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Kuwait seeks global firms for Entertainment City

Kuwait seeks global firms for Entertainment City

On January 7, 2020, Sam Bridge on Arabian Business posted Kuwait seeks global firms for Entertainment City mega project.

Kuwait has issued a global tender to seek international experts for a major project to help diversify the economy.

(Photo for illustrative purposes only)

Kuwait has issued a global tender looking to companies to help develop a new Entertainment City in the country.

The mega-scale tender seeks to locate the right partners to undertake planning, development, execution, operation, maintenance and investment in the project which forms part of Kuwait Vision 2035.

Al-Diwan Al-Amiri said in a statement that it aims to sign up partners “at the nearest possible opportunity”.

Considered to be one of the largest projects of its kind in the region, the mega project will actively support the ongoing efforts by the government to diversify sources of income and will contribute to the revitalisation of the cultural, leisure and tourism sectors in Kuwait, the statement added.

As part of the project, a global entertainment and tourism city will be established, featuring an amusement park and a world-class integrated entertainment complex.

Project components primarily include a ride based outdoor theme park, an indoor theme park, an aqua park, a kids’ activity and entertainment centre, in addition to gaming arcade, a snow/ski park and a multiplex and open air theatre.

Other components comprise a sports centre, a museum, public parks and social entertainment areas with landscaped areas and trails. The project also comprises 4 and 5 star villas, apartments, a retail mall, commercial areas and restaurants. It also includes an observatory, an amphitheatre, indoor water channels.

The current location for Al-Diwan Al-Amiri’s Entertainment City in the Doha region in the north of Kuwait will be expanded and developed to cover 2,750 million square metres.

The deadline for the global tendering and bidding process is set for February 27.

Al-Diwan Al-Amiri’s other projects include the Jahra Medical City, Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmad Cultural Centre, Sheikh Abdullah Al-Salem Cultural Centre, Kuwait Motor Town and Shaheed Park.

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MENA Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index 2019

MENA Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index 2019


It has been revealed by the local media that Chinese tourists numbers are growing by the day in the Gulf region. In effect, the number of Chinese tourists travelling to the GCC is expected to increase 54 percent from 1.4 million in 2018 to 2.2 million in 2023, according to new research. In however a wider view of the flows, here are excerpts of the WEF’s MENA Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index 2019.


MENA Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index 2019

Overview

The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region significantly improved its T&T competitiveness since the last edition of the TTCI. With 12 of the 15 MENA economies covered by this year’s index increasing their score compared to 2017, the region was able to slightly outpace the global average in competitiveness growth. This is particularly important given that, in the aggregate, T&T accounts for a greater share of regional GDP than in any of the other four regions. MENA is also the only region where international visitor spending is greater than domestic visitor spending. Yet despite improved competitiveness and a strong reliance on T&T for overall economic growth, MENA continues to underperform the global TTCI score average.

MENA’s below-average competitiveness is primarily a result of low scores on indicators related to natural and cultural resources and international openness. The region’s historical and religious heritage and geographic features create the potential for significant natural and cultural tourism; yet, while some individual nations come close, no MENA country scores above the global average for natural resources and only Egypt and Iran score above for cultural resources. In fact, the entire region’s score in both of these areas has fallen in recent years. More needs to be done to expand habit protection and heritage sites. Moreover, digital demand for MENA’s natural, cultural and entertainment demand is fairly low, indicating potential gaps in marketing and traveller perceptions. One potential reason for this gap is continued safety and security concerns. Eleven MENA countries rank within the bottom 40 for terrorism incidents, with two among the worst 10 countries globally. Further, the region is plagued by geopolitical tensions, instability and conflict. Security concerns also play a role in why MENA members are some of the most restrictive when it comes to international openness, with only Qatar, Oman and Morocco making significant improvements. Consequently, travellers often face barriers when visiting the region, while the aviation and overall T&T sector is stifled by limiting bilateral air service and regional trade agreements.

More positively, stability, safety and security have started to recover throughout the region, slightly reducing travel fears and underlying one of the key reasons for the recent pickup in arrivals. Furthermore, it seems that there has been greater recognition of T&T’s importance, with broad regional improvements in T&T prioritization, including increased government funding and more effective marketing campaigns to bring back or attract new visitors. Greatly enhanced environmental sustainability also has the potential to pay dividends for natural assets (note that environmental sustainability comparison is influenced by the use of new data to measure marine sustainability). In addition, prices have become more competitive among countries within the region, amplifying MENA’s single biggest advantage relative to the global average. As one of the world’s main producers of fossil fuels, MENA includes some of the world’s lowest fuel prices, with some governments offering subsidies. Moreover, many of the region’s economies offer visitors greater purchasing power (especially Egypt, Algeria, Iran and Tunisia), which has been increased by lower exchange rates. Yet it is reductions in ticket taxes and airport charges as well as lower hotel prices that have primarily driven regional price competitiveness in recent years.

Infrastructure has also improved, with particularly impressive growth in the number of airlines and route capacity. Despite these gains, world-class infrastructure remains concentrated among the Arab states of the Persian Gulf. The Gulf countries have been able to use their natural resource wealth, central geographic location and relative security to develop world-class T&T infrastructure, defined by quality airports, ports, roads, tourist services and some of the world’s leading airlines. These efforts are in stark contrast to some other MENA nations that—due to a lack of investment and ongoing instability—have yet to develop competitive infrastructure, especially regarding air transport. Similarly, the region’s above-average score on the Enabling Environment subindex is due to the performance of the Gulf countries and Israel, which have developed economies, strong business environments, ICT readiness and some of the highest scores in safety and security. Finally, most regional economies also score near the bottom when it comes to female participation in the labour market, depriving the T&T industry of a greater labour and skills pool.

