitions will be recognized and rewarded by Dr. Bandar Hajar, the IsDB Group President, who will also inaugurate the event. The participants will have a chance to visit the exhibition and participate in the Spot Ideation activity.

The IsDB Group Innovation competitions will be divided into three categories, namely, IsDB Group Corporate Innovation, IsDB Group Innovative Projects, and IsDB Group Thematic Innovative Ideas.

The IsDB Group Innovation Competitions were created by the Knowledge Management and Innovation Department to recognize and reward the Group’s most innovative thinkers and problem solvers, staff who created new knowledge, addressed organizational and operational challenges and came up with innovative ideas and solutions. This innovative practices of the staff will help the IDBG become a world class knowledge based institution. The competition is organized every two years.

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President of Tatarstan to promote Islamic banking

Jeddah, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, 8 February, 2017 – President Rustam Minnikhanov of the Republic of Tatarstan has underlined the significance that the Russian Federation’s banking sector, especially that of Tatarstan, attaches to Islamic banking services and access to their possible applications.

This came up during President Minnikhanov’s visit to the headquarters of the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) Group, on Wednesday, February 8, 2017, where he was warmly welcomed by IsDB Group President, Dr. Bandar Hajjar, as well as IsDB Vice Presidents and CEOs of the Group entities.

During the meetings, President Minnikhanov elaborated that in the Russian Federation, Muslims as well as people of other faiths are looking forward to seeing an expanded cooperation with the IsDB Group in a bid to know more about Islamic finance adding that Tatarstan is seeking to cooperate with the IsDB Group to see professionals of the country trained in the field.

Elsewhere in his remarks, the President of the Republic of Tatarstan appreciated the MoUs that the Central Bank of Russia and three major Russian banks signed with the IsDB Group in 2016 in the capital city of Kazan for exchange of expertise and training in Islamic finance, private sector development, resource mobilization, and promoting investment in the Russian Federation. He then underlined Tatarstan’s willingness to cooperate with the IsDB Group especially with the Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private sector, ICD, that is IsDB Group’s arm for private sector development.

President Minnikhanov then highlighted the achievements Tatarstan has pulled off in agriculture and industry including in oil and petro-chemicals, airplane and auto manufacturing, as well as the great investment opportunities that his country offers and facilitates.

He also invited the IsDB Group president to attend the 9th Kazan Summit meeting under the theme of “Russia and the Islamic World” slated for May 2017. The meeting is an annual event which discusses upgrading cooperation between the Russian federation Republics and the OIC member countries.

For his part, IsDB Group President, H.E. Dr. Bandar Hajjar, welcomed the willingness of Tatarstan for further development of cooperation with the IsDB Group in the field of Islamic finance and exchange of knowledge and expertise especially with the Islamic Research and training Institute, IRTI, which is IsDB’s research and training arm.

“The IsDB Group attaches great significance to promoting ties with the Russian Federation Republics, the Republic of Tatarstan, in particular,” stated Dr. Bandar Hajjar. Expressing thanks for the invitation accorded to him, Dr. Bandar Hajjar added that a high level delegation from the IsDB Group shall take part at the upcoming Kazan Summit meeting, 18-19 May, 2017.

The Republic of Tatarstan is one of the 21 Russian Federation Republics where the Bank, in coordination with the respective governments, has so far contributed to 29 educational and health projects through providing grants amounting to US $ 7.5 million.

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IsDB appoints Dr. Abdulhakim Elwaer as Group spokesperson

Jeddah, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia 06 February 2017: The President of Islamic Development Bank (IsDB), Dr. Bandar Hajjar has announced the appointment of Dr. Abdulhakim Elwaer as the official spokesperson for the IsDB Group.

Dr. Hajjar stated that the spokesperson will be responsible for addressing media enquiries on behalf of the Group, and will communicate with members of the public on various initiatives and development interventions of the IsDB.

