An Analysis dated 7 August 2020 by Dr Tankut Oztas is concerned by The Levant and North Africa with a challenging statement like: on the verge of economic malaise? The pandemic-induced crisis is expected to exacerbate poverty, deepen inequality and constrain households’ access to basic needs, including health service.
ANALYSIS – The Levant and North Africa: on the verge of economic malaise?
ISTANBUL: The spread of COVID-19 undoubtedly has had a catastrophic impact on the most vulnerable communities of the world. According to a recent World Bank report, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is ranked as second-lowest among all regions in the overall Global Health Security Index, and it comes last in terms of both epidemiology workforce and emergency preparedness and response planning. Without an effective and coordinated set of policies to achieve a swift economic recovery, the region is highly likely to suffer from greater political instabilities and become a breeding ground for terror groups.
The COVID-19 outbreak has exacerbated these pre-existing vulnerabilities and risks in the widely-mismanaged economies of the MENA, where medical systems are under-resourced and much-needed infrastructure either destroyed or lacking.
A range of harsh anti-COVID-19 measures such as self-isolation, social distancing, and lockdowns, including total curfews and international travel restrictions have been implemented by governments to control the spread of the virus and protect lives.
These preventive measures, however, led economies across the region to experience severe supply and demand shocks. The most recent regional economic outlook reports published by both the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) forecast that regional economies would most likely experience a sharp economic fallout by –4.2 per cent and 4.7 per cent in 2020, respectively.
Still, the real socio-political and economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in the MENA remains highly uncertain and will strictly depend on the duration of the outbreak and the effectiveness of the policy responses developed by each nation.
The current predictions, however, suggest that all critical macroeconomic indicators such as fiscal and current account balances, foreign reserves, and the inflow of foreign direct investment will be distressed as a result of the crisis. The pandemic-induced crisis is expected to exacerbate poverty, deepen inequality and constrain households’ access to basic needs, including health services.
The economic repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic effectively forced almost all countries in the region to request financial assistance from the IMF or other financial institutions to strengthen their economic position and prevent the possibility of a prolonged economic recession. As a result, regional economies have become heavily dependent on the reform directions of the IMF, World Bank, and other investment banks.
Socio-economic and political tensions remain a distinct possibility in the post-pandemic era if policy responses fail to meet the demands of the majority and set a path for swift economic recovery. Countries such as Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine, Egypt, and Tunisia already have debilitated capabilities. Persisting socio-political and economic hardship exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic may lead to a vicious cycle of economic malaise.
The same outcome applies to the only two oil-exporting countries of the region, Iraq and Algeria. Their economies were hit by the complete halt of economic activities due to the pandemic and have also been severely affected by the crash of oil prices. A similar assessment is applicable to war-torn countries of the region, Syria and Libya too. Though their economic outlook is linked to a sustainable political order and strong security environment, the spread of the virus and its humanitarian and economic costs are extra burdens on the wellbeing of communities living in these countries.
The only countries in the region with a relatively positive socio-political and financial outlook are Israel and Morocco. While their economies are experiencing the economic consequences of the pandemic, their macroeconomic variables are in a better position compared to their peers. Their public and externals debts are relatively lower in comparison to other nations in the region.
Nevertheless, every country will experience the heavy burden of issues such as collapsing global trade, low commodity prices, major capital outflows, and healthcare-specific challenges inflicted by the COVID-19 outbreak. The crisis is dealing a heavy blow on sectors such as tourism, export companies, and small and medium-sized businesses, which employ the largest share of the workforce and generate a considerable share of the revenue streams for the region’s economic development.
A reduction in income from these sectors, as well as remittances and foreign investment from the oil-rich Gulf countries, subsequently hampered the foreign reserves and deepened the current account deficit across the region as a whole.
