A look at today’s important financial news and business updates from the Middle East and North Africa region:
Dubai’s Airport Free Zone (DAFZA) has bagged the Global Free Zone of the Future 2012/13 award. The ranking was given by fDi Intelligence, a division of Financial Times. Dubai International Financial Centre, another Dubai free zone, ranked second. Free zones from the Middle East, particularly those based in the UAE, dominated the rankings. Twenty three of the top 50 zones came from the Middle East region with 14 of them from the UAE alone.
Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA) is the world’s richest sovereign wealth fund, according to a global organisation designed to study sovereign wealth funds. The Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF) Institute listed ADIA’s assets at a staggering $627 billion. The Abu Dhabi Investment Authority was established in 1976 which replaced Financial Investments Board, part of the then Abu Dhabi Ministry of Finance. The Fund is wholly owned and subject to supervision by the Government of Abu Dhabi.
Algeria is emerging as an important voice on the OPEC forum as it is lending support to other countries demanding for higher oil prices. The North African nation is vehemently opposing Saudi Arabia’s moves to lower oil prices by pumping more oil. Energy and Mines Minister Youcef Yousfi said on Wednesday the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) faces a real risk due to a slide in crude oil prices caused by the group exceeding its production ceiling, a clear suggestion that the country is in favour of a production cut.
A study conducted in Jordan has found that wearing hijab (head cover) or niqab (face veil) increases the risk of vitamin D deficiency among women. The National Centre for Diabetes, Endocrinology and Genetics, said it has found in a study that 37.3% of women had low levels of vitamin D compared to 5.1% of men.
The report noted that women who wear hijab or niqab are more likely to have low levels of vitamin D than women who do not cover their heads. The centre said the study was conducted to assess the levels of vitamin D in Jordanians at the national level and to identify groups of the population at high risk from vitamin D deficiency. The rate of low vitamin D was 36.5% among women wearing niqab, 37.9% among women wearing hijab, and 29.5% among women who do not wear any head covering.
Lebanon launched an international media campaign to attract tourists to one of the most favourite summer destinations in the Middle East. The move comes at a time when the Mediterranean nation is facing a decrease in tourism due to the rise in internal and external violence. Prime Minster Najib Mikati and Tourism Minister Fadi Abboud kicked off the campaign in a meeting with public and private sector representatives in Beirut on Wednesday. Gulf countries recently advised their citizens to avoid travelling to Lebanon in the wake of deadly clashes in capital Beirut and northern city of Tripoli. Many political analysts believe the conflict in neighbouring Syria has put the country at risk of a protracted civil war.
Deflation in Dubai eased to its lowest annual rate in four months in May, data showed, dipping to 1.2 percent to extend the emirate’s longest period of price declines since inflation hit a record 10.8 percent in 2008. Month on month prices rose 0.3 percent, driven by higher food costs, ending a series of five monthly falls in the Gulf trade and business hub, Thursday’s Dubai Statistics Center data showed.
The UAE is among the world’s major five coffee re-exporting countries as the value of its trade in the material reaching AED 216 million in 2011 with a growth rate of 48% over 2010. The country managed in placing itself among the world’s producers of foods as it is an important hub located halfway between producing countries and targeted markets and enjoys large storage capacities ensuring the demands of the largest number of consumers worldwide are met, she noted. Sheikha Lubna made her remarks during a visit to a coffee factory in Abu Dhabi. Based on high competitiveness, the UAE is now attractive favorite destination for businesses from around the world, she added.
Saudi Arabia’s winning of 8th position among the world’s 10 high growth economies of 2012 listed by the International Monetary Fund reflects its economic strength and stability, said Economy and Planning Minister Muhammad Al-Jasser on Wednesday. Al-Jasser said the buoyant IMF economic outlook about Saudi Arabia is significant as it comes at a time when most countries in the world are facing economic downturn as a result of global recession and euro zone financial collapse.
Iraq will boost its oil production by 60,000 barrels per day (bpd) in June through increased output from two locally developed oilfields in the south, the head of the state-run South Oil Company said on Thursday. Baghdad aims to double oil output over the next three years as it recovers from decades of war and sanctions and is expected to provide the world’s largest expansion in oil capacity in 2012 as new outlets open.
Despite the sanctions inflicted on Syria, the country’s economy will not “collapse,” outgoing Finance Minister Mohammed Al Jleilati said in an interview with Arabian Business today. Jleilati, speaking from Damascus, claimed that GDP growth this year will be between 0 and 2 percent while the fiscal deficit “remains within normal estimates” and on target of 6 to 7% of GDP.
Egypt’s supreme court has ordered that parliament’s lower house be dissolved following a ruling that last year’s election was unconstitutional. It has ruled that a third of seats elected under the “first-past-the-post” system were “illegitimate”. In a separate ruling, the court has decided that former Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq can continue to run for president in elections this weekend. The court rejected a law that would have barred him from standing.