“Dr. Abdulhakim Elwaer is a qualified administrator with a lot of international exposure. He brings to this job an invaluable experience, having served at the highest level of government, and international organisations like the African Union. I am confident that he will discharge this responsbility with the vigour and the quest for excellence he is known for,” said Dr. Bandar Hajjar.

The new IsDB Group spokesperson is currently the Director, Cooperation and Resource Mobilization at the IsDB. Before joining IsDB, he was Director of Administration and Human Resource Management at the African Union. He has also served as the Minister of Environment in Libya, and was the President of African Ministerial Conference on Environment (AMCEN).

Dr. Abdulhakim Elwaer holds a PhD in Environmental Sciences from the University of Sheffield, United Kingdom. He has attended several courses on leadership and management, and has expertise in communications, diplomacy and international development.

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Djibouti signs finance agreement with African Development Bank

Djibouti (IINA) 09 Feb 2017 – Djiboutian Minister of Economy and Finance in charge of Industry Ilyas Moussa Dawaleh signed a finance agreement worth $9 million with Vice President of the African Development Bank (AfDB) Gabriel Negatu, to fund the building of a typical hospital in the capital city, Djibouti.

Contributors to financing this project include the Islamic Development Bank ($60 million) and the government of Djibouti ($11 million). The total cost of the project is estimated at $90 million, Al Qarn local newspaper reported Thursday.

Dawaleh expressed appreciation of the Djiboutian government for the efforts of the African Development Bank, underlining that the construction project of this hospital will contribute to expanding the capacity as well as promoting the coverage and improving the performance of health care centers in Djibouti.

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OIC conference calls for fostering spirit of harmony among youth

Jeddah (IINA) 12 Feb 2017 – The first OIC Ministerial Conference on Marriage and Family Institution (MFI) in the Muslim world underscored the need for propagating the spirit of love, peace and harmony among the younger generation so as to ensure their growth into useful people for themselves as well as for their societies, and to the rest of the world.

The two-day session, concluded in Jeddah on Thursday, urged families in the Muslim world to assume their responsibilities in upbringing their children on the principles of moderation and protecting them from deviant and terrorists ideologies.

The theme of the conference was “Towards an OIC approach for marriage and family institution’s empowerment and value preservation in member states.” The ministers in charge of family affairs in the OIC member states as well as experts and representatives from international and regional organizations and civil society organizations working in the field of household gathered at the OIC headquarters in Jeddah to prepare the OIC draft strategy for empowerment of marriage and family institutions and preserving its values in the Muslim world.

In a final communique adopted at the end of the session, the conference reaffirmed that the family is one of the key levers of sustainable development and that focusing on the family provides a strategic approach in dealing with the challenges of durable development. It highlighted the importance of religious values in preserving the family, and the importance that the Islamic Shariah attaches to human rights and to the protection of the family, as well as the parents’ prime responsibility in the proper upbringing and protection of the child, and the role of civil society institutions in supporting their efforts to ensure proper nurture for the child within a sound family environment.

The MFI conference also stressed the responsibility of the OIC member states and relevant subsidiary organs and affiliated specialized institutions in building the capacities of the family institution and preserving its values. It expressed deep concern over the threats posed to peace and stability in many of the member states by the ongoing wars, armed conflicts, occupation and terrorism, in addition to their repercussions on the stability and security of the family and society.

The delegates underscored the need to develop strategies and implement comprehensive family policies geared towards consolidating the marriage institution, empowering the family and preserving its values. The conference categorically rejected the advocates of homosexuality and those calling on the member states to recognize in their legislations the rights of such groups as minorities.

The session also called on the OIC General Secretariat to develop a general framework for cooperation and coordination among the OIC organs active in the field of women empowerment and capacity-building.

It emphasized the need for taking practical steps to eliminate poverty and its impact on the families and activate their role in the achievement of economic development, along with fostering family cohesion and prioritizing the family in developmental plans. In this respect, the conference urged the member states to offer grants and micro-credits so as to enable beneficiary families to set up income-generating projects.