Against this challenging backdrop, a range of economic recovery packages have been announced by the governments to mitigate the economic repercussions of the COVID-19. The majority of them are aimed at helping the most hard-hit sectors and communities through temporary tax relief, cash transfers or cheap financing.
The uncertainty about the real economic impact of the pandemic, however, has complicated the policy response. Many of these economies have limited fiscal and external debt capacities. The Lebanese government, for instance, has the highest external debt in the region with approximately 170 per cent of its GDP. Jordan, Tunisia, Egypt and Iraq follow Lebanon with external debts of 97, 90, 87.2 and 80 per cent of their GDP, respectively.
Ultimately, many of these economies had already been battling with high poverty, political instability, and poor healthcare infrastructure; hence the historic economic downturn provoked by the novel coronavirus will aggravate existing economic and humanitarian challenges. The region already has the world’s highest youth unemployment, and it hosts countries that have weak security institutions.
In the period that lies ahead, if the geostrategic vulnerabilities and risks continue to amplify across the region without a stable political leadership, effective civil service, and a well-targeted set of economic recovery programs, the region will likely experience a prolonged economic recession and an increased risk of social unrest.
[ The writer is a researcher at the TRT World Research Centre. He holds a PhD in International Political Economy from King’s College London and specializes in global security, geopolitical risks and the politics of transnational economic affairs ]
Opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Anadolu Agency
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Sara Fregonese, University of Birmingham hurried this article on The port of Beirut: vital, historic centre of a complex city immediately after the event that will undoubtedly shake the whole of the Levant of the MENA region.
The centre of Beirut has suffered devastation following an explosion which has destroyed the port, caused massive damage to the Lebanese capital and resulted in numerous deaths.
The history of a port at Beirut stretches back to as far as the 15th century BC. In the 20th century, Beirut became a key seaport serving the oil trade and related passenger and cargo movements in the Levant and the Gulf.
The port has played a key role in Beirut’s history and stands at the centre of the city, surrounded by some of its most important neighbourhoods.
From 1975 until 1990, Lebanon endured a vicious and prolonged civil war. Beirut became the site where sectarian tensions and regional geopolitics became part of urban space. It resulted in profound divisions and changes in the geography of the city. In September 1975, a few months into the civil war, the centre of Beirut became the core of militia fighting.
During the war the city was partitioned by a “Green Line” which split Beirut into an eastern and western sector. Demographic redistributions took place: people moved from one side of the city to the other along sectarian and political lines, with Christians settling mainly to the east and Muslims mainly to the west of the line.
Crucially, the port of Beirut stands adjacent to the most expensive real estate in town: the the Beirut Central District. In the early 1980s, this area was pinpointed for redevelopment, and at the end of the civil war it was the target of one of the biggest investment operations in Lebanese history. The redevelopment was considered controversial due to concerns about a lack of sustainability, inequality with the rest of the city, high property prices, lack of public spaces and costly services.
In 2015 and 2019, this area became the fulcrum of public anti-government protests. Until the interruption of the coronavirus pandemic, protesters took over several buildings and squares in the city centre. They campaigned against government corruption, and – among other things – for the right of access to pubic services and resources. In addition, they called for government accountability amid crumbling infrastructure and services, the loss of public space and environmental decline.
The port of Beirut also stands close to the dense residential areas of Gemmayzeh, Geitawi and the upmarket urban pockets of Sursock and Tabaris, separated only by a motorway. East of the port, and directly adjacent, are the neighbourhoods of Mar Mikhail and Karantina – the Ottoman quarantine station which marked the point of arrival and settlement for successive waves of refugees, including from Armenia in the 1920s and Palestine from the 1940s.
A portrait of the city
This cluster of neighbourhoods hosts many of Lebanon’s state and private services, including the electricity provider (EDL), a bus terminal and three hospitals. Gemmayzeh and Mar Mikhael, in particular, have undergone a process of gentrification in the last decade, prompting protests from residents against demolitions of heritage buildings, noise pollution and soaring property prices.
