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21 Feb, 2017

Garuda to inaugurate Jakarta-Moscow flights in August

Compiled by Imtiaz Muqbil

A compilation of progressive, positive, inspiring and motivating events and developments in the world of Islam for the week ending 20 February 2017 (23 Jumaada al-Awwal 1438). Pls click on any of the headlines 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 me 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.





Garuda to inaugurate Jakarta-Moscow flights in August

CENGKARENG, INDONESIA, 17 February 2017, (Antara) – National flag carrier Garuda Indonesia plans to launch direct flights from Jakarta to Moscow in August 2017. Operated by Airbus A330-200, this route will be served 3 times a week. The plan was announced by the CEO & President of Garuda Indonesia M. Arif Wibowo in Jakarta, Tuesday (14/2), at a meeting with Russian Ambassador to Indonesia Mikhail Yurievich Galuzyn and Indonesian Ambassador to Russia Wahid Supriyadi.

The meeting, which took place at Garuda Indonesia Office, Jakarta, specifically addressed the new direct flight route from Jakarta to Moscow in the form of memorandum of understanding (MoU). The MoU was signed by Mikhail Kuritsyn, the representative of Indonesia Business Council of Russia and CEO & President Garuda Indonesia M. Arif Wibowo, witnessed by Russian Ambassador to Indonesia Mikhail Galuzyn and Indonesian Ambassador to Russia Wahid Supriyadi in Garuda Indonesia, Jakarta, Tuesday (14/2).

“We are trying to accelerate plans regarding the launch of direct flights to Moscow in August. We will fly three times a week using wide body aircraft Airbus A330-200,” said Arif Wibowo.

In accordance with the potential increase in tourist traffic between the two countries, the direct flight services to Moscow is expected to improve Russian tourist visits up to 100 thousand tourists in 2017.Russian tourist arrivals to Indonesia in the first half of 2016 increased by 14 percent. In contrast, the number of Indonesian citizens visit to Russia is also quite large, in 2015 there were about 14,000 people.

Arif added, plans to open Jakarta – Moscow services in the mid-2017 marks a series of Garuda Indonesia international flight network expansion in 2017. In addition to Moscow, in the middle of this year, Garuda Indonesia will also launch Jakarta – Los Angeles via Tokyo.

Meanwhile, Russian Ambassador to Indonesia Mikhail Yurievich Galuzyn expected the direct flight from Indonesia and Russia will further strengthen bilateral relations between the two countries, especially in economics and tourism sector.

“Realization of the direct flight plan between Russia and Indonesia has become one of our main priorities in the effort to increase the numbers of tourists visit to Russia,” said Galuzyn.

He expected potential tourists visit from Asia can be increase every year. We are optimistic with the direct connectivity between Jakarta – Moscow will provide a promising opportunity not only for the tourism sector, but economic, social, and cultural.

In line with its international flight network expansion program, Garuda Indonesia in 2014 officially joined the global airline alliance “SkyTeam”, in which one of russian airline “Aeroflot” also become member of the alliance. Through synergies of the SkyTeam airline alliance network, currently all Garuda Indonesia’s passengers can enjoy flight network services to more than 1062 destinations around the world, which is in 177 countries and 17.343 daily flights. SkyTeam airline network alliances currently serve more than 655 million passengers annually.

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Indian Tour Operators Hail Malaysian E-Visa Initiative

NEW DELHI, India, 17 Feb 2017, (NNN-Bernama) – Malaysia has launched an e-visa to make it easy for Indian travellers to visit the country for holiday, a move tour operators said would help in achieving the target of one million visitors from India this year.

The e-visa can be issued within 48 hours and allows tourists a stay of up to two weeks in Malaysia, Tourism and Culture Minister Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz announced at a press conference in New Delhi on Thursday evening.

This “entry visa” will cost only US$20 in processing fees, just one-fourth of the multiple-entry pass fees that Indian passport holders have to pay now.

Mohamed Nazri said the initiative addresses the concerns raised by the Indian travel industry about the visa fees.

India’s leading travel industry bodies welcomed the new facility and pledged their support for Malaysia’s tourism promotion efforts.

Tourism Malaysia and the Travel Agents Association of India (TAAI), Travel Agents Federation of India (TAFI) and the Outbound Tour Operators Association of India (OTOAI) on Thursday signed a plaque on promoting travel from India.

“You have given us the visa facility we asked for, now we’ll help you in your target of one million arrivals,” TAAI’s northern region chairman Rajan Sehgal said.

There has been some resistance to Malaysian visa fee from travellers, OTOAI president Guldeep Singh Sahni told Bernama.

Sahni said a multiple-entry visa to Malaysia costs 5,600 rupees (US$83).

Although the visa fee is only 1,000 rupees, there are additional charges like one-stop-centre (OSC) processing charges and logistics fees.

“This e-visa is a welcome move. It will help in reducing the cost of travel to Malaysia,” Sahni said.

Malaysian Immigration Department director-general Mustafar Ali, who was present at the press conference, told Bernama the new e-visa is aimed at tourists coming from India and China.

Malaysia remains a popular destination among Indian holidaymakers although 2016 saw a decline in visitor numbers compared to the previous year.

India ranked as the sixth biggest source of tourists for Malaysia, with 722,141 visitors in 2015.

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Malaysia Retains lead as Most Attractive Manufacturing Market

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, 17 Feb 2017 (NNN-Bernama) – Malaysia has retained its pole position in the Established Index as the most attractive manufacturing market of choice for future relocation according to a ‘Cushman & Wakefield’ report.

The credit goes to Malaysia’s infrastructure services, which are conducive to productivity with the quality of infrastructure relatively high, despite some concerns surrounding water availability and power outages of late, it said.

“While other middle-income countries may be catching up with Malaysia in terms of infrastructure standards, a recent report by the World Bank indicated that Malaysia still ranked higher than many of these peers in terms of overall logistics performance in relation to quality of trade and transport infrastructure,” it said in the report entitled “Manufacturing Risk Index 2017.”

Headquartered in Chicago, United States, Cushman & Wakefield provides commercial real estate services to help clients turn fixed assets into dynamic assets.

The “Manufacturing Risk Index” is an annual survey of the manufacturing sector which measures how political, economic, technological and environmental risks are managed during portfolio assessment and site selection by occupiers.

It contains an Established Index which ranks the 30 largest countries by manufacturing output and a Pioneering Index which ranks the top 10

manufacturing locations, by growth, and are less established in terms of output but have the potential to mature as a location of choice.

Malaysia, along with Taiwan, China, South Korea, Singapore, Thailand and Japan continued to dominate the top 15, occupying seven places within the top half of the Established Index.

Given the varying maturity level of technology adoption and priorities across Asia Pacific, each country in the region has a specific focus

on areas of innovation to promote sector growth – such as smart manufacturing in the form of automation in China due to wage inflation or the offer of a connected society and strong conditions for doing business in Singapore, despite a higher cost profile, said the report.

In China, it said policies, either encouraging or directly funding investments in science and technology, technology transfer, sustainability, and infrastructure development, appear to be helping Chinese-based companies to create a significant competitive advantage through critical mass, although the region does face some competition from neighboring markets.

India, on the other hand, has risen five places last year – given the present government’s focus on “Make in India”.

The report said India was witnessing increased investments by global manufacturers.

“It is anticipated that this increase in investment will further support infrastructure improvement projects, especially as further policies and regulations actually take shape,” it said.

On the overall assessment of the market, the report said in the short-term, manufacturing remained partly constrained by a lack of capital investment in plants, reducing near-term radical shifts in location decisions.

“But, in the medium-term, many questions would be raised about locations that fundamentally serviced a different era as we migrate into what management consultant, McKinsey, calls Industry 4.0 or the 4th industrial revolution,” it said.

In the current environment, cost remained the most significant location criteria for many companies.

However, the Manufacturing Risk Index assessed other fundamentals such as operating conditions and country risk profiles.

“We anticipate these, and other criteria, becoming more important contributors to future decision making,” it added.

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Malaysia’s Banking System Remains Well-Capitalised

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, 16 Feb 2017,16 (NNN-Bernama) — The domestic banking system remains well-capitalised, with ample liquidity to support the financing needs of businesses and households, Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) said today.(BNM is Malaysia’s central bank)

It said as businesses and households continue to adjust to the challenging economic outlook and higher cost of living, these financial buffers will support the resilience of the financial institutions.

“Going forward, external events will continue to weigh heavily on the volatility of the domestic financial markets.

“These include increased uncertainty over political developments and growth in the major economies as well as volatile commodity prices,” it added, in a statement today.

BNM said the domestic financial system’s stability is nonetheless expected to be preserved, given the loss absorption capacity of financial institutions supported by strong capital and liquidity buffers.

Financial institutions also remained well-capitalised.

The combined capital buffers of banks, insurers and takaful operators stood at RM172.5 billion. Banks maintained a high level and quality of capitalisation.

This is reflected in the high common equity tier-1, tier-1 and total capital ratios of banks which stood at 13.1 per cent, 14.0 per cent and 16.5 per cent, respectively (3Q 2016: 13.3 per cent, 14.2 per cent and 16.7 per cent, respectively).

Similarly, the capital adequacy ratio for the insurance and takaful sectors remained high at 243.8 per cent versus 226.3 per cent in the third quarter.

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Malaysia considers legal framework to Curb Online Insults

CYBERJAYA, Malaysia, 13 Feb 2017, (NNN-Bernama) – The government is considering a proposal to introduce a legislative framework to make the uploading of insults or false news an offence, said the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC).

It said although action could be taken against offenders under the provisions of the existing act, a study on the needs to extend the provisions was now underway to include other platforms such as online news portal.

The proposal came about after it received many complaints from members of the public on false news and insulting postings of late.

“A legislative framework is needed to create a healthy environment for internet usage for the sake of the users and society,” said a statement today.

The MCMC advised internet users to verify the authenticity of the information they received before sharing on the social media.

“If unsure, do refer the information received beforehand with the relevant agencies,” said the statement.

The MCMC urged internet users to play their part by lodging reports to the authorities on false news for further action.

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Malaysia: Impressive Growth in Q4 Amidst Challenges

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, 17 Feb 2017, (NNN-Bernama) – Amidst the challenging global and domestic economic environment last year, analysts feel that the 4.5 per cent economicgrowth in the final quarter of 2016 was impressive.

“The expansion was faster than what we had expected for Q4, as we were expecting a 4.4 per cent growth from 4.3 per cent in the third quarter,” said Affin-Hwang Investment Bank Vice-President/Head of Retail Research Dr Nazri Khan Adam Khan.

During the three-month period, he said the global economy scenario was volatile following uncertainty over what would have been Donald Trump’s policies after his US presidential election victory and the anticipation of further interest rate hikes by the Federal Reserve.

This has caused the stock markets to stumble in the red with currencies tumbling in most emerging economies, including the ringgit.

“However, we did see a recovery in our exports and consumer spending (compared with the third quarter of last year), which means despite all the challenges in the global economy, Malaysia seems to maintain its competitiveness in exports,” he told Bernama.

Nazri was commenting on yesterday’s (Thursday’s) release of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) figures by Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM), which showed expansion in private sector expenditure, underpinning the 4.5 per cent growth in Q4, leading to a full year growth of 4.2 per cent (FY15:5.0 per cent). (BNM is Malaysia’s central bank)

Meanwhile, IQI Group Holdings Chief Economist/Investment Strategist Shan Saeed said Malaysia’s ability to chalk up a commendable 4.5 per cent in Q4 proved that the government had done a good job in managing the economy despite the tough conditions throughout the year.

“Raising productivity, accelerating economic reforms and continued public and private investments helped the economy to cushion the fallout from the near collapse in crude oil prices, the weakening ringgit, and flagging regional and global sentiment.

“I think Malaysia can stand the volatility of the global financial market because the government is the total controller of the economy, plus the balance sheets (of the government),” he said.

As long as the GDP is higher than the discount rate, inflation rate and budget deficit rate, Shan said the economy would remain positive and Malaysia’s macro fundamental could still sustain in the longer term.

“For example, if you look at Europe, they are advocating political economy. So, whenever politics is involved, that is not creating any confidence, the economy will remain shaky,” he added.

Meanwhile, Professor of Economics at Sunway University’s Business School Dr Yeah Kim Leng said the slowing growth trajectory from 6.0 per cent in 2014 to 5.0 per cent in 2015 remained a concern.

He proposes the need to accelerate economic reforms and implement policy measures to boost productivity, industrial upgrading and business climate.

“For this year, we expect the moderating domestic growth momentum stemming from high household debts, shrinking fiscal space and rising unemployment to be offset by stronger commodity prices and export demand.

“Coupled with a slight increase in government spending and continued large scale infrastructure investment, the economy is expected to edge higher at 4.4 per cent this year,” he pointed out.

As for the ringgit, it is expected to trade in a volatility mode, especially against the US dollar, given the expected interest rate hikes amid the strengthening US economic growth and inflation, Yeah elaborated.

“Despite being undervalued at the current rate, any further ringgit weakening will likely be short term as the currency’s strength is supported by the expected improvement in domestic output growth, uptrend in exports and adequate foreign reserves.

Other supporting factors include ample domestic liquidity and a robust banking and capital market system, he added.

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KL ATCC in Sepang to be Landmark of Civil Aviation Industry

SEPANG, Malaysia, 14 Feb 2017, (NNN-Bernama) — The new Kuala Lumpur Air Traffic Control Centre (KL ATCC) at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA), here, would be a new landmark in the country’s civil aviation industry, said Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak.

At the ground-breaking ceremony for the RM650 million complex today, Najib said it would be another important milestone in the country’s transformation programme, to improve the quality of public service delivery.

“If the air traffic services are managed properly and efficiently, it will definitely instil trust and confidence in the airline and air transport industry in Malaysia.

“It will prove that we do not compromise in ensuring the best service, in being efficient, and most importantly, on safety,” he said.

The complex will house the air traffic control operations for the Kuala Lumpur Flight Information Region (KL FIR), becoming the backbone of the country’s air traffic control, as well as the central coordination centre for the Department of Civil Aviation’s (DCA) Search and Rescue (SAR) system.

Najib said the KL ATCC project would be the starting point to restructuring the KL FIR airspace when completed.

He said the restructuring exercise would make KLIA the only airport in the region to operate at the maximum level through three runways simultaneously.