Earlier OIC Secretary General Yousef Al-Othaimeen told the conference that the overarching goal of the conference is to devise strategic, long-term solutions to the challenges and problems faced by families in the Muslim world, and contribute to redressing the stereotypical position given to women within the family and correcting misconceptions about marriage and family, and thus improving the status of this institution and preserve its core values.

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Debenhams 1st major UK dept store to sell hijabs & abayas

13 Feb 2017, (Reuters) – Iconic British retailer Debenhams has become the first major department store in the UK to sell hijabs, a traditional Muslim headscarf. Predictably, the decision has divided opinion.

The department store will begin stocking products from the international brand Aab in its shops from May.

Behind the controversy lies Aab’s range of “premium modest clothing,” which includes traditional Muslim garments such as full-body covering abayas and hijabs.

The brand will first appear at Debenhams’ flagship store in central London, but will soon be sold in Birmingham’s Bullring mall, the Trafford Centre in Manchester and Highcross Shopping Centre in Leicester.

“We started Aab almost a decade ago as a label that redefined modest fashion and one that caters for everyday modern wardrobe staples,” said the brand’s founder, Nazmin Alim.

“The partnership with Debenhams opens up some very exciting opportunities for us.”

The launch comes as the department store opens a series of branches in majority-Muslim countries including Saudi Arabia, Iran and Indonesia.

“Adding the high quality fashion range to our product mix enables us to offer collections that are highly relevant in both international markets and to our domestic customers,” said the shop’s international trading director, Jeanette Whithear.

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Brunei launches ‘My Prosperous Mosque, Blessed Nation’ programme

13 Feb 2017, (Borneo Bulletin Online) – THE mosque is the house of Allah the Almighty, and worshipping at mosques and praying in congregation has more benefits than praying individually.

The ‘My Prosperous Mosque, Blessed Nation’ programme at the Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Mosque in the capital organised by the Ministry of Religious Affairs (MoRA) through the Mosque Affairs Department, Islamic Da’wah Centre and Islamic Syiar Development Division in collaboration with the mosque is a weekly programme and an invitation to increase the presence of congregates at mosques and to continuously perform the obligatory dawn prayer.

The programme also provides an opportunity for visitors of ‘Bandarku Ceria’ held weekly in the capital to begin their day to reap the blessings by participating in the obligatory prayer in congregation and get rewards through reading ‘Wirid’ after prayer and religious activities.

Yesterday’s programme had a religious talk titled ‘Fit or Faith’ by Ustaz Isham bin Haji Ismail, a speaker from the Islamic Da’wah Centre.

Attending the congregation was Pehin Udana Khatib Dato Paduka Seri Setia Ustaz Haji Awang Badaruddin bin Pengarah Dato Paduka Haji Awang Othman, Minister of Religious Affairs.

Also present was Dato Paduka Awang Haji Abdul Mokti bin Haji Mohd Daud, Deputy Minister of Religious Affairs and spouse.

The programme was also attended by the trainees of the National Service Programme (PKBN).

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Nigeria To Develop Oil-Rich Region

LAGOS, 12 Feb 2017, (NNN-XINHUA) – The Nigerian federal government is doing everything possible to implement development projects and sustain peace in the oil-rich Niger Delta region, an official said Saturday.

Minister of Niger-Delta Affairs Usani Usani made the remarks at a stakeholders’ meeting to mark the visit of Vice President Yemi Osibanjo to Bayelsa State.

The vice president led a delegation of ministers, heads of agencies and other federal cabinet members to Bayelsa as part of efforts by the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration to find a lasting peace in the region.

Women, youths, traditional rulers, captains of industries, political office holders and other government functionaries turned out in large numbers to participate in the dialogue.

The minister assured that the government was committed to building projects that would impact positively on the region, saying that the government shares in the pains of Niger-Delta.

“We have embarked on this journey to harness the issues of peace and stability and other developmental challenges,” he added.

