‘This is Lebanon’s last chance, there will be no other’: Saad Hariri

In front of a packed crowd at the World Government Summit in Dubai, Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad Hariri warned, implored, and educated the audience on how critical it was for his newly formed government to pass his plans for legislative reforms.

“This is the last chance, there will be no other,” he said. “We need to make the reforms pass, and we need to start with reforms not projects first. This has to happen first so the rest follows.”

Hariri was speaking at the World Government Summit where heads of state, thought leaders, philanthropists, business tycoons and change makers have convened for the past three days to ‘shape the future’.

Elected for the third time in May 2018, it took Hariri 9 months to win against political gerrymandering and end a deadlock in the country to name a 30-person cabinet.

Stressing that the country has no time to waste he singled out electricity, waste and corruption among the most important areas he needs to fix.

Having to pay two electricity bills is a common complaint in Lebanon, one to the power generation authority, and the other to the generator companies that supply alternative power because the state provider, Electricity du Liban (EDL), is unable provide 24-hour electricity.

Assumed to worth $1bn, the ‘mafia’ is claimed to have considerable influence, enough to prevent legislative reforms that would hinder its operations.

Hariri said a “confrontation” with the illicit industry was inevitable. “The causes for it are what we see spilling over into waste and garbage collection that is not being done adequately. However, now that there is a government, there is consensus against programmes to tackle corruption, electricity, and waste. It wasn’t possible 5 years ago, but now there is a willingness. It will be part of the ministerial statements soon. All the political parties have approved it.”

Expressing optimism at the “new willingness” to succeed in the country, Hariri said Lebanese citizens should look within to improve instead of laying the blame on having to accept displaced Syrians and Palestinians.

Lebanon hosts roughly 1.5 million displaced persons, accounting for nearly 30 percent of the country’s population. The numbers weigh heavily on the country’s economy, which has been burdeded by public debt of $84 billion, 155% of GDP, and unemployment rates of roughly 30%.

“If Lebanon were to blame all its problems on the displaced then it would be wrong. Our laws toward the ease of doing business need to be improved. In the 90s there was an explosion of growth and we were able to absorb many [displaced], but now while they are a challenge, we must look at the positive and not always the negative. If we pass reforms, we can pursue infrastructure projects, and that would help quote a bit,” he said.

Near the end of his session at the Summit, Hariri encouraged youth in Lebanon and the Arab World to maintain hope and expect to see a much improved country soon.

“A lot of the world’s best doctors and engineers are Lebanese. So I don’t believe we lack anything or that any Arab should leave Lebanon to immigrate elsewhere. Our key problem is ourselves, our outlook and mentality, as well as our technology, and digital platforms. And as the government we will aim to fix all of it,” he said.

The World Government Summit ends today at Mina Salaam in Dubai.

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UAE-based photographer shortlisted for world awards

UAE-based photographer Christopher Madden has been shortlisted for the 2019 Sony World Photography Awards.

British national Madden, who is based in Abu Dhabi, is shortlisted for the image ‘Seeing the Light I’ which he entered into the awards’ Open Architecture category.

Madden, speaking about his shortlisted image, said: “The inspiration for this photo came from an image created by the world renowned architectural photographer Ezra Stoller.”

He will now go on to compete against photographers from across the world to win his category and have the chance to become Open Photographer of the Year, with prizes including the latest cutting-edge Sony camera equipment, flights to the London Awards ceremony, and $5,000.

All the shortlisted will be shown at the 2019 Sony World Photography Awards Exhibition at Somerset House, London before going on a global tour.  The work will also be published in the annual Awards’ book.

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Central Park Towers: Rising above the rest

Dubai’s real estate market is going through a challenging time but despite this, the market is expected to show resilience in 2019, according to industry forecasts.

Long-term residency laws introduced by the UAE government for investors will stimulate greater investment and attract growing interest from foreign companies looking to expand their operations in the Middle East.

As a contemporary urban business and lifestyle destination, Central Park Towers continue to attract new tenants looking for a combination of premium office space, a convenient location within Dubai’s business community and value for money.