MENA Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index 2019

Subregion Analysis

The Middle East subregion is by far the more competitive of the two subregions, outscoring North Africa on nine pillars. Thanks to the Arab states of the Persian Gulf and Israel, the subregion is wealthier and more developed than the North Africa subregion. Consequently, it is no surprise that the Middle East scores above the global and regional averages on indicators related to enabling environment and infrastructure, with particularly high ranks on ICT readiness and business environment. Nevertheless, the subregion does trail the world and North Africa on T&T prioritization and policy and natural and cultural resources. In particular, many Middle East nations score relatively low on the International Openness and Natural Resources pillars, which represent the subregion’s greatest disadvantages relative to global competition. One of the Middle East’s highest-scoring pillars is Price Competitiveness, with some economies leveraging their fossil fuel abundance to offer lower fuel prices. Since the 2017 edition of the report, the subregion has improved across all pillars of T&T policy and enabling conditions, safety and security, ICT readiness and much of infrastructure, but declined or stagnated on other pillars.

This year, eight out of the subregion’s 11 members improved their TTCI score since 2017. Oman demonstrated the greatest improvement, moving up eight places to 58th. MENA’s safest (3rd) country recorded the subregion’s fastest improvement for its human resources and labour markets (103rd to 65th), and is among the most improved when it comes to international openness (116th to 97th), environmental sustainability (109th to 57th) and overall infrastructure (60th to 52nd). Yet some of the improvement in environmental sustainability is exaggerated due to new marine sustainability metrics. In contrast, the UAE had the Middle East’s largest decline, falling from 29th to 33rd, including the biggest percentage decline in score on the Safety and Security pillar (falling from 2nd to 7th) and Ground and Port Infrastructure (19th to 31st) and the subregion’s only decline on Environmental Sustainability (40th to 41st). Nevertheless, the country remains in the lead in the Middle East and is MENA’s top TTCI scorer, leading on ICT readiness (4th), air transport (4th) and tourist service (22nd) infrastructure. The Middle East’s—and MENA’s—largest T&T economy is Saudi Arabia (69th), which scores above the subregion’s average on most pillars, but near the bottom on international openness (137th). Plagued by ongoing conflict and a lingering humanitarian crisis, Yemen (140th), ranks at the bottom of the global index.

North Africa scores lower than the Middle East, but demonstrates far greater improvement in overall competitiveness. The subregion outscores the Middle East on five pillars and bests the global average on four. North Africa is the most price competitive subregion in the world, with three out of its four members among the 12 least-expensive economies covered in the report. North Africa’s greatest advantage relative to the Middle East is its natural and cultural resources—although it still underperforms the world on both the Natural Resources and Cultural and Business Travel pillars. The subregion also bests the MENA average in prioritization of T&T and environmental sustainability, areas where it has improved since 2017. On the other hand, North Africa has underdeveloped infrastructure and T&T enabling environment, contrasting some of the high performers in the Middle East subregion. In particular, North Africa trails when it comes to tourist service infrastructure and ICT readiness. The subregion’s strong rate of improvement is due to enhanced safety and security, overall T&T policy and enabling conditions and air transport and ground infrastructure.

All four members of the North Africa subregion increased their TTCI scores over 2017. Egypt (65th) is the subregion’s top scorer and its largest T&T economy. The country is also MENA’s most improved scorer. Egypt is price competitive (3rd) and has MENA’s highest score for cultural resources (22nd). Its improvement comes from increases on 11 pillar scores. These include the world’s second-best enhancement of safety and security (130th to 112th), albeit from a low starting base. Morocco (66th) demonstrates North Africa’s slowest improvement in TTCI performance. The country is a close second to Egypt when it comes to overall competitiveness, boasting the MENA region’s top TTCI scores on natural resources (63rd) and North Africa’s best enabling environment (71st) and infrastructure (69th). However, TTCI performance improvement is tempered by declining safety and security (20th to 28th), which remains well above the subregion’s average, and a deteriorating combination of natural and cultural (41st to 54th) resources. North Africa’s lowest scoring member is Algeria (116th), which nonetheless did move up two ranks globally. The country ranks low on business environment (118th), T&T prioritization (132nd), tourist services infrastructure (136th), environmental sustainability (133rd), natural resources (126th) and international openness (139th). On the other hand, Algeria is one of the most price-competitive countries in the world (8th).

MENA Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index 2019

Read more on the original PDF document.

Egypt’s options dwindle as Nile talks break down

Egypt’s options dwindle as Nile talks break down

New Delhi Times Bureau on October 23, 2019, produced this article on a more and more obvious fact, that of Egypt’s options dwindle as Nile talks break down. The Nile basin is the greatest in geographical extent of the transboundary water resource and makes it vital that the neighbours to carry on talking regardless. They should sit and agree with some understanding. But we have this situation instead, all as described below.


The latest breakdown in talks with Ethiopia over its construction of a massive upstream Nile dam has left Egypt with dwindling options as it seeks to protect the main source of fresh water for its large and growing population.

Talks collapsed earlier this month over the construction of the $5 billion Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, which is around 70% complete and promises to provide much-needed electricity to Ethiopia’s 100 million people.

But Egypt, with a population of around the same size, fears that the process of filling the reservoir behind the dam could slice into its share of the river, with catastrophic consequences. Pro-government media have cast it as a national security threat that could warrant military action.

Speaking at the U.N. last month, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi said he would “never” allow Ethiopia to impose a “de facto situation” by filling the dam without an agreement.

“While we acknowledge Ethiopia’s right to development, the water of the Nile is a question of life, a matter of existence to Egypt,” he said.

Ethiopian President Sahle-Work Zewude, also speaking at the U.N. General Assembly, said her country believes “the use of the river should be (decided) according to international law and fair and equitable use of natural resources.”

Egypt has been holding talks for years with Ethiopia and Sudan, upstream countries that have long complained about Cairo’s overwhelming share of the river, which is enshrined in treaties dating back to the British colonial era. Those talks came to an acrimonious halt earlier this month, the third time they have broken down since 2014.

“We are fed up with Ethiopian procrastination. We will not spend our lifetime in useless talks,” an Egyptian official told The Associated Press. “All options are on the table, but we prefer dialogue and political means.”