He stressed the need for collaboration with the government, adding that Bayelsa and the South-South region were critical to the nation.

On his part, Heineken Lokpobiri, Minister of State for Agriculture and Rural Development, charged the youths in the region to embrace agriculture for development.

According to Lokpobiri, agriculture is a profitable business than oil and gas. He appealed to the people of Bayelsa to shun the acts of criminality.

The oil rich region is an unstable area of Nigeria, and inter-ethnic clashes are common as access to oil revenue is the trigger for the violence. Pipelines are regularly vandalized by impoverished residents, who risk their lives to siphon off fuel.

Vandalism is estimated to result in thousands of barrels of crude oil wastage every day — a loss to the Nigerian economy of millions of dollars each year.

Nigeria is the world’s sixth largest oil-producing nation. However, mismanagement and successive military governments have left the country poverty stricken.

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Government agency takes over Nigeria’s biggest airline

13 February 2017, (MENAFN – The Peninsula)- Lagos: A Nigerian government agency on Thursday said it had taken over the country’s main private airline Arik Air to prevent it from going bust because of spiralling debts.

Jude Nwauzor, a spokesman for the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON), told AFP: “AMCON has taken over the management of Arik because the whole place is in a mess.

“We have appointed a new management to stabilise the airline and prevent it from going down like other airlines in Nigeria.”

Arik, which was set up in 2006, has a 60 percent share of domestic flights in Nigeria. It also serves destinations across West Africa and flies to London, Johannesburg and New York.

Company spokesman Ola Adebanji confirmed the move but declined to elaborate.

AMCON said Arik had failed to repay loans totalling 135 billion naira (429 million, 402 million euros) by the end of December and also had debts to “a lot of foreign creditors”.

The total amount of debt is more than 300 billion naira, it added.

Staff salaries have not been paid for up to eight months and it had defaulted on payments for insurance, repairs and servicing of its planes, it added.

“International creditors have seized some of its planes because of mounting debts,” said Nwauzor.

Passengers have borne the brunt of the increasing management and financial problems at Arik, with frequent cancellations and delays to services.

Last month, irate passengers beat up one of Arik’s officials at Lagos international airport following the third consecutive cancellation of their flight to South Africa.

In December, services were grounded by a 24-hour strike over unpaid wages.

“The government felt all this nonsense should stop,” said Nwauzor. “The aviation industry is already facing challenges and government does not want Arik, being the largest carrier in Nigeria, to go the way of others and so decided to intervene.

”Our intervention is to stabilise and run Arik into profitability so that it can go back to regular and undisrupted operations. We will also encourage interested investors to inject fresh funds into it.”

Aviation minister Hadi Sirika said in a statement the intervention would “stabilise the operations of the airline”, preventing job losses and protecting Arik as a going concern.

“This will enhance the long-term economic value of Arik Air and revitalise the airline’s ailing operations as well as sustain safety standards,” he added.

Arik is not the only airline struggling: Nigeria’s second-biggest carrier, Aero Contractors, stopped services for four months last year because of “serious financial difficulties”.

Airlines say a lack of foreign currency caused by the economic recession in Nigeria has left them unable to pay fuel suppliers and in some cases landing charges at airports outside the country.

Aviation analysts have previously criticised the running of Nigerian airlines for trying to minimise operating costs to boost profits.

That has seen more than 40 operators go bust in 35 years, including Nigeria Airways, which collapsed in 2003.

Air travel is the only viable way to get around Nigeria relatively quickly because of under-developed road and rail infrastructure.

But flights are frequently delayed. Abuja’s only airport will be shut completely for at least six weeks from early next month for essential runway repairs.

International carriers Lufthansa, Air France and South African Airways, however, have refused to re-route their Abuja flights during the closure.

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Singapore May Create History by Having First Malay Female President

SINGAPORE, 10 Feb 2017, (NNN-Bernama) – The Singapore Presidential Elections (Amendment) Bill was passed by Parliament on Monday, after almost three hours of debate involving eight members of parliament (MP).