“This simultaneous operation is targeted to increase the landing capacity at KLIA from 78 to 108 aircraft per hour, which is among the highest in the world,” he said.

The increase, he said, could provide good returns to the country through continued development of the country’s aviation industry.

Najib also announced that the DCA would be transformed into a statutory body known as the Civil Aviation Authority of Malaysia (CAAM), expected to be fully functional by mid-year.

The establishment of CAAM, he said, would ensure affairs involving Malaysia’s civil aviation industry meet the safety standards and procedures recommended by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).

It would also give CAAM the freedom to organise and place qualified technical personnel to ensure Malaysia’s obligation to ensuring safety of the country’s civil aviation industry was in line with the aspirations of the ICAO.

Najib said Malaysia had set up the Malaysia Aviation Commission on March 1last year, which was responsible for regulating the economic and commercial aspects of civil aviation in the country.

Also present at the ground-breaking ceremony of the complex scheduled to be fully operational by the end of 2019, were Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai, Deputy Transport Minister Ab Aziz Kaprawi and Civil Aviation director-general Azaruddin Abdul Rahman.

At a press conference after the ceremony, Liow said the construction of the new KL ATTC would allow more aircraft to land during peak hours or premium slots.

“The premium slots are usually in the morning until noon, and evenings between 6pm and 8pm. The airports in some other countries give landing slots at midnight or early morning (to cope with the traffic) and this makes them not so competitive,” he said.

According to Liow, only two airports in Asia, namely Beijing and Shanghai, China are capable of operating at the maximum level through the operation of three runways simultaneously.

He said the KL ATCC would also be an administrative centre and operations management office equipped with facilities such as a theatre, multipurpose hall, and lounge for the comfort of air traffic controllers, and at the same time ensure safe flights.

Earlier in his speech, Liow said a new satellite-based surveillance system, namely the Automatic Dependent Surveillance – Broadcast (ADS-B) would be introduced, in line with the Aviation System Block Upgrade (ASBU) targets set by ICAO.

He said the system would help air traffic controllers to pinpoint the location of an aircraft much more accurately, allowing them to implement much more efficient use of airspace, besides enabling surveillance coverage at a much lower cost than the radar-based system.

“The system is also expected to improve the effectiveness of SAR missions to detect the location of aircraft,” he added.

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Cruise Ship Chooses Sabah as Stop-over

KOTA KINABALU, Sabah state, Malaysia, 17 Feb 2017, (NNN-Bernama) – Sabah is fast becoming a popular destination for cruise ships with Malta-registered Celebrity Constellation the latest to make a port call here.

The 1,000-room cruise ship with 2,170 passengers and 950 crew members on board arrived at the port here at 7am yesterday (Thursday), for an eight-hour stop-over before departing for Singapore.

The ship’s guests took full advantage of the stop-over to tour places of interest and shop in the state capital.

“Kota Kinabalu is a nice city and I believe most of our guests enjoyed the brief stop-over here,” said ship captain Michael Karatzas.

Sabah state Tourism Board chairman Joniston Bangkuai, who was on hand to welcome the ship, hoped ‘Celebrity Cruises’ would make Kota Kinabalu a regular port of call in the future.

He said last year, 28 cruise ships carrying a total of 23,570 passengers came to Sabah.

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Malaysia’s National Olympians to anchor CIMB Pro-Cycling Team

KUALA LUMPUR, 15 Feb 2017, (Bernama) – CIMB Group (“CIMB”) today announced its four-year sponsorship of national track cyclists Azizulhasni Awang and Fatehah Mustapa as anchor members of the CIMB Pro-Cycling Team. The new track team is set to initiate at the start of the Union Cycliste Internationale’s (UCI) 2017-18 season in April, with the goal of delivering Malaysia’s first Olympic gold medal in Tokyo 2020.

Tengku Dato’ Sri Zafrul Aziz, Group Chief Executive, CIMB Group said, “We are thrilled to have Azizul and Fatehah as our newest ambassadors. Both world-class athletes will anchor our very own UCI track team, under the stewardship of renowned coach and technical director, John Beasley. CIMB’s goal over the next four years is to not only help develop talent, but also deliver Malaysia’s first Olympic gold medal.”

“CIMB has always been at the forefront of nurturing talent across ASEAN, through our various programmes on squash, golf, football and even paralympics. Cycling is growing in popularity worldwide, and with CIMB’s foray into the sport we hope to nurture champions by providing a platform for talents to fulfill their innate potential,” added Tengku Zafrul.

Azizulhasni Awang, also known as “the Pocket Rocketman” due to his modest build is currently # 1 in the UCI World Rankings in Keirin. Azizulhasni became the first Asian cyclist to win a World Championship medal in 2009 when he won silver in Sprint. Winning silver in Keirin the following year, he was named Malaysian Sportsman of the Year for 2009 and 2010. He also clinched Malaysia’s first Olympics cycling medal with a bronze in the Keirin final at Rio 2016.

“I’m excited about the partnership with CIMB and this new track team. CIMB is a brand that is progressive and known for taking things to the next level, and that is exactly what the team aims to do. I look forward to a successful partnership with CIMB,” said Azizulhasni.

The Olympian’s season has been off to a good start with a recent Sprint gold at the Asian Cycling Championships in New Delhi. The 29-year old has qualified for the World Championship in Hong Kong in April, where he hopes to clinch his first world title.

Also leading the track team is World Championship finalist and two-time Asian champion Fatehah Mustapa. The 27-year old was ranked 15th at the London 2012 Olympics and secured gold in Keirin and Sprint at the 2012 and 2013 Asian Championships, respectively.

“The partnership with CIMB means a lot to me and I’m truly excited by the prospect of training with my UCI track team to up our game for regional and international championships, and also raise the profile of cycling as a sport in Malaysia,” said Fatehah.

The other two members of the track team consist of Terengganu junior track cyclists Siti Nur Alia Mansor and Muhammad Khalid Nasiruddin, aged 15 and 17, respectively. The team will be based in Melbourne under the stewardship of John Beasley.

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2020 & KAKAK to be staged on 18 & 19 March 2017

KUALA LUMPUR, 16 Feb 2017, (Bernama) – MyCreative Ventures Sdn. Bhd. (“MyCreative”) is pleased to announce that we will be hosting two-day stage performances featuring winners of Theatrix 2016 at Kuala Lumpur Performing Art Centre (KLPAC).

The two winners of Theatrix 2016, Tocatta Studio and PITaPAT Theatre, will be staging their performances, namely “2020” and “Kakak” respectively.

Theatrix 2016 is a performing arts competition that had taken place at klpac on 1 September 2016. It was a collaborative effort by MyCreative, The Actors Studio and KLPAC to elevate the Malaysian performing arts industry to the next level, achieving a sustainable future that is rewarding from social, culture and economic perspectives.

Apart from the opportunity to perform at KLPAC, Tocatta Studio and PITaPAT had also received RM15,000 cash each as their winning rewards.

2020 and Kakak will take place on the following dates:

Date & Time: 18 March 2017 @ 8pm (By invitation only)

19 March 2017 @ 3pm (Open to public)

Venue: Pentas 2, Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre.

Ticket Price: Free Admission

Duration: 2 hours

As seats are limited, members of the public are encouraged to make early reservation by emailing us at theatrix@mycreative.com.my. Kindly provide us with your full name, IC number, telephone number and the number of tickets needed. A confirmation email will be sent upon successful reservation.


2020 (Dance Performance by Tocatta Studio)

2020 is a multidisciplinary performance that is speculative in nature: utilising accessible science fiction concepts such as relativity of time and multiverse theory, 2020 tells a story of traveling within the currents of time. This piece is not simply a reflection, perhaps even prediction, of the future, but as a call to action: the future is predictable, but to what extend? The future is exciting in that it is changeable, malleable and the team wish to offer 2020 as a catalyst for a change of minds and subsequently, the changing for a better world.

Kakak (Theatre by PITaPAT Theatre)

They are housemaids (kakak) who live under oppressed by their master and mistress. To overcome their oppression, they love to play this ‘ceremony’ of role-playing – they take turns to play the role of mistress – when the mistress is not at home. When the ceremony is being played for many times, they started to get obsessed, and confused about who they really are – They didn’t realize that this ceremony gradually change them, give them power…… to cause the arrest of their master, and their murder plan……

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Halal Technical Competent Person – Creating Wealth Innovating Careers

SHAH ALAM, 15 February 2017, (Bernama) – Central Spectrum (M) Sdn Bhd (CSSB) through its subsidiary Halal International Selangor (HIS) which is owned by Aspire Flagship Sdn Bhd (AFSB) has embarked on one of their ten (10) Halalan Toyyiban Eco-System which is Halal Technical Competent Person (HTCP) under the Human Capital Development Program.

HIS is committed towards developing human capital with expertise and knowledge in the Halalan Toyyiban Eco-System which is ensuring the deliverable of halal procedures in their businesses, trade and industries been practice along every steps of the value chain; from farm to fork is Halal compliant to further benefits downstream stakeholders.

This workshop is the kick off project to prepare the group of experts as qualified HTCP trainers. Appointed trainers who are also the experts will conduct the Train The Trainer (TTT). It will be conducted in three (3) days with the main objectives of to prepare and equip the HTCP participants with basic knowledge of Halal and its requirement, enhance the knowledge, experiences and enable the participants to conduct in-house Halal related training program in their premises.

By the end of the day, the TTT will value add to the trainers whom will then deliver the HTCP training program to the potential Halal practitioners / officers locally and internationally. It is also to ensure the Halalan Toyyiban being continuously practices in its business field of trade, industry and services that will eventually achieved the 24/7 Halal assurance practise.

By having a qualified HTCP officers, it will create a trade opportunities in Halal industries and will become a single community for the global market which is in-line with HIS tagline “Single Community, Global Markets” and HTCP tagline “Creating Wealth, Innovating Career”.

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Indonesia to strengthen commitments with Iran in energy sector

Jakarta, 19 February 2017, (ANTARA News) – Indonesia will strengthen its commitment to developing the energy sector with Iran, including investment in an oil field in that country, Deputy Minister of Energy Arcandra Tahar said here on Friday.

“Commitments in the energy sector include Pertamina’s plan to invest there as well as gas imports,” he said after a coordination meeting to discuss the planned visit of the chief economic minister to Iran.

Coordinating Minister for Economic Affairs Darmin Nasution plans to visit Iran as a follow-up to the visit of President Joko Widodo to the country in December 2016.

Arcandra confirmed that the state-owned energy company, PT Pertamina, is ready to invest in two oil fields in Iran and will submit its proposal soon.

“Pertamina will enter two fields and the proposal will soon be submitted to Iran,” he informed.

Pertamina’s director of upstream business, Syamsu Alam, stated that the National Iranian Oil Companys (NIOC) subsidiary, the National Iranian South Oil Company (NISOC) held talks about the planned investment in the Ab-Teymour and Mansouri oil fields.

“On Feb 11, we held talks with the NIOC. On Sunday, we will talk again,” he said.

Syamsu confirmed that the proposal would be submitted during the visit of Darmin Nasution there on February 25.

Pertamina and NIOC had earlier signed a commitment to carry out an initial study of two giant oil fields in Iran — Ab Teymour and Mansouri — that have oil reserves of five billion barrels. The NIOC has offered the two oil fields to Pertamina.

The director of procurement of the state electricity company PLN, Supangkat Iwan Santoso, noted that Indonesia has also offered to invest in Irans electricity sector, especially in the development of generators and capacity improvement of industrial equipment, to support domestic production.

“The IPP (Independent Power Producer) investment includes thermal and renewable power generators and capacity building for industrial equipment to support domestic production. The two are important in addition to maintenance service,” he observed.

Supangkat reminded that a number of investors from Iran have already expressed an interest to be involved in the US$5 billion worth of electricity energy projects.

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Indonesia, Russia explore ways to cooperate in tourism sector

Makassar, S Sulawesi, 19 Feb 2017, (ANTARA News) – The Russian government and the Makassar city government in Indonesia are exploring ways to cooperate in the fields of trade, tourism and investment.

“We came here today for further discussions on strengthening the cooperation, as already discussed,” Indonesian Ambassador to the Russian Federation, Wahid Supriyadi, said in Makassar city on Friday.

He said the cooperation his country is looking for in the fields of tourism, trade and investment, is part of the sister city development program.

Supriyadi noted that Makassar city will also participate in the Indonesia Festival scheduled for August 4 to 6, 2017 in Moscow city, Russia.

“Makassar will participate in the Indonesia Festival, which will be held from August 4 to 6 in Moscow. We have come here to discuss all things related to the sister city program,” he reiterated.

He informed that 90 thousand Russian citizens were expected to visit the Indonesia Festival. The festival will feature business meetings, exhibitions and Indonesian cultural performances.

He pointed out that Russia offers major market opportunities that Indonesian people can benefit from. These are being offered through the second Indonesia Festival. The Indonesian embassy to Russia in Moscow city has also invited participants from Indonesia to take part in the festival.

“We hope the festival can deliver real results when it comes to increasing Indonesian exports to Russia and increasing Russian investment in Indonesia, besides enhancing the number of Russian tourists visiting Indonesia,” he stressed.

The Mayor of Makassar, Moh Ramdhan Pomanto, who received the Indonesian Ambassador to Russia and his entourage, expressed his happiness and lauded the Indonesian Embassy for implementing the Indonesia Festival. The event, he added, will allow the Makasar city to introduce its culture and culinary skills to the Russian society.

“This is a great opportunity for us to introduce various potentials of Makassar city to foreign countries. Makassar has twice been invited to organize cultural and culinary festival in Spain,” he recalled.

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Australia keen to promote Manado as tourist destination

Manado, N Sulawesi, 18 Feb 2017, (ANTARA News) – Australian Consul General to Indonesia Richard Mathews is interested in promoting Manado, North Sulawesi Province, as a tourist destination and is keen to bring Australian travelers to the city.

Vice Mayor of Manado Mor Dominus Bastiaan stated here on Friday that the scenic views of Manado and the friendly people had impressed him.

“The Consul General is so pleased with the friendly and open nature of the locals who want to invite Australians to make Manado a main tourist destination,” he noted.

In addition, Bastiaan remarked that the Australians are also drawn to Manados cultural diversity.

Bastiaan expressed hope that in future, cooperation would be forged between Manado and one of the Australian cities that have similar geographical and cultural aspects.