Egypt has reached out to the United States, Russia, China and Europe, apparently hoping to reach a better deal through international mediation. The White House said earlier this month it supports talks to reach a sustainable agreement while “respecting each other’s Nile water equities.”

Egypt said it has accepted an invitation from the U.S. to meet in Washington with the foreign ministers of Ethiopia and Sudan to break the deadlock.

Mohamed el-Molla, an Egyptian Foreign Ministry official, said Cairo would take the dispute to the U.N. Security Council if the Ethiopians refuse international mediation.

That has angered Ethiopia, which wants to resolve the dispute through the tripartite talks.

An Ethiopian official said the packages offered by Cairo so far “were deliberately prepared to be unacceptable for Ethiopia.”

“Now they are saying Ethiopia has rejected the offer, and calling for a third-party intervention,” the official added. Both the Ethiopian and the Egyptian official spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the talks with the media.

The main dispute is centered on the filling of the dam’s 74-billion-cubic-meter reservoir. Ethiopia wants to fill it as soon as possible so it can generate over 6,400 Megawatts, a massive boost to the current production of 4,000 Megawatts.

That has the potential to sharply reduce the flow of the Blue Nile, the main tributary to the river, which is fed by annual rainfall in the Ethiopian highlands. If the filling takes place during one of the region’s periodic droughts, its downstream impact could be even more severe.

Egypt has proposed no less than seven years for filling the reservoir, and for Ethiopia to adjust the pace according to rainfall, said an Egyptian Irrigation Ministry official who is a member of its negotiation team. The official also was not authorized to discuss the talks publicly and so spoke on condition of anonymity.

The Nile supplies more than 90% of Egypt’s freshwater. Egyptians already have one of the lowest per capita shares of water in the world, at around 570 cubic meters per year, compared to a global average of 1,000. Ethiopians, however, have an average of 125 cubic meters per year.

Egypt wants to guarantee a minimum annual release of 40 billion cubic meters of water from the Blue Nile. The irrigation official said anything less could affect Egypt’s own massive Aswan High Dam, with dire economic consequences.

“It could put millions of farmers out of work. We might lose more than one million jobs and $1.8 billion annually, as well as $300 million worth of electricity,” he said.

The official said Ethiopia has agreed to guarantee just 31 billion cubic meters.

El-Sissi is set to meet with Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, winner of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, on Wednesday in the Russian city of Sochi, on the sidelines of a Russia-Africa summit. They may be able to revive talks, but the stakes get higher as the dam nears completion.

Ahmed told Ethiopian lawmakers Tuesday that negotiations are the best chance for resolving the Nile deadlock and that going to war is “not in the best interest of all of us.”

“Some say things about use of force,” he said, referring to Egypt. “It should be underlined that no force could stop Ethiopia from building a dam. If there is a need to go to war, we could get millions readied. If some could fire a missile, others could use bombs.”

Late on Tuesday, Egypt said in a statement it was “shocked” and “surprised” by Ahmed’s remarks, which came just days after he was awarded the peace prize.

The statement said it was inappropriate to talk about military options in dealing with the dispute and that it thought the peace prize would have prompted Ethiopia to demonstrate political will, flexibility and “goodwill toward a binding and comprehensive legal agreement that takes into account the interests of the three countries.”

Ethiopia hopes to finish the much-delayed project by 2023. The dam’s manager, Kifle Horro, said the project is now 68.5% complete and preparations are underway to finalize power generation from two turbines by next year.

The International Crisis Group, a Brussels-based think tank, warned earlier this year that the “risk of future clashes could be severe if the parties do not also reach agreement on a longer-term basin-wide river management framework.”

In recent weeks there have been calls by some commentators in Egypt’s pro-government media to resort to force.

Abdallah el-Senawy, a prominent columnist for the daily newspaper el-Shorouk, said the only alternatives were internationalizing the dispute or taking military action.

“Egypt is not a small county,” he wrote in a Sunday column. “If all diplomatic and legal options fail, a military intervention might be obligatory.”

Anwar el-Hawary, the former editor of the Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper, compared the dispute to the 1973 war with Israel, in which Egypt launched a surprise attack into the Sinai Peninsula.

“If we fought to liberate Sinai, it is logical to fight to liberate the water,” he wrote on Facebook. “The danger is the same in the two cases. War is the last response.”

Credit: Associated Press (AP) | Photo Credit : (AP)

Dubai remains one of the world’s most visited cities

Dubai remains one of the world’s most visited cities

AMEinfo on September 5, 2019, came up with this superlative statement article because Dubai remains one of the world’s most visited cities in the world of today. The same media has already covered the same topic last year.

Dubai remains one of the world’s most visited cities – Global Destination Cities Index 2019

Dubai remains one of the world's most visited cities

“The impressive visitor numbers are set to increase even further next year, as we welcome 192 nations for a once-in-a-lifetime celebration at Expo 2020 Dubai” – Sanjive Khosla, CCO, Expo 2020 Dubai

  • Dubai welcomed 15.93 million overnight visitors in 2018, retaining its ranking as fourth most popular destination globally
  • Abu Dhabi is Middle East and Africa’s fastest-growing city with a 2009-2018 CAGR of 16.7%
  • When looking at the cities by dollar spent, Dubai tops the list with travellers spending USD $553 on average a day

Dubai has retained its position as the fourth most visited city in the world for the fifth year in a row, according to Mastercard’s Global Destination Cities Index (GDCI) 2019. The city welcomed 15.93 million international overnight visitors last year and the city is expected to continue building on its success in 2019.

The UAE’s capital, Abu Dhabi, was ranked as the fastest-growing city in the Middle East and Africa, with a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 16.7% between 2009 and 2018 in overnight arrivals.

“Once again, Dubai has earned and maintained its position as the fourth most visited city in the world in Mastercard’s Global Destinations Cities Index. As the most attractive destination in the Middle East and Africa region for international visitors, Dubai connects people from all over the world with a diverse range of offerings for leisure and business travellers alike,” said Girish Nanda, General Manager, UAE & Oman, Mastercard.

