Plummeting Syrian pound hits new black market low

Plummeting Syrian pound hits new black market low
A specialized website put the volatile exchange rate at 975 pounds to the dollar — more than double the official rate of 434 Syrian pounds. (AFP)
Updated 03 December 2019

Plummeting Syrian pound hits new black market low

Plummeting Syrian pound hits new black market low
  • The drop comes amid a spiraling liquidity crunch in neighboring Lebanon
  • A specialized website put the volatile rate at 975 pounds to the dollar — more than double the official rate of 434 Syrian pounds

DAMASCUS: The value of the Syrian pound on the black market sank to 1,000 to the dollar at some money changers Tuesday, marking a new record low for the nosediving currency.
The drop comes amid a spiraling liquidity crunch in neighboring Lebanon, which has long served as a conduit for foreign currency entering the heavily sanctioned government-held areas of Syria.
One currency exchange office in the Syrian capital Damascus said he was selling dollars on the black market for 1,000 pounds for the first time on Tuesday.
A specialized website put the volatile rate at 975 pounds to the dollar — more than double the official rate of 434 Syrian pounds posted by the central bank on its website.
At the start of the war in 2011, the rate stood at around 48 pounds to the dollar.
In the Old City of Damascus, a trader who preferred not to give his name said everything from food to transport had become more expensive in recent weeks.
“Prices have doubled in the past two months,” the trader said.
“Everybody prices their items according to the new dollar exchange rate” on the black market, he explained.
Syria analyst Samuel Ramani said the pound had fallen by 30 percent since anti-government protests erupted in Lebanon on October 17.
An economic downturn has accelerated since the protests started, and a liquidity crunch has become more acute in a country that has long served as an economic and financial lifeline for dollar-starved Syrian businesses.
As Western sanctions tightened on Syria during the war, many in the country have opened businesses in neighboring Lebanon, stashed their money in its banks and used the country as a conduit for imports.
But Lebanese banks started introducing controls on dollar withdrawals over the summer, straining the supply of the greenback to Syrian markets.
“Lebanese banks are significant for Syria’s economy as they give Syria back door access to the US dollar,” he said.
“Based on commentaries from Syrian businesspeople, it appears as if the economic crisis in Syria is even worse than that in Lebanon as a result of the protests,” Ramani said.
In another part of Damascus, a 30-year-old working in a shop selling computers and mobile phones imported from Lebanon said the store had to increase all prices.
“In the end this is going to be reflected in the market and most people won’t be able to pay according to the new prices,” the young salesman said.
“We fear further collapse,” he added.
Syria’s eight-year civil war has battered the country’s economy, and depleted its foreign currency reserves.
An array of international sanctions has targeted President Bashar Assad’s regime and associated businessmen since the start of the war in 2011.
Authorities estimate that since 2011, Syria’s key oil and gas sector has suffered some $74 billion in losses.
The United Nations estimates the conflict has caused some $400 billion in war-related destruction.
It has also killed 370,000 people and displaced millions more.


UAE’s TIME Hotels expansion plans to include new KSA hotels

UAE’s TIME Hotels expansion plans to include new KSA hotels
Updated 09 May 2021

UAE’s TIME Hotels expansion plans to include new KSA hotels

UAE’s TIME Hotels expansion plans to include new KSA hotels
  • The company currently has one property in the Kingdom, in Dammam, but it will shortly take over the management of two boutique hotels in Riyadh

RIYADH: TIME Hotels is set to nearly double its portfolio of properties by 2025, including new hotels in Saudi Arabia.

The UAE-headquartered hospitality company and hotel operator will reveal its plans to open eight new properties across the Middle East and the Indian Ocean over the next 18 months.

Mohammed Awadalla, CEO, TIME Hotels, said in a press statement: “We currently have 14 properties consisting of 1,465 keys in operation across the UAE and wider GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) with new additional properties opening this year in Dubai, Sharjah, Fujairah, Saudi Arabia and Egypt…Our goal is to expand our portfolio to 30 properties by 2025.”

The company currently has one property in the Kingdom, in Dammam, but it will shortly take over the management of two boutique hotels in Riyadh, the TIME Elite Suites in Al-Muruj and the TIME Express Olaya Hotel in the Saudi capital’s Olaya district.