Since the launch of a tourism promotion initiative called “Pesona Manado,” or “the Charming Manado,” the city administration is aggressively promoting and inviting both local and foreign tourists to visit Manado.

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South Sumatra renovating tourist attractions

Palembang, 19 February 2017, (ANTARA News) – The South Sumatra Culture and Tourism Office continues to renovate tourist attractions, particularly in the city of Palembang, as part of the preparations to welcome the Asian Games 2018.

“We have been restoring the tourist attractions here since the past two years and will continue to do so in our efforts to increase the number of tourist arrivals during the Asian Games 2008,” Culture and Tourism Office Chief Irene Camelyn remarked on Friday.

Camelyn stated that numerous athletes and guests from countries in the Asian region will arrive in South Sumatra for the games, and they will certainly visit various tourist attractions in the city and province.

South Sumatra has several cultural, historical, and natural tourist attractions, such as the Kuto Besak Fort, Ampera Bridge, and Bukit Siguntang as a sacred place that bore witness to the Buddhist Sriwijaya Empire.

By renovating these tourist attractions, Camelyn expressed hope that they would be able to have a positive impression on the tourists arriving from various countries for the Asian Games 2018.

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Indonesian Tourist arrivals up 15.5% in 2016

Jakarta, 16 February 2017, (ANTARA News) – The number of tourist arrivals in Indonesia rose 15.54 percent to 12.023 million in 2016 from a year earlier, according to the Central Statistics Agency (BPS).

The figure is 23 thousand ahead of the target of 12 million for 2016 set in the roadmap to achieve the target of 20 million tourist arrivals in 2019, the agency said in a statement released on Thursday.

The 12.023 million is obtained from 11.519 million which is reported by BPS, and 504 thousand in the extrapolation from Jan-Sep 2016, which has not yet been incorporated to the total tourist arrivals.

“BPS has agreed to the extrapolation in the Jan-Sep 2016 period at 504 thousand, and has brought it to the Forum of Statistics Community (FMS) on Jan 8, 2017. However, FMS has not recommended the 504 thousand. Both BPS and FMS have no objection to the Tourism Ministry using the real figure of 12.023 million,” the Tourism Ministrys deputy for the development of foreign marketing I Gde Pitana said.

He added that the extrapolation figure of 504 thousand is valid because it is calculated using the Big Data Mobile Positioning Data (MPD) technology.

The MPD is only used to calculate tourist arrivals in 19 districts, 46 sub-districts through cross-border areas, or border check points which still have no immigration check points.

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Global crisis momentum for Indonesia’s downstream industries

Jakarta, 15 February 2017, (ANTARA News) – President Joko Widodo said the global crisis should be a momentum to develop downstream industries in Indonesia, which until now have not been optimally exploited.

President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) made the statement while chairing a limited cabinet meeting regarding the evaluation of the implementation of strategic projects and priority programs of Central Kalimantan province, at the presidential office in Jakarta on Tuesday.

“We for long are lulled by high commodity prices, so that we forget the development of downstream industries and processing to gain added values from our own natural resources,” the president said.

According to him, Indonesia should also start developing downstream industries as this will directly influence the community, creating jobs, and drive the economy in the region.

Therefore, he said that the Government wanted to realize the project of national strategic and priority programs in various parts of the country.

Implementation of the project and the program is still continuing acceleration in the process.

President Joko Widodo was to remind his staff to continue to monitor the continuation of the project or program priorities.

“The key is in the execution and supervision. For that, I ask the minister or the head of the institution to see in detail the execution of the program national strategic and priority programs in each province. What is going according to plan if there are any barriers or obstacles encountered,” he said.

The Head of State assured brought more quickly constraints in the execution of the project to be completed, it will be the sooner the program can benefit the community.

To that end, he called for coordination and synergy between the governor and the central government to be further improved.

On the occasion of the meeting which discussed Central Kalimantan, President referred to the economic conditions in Central Kalimantan.

As is known, the Central Kalimantan actually rich in mineral resources and the results of the plantation and forestry.

However, on the other side of the area affected most of the decline in commodity prices in the global market.

“This means that the slowing global economy clearly had a significant impact on the regional economy,” he said.

However, despite the decline in real commodity prices there are great opportunities that can be exploited.

According to the President, this is the right moment to start developing downstream industries in order to provide added values.

In addition, the Head of State invited the parties to start thinking about alternative economic potential.

It is necessary to maintain sustainable economic growth area in the future.

“Central Kalimantan needs to develop untapped economic potential that is not dependent on the exploitation of Mining and forest wealth which at some point will run out,” Jokowi asserted.

Joko Widodo reinforced the importance of accelerating the development of transport infrastructure in Central Kalimantan.

In addition to opening the isolation of some regions in Central Kalimantan, adequate transportation infrastructure is also expected to lower the cost of logistics in the region.

“I ask the construction of transport infrastructure should really be integrated with other areas in Kalimantan and do not forget to pay attention to aspects of spatial planning and the environment,” he concluded.

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Chinese dominate tourist arrivals in North Sulawesi

Manado, N Sulawesi, 19 Feb 2017, (ANTARA News) – The number of Chinese tourists visiting North Sulawesi through the Sam Ratulangi Airport was the highest among tourists from other foreign nations in 2016.

“The highest tourist arrivals in North Sulawesi were from China, thanks to direct chartered flights to Manado,” Head of the North Sulawesi Statistic Office Moh Edy Mahmud stated here, Friday.

North Sulawesi had received 2,488 Chinese tourists, or 65.13 percent of the total foreign tourists last year.

Singapore stood second, with 348 tourists, or 9.11 percent; followed by the US, with 116 visitors, or 3.04 percent; Malaysia, 102, or 2.67 percent; Germany, 92, or 2.41 percent; the Netherlands, 71, or 1.86 percent; Thailand, 79, or 2.07 percent; Japan, 60, or 1.57 percent; France, 60, or 1.47 percent; and Australia, 51, or 1.34 percent.

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Knowledge Sharing Workshop on “Media Literacy” in Indonesia

Knowledge and Experience Sharing Workshop on “Media Literacy ” will be jointly organised by SESRIC and IBRAF with the attendance of participants from national broadcasting regulatory authorities and governmental bodies on the side-line of the 5 th Annual Meeting of OIC Broadcasting Regulatory Forum which will be held during 20-23 February 2017.

The workshop will be organised by SESRIC within its mandate to create a platform for knowledge exchange and experience sharing in the field of media literacy among relevant authorities of OIC Member States, in collaboration with the Organization of Islamic Cooperation Broadcasting Regulatory Authorities Forum (IBRAF), which is a Forum that endeavours to meet the need for increasing cooperation among Islamic Countries Broadcasting Regulatory against the backdrop of digitalisation and convergence.

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Infrastructure to help promote sports in Punjab

LAHORE, 16 Feb 2017, (APP) – Provincial Sports Minister, Jahangir Khanzada said on Wednesday that development of sports across the province was the top priority of the Government and a lot of sports infrastructure was being built to help achieve this objective.

He said this while presiding over a high level meeting here which was also attended by MNA and convener of finance audit committee sports board Punjab, Shaza Fatima, Secretary Sports Punjab, Nayyer Iqbal, Chairman Planning and Development committee, Akhtar Rasool, DG Sports Zulfiqar Ghumman and Director admin Javed Rasheed Chohan.

“With the completion of these under construction sports projects we will be providing platform to the youth to utilize their energy in positive way and to excel in different sports”, said the Sports Minister.

He said Khaadim e Alaa Punjab talent hunt programme will be a gate way to unearth new talent in a number of sports as educational institutions are being involved in this beneficial activity.

DG Sports Punjab Zulfiqar Ghumman said that better and improved sports infrastructure will be available throughout the province in due course of time and professional coaches will be hired to identify talent and to groom it keeping an eye on future of the games.

“We are generating a lot of sports activities at grass root level and we are confident to get productive result from this whole exercise”, he said.

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Pakistani star stresses revival, development of film industry

KARACHI, 15 Feb 2017, (APP) – The famous film star of yesteryears Shabnam has stressed the need of ‘team work’ for the revival and development of Pakistani film industry. Speaking at Karachi Press Club (KPC) on Wednesday, she also presented her services in this very regard.

Film star Mustafa Qureshi, president KPC, Siraj Ahmed and secretary KPC Maqsood Yousfi, were also present on the occasion. Shabnam said that if her contribution would benefit the Pakistan film industry then she would certainly offer her services and act as well.

She was of the view that she alone cannot do anything for the revival and development of the film industry in Pakistan and that this task requires a team work.

Shabnam recalled her first visit to Pakistan from Bangladesh in the year 2012 and spoke of the immense love of the people. “Today I found more love”, she added.

Tears rolled out from her eyes when she spoke of her late husband Robin Ghosh – himself a celebrated music director.

The traditional Sindhi Ajrak, bouquet and other gifts were presented to her.

Shabnam who is residing in Bangladesh these days, had worked in numerous hit films in the past in Pakistan.

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Pakistan Gets Its First Woman Foreign Secretary

KARACHI, Pakistan, 14 Feb 2017, (NNN-Bernama) – Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif Monday appointed Pakistan’s first-ever woman foreign secretary, Turkey’s Anadolu Agency (AA) reported.

Tehmina Janjua, currently serving as Pakistan’s ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, will assume the post in the first week of March, a Foreign Ministry statement said.

Janjua is a seasoned diplomat with a career spanning over three decades. She holds master’s degrees from Islamabad’s Quaid-i-Azam University and New York’s Columbia University.

From 2011 to 2015 she served as ambassador to Italy and before that Foreign Ministry spokeswoman.

Analysts foresee challenges ahead for Janjua, who is taking office as Islamabad is grappling with diplomatic tensions with neighbouring India and Afghanistan, while also being nervous over relations with its longtime ally, the United States, under new President Donald Trump.

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Pakistan, Hong Kong sign tax pact

ISLAMABAD, Feb 17 (APP): Pakistan and Hong Kong Friday signed the pact on avoidance of double taxation and prevention of fiscal evasion with respect to taxes on income.

Pakistan’s Ambassador to China Masood Khalid signed the agreement while the Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury, Professor K. C. Chan signed on behalf of the government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, at a ceremony held at the Central Government Offices in Hong Kong, a press release received here said.

Pakistan’s Consul General for Hong Kong and Guangzhou, China Abdul Qadir Memon and Ali Ahmed Arain, respectively witnessed the signing ceremony along with other officials of the Pakistan’s missions in Hong Kong and China.

The agreement once ratified, shall benefit individuals and companies working in Pakistan and Hong Kong SAR by providing safeguards against paying double taxation on the incomes of the residents of both jurisdictions.

Under the agreement, double taxation will be avoided in any Pakistani tax paid by Hong Kong companies and will be allowed as a credit against the tax payable in Hong Kong on the same profits, subject to the provisions of the tax laws of Hong Kong.

Likewise, for Pakistani companies, the tax they paid in Hong Kong will be allowed as a deduction from the tax payable on the same income in Pakistan.

The agreement will also provide adequate certainty in respect of taxation rules applicable to cross-border business transactions, dividends, interest and royalties etc.

On this occasion, Ambassador Masood Khalid said the agreement would promote economic cooperation, investment and would strengthen the existing bilateral economic relations between Pakistan and Hong Kong.

He termed it a step forward bringing economies along the Belt and Road initiative closer.

The ambassador said the agreement set out clearly the allocation of taxing rights between the two jurisdictions which would eventually help investors better assess their potential tax liabilities from cross-border economic activities.

Consul General for Hong Kong Abdul Qadir Memon said for Pakistan, this was a great milestone to sign the agreement with Hong Kong, the world’s freest economy.

This would in-turn help confidence building in Pakistan’s economy, the consul general stated.

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Folk artists mesmerize audience in Lok Mela at RAC

RAWALPINDI, 17 February 2017, (APP)- Renowned folk artists mesmerized the audience at the inaugural ceremony of three-day Punjab Lok Mela arranged here under auspices of Rawalpindi Arts Council (RAC).

The event has been organized for the revival of folk culture of Punjab.

Famous artists namely Qurban Niazi, Fazal Jatt, Tahir Nayyar, Mansoor Mughal, Gul Muhammad, Saen Amjad, Saen Mushtaq and others presented wonderful performance.

Member National Assembly (MNA) Tahira Aurangzeb, Mayor Rawalpindi Sardar Naseem, MPAs Raja Hanif Advocate, Lubna Pirzada, Zeb un Nisa Awan, PML-N Senior leader Dr. Jamal Nasir flanked by Resident Director RAC Waqar Ahmed participated in the inaugural ceremony.

Waheed Murad folk dance group and Gurya Pakistani Dhol wali on the occasion also presented folk cultural performances.

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1st container ship from Kolkata arrives at Pangaon terminal

DHAKA, 18 Feb 2017, (BSS) – A container ship “Sonar Tori Nou Kallyan” from Kolkata port arrived yesterday at the Pangaon Inland Container Terminal in Keraniganj.

“Container services have been formally introduced between Bangladesh and India through arrival of the container ship Sonar Tori Nou Kallyan at the Pangaon terminal,” Shipping Minister Shajahan Khan told a function at the Pangaon terminal, an official release said yesterday.

Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed, State Minister for Power, Energy and Mineral Resources Nasrul Hamid, Secretary of Shipping Ministry Ashoke Madhab Roy, Indian High Commissioner in Dhaka Harsh Vardhan Shringla and President of Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry Abdul Matlub, among others, were present on the occasion.

Shajahan said, “An agreement was signed between Bangladesh and India for introducing container services. As part of the agreement, the container services started through arrival of this ship.”

Tofail said a good progress has been made in the shipping sector in the past eight years as the government has taken various initiatives to expand trade and commerce through improving connectivity of waterways.

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$100m ADB loan for up-skilling young Bangladesh workforce

DHAKA, 14 February 2017, (BSS)-The government and Asian Development Bank (ADB) today signed an agreement for a US$100 million loan for up-skilling young workforce, especially women, to enhance job opportunities, expand economic base, and boost income.

The assistance is the second tranche of the $350 million multitranche financing facility (MFF) approved by ADB in 2014 for the Skills for Employment Investment Program (SEIP). The remaining amount from the ADB assistance is expected to be utilized before the MFF period ends in 2024.

Kazi Shofiqul Azam, Secretary, Economic Relations Division (ERD), and Kazuhiko Higuchi, Country Director, Bangladesh Resident Mission, signed the loan agreement on behalf of Bangladesh and ADB respectively, at a ceremony at NEC here.

