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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

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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.