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The Department of Economic Development has allowed retailers of 50 shopping malls and 6,000 outlets to remain open from 10am to midnight during the Dubai Shopping Festival (DSF). “Retailers are automatically able to extend their working hours during the festival with no need to [go] to the DED for permission. Shoppers can witness entertainment and parades with performances by renowned international artists, as well as shows by acrobats, percussionists, dancers and more,” Mohammad Al Shael, CEO of the Business Registration and Licensing Division at DED, said in a statement. The organisers hoped that added hours will not only allow more shopping, but also more shows and events in the malls.

Drydocks World, the ship-repair unit of state-controlled Dubai World, has signed up a deal with Norway’s Aibel to construct the world’s biggest offshore wind power converter platform. Drydocks World will build the facility in waters near Dubai and then tow away the facility for fit out and installation near Dollart in the German maritime boundaries of the North Sea, the company announced at a news conference. The value of the deal was not disclosed. The platform will be 92.3 meters long and 72.8 meters wide and will use 20,000 tons of steel to convert alternating power into direct current, Jan Skogseth, Aibel President and CEO, told reporters in Dubai.

According to the Statistics Centre of Abu Dhabi (SCAD), the annual rate of inflation in the emirate of Abu Dhabi fell to a two-year low of 1.9% in 2011 from 3.1% the previous year. “The main group that slowed down the rise in consumer prices during 2011 compared with 2010 was clothing and footwear, which contributed a negative 67.4 per cent of the overall change in the consumer price index (CPI). The average prices of this group decreased by 13.8 per cent,” SCAD said in a statement while adding: “During 2011, consumer prices for national households increased by 1.9 per cent, and by 1.6 per cent for non-national households and 3.4 per cent for collective households.”

Etihad Airways says it has started selling tickets for codeshare flights with AirBerlin. The announcement confirms the UAE flag carrier’s move to secure a 29.21% stake in the ailing second largest German carrier. “AirBerlin will operate four flights a week between Berlin and Abu Dhabi as a part of the codeshare arrangement starting 15 January using an Airbus A330-200 aircraft,” Etihad said in a statement. The strategic partnership will enable Etihad Airways to place its EY code on Europe-bound flights, with an immediate access to a total of 29 flights a week to and through Abu Dhabi from four German hubs (Berlin, Dsseldorf, Frankfurt, Munich). Airberlin, on the other hand, will place its AB code on Etihad Airways flights from Dsseldorf, Frankfurt and Munich to Abu Dhabi and on Etihad Airways flights from Abu Dhabi to Bangkok, Mal and Singapore, the statement elaborated.

Meanwhile, Etihad Airways has also bagged another trophy after winning the World’s Leading Airline award at the World Travel Awards. The UAE’s national flag carrier was presented the World’s Leading First Class and World’s Leading Airline to the Middle East awards at a gala event in Doha, Qatar. We are delighted to have been named Worlds Leading Airline at the World Travel Awards for the third successive year. 2011 was a fantastic year for Etihad Airways, during which we began to reap the full benefits of financial and operational strategies developed over the last five years,” James Hogan, Etihad Airways President and Chief Executive Officer, said after winning the prestigious titles.

Gold prices once again hit one-month highs after registering an increase of 1.5% this week amid strong demand from major consumer nations. The price hovered around $1635 an ounce, close to the highs of $1646.90 an ounce the precious metal registered a month ago, giving investors more reasons to buy the metal. Analysts say improved demand in India where rupee’s recent gains against the dollar has made it easier to buy bullion to fulfil domestic demand. Sudden rise in Chinese gold imports has also led to a boost in international prices.

Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said his government has no choice but to increase taxes and reduce spending to overcome soaring budget deficit of the Palestinian Authority. The PA’s budget deficit was $350 million at the beginning of last year but trebled to $1.1 billion by the end of 2011. Analysts say the shortfall ballooned due to donor countries not keeping their aid commitments and the global financial crisis. The PA received just $270 million out of the promised $1 billion in aid. Israel’s punitive actions taken in the wake of Palestine’s recognition motion at the UN also dented the authority’s finances and led to steep losses. The Zionist state also collects taxes from the Occupied Territories and withholds them for prolonged periods which hampers economic development and saps consumer confidence.

(By Moign Khawaja – Editor: Arabian Gazette)

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