Biden urges quick Senate action on huge stimulus package

Biden urges quick Senate action on huge stimulus package
The House vote came just days after the Covid-19 death toll surpassed 500,000 in the United States, the world's worst total. (File/AFP)
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Updated 28 February 2021

Biden urges quick Senate action on huge stimulus package

Biden urges quick Senate action on huge stimulus package
  • The package passed the House just after 2:00 am (0700 GMT) Saturday, in a 219 to 212 vote

WASHINGTON: President Joe Biden on Saturday welcomed the overnight passage by the US House of Representatives of an enormous, $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package, saying it moves the country closer to full Covid-19 vaccination and economic recovery.
The package passed the House just after 2:00 am (0700 GMT) Saturday, in a 219 to 212 vote, with not one Republican vote, and moves next week to the Senate.
"I hope it will receive quick action," Biden said in a brief address from the White House.
"We have no time to waste. If we act now, decisively, quickly and boldly, we can finally get ahead of this virus."
The vote in the House meant that "we're one step closer to vaccinating the nation, we are one step closer to putting $1,400 in the pockets of Americans, we're one step closer to extending unemployment benefits for millions of Americans who are shortly going to lose them."
He said the bill -- which would be the second-largest US stimulus ever, after a $2 trillion package approved in March -- would also help schools reopen safely and allow local and state governments to avoid "massive layoffs for essential workers."
The House vote came just days after the Covid-19 death toll surpassed 500,000 in the United States, the world's worst total.
Democrats have called the aid package a critical step in supporting millions of families and businesses devastated by the pandemic. It extends unemployment benefits, set to expire mid-March, by about six months.
But Republicans say it is too expensive, fails to target aid payments to those most in need, and could spur damaging inflation.
The administration appears poised to use a special approach requiring only 51 votes in the 100-seat Senate -- meaning the vote of every Democrat, plus a tie-breaking vote by Vice President Kamala Harris, would be required.
But progressives suffered a major setback when a key Senate official ruled Thursday that the final version of the bill in that chamber could not include a minimum wage hike.
Biden campaigned extensively on raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, from the $7.25 rate that has stood since 2009. Progressives have been pushing the raise as a Democratic priority.
In his remarks Saturday, the president made no mention of the issue, a source of discord within the party.
Most Republicans, and a few Democrats, opposed the higher wage, so having it stripped from the Senate version of the legislation could actually ease its passage.


Oilfields Supply Center to invest $570m in new facility at Saudi energy park

Oilfields Supply Center to invest $570m in new facility at Saudi energy park
Updated 19 April 2021

Oilfields Supply Center to invest $570m in new facility at Saudi energy park

Oilfields Supply Center to invest $570m in new facility at Saudi energy park
  • The OSC base will contribute to Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 efforts to localize more of the energy supply chain

RIYADH: Oilfields Supply Center Limited (OSC) is to invest $570 million building a center at the King Salman Energy Park (SPARK).

The OSC base, measuring 1 million square meters and including multiple areas and zones, will contribute to Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 efforts to localize more of the energy supply chain.

“OSC is providing pre-built industrial solutions which de-risk the set-up phase for investors and give them flexibility to rent industrial facilities and workshops on demand, in addition to providing a full set of supporting services,” Dr. Mohammad Yahya Al-Qahtani, chairman of the SPARK board of directors, said in a press statement on Monday. “The base is expected to create thousands of jobs in the energy fields.” 

Iqbal Mohammad Abedin, OSC’s director and corporate affairs general manager, said all phases of work on the site were due to be completed by the fourth quarter of 2023. 

Dr. Mohammad Yahya Al-Qahtani

“The creation of an oil and gas supply base on site at SPARK, the region’s only fully integrated energy hub, is another example of how the project complements Aramco’s In-Kingdom Total Value Add Program, which encourages the development of a diverse, sustainable and globally competitive energy sector in the Kingdom,” Abedin said. 

SPARK will be built in three phases. Last month, it announced that 80 percent of the infrastructure work for phase one had been completed, with the remaining 20 percent due to be finished this year. 

The first phase’s near-completion means the allotted land is ready for investment, and 35 investment applications have been approved for companies and their support services. Contracts have already been signed with 23 other companies, the company said in March.

Two strategic agreements have also been signed with the Industrialization and Energy Services Co. (TAQA) and the Arab Minerals Co. (AMCO).

Under the agreement, TAQA is seeking to expand its local operations through the TAQA Industrial Complex, with an initial investment of up to SR300 million ($80 million). AMCO is investing SR260 million to develop a new center in the city.

SPARK is being built on an area of 50 square kilometers. Phase one will be 14 square kilometers, in addition to a dedicated logistics zone and dry port.

OSC is owned by the Dubai government and was established in the early 1960s.


Libya’s NOC declares force majeure on Hariga port in statement

Libya’s NOC declares force majeure on Hariga port in statement
Updated 19 April 2021

Libya’s NOC declares force majeure on Hariga port in statement

Libya’s NOC declares force majeure on Hariga port in statement

TRIPOLI:  Libya's National Oil Corp (NOC) declared force majeure on Monday on exports from the port of Hariga and said it could extend the measure to other facilities due to a budget dispute with the country's central bank.
Daily lost income "may exceed 118 million dinars ($26 million)", NOC said in its statement.
Arabian Gulf Oil Co (AGOCO), the NOC subsidiary which runs Hariga, said on Sunday it had suspended output because it had not received its budget since September. Its Hariga port manager and an oil engineer said production had been reduced.
NOC said the Central Bank of Libya (CBL) had refused to finance the oil sector for months, adding that "this painful reality may extend to the rest of the companies".
Libyan oil output was halted for much of last year after eastern-based forces in the country's civil war blockaded oil terminals, causing NOC to declare force majeure on all exports.
Production resumed after a deal that emerged after fighting ended last summer, but before the major peacemaking effort that has led to a new unity government.


