According to Oman’s National Center for Statistics and Information, 79,000 foreigners left between March and June of this year.
Jadwa bank in Saudi Arabia projects 300,000 have already exited the country in 2020. Bloomberg reports that the population could decrease by 4% in Oman and 10% in the UAE.
Oxford Economics estimated that some 900,000 people in the UAE, mostly expatriates whose residence visas are tied to their employment, could lose their jobs as a result of the pandemic.
In addition, 40,000 Kuwait-based expats caught in the coronavirus panic have been trapped overseas and have now lost their passport validity as well as visas and residency permits.
Expats comprise approximately 70% of the total population in Kuwait and close to 90% in the UAE.
However, even before the pandemic, life became harder for Saudi expats due to measures like VAT (15%) and foreigner-targeted taxation.
Nationalization programs also started driving foreign workers to seek their livelihood elsewhere. In places like Kuwait and Saudi, the effect is more pronounced.
Varsha Koduvayur, a senior research analyst who focuses on the Gulf states at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), argues that these countries’ nationalization plans will backfire financially.
For example, Nationals who are occupying vacated jobs by expats expect to get paid at higher rates, increasing labor costs for employers.
The first phase of a February 2020 Saudi Shoura (Consultative) Council plan aiming to Saudize 20% of pharmacists in the profession went into effect recently. An extra 30% is envisaged in the second phase of the plan due to start 2021.
Spokesman for the Saudi Ministry of Human Resources Nasser Al-Hazani told state television Al Ekhabriya that the government seeks to employ 3,000 Saudi pharmacists by 2022.
“Since the decree was issued, 1,500 Saudi pharmacists have been employed,” Al-Hazani said.
An estimated 21,530 foreign pharmacists are registered in Saudi Arabia, according to 2018 figures.
Meanwhile, Saudi announced plans to host LEAP 2021 next February, a landmark technology event.
Saudi Minister of Communications and Information Technology Abdullah al-Swaha said: “LEAP will be a key factor in growing the IT sector, boosting ICT’s GDP contribution by SAR50 billion over five years, securing foreign investment, and assisting our Saudization employment ambitions.”
A draft bill approved by Kuwait’s National Assembly in July intends to reduce the presence of foreign workers in the country.
Indians’ presence to be limited at 15% of Kuwait’s population, forcing some 800,000 out of 1.45 million in the country to leave.
At present there are nearly 3.4 million foreign workers among the total population of 4.8 million.
Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah Al Khaled Al Sabah recently told reporters that foreign workers must be reduced from 70% of the population to 30%. That translates into expelling 2.5 million people.
State-owned Kuwait Petroleum Corporation and its subsidiaries announced in June that a ban on the future employment of foreign workers would begin in July.
Pink slips are already out for many expatriates working on contracts in Kuwaiti ministries, especially those employed in non-technical fields.
However, expatriates working as experts in the ministries will be terminated gradually, according to the report.
It is expected that more than 50% of expatriates working for subcontractors will be laid off in the next three months as Kuwaitization gathers momentum, the report stressed.
The government envisioned the deportation of 360,000 expats in the short term period which included 120,000 residence violators, 150,000 unskilled workers, and 90,000 over the age of 60.
Emiratisation is a key performance indicator of UAE Vision 2021. The newest targets are to provide 20,000 job opportunities for Emiratis in strategic sectors including civil aviation, telecommunications, banking, insurance and real estate development over the next 3 years, with an average of 6,700 jobs annually. Plans also include allocating a Dh300 million fund to create specialized training programs that empower Emirati job seekers.
The Human Resources Development Committee in the banking and financial sector adopted the Emiratization points system in the banking and insurance sectors, raising Emiratization targets through creating more than 8,000 jobs for citizens during the next 3 years.
The banking sector is already hiring 9,000 UAE nationals.
Something sounds off-kilter with all these strategies if only taking into consideration the loss of GDP growth that will take place when these expats’ expenditures are removed from budget calculations. The UAE does have a more moderate approach to job nationalization which could prove crucial in the long run.
Hadi Khatib is a business editor with more than 15 years’ experience delivering news and copy of relevance to a wide range of audiences. If newsworthy and actionable, you will find this editor interested in hearing about your sector developments and writing about it. firstname.lastname@example.org
On 27 August 2020, OXFAM found that all MENA billionaires’ wealth increased by $10 billion, enough to pay Beirut blast repair bill.
The 21 billionaires in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), all of them men, saw their wealth increase by nearly $10 billion since the start of the COVID-19 crisis, almost double the estimated amount required to rebuild Lebanon’s shattered capital, while 45 million more people in the region could be pushed to poverty as a result of the pandemic, a new Oxfam report revealed today.
“The pandemic has exposed the deep inequalities and massive failures in our economic systems, leaving millions in the region without jobs, healthcare, or any kind of social security, while allowing billionaires to add more than $63 million to their fortunes each and every day since the beginning of the pandemic,” said Nabil Abdo, Oxfam in MENA’s senior policy advisor.
“Unless governments immediately prioritize people over profits and the rich pay their fair share, millions more will be pushed to the brink of poverty and denied their basic rights. For too long profit has been prioritized at the expense of the public good and safety. The result of this could not be starker in the aftermath of the catastrophic explosion in Beirut, which has further exposed the fragility of the economy and will only exacerbate existing inequalities.”
Governments in the region need to act quickly and raise revenues to protect the most vulnerable in society. In Lebanon, if a 5 percent solidarity net wealth tax had been introduced last year, $3.7 billion in tax revenues would have been generated to help rebuild the electricity and water infrastructure and provide services to keep people safe in the aftermath of the blast.
Before the virus hit, the MENA region was already one of the most unequal in the world; and COVID-19 has further deepened the gap between the rich and the poor. 76 percent of the region’s income goes to just 10 percent of the population, with 37 billionaires owning as much wealth as the poorest half of the adult population.
If Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt and Morocco had implemented a two percent wealth tax from 2010, these countries could have raised $38 billion in tax revenues, which could have been invested in improving public healthcare and rebuilding social protection systems.
At the same time, measures to protect the poor have fallen short. It is estimated that only 11 percent of stimulus packages in the region focused on social protection and health measures. Against this backdrop, an estimated 89 percent of the region’s 16 million informal workers have been severely affected by pandemic measures. Foreign investment is also projected to drop by 45 percent and 1.7 million people are expected to lose their jobs, 700,000 of them women, costing $42 billion in lost wages.
“The crushing austerity in recent years could have been avoided if the wealthiest in the region had paid more tax, a cost they can easily afford. This alternative could have given countries more flexibility on their spending policies and crucially, seen the region enter the coronavirus crisis with less inequality and debt”, added Abdo.
To avoid millions more being pushed to the brink of poverty, the region’s governments must urgently adopt deliberate inequality-busting policies like healthcare and education for all, and must raise the minimum wage and taxing wealth fairly to build better, more equal economies and societies.
Oxfam’s calculations are based on the most up-to-date and comprehensive data sources available. Figures on the very richest in society come from Forbes’ Billionaires List and Forbes‘ Real-Time Billionaires ranking. We compared the net wealth of MENA billionaires on March 18, 2020, to their net wealth on August 16, 2020.
PWC has estimated the cost of damage to 30-40 destroyed buildings, 3,400 uninhabitable buildings and a total of 40,000 buildings affected by the blast to be $5 billion.
Roslyn Boatman in Tunis, Tunisia | email@example.com | +216 21359002
The Mediterranean region: America’s presence is fading, while China is investing heavily in the region (Photo above: Flavius Belisarius) with at its southeastern shore Lebanon: Time for a regional EU strategy.
The focus at the moment is – quite correctly – on urgent assistance to help the people of Lebanon. The EU is also right to highlight the need for structural reforms and anti-corruption measures in the country.
But more, much more, is needed – and not just in Lebanon. Even before he rushed to Beirut following the devastating explosion, French President Emmanuel Macron had called for a stronger EU role in the Mediterranean, insisting that “Many crisis factors are coming together there: maritime disputes, destabilisation of Libya, migration, trafficking of arms and people, access to resources.”
A “real” European policy for the Mediterranean was an urgent necessity to resist the growing influence of other powers, Macron said, pointing to the high-stakes geopolitical game – involving Russia, Turkey, as well as Israel, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia – being played out in the region.
America’s presence is fading, while China is investing heavily in the region. The EU has been sidelined in its attempts to untangle the web of confrontation and violence in Syria and Libya.
The need for a strategic rethink of the EU’s out-dated and under-performing trade and aid-focused “neighbourhood policy” is truly urgent.
Years of development assistance and piecemeal trade benefits have done little to bring economic and political stability, security or peace to the region. The impact of COVID-19 and climate change are set to make an already-difficult economic environment even more precarious.
Viewing the Mediterranean solely through the distorted migration and security prism has led to an emphasis on restrictive border measures and controversial deals with Turkey and Libya.
But migration flows from the region are likely to continue. More favourable conditions at sea as well as the deteriorating situation in Libya have led to an increase in the number of refugees attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea.
Life for the 1.6 million Syrian refugees sheltering in Lebanon is also expected to become harder in the wake of the explosion.
The short-term focus on building ever more migration barriers has blinded the EU to the Mediterranean’s economic potential and geopolitical importance.
But if Europe is to succeed in its Green Deal and the new One Africa strategy it must first bolster its southern neighborhood.
A revamp of Europe’s policies towards the Mediterranean must not be about re-engineering outdated perceptions, practices and policies.
Instead, the EU must think more long-term, focus on empowering women and, despite the challenges, create the conditions for real region-wide economic transformation.
First, this requires that EU works with governments and business leaders in the Mediterranean to invest in the power of regional trade and value chains.
China has its ASEAN markets embedded in its value chain and North America has Central and South America. The EU should be similarly co-producing in the Mediterranean.
If calculated to include the area from Spain to Cyprus, the Balkan rim of the Mediterranean, Turkey, and so-called MENA countries, (Middle East and North African) the region counts 500 million people who produce 10 percent of global GDP.
At the moment, global trade flows through the region with little national or regional impact and only a quarter of the trade is intra – regional.
Given the post-pandemic discussion on the need for proximity to value chains and production capacity, the EU should use the opportunity to build sustainable value chains in its Mediterranean rim with a focus on up-skilling and good governance.
Second, more attention must be paid to empowering women in the labour force.
Although most countries have made progress in girls’ enrollment in primary education, some of the world’s worst performers in women’s employment are in the region.
For example only 11 percent of women in Algeria and 24 percent in Morocco and Tunisia are in the work force, compared with a global average of 45.6 percent.
The poor performance can be attributed to lack of proper data collection in capturing women’s contribution in the economy – formal or informal – or because existing legal codes, and social services prevent women’s access to decent income and social safety nets including pensions.
In any case, it is a serious obstacle in achieving much-needed sustainable development, economic growth and equal rights.
Third, the EU and Mediterranean states must step up their cooperation to fight climate change.
With oil and oil products currently the main exported and imported items trading across the region, both Europe and Mediterranean countries need to reflect on what this means for the EU’s Green Deal and their climate change commitments.
Questions to be considered include just how capital is allocated for investments in the production and distribution of renewables.
European financial institutions in the region like the European Investment Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development must work harder with national agencies and governments to ensure there is a significant reallocation of capital and skills from fossil fuel dependent economic models to a new modeling based on the EU Green Deal.
Finally, EU attempts to redefine its interaction with Africa by pulling the different regions into one and focusing on relations with the African Union, should go hand in hand with equally strong relations with the continent’s regions, including the Mediterranean.
This is critical given that culture, resources and priorities differ across regions. EU relations with the Mediterranean states therefore should not be sidelined in the pursuit of a policy focused on “One Africa”.
Past EU actions in the Mediterranean have under-performed for a variety of reasons. It is now time to change course.
The tragedy in Lebanon, conflicts in Libya and Syria and the region’s worsening economic situation should spur a serious EU reflection on crafting a strategic new “neighbourhood” policy which recognises the Mediterranean’s economic potential and geopolitical significance.
Shada Islam is an EU commentator who is also founder of New Horizons Project, a consultancy firm. Cleopatra Kitti is founder of The Mediterranean Growth Initiative, an economic think-tank
Personalities, NGOs, journalists and artists, as well as citizens on social networks, have unanimously called for the immediate release of Khaled Drarni, director of “Casbah Tribune“. Though the illusion of peace in the MENA region, is everybody’s concern, denunciations and calls for mobilization have been pouring in after this hefty sentence was handed down, last Monday. There is no better way to unwind the illusion of peace in the MENA region.
The Algerian League for Human Rights (LAADDH) said it was “concerned and outraged by the details of the charges and of the case itself” which it considers “shocking and disproportionate” for unfounded prosecutions and an empty case anyway. “A journalist sentenced to three years in prison is a serious precedent that augurs a bad time for journalists and freedoms,” the LAADDH laments. The League reiterates its “urgent request for the release of journalist Khaled Drarni and all other opinion detainees and respect for Algeria’s human rights and commitments to international and regional human rights protection mechanisms and human rights defenders”.
Reporters Without Borders analysed and in its 2020 RSF Index: The illusion of peace in the Middle East gives us a succinct picture of the situation of the press and of the all media generally. The recent court ruling with regards to a young talents journalist in Algiers came down as not a surprise for most.
Dark clouds still gather over the Middle East, with one country, Iraq, slipping into the countries coloured black on the press freedom map. After a slight drop in the number of infringements, any hopes of appeasement were dispelled by violent crackdowns on public protests, the resumption of increasingly localized military operations and tighter control by iron-fisted governments.
The wars in the Middle East may have become less deadly in the past year but this region still had the largest number of journalists’ deaths. Although there was a reduction in violence and insecurity in the region’s conflicts, the lull was short-lived. Turkey’s operation in Syrian Kurdistan, the government offensive in Idlib in north-western Syria (174th), an upsurge in protest movements in several countries and a drift towards authoritarianism on the part of some governments, were among the threats facing journalists and media organizations in the region.
Keep quiet or we’ll lock you up
In countries that are free from conflict, journalists are relatively safe but are still closely monitored and strictly controlled by iron-fisted authorities. Saudi Arabia (up two at 170th) and Egypt (down three at 166th), acknowledged as stable countries and reliable allies of the West in the region, are the countries with the largest number of journalists in prison after China.
The control over news and information exerted by these two authoritarian governments has been confirmed by the coronavirus crisis. Starting with a wave of arrests of journalists in September 2019, the largest since Gen. Abdel Fattah el-Sisi took over as president in 2014, Egypt has used its arsenal of anti-terrorist legislation to gradually tighten the screws on journalists, particularly since the start of the pandemic. Allegations of spreading fake news are used to justify blocking access to pages and sites on the Internet, and journalists who question official figures have had their accreditation withdrawn.
Control tightened over news and information
All means are used to control news and information. Before the coronavirus health crisis, the Egyptian government openly issued instructions about the death of former president Mohamed Morsi to news organizations in June last year and sent them official statements to publish.
In areas controlled by the Syrian government, the only permitted source of news is the official news agency SANA. Since the appearance of Covid-19, the Syrian health ministry has reasserted the agency’s monopoly over news and information about the pandemic.
The slightest hint of criticism, or any reference to cases of infection or corruption and poverty can earn even the most loyal of journalists a summons by the intelligence services or an indefinite prison term. The journalist Wissam Al-Tair, who was close to President Bashar al-Assad, was jailed for several months merely for having mentioned an increase in fuel prices.
News organizations are closely monitored using sophisticated hacking and espionage methods. Saudi authorities collected personal details from the Twitter accounts of thousands of people regarded as opponents of the government and hacked into the phone of Jeff Bezos, owner of the Washington Post, for which the assassinated Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi worked.
Storm of protest meets wave of repression
The second half of the year saw an unexpected wave of protests in several Middle Eastern countries, including Lebanon (down one at 102nd), and Iraq (down six at 162nd) which has joined the countries coloured black in the Index. Since October last year, the Iraqi media, which referred to the popular discontent in their coverage of the protests, were targeted by the authorities, militias and security forces which used live ammunition to break up rallies. The government has much to do with the climate of hostility: the media regulator has suspended nine TV channels, preventing them from broadcasting, and has also restricted Internet access.
This type of crackdown was inspired by the measures in force in Iran (down three to 173rd) where Internet access is regularly blocked and the government has imposed its own “halal Internet” inspired by Sharia, or Islamic law. This network allows it to restrict the flow of news and information, as occurred when large-scale public protests took place in the country. The creation of the Islamic Radio and Television Union, which has more than 200 members worldwide, also allows the dissemination of Iranian propaganda and fake news beyond its borders.
The proliferation of opposition movements has intensified the polarization of news media and distrust of journalists. In Lebanon, dozens of crews from pro-government and anti-revolutionary television channels were attacked by protesters. Other journalists have been attacked online by political community groups.
In Israel (88th), Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu and his supporters regularly attack news organizations, accusing them of propagating fake news and left-wing propaganda, to the point where a journalist who broke a story about a corruption scandal was forced to request a bodyguard to ensure his safety.
At the same time, journalists in Palestine (137th) were finding it as difficult as ever to cover the regular Friday protests against Israeli occupation. Tension rose again after the announcement by US President Trump of the “deal of the century” peace plan and the number of those seriously injured has been rising.
Armed conflict, political instability and the crackdown on protests mean violence is ever-present in the work of journalists in the Middle East. Ensuring the safety of those working in news and information is more of a concern than ever in the region, especially as a number of governments have decided to boost their control over news and information using technological advances to strengthen their scrutiny of journalists. In a climate where the criminalization of journalism and regular crackdowns are the norm and governments are not amenable to the idea of free and independent news media, the very idea of journalism could disappear from the region over time.
In Sandhour of July 10, 2020, A Strategy for North Africa in the current Century has developed taking into account all things that contributed to how North Africa sub-region of the MENA came into being and rendered into what is witnessed in the present times.
One of the rather peculiar features of capitalism is having its nemesis–socialism– as its twin flip. Surely, corporations and equity are forms of socializing the capitalist gain and it has been the case since the inception of capitalism in its modern form in the early 18th century, setting it apart of the previous mode of venturing sole merchants and their financiers. There were cheating and abuse, and still are, yet the learning curve smoothed up the functioning of capitalism.
Another, even more bewildering, aspect of capitalism is its susceptibility to speculation. Stock markets, commodity prices, oil, currency valuation rise and fall– incrementally at times and suddenly at others– based on speculations trickling down from pundits to people. The fluctuations are functions of information-based assessments. Alas, information is asymmetrical between social groupings; nations; and regions leading to local and global stratification. Nevertheless, advances in cultural and intellectual infrastructure improve checks and balances and drive capitalism towards more democratization.
However, despite the mass democratization of the 20th century and designed social ends embedded in market economies, increasing socialization of capital, we presently face problems in terms of increasing numbers that are losing out in the present Socio-economic mode. The cyclical nature of those problems point to congestion in the global economic system, as has been pointed out over and again by generations of economic thinkers. However, the increasing socialization and rising overall capabilities of ordinary citizens vouch for a progressive history. Anyway, the ongoing technological disruption, which is unprecedented in kind and potential, will definitely restore balance to the global economic system. A transition to a new energy regime is a main pillar of the technological disruption.
The oil and gas commodity is the pillar of the contemporary industrial civilization. And the Middle East happens to be the fulcrum point of oil economy. From the early 70s on, there has been much hype about peak oil, partly driving improvements in energy efficiency, and search for alternative energy sources and carriers.
Countering peak oil is the obviously politically motivated infinite fossil resource hypothesis. It goes without saying that it is a hoax which goes against simplest arithmetic.
As far as I’m concerned, the trapezium model for oil reserves is the most plausible one. It states that reserves rise along the the side of a trapezium, flatten then slide along the opposite side. Depleting wells are countered by technological progress which enables economic development of previously useless layers, as well as deep sea, arctic and other unreachable reserves. Still the fact that reserves are finite in addition to cost factors raise the stakes of alternative energy and the sliding of proven reserves starting from 2030s.
The expected predominance of batteries in transport by mid century and the recent breakthrough in fusion energy where super conducting electromagnets made up of barium and copper that are stable enough to capture the heated plasma which ignite the fusion fuel made up of hydrogen sister atoms, creating more output energy than input; point to way lesser role for fossils in the short mid-term future. Yet, fossils will still be high on the global energy portfolio for at least two decades. However, speculations are not based on laws of physics, rather they are psychological processes in the first place and hence the current contours point towards sustained low prices for oil and gas.
Further, chaotic leadership in the Gulf, population pressure and prospects of war are not likely to mark up fossils because of new ports in Oman, Qatari Iranian understanding, neutralization of Iraq, Iranian economic crunch, and geographic isolation of wells in Saudi.
The most precious energy commodity poised to replace fossils are rare earth minerals for batteries like lithium and cobalt though they are in no way likely to have the same strategic controversy because of the availability of sister alternatives for Lithium ion batteries like sodium and fluoride. Also, we don’t refill a battery with lithium for every kilometer run. Barium and copper pop up high as the material for super conductors necessary for fusion. Sahel and sub-saharan Africa lack a detailed map for the prospects of rare earths, yet the proven diversity and richness of the continent in metals such as copper; as well as fossils, renders it likely that the continent will be a futuristic mine.
So.. what has got the middle East to offer the world on the strategic table, now with the declining weight of fossils? All what I can think of is Islam, proximity to sub-saharan Africa, and big legitimate armies in North Africa along with a historical experience that values stability.
With the right strategic reassembly and new alignments, North Africa can act as a bridge for stabilizing sub-saharan Africa, reforming Islam and re-inventing the Near East through new understandings with the global system based on rational comprehension of reality. It is highly unlikely for Ethiopia to play that role due to ethnic and religious rifts and the prevalence of too much of a lethargic culture, as proven by the failure of relocation from Asia of textiles to Ethiopia .
Originally posted on RobinAndrew: An initially-slight tale, which grows and grows right up to its end, as slight lives desperately try to grow themselves into something important without completely relinquishing the comforts to which they have accustomed themselves. Emerson writes with an almost nineteenth-century reserve which aptly suits her characters and relates as well to…
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