“The program underpins the country’s path toward higher income level with diversified and expanded economic base, while providing good jobs to people, especially women,” said Country Director Kazuhiko Higuchi.

“The program has already delivered significant benefits. ADB will continue supporting this strategically important program of the government in the coming years,” he added.

The second tranche of the SEIP will support expansion of the training program to 9 priority industries, bringing in 3 additional industry associations (Bangladesh Agro-processors’ Association, Industry Skills Council for Hospitality and Tourism, and Bangladesh Women Chamber of Commerce and Industry), and 15 training providers.

Up-skilling training for Bangladeshi migrant workers overseas, especially for managerial skills, is an important goal under the expanded program. Over 240,000 people, 30 percent women, will be trained by 2021.

The SEIP Tranche 2 program is estimated to cost a total of $133 million. In addition to the $100 million ADB assistance, the program is complemented by $25 million from the Government of Bangladesh, $4.5 million from the Government of Switzerland, and $3.5 million from the private sector. The second tranche of the ADB loan will have a 25-year term, including a grace period of 5 years, and an interest rate of 2 percent per annum.

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Bangladesh Bank probing fall in remittances

DHAKA, 12 February 2017 (BSS) – Bangladesh Bank (BB) has started working to find out reasons behind the downturn in the inflow of remittances, said governor Fazle Kabir.

“Two research teams of the central bank will soon visit Malaysia and Middle Eastern countries to find out the reasons of falling trend in the inflow of remittance,” said the governor while speaking at the first quarterly luncheon meeting of MCCI here today.

Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCI) president Barrister Nihad Kabir and its former vice-president Anis A Khan also spoke on the occasion.

Fazle Kabir said ‘informal’ channel for sending money from Malaysia and different Middle-East countries is still strong. So BB is thinking to reduce the cost for sending remittances from these countries using formal channel, he added.

He, however, said there is nothing to worry because of fall in the flow of remittances because the country has enough forex reserves to meet import costs of eight months.

The governor said lending rate is not coming down to the expected level because of nonperforming loan. Out of the total loan amounts, about 10.03 percent is default one and 25 percent of this default credits is with the state-owned banks, he added.

Mentioning Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) sector as the future driving force of the economy, the central bank governor said the main problem in getting SME loan is giving non-transferable collateral. BB has started thinking about this issue, he added.

“We are thinking whether we can follow the simple rules like the agro credit ones for SME loan disbursement in future,” he said and added that the manufacturing sector will be given priority in disbursement of SME loan in future.

MCCI president Nihad Kabir requested the central bank to liberalize the foreign currency policy for expansion of overseas trade. She also requested BB to keep equal allocation in Export Development Fund for RMG and non-RMG sectors which would be helpful for diversification of export items. At present, readymade garments gets US$ 20 million worth incentives while non-RMG gets US$15 million from the EDF.

Anis A Khan requested the central bank to introduce “Bank Insurance” in banking sector, saying that it would help bring a qualitative change in insurance sector.

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BRAC investing in mobile app ‘Maya Apa’

DHAKA, Feb 15, 2017 (BSS)- BRAC is going to scale up its investment to mobile app “Maya Apa” to ensure quality information and counseling service delivery for a greater number of people.

Besides, BRAC’s urban development programme will implement a pilot project where Maya Apa app will be used to give services to 50,000 women garment factory workers.

The BRAC-Maya initiative was announced today with signing a deal in a city hotel in presence of State Minister for Posts and Telecommunication Tarana Halim.

Maya Apa is a virtual platform that anyone anonymously can access any time for counseling and answers to queries on daily life issues including health, psychosocial and legal matters.

Once the question is asked it is redirected to the profile of relevant experts and the answer appears within three hours maximum.

Statistics show since the app launched in February 2015, around 150,000 queries were received and answered. Currently, over 10,000 users access it daily.

Speaking on the occasion as chief guest, Tarana Halim said this event is a stark example of how ICT in Development is the next frontier of sustainability.

She opined BRAC and Maya Apa partnership will help both organisations reach out to the millions in Bangladesh to provide wellbeing and healthcare at their fingertips.

“It could be a very effective tool to change the society and I wish every mobile user of the country uses this as a service,” hoped Tarana.

Asif Saleh, senior director, strategy, communications and empowerment, BRAC, moderated the event while Dr Muhammad Musa, executive director, BRAC, briefed on the mission and objective of the partnership.

Ivy H Russell, founder of Maya, spoke on the activities of Maya Apa.

Dr Muhammad Musa and Ivy H Russell signed the agreement on behalf of their respective organisations. As per the agreement, BRAC would invest Taka 4 crore in next few years.

Dr Muhammad Musa said, “Our objective is to provide better quality services to more people. By integrating technology into our programmes we want to expedite the delivery of BRAC’s services to the marginalised people.”

Ivy H Russel said, “Aside from the investment itself, BRAC brings unparalleled expertise and reach in taking services to ‘last mile’ users.”

“Our team will now have the resources in place to drive greater awareness for Maya Apa as well as invest more heavily in improving the service by developing our capabilities in machine learning, natural language processing, and mobile user experience,” added Russel.

Relevantly, a service titled ‘Maya Apa Plus’ has already been launched under a partnership with mobile operator Robi. Users will have their queries answered in ten minutes through this service.

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Sarkerpara villagers emerge from extreme poverty cycle

RANGPUR, 16 Feb 2017, (BSS) – The Sarkerpara villagers under Ramnagar union of Sadar upazila in Nilphamari have won over extreme poverty through social, economic, political and women empowerment.

The Sarkerpara residents, who were earlier trapped in the vicious cycle of generational poverty, have become self-reliant and empowered making a transformational change in their lives.

“The villagers, women community in particular, are now playing vital role in their family and community affairs,” said Female Union Parishad Member elected from reserved wards of Ramnagar union Anufa Begum.

“The villagers achieved solvency through community solidarity and action groups, collective actions, engagement in income generating activities (IGAs), mainly off-farm, and with local union parishads in particular,” she said.

This transformation started in 2009 when the villagers formed ‘Para Unnayan Committee (PUC)’, community-based savings groups, Women’s group – ‘EKATA’ at ward levels and natural leaders’ organisation with support of the SETU project.

CARE Bangladesh in partnership with five NGOs completed implementation of the project in 2016 in 25 unions under seven upazilas of Rangpur, Nilphamari, Gaibandha and Lalmonirhat districts characterised by high levels of extreme poverty.

Talking to BSS, SETU project beneficiary women of Sarkerpara village and Community facilitator of CARE Bangladesh Mokhlesur Rahman narrated as how the villagers began their journey.

“We identified our problems first and took decision to address those collectively,” said President Sufia Begum of the PUC of Sarkerpara village. “We identified open defecation practice as a major reason for frequent diarrhea and dysentery. … .We went for Community-Led Total Sanitation approach to stop open defecation,” she said.

“We ensured cent percent sanitation for all 116 households with own resources within a month under leadership of natural leader of our village Anufa Begum, currently member of Ramnagar union,” she added.

“The villagers used the project’s grants along with mobilising local resources—– took collective actions to diversify livelihoods, built own organisations and relationship with local union parishad,” said Mokhlesur Rahman.

The 25-member EKATA group made the village free from child marriage, malnutrition, illiteracy and violence against women.

The able couples, pregnant women and adolescent are now aware of health, hygiene and nutrition. The villagers formed community based ‘Sarkerpara Women Savings Group’ with 32 members with Anufa as its Secretary to cope with lean season as they had to sale labour in advance and household goods earlier.

They started with saving fistful rice. With increase in earning for engagement in IGAs, they turned it into cash group raising capital to Taka 18,000 early last year.

“The SETU project then added Taka 20,000 as grant to the savings group to raise its capital when it started providing loans up to Taka 8,000 among its members for IGAs,” Mokhlesur added.

Beneficiaries Anufa Begum, Tahuza Begum and Sufia Begum said they took Taka 7,500 to 8,000 each as interest free loans from the group and invested in off-farm businesses to earn well and their children were going to schools.

Chairman of Ramnagar union Mizanur Rahman appreciated Sarkerpara villagers in changing their socioeconomic condition after winning over extreme poverty also setting up a dazzling example of women empowerment.

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Organic fertilisers increase Bangladesh crop output by 15%

RANGPUR, 11 February 2017, (BSS) – Application of organic fertilisers like composts, vermin-composts and green manure can increase crop production by 15 per cent reducing use of chemical fertilisers side by side with substantially improving soil health

According to experts, demand of organic fertilisers and green manure has been increasing as the farmers purchase those for applying in crop fields to get increase crop output, revive soil health and fertility by adding necessary soil nutrients.

Meanwhile, production of organic fertilisers in homesteads under the ‘Ekti Bari, Ekti Khamar (EBEK) and other projects has already become a profitable venture bringing fortune to hundreds of small and marginal farmers in Rangpur agriculture region.

Talking to BSS, Horticulture Specialist of the Department of Agriculture Extension (DAE) Khondker Md Mesbahul Islam said application of organic and compost fertilisers could increase crop production by up to 15 per cent along with improving environment.

“Production of organic fertilisers has been increasing in all five districts under Rangpur agriculture region where farmers have now set up over 72,000 pits and heaps of compost, quick compost, vermi-compost and farmyard compost fertilisers,” he said.

Extension Agronomist Anarul Haque at Dinajpur Hub of International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center said crop production might increase substantially if balanced use of chemical fertilisers along with composts was ensured adopting conservation agriculture technologies.

“The nationwide annual consumption of urea, TSP, MoP and other chemical fertilisers and pesticides would reduce by 30 per cent if production of organic fertilisers increased further ensuring its popular usages throughout the country,” he added.

Knowledge Management and Communication Specialist of Climate Resilient Agriculture and Food Security Project of World Bank Dr MG Neogi said use of organic and compost fertilisers would also improve environment, ecology and bio-diversity.

Agriculture and Environment Coordinator of RDRS Bangladesh Mamunur Rashid said organic and compost fertilisers and green manures were being produced using cow dung, wood dust, oil cake, water hyacinths, various wastages, leaves and other waste materials.

“The small and marginal farmers, poor, distressed and landless people have been earning better profits through producing compost fertilisers in homesteads under the EBEK project and selling those to the farmers throughout the year,” he said.

Former Chief Scientific Officer of Bangladesh Rice Research Institute Dr MA Mazid said growing awareness about adverse impacts of chemical fertilisers and pesticides among farmers was inspiring them in increasing production of organic and compost fertilisers.

Regional Additional Director of DAE Shah Alam said organic fertilisers could improve soil textures, fertility, increase water and nutrient storing capacities, upgrade sandy land into sandy-loamy and sandy loamy into loamy and then into clay soil in course of time.

“Side by side with increasing crop yield, adequate use of organic and compost fertilisers helps regaining lost population of extinct insecticides, earthworms, birds, fishes to maintain ecology, bio-diversity and environment,” he added.

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Conference on Persian Manuscripts in Balkans

Tehran, Feb 20, IRNA – A faculty member and Director of the Islamic Texts Department of the Research Institute of Cultural Heritage and Tourism (RICHT) Dariush Zolfaqari is to present a paper on the importance of rhetoric in the correction of Ferdowsi’s Shahnameh in Persian Manuscripts Conference in Balkans, RICHT reported.

According to RICHT Public Relations Office, the conference will be held on 23-24 February in the University of Sofia, Bulgaria.

Zolfaqari noted that since the time when Ferdowsi’s Shahnameh became available as a result of the efforts of distinguished Shahnameh researcher Jalal Khaleqi Motlaq, widespread topics were raised about it, adding that one of the topics that can be discussed regarding this valuable work is the rhetoric comparison of the text with its copied versions.

He pointed out that since the most valuable link letter in rhetoric is ‘and’, in this paper the author has made his utmost efforts to observe every ‘and’ in the copied versions and raise this question that whether the rhetoric of the text can be a seal of confirmation on its originality?

Zolfaqari further remarked that at the end the obtained results showed that in many cases, the ‘and’ which exists in the text but does not exist in the copied versions is also creditable in terms of rhetoric.

“Persian manuscripts, the manuscripts related to Iran in other languages, including religious and Islamic texts, documents and Persian correspondences, documents and correspondences relating to Iran in other languages and survey in Oriental texts are among major topics of the conference,” he said.

He also referred to presentation of article and familiarity with the Persian and Arabic manuscripts available at the national library of Bulgaria as being among the targets of the conference. He said interaction with the researchers in the Balkans region and Central Europe and preparing the ground for the formation of specialized working groups in the field of written heritage are among other targets of the two-day conference.

It should be noted that the conference will be held under the auspicious of Iran, Balkans and Central Europe Study Center with the cooperation of the National Library of Sofia, the University of Sofia, Allameh Tabatabaei University of Tehran, Association of Advocates of the Persian Language and Culture in Bulgaria, Written Heritage and Cultural Heritage Institute.

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Iran Film festival signs Int’l MoU to promote green economy

Tehran, Feb 20, IRNA – Iran inked a memorandum of understanding with an international organization to promote the green economy in the world, secretary of the 6th International Green Film Festival said.

Farhad Tohidi made the remarks in a press conference on Sunday, saying that Iranian movies with environmental subjects have been successful.

‘The Festival is to be held from July 22-28 in Tehran and other provinces,” he said.

“The 6th International Green Film Festival consists of different parts like fifty-minute feature films, short films, feature and short documentaries and some competitions,’ he added.

“Regarding the naming of 2017 as the year of sustainable tourism, the subject would be of importance in the upcoming festival,” he said.

“All the films produced to be screened in the festival focuses on topics related to green industry and controlling pollution,” he added.

Environmental campaigns and workshops like Orumiyeh Lake campaign are scheduled to attend the event.

The “I’m Lake Urmia” hashtag is a campaign initiated in late August, 2016 by Iranian environmentalist Mohammad Khazaei. A large number of Iranians, artists in particular, supported the campaign.

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Culture minister underlines boosting cultural ties with Vietnam

Tehran, Feb 20, IRNA – Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance Reza Salehi-Amiri called for further strengthening of cultural relation with Vietnam in a meeting on Sunday with Fam San Chao, special envoy of the Vietnam’s prime minister in the UNESCO.

Salehi-Amiri said that Iranians have a positive mentality about Vietnam for its rich culture.

