The damaged buildings include 50 ancient buildings reports Hassan Darwish of Anadolu as 8,000 buildings damaged by Beirut port blast last week are increasingly showing that it is merely the result of a degree of negligence never attained anywhere else in the world.
BEIRUT: At least 8,000 buildings, including 50 ancient structures, were damaged by last week’s massive explosion at the Beirut port, according to the High Relief Commission in Lebanon (HRC) on Tuesday.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency, HRC Secretary-General Mohammed Khair said the calculation of all damage from the blast will be concluded on Wednesday.
According to Anadolu Agency reporter, the scale of damage differs from one area to another.
The HRC is affiliated with the Cabinet and its functions include aid distribution and disaster management.
The government has blamed a neglected stockpile of 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate stored in a warehouse for the explosion, which killed at least 160 people, injured thousands and left a vast trail of destruction across the capital.
Last Tuesday’s port blast, which rocked Beirut to its core, came at a time when Lebanon was already dealing with a severe financial crisis, and the coronavirus pandemic.
Protesters have taken to the streets with violent anti-government demonstrations for the past two days, storming official buildings and clashing with police.
*Bassel Barakat contributed to this report from Ankara
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.
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.
Posted in Construction, on July 5, 2020, Further cuts to MENA construction sector expected for 2020 as the region appearing to be hit with a triple whammy, per GlobalData, would sound in our opinion as a realistic assessment at this conjecture of the construction industry in the MENA.
The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) construction sector is expected to be bit by the triple whammy of lower oil production, low oil prices and contracting non-oil sectors. Leading data and analytics company GlobalData has further cut its construction output growth forecast for the region for 2020 to -2.4%, down from the previous forecast of 1.4%, in light of continued spread of COVID-19.
Yasmine Ghozzi, Economist at GlobalData, comments: “Construction activity for the remainder of 2020 is set to see poor performance. While there is usually weak construction activity in the holy month of Ramadan and during the hot summer months of June, July and August, this is usually compensated by strong performance at the beginning and end of the year. However, this will not be the case this year due to the strict lockdown policies that extended until the end of May.
“The sector is expected to face headwinds in 2021 with a slow recovery, but the pace of this will be uneven across countries in the region. Fiscal deficits and public debt levels will be substantially higher in 2021. Fiscal consolidation will hinder non-oil growth across the region, where governments still play a considerable role in spurring domestic demand.
“In addition, public investment is likely to be moderate, which will translate into fewer prospects for private sector businesses to grow – especially within sectors such as infrastructure. Expected increase in taxes, selected subsidy cuts and the introduction of several public sector service charges will influence households’ purchasing power, having a knock-on effect on future commercial investments.”
Amid the worsening situation with regards to the COVID-19 outbreak and the decline in oil prices, GlobalData has further cut its forecast for construction output growth in Saudi Arabia to -1.8% from its previous forecast of 2.9% in 2020 and expects a recovery in the sector of 3.3% in 2021. The government’s decision to host limited annual ten-day Hajj entails a possible loss of estimated revenue at more than US$10bn, adding more pressure on the Kingdom’s economy.
Ghozzi adds: “GlobalData has estimated a contraction of 2.1% in construction output growth in the UAE but expects a rebound in 2021 of 3.1%. In one of the largest global energy infrastructure transactions, Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) raised US$10bn by leasing a 49% stake in its gas pipelines for 20 years. This landmark deal is important especially during the prevailing industry downturn in order to keep profitability.
“GlobalData has also cut further the growth rates for Qatar, Kuwait and Oman in 2020 to -3.4%, -7.8% and -8.1%, respectively. Qatar’s economy this year will be affected by decline in tourist arrivals, low consumer spending and low oil prices. Nevertheless, strong fiscal stimulus and spending on infrastructure projects should provide support.
“The negative outlook for Kuwait is weighed down by lower oil prices and the prospect of a higher fiscal deficit, possibly compromising the government’s capital spending on construction and infrastructure. Business unfriendliness constitutes a barrier to reforms in the Kuwaiti economy; the extensions in tenders’ deadlines compounded by an inflexible bureaucratic procurement setup that slows decision-making will delay progress for several Kuwaiti megaprojects.”