UAE’s Emaar Entertainment in $270m plan to expand cinema brand in KSA

UAE’s Emaar Entertainment in $270m plan to expand cinema brand in KSA
Updated 19 April 2021

UAE’s Emaar Entertainment in $270m plan to expand cinema brand in KSA

UAE’s Emaar Entertainment in $270m plan to expand cinema brand in KSA
  • The partners plan to invest about SR1 billion ($270 million) launching Reel Cinemas in Saudi Arabia over the next five years
  • The first outlet will be launched in Riyadh in December

RIYADH: UAE-based Emaar Entertainment, a unit of the developer behind Dubai Mall and Burj Khalifa, has entered into a partnership with Saudi Arabia’s GOSI Investment Ventures to expand its Reel Cinemas chain into the Kingdom.

“The partnership plans an aggressive expansion into the Kingdom’s entertainment market, which means reaching cinema fans no matter where they are in Saudi Arabia,” the companies said in a statement on Monday.

“Within the next five years, audiences can look forward to twenty new venues which will include both cinemas and family entertainment centres across the Kingdom.”

The partners plan to invest about SR1 billion ($270 million) launching Reel Cinemas in Saudi Arabia over the next five years. The first outlet will be launched in Riyadh in December.

The announcement comes just days after the third anniversary of the reopening of cinemas in the Kingdom.

The first cinema was opened in Riyadh on April 18, 2018, and the most recent opened last week in Hail with 10 screens and 1,309 seats, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.

During the past three years, 34 cinemas were opened in 12 Saudi cities. Eleven companies have opened 342 screens with more than 35,000 seats, with another 70 cinema outlets expected to open in the short term.

The SPA said around 12 million cinema tickets were sold in those three years, and the sector has created around 2,500 direct jobs.

Saudi Arabia’s first home-grown cinema chain, MUVI Cinemas, earlier this month announced a SR820 million expansion plan.

It intends to grow to 307 screens nationwide over the next 12 months, launching 23 new sites and adding 204 screens.

The expansion will initially see nine new sites in Riyadh, seven in Jeddah, and two each in Taif, Alkhobar, Khamis Mushait and Al-Kharj. Buraidah and Uniazah will soon welcome their first-ever MUVI locations.

MUVI CEO Sultan Alhokair said the company’s plan for 2021 “far exceeds” its original goals for the year.

“After seeing the potential opportunities across the Kingdom, and in light of the strong box office growth and market share obtained, we’re now confidently in a position to inaugurate 23 new locations — all of which will feature the world’s most cutting-edge cinema technologies,” he added.


Abu Dhabi’s G42 forms big data JV with Israeli defense company Rafael

Abu Dhabi’s G42 forms big data JV with Israeli defense company Rafael
Updated 19 April 2021

Abu Dhabi’s G42 forms big data JV with Israeli defense company Rafael

Abu Dhabi’s G42 forms big data JV with Israeli defense company Rafael
  • The joint venture will have a research and development site in Israel and will develop products for sectors including banking, health care and public safety

DUBAI: Abu Dhabi-based technology company Group 42 (G42) has formed a joint venture with Israel’s state-owned Rafael Advanced Defense Systems to commercialize artificial intelligence and big data technologies, the companies said on Monday.
The joint venture, called Presight.AI, will have a research and development site in Israel and will develop products for sectors including banking, health care and public safety, to be sold in Israel, the United Arab Emirates and internationally.
Israel and the UAE agreed to normalize relations in August, triggering a number of announcements from businesses stating their intention to cooperate across the two countries.
UAE Ambassador to Israel Mohamad Al-KHajja said the joint venture strengthened the relationship between Israel and the UAE and opportunities for bilateral economic growth.
G42 is an Abu Dhabi-based artificial intelligence and cloud computing company set up in 2018 which works with government and private clients. In September it became the first UAE company to open an international office in Israel.
UAE national security adviser Sheikh Tahnoon bin Zayed Al Nahyan is its chairman and a shareholder. Abu Dhabi’s sovereign fund Mubadala in November invested in G42 and last week US private-equity firm Silver Lake invested to help the company expand.
G42 rose to prominence last year as it led Phase III clinical trials of a vaccine developed by Sinopharm’s China National Biotec Group (CNBG) in the UAE and regional countries, as well as offering medical diagnostic services.
The joint venture agreement is subject to regulatory approvals by Israeli and UAE authorities.


More than 1,000 Saudi businesses benefit from $586.5m in Monshaat funding

More than 1,000 Saudi businesses benefit from $586.5m in Monshaat funding
Updated 19 April 2021

More than 1,000 Saudi businesses benefit from $586.5m in Monshaat funding

More than 1,000 Saudi businesses benefit from $586.5m in Monshaat funding
  • Overall, the ‘Kafalah’ program has provided more than SR14.407 billion in 8,718 guarantees

RIYADH: The General Authority for Small and Medium Enterprises (Monshaat) has financed 1,130 SMEs with about SR2.2 billion ($586.5 million) over 15 months through the end of March 2021.
Overall, the ‘Kafalah’ program has provided more than SR14.407 billion in 8,718 guarantees, Monshaat told the Al-Eqtisadiah newspaper.
The Kafalah program was founded in 2006 as a joint initiative between the Kingdom’s ministry of finance and Saudi commercial banks to help overcome SME financing constraints.
Monshaat said that financing could reach a maximum of SR7.5 million and there is no minimal range for applicants.
Enterprise Support Centers also offer a package of programs to develop small and medium enterprises and entrepreneurs, the Authority added.
Support is also offered in the form of training and networking with other companies operating in a similar field.