It also plans to open three hotels in the UAE: the 91-key TIME Moonstone Hotel Apartments in Fujairah; the 99-key TIME Burj Al-Saadah Hotel Apartments in Sharjah; and the four-star, 232-room TIME Asma Hotel, in Al-Barsha, Dubai.

This year will also see the opening of its first two hotels in Egypt: the five-star TIME Coral Resort Nuweiba in the Red Sea resort of Nuweiba and the four-star TIME Marina Hotel & Conference Centre near Al-Alamein on the Mediterranean coast.

The brand is also venturing outside the GCC with the opening next year of the TIME Phoenix Hill, its debut on the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius.


Saudization of schools to create around 28,000 new jobs for locals

Saudization of schools to create around 28,000 new jobs for locals
Updated 09 May 2021

Saudization of schools to create around 28,000 new jobs for locals

Saudization of schools to create around 28,000 new jobs for locals
  • Move is likely to create around 28,000 new jobs for Saudi nationals in line with the goals set out as part of Vision 2030
  • UK’s top-ranked King’s College is to open an international school in the Saudi capital this year

RIYADH: The Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development has issued a decision to Saudize all education jobs at national and international schools over the next three years.

The move is likely to create around 28,000 new jobs for Saudi nationals, according to the Argaam financial website, in line with the goals set out as part of Vision 2030.

Earlier this month, a report by real estate consultancy firm Knight Frank said the Kingdom’s education sector is undergoing rapid transformation across all levels, creating “a compelling case to invest in the education space of the Kingdom.”

Between 2015 and 2019, the number of schools in the Kingdom grew 16.5 percent to a total of 38,150. Eighty percent of these are public facilities, but in the fee-paying private sector, the number of schools over the same time period has increased by 42.1 percent.

Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Investment, in conjunction with the Ministry of Education, also estimated that 1,500 kindergartens will be required across Saudi Arabia over the next decade alone, the report said.

The Saudi education sector is certainly attracting interest. In April, the UK’s top-ranked King’s College announced it is to open an international school in the Saudi capital this year in a deal agreed with the Royal Commission for Riyadh City. It will be the first British independent school brand to open in Saudi Arabia.

British Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Neil Crompton said the announcement reflected the strengthening of ties between Britain and Saudi Arabia in the education sector.


Air Arabia eyes further cost cuts after first quarter profit falls by half

Air Arabia eyes further cost cuts after first quarter profit falls by half
Updated 19 min 43 sec ago

Air Arabia eyes further cost cuts after first quarter profit falls by half

Air Arabia eyes further cost cuts after first quarter profit falls by half

DUBAI: Air Arabia said it would adopt further cost control measures after reporting a 52 percent fall in first quarter net profit to 34 million dirhams ($9.25 million)
Revenues fell by more than a third to 572 million dirhams, compared to a year earlier, as the pandemic continued to weigh on regional air travel, the airline said in a statement on Sunday.
“The impact of COVID-19 pandemic on the global aviation industry remains material and of a changing nature, nonetheless, we have full confidence in the fundamentals and the strength of the aviation industry worldwide as well as the crucial role air travel will play in supporting regional and global economic recovery,” said Sheikh Abdullah Bin Mohamed Al-Thani, chairman of Air Arabia. “While we remain hopeful that air travel restrictions will ease with the increasing rate of vaccination drives across key markets, Air Arabia remains focused on adopting further measures to control costs and support business continuity during this period while we continue to resume operations where possible.”
Regional carriers have struggled to boost passengers numbers amid continuing travel restrictions and a resurgence of the virus in countries such as India which has traditionally strong air travel links with the Gulf.
More than 1.3 million passengers flew with Air Arabia between January and March 2021 across the carrier’s five hubs while the airline’s average seat load factor – or passengers carried as a percentage of available seats – during the first three months of 2021 stood at 77 percent.


