Dubai economy to contract by 11% this year: S&P as the international lockdown impacted international travel to and stay in the previously popular spots of the world. Dubai, for its particular regional specifics and as the most popular venue in the Gulf region, seems to endure the most critically the pandemic or all the safeguards against it.
As per S&P estimate, Dubai’s gross general government debt will reach about 77% of GDP in 2020.
Low oil prices have had broad effects on GCC economies, of which Dubai is one, but hydrocarbons directly contribute only about 1% to Dubai’s total GDP.
The indirect effect of weaker demand from Dubai’s neighbours will dampen Dubai’s trade, tourism, and real estate markets, it stated.
Although Dubai’s economy is somewhat more diversified than that of most its regional peers, the report anticipates an economic contraction of around 11% of GDP in 2020, recovering to 2019 levels by 2023.
STR Global, a data intelligence and benchmarking firm, reported Dubai’s hotel occupancy rate at 26% in June as inbound tourism sharply declined following global lockdowns and much-reduced air travel designed to curb the spread of Covid-19.
The fact that fewer residents left Dubai during the hot summer months and instead spent more domestically to some extent has supported the economy. Local support for the economy cannot, however, offset the almost complete shutdown of inbound international tourism for most of 2020, and the likely slow recovery of the long-haul aviation that Dubai specializes in.
The Dubai government now expects to post a deficit of AED12 billion (3.2% of GDP) this year, largely owing to the reduction in economic activity and the consequent expected 28% decline in revenue, stated S&P Global Ratings.
It also expects significant off-balance-sheet expenditure, resulting in the government’s net debt position worsening by more than what the headline deficit would imply, as has occurred in previous years.
S&P Global Ratings pointed out that the below-the-line expenditure which causes the variance between headline deficits and the change in net debt mostly involves support for Dubai’s government-related entities (GREs), an example of which is the recently disclosed AED7.3 billion (1.9% of GDP) already provided to national carrier Emirates in 2020.
Support for GREs will likely be appreciably larger in 2020 than in the past, due to the broad cross-sector shock to Dubai’s economy, it added.
The ratings major said that in total, it expected new government bond issuance and loans to total around 7% of GDP in 2020. The government has issued AED8.4 billion (2.2% of GDP) of public debt so far in 2020, marking the biggest year for Dubai’s debt issuance since 2009.
“This, in combination with recently disclosed new bilateral and syndicated facilities through June 2020 (facilities that have increased by AED15 billion (4% of GDP) since Dubai’s previous end-2018 disclosures) supports our estimation that 2020 will be another year where debt accumulation far exceeds the headline deficit,” it stated in the review.
Massive investments worth over $810 billion in mega tourism projects across Saudi Arabia is expected to transform the kingdom into one of the largest leisure tourism sectors in the world between now and 2030, according to a research conducted by the Middle East and North Africa Leisure Attractions Council (Menalac), the leisure and entertainment industry council representing the Middle East’s dynamic leisure attractions sector. Here is Trade Arabia‘s from Riyadh.
Saudi to be among world’s big leisure tourism hubs by 2030
These include the $500 billion mega development Neom which leads the list of the mega projects followed by the $10 billion Qiddiyah Project, spread across 334 sq km in Riyadh.
The third project is Amaala, or the Saudi Riviera, located in the northern region with an area of 3,800 sq km, and developing islands in the Red Sea with a total area of 34,000 sq km.
Once completed, it will deliver a futuristic mega sustainable city.
According to the report, Saudi Arabia is looking to more than double its investment in recreation from the current 2.9% to 6% by 2030.
Mishal Al Hokair, Board Member of Menalac, said: “Saudi Arabia has an array of dynamic plans and attractions planned over the next few years, each of which will add to the fast growing Leisure and Entertainment sector.”
“Its Vision 2030 will change the entire economic and tourism landscape of not only Saudi Arabia, but the entire Middle East region, that will have a massive positive knock-on effect on the leisure tourism industry,” noted Al Hokair.
“Once the current Covid-19 situation improves, the investment and development in the Saudi Arabia’s tourism sector will bring massive opportunities for the industry. It is time for everyone to prepare for the next big growth,” he added.
Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH), the country’s tourism regulator, said the mega tourism projects being developed by Public Investment Fund will be spread over an area of more than 64,634 sq km, with a value exceeding $810 billion.
In addition, SCTH will be developing museums in various Saudi regions, and preserving Saudi heritage with a cost of more than $1.3 billion.
Saudi Arabia foresees that the national tourism will significantly contribute to the gross domestic product as the most growing non-oil economic sector. The tourism revenues increased to more than SR193 billion ($51 billion) in 2017, and to more than SR211 billion ($56 billion) in 2018, SCTH said in a report.
In 2017, the kingdom’s tourism sector had attracted $28.6 billion, more than six times the world average in tourism capital investment, it added.
Despite the current situation with regards to Covid-19, Saudi Arabia is pushing ahead with construction of some of these massive projects. A number of construction contracts have recently been awarded following the partial re-opening of the economy after the lockdown.
Red Sea Development Company has recently awarded construction contracts worth $1 billion while Neom has awarded Bechtel and Aecom programme management contract.
Changes and growth in Saudi tourism landscape will help leisure attractions operators in the Middle East and North African (Mena) countries. The recent reopening of the land borders by Saudi Authorities will help boost regional tourism in the GCC region.
SCTH plans to facilitate investment SR171.05 billion that will boost the tourism industry capacity and the number of hotel rooms to 621,600 rooms and boost the tourism sector’s contribution to the GDP by 3.1 per cent, and increase direct employment to 1.2 million jobs.
Prakash Vivekanand, the board member of Menalac, said: “The latest news from Saudi Arabia is very encouraging. The government wants to push ahead with the mega projects that will not only boost the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) but also the tourism sector.”
It will create massive opportunities for all the players in the leisure attractions business and we could count on an exciting future for the industry in the Mena region.”
According to Saudi Arabia’s General Investment Authority (Sagia), the country wants to increase investment in recreational facilities to 6 per cent from the current 2.9 per cent per annum – more than double the current level, as part of Saudi Vision 2030.
“In 2017, the Saudi tourism sector had attracted investment of SR172 billion ($28.6 billion), which was six times the world average in tourism capital investments,” according to a report by Sagia. “Investments are expected to rise 5.5 per cent per annum over the next ten years to SR200 billion ($54 billion) per annum.”
Rosa Tahmaseb, Secretary General of Menalac, said: “The leisure attractions industry in the Mena region is upbeat with the new opportunities that are arising in Saudi Arabia.”
“We see massive opportunities for our industry being created by more than a $1 trillion investment in the Saudi economy between now and 2030,” she noted.
Tahmaseb called upon all leisure industry stakeholders, both suppliers and operators to explore these opportunities and ascertain how they can take a leading role in helping Saudi Arabia develop its leisure facilities in the coming decade.
According to her, tourism and entertainment are an essential part of the Saudi Vision 2030 which is aimed at diversifying the Saudi economy by reducing its dependence on oil.
Saudi Arabia aims to develop versatile tourism destinations, which include several coastal sites, marvellous islands and distinguished heritage areas, all of which will require a high level of expertise, support and the most innovative attractions, technology and experiences to ensure the kingdom becomes one of the top tourist and entertainment destinations in the Middle East within the next few years.
“Despite the short-term setback created by the Covid-19 pandemic, the long-term prospects for our industry remain bright. One example of this can be seen in the dynamic projects planned for Saudi Arabia,” she added.-TradeArabia News Service
The source of outdoor noise worldwide is mainly caused by machines, transport, and propagation systems. So if you are not comfortable with any kind of noise pollution, please read on about this innovative way of fighting off this traumatic stigma of modern life. Sick of city din? Try ‘noise-cancelling headphones’. It could be for instance and as suggested by TechXplore here below. We all know that buildings kill millions of birds, mainly through the same causes. The question would then be that of the possibility of what is described here having an effect on that. So do try ‘Noise-cancelling Headphones.’
Sick of noise from construction work, speeding trains and car alarms flooding in through the open window of your tiny apartment in a crowded metropolis?
Scientists believe they have found a way for city dwellers to let in fresh air while reducing the urban cacophony—and it is a bit like popping massive, noise-cancelling headphones onto your flat.
Under the system devised in Singapore, 24 small speakers are placed on the metal grille of an open window to create what researchers termed an “acoustic shield”.
When noise such as traffic or a subway train is detected, the speakers generate sound waves that cancel out some of the din—much in the same way some high tech headphones work.
It is like “using noise to fight noise,” said Gan Woon-Seng, who leads the research team from Nanyang Technological University in the space-starved city-state, where many complain of noise flooding into apartments.
While blocking the racket from outside, it also “lets in the natural ventilation and lighting through the windows,” he told AFP, at a lab where a prototype of the device had been set up.
The system can reduce incoming sound by 10 decibels, and works best on noises like trains or building work—but it won’t block unpredictable, high frequency sounds such as dogs barking.
Gan hopes allowing people to keep windows open for natural ventilation will reduce the use of energy-hungry air conditioners, and might improve people’s health by cutting noise, which causes problems such as disturbed sleep.
Some might balk at the idea of placing 24 tiny speakers on one of their grilles, although the researchers are working on a version of the system that obstructs windows less.
They hope to eventually sell the device to those who want to install it in residential buildings.
Successful smart city projects feature optimized traffic patterns, smart parking, efficient lighting, intelligent office buildings and improvements to public works, but they will be powered forward by citizen engagement. According to Gartner, citizen engagement, the enhancement of services and citizen experience will all be critical to the success of smart cities. How will we ensure that?
Throughout the Gulf, smart city projects are the new driving force behind the region’s economic diversification. A key aspect to whether these projects are a success or failure is the involvement of the people who live and work there. Citizen engagement is a big deal: citizens can provide invaluable feedback for the improvement of existing services and power the development of new ones. So smart city authorities need to educate and inform citizens about their city’s smart transformation and encourage feedback on pilot programs and other initiatives. How do you do that?
It begins with digital identity
Smart cities maximise their chances of success and sustainability when they are able to drive citizen engagement: digital identity is one way to get that started. Digital identity is the ability to prove an individual’s identity via any government digital channel, and it is essential for driving inclusion and giving citizens access to government services. As government becomes more digitized, digital identity will need to become more reliable to serve as the core for all digital transactions and will enable citizens to access core resources and services. And it allows citizen engagement.
It has been predicted that up to 70 per cent of the world’s population will be living in smart cities by 2050, and strategic management of citizens’ digital identities will be central to that. According to Gartner, governments and public sector bodies that communicate with citizens via their preferred channels – over 50 per cent of government website traffic now comes from mobile devices – will be those that meet citizen expectations and achieve their desired project outcomes. “Government CIOs must provision digital identities that uphold both security imperatives and citizen expectations,” Gartner has said.
Data-powered approaches will succeed
To thrive, and secure buy-in for smart city projects from residents and visitors, smart city managers must deliver an enjoyable and memorable citizen experience. It can be a process that is built around digital identity, proactive citizen engagement and multichannel communications.
Citizen engagement through multichannel
Governments and smart city authorities need to address citizens using their preferred communications formats and channels: that could be in person, over the phone, using augmented reality chatbots, social media or other mechanisms. But meeting citizens on their terms and using their preferred communication methods greatly increases the likelihood that the interaction is positive.
Your smart city project is already built on data: smart cities generate huge amounts of data from connected sensors and other devices, and cities capture, store and analyze all that real-time data from millions of devices. Artificial intelligence (AI) and data analytics tools enable cities to deliver an unforgettable citizen experience based on in-depth understanding of the needs and desires of citizens.
The multichannel element involves meeting citizens on their own terms to engage them, and that means numerous communications channels. For example, understanding the range of services offered by a smart city can be confusing for people, so a chatbot could help. A multichannel AI-powered bot can enhance experiences for citizens by communicating in a natural, conversational way. And by combining it with digital identity, the AI is able to remember people who are authenticated, learn their likes and habits and provide tailored services based on previous experiences. All while reducing operational costs for the city.
MEA smart cities setting the pace
There are many examples of progressive smart city projects underway throughout the MEA region, one of which is the Dubai Silicon Oasis. Orange is working with the Dubai Silicon Oasis Authority (DSOA) on its flagship smart city initiative, designed to transform how businesses, residents, visitors and workers interact, using digital technologies. The project includes energy management using smart metering, smart irrigation, and smart street lighting, plus smart facilities and infrastructure such as parking and building maintenance as well as visitor and event management. Dubai is now able to offer an enhanced user experience and quality of life to employees, residents and visitors using smart solutions and services.
It’s an example of the kind of seamless, end-to-end approach that smart cities must take if they want to flourish: without a unified digital identity scheme, it becomes difficult for smart city managers to plan effectively. It’s all about data.
Digital identity powering and powered by multichannel
Digital identity underpins the enormous potential of smart cities and enhances a project’s chances of success and sustainable change. If you want a smart city project to succeed, governments must communicate with citizens to convey the benefits of the smart city – and that requires two-way communications over secure digital channels. With digital identity and multichannel, there is a mutually beneficial thing going on – each enables and powers the other.
Digital identity connects your citizens to your smart city, turning it into an Internet of both things and people, where the connected objects provide the data that creates the insights that enable the new services that give citizens an enhanced experience. IDC forecasts that global spending on smart city initiatives will amount to around $124 billion in 2020, an increase of 18.9 per cent over 2019. To achieve a return on this investment, the smartest smart city projects will use multichannel citizen engagement to deliver quantifiable benefits and realise the importance of digital identity in all communications.
From golden age to war and ruin: Lebanon in turmoil as it hits 100 as told by Tom Perry and Imad Creidi is a story of a whole country as recalled by one of its inhabitants. It seems that it is to be of yet another artificial state-nation conjured up in the recent past by a third party power mediocre political move.
BEIRUT (Reuters) – Looking back on his childhood in the newly declared state of Lebanon nearly a century ago, Salah Tizani says the country was set on course for calamity from the start by colonial powers and sectarian overlords.
Tizani, better known in Lebanon as Abou Salim, was one of Lebanon’s first TV celebrities. He shot to fame in the 1960s with a weekly comedy show that offered a political and social critique of the nascent state.
Now aged 92, he lucidly traces the crises that have beset Lebanon – wars, invasions, assassinations and, most recently, a devastating chemicals explosion – back to the days when France carved its borders out of the Ottoman Empire in 1920 and sectarian politicians known as “the zuama” emerged as its masters.
“The mistake that nobody was aware of is that people went to bed one day thinking they were Syrians or Ottomans, let’s say, and the next day they woke up to find themselves in the Lebanese state,” Tizani said. “Lebanon was just thrown together.”
Lebanon’s latest ordeal, the Aug. 4 Beirut port explosion that killed some 180 people, injured 6,000 and devastated a swathe of the city, has triggered new reflection on its troubled history and deepened worry for the future.
For many, the catastrophe is a continuation of the past, caused in one way or another by the same sectarian elite that has led the country from crisis to crisis since its inception, putting factions and self-interest ahead of state and nation.
And it comes amid economic upheaval. An unprecedented financial meltdown has devastated the economy, fuelling poverty and a new wave of emigration from a country whose heyday in the 1960s is a distant memory.
The blast also presages a historic milestone: Sept. 1 is the centenary of the establishment of the State of Greater Lebanon, proclaimed by France in an imperial carve-up with Britain after World War One.
For Lebanon’s biggest Christian community, the Maronites, the proclamation of Greater Lebanon by French General Henri Gouraud was a welcome step towards independence.
But many Muslims who found themselves cut off from Syria and Palestine were dismayed by the new borders. Growing up in the northern city of Tripoli, Tizani saw the divisions first hand.
As a young boy, he remembers being ordered home by the police to be registered in a census in 1932, the last Lebanon conducted. His neighbours refused to take part.
“They told them ‘we don’t want to be Lebanese’,” he said.
Tizani can still recite the Turkish oath of allegiance to the Sultan, as taught to his father under Ottoman rule. He can sing La Marseillaise, taught to him by the French, from start to finish. But he freely admits to not knowing all of Lebanon’s national anthem. Nobody spoke about patriotism.
“The country moved ahead on the basis we were a unified nation but without internal foundations. Lebanon was made superficially, and it continued superficially.”
From the earliest days, people were forced into the arms of politicians of one sectarian stripe or another if they needed a job, to get their children into school, or if they ran into trouble with the law.
“Our curse is our zuama,” Tizani said.
POINTING TO CATASTROPHE
When Lebanon declared independence in 1943, the French tried to thwart the move by incarcerating its new government, provoking an uprising that proved to be a rare moment of national unity.
Under Lebanon’s National Pact, it was agreed the president must be a Maronite, the prime minister a Sunni Muslim and the speaker of parliament a Shi’ite Muslim.
The post-independence years brought signs of promise.
Women gained suffrage in 1952. Salim Haidar, a minister at the time, took pride in the fact that Lebanon was only a few years behind France in granting women the right to vote, his son, Hayyan, recalls.
Salim Haidar, with a doctorate from the Sorbonne, drafted Lebanon’s first anti-corruption law in 1953.
“This was the mentality … that Lebanon is really leading the way, even in the legal and constitutional matters. But then he didn’t know that all of these laws that he worked on would not be properly applied, or would not be applied at all, like the anti-corruption law,” Hayyan Haidar said.
The 1960s are widely seen as a golden age. Tourism boomed, much of it from the Arab world. A cultural scene of theatre, poetry, cinema and music flourished. Famous visitors included Brigitte Bardot. The Baalbeck International Festival, set amid ancient ruins in the Bekaa Valley, was in its heyday.
Casino du Liban hosted the Miss Europe beauty pageant in 1964. Water skiers showed off their skills in the bay by Beirut’s Saint George Hotel.
Visitors left with “a misleadingly idyllic picture of the city, deaf to the antagonisms that now rumbled beneath the surface and blind to the dangers that were beginning to gather on the horizon,” Samir Kassir, the late historian and journalist, wrote in his book “Beirut”.
Kassir was assassinated in a car bomb in Beirut in 2005.
For all the glitz and glamour, sectarian politics left many parts of Lebanon marginalised and impoverished, providing fertile ground for the 1975-90 civil war, said Nadya Sbaiti, assistant professor of Middle Eastern Studies at the American University of Beirut.
“The other side of the 1960s is not just Hollywood actors and Baalbeck festivals, but includes guerrilla training in rural parts of the country,” she said.
Lebanon was also buffeted by the aftershocks of Israel’s creation in 1948, which sent some 100,000 Palestinian refugees fleeing over the border.
In 1968, Israeli commandos destroyed a dozen passenger planes at Beirut airport, a response to an attack on an Israeli airliner by a Lebanon-based Palestinian group.
The attack “showed us we are not a state. We are an international playground,” Salim Haidar, serving as an MP, said in an address to parliament at the time. Lebanon had not moved on in a quarter of a century, he said.
“We gathered, Christians and Muslims, around the table of independent Lebanon, distributed by sect. We are still Christians and Muslims … distributed by sect.”
To build a state, necessary steps included the “abolition of political sectarianism, the mother of all problems,” said Haidar, who died in 1980.
TICKING TIME BOMB
Lebanon’s brewing troubles were reflected in its art.
A 1970 play, “Carte Blanche”, portrayed the country as a brothel run by government ministers and ended with the lights off and the sound of a ticking bomb.
Nidal Al Achkar, the co-director, recalls the Beirut of her youth as a vibrant melting pot that never slept.
A pioneer of Lebanese theatre, Achkar graduated in the 1950s from one of a handful of Lebanese schools founded on a secular rather than religious basis, Ahliah, in the city’s former Jewish quarter. Beirut was in the 1960s a city of “little secrets … full of cinemas, full of theatres,” she said.
“Beside people coming from the West, you had people coming from all over the Arab world, from Iraq, from Jordan, from Syria, from Palestine meeting in these cafes, living here, feeling free,” she recalled. “But in our activity as artists … all our plays were pointing to a catastrophe.”
It came in 1975 with the eruption of the civil war that began as a conflict between Christian militias and Palestinian groups allied with Lebanese Muslim factions.
Known as the “two year war”, it was followed by many other conflicts. Some of those were fought among Christian groups and among Muslim groups.Slideshow (4 Images)
The United States, Russia and Syria were drawn in. Israel invaded twice and occupied Beirut in 1982. Lebanon was splintered. Hundreds of thousands of people were uprooted.
The guns fell silent in 1990 with some 150,000 dead and more than 17,000 people missing.
The Taif peace agreement diluted Maronite power in government. Militia leaders turned in their weapons and took seats in government. Hayyan Haidar, a civil engineer and close aide to Selim Hoss, prime minister at the end of the war, expressed his concern.
“My comment was they are going to become the state and we are on our way out,” he said.
In the post-war period, Rafik al-Hariri took the lead in rebuilding Beirut’s devastated city centre, though many feel its old character was lost in the process, including its traditional souks.
A Saudi-backed billionaire, Hariri was one of the only Lebanese post-war leaders who had not fought in the conflict.
A general amnesty covered all political crimes perpetrated before 1991.
“What happened is they imposed amnesia on us,” said Nayla Hamadeh, president of the Lebanese Association for History. “They meant it. Prime Minister Hariri was one of those who advanced this idea … ‘Let’s forget and move (on)’.”
‘I LOST HOPE’
The Taif agreement called for “national belonging” to be strengthened through new education curricula, including a unified history textbook. Issued in the 1940s, the existing syllabus ends in 1943 with independence.
Attempts to agree a new one failed. The last effort, a decade ago, provoked rows in parliament and street protests.
“They think that they should use history to brainwash students,” Hamadeh said. For the most part, history continues to be learnt at home, on the street and through hearsay.
“This is (promoting) conflict in our society,” she added.
Old faultlines persisted and new ones emerged.
Sunni and Shi’ite Muslims fell out following the 2005 assassination of Hariri. A U.N.-backed tribunal recently convicted a member of the Iran-backed Shi’ite group Hezbollah of conspiring to kill Hariri.
Hezbollah denies any role, but the trial was another reminder of Lebanon’s violent past – the last 15 years have been punctuated by political slayings, a war between Hezbollah and Israel and a brush with civil conflict in 2008.
To some, the civil war never really ended.
Political conflict persists in government even at a time when people are desperate for solutions to the financial crisis and support in the aftermath of the port explosion.
Many feel the victims have not been mourned properly on a national level, reflecting divisions. Some refuse to lose faith in a better Lebanon. For others, the blast was the final straw. Some are leaving or planning to.
“You live between a war and another, and you rebuild and then everything is destroyed and then you rebuild again,” said theatre director Achkar. “That’s why I lost hope.”
Manama named most financially attractive city, Riyadh 4th in list per AIRINC and as reported by Trade Arabia. Manama most financially attractive City goes back a long time since shortly after the advent of oil exploration and production in the Gulf region.
DUBAI, The GCC cities dominated the global Financial Attractiveness Index list with Bahrain’s capital Manama being named the world’s most financially attractive city in AIRINC’s latest Global 150 Cities Index followed by Riyadh in 4th place, Kuwait City in 6th, Abu Dhabi in 7th, Dubai in 12th, and Muscat in 16th.
The index https://www.air-inc.com/global-150/ ranks 150 of the top global locations according to financial attractiveness and lifestyle attractiveness. It combines local salary levels, tax rates, living costs, and living conditions to assess how appealing each location is to live in.
Every single GCC member was represented in the top 20 most financially attractive cities in the world, according to AIRINC’s latest Global 150 Cities Index.
The data is collected by AIRINC’s own in-house survey team, who continuously research the costs and living conditions of many cities around the world to evaluate international mobility.
GCC economies have invested considerable sums in making themselves more attractive to international businesses in line with ambitious region-wide economic diversification efforts, it stated.
As the first GCC member to begin diversification, Bahrain offers one of the easiest and most cost-effective environments to set up and operate a business in the world.
Businesses operating in the Kingdom enjoy 0% tax and 100% foreign ownership allowed.
Thanks to its comprehensive programme of reforms, increasingly digital Bahrain was recently named the fourth most improved economy in the world by the World Bank’s latest Ease of Doing Business report.
As well as ranking first in the world for financial attractiveness in the AIRINC index, Manama also jumped 15 places for overall attractiveness, to 48th.
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