Sanjive Khosla, Chief Commercial Officer, Expo 2020 Dubai, said: “The impressive visitor numbers are set to increase even further next year, as we welcome 192 nations for a once-in-a-lifetime celebration at Expo 2020 Dubai. With millions of visitors projected to come from outside the UAE, we anticipate that the region’s first ever World Expo will create short- and long-term benefits for Dubai’s tourism industry while enhancing its reputation as a dynamic and diverse global meeting point.” 

Read: New real estate committee in Dubai aims to balance supply and demand in the property market

Mastercard Global Destination City Index 2019 – Key Findings

Over the past ten years, the world has seen economic ebbs and flows, evolving global competition and partnership, and boundless technological innovation. But, one thing has remained constant: people’s growing desire to travel the world, visit new landscapes and immerse themselves in other cultures. Mastercard’s Global Destination Cities Index, released today, quantifies this desire: since 2009, the number of international overnight visitors grew an astounding 76 per cent.

This year, the Global Destination Cities Index—which ranks 200 cities based on proprietary analysis of publicly available visitor volume and spend data—reveals that Bangkok remains the No. 1 destination, with more than 22 million international overnight visitors. Paris and London, in flipped positions this year, hold the No. 2 and 3 spots, respectively both hovering over 19 million. All top ten cities saw more international overnight visitors in 2018 than the prior year, with the exception of London, which decreased nearly 4 per cent. The forecast for 2019 indicates across-the-board growth, with Tokyo expecting the largest uptick in visitors.

When looking at the cities by dollar spent, Dubai tops the list with travellers spending USD $553 on average a day. Makkah, new to the top 10 last year, remains at No. 2 for the second consecutive year, with Bangkok rounding out the top three. 

Read: Exclusive: Musafir.com allows corporates to pilot their own journeys and save big

Notably this year, the Global Destination Cities Index offers a decade of insights to consider, with three key trends standing out. 

-Consistent & Steady Growth: Over the past decade, the one constant has been continual change. Each year, more people are travelling internationally and spending more in the cities. Between all of the destinations within the Index, arrivals have grown on average 6.5 per cent year-over-year since 2009, with expenditure growing on average 7.4 per cent. 

-The Sustained Dominance of Major Cities: While there has been significant movement in visitors to smaller cities, the top 10 has remained largely consistent. London, Paris and Bangkok have been the top 3 since 2010, with Bangkok as No. 1 six of the past seven years. New York is another top 10 stalwart, with 13.6 million overnight visitors this year.

-The Rise of Asia-Pacific International Travelers: Cities in the Asia-Pacific region have seen the largest increase in international travellers since 2009, growing 9.4 per cent. In comparison, Europe, which saw the second highest growth, was up 5.5 per cent. This is spurred on by the growth in mainland Chinese travellers. Since 2009, mainland China has jumped up six places to be the No. 2 origin country for travellers to the 200 included destinations—behind only the U.S.

Dubai remains one of the world's most visited cities

Read: 

Turkey starts filling huge Tigris river dam

Turkey starts filling huge Tigris river dam

Reuters’ ENVIRONMENT reported on August 2, 2019, that Turkey starts filling huge Tigris river dam, activists say in an article by Ali Kucukgocmen.

ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Turkey has started filling a huge hydroelectric dam on the Tigris river, a lawmaker and activists said, despite protests that it will displace thousands of people and risks creating water shortages downstream in Iraq.

FILE PHOTO: A general view of the ancient town of Hasankeyf by the Tigris river, which will be significantly submerged by the Ilisu dam being constructed, in southeastern Turkey, June 1, 2019. REUTERS/Umit Bektas

Citing satellite images, they said that water was starting to build up behind the Ilisu dam, a project that has been decades in the making and which aims to generate 1,200 megawatts of electricity for southeast Turkey.

Turkish officials have not commented on work at the dam. Turkey’s State Hydraulic Works (DSI), which oversees dam projects, referred questions to the Presidency, and the Agriculture and Forestry Ministry was not available to comment.

However, President Tayyip Erdogan said earlier this year that Turkey would start filling the Ilisu dam in June, a year after it briefly held backwater before backing down following complaints from Iraq about reduced water flows in mid-summer.

The dam, which first gained Turkish government approval in 1997, is a key part of Turkey’s Southeastern Anatolia Project, designed to improve its poorest and least developed region.

FILE PHOTO: The Tigris river flows through the ancient town of Hasankeyf, which will be significantly submerged by the Ilisu dam being constructed, in southeastern Turkey, August 26, 2018. REUTERS/Sertac Kayar

Iraq says the dam will create water shortages by reducing flows in one of two rivers which the country depends on for much of its supplies. Around 70% of Iraq’s water supplies flow from neighboring countries, especially via the Tigris and Euphrates rivers which run through Turkey.

Satellite images from the past two weeks show the dam has started holding water, said Necdet Ipekyuz, a lawmaker from Turkey’s pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP). He said a road in the area has already been submerged.

“They are taking steps slowly to decrease the reactions to water being held. That is why they are not informing the public,” he said, adding that several HDP lawmakers tried to visit the dam in July but were prevented by police.

Environmental campaigners have unsuccessfully challenged the dam project at the European Court of Human Rights on the grounds it would damage the country’s cultural heritage.

SUBMERGED TOWN

The rising waters of the dam are also expected to eventually submerge the 12,000-year-old town of Hasankeyf. Residents are being moved from the ancient town to a “New Hasankeyf” nearby, while historic artefacts have also been transported out of the area.

A group of NGOs, lawmakers and labor unions shared satellite images of the dam showing the increase in water levels between July 19-29.

“The current situation is strengthening the idea that the valves have been closed permanently,” the group, known as Hasankeyf Coordination, said in a statement.

“Because the dam lake is growing every day, the people who live in these areas are worried. They cannot know when the water will reach their residential or agricultural areas.”