He added that Iran and Vietnam can have wide-scale regional and international cooperation in the fields of art and culture.

The Iranian minister further noted that President Hassan Rouhani’s visit to Vietnam in 2016 had a clear message for promoting bilateral ties.

Highlighting the role of cultural diplomacy in promoting relations between countries, Salehi-Amiri noted that through cultural diplomacy, nations can get acquainted with each other’s culture and traditions.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) plays an effective role in promoting cultural ties among nations and creates numerous opportunities to this end, he said, adding that UNESCO’s structure is cultural not political and this will greatly help forging cultural interaction among the nations.

Salehi-Amiri, also a member of High Council of the Islamic Revoluton, added that among regional states, Iran is a country that has experienced several civilizations during its history including the Safavid, Sasanid and Achaemenid dynasties and it is an undeniable fact that Iran is the focal poiunt of different civilizations.

“Iran is the only country in the region which accepted Islam but its language did not change into Arabic,” said the minister, arguing that the Iranian language and its culture are so rich and intertwined with the nation’s identity.

Meanwhile, the Vietnamese special envoy, hailed Iran’s culture and civilization, saying that many of his countrymen are familiar with the ‘One Thousand and One Night’ stories.

The ‘One Thousand and One Night’ is a collection of Middle Eastern and South Asian stories and folk tales compiled in Arabic during the Islamic Golden Age. It is believed that many tales of the book are most probably drawn from the Pahlavi Persian work Hazār Afsān (A Thousand Tales) which in turn relied partly on Indian elements.

He further noted that the two countries can joint cooperation in the fields of cinema, architecture and exchanging museum items.

Vietnam was successful in cultural diplomacy and uses it as principle in its foreign policy, he said.

Vietnam has representative offices in 100 countries and shares its culture and civilization with other countries through these missions, he said.

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Western Asia handicrafts Regional Council Office opens in Tehran

Tehran, Feb 17, IRNA – The World Crafts Council – Asia Pacific Region Office was inaugurated on Friday in Tehran historical palace.

The opening ceremony of the event was held with the attendance of President of World Crafts Council – Asia Pacific Region Ghada Hijjawi-Qaddumi and a group of handicrafts artists.

The office aims at developing handicrafts, taking advantage of the World Crafts Council’s facilities, participating in seminars and international conferences.

Qaddumi pointed to opening of the office as a valuable act, expressing hope for establishing cooperation with 5 other regions in Asia.

Regarding efforts by Iran and Oman in opening of the office, she said that both countries play crucial role in reinforcing handicrafts in Western Asia.

“Inaugurating this office will result in having cooperation in launching Western Asia website, exchanging experts and holding training courses,” she added.

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Conference on Iran, Malay world held in Malaysia

Kuala Lumpur, Feb 11, IRNA – International Conference on ‘Civilization and Cultural Heritage of Iran and the Malay World; A Cultural Discourse’ started with the attendance of Iran’s ambassador to Malaysia Marzieh Afkham, university professors and international experts on Saturday in Malaysia.

The event was hosted by the University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus and with the contribution of Iranian cultural attaché office in Malaysia, Eastern and Western Asia Institute, University of Malaya campus for social science and art and the Malay studies department of the National University of Singapore.

The topics which are to be discussed during the two-day conference consist of anthropology, sociology, religious and cultural studies, literature, history, philosophy, linguistics, geography and art.

Speaking in the opening ceremony of the event, the associate professor in the Department of Sociology at the National University of Singapore Syed Farid al-Attas stressed on the importance of understanding cultural commonalities between Iran and the World Malay.

Farid al-Attas expressed hope for the participants of Iran, Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia to hold fruitful talks.

“Iran as a country with a rich culture and civilization in West Asia region has maintained long-standing relations with World Malay which has had historical and trade ties with the Islamic Republic,” Iranian ambassador Afkham told the conference.

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Renault’s Jointly Made Car to hit Iran by early 2018

TEHRAN, Iran, 14 Feb 2017, (NNN-Bernama) – Head of Industrial Development & Renovation Organisation of Iran (IDRO), also known as the IRDO Group, Mansour Moazzami, said the group has signed a contract with the French car manufacturer Renault, which will see their jointly-made car hit the Iranian market by the first quarter of 2018, Trend news agency reported.

Addressing an international conference on the automotive industry here, Moazzami also said that Peugeot and Iran Khodro’s jointly made car will reach the market in March 2018, Trend correspondent reported on Monday.

Another car to be jointly made by Saipa and Citroen will also be out by September, he said.

Moazzami further noted that Volkswagen is about to sign a contract with an Iranian partner for joint venture. He said Hyundai and Mercedes Benz have signed or are about to sign similar contracts with Iranian partners.

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International Chamber of Commerce Inaugurates Kabul Office

Kabul, 18 February 2017, (BNA) – A branch of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) officially opened in Kabul on Thursday, Bakther News Agency (BNA) reported.

According to the agency, attended by some government officials, representatives f relevant organizations, foreign countries’ ambassadors, international organizations’ representatives, industrialists’ unions and national traders, the opening ceremony was held at the foreign ministry.

During the opening ceremony, ICC Chairman said the aim of inaugurating this office was to attract foreign investments and cohesion of the private sector, the agency added. “We want to provide fields for foreign investment with the cooperation of Afghan government and Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and industrial associations,” said Mayel Aqa Khairkhah, chairman of ICC, BNA added.

Meanwhile, Chief Executive, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah called the beginning of the activities of the International Chamber of Commerce in Kabul vital, adding it will pave the way for drawing foreign investment in the country and will reinforces the ties between the private sectors of Afghanistan and the regional as well as international companies around the globe, the agency continued.

In the meeting, the participants also spoke about paving the way for employment opportunities and offering good services for the Afghan people in different walks of life, the agency added. Furthermore, France ambassador to Kabul, ministers of economy, commerce and industries, political deputy of foreign affairs ministry and some other officials spoke in the meeting.

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Preservation of Cultural Heritage Top Priority Dr. Sadat

Kabul, 18 February 2017, (BNA) – Acting Minister of Information and Culture and Deputy Minister of Youth Affairs, Dr. Kamal Sadat Met Patricia McPhilips director and representatives of UNESCO Kabul office here the other day, BNA said.

According to Bakhter News Agency, during the meeting Dr. Sadat emphasized on protection of historical relics, calling preservation of cultural heritage and historical monuments Ministry of Information and Culture’s (MoIC) top priority. Acting minister of information and culture also asked people to cooperate with the ministry in protection of their heritages, calling it the country’s unique identity and history.

Meanwhile UNESCO representative in Kabul informed of her office’s durable support and cooperation with the ministry. UNESCO is one of MoIC’s clos partner in term of restoration and protection of the historical monuments and relics, where different cultural related projects are currently going on in different provinces of the country through UNESCO’s support and funding.

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Iran Ready to help Afghan Farmers Replace Poppy Cultivation

TEHRAN, 17 February 2017, (FNA) – Deputy Head of Iran’s Anti-Drug Headquarters Assadollah Hadinejad declared his country’s readiness to help Afghanistan to replace its poppy cultivation with another agricultural crop.

“The official stressed that Afghan farmers could replace poppy cultivation with other agricultural products, including sesame and corn, and sell them to Iran,” Hadinejad said on Tuesday.

He reiterated that all border areas of Iran-Afghanistan have been blocked to prevent the entry of opium into the country. Hadinejad’s remarks came after the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) announced that Afghanistan’s poppy cultivation has risen to its third-highest level in more than 20 years.

The total area of land used for poppy cultivation in Afghanistan had risen by 10 percent to 201,000 hectares (497,000 acres) in 2016, UNODC reported. Opium poppy cultivation, a favorite activity of the Taliban, used to be limited to certain parts of Afghanistan; however, the surge in militancy and the government’s loss of grip on security has allowed it to spread to other parts of the country, particularly the North.

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Turkey ‘as safe as U.S.,’ Prime Minister says

ISTANBUL, 16 February 2017, (Anadolu Agency) – Turkey is “as safe as the United States,” Prime Minister Binali Yildirim told a tourism conference on Thursday.

Speaking at the opening of the World Tourism Forum in Istanbul, Yildirim said the threat from terrorism was global.

“If we are talking about security, nowhere in the world is safe… terrorism does not recognize borders,” he said. “There is no place safe from terrorism. The fear and threat of terrorism is only useful to terrorists.

“I say it proudly and confidently — Turkey is as safe as the United States, Istanbul is as safe as Paris, Ankara is as safe as Sarajevo, Izmir is as safe as Baku. Therefore, please do not let terrorism sabotage tourism.”

The prime minister hailed those working in the tourism sector as “volunteer peace ambassadors”.

A string of terror attacks across Turkey have threatened the country’s vital tourism industry, with the number of foreign visitors dropping from 36.8 million in 2014 to 25.4 million last year, according to the Culture and Tourism Ministry.

However, Yildirim said Turkey aimed to attract 8 million more tourists in the first stage of a campaign to boost tourism earnings to $50 billion, unveiled by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan last week.

He also stressed the non-financial benefits of tourism. “It is insufficient to evaluate tourism only from an economic point of view,” he said. “Tourism is beyond that. It is primarily the meeting of cultures, the meeting of civilizations.”

According to the Investment Support and Promotion Agency of Turkey, the country is the world’s sixth most popular tourist destination and has shown positive year-on-year growth.

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Turkey sets eyes on hosting Euro 2024

ISTANBUL, 15 February 2017, (Anadolu Agency) – Turkey will be bidding to host the 2024 UEFA European Championship, the Turkish Football Federation announced Wednesday.

“We will apply on March 2,” TFF head Yildirim Demiroren told a press conference in Istanbul, adding Turkey had so far bidden three times to host the football event, but lost “by just one vote”.

“We are here today to announce our fourth bid to host the UEFA European Championship.

“We believe that Turkey deserves to win this time,” he said, adding the winner would be announced in September 2018.

Demiroren also noted that Turkey was the “only country in Europe and even in the world” with its investment on 32 football stadiums in the recent years.

The 17-member UEFA (Union of European Football Associations) executive committee selects the hosts for the tournament.

So far, Germany and a combination of Nordic countries including Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland have confirmed bids to host Euro 2024.

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Turkey, Philippines ink Tourism Agreement

ISTANBUL, 17 February 2017, (NNN-Bernama) – Turkey and the Philippines signed an agreement Thursday to increase cooperation in culture and tourism, Turkey’s Anadolu Agency (AA) reported.

Speaking to reporters after the signing ceremony in Istanbul, Turkish Culture and Tourism Minister Nabi Avci, said the two countries had the potential to boost tourism not only through bilateral projects, but also through joint projects with third countries.

“Especially after the opening of (Istanbul’s) third airport, we will have the chance to host our guests from the Philippines travelling to Europe and Africa,” he said, adding he was planning to visit the Philippines in the summer.

Currently under construction, Istanbul’s third airport is expected to start operating by February 2018 with a capacity of up to 200 million passengers a year.

Philippines’ Tourism Secretary Wanda Corazon Tulfo Teo, for her part, expressed her hope that this agreement will encourage more people from Turkey and the Philippines to visit respective countries.

“I hope to see Mr. Minister in the Philippines in the near future. I hope that he will bring some investors and tour operators with him,” AA quoted her as saying.

According to Turkey’s Foreign Ministry, 70,000 Philippine tourists visited Turkey in 2014.

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Turkey to host Workshop on Monitoring Food Security

Date : 22-23 February 2017

Venue : Ankara Turkey

SESRIC in collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) will organise the Workshop on Monitoring Food Security in the Context of 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda on 22-23 February 2017 in Ankara, Republic of Turkey.

The objective of the Workshop is to develop capacities of officials of the selected National Statistics Offices (NSOs) to advocate with national government leaders for the inclusion of the Food Insecurity Experience Scale (FIES) and food consumption modules in national surveys for monitoring SDG target 2.1. During the Workshop, the participants will be informed both about the Prevalence of Undernourishment (POU) and the FIES methodologies, as well as the steps to implement them and the relevance of the information they provide for food security policy.

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Abu Dhabi tourism body wins Best Mobile Government Services award

ABU DHABI, 15 February 2017, (WAM) – Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority, TCA Abu Dhabi, has won top honours at the Best Mobile Government Service Awards at the World Government Summit Awards for the new, improved version of its Visit Abu Dhabi mobile application.

The latest version of the Visit Abu Dhabi app, which gives users instant access to all that is new in the emirate via their mobile phones and tablets, won top spot in the Tourism category at the prestigious ceremony, which was held in Dubai on Tuesday, February 14th, as part of the World Government Summit 2017.

The Tourism category recognises mobile innovations of government entities in the areas of tourism development, travel and hospitality, culture and arts, recreation, sight-seeing and shopping, with TCA Abu Dhabi’s app triumphing with judges over stiff competition from rival entries from both Japan and Russia.

The Best m-Government Service Awards, which are open to all governments worldwide, is an annual initiative that has its origins in the Smart Government vision of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President, Prime inister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, which aims to stimulate and encourage government entities to provide creative and innovative solutions using smart phone applications, mobile phones and SMS solutions.

Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, Chairman of TCA Abu Dhabi, and Saif Saeed Ghobash, Director-General of TCA Abu Dhabi, received the award from His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid.

“The Visit Abu Dhabi App provides world-class services and provisions making content-rich experiences available for all our residents and visitors, and caters to key target markets. It has quickly become an indispensable and invaluable resource for all” said Saif Ghobash. “Our collaboration with numerous governmental entities enables us to integrate their services within the app and provide the most comprehensive and up-to-date information.”

Other categories at the Awards included Health, Education, Environment, Social Affairs, Safety and Security, Economy and Commerce, Transportation and Infrastructure as well as a ‘One Stop App’ category.

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Saudi Arabia to conduct biggest health survey

Riyadh, 04 Feb 2017, (IINA) – The Ministry of Health will launch the largest survey in the Kingdom’s history on Sunday. The survey will cover more than Saudi 50,000 families, comprising 250,000 persons in all age groups. As many as 9,000 health and administrative officials and 571 health centers across the Kingdom will take part in carrying out the massive survey during a period of around six months.

The survey aims at comprehensive evaluation of the health condition of the citizens and determines the factors that are detrimental to their health such as habits of smoking, and lack of exercise. The survey will also explore the viability of the Saudi health system in meeting the requirements and fulfilling the aspirations of people.