Central Park Towers has the distinction of being the largest single-owned office development within the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) free zone, providing efficiency and stability in a secure business environment.

Two key government departments that have recently leased office space at Central Park Towers; the UAE Federal Tax Authority, which occupy three floors and the UAE Ministry of Economy, which occupy five floors in the tower.

The Federal Tax Authority has established its new 63,000 sq ft headquarters in the office tower. The Authority is responsible for developing and managing UAE’s taxes in accordance with international best practices. The Ministry of Economy has relocated some of its departments to five upper floors in Central Park Towers. The Ministry is responsible for developing UAE’s economy through the creation of a pro-business environment that contributes to the balanced and sustainable development of the country.

With an impressive list of new tenants, Central Park Towers has become a vibrant community in a contemporary urban environment with easy access to service retailers, dining options, cafes and premium lifestyle amenities, all of which provide the perfect work-life balance.

In 2018, Central Park Towers also signed several new leases with international companies such as Schlumberger Global, Victorian Government Trade Investment, Tokyo Marine Group and Korean International Trade Association. This is in addition to its existing corporate client portfolio, some of which include Marriott Hotels, Merck Serono, Bank of Singapore and ICICI Bank.

The desirable working environment created at Central Park Towers is further enhanced by a variety of convenient service retailers and popular dining options located within the premises. The Tower hosts brands such as Spinneys and Starbucks, as well as unique and new-to-Dubai brands including Barry’s Boot Camp, a popular American fitness concept; Fogo de Chao, a Brazilian steakhouse and bar; Café Frei, an international coffee house; Nina’s Boutique, a niche floral design company; Bombay Shirt Company, a bespoke shirt tailoring; and Camuti, an authentic Sicilian restaurant. It also houses home-grown UAE brands such as Poke Co, Krave, This Is It, Mama’esh and EnVogue Salon.

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Future cities will become ‘food baskets’, says Dubai Crown Prince

Urban areas of the future will see drastically shorter commute times and will become “food baskets” through sustainable farming methods, according to Dubai Crown Prince Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid.

Speaking in a futuristic hologram-delivered address at the World Government Summit in Dubai, Sheikh Hamdan said that “countries are nothing but a bundle of cities, and their success is related to the success of their economies.”

Sheikh Hamdan added that “many of the world’s cities look to Dubai as a symbol of the future.”

“We have a constant goal to be at least 10 years more advanced,” he said. “The future is supposed to improve the present, to achieve more, so the journey towards the future is continuous.”

During his half-hour long presentation, Sheikh Hamdan referenced research that found that reducing commute time – from a current average of an hour – will result in increased happiness.

According to the study from the University of the West of England, every minute of commute time leads to diminished job and leisure time satisfaction, as well as mental health issues and increased strain.

Sheikh Hamdan also discussed the importance of clean energy, parking and sustainable urban farming.

“The number of parking lots in cities often exceeds 20 percent of land space,” he said. “The main challenge is reducing the impact of this on social connectivity.”

Sheikh Hamdan added that “smart grids for the distribution of energy will enable us to predict the demand for energy.”

“Our homes will become mini-systems to generate power, so every human becomes a producer and consumer of energy at the same time,” he said.

“They will become food baskets as we move towards more sustainable farming methods within our cities,” he said. “Future design of these cities will create living, breathing urban areas with a digital backbone.”

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Sheikh Mohammed inspects Dubai’s new Sky Pods

Unveiled in December last year, the latest versions of Dubai RTA’s Sky Pod have been on show at this year’s World Government Summit at Madinah Jumeirah.

The futuristic mobility system, which will require less power and infrastructure to operate, was inspected by Sheikh Mohammed, Ruler of Dubai and his son, Sheikh Hamdan, Crown Prince of Dubai.

According to RTA the system will use an area of land that is 100 times less than conventional transport systems and its power efficiency is five times less than electric vehicles. The infrastructure required is ten times less than conventional transit systems of the same capacity.

There are currently two models under development. The first model of the Dubai Sky pods units is Unibike.

It is a small-size, and lightweight transit mean fitted with steel wheels to move on suspended rails. They combine the features of high-performance electric vehicles, in addition to sport, recreation ones, and the electric systems powering the vehicle.