Elon Musk says he is first SNL host with Asperger’s syndrome

Elon Musk says he is first SNL host with Asperger’s syndrome
Updated 09 May 2021

Elon Musk says he is first SNL host with Asperger’s syndrome

Elon Musk says he is first SNL host with Asperger’s syndrome
  • Crypto comments move Dogecoin price
  • Musk has previously drawn criticism for mocking SEC

WASHINGTON: Elon Musk kicked off his “Saturday Night Live” debut by declaring himself to be the first person with Asperger’s syndrome to host the US comedy sketch show.
“Or at least, the first person to admit it,” he said.
In his opening monologue, the eccentric tech entrepreneur behind Tesla and SpaceX offered an explanation for some of his past eyebrow-raising behavior.
“Look, I know I say or post strange things but that’s just how my brain works. To anyone I’ve offended I just want to say, I reinvented electric cars and I’m sending people to Mars in a rocket ship,” he said. “Did you think I was also going to be a chill, normal dude?“
Musk has previously drawn criticism for moves like publicly mocking the US Securities and Exchange Commission and calling a cave diver who rescued boys trapped in Thailand a “pedo guy.”
But on SNL, the billionaire took swipes at his own expense.
And of course, as a big booster of cryptocurrencies, he once again enumerated the benefits of dogecoin.
Pressed on what exactly dogecoin is, Musk called the cryptocurrency — which now has a market value of around $72 billion — “an unstoppable vehicle that’s going to take over the world.”
But then he agreed that actually “it’s a hustle.”
For the second time in a week, the world’s second-richest person seemed to drive the value of the digital asset. Not long after its recent surge after Musk’s Twitter endorsement, it was sent on a brief tailspin during his SNL performance.
It dropped to as low as 49 cents during the broadcast after a pre-show high of about 74 cents, according to CoinDesk.
During the show, cast members wondered aloud why exactly the tech billionaire would want to join their set.
With a segment of a Chinese rocket re-entering Earth’s atmosphere around the time of the live broadcast, they concluded that the spaceman “needed an alibi.”


Top US fuel pipeline operator pushes to recover from cyberattack

Top US fuel pipeline operator pushes to recover from cyberattack
Updated 09 May 2021

Top US fuel pipeline operator pushes to recover from cyberattack

Top US fuel pipeline operator pushes to recover from cyberattack
  • Colonial moves 2.5 million barrels per day of gasoline
  • DarkSide is known for deploying ransomware

NEW YORK: Colonial Pipeline, top US fuel pipeline operator, continued work on Sunday to recover from a ransomware cyberattack that forced it to shut down on Friday and sparked worries of a spike in retail gasoline prices.
The incident is one of the most disruptive digital ransom operations ever reported and has prompted calls from American lawmakers to tighten up protection for critical US energy infrastructure against hackers.
Colonial said on Saturday it was “continuing to monitor the impact of this temporary service halt” and to work to restore service. It did not give an estimate for a restart date.
Colonial moves 2.5 million barrels per day of gasoline and other fuels from refiners on the Gulf Coast to consumers in the eastern and southern United States. It also serves some of the largest US airports, including Atlanta’s Hartsfield Jackson Airport, the world’s busiest by passenger traffic.
Retail fuel experts including the American Automobile Association said an outage lasting several days could have significant impacts on regional fuel supplies, particularly in the US Southeast.
While the US government investigation is in early stages, a former US official and two industry sources said the hackers are likely a professional cybercriminal group and that a group dubbed “DarkSide” was likely among the potential suspects.
DarkSide is known for deploying ransomware and extorting victims while avoiding targets in post-Soviet states. Ransomware is a type of malware designed to lock down systems by encrypting data and demanding payment to regain access.
Cybersecurity firm FireEye has also been brought in to respond to the attack, according to the two industry sources. FireEye declined to comment. Colonial said late on Saturday it was working with a “leading, third-party cybersecurity firm,” but did not name the firm.
Bloomberg News, citing people familiar with the matter, reported late on Saturday that the hackers are part of DarkSide and took nearly 100 gigabytes of data out of Colonial’s network on Thursday ahead of the pipeline shutdown.
Colonial did not immediately reply to an email from Reuters seeking comment outside usual US business hours.
US President Joe Biden was briefed on the incident on Saturday morning, a White House spokesperson said, adding that the government was working to try to help the company restore operations and prevent supply disruptions.
The privately held, Georgia-based company is owned by CDPQ Colonial Partners, IFM (US) Colonial Pipeline 2, KKR-Keats Pipeline Investors, Koch Capital Investments Company and Shell Midstream Operating.
Gasoline futures and diesel futures on the New York Mercantile Exchange rose on Friday after the outage was reported. In previous Colonial outages, retail prices have risen substantially, if briefly.
Oil refining companies contacted by Reuters on Saturday said their operations had not yet been impacted.