The next Singapore Presidential Election which will be held in September this year will be a unique one as it has been reserved for Malay candidates after Singapore’s first president, Yusof Ishak, nearly 50 years ago.

A topic on who the candidate from the minority Malay community will be, has resurfaced.

Could Halimah Yacob, the first female Parliament Speaker become Singapore’s first female president, as well? That can add to a unique development for Singapore’s presidential election history on its own.

While debating the Bill, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, Chan Chun 
Sing had twice ‘mistakenly’ referred to Halimah as ‘Madam President’, instead of ‘Madam Speaker’.

This drew overwhelming response from the House following which it went viral on the net, with an imaginary headline, ‘S’poreans congratulate Halimah Yacob becoming new president.”

At press time, Halimah has yet to indicate any interest in contesting. 
Nonetheless, there is no issue in her contesting for the president’s post as, if a minority candidate leaves her group representation constituency (GRC), a by-election will not be called.

That was confirmed by Chan as Halimah – being an example – is the minority member of Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC.

Besides Halimah, several prominent figures in the Malay community, both in the public and private sectors are also seen as potential front-runners. 
Last November, Channel NewsAsia ran an article titled ‘Singapore’s next president: A look at potential contenders’.

The former minister and Speaker of Parliament Abdullah Tarmugi has also been tipped to be a potential candidate.

Abdullah – who was part of the nine-man Constitutional Commission that reviewed the elected presidency – reportedly said he had not given the idea of running (for president) much thought, and that friends had encouraged him to do so.

Current ministers Yaacob Ibrahim and Masagos Zulkifli, and former MP Zainul Abidin Rasheed have also been identified as possible candidates.

The article penned by Nur Afifah Ariffin said potential candidates from the private sector included Bank of Singapore Chief Executive Officer Bahren Shaari and Public Service Commission member Po’ad Mattar.

Not only Singaporeans, Malaysians are also closely observing the current development in the island city.

During an interview with the Malaysian National News Agency or Bernama, at Istana last November, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong was asked whether he had any candidate in mind.

“We do not have anybody specific in mind, but we know there are people who will qualify,” he replied, noting there was “no shortlist”.

“It depends who comes forward. It is not for the Government to arrange. It is for the candidates to come forward,” he said.

Lee had proposed amendments to the Constitution which saw among others, a “hiatus-triggered model” put in place to ensure multi-racial representation in the Presidential Office.

It was passed on Nov 9 last year with MPs voting in favour of the Government’s proposed changes to the Elected Presidency, 77 to six.

Singapore had five terms without a Malay elected president after Yusof Ishak who served from 1965 to 1970.

The current President Tony Tan Keng Yam’s term expires on Aug 31.

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World Arabian Horse Organisation Accepts China as Member

MANAMA, Bahrain, 11 Feb 2017, (NNN-BNA) – The General Assembly of the World Arabian Horse Organisation (WAHO), accepted the People’s Republic of China’s proposal to be a member in the organisation, following majority of the members voting yes to the East Asian country’s request.

This was the main decision taken on the first day of the General Assembly meetings, which is part of a series of meetings, set to take place during the WAHO Conference, being held in Bahrain from Feb 6-15, under the patronage of King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, King of the Kingdom of Bahrain, and the follow-up of Shaikh Isa bin Salman Al Khalifa, son of the Crown Prince, Chairman of the High Organising Committee.

The General Assembly will continue their meetings today, where it’s expected to witness voting on a series of important decisions, as well as the recommendations of the Official Registration Offices, taken at their meeting last Wednesday, on the sideline of the WAHO Conference.

Mr. Peter Pond, President of WAHO, greatly welcomed the acceptance of China’s proposal to be part of the Organisation, stating that, this step will support WAHO’s efforts to extend its reach, especially in East Asia. For his part, China’s representative at the Conference valued the positive voting on his country’s request to join WAHO, showcasing the efforts of his country towards preserving purebred Arabian horses.

