Gulf cash for Belgrade waterfront development

Updated 28 June 2014
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Gulf cash for Belgrade waterfront development

BELGRADE: Serbia has unveiled plans to redevelop the Belgrade waterfront, aiming to make the capital a tourism and business hub, in a controversial 3 billion euro scheme that will be funded by Gulf cash.
The Belgrade Waterfront project promises office and luxury apartment blocks, eight hotels, a shopping mall and a tower resembling Dubai’s landmark Burj Khalifa, albeit a quarter of the size at 200 meters, on the right bank of the Sava River.
It is the signature project of Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic’s government, which has pledged to create jobs and growth and turn Belgrade into a business hub for the Western Balkans. But it has also drawn criticism from architects, economists and corruption watchdogs, who have raised concerns over its design, cost and transparency.
“It (the project) will make Belgrade a regional center and it will attract many tourists,” Vucic said at a press conference held at Geozavod, a renovated 1907 building that dominates the area and will house the Belgrade Waterfront Gallery.
The proposed area for development, Savamala, houses grand, century-old buildings that have become derelict, though the area has started to re-emerge as a cultural hub. Unlike some parts of Belgrade, the area escaped damage by NATO bombing during the Kosovo conflict in 1999 but the right bank of the Sava is blighted by a seedy central railway station and bus terminus.
The project is to be co-financed and led by Dubai-based construction company Eagle Hills, although Eagle Hills and the Serbian government have yet to form a joint venture and define a co-financing model. Eagle Hills has agreed to put up the 3 billion euro ($4.08 billion) cost of the scheme but the terms have not been settled and it is unclear how much the Serbia government will contribute in funds.
It is the latest sign of increasingly cosy economic ties between the United Arab Emirates and Serbia under Vucic, a former ultranationalist who has rebranded himself as a pro-European reformer.
In March, while Vucic was deputy premier, Serbia secured a $1 billion, 10-year loan from the United Arab Emirates to prop up its budget. Last year, Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airways bought a minority stake and gained managerial rights in troubled Serbian flag carrier JAT Airways.
Critics have pointed to the absence of public tenders for the project.
Others question the economic wisdom and viability of the project in a country under pressure to cap its deficit and public debt, which stand at 7 percent and 63 percent of gross domestic product respectively.
On top of building costs, the government will also have to compensate residents who will be relocated.
With unemployment running at 20 percent and the average net wage in Serbia just 380 euros a month, the project appears unnecessarily lavish to many members of the public, who say the government should be building roads and hospitals instead.
Developing the waterfront has been talked about by city officials since the 1970s, but successive governments have never managed to find the funds to finance it.
While that problem appears to have been solved, some economists now question whether there is enough demand for the amount of upscale office space or luxury flats envisaged in the project.


Tunisia to almost double gas production this year

Updated 18 January 2019
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Tunisia to almost double gas production this year

  • The project will be jointly owned by Austria’s OMV and Tunisian National Oil Company ETAP
  • It will include investments of about $700 million

TUNIS: Tunisia will almost double production of natural gas to about 65,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day this year, the industry and energy minister, Slim Feriani, told Reuters on Friday.
The country’s gas output will jump from 35,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day (boed) when the southern Nawara gas field comes onstream in June, Feriani said.
“We will raise our production by about 30,000 barrels of oil equivalent when the Nawara project in the south will start,” Feriani told Reuters in interview.
This project will be jointly owned by Austria’s OMV and Tunisian National Oil Company ETAP with investments of about $700 million.
Feriani also said Tunisia was seeking to attract about $2 billion in foreign investment to produce 1,900 megawatts (MW) of renewable energy in three years. “We will start launching international bids for the production of renewable wind and sun energy. We aim to produce 1,900 MW by investment of up to $2 billion until 2022,” he said.
This would represent about 22 percent of the country’s electricity production.
PHOSPHATE
Tunisia also plans to raise production of phosphate from 3 million tons to 5 million in 2019, he said.
Raising the output will boost economic growth and provide revenue to revive its faltering economy, the minister said.
Phosphate exports are a key source of foreign currency reserves, which have dropped to levels worth just 82 days of imports, according to Tunisia’s central bank.
Tunisia produced about 8.2 million tons of phosphate in 2010 but output dropped after its 2011 revolution. Annual output has not exceeded 4.5 million tons since 2011.
Feriani said lower production has caused Tunisia to lose markets and about $1 billion each year.
Phosphate exports were hit by repeated protests in the main producing region of Gafsa, where unemployed youth demanding jobs blockaded rail transport.