The Iraqi government said in a statement that Turkish and Iraqi officials had discussed the water resources of the two rivers in Baghdad on Wednesday to see how they could “serve the interests of both countries”.

Turkey proposed setting up a joint research center in Baghdad for water management and to work together on some agriculture plantations in Iraq, as well as projects for development of drinking water infrastructure. FILE PHOTO: The Tigris river flows through the ancient town of Hasankeyf, which will be significantly submerged by the Ilisu dam being constructed, in southeastern Turkey, August 26, 2018. REUTERS/Sertac Kayar

The European Court of Human Rights in February dismissed the case brought by environmental campaigners to block the dam project, saying heritage protection is the responsibility of Turkish authorities and it had no jurisdiction.

The government needs to make an announcement, even if the dam were being filled for a trial run, said HDP’s Ipekyuz. “They are trying to tie a belt around the Tigris river’s neck and suffocate it,” he said.

Additional reporting by John Davison and Ahmed Aboulenein in Baghdad; Editing by Dominic Evans and Susan Fenton

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Egypt and the U.S. unveil new groundwater system

Egypt and the U.S. unveil new groundwater system

Per Wikipedia, the U.S. had minimal dealings with Egypt when it was controlled by the Ottoman Empire (before 1882) and Britain (1882–1945).

President G A Nasser (1956–70) antagonized the U.S. by his pro-Soviet policies and anti-Israeli rhetoric, but the U.S. helped keep him in power by forcing Britain and France to immediately end their invasion in 1956. American policy has been to provide strong support to governments that supported U.S. and Israeli interests in the region, especially presidents Anwar Sadat (1970–81) and Hosni Mubarak (1981–2011).

Fast forward to Tuesday, March 5, 2019, and to this story of Egypt Today.

President Donald Trump and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi In White House (FNN) – photo from Youtube

Egypt, U.S. unveil new groundwater system in Alexandria

CAIRO – 5 March 2019: Egypt and the United States ‘governments unveiled Sunday finalizing the new groundwater lowering system at the Catacombs of Kom El-Shuqafa, Alexandria. 

In a Monday statement issued by the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, it was stated that in support of Egypt’s vital tourism industry, U.S. Chargé d’Affaires Thomas Goldberger joined Minister of Antiquities Khaledal-Anany and Alexandria Governor Abdul Aziz Qansua to celebrate the completion of a groundwater lowering system at the Catacombs of Kom El-Shuqafa on Sunday, March 3. 

“This site has rich cultural significance and has the potential to attract tourists and generate revenue,” Goldberger said, adding that the United States is committed to continuing the partnership with the Government of Egypt to conserve Egypt’s cultural heritage and increase tourism. 

The U.S. Government, through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), contributed $5.7 million for a system to lower the groundwater level in partnership with the Ministry of Antiquities and the National Organization for Potable Water and Sanitary Drainage. The system preserves the site from erosion and enables tourists to access the lowest level of the Catacombs. 

Since 1995, the American people, through USAID, have provided $100 million in assistance to conserve monuments and masterpieces spanning over the full range of Egypt’s long cultural heritage – from Pharaonic times to the late Ottoman period. USAID-financed restoration and training programs helped ensure that Egypt can capitalize on the sector’s traditional role as an engine of economic growth and employment. 

Since 1978, the American people have invested $30 billion to further Egypt’s human and economic development. 

Bahrain’s non-oil economy expanded in 2018

Bahrain’s non-oil economy expanded in 2018

Non-oil growth is on the up in Bahrain, where economic diversification efforts are under way.

The picture above is that of Manama sea front © Shutterstock

Construction, infrastructure fuel Bahrain’s 2.4% non-oil growth

by Oscar Rousseau 06 Feb 2019

Both sectors led the kingdom’s economy to diversified growth in Q3 2018, new government data shows

Bahrain’s non-oil economy expanded by 2.4% during Q3 2018, according to data from Bahrain Economic Development Board (EDB).

Construction and infrastructure expansion played a prominent role in driving growth for the smallest economy in the GCC.

Bahrain is in the midst of a modernisation and economic diversification drive, as Gulf nations wean their economies off oil. The latest statistics from government agency EDB indicate efforts to create a diversified economy are showing signs of promise.

New project infrastructure spending increased by 16.3% year-on-year during the quarter, while exports surged 9% during the first nine months of 2018. Bahrain’s construction sector expanded by 6.2% between January and November 2018, with manufacturing up by 3.8%, and real estate and business deals rising by 3.2%.

EDB’s research was published in Bahrain Economic Quarterly, which stated that modest GDP growth was underpinned by construction, infrastructure, and manufacturing in the kingdom.

Megaprojects have played a major role as well in the last 12 months, with one such prominent scheme being Aluminium Bahrain’s (Alba) Line 6 Smelter, which was fired up in December 2018.

Alba has become the world’s largest aluminium smelter as a result of the Line 6 expansion.

Alba’s Line 6 expansion is one of Bahrain’s megaprojects.

Bahrain Petroleum Company’s modernisation drive, which includes expansion of Bahrain Refinery, is another scheme hailed for its positive impact.

These projects are known to create jobs and drive up investment during construction, and are expected to lead to long-term social and economic benefits. Bahrain is also seeing greater investment in technological modernisation and innovation, which is supporting productivity in the kingdom, according to the government agency’s research. 

Chief economist at EDB, Dr Jarmo Kotilaine, said fiscal rebalancing would boost investor confidence and continue to support the growth of Bahrain’s economy in the future.

“With increased economic uncertainty around the world and lower growth trends in the Middle East overall, Bahrain can expect to see resilient growth thanks to its commitment to diversification and sustainability,” he said.

“As the gateway to the Gulf region, it is unsurprising that investment is flowing into sectors such as construction, [information communications tech], and fintech, thanks to Bahrain’s strategically important location, its economic benefits, and ease of doing business.”

Revival of the Arab Maghreb Union

Revival of the Arab Maghreb Union

The Maghreb with 99,380,000 inhabitants with a $375.6 billion GDP in 2017 is in north-west Africa, as delimited to the north by the Mediterranean and to the south by the Sahara, in the west by the Atlantic Ocean and by Egypt in the East. A revival of the Arab Maghreb Union, despite its huge development potential and common cultural and linguistic ties, “the Maghreb is one of the least integrated regions in the world”. Studies have shown that the removal of barriers in the region could have significant economic benefits, support efforts to combat instability and help address several regional challenges including socio-economic development, combating climate change, protecting the environment and developing clean, sustainable energy.

Part 1 – Realities and perspectives

The total area of the Arab Maghreb Union (AMU) is 5.8 million km², representing 4.3% of the world’s area and exceeding almost 80% of the area of the European Union is mostly desert. On February 17, 2018, the AMU celebrated its 30th birthday. At the end of November 2018, its Secretary-General was requested by Algeria to arrange a meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers in order to revive the notion of a Maghreb together and the reactivation of its bodies. The purpose of the contribution that follows many international contributions on this subject is to draw up the balance sheet and look at prospects.

The Maghreb is confronted with the emergence of a globalised economy and society to numerous challenges.  On the one hand, the nation states have difficulties in coping with the world economy’s upheavals and on the other, to face the international institutions as a unified front.

Governments across the AMU’s nation-states per the current crisis are almost unable to fulfil their missions as a result of the complexity of modern societies and the emergence of the multitude of fragmented subsystems. The uncertainty feeds on the crisis of political representation, hence the need to integrate more into a larger ensemble in order to be able to respond to new global concerns is dragging on.  A centrepiece in the Euro-Mediterranean and African region, the Maghreb as the origin of the new migratory flows is fast becoming a geostrategic and economic issue for the European Union, the USA and China in the context of a competition.  Three countries of the UMA, Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria have signed their “Euro-Mediterranean Association” agreements that go well beyond the simple trade liberalisation as initiated as early as the end of the years 1960 in the framework of the first Euro-Maghrebin trade agreements.  It is commonly acknowledged that the results of this association agreement are mixed. However, since then, we have a new data which is that of the Union for the Mediterranean which tends to be supplanted at present by the 5 + 5 Summit which enshrines economic cooperation and Maghreb integration as a priority.  This principle of economic integration (by the market) of the Maghreb countries, the idea came during the two conferences of ministers of the economy of the Maghreb, the first on 26 September 1964 and the second on 26 November of the same year in Tangier (Morocco).  These two conferences culminated in the establishment of the Maghreb Consultative Standing Committee (MCSC).  It is responsible for studying all problems associated with economic cooperation between the North African countries.  After three years of trials and errors, the Maghreb community issue is precise, and in 1967, the MCSC produced a report in which three types of solutions were put forward from the integrationist perspective.  These are:

  • The maximum resolution would imply the signature of a treaty establishing the Maghreb Economic Union on the model of the Treaty of Rome. It would mean the fixing of a timetable for the elimination of customs duties and quota restrictions, establishment of a standard exterior tariff, harmonisation of economic, fiscal and monetary policies and finally the establishment of joint institutions with decision-making powers;
  • The minimum solution which would make the gradual creation of an economic union a mere declaration of intent, the only legal commitments limited to the periodic participation in negotiations on tariff concessions or the choice of places of new industries;
  • The intermediate solution based on the interaction between trade liberalisation and technical harmonisation should cover a period of 5 years during which the Maghreb countries would commit: too linear reductions (10% for example per annum) of customs duties and quantitative restrictions on traded products, to the establishment of a list of industries to be approved and whose products would be guaranteed free movement and franchising on the Maghreb market, the creation of a Maghreb integration bank to finance projects of common interest and promote this simultaneous and equitable industrialisation, the possible establishment of a union of payments and finally the harmonisation of their trade policies with regard to third countries in order not to jeopardize later the establishment of a standard external tariff system.

The set of principal axes highlighted previously, were taken up at the Maghreb Summit, which was held in Zéralda (Algeria) in 1988 and the second Maghreb Summit held on 19 February 1989 in Marrakech, saw the adoption of the Treaty of the U. M. A. which defines the modalities of a Maghreb construction and its development strategy. Various sectoral committees have worked very cyclically to try to establish a free trade area gradually, assuming the free movement of products between the partners — a customs union and therefore new standard management instruments such as the unification of tariffs and the elaboration of unified policies, aiming at defining the usual rules to enable the implementation of a regulatory system economic development in the region. The objective to be achieved at these summits as a last resort was to establish a common market and a progressive and comprehensive economic unit, a prelude to the best complementarity between the five countries in the region. The declaration of the Heads of State on the establishment of the AMU, adopted at the Marrakech summit, marks for its part the will of the member countries to translate into reality the dream of the Maghreb’s generations to build a viable union. It can be seen in their declaration that it should be perceived as “a complementary community that cooperates with similar regional institutions, a community that participates in the enrichment of dialogue and putting its potential at the service of strengthening the independence of the States parties of the Union and safeguarding their achievements, working with the international community to establish a world order in which justice, dignity, freedom, human rights and where relations are imbued with sincere cooperation and mutual respect.

Professor of universities and international expert, Dr Abderrahmane Mebtoul, ademmebtoul@gmail.com

Thorough Reviews of proposed Capital Projects

Thorough Reviews of proposed Capital Projects

Governments in developing economies often lack the capacity to conduct thorough reviews of proposed capital projects. A streamlined approach can identify those ready for funding. 

By Rima Assi, Nicklas Garemo, and Arno Heinrich studying an issue of vital importance for all developing countries, came up with the following essay.

They addressed the most likely to be affected which are the oil-exporting countries of the MENA region as impacted by the volatility of their earning capacities.  In the recent past, and before 2014, when free-flowing budgets allowed development without such restrictive measures, governments that get about 90 per cent of their revenue from oil exports did not bother about such issues. However plunging oil prices could mean budget cuts for major exporters like the GCC countries, but these are not expected to be large enough to stop growth, hence the need still of what is proposed by Mckinsey’s people here.

How developing economies can get more out of their infrastructure budgets

In developed economies, policies and practices for balancing diverging interests in public infrastructure spending are well established. South Korea, for example, established the Public and Private Infrastructure Investment Management Center in 1999 to conduct feasibility studies on large public investments and expanded its mandate to include appraising and managing public–private infrastructure partnerships in 2005. Since then, the center has reduced project overruns by 82 percentage points. Similar units include the United Kingdom’s Infrastructure and Projects Authority, Germany’s Bundesrechnungshof, and Australia’s Infrastructure Australia.

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But in developing markets, many governments have yet to build a capacity for conducting extended project reviews and feasibility studies, because talent is scarce or internal priorities conflict. As a result, these governments often end up funding ill-prepared, poorly designed capital projects, whose scope often diverges from real demand. Overlaps between projects are not uncommon—and actual project costs often exceed forecasts. In fact, nearly 40 percent of the money devoted to global investments around the world is spent ineffectively as a result of bottlenecks, a failure to innovate, or market failures. In developing economies, these ineffective expenditures amount to over $1 trillion a year.

It may be too much to ask that every proposal get a full-scale, in-depth evaluation that takes months to complete. Even in developed markets, that’s not always possible. But it is possible for finance ministries to conduct more streamlined financial assessments of the preparedness and design of projects in only days or weeks. Indeed, we have seen developing countries in the Middle East and Africa embark on such programs by adapting centralized control units and the required level of governance to their own circumstances.

The initial assessment of project preparedness

As a first step, a government must ensure that all projects have been thought through at a sufficient level of detail. This may sound obvious, but projects that fail to describe their rationale properly, don’t evaluate alternative solutions, or lack detailed budget plans are hardly uncommon. What’s more, implementing ministries often lack strong capabilities in project planning, and rely instead on the private-sector organizations that design and implement such projects to review their own work. The resulting incentive structures, far from optimizing costs, tend to inflate the scope and specifications of these projects. 

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When the finance ministry in one African country reviewed proposals to build new roads, for example, it found a number of them significantly exceeded benchmark costs—often coming from design firms that consistently produced designs with higher costs. When a more thorough evaluation isn’t feasible, a streamlined one- or two-day review can help. Typically, an oversight body would pose a series of straightforward questions assessing how clearly a problem is defined, along with a capacity and demand analysis and a consideration of alternative solutions. This kind of evaluation would examine a proposal’s financial aspects, like planned budgets and cash-flow requirements. It would also probe the operational elements: a realistic implementation plan, compliance with regulatory requirements, and interdependencies and overlaps with other projects. Knowing that it lacks this capability, the government of the country in the example is now setting up an in-house unit to oversee contracts with design companies and challenge their products.

The impact can be considerable. One government in another developing economy took this approach with more than 250 projects in its portfolio and found that only a quarter of them were adequately prepared. Most frequently, project owners failed to quantify the capacity–demand analysis and alternative ways of meeting future demand. As a result, they were granted only enough of their requested budget to conduct studies to increase their preparedness.

A deeper review of project design

Once the initial assessment—often of hundreds of projects—narrows down the pool, finance ministries can conduct a more thorough review of each project’s overall design. That, too, can be streamlined. The finance ministry of the country in the example developed a way to conduct reviews that lasted just two weeks. In that time, it identified opportunities to reduce costs by an average of 20 to 40 percent, without reducing outputs. During the reviews, which will now be a standard part of the annual budgeting process, the cost-review unit of the finance ministry met with owners of projects and tested their design through a series of questions aligned with the initial assessment exercise above. These included the following:

  • ·         Public priorities. Does the scope of a project focus on services and features that people really want? Is there evidence that the project is truly needed and meets the country’s socioeconomic objectives?
  • ·         Capacity and demand. Does capacity match future demand? Are the expectations for demand realistic? Can alternative solutions reduce demand?
  • ·         Costs. Do unit costs reflect benchmark levels? Can costs be cut by adjusting a project’s time frame (to reduce the need for tight deadlines) or by calibrating the schedule to the availability of capital?
  • ·         Productivity. Could existing assets improve operations?
  • ·         Funding. Are the funding requirements realistic? Are there any opportunities for private-sector funding? Will the assets generate revenues that could fund the project? Can implementation be deferred or slowed down to stretch out the need for funding?

These project reviews can be significant: a two-week review of a public convention complex, for example, identified $1.7 billion in potential savings (Exhibit 1). Elsewhere, one ministry of health’s $300 million request for additional beds for intensive-care units (ICUs) was nearly halved after reviewers considered benchmark utilization data. They found that the proposal’s assumptions about the average length of stay per ICU bed were twice as high as the benchmark, mainly because facilities lacked intermediate beds and had nowhere to send discharged patients. As result, the ministry of health was advised to procure lower-cost intermediate beds and fewer ICU ones.

Exhibit 1

A two-week capital-expenditure review of a public convention complex identified $1.7 billion in savings.

 

Or consider a proposal by another country’s housing ministry to develop affordable housing. In-depth reviews found that the proposed design included features—such as skylights, longer driveways, and larger bedrooms—that increased costs but would not necessarily be valued by residents. The optimized design featured more bathrooms, but (unlike the original proposal) with showers instead of tubs; more but smaller bedrooms; and shorter driveways with less internal parking. These homes were better aligned with the expectations of likely residents, but cost 15 percent less—so the ministry could build more homes on its $4 billion total budget.

 

 

 

 

Why did the Genoa bridge collapse?

Why did the Genoa bridge collapse?

Genoa motorway bridge collapse 4 days ago was a catastrophic one, creating a scene, rescuers compared to the aftermath of an earthquake. Italy declared a State of emergency while agreeing that the collapse of the Morandi Bridge was an “immense tragedy”.

Why did the Genoa bridge collapse?
Engineering experts were immediately in the limelight weighing in each one with explanations but are too soon to know why a bridge of that calibre collapsed. Satellite images revealing the extent of the devastation after the shocking collapse as it happened, have made it, as it were worse, i.e. while in use by vehicles.
The Economist Construction technology on August 18th, 2018, in its Print edition of Science and technology proposed this article after the disastrous collapse of the Genoa Morandi Bridge last Tuesday.

Crumbling infrastructure is a worldwide problem

A bridge too far

 

The first bridges were likely to have been built by early man shoving a fallen tree across a stream. Since then, construction techniques have come on a bit—from wood to stone, wrought iron and then steel. In the 20th century, reinforced concrete appeared. Concrete is an immensely strong material, especially when coupled with steel. But the sudden collapse of the Morandi bridge in Genoa this week (pictured), with a tragic loss of life, adds to the concern of civil engineers that many bridges around the world which use reinforced concrete are deteriorating faster than was expected.

The Genoa bridge is based on a design called a cable-stayed bridge, although it is a somewhat unusual variant. Such a bridge uses one or more towers, from which run cables that support the deck of the bridge. This is different from a suspension bridge, such as the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, in which the cables holding up the deck are suspended vertically from a main cable anchored at either end of the bridge. Cable-stayed bridges are widely used, mainly for spans shorter than those crossed in one go by a suspension bridge.

A familiar feature of a cable-stayed bridge is that the cables form a fan-like pattern emanating from the supporting tower. If one of the cables is damaged or breaks, it should be obvious; the loading on the bridge is calculated so that the remaining cables will be capable of holding the structure up. The Morandi bridge is different because it was supported by pre-stressed concrete tendons. The tendons are made from bundles of steel wires tightened to produce compressive strength and then encased in concrete. The bridge was designed by Riccardo Morandi, a proponent of this type of bridge. Only a few have been built around the world.

Concerns about Genoa’s bridge had been raised in the past. The Italian media has reported that in 2016, Antonio Brencich, a specialist in reinforced concrete at the University of Genoa, described the bridge as a “failure of engineering” and that sooner or later it would have to be replaced. Daniele Zonta, a civil-engineering expert at the University of Strathclyde, in Britain, says that since the opening of the bridge in 1967 the tendons have required continuous monitoring and maintenance.

Although the design of the bridge is unusual, it is much too early to say if that played any fundamental part in the collapse. And in other respects, the Morandi bridge is far from atypical. All around the world bridges built long ago, particularly those using reinforced concrete, are deteriorating. Even back in 1999, a study found that around 30% of road bridges in Europe had some sort of defect, particularly corrosion of their steel reinforcing or pre-stressed tendons.

A report from the American Road & Transportation Builders Association in January is even more sobering. It reckoned that 54,259 of that country’s 612,677 bridges are “structurally deficient”. These problem bridges have an average age of 67 years and are crossed by vehicles 174m times every day. At the present rate of repair and replacement, it will take 37 years to remedy all the problems, says Alison Premo Black, the organisation’s chief economist.

What is going wrong with these bridges? The difficulty is that concrete, or rather the steel used to reinforce it, can fail in a number of ways. Salt, ice and the pounding of weather can cause tiny fractures in the concrete’s surface. As these cracks creep inward, they let in water. Once the water reaches the steel reinforcing or tendons, it corrodes them. This enlarges the cracks, which can cause the concrete to fall apart. That this is happening is evident from rusty streaks on crumbling concrete.

Heavy traffic

Other factors compound the deterioration of bridges, such as a constant cyclic vibration from traffic, says Mehdi Kashani, an expert in structural mechanics at the University of Southampton, in Britain. This is troublesome for bridges designed in the 1960s, when traffic flows were lower, cars were smaller and lorries much lighter. On top of that, extreme weather can take a toll, with heat and cold expanding and contracting the structure, floods eroding away foundations and high winds buffeting the bridge. This is why regular inspections and maintenance are essential.

New methods of monitoring structures are available to help engineers spot problems before they become critical. Instead of the arduous task of climbing up bridges or erecting scaffolding, camera drones can easily take a close-up picture of just about any part of a bridge. Electronic sensors can provide regular readings of any movement in the structure. And laser scanners are capable of picking up fine details and displaying them as a three-dimensional image. All this should help, but only if regimes exist to ensure that careful monitoring and preventive maintenance take place. If such tasks are skipped, for whatever reason, the result could be disaster. “The Genoa bridge is not the first to fall down,” says Dr Kashani. “And unfortunately it will not be the last.”

Repair or replace?

Monitoring and repair are not the only options. When bridges were being built in the 1950s, 60s and 70s, many were expected to last for more than 100 years. But the decay of reinforced concrete leads some civil engineers to think that such bridges may have a life of only 50-60 years. That means thousands of bridges are coming to the end of their days. Refurbishment is possible, but it is slow and very costly. It might end up being more expensive than building a new bridge.

New structures can also take advantage of advances in engineering. There has been huge progress in materials science, so much so that it is now possible to tinker with the internal structure of substances to make concrete more robust and steel better at resisting rust. Ultra-high-performance concrete is already being made in some countries to toughen buildings against such things as earthquakes and bombs. Apart from just sand and cement, other ingredients are added to these super concretes, such as quartz and various reinforcing materials. In some tests, the addition of plant fibres has been shown to produce markedly stronger concrete.

Self-healing concrete is also being explored. Different methods can be used, but the basic idea is that, should cracks appear in the surface, they will trigger a chemical reaction that seals them up again.

Wholesale replacement of elderly bridges would be an expensive exercise, however. The Governor Mario M Cuomo Bridge, which opened as a replacement for the old Tappan Zee Bridge which crosses the Hudson River in New York, is expected to become fully operational later this year. It is also a cable-stayed bridge, but one of a more traditional design. It is expected to cost some $4bn. The old bridge, built largely from steel and concrete in the 1950s, was knocked up for some $60m, which in today’s terms would be a bargain $564m. The Tappan Zee Bridge was predicted to have a lifetime of only 50 years; it managed nearly 62. Its replacement is supposed to last for a century. Time will tell.