The units can be fitted with power generator likewise the bicycle and as such can be driven by the power of riders. Each unit can accommodate one to five riders along with individual transport design. They can travel at a maximum speed of 150 km/h.

The second model of the Sky pods units is Unicar. It is designed to lift passengers for a distance up to 200 km.

These units have a stylish design and conform to Dubai’s global standards. Such ultra-modern innovative systems assist in the smooth mobility through a high-rise network linking between high-rise towers. The unit can accommodate one to six riders and travel at a maximum speed of 150 km/h.

The project is still in its initial stages, as plans for trials have yet to be set.

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National Enquirer publisher denies ties to Saudi Arabia

The National Enquirer’s publisher has denied having links to Saudi Arabia after new questions surfaced about a magazine the company printed last year promoting the Middle Eastern country.

American Media, which owns the Enquirer in addition to magazines such as Men’s Journal and Us Weekly, “does not have, nor have we ever had, any editorial or financial ties to Saudi Arabia,” the company said in a statement.

Around the time of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s visit to the US last March, American Media produced a nearly 100-page glossy magazine celebrating the country as “The New Kingdom.”

The company also sought funding from Saudi Arabia, and it asked the Justice Department if it might have to register as a foreign agent in service of the country, the Wall Street Journal reported on Monday.

Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos broached the issue last week when he suggested that the Enquirer publisher may have Saudi loyalties. In a blog post, he accused American Media of trying to blackmail him with compromising photos.

The billionaire questioned whether critical coverage of Saudi Arabia by his newspaper, the Washington Post, might have spurred the publisher to retaliate against him.

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Third of Arabian Gulf marine life could be lost by 2090

Over a third of the biodiversity in the waters of the Arabian Gulf could be lost by 2090, scientists have claimed as concerns mount about the future of its rich variety of marine species.

Researchers at the Climate Change Forum at the seventh World Government Summit also warned that oceans are heating up faster than previously expected, and the shallow basin of the Arabian Gulf makes it especially vulnerable to warming.

The high-level plenary hosted by the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment (MOCCAE) was headlined by Dr M Sanjayan, CEO of Conservation International, and William McDonough, an architect, designer, thought leader, advisor and a globally recognised leader in sustainable development.

During the session, panelists stressed that oceans, already beset by habitat destruction, overfishing and pollution, now face the specter of climate change.

There is also widespread scientific consensus that if human behaviors and government policies remain as they are, oceans will lose the ability to provide the benefits people have relied on for millennia – food, livelihoods, and climate regulation.

The experts discussed efforts that need to be exerted to protect oceans and their products against the mounting pressure of climate change.

Sanjayan said: “We are a terrestrial species, but unless we preserve the ocean, we are doomed. International accords are calling for 10 percent of coastal and marine areas to be conserved through systems of protected areas. However, the conservation community made a bigger call to protect 30 percent of the ocean by 2030.”

He added: “Today, we are seeing that there is a rising commitment from governments around the world to protecting the oceans. Over 30 countries are willing to make big scale commitment to oceans. That is a unique opportunity to make a big leap forward in ocean protection, given that there is less than 5 percent of the world’s oceans protected now.”

McDonough said: “We live on a water planet, with 70 percent of the earth being covered with water. However, because of climate change, the atmosphere is contaminating the oceans with toxic carbon. Carbon from plastic is the most dangerous. That’s why we need to eliminate the concept of waste.”

Held annually in Dubai, World Government Summit serves as a global platform for leading voices from the private, public and non-profit sectors to discuss and showcase innovations, best practices and smart solutions to shape the future of governments.

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Bahrain’s Investcorp inks $330m US real estate deal

Bahrain-based Investcorp on Tuesday announced that its US-based real estate investment team has acquired eight new multifamily properties.

The portfolio includes 2,510 units for a total purchase price of $330 million, it said in a statement.

It added that the properties span the submarkets of five rapidly growing metro areas across the Southeast and Southwest states – North Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Arizona and Texas.

