EU says ‘transparency’ a must to lure investments

EU says ‘transparency’ a must to lure investments
Androulla Kaminara, the European Union’s envoy to Pakistan.
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Updated 10 March 2021

EU says ‘transparency’ a must to lure investments

EU says ‘transparency’ a must to lure investments
  • Any investment to a country that can lead to jobs is a good thing. What we want to ensure is that there isn’t a backtracking of the rights of workers

ISLAMABAD: The EU ambassador in Pakistan has said that Islamabad should ensure the implementation of labor laws in special economic zones being set up under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) so that European businesses would also come forward to invest in the $60-billion agreement with Beijing to build energy and infrastructure projects.

Western officials have repeatedly criticized CPEC, saying the project is not sufficiently transparent and will saddle Pakistan with the burden of expensive Chinese loans.

“Any investment to a country that can lead to jobs is a good thing,” Androulla Kaminara, ambassador of the EU to Pakistan, told Arab News in a wide-ranging interview last week. “What we want to ensure is that there isn’t a backtracking of the rights of workers or environmental protection in specific economic zones.”

The ambassador said the EU would want transparency, predictability and information about the laws, as well as to see how long tax breaks would be applicable in the strategic economic zone so that European companies could also invest in Pakistan.

“More transparency and more predictability on these types of things will attract investments here,” she said.

Kaminara said the EU had urged the Pakistan government to limit the number of crimes that carried the death penalty as part of its obligations under the Genera­lized System of Preferences-Plus (GSP-Plus) status that has helped the country boost its exports from 4.5 billion euros ($5.4 billion) in 2014 to 7.5 billion euros last year.

The European Parliament Committee on Inter­national Trade last year extended the GSP-Plus status granted to Pakistan in 2014, which enables the country to enjoy preferential duties on exports for the next two years.

The EU’s GSP removes import duties from products coming into the EU market from vulnerable developing countries to alleviate poverty and create jobs.

“Under the GSP-plus obligation, Pakistan should limit the number of crimes that lead to the death penalty,” Kaminara said, adding that the EU would convince countries to eliminate the death penalty, but under the GSP-Plus regime, UN conventions mandate in the very least that the number of crimes leading to the death sentence be limited.

Pakistan has 33 crimes that carry the death penalty and over 4,000 people on death row. “So obviously, we would like to see some addressing of this issue,” Kaminara said, adding the EU would not prescribe where the death penalty should be applied.

Pakistan’s GSP-Plus status has been extended until 2022, but the country has to ensure tangible improvement in its human rights and labor laws record to keep enjoying the preferential incentives.

The EU accounts for at least 33 percent of Pakistan’s total global exports, composed mainly of textile and leather products. The EU published its last report on Pakistan’s progress on the 27 UN conventions in February 2020, citing “mixed progress.”

Under the obligations, Pakistan is required to enact legislation on enforced disappearances, ensure the wellbeing of journalists, