A look at today’s important financial news and business updates from the Middle East region:
The home to the world’s tallest skyscraper is also the Middle East’s top destination this year with 7.9 million visitors, according to an index released by global credit card company MasterCard on Monday. Abu Dhabi, the UAE’s capital, was 6th on the Top 10 Destination Cities in Middle East and Africa by international visitors during 2011.
A UAE minister said on Tuesday he fully supported the idea of devising a dress code in the country that is in line with the local traditions. He also supported the idea to create a federal law that effectively enforced tourists and residents from wearing revealing clothes in public. The minister insisted that the main problem lies not with tourists, but residents who ignore dress code regulations in public spaces, adding many do not know “much about the culture”.
Qatar is a leading aviation growth in the Middle East, thanks to the government’s liberal aviation policies, which is fueling unprecedented growth in the global aviation industry. Industry experts say the tiny gas-rich nation’s huge surplus, commitment to the aviation industry and need to create jobs for its growing population is spurring this growth.
Human Rights Watch warned Qatar to honour its commitment to reform employment laws for migrant workers ahead of the 2022 FIFA World Cup, amid fears that stadiums will be built using an exploited labour force. The New York-based rights watchdog issued a 146-page report titled ‘Building a better World Cup: Protecting migrant workers’ that shed light on Qatar’s recruitment and employment system, where 94% of workforce comprises of migrant workers.
Bahraini Minister of Interior Sheikh Rashid bin Abdulla Al Khalifa said on Tuesday the ‘Arabian Gulf’ suffered losses of more than $100 billion as a result of the first and second Gulf Wars, and getting classified as a ‘region of instability’. Speaking at a conference titled ‘Security of the Arabian Gulf”, organised by the Bahrain Centre for Strategic Studies, Sheikh Rashid blamed wars and conflicts for the instability in the region which have pushed it far away from foreign direct investment and modern technology.
A senior oil executive said Chinese refining giant Sinopec Corp, the biggest buyer of Iranian oil, has no intentions to raise its Iranian crude imports for the rest of this year as it is keen on avoiding tough US sanctions on Tehran’s oil trade. Washington has not put China on the last of countries that are already exempt from sanctions. Obama administration on Monday excluded India and South Korea from the economic embargo. Iranian oil buyers could face penalties from the United States once sanctions kick in on 28 June.
Emirates Airline president Tim Clark on Tuesday said the airline has no plans to make any new orders at the Farnborough Air Show in July. He told Dow Jones Newswires that the Dubai-based airline already has dozens of aircraft on order, with its order books to last through 2022. Emirates had in past announced significant aircraft orders during such air shows. Clark also ruled out any possibility that the Dubai-based carrier would seek an equity investment in Qantas Airways.
The Islamic Development Bank (IDB) is partnering with Dutch asset manager Robeco to launch a $600 million food and agriculture fund to invest in projects that promote steady food supply, an issue widely seen as a catalyst for the Arab Spring rebellions. Food prices grabbed the attention of world leaders after their spike to record highs in February 2011 helped fuel the Arab Spring in the Middle East and North Africa, pushing the issue to the top of the agenda of policymakers responsible for the region.
Jebel Ali Free Zone (JAFZA), a state-owned industrial park, plans to issue a $650-million, seven-year Islamic bond as early as Tuesday to help refinance an upcoming maturity and has set initial price guidance for the deal, arranging banks said. Profit rate guidance for the sukuk is indicated at between 7 and 7.25 percent and the new issue had attracted orders of about $1.75 billion at 1200 GMT on Tuesday, according to an update from lead arrangers.
The Iraqi government has approved an agreement paving the way for the construction of a long-awaited gas pipeline to Jordan. The Iraqi prime ministry approved a year-old memorandum of understanding last week, under which Amman and Baghdad will begin the initial planning of a several-hundred-kilometre pipeline to carry heavy oil and natural gas to the Port of Aqaba, according to an energy official. According to the agreement, Iraq will also supply the Kingdom with heavy oil, a measure that will depend on feasibility studies regarding the ability of the Jordan Petroleum Refinery Company to process Iraqi crude.