It will make available of the reliable and dependable information about the minute details of the health condition of the people so as to prepare the Kingdom’s health indexes. The field visits and laboratory tests will focus on finding out those affected by diabetes, blood pressure and cholesterol in addition to taking height and weight of every citizen.

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Dubai Airports discusses 2017-2025 plan with strategic partners

DUBAI, 16 February 2017, (WAM) – Strategic partners are on top of Dubai Airports priorities regarding its strategic plan 2017-2025 to achieve their aspirations of making Dubai International Airport an international model in service and satisfying customers in compliance with the UAE government’s directives, said Majed Al Joker, Senior Vice President of Dubai Airports for Corporate Assurance and Governance.

Al Joker praised the role of the Airport Security Department, General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs in Dubai and Dubai Customs, noting that the co-ordination and co-operation among them are the secrets behind the success of Dubai Airports, especially with an expected passenger increase from 89 million passengers during the current year to 143 million passengers at Dubai International Airport and Dubai World Central Airport in 2020.

The remarks were made during the regular meeting with representatives of strategic partners to discuss the strategic plan 2017-2025 to improve the joint co-operation and promote the security procedures by adopting more advanced techniques, smart security and increasing the efficiency of procedures at ports and checkpoints to ensure passenger comfort.

According to forecasts for the Dubai Airports’ strategic plan 2017-2025, targeted share of the aviation sector will increase AED195 billion, equivalent to 37.5 percent of Dubai’s GDP, which will provide around 745,000 jobs by 2020.

The UAE is among the leading countries in the world in implementing the aviation security standards. It was given a 99.5 percent assessment rating by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).

The aviation industry, in the UAE in general and Dubai specifically, had two great achievements in 2016 in light of the unprecedented classification from an international organisation, as well as professional dealing with Emirates Airlines accidents.

Brig. Talal Al Shanqiti, Assistant to the Director General for Air and Land Ports Affairs, Directorate General of Residency and Foreigners Affairs, praised the level of professional co-ordination among government agencies that operate in Dubai. Over the past year, Dubai Airports received more than 55 million passengers, not including transit passengers- the growth of more than 7 percent compared to 2015, he said.

One of its best achievements was to implement the use of an Emirates ID card that ended manual entry and exit procedures at the airport. The number of ID card users exceeded 600,000, he added.

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Emirati Patient Walks Again After Successful Surgery

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates, 16 Feb 2017, (NNN-WAM) – Dubai’s Rashid Hospital doctors have succeeded in saving the life of a 27-year-old patient, who became paralysed due to a tumour located between the bottom of his neck and chest.

Doctors said, the patient is now stable and undergoing physiotherapy. He has also been moved to the oncology department for further treatment.

The highly complicated surgery was done by a neurosurgical team led by Dr. Najmedden Attabib, Consultant Neurosurgery and Spine Surgery at Rashid Hospital, who said, the young patient came to the hospital with his hands and legs paralysed.

“After undergoing a series of medical tests, we found that he has a big tumour in the cervicothoracic junction. The tumour, which was between the very bottom of his neck and chest, was putting pressure on his spinal cord and caused him to become paralysed in the hands and feet,” said Dr Attabib.

Dr Attabib said that a surgery was needed to remove the tumour and relieve the spinal cord from the pressure, as it was not only causing paralysis, but also affecting the voice cords, could have been life threatening to the patient.

“Before the surgery, Interventional radiologist, Dr. Ayman Al Sibai, conducted an endovascular embolisation procedure, which aimed to stop the blood from going to the tumour during the surgery. This made a huge difference as the patient only bled less than a litre, making the surgery shorter. Usually blood from such surgeries can reach up to 2-3 litres.”

After the embolisation procedure, Dr. Attabib and his team conducted an 11-hour-surgery.

“In the first stage, we removed the vertebra with the tumour and replaced it with an anterior inter-body cages. They are titanium cylinders that are placed in the disc space to allow the spine to be fused and allows for the bone graft,” he explained.

In the second stage, the doctors removed the remaining tumour from the back. “This relieved the pressure from the spinal cord and, within two days, the patient was able to move his hands and legs. He was able to walk again.”

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UAE among World’s Three Fastest Developing countries

DUBAI, 17 February 2017, (NNN-WAM) – The UAE is among the three fastest developing and progressing countries in the world, according to Mahmoud Mohieldin, the World Bank Group Senior Vice President for the 2030 Development Agenda, United Nations Relations and Partnerships.

The success of the UAE was made possible due to the insightful vision of Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum and Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, the official said in a lecture he delivered at a cultural forum on the sidelines of the World Government Summit, held earlier this week in Dubai.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid and Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed are “peerless leaders” because “they possess the capability and the wisdom that can turn ideas and dreams into real projects,” Mohieldin said.

Mohieldin presented his thoughts about the UAE, which he described as a model and a benchmark for other countries.

The cultural forum was held at the majlis of Dr. Hanif Al Qasim, Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue.

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Dubai upgrades taxi booking and dispatch system

DUBAI, 8 January 2017, (WAM) – Customers can now register multiple addresses instead of one for the booking and dispatch system for taxis in Dubai, according to an announcement from the RTA’s Public Transport Agency.

The step underlines the keenness of the RTA and its affiliated agencies to use the latest technologies in delivering a raft of sophisticated services at the highest global standards.

The move stems from the RTA’s efforts to deliver streamlined, quick and transparent services to all community segments in a bid to boost excellence and happiness in the sector.

“The multiple addresses feature has been added to the interactive voice response system, IVR, whereby each customer can enter up to three addresses (home, office, others) in the system. Customers can then communicate through the IVR system and easily select one of the three registered addresses to complete a booking without speaking to the service staff. The new feature offers clients, especially taxi riders, more flexibility in availing the taxi service,” said Abdullah Al Mahri, Director of Transport Activities Monitoring, Public Transport Agency of RTA.

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Tale of Colour and Water Exhibition at Omani Society for Fine Arts

MUSCAT, Oman, 14 February 2017, (NNN-ONA) – Omani Society for Fine Arts (OSFA), of the Sultan Qaboos Higher Centre for Culture and Science, is organising, this evening, at its headquarters in Al Sarooj, the first personal exhibition of Fahd al-Ma’amari, entitled: “Tale of Colour and Water,” under the auspices of Nasr bin Hamoud al-Kindi, Secretary General of the Royal Court Affairs.

The exhibition includes 35 paintings, in watercolour, embodying a number of Omani places, to transfer their viewers to the treasures of Omani’s nature and its eternal human heritage.

Fahd bin Salim al-Ma’amari said that, art is a beautiful window and watercolours have always had their impact in the world of art, adding that, he presented 35 paintings in watercolour, in an attempt to revive these colours, which began gradually to fade from the plastic art, explaining that, each painting embodies a corner of the place of this beautiful country, that tells the grandeur of the place and the eternal human history.

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Jordanian, Turkish Airlines Sign Cooperation Agreement

AMMAN, 17 February 2017, (NNN-Petra) – Royal Jordanian and Turkish Airlines Technic, Inc. sealed an agreement, whereby RJ will receive Line Replaceable Units (LRU) components pool support and spares for V2500 engines installed on RJ’s A320 family aircraft.

The services and spares that will be provided within the framework of the agreement will be based in Turkish Technic’s Istanbul base and supply stations throughout the world.

The LRU components will be serviced in the state-of-the-art facilities of Turkish Technic at Istanbul Sabiha Gokcen International Airport.

The contract will also serve to enhance the strong business relationship between the two parties and will be a sustainable step for Turkish Technic in the Middle East region.

Emphasizing the trust in the services provided by Turkish Technic, Royal Jordanian President/CEO Captain Suleiman Obeidat said: “We are pleased to cooperate with a pioneer MRO company in the region, Turkish Technic. We believe their contributions and technical services will back our endeavors to provide a continued on-time, efficient operation, all for an enhanced passenger satisfaction.”

Ahmet Karaman, CEO of Turkish Technic, thanked the Royal Jordanian family for its preference of Turkish Technic, saying: “We are glad to be reaping the fruits of our labor with this win-win cooperation model. Turkish Technic has reached a fleet size of about 800 aircraft in the component pool market with the signing of this agreement.”

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Jordan, Turkey Discuss Trade Cooperation

AMMAN, Jordan, 15 Feb 2017, (NNN-PETRA) – Jordan’s Prime Minister, Hani al-Mulki, Tuesday, received a Turkish trade delegation, headed by President of the Union of Turkish Chambers and Commodity Exchanges, Rifat Oglu, to look into prospects of boosting trade ties between the two countries.

At the meeting, the premier pointed to challenges facing the two countries, as a result of interruption of the trade route between them.

“Bolstering Jordanian-Turkish trade ties is possible, through using alternative crossing points and benefiting from investment opportunities and incentives in the Kingdom,” said the premier.

The Turkish official said, his country was interestingly monitoring the reforms Jordan carried out, noting that, both countries have similar challenges with regard to their geopolitical position or scarcity of natural resources.

“The free trade agreement, including visa exemptions, had contributed to strengthening relations and communication between the two countries,” said Oglu.

He stressed that, the delegation, which includes 50 of the leading representatives of Turkish companies, is keen on promoting investments, taking advantage of the opportunities available for cooperation.

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Japan allocates $46.7 million in new aid to Palestinians

Ramallah, 14 February 2017, (IINA) – The government of Japan has announced a new aid package worth $46.7 million to the Palestinian people through international organizations and Japanese non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

The new package includes humanitarian assistance through the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), budget assistance through the World Bank’s Palestinian Reform and Development Plan (PRDP) as well as infrastructure assistance, mainly for further development of the Jericho Agro-Industrial Park (JAIP), through the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).

Other projects will also be implemented in partnership with various international organizations and Japanese NGOs, WAFA reported citing a statement issued Monday by the Representative Office of Japan in Ramallah.

The new assistance focuses on the provision of humanitarian aid for refugees and development plans, and support for social stabilization and de-radicalization through education and job creation for youth and promotion of women’s health, among others.

“The government of Japan is strongly committed to supporting the Palestinian nation-building efforts, thereby contributing to the two-state solution,” said the statement.

Japan has been providing assistance for the key ministries both financially and technically, in their preparation for statehood in line with Palestinian national development plans.

Japan has also provided assistance through UN agencies as well as to local NGOs and local councils through grassroots development projects.

With this new aid, Japan’s assistance to Palestine has amounted to approximately $1.8 billion in total since 1993.

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Messi visits Egypt to fight Hepatitis C

15 February 2017, (MENAFN – Daily News Egypt) – In an effort to promote Hepatitis C treatment tourism, the Argentinean football player Lionel Messi arrives in Egypt on Wednesday.

Attempting to refresh tourism in Egypt, the Egyptian government started a campaign in June to make Egypt a destination for patients from Europe and Asia to cure Hepatitis C at cheap prices.

This campaign is supported by the Egyptian ministries of tourism and aviation. The visit was supposed to take place in December, but was postponed after the deadly bombing of St. Peter and St. Paul’s Church, which took place on 11 December.

Prime Pharma is the company which organised the campaign of Tour and Cure. The campaign primarily aims to motivate patients of Hepatitis C worldwide to receive treatment in Egypt.

Tamer Wagih, Prima Pharma’s chairperson, said in a previous statement that the ampaign targets 120,000 tourists from the UK, Spain, Italy, France, Russia, Malaysia, and Turkey to receive treatment of Hepatitis C in Egypt.

In the statement, the company declared Hepatitis C treatment in Europe costs around 100,000; however, according to the programme of the campaign, the treatment will not exceed 4900 in Egypt.

In a previous report, published by the World Health Organisation (WHO), Egypt was declared one of the best countries in treating patients with the Hepatitis C virus. It was also stated that the price of a three-month treatment has dropped from 900 to 200 in 2014.

This is not the first time that football stars have supported tourism in Egypt, as Egypt received Carles Puyol the previous year, when he came to demonstrate that Egypt is safe.

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South Africa Showcases Artistic Talent at Algerian Cultural Festival

PRETORIA, 15 Feb 2017, (NNN-SA NEWS) – Algerians will get an opportunity to sample South Africa’s artistic talent when the cultural season is launched in that country on Feb 24.

The cultural programme will be launched in Algeria’s capital, Algiers, and will run until March 3. The programme is aimed at showcasing South Africa’s artistic talent to create an inter-cultural and inter-generational dialogue between the two countries.

It is also a platform to strengthen cultural and people-to-people relations, lay the basis for expanded trade and promote cultural diplomacy as part of government’s broader socio-economic agenda.

“We have a golden thread that links us all as brothers and sisters. It is through culture that we are able to articulate and reflect the wishes and aspirations of the people for a united continent.

The ties that bind us are greater than what separates us. Therefore we look forward to the first cultural seasons of South Africa in Algeria,” Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa said here Tuesday.

The government of South Africa and the government of Algeria signed an agreement on co-operation in the fields of arts and culture in 2009. “The agreement is in line with SA’s foreign policy imperative on regional integration and places arts, culture and heritage at the centre of the economic growth agenda and skills development, amongst others,” the Department of Arts and Culture said.

The cultural seasons will also strengthen collaboration on the Africa Month programme of activities that takes place in May to celebrate the formation of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), celebrating African identity and culture and the building of a better Africa in a better world.

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Renovation of Kasbah of Algiers to create jobs for 100 youths

ALGIERS, 15 February 2017, (Algeria Press Service) – Nearly 100 youth will be allocated employment contracts to start Algiers Kasbah restoration and cleaning operations, General Secretary of the National Organization of Real Estate Developers and the Association “Friends of Kasbah,” Houria Bouhired told APS Wednesday.

As part of the celebration of the National Day of Kasbah on 23 February of each year, the one-year employment contracts which will be allocated to young people living in the Kasbah commune and its suburbs will concern its cleaning, restoration and preservation, added Bouhired.

The youth will participate in training sessions which fall within the employment reduction strategy and the creation of jobs.

A budget of DZD24 million was allocated thanks to the support of the prefecture of Algiers and the Ministry of National Solidarity to finally allow young people to access jobs and qualitative training to help them integrate easily into the society, including victims of social scourges such as drugs and those with criminal histories,” added Bouhired.

These young people will be working in 10 districts of the Kasbah to clean them and signal black spots like garbage areas, water leaks or lack of lighting, she said.

Training covers 23 specialties, particularly in the areas of laying of tiles, casing, building design and other handicrafts.

Architects and archaeologists will supervise the training sessions, aiming also at rehabilitating small trades related to the architecture and the characteristics of the old city, she said.

It is also intended for the creation, for the first time, of micro enterprises specializing in the restoration and the rehabilitation of ancient buildings and historical and archaeological cities in Algeria, by taking advantage of the foreign experience notably Spanish and Italian with the final aim of creating the first national company specializing in the restoration of archaeological sites,” concluded Bouhired.

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Egypt plans to attract tourists from Central Europe, Asia, North Africa

18 February 2017, (MENAFN – Daily News Egypt) – The Egyptian Tourism Authority (ETA) intends to pen a plan to study attracting tourists from new markets — including southern and eastern Asia, central Europe, and North Africa — as a prelude to intensify tourism promotion during the coming period, according to sources in the body.

A source told Daily News Egypt that the new markets represent a good opportunity for Egyptian tourism, especially as none of the countries targeted have issued travel bans for Egypt in the past few years.

He said that the Ministry of Tourism will coordinate with the Egyptian embassies in the aforementioned regions’ countries if no ETA-affiliated tour operators are there to obtain information on the opportunities for growth in tourism during the coming period.

The source added that experts from the aviation sector and the Egyptian Tourism Federation will take part in the study to represent the private sector. The source explained that the new markets require presence of direct flights, since a lack of them hinders the inflow to Egypt.

He said that the countries of North Africa — such as Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia — alone can supply about 500,000 tourists a year if direct flights are being operated.

In general, he noted that if coordination exists between different state bodies and carriers, Egypt could attract between 700,000 and 800,000 new tourists in total from all these countries, which could change the sector’s structure in a short period of time.

Egypt’s new Minister of Tourism, Yehia Rashed, had earlier said that the tourist inflow to Egypt in 2016 dropped to 5.3 million tourists, down from 9.3 million tourists in 2015 – a decline of 40%.

Yet, chairperson of the Egyptian Travel Agencies Association Khaled El-Manawi, had earlier explained o Daily News Egypt that North African countries supply over 1 million tourists to Turkey and southern Europe.

He said that Egypt has many archaeological sites that could raise the interest of tourists from North Africa, especially sites in Cairo, Luxor, and Aswan.

The total hotel capacity in Greater Cairo, according to the Chamber of Hotels, amounts to 30,000 rooms, including 20% overlooking the Nile, while the rest lie in the eastern and western parts of the capital.

The source at ETA said that Arab tourism declined significantly after the 25 January Revolution.

He explained that with the increased promotion and marketing in North African countries, Arab tourist inflow can grow again to boost the number of tourists from Arab states to over two million per year.

President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi has stressed his support for the tourism sector during the first meeting of the Supreme Council for Tourism and urged the need to intensify tourism promotion in Arab markets.

A hotel manager in Cairo, Ali Mohamed, said that Arab tourists spend more money than Europeans and stay longer – up to around 12 days per visit.

He added that inflow from Arab countries, especially the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, increased in the past summer.

Tharwat Al-Agamy, chairperson of the Chamber of Tourism Companies and Agencies, said that tourists from south-eastern and eastern Asian countries spend more money than other tourists, with each tourist spending over 150 a day on average.

He added that tourists from these markets are interested in visiting ancient shrines, unlike tourists from Europe who are usually keener on visiting beaches for recreational activities.

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Chinese band hosts show in Algiers

ALGIERS, 13 February 2017, (Algeria Press Service) – The Chinese band “Ethnic Opera and dance drama Theater” hosted a show Sunday evening at the Opera of Algiers in tribute to the Autonomous Region of Inner Mongolia.

Themed “The beautiful plains of my country,” the band played songs and choreographic spectacles representing this northern region in China.

While opening the spectacle part of the celebration of the 59th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Algeria and China and the Chinese New Year, three artists performed together a song that represents a hymn to the glory of the territories of Mongolia.

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Algeria-Saudi Arabia plan tourism investment promotion

ALGIERS, 16 Feb 2017, (Algeria Press Service) – Saudi Minister of Commerce and Investment Majid bin Abdullah Al Qasabi underlined, Thursday in Algiers, the need to promote and encourage investments between Algeria and Saudi Arabia, especially in the sector of tourism.

In a statement to the press following his discussions with Minister of National Planning, Tourism and Craft Industry Abdelouahab Nouri, the Saudi minister said that he proposed the development of tourism investment programmes between the two countries, considering the “vital role of the sector in the creation of permanent jobs for Algerian young people.”

The Saudi minister underlined the need to “boost investments, a catalyst for development,” adding that “Saudi businessmen will pay field visits to enquire about tourism potentialities in Algeria and strengthen investment opportunities in the field.”

In this regard, he hailed the Algerian political willingness to make of tourism an important and vital sector to achieve sustainable development.

For his part, Nouri said that the discussions were also an opportunity to “promote tourism cooperation with Saudi Arabia,” adding that business and investment climate in Algeria has significantly improved.

The discussions, held on the sidelines of the Algerian-Saudi Joint Commission’s meeting, are in line with the guidelines of the leaders of the two countries, President Abdelaziz Bouteflika and King Salman bin Abdulaziz, explained Nouri.

In this regard, the minister recalled the different measures decided by Algeria to encourage investment in the sector of tourism.

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Algerian Swimmer sets new 200m freestyle national record

ALGIERS, 17 February 2017, (Algeria Press Service) – Swimmer of GS Pétroliers club, Oussama Sahnoun, has marked the day three of the Algerian Swimming Open Championship in small pool (25m), as he set new 200m freestyle national record, Thursday in Bab Ezzouar Pool (Algiers).

Sahnoun with a timing of 1:47.78 broke by nearly one second the former record held by Nabil Kebab (1:48.03) since 2005.

“I am very pleased for having broken this record notably in this period when I am very busy. After the French championships 15 days ago I continue to achieve good results, which means that the serious work yields fruits,” Sahnoun told APS.

The new member of Marseille Swimmers Club spoke about his goals during the season.

“The world championships in Budapest (Hungary) are the main objective, where I target a spot in the 50 m final,” he added.

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Algiers’ air terminal to be ready by July 2018

ALGIERS, 13 February 2017, (Algeria Press Service) – The projects of Algiers’ new air terminal and the railway station to link it to Bab Ezzouar is to be delivered in July 2018, while the metro extension from El Harrach to the airport will be operational early 2020, said the minister of Public Works and Transport, Boudejmaa Talai.

During an inspection visit to the construction site, accompanied by the director general of Algiers International Airport, Tahar Allache, and the representatives of the companies involved in the projectt, the minister stressed the need to meet the deadline.

At the new Algiers air terminal’s construction site, an airport extension, Allache said the works reached 56% in late January.

The total costs of the new air terminal project, stretching over a 20-hectare area, are estimated at DZD74 billion, he disclosed.

According to the minister, the financial contribution of Algiers airports’ management company is valued at DZD45 billion, the rest will be paid by the Treasury.

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UNWTO chief visits tourist attractions in Algiers

ALGIERS,15 February 2017, (Algeria Press Service) – The Secretary General of the World Tourism Organization (WTO) Taleb Rifai on Tuesday visited tourist attractions in Algiers, and expressed admiration for the management system of these attractions.

Accompanied by the Minister of National Planning, Tourism and Craft Industry, Rifai visited the Fine Arts Museum and Jardin d’Essais (The Botanical Garden of Hamma), and expressed admiration for the management system of these attractions that “are managed according to international standards.”

Rifai suggested “the integration of business investment in the management of Jardin d’Essai to diversify its revenues.”

Speaking on this occasion, Nouri said UNWTO SG’s visit aimed to contribute to promote Algeria’s tourist potentialities in general and Algiers in particular.

Besides, the minister highlighted the importance of taking advantage of UNWTO’s experience so that Algeria repositions itself regionally and internationally.

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Algerian Emir’s heritage hailed at Oxford conference

OXFORD (U.K), 16 February 2017, (Algeria Press Service) – The importance of Emir Abdelkader El-Djazaïri’s approach for the current world, “which is marked by conflicts and tensions between religions” was affirmed Wednesday evening at the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies in the U.K.

Academics, teachers, researchers and students of the prestigious university of Oxford as well as the Algerian ambassador to the U.K Amar Abba attended the conference given on the subject by Idriss Jazairy, Executive Director of the Geneva Centre for the Advancement of Human Rights and Global Dialogue.

During this meeting, Jazairy stressed that the Emir’s values remain relevant, more than ever, highlighting the values “of respect, tolerance and humanism, advocated in times of war and peace.”

The Emir, who highly valued the respect of others was a man of peace “reaching out to his enemies, before resorting to his sabre.”

“He offered refuge and hospitality to thousands of Christians, implementing the percepts of Islam, the religion of tolerance. He also advocated, as a precursor, humanism in times of war,” said Idriss Jazairi.

The director said that the world, which is dealing with a situation particularly marked by tensions and intolerance among religions is most in need, today, of these values of tolerance and humanism.

“Humanity, which sinking deep into violence, hatred, and extremism should follow the example of Emir Abd el Kader, the messenger of peace and fraternity, by following the values included in his book “Al Mawaqif” (The positions),” said Idriss Jazairi.

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“Dounia Park” to host pilot farm project in Algiers

ALGIERS- “Dounia Park,” selected to host the pilot farm project adopted by the province of Algiers at the end of 2016, saw the launch of the development plan of spaces for leisure and plantation of citrus fruits and olive trees, according to the National Research Department for Rural Development (BNEDER).

The province of Algiers has chosen “Dounia Park,” coming under the commune of Delly Ibrahim, for the launch of this “pioneer” project aimed at developing this surface area into a space for leisure and for plantation of citrus fruits and olive trees, in addition to odoriferous and medicinal plants, Director of Research at BNEDER Khaled Benmohamed told PAS.

The soil of “Dounia Park” perfectly matches the standards required for the implementation of the plan “Agriparc,” combining the agricultural and leisure spaces in a particular architectural style, said the official.

The project of the exploitation of the area “Dounia Park” (156ha), is part of a large approach adopted by the province of Algiers since 2014 under the name “Agriparc,” a plan combining green and leisure spaces separating urban areas, said the source.

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Over 2,000 Algerian amateur football clubs to receive assistance

TISSEMSILT, 15 February 2017, (Algeria Press Service) – Financial assistance will be allocated to over 2000 amateur clubs nationwide, announced Tuesday in Tissemsilt, Minister of Youth and Sports, El Hadi Ould Ali.

Hosting a news conference on the sidelines of his inspection visit to the province, the minister said that this financial support part of the convention between the ministry and the Algerian Football Federation (FAF) will be chiefly granted football amateur clubs in the provinces of the South and High Plateaus.

Besides, Ould Ali urged the clubs to look for sources of funding from economic companies.

Concerning his working visit, the minister said that Tissemsilt benefited, as part of the President of the Republic programme, from 300 projects in the youth and sports sector, estimated at DZD5.9 billion.

Those projects aim at relaunching sports activities within youth.

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Islamic World Universities Conference kicks off in Rabat

Rabat, 13 Feb 2017, (IINA) – The Seventh General Conference of the Federation of the Universities of the Islamic World (FUIW) kicked off Monday, under the patronage of King Mohammed VI, at the headquarters of the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization headquarters (ISESCO) in Morocco’s capital Rabat.

ISESCO Director General Dr. Abdulaziz Altwaijri, who is also the FUIW secretary general, said the conference will consider requests from 24 new universities for the accession to the FUIW.

He said in a statement to the International Islamic News Agency (IINA) that FUIW will be present, during the conference, several scientific projects in the field of developing university performance. These include Mechanism for University Performance Evaluation, and the Project of Islamic World Observatory of Science, Technology and Innovation, which will monitor the best practices and successful experiences within the member universities, in order to be circulated and exchanged among the universities, as well as allocating a scientific session in the conference program for debate on financial sustainability and its role in the institutional development of universities’ performance.

In the second day of the conference, two roundtables will be held to discuss “Cooperation and Partnership to Develop Joint University Work”, and Financial Sustainability and Institutional Performance of Universities”.

It is worth mentioning that the ISESCO-affiliated FUIW was established in 1987, is a body with 314 universities and higher institutes so far.

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Tunisia seeks to attract 10 million tourists in 2020

17 February 2017, (AfricanManager) – Minister of Tourism and Handicrafts Salma Elloumi told Shems Fm on February 16, 2017 her ministry aims to attract 10 million tourists in 2020.

She also announced, to the same source, the establishment of a new program of classification of hotels. A million 650 thousand dinars have been released for investment in the tourism sector, she added.

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Tunisia: €15 million from AFD to support activities of UBCI

17 February 2017, (AfricanManager) – The French Development Agency (AFD) and the “Union Bancaire pour le Commerce et l’Industrie” (UBCI) signed a € 15 million credit line on Tuesday, February 14, 2017, according to a statement issued by the Bank.

The line of credit of AFD’s “green finance label” SUNREF is intended to support UBCI in its medium- and long-term lending activities in favor of investments by Tunisian companies in Energy efficiency, waste recovery and reduction of atmospheric, water and solid pollution.

The SUNREF program thus aims to support the transition of the Tunisian economy towards a more carbon-free and less polluting model.

The specific objectives of the program are to accompany the approach of financial institutions and Tunisian partners wishing to finance investment in energy control and pollution reduction, to contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and to strengthen the competitiveness of the industrial sector.

Gilles Chausse, director of AFD Tunisia said this loan is part of the commitments made by the AFD Group at the Tunisia 2020 conference to dedicate 200 M € to the support of Tunisia and Tunisian private players in particular.

It reinforces the long-standing partnership between UBCI and the AFD Group.

It participates in AFD’s financial support to the “Green Economy, pillar of sustainable development” axis, promoted by the new Tunisian five-year plan.

According to Pierre Bérégovoy, UBCI Director General, this funding demonstrates the UBCI’s desire to reinforce its support for Tunisian companies in favor of a green economy and is part of its strong commitment to the development of the economic fabric Tunisia.

Mr. Bérégovoy also underlined that this type of operation is part of a strong partnership policy between UBCI and international organizations that support the development of the Tunisian economy and affirms that other partnerships in favor of UBCI’s corporate clients, will be announced in the coming weeks.

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Azerbaijani folk dances featured at Basel festival

Baku, 14 February 2017, (AZERTAC) – An international culture festival in Basel, Switzerland, has featured performance of Azerbaijani folk dances.