“Since inception, Investcorp has been one of the most active foreign investors in US real estate. These acquisitions are consistent with the firm’s strategy to invest in high-quality properties with a promising outlook in key US cities,” said Hazem Ben-Gacem, co-CEO of Investcorp.

“We are bullish on the US property market and are eager to scope out more opportunities like these in the coming period, to build on our successful track record to date.” 

Timothy Mattar, head of Placement Relationship Management at Investcorp, said: “The US real estate sector remains an attractive market for Investcorp and a highly demanded asset class for clients looking for more predictable cash flow. The acquisition of these eight properties builds on the period of strong activity for our real estate team.”

Across the US, Investcorp said it targets existing logistics, multifamily and office properties located primarily in the largest 40 metropolitan areas.

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Flydubai sale offers 50% off for travelling companion

Dubai low-cost carrier Flydubai has launched a Valentine’s Day inspired sale for couples travelling booking flights in the coming days.

The airline said flights that are being booked together between now and February 17 will get a 50 percent discount the second booking.

The sale applies to flights being booked in either economy or business class and applies to a variety of destinations on the Flydubai network, including Georgia, Sri Lanka, Zanzibar, Bucharest, Helsinki, Krakow, Prague or Sofia.

Flights can be booked through Flydubai’s website (flydubai.com)

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How a circular economy could save the GCC $138bn by 2030

GCC countries can save almost $138 billion by 2030 if they adopt a circular economic model, corresponding to nearly 1 percent of the region’s cumulative GDP between 2020 and 2030, according to new research.

The report, published at the World Government Summit, claimed that under the prevalent linear economic model, the region is depleting its resources at an accelerated rate, generating unprecedented waste and emissions that are causing enormous social, economic and environmental damage.

It said a circular economy is a holistic solution that seeks to enhance the value and productivity of material resources, and minimize any value leakage in order to have a positive economic and environmental effect.

The concept derives its inspiration from nature’s biological and technical cycles by creating a closed loop material cycle.

The report, developed in collaboration with the World Government Summit and the Ideation Centre, the think tank for Strategy Middle East, said the GCC should target its construction sector which produces 35 to 40 percent of the waste in the region, compared to 25 to 30 percent in the EU, leading to potential benefits of more than $23 billion between 2020 and 2030.

It added that considerable economic, social, and environmental value can be generated through a circular model in mobility by reducing congestion, traffic accidents, and fuel consumption, along with the costs associated with them. A circular mobility model could generate cumulative benefits in the GCC of $69 billion from 2020 to 2030.

Vehicle sharing, would reduce the number of personal car journeys and electric vehicles would cut fuel consumption significantly, it noted.

The research also said GCC consumers exhibit wasteful behaviour in their consumption of electricity, water, and food. Boosting circularity within households could generate cumulative benefits of $46 billion between 2020 and 2030.

“GCC countries are moving toward a path of sustainability, and have set a number of targets relating to renewable energy generation and recycling. However, they still lack a holistic approach for increasing circularity in line with the three principles of the circular economy,” said Alice Klat, director of the Ideation Centre, Strategy think tank in the Middle East.

Marwan Bejjani, partner with Strategy Middle East, added: “GCC countries need to move away from the current linear model described as ‘take, make, use, waste.’ For instance, the region’s households are responsible for the highest consumption of electricity in the world, while their gasoline consumption per capita compares to that of North America, the region with the most intensive usage of gasoline.

“This is not sustainable, so there is a pressing need to move to an alternative economic model before it is too late.”

The report said the Gulf region must optimise the consumption of finite resources by sourcing renewable materials, designing products that can be disassembled, reused, repaired, and/or upcycled, and using resources efficiently.

The region should also dematerialise products – instead of selling products through a one-time transaction, manufacturers or distributors agree a contract with customers to provide the product, maintain it, and eventually replace or recover it. It also involves the practice of sharing durable assets such as cars, rooms and appliances; and using products in a manner that ensures durability.

The report also recommends refurbishing and remanufacturing products, recovering by-products from the manufacturing process and reintroducing them into the production cycle and retrieving discarded materials after consumption and reusing them for new products.

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