The second day of the WAHO Conference had a part dedicated to feature tourism attractions in Bahrain, with Dr. Ali Fulath, a consultant at Bahrain Tourism and Exhibitions Authority, playing a film showcasing the rich history and culture of Bahrain since the Dilmun era, highlighting the successive civilisations in Bahrain throughout 4,000 years.

The film also shed light on the political, historical and geographical sectors of Bahrain, as well as the pearling era. The history of the Kingdom’s Royal Family was also showcased in the movie, where their contributions to build the foundations of modern Bahrain were highlighted.

Meanwhile, Bassam Zakarnah, President of Palestine Equestrian Federation, member of Palestine’s delegation, gave an impassioned speech that was warmly applauded by members of WAHO. He expressed optimism at Palestine’s proposal to join the Organisation to be accepted by members of WAHO.

He voiced the struggles breeders of Arabian horses in Palestine are facing, under the Israeli occupation. But he affirmed Palestinians’ desire to overcome all the challenges they are facing and hold Palestine’s flag high in this field by joining WAHO. Peter Pond, President of WAHO, responded to the Palestinian delegation’s intervention, supporting their proposal after completing all the required conditions as per the regulations and laws of WAHO.

The participating countries, during the event, presented official reports on their activities during the past two years, after the last WAHO Conference, which was held in Qatar’s capital city, Doha. It’s worth noting that the participating countries in the event are: “Bahrain, Algeria, Argentine, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Cuba, Czech Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, Estonia, France, Germany, Iran, Iraq, Italy, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Luxemburg, Morocco, Palestine, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Spain, Oman, Swede, Syria, Holland, Turkey, Tunisia, UAE, Britain, Uruguay and USA.

It’s worth noting that the event is being covered extensively by top local, regional and international news outlets, who are conducting interviews with members of the participating delegations, as well as reporting the activities of the Conference, which is being interpreted in many languages, including Arabic, English, French, Spanish and Chinese, to facilitate the communication process among the participants and ensure messages are being fully understood. The interpretation is undertaken by Berlitz Bahrain, a well-known firm in the field of translation.

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World’s Longest Flight Lands In Auckland

WELLINGTON, New Zealand, 6 Feb 2017, (NNN-DPA) – The world’s longest commercial flight, from Qatar to New Zealand, touched down for the first time in Auckland on Monday.

“We’ve officially landed in New Zealand, the ‘Land of the Long White Cloud,'” Qatar Airways tweeted, as the 16-hour-and-20-minute-long 
flight from Doha arrived in Auckland, after passing over 10 time zones and five countries, covering a distance of 14,535 kilometres.

The Boeing 777-200LR received the traditional welcome for inaugural flights, with a water cannon shower by the airport’s fire and rescue 

Air India also claims to offer the world’s longest flight, at 15,300 kilometres, from Delhi to San Francisco. That flight, however, adds 
1,400 kilometres to its journey to use favourable tailwinds, according to the Times of India.

Doha and Auckland are further apart than Delhi and San Francisco.

Singapore Airlines plans to resume its 15,344-kilometre, 18.5-hour non-stop flight from Newark, New Jersey, to Singapore in 2018.

The Qatar Airways flight, according to the airline, is operated by four pilots and 15 cabin crew, who serve around 1,100 cups of tea and 
coffee, 2,000 cold drinks and 1,036 meals during the journey.

New Zealand Trade Minister Todd McClay welcomed the inaugural flight, saying the service would boost trade and tourism.

“The new Auckland – Doha service will not only provide more options and connections for business and leisure travellers, but will also 
provide an additional 116 tonnes of freight capacity every week,” McClay said in a statement.

“This increased freight capacity will support New Zealand exporters getting their fresh product to the Middle East and beyond,” he said.

The daily service provides a weekly freight capacity equivalent to 1,162 sheep, Qatar Airways said.

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