The popular quarters around the port and the reconstructed city centre present two sides of Beirut’s postwar reconstruction. Top-down regeneration with a master plan has taken place in the Beirut Central District, while a slow-burning gentrification characterises the other neighbourhoods.
It has been reported that operations will shift from Beirut’s devastated port to Lebanon’s other seaport with container capacity in Tripoli, around 80km along the coast. But it cannot be understated how much has been lost in terms of investment in the port of Beirut, and in the surrounding city.
Despite that for most, the long road to economic recovery following the Coronavirus pandemic may take a prolonged time and more effort than initially thought. Here is YouGov saying that the Mideast most optimistic about post-COVID recovery.
MANAMA, 5 August 2020
The Middle East has the world’s most positive outlook ahead of the looming recession with 27% of Saudi Arabians and Emiratis predicting their economies would boom in 12 months’ time, a report said.
Viet Nam’s population stood out as the most upbeat, with 65% of respondents believing their economy would remain stable and less than a quarter expecting a recession, according to the survey conducted by YouGov, which uncovers wide variation in people’s economic circumstances.
Viet Nam has been praised internationally for its quick action on coronavirus, though it has recently had to reimpose localized restrictions after new cases of the virus emerged in the city of Danang. Before this incident, it had not registered a community infection in more than three months.
The Financial Times has called it the worst global economic contraction since at least the 1930s. Advanced economies are set to shrink by 7% this year while emerging and developing economies collectively face a contraction of 2.5%.
YouGov asked 27,000 people in 26 economies about their expectations for the economy over the next 12 months.
While respondents were largely united in their fears over a global recession – ranging from 95% of Spaniards to 67% of Norwegians – the survey uncovered a wide spread of views on the fates of national economies.
The most pessimistic views came from economies as diverse as Mexico, Hong Kong and France, where three-quarters of those surveyed expected to be in recession in 12 months’ time. Mexico has recently become one of the countries worst affected by coronavirus.
On the other side of the globe, Hong Kong’s attitudes were markedly different from the rest of China, where half of respondents saw their economy remaining stable.
Third-ranked France was slightly separated from its European neighbours in Spain and the United Kingdom. Only around two-thirds of Spaniards and Brits said they were expecting an economic depression next year.
The hit to household incomes
Household finances had largely stayed the same for the majority of respondents compared to the month before.
The Nordic countries reported the greatest levels of financial stability, ranging from 69% in Norway to 79% in Denmark.
Mexicans had suffered the greatest financial impact, with 58% reporting that their finances had declined in the past month. Next in line were the Philippines and India, where 50% and more reported a drop. This aligned with the strong concerns over a looming economic depression that all three economies had expressed elsewhere in the study.
Viet Nam, again, showed itself as optimistic, with a third of respondents stating that their household finances had actually improved from the previous month.
Job losses and economic concerns
Furlough, reductions in working hours and job losses have shaken up national economies in the wake of Covid-19.
Mexico topped the list of the worst job losses (17%). Along with France, it also had the highest number of employees on furlough (24%).
Emiratis were worst affected by unpaid leave, with one in four respondents retaining a job but not getting paid.
Reduced working hours were the most prevalent way of dealing with the pandemic in South-East Asia, with upbeat Viet Nam (42%) ahead of the Philippines and India, with around a third each.
Finland (59%) and Germany (57%), Taiwan, China (53%) and the UK (51%) were the only economies where a majority of workers said their jobs were unaffected.
Beyond the threat of recession and jobs, respondents were most concerned about the impact of the pandemic on local businesses. Other fears such as paying rent or mortgages, banks failing and paying bills were more differentiated. Across the board, Indonesians and Filipinos emerged as the most worried, while the Nordic countries and Germany were the least concerned, according to YouGov.
That people in very diverse markets – emerging and advanced – take a positive stance underscores that the aftermath of coronavirus presents not just substantial challenges: it is also a window of opportunity to stage what has been called a “Great Reset”. How this can be achieved will be the theme of a World Economic Forum twin summit in January 2021, which will focus on building a new, more resilient economic and social system for the post-Covid world. – TradeArabia News Service
An Opinion Piece by Simon Sturgis elaborates on Glass Facades – An obsolete typology and here are his thoughts. The man has a year ago clarified his ideas in the Guardian as saying:
“If you’re building a greenhouse in a climate emergency, it’s a pretty odd thing to do, to say the least,” said Simon Sturgis, an adviser to the government and the Greater London Authority, as well as chairman of the Royal Institute of British Architects sustainability group. “If you’re using standard glass facades you need a lot of energy to cool them down, and using a lot of energy equates to a lot of carbon emissions.”
Glass facades for buildings have been a staple of commercial architecture since the 1950s, and the advent of two New York buildings in particular: the Seagram Building, designed by Mies Van de Rohe, and the United Nations Secretariat Building, designed by Oscar Niemeyer and Le Corbusier.
Both buildings offered a post-war vision of shiny modernity and the latter, completed in 1952, was the first example of a fully glazed, curtain-walled building using the then recent innovation of air conditioning. In the 1950s, energy was cheap, and there was no thought of a climate crisis.
The architectural and sculptural appeal of all-glass facades combined with the speed and economy of construction has remained irresistible to architects and developers, the benefits of great views and an abundance of natural light have also made them attractive to occupiers and therefore easy to let. This combination of these factors has proved enduring for the past 70 years.
Despite that history, the case for all-glass facades now needs to be re-examined for two vital reasons: resource efficiency and climate change. In practice, these two are connected, as increasing the efficiency with which resources are used reduces carbon emissions.
The most obvious source of carbon emissions for an all-glass building is the energy used in the cooling required to mitigate the heat gain from the façade, which is typically double-glazed. The greater the proportion of glass in a facade, the greater the load on the air-conditioning and the greater the carbon emissions.
The second and less obvious source of carbon emissions related to such a facade is the material-related emissions associated with sourcing, manufacture, transport, construction, maintenance and disposal, which are known as embodied emissions.
The requirement to reduce air-conditioning load while keeping an all-glass facade means that sophisticated glazing measures have to be found, and this usually means a triple-glazed facade with a large gap between the outer pane and double-glazed inner panes to accommodate electrically operated blinds.
The external and internal layers of glass are also usually laminated for safety reasons, all of which means five layers of glass are set in a deep aluminium framing system. This type of system has a high embodied carbon cost.
An additional problem is that laminated glass and double-glazed units typically have warranties of 25 years, and even if they continue to perform beyond this time, the units still tend to need replacing every 30–40 years.
Typically, replacing all the glazing leads directly to replacement of the whole system, and these systems can be difficult to recycle effectively. This therefore represents ongoing carbon and financial costs over the life cycle of an all-glass façade. Typically, the cycles over which such entire facade replacement takes place are not synchronised with the expected lease cycles either.
So, whether it from the perspective of day-to-day energy use or construction and maintenance, all-glass buildings are problematic in terms of both carbon emissions and resource efficiency. Far better from all perspectives is a facade where most of the surface area has a life expectancy of 80-100 years, and no more than 40 per cent comprises smaller, simpler double-glazed units that can be replaced when required. Such replacements are cheaper, generate less embodied carbon and are potentially less disruptive over the commercial life of the building.
Does any of this matter, however, if the rent is justifying the additional costs of a 30–40-year facade replacement cycle and demand is sufficient?
There are two areas that will make an increasing difference to investors, owners and occupiers, the first of which being regulation. In the UK for instance, the new Greater London Authorities London Plan will be requiring whole life carbon emission assessments for all referable schemes, and many glass buildings are of a size that are automatically referable. The requirement for whole life carbon assessments is spreading across an increasing number of local authorities which will also put increasing pressure on non-referable schemes to be fully carbon efficient.
Over the next ten years or so, this requirement is likely to tighten up further in response to the UK government policy for zero carbon by 2050. Today’s all-glass buildings will likely fail to meet more stringent future environmental regulations, and this will become an issue when the facades need replacing. Such replacements will almost certainly not be like for like which suggests that designing an all glass façade today is inviting early obsolescence.
The second key issue is the investment and insurance risks inherent in climate change, and the likely impact of these on occupier sentiment. There are several international organisations that are advising investors and insurers on the implications of climate change, including the Financial Stability Board’s Task Force for Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD), the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, and the Principles for Responsible Investment – Real Estate (PRI).
All of these make clear links between investment and climate change.
For example, the PRI states: ‘As part of wider efforts to implement the Paris Agreement, every real-estate asset owner, investor and stakeholder must now recognise they have a clear fiduciary duty to understand and actively manage environmental, social and governance [factors] and climate-related risks as a routine component of their business thinking, practices and management processes’.
The TCFD meanwhile says recommendations in its 2017 report ‘will ensure that the effects of climate change become routinely considered in business and investment decisions’. During 2021 the Bank of England, which already stress-tests financial institutions for financial resilience, will be including climatic risk in such testing as well. All these measures will help put climate change at the centre of financial decision-making and have a direct impact on real estate.
All-glass buildings responsible for significant carbon emissions will therefore be increasingly problematic, both from a regulatory and an investment perspective. Tenants will become concerned about occupying buildings that are not perceived to be “zero carbon”, and this can only have a negative impact on the value of all-glass buildings which therefore could also potentially become commercially obsolete.
UAE’s migrant workers fret over future in coronavirus economy; that is according to my reading, perhaps about their own future in the Gulf region, particularly in the UAE during and above all after the passing of the pandemic. It must be reminded that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) successfully launched its Mars mission dubbed “Al Amal”, or “Hope”, on July 20, 2020.
In the meantime, here is the original Reuters article that covers this traumatic period in the life of those numerous migrant workers in the UAE.
DUBAI (Reuters) – When Kapil left his Nepali village for an airport job packing cargo in the United Arab Emirates, he thought he was securing a future for himself and his family.
But less than a year after arriving in the Middle East trade and tourism hub, he questions whether it was the right decision after learning there would be no work this month.
“I’m totally hopeless,” said 29-year-old Kapil, whose wife and five-year-old son are in Nepal.
The coronavirus crisis has taken a heavy toll on the economies of the oil-rich Gulf, heavily reliant on low-paid foreign workers.
They are the backbone of the Gulf economies, taking jobs in construction, services and transport, and are now facing the realities of the pandemic.
Reuters spoke to over 30 workers like Kapil in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah, who all said they are now enduring hardship due to coronavirus.
Many have racked up debt and would go hungry without the help of charities as they wait for work and to be paid.
Some said they found little reason to stay without work and wanted to return to their home countries despite being owed months of wages; hundreds of thousands have already left.
The treatment of migrant workers in the Gulf has come under greater scrutiny, with human rights groups saying conditions have deteriorated because of the pandemic.
In the UAE, most attractive because of the economic opportunities it offers, there is no social safety net for foreigners, who make up about 90% of the population.
A laundry service worker from Cameroon told Reuters he had not been paid in months and was now selling fruit and vegetables on the street earning 30 to 40 dirhams a day ($8-$11).
The UAE government communication office did not respond to emailed questions about migrant worker welfare.
In May, the UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan said the Gulf state was committed to protecting the rights of all workers, state news agency WAM reported.
Those in blue collar jobs are the most vulnerable. They are paid low wages, work long hours and often live in cramped dormitories that have been coronavirus hotbeds.
Many also pay fees to recruiters in their home country, a practice common for low paying jobs in the Gulf.