The festival brought together representatives from 15 countries.

Azerbaijans culture was promoted at the festival through joint efforts of the countrys Embassy in Switzerland and Azerbaijan’s Friends diaspora organization.

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Azerbaijani minister to attend World Tourism Forum

Baku, 15 February 2017, (AZERTAC) – Azerbaijani Minister of Culture and Tourism Abulfas Garayev will take part in the Global Meeting of the World Tourism Forum that will be held in Istanbul, Turkey, on 16-18 February.

Garayev will deliver a speech at a round table for the ministers of tourism. On the sidelines of the event, he will hold a series of meetings to discuss the organizational issues relating to the 4th Global Intercultural Dialogue Forum due to take place in Baku this May.

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Baku to host first Congress of Young Azerbaijani Scientists

Baku, 16 February 2017, (AZERTAC) – Azerbaijan National Academy of Sciences (ANAS) and the Ministry of Education will co-organize the first Congress of Young Scientists in October. President of ANAS Akif Alizade said the congress will focus on a wide range of issues, including ways of developing youth policy and encouraging young researchers.

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Exotic fish farming develops in Kazakhstan

17 Feb 2017, (Khabar Agency) – In Arnasai village of Akmola region, tourists and locals are welcomed to attend a workshop on how to use energy- and water-saving technologies. Founded in 2015, the training center is a first platform that demonstrates Kazakhstan’s transition to green economy.

The center offers training for entrepreneurs and anyone who wishes to know more about stainable energy use. The center has launched an interesting project on aqua farming just a month ago. African catfish is bred in the center under constant monitoring.

Aleksander Seich, Technologist: It will weigh 1.5 kilograms in 3-4 months in such conditions. 950 catfish were delivered in December, now there are 850, a few of them died.

Scientists say that the exotic fish grown in local conditions will soon appear in stores. The center is also planning to launch agro-tourism. Arnasai Reservoir will be filled with catfish for fishing.

Tatyana Nemtsan, Director, Akbota Public Fund: I think if such products appear in Kazakhstan’s market we will be able to preserve the bio diversity of our lakes and rivers. There will be no need to produce tons of fish, it recovers very slowly. We can do aqua farming instead.

Reusing natural resources is fundamental for green economy. In the scientific center, water from bio filters from fish production goes directly to greenhouse beds. Water rich in phosphorus is an ideal plant fertilizer, farmers say. The tomatoes grow fast here. This is just a small number of projects implemented in the national green technologies academy. The scientific center will conduct workshops for Expo tourists showing Kazakhstan’s transition to green economy.

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Growing number of Kazakhstan’s exporting enterprises

17 February 2017, (Khabar Agency) – Kazakhstan’s producers and manufacturers are set to build export capacities. More than 40 enterprises of Almaty region export their products abroad. The product variety includes mineral raw materials, leather, fur skins, wine and commodities. One of the largest exporters is Taldykorgan batteries manufacturing plant. The plant sends abroad 90% of its output.

Kuanysh Azhmagambetov, Chairman, Plant’s Supervisory Board:

The output increased tenfold in 10 years. Production capacity has doubled. We make 2 million of batteries per year. Almost all the products are exported abroad, mainly to Europe, neighboring countries and China. This year, we established cooperation with Africa.

At present, the region is divided into 5 economic zones. The largest export-oriented enterprises will be located here. Five new plants will open soon in an industrial site in Karatal district. In total, 10 new export-oriented plants will be launched this year.

Marzhan Murat, Head Of Business Management Department:

The large-scale enterprise will enter the industrial zone Bereke. It will process small cattle products. There are 3.2 million heads of small cattle in Almaty region, and the new plant will be fully engaged in meat processing. 90% of its output will be exported to United Arab Emirates.

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Aubakir Ismailov’s exhibition has opened in Astana

17 February 2017, (Khabar Agency) – The exhibition ‘Eternal Creativity Energy’ featuring the paintings of Kazakhstan’s honored artist Aubakir Ismailov has opened in the National Museum. The exposition features paintings in different genres: caricatures of 1930-1960s, ethnographic sketches and posters. Visitors could also see the works exhibited in the UN and UNESCO headquarters. The artist was a founder of Kazakhstan’s professional artist school.

Togzhan Adilbekova, Head Of Exposition Service, Kazakh National Museum:

This is a unique portrait of Nazim Hikmet, the Turkish revolutionist, patriot, public figure. Aubakir Ismailov painted this portrait in 1958 during the congress of representatives of Asian and Eastern cultures. The portrait has never been exhibited before.

Landscape painting was the one of the artist’s most favorite genres. All his paintings are filled with inspired poetics. Clear undertints, airy perspectives let Ismailov convey the beauty of native steppe. The artist was always keeping up with the times. The stages of Kazakhstan’s industrial development were reflected in his paintings as well. As the artist’s daughter Gulzamira Aubakir recalls, he loved the life in all its manifestations, and it can be seen in his works.

Gulzamira Ismailova, Artist’s Daughter: Auke was a gentle man. He had many assets like Baron Munchausen. He was reborn in every art piece that he created. He loved this world and most importantly he loved his nation and promoted Kazakh culture.

Aubakir Ismailov stood out by his versatile personality. He proved himself as a talented director, musician, poet, actor and folklore researcher. Dancing took a special place in his life. The artist made an enormous contribution to the choreographic art of Kazakhstan; he has been a stage director of the Kazakh folk dances. Honored Artist of Kazakhstan Toigan Izim recalls that once Aubakir Ismailov directed a few dances for her. She remembered his aristocratic, amazing energy and charisma.

Toigan Izim, Honored Artist Of Kazakhstan: Ismailov was the first person to create a dance troupe in Kazakhstan in the 1930s. There were no professional dancers at that time, the school had just opened. But he was a good leader and was able to inspire people. I performed his dances with him as partner. Duet dances were performed only in one Central Asian country in Kazakhstan at that time.

Aubakir Ismailov’s family donated 26 paintings to the National Museum. Now the artist’s works are available for everyone. In the future, one of the national Museum’s halls will be named after Ismailov in order to pay tribute to the phenomenal artist.

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AZALJET launches new flights from Moscow to Azerbaijan’s regions

Baku, 16 February 2017, (AZERTAC) – AZALJET (low-cost brand of Azerbaijan Airlines) will launch regular flights from Moscow Vnukovo Airport to Azerbaijani regions – Ganja and Gabala starting March 15.

Moscow-Ganja flights will be operated on Wednesdays and Saturdays, and Moscow-Gabala flights – on Thursdays by Airbus A320 aircrafts.

Departure from Vnukovo International Airport (VKO) – at 15:10 local time, arrival at Gabala International Airport (GBB) and Ganja International Airport (KVD) at 20:30. The return flights from Gabala and Ganja will depart at 20:30, arrive in Moscow – at 22:20 local time.

Airfare starts from 49 euro (one way). The cost of baggage per kilo will be 2 euros.

Air tickets can be booked on the website of the company www.azal.az, purchased at AZAL sales offices and official sales agencies.

Passengers can take advantage of AZAL Miles frequent-flyer program on these flights. Detailed information about AZAL Miles frequent-flyer program is available at: www.miles.azal.az. Online registration is available for those who are not a member of the program yet.

Points for the flight may be credited automatically in case AZAL Miles member unique number will be entered in the appropriate filed while purchasing online.

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Unique Astana art exhibition promotes peace and creativity

16 Feb 2017, (Khabar Agency) – A unique exhibition has opened in Astana. The organizers brought together all talented artists from around the world on one platform. The exhibition features paintings of the artists from Kazakhstan, Russia, Kyrgyzstan, India, Nigeria, the Netherlands, Germany and Japan. The unusual campaign has been organized by the Academy of Ambitious Artists. The project’s author is an artist from Almaty Alesya Artemieva. Its main purpose is promotion of peace and creativity through the universal language of art.

The exhibition features art pieces by various painters. The youngest participant is only 20, and the eldest is 83 years old.

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Mysterious treasures of the Göktürks await visitors in Kyrgyzstan

15 February 2017, Kyrgyzstan is home to human-shaped stone sculptures made by the Göktürks, a nomadic confederation of Turkic peoples established in Central Asia before Islam.

The human-shaped sculptures are also known as “balbal” or “father stones.” They have a strong face shape that reflects their social status, titles or warrior identities. Not only are they works of art, therefore, but the sculptures also carry the secrets to unlocking the culture and traditions of the period.

Kyrgyzstan-Turkey Manas University Faculty of Fine Arts Faculty Member Assoc. Dr. Abdullah Karaçağ, told Anadolu Agency that the human shaped stones shed life on the social and cultural life of the period.

Karaçağ, who studies the early Turkish and Islamic arts in the region, explained that Göktürk human-shaped stone statues can be found from Siberia to China, from Mongolia to the Balkans and demonstrate the geographical spread of the Turks.

While the ancient sculptures can be found all over central Asia, a majority of the Göktürks’ remaining artifacts are found in Kyrgyzstan.

Last year, the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA) announced its plans to transform an ancient Göktürk burial ground into a museum. The kurgan, which is a burial mound erected over a chamber often made of wood is situated in the Blugan region of Mongolia. TIKA aims to protect the cultural heritage of the Turkic people.

The human-shaped stone sculptures can be found in the open-air museums of Chuy and Issyk Göl in northern Kyrgyzstan.

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National sports gaining popularity in Kazakhstan

17 Feb 2017, (Khabar Agency) – National sports are becoming more and more popular in Kazakhstan. In recent years, they have become independent sport disciplines rather than entertainment. Some of them turned into international sports. Togyz kumalak is ranked second in the world among the intellectual games and is spreading rapidly across countries. Zhekpe zhek, tai zharysy, assyk atu and kokpar became widespread among young people in recent years.

National sports competitions were held in Zhualy district in Zhambyl region as part of the project ‘Youth and Religion’ organized by the regional prosecutor’s office.

Zhomart Nauatov, Deputy Prosecutor, Zhualy District:

There were 2 contests before kokpar. The first one is called tolagai. It is a relay. Debates were organized for school students and their teachers. It is planned to organize more than 50 national sports competitions.

Mustafa Bekturganov, Tournament Participant: Our team will become stronger after this tournament. Our main goal is to demonstrate all our skills and reach regional and in the future republican level. We are very happy to participate. Let such events become widespread.

12 teams from 14 districts took part in the competitions. The tournament is held according to the Olympic system, losers are disqualified immediately. The competition is held in 2 times by 15 minutes each. The main prerequisite is a very good horse and contestants’ endurance.

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Official hashtags of Baku 2017 announced

Baku, 16 February 2017, (AZERTAC) – Official hashtags of Baku 2017 Islamic Solidarity Games were announced in order to draw public attention and to provide more information about the Games.

Every presented hashtag has its own unique meaning, and vary from one another. One should only take a photo or a video related to the Games and post it with suitable official hashtags to get featured on social media platforms of Baku 2017.

The most interesting and attention-grabbing photos will be selected and featured on official Facebook Page of Baku 2017 Islamic Solidarity Games.

Below we have a list of official hashtags and their meanings:

# Baku2017 – This hashtag can be used for every photo or video taken on the Games

# TeamSolidarity – This is an official hashtag of Baku 2017 Volunteers

# BakuMascots – This is an official hashtag of Baku 2017 Mascots – Karabakh horses Inje and Jasur

# Baku2017Tickets – This is an official hashtag of Baku 2017 Tickets

# DiscoverBaku – This hashtag may be used by anyone who wants to share beautiful photos of Baku

# MyBaku2017 – This is the most interactive hashtag of Baku 2017. The most interesting photos and videos will be featured with this hashtag on the official Facebook page of Baku 2017 Islamic Solidarity Games.

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At NY fashion week, hijabs top looks fit for royalty

NEW YORK, 16 February 2017, (AFP) – In just two seasons, Indonesian Muslim designer Anniesa Hasibuan has made the hijab her trademark – and dazzled New York fashion week’s catwalk this week by styling it with flowing, iridescent gowns fit for a princess.

Like in her New York show last fall – which cemented her status as a rising star – all of the models who showcased Hasibuan’s autumn/winter 2017 collection sported lustrous grey hijabs that sculpted the facial features while carefully covering the hair.

Other than the hijab, the traditional head and neck covering many Muslim women wear, the 30-year-old designer’s clothes evoked nothing of the ‘modest Muslim’ style that sometimes stirs controversy and exacerbates anti-Muslim sentiment in western countries.

On the contrary, Hasibuan’s collection features shimmering, on-trend pleats, silver and golden ruffles, and long trains adorned with pearls, glitter or embroidery that recalled royalty of the Middle Ages.

The models were not chosen at random – the young designer held casting calls specifically seeking first and second-generation immigrants, seeking to show that “fashion is for everybody”.

“There is beauty in diversity and differences – something we should not be afraid of” she told AFP, speaking through an interpreter. “I believe being a fashion designer can bring a lot of changes – and beautiful changes, of course.”

She unveiled her second New York collection amid controversy over US President Donald Trump’s recent executive order on immigration, currently blocked by a US court, that bars refugees and migrants from seven Muslim-majority nations. The decree ignited mass protests and global condemnation.

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New Brunei sports complex offers ‘further opportunities’

18 Feb 2017, (Borneo Bulleting Online) – THE Board of Directors and Principal of Jerudong International School (JIS) held a handover ceremony of the new sports complex designed by local company Ecobumi.

The guest of honour was Dr Hajah Romaizah binti Haji Mohd Salleh, Permanent Secretary (Core Education) at the Ministry of Education.

Barnaby Sandow, Principal of JIS, in his speech said, “The new sports complex provides JIS students with further opportunities to be the best that they can be. We look forward to welcoming the Bruneian community to our community sports events in the future, too.”

The key features of the new sports complex are two large indoor multi-purpose courts, an indoor eight-lane track, a 25-metre swimming pool, a fitness suite and two classrooms.

The indoor multi-purpose courts will host sports such as basketball, netball, volleyball, futsal and other court games.

JIS Director of Sports, Chris McGeorge, said, “Students have missed at least 50 hours of PE time in the past academic year due to poor weather conditions such as lightning. Now with our new indoor facilities, we are able to run PE classes smoothly.”

Dr Hajah Romaizah binti Haji Mohd Salleh, Permanent Secretary (Core Education) at the Ministry of Education, during the ceremony.

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