Egypt’s construction sector is set to continue performing well despite poor performance of the non-oil sector in April. GlobalData expects construction to grow at 7.7% in 2020, slowing from 9.5% in 2019, given a short-term slow down due to the pandemic and 8.9% in 2021, and to continue maintaining a positive trend throughout the forecast period. In the Arab Maghreb, GlobalData has further cut forecasts for construction growth in Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria to -3%, -2.1%, and -2.5%, respectively, in 2020 and 0.7%, 1.2% and 1.9%, respectively, in 2021.
GlobalData has a bleak view of Iran’s construction sector throughout the forecast period. A slowdown in economic activity caused by the virus outbreak and a possible wave of further US sanctions (in the event Trump wins a second term) will continue to wreak havoc on its economy, and drastically affecting construction activities.
Competitive power generation costs make investment in renewables highly attractive as countries target economic recovery from COVID-19, new IRENA report finds.
Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, 2 June 2020 — Renewable power is increasingly cheaper than any new electricity capacity based on fossil fuels, a new report by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) published today finds. Renewable Power Generation Costs in 2019 shows that more than half of the renewable capacity added in 2019 achieved lower power costs than the cheapest new coal plants.
The report highlights that new renewable power generation projects now increasingly undercut existing coal-fired plants. On average, new solar photovoltaic (PV) and onshore wind power cost less than keeping many existing coal plants in operation, and auction results show this trend accelerating – reinforcing the case to phase-out coal entirely. Next year, up to 1 200 gigawatts (GW) of existing coal capacity could cost more to operate than the cost of new utility-scale solar PV, the report shows.
Replacing the costliest 500 GW of coal with solar PV and onshore wind next year would cut power system costs by up to USD 23 billion every year and reduce annual emissions by around 1.8 gigatons (Gt) of carbon dioxide (CO2), equivalent to 5% of total global CO2 emissions in 2019. It would also yield an investment stimulus of USD 940 billion, which is equal to around 1% of global GDP.
“We have reached an important turning point in the energy transition. The case for new and much of the existing coal power generation, is both environmentally and economically unjustifiable,” said Francesco La Camera, Director-General of IRENA. “Renewable energy is increasingly the cheapest source of new electricity, offering tremendous potential to stimulate the global economy and get people back to work. Renewable investments are stable, cost-effective and attractive offering consistent and predictable returns while delivering benefits to the wider economy.
“A global recovery strategy must be a green strategy,” La Camera added. “Renewables offer a way to align short-term policy action with medium- and long-term energy and climate goals. Renewables must be the backbone of national efforts to restart economies in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak. With the right policies in place, falling renewable power costs, can shift markets and contribute greatly towards a green recovery.”
Renewable electricity costs have fallen sharply over the past decade, driven by improving technologies, economies of scale, increasingly competitive supply chains and growing developer experience. Since 2010, utility-scale solar PV power has shown the sharpest cost decline at 82%, followed by concentrating solar power (CSP) at 47%, onshore wind at 39% and offshore wind at 29%.
Costs for solar and wind power technologies also continued to fall year-on-year. Electricity costs from utility-scale solar PV fell 13% in 2019, reaching a global average of 6.8 cents (USD 0.068) per kilowatt-hour (kWh). Onshore and offshore wind both declined about 9%, reaching USD 0.053/kWh and USD 0.115/kWh, respectively.
Recent auctions and power purchase agreements (PPAs) show the downward trend continuing for new projects are commissioned in 2020 and beyond. Solar PV prices based on competitive procurement could average USD 0.039/kWh for projects commissioned in 2021, down 42% compared to 2019 and more than one-fifth less than the cheapest fossil-fuel competitor namely coal-fired plants. Record-low auction prices for solar PV in Abu Dhabi and Dubai (UAE), Chile, Ethiopia, Mexico, Peru and Saudi Arabia confirm that values as low as USD 0.03/kWh are already possible.
For the first time, IRENA’s annual report also looks at investment value in relation to falling generation costs. The same amount of money invested in renewable power today produces more new capacity than it would have a decade ago. In 2019, twice as much renewable power generation capacity was commissioned than in 2010 but required only 18% more investment.
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