Kapil, who said he paid a recruiter 175,000 Nepali rupees ($1,450) for his UAE job, is not sure when he will work again.
His employer told staff they would only be paid when they worked and it was unclear whether there would be any work next month, he said.
Kapil said he had been earning around $600 a month – six times more than his teacher salary in Nepal – working up to 12 hours a day, six days a week at the airport.
He said not working had left him stressed and unable to provide for his wife, child and elderly parents in Nepal.
Kapil, who showed his employment contract and other documents to Reuters, asked that his full name not be published and his employer not identified over fears he could face repercussions.
Arriving in the UAE last October, Kapil thought he would work at the airport for a few years before finding a better job, possibly using his teaching skills.Slideshow (4 Images)
Now he just hopes to work until the end of the year to pay back his loans.
“The global economy is getting worse and it’s affecting each and every business … I think during this time it’s hard to find any other job.”
No official statistics of how many people have left the UAE are available. But at least 200,000 workers, mostly from India but also from Pakistan, the Philippines and Nepal, have left, according to their diplomatic missions.
Sectors like construction and retail were struggling even before the crisis, which exacerbated hardship for workers already exposed to payment delays.
Mohammed Mubarak has not been paid for around 11 months for security work at a Dubai theme park.
“The company doesn’t know when they’ll be able to pay us, and we are suffering,” the Ghanaian said.
Government coronavirus restrictions that forced many businesses to shutter for weeks began to ease in May. Shopping centres, water parks, bars and restaurants – all staffed by migrant workers – are once again open, raising hopes.
Zulfiqar, a Pakistani in Dubai for 12 years, sent his family home early in the outbreak but stayed on hoping for work, sharing a room and what cash he has with a dozen other unemployed men.
Doha’s diverse hotel scene will keep expanding with growth driven by large international groups, according to our analysis of the TOPHOTELPROJECTS construction database.
Our research indicates that Doha’s hotel market will grow by 37 projects and 10,885 rooms in the next few years.
We take a closer look at the development pipeline and check out a few of the most hotly anticipated openings.
Doha braces itself for a busy end to 2020
15 hotels are slated to open in Doha in 2020, adding 3,490 rooms to the city’s inventory. Nine of these hotels are already in the pre-opening phase, which means it’s quite likely that most projects will finish and launch on time.
Another 12 hotels are planned for 2021, bringing 3,540 additional rooms. Ten new properties with 3,855 rooms are signed off for 2022 and beyond.
The split between four- and five-star hotels is a dead heat in terms of the number of new properties. However, the 19 planned four-star hotels will have a total of 4,798 rooms, while the 18 new five-star properties will have 6,087 rooms combined.
International hotel groups dominate in Doha
French giant Accor leads the list of most active hotel groups in Doha with five projects on the cards, spanning 1,925 rooms.
Doha already boasts many exciting properties, but several hotly anticipated openings look set to give them a real run for their money in the coming years.
After having its opening delayed by over two years, Accor’s first Majlis Grand Mercure Hotel is now due to start welcoming guests in late 2020. The 238-key hotel will be housed in a 41-storey development and feature extensive business, sports and leisure facilities, as well as nine food and beverage outlets.
JW Marriott West Bay is another delayed yet extraordinary hotel that will soon open its doors. From Q2 2021, the 297-room hotel will start trading from a soaring 53-storey tower. Here, a cantilevered swimming pool on the 30th floor will offer stunning views of the city and ocean. Guests will also be able to indulge in the extensive food and beverage offering, state-of-the-art sports and wellness facilities, and perfect location on the Corniche.
Meanwhile, one of Hilton’s most familiar brands will soon debut in Qatar with the opening of Hilton Garden Inn Doha Al Sadd. The 225-room property will launch by late 2020 and welcome guests to a great location in the heart of the city’s commercial district. It will feature three restaurants, a health club with an outdoor pool, and a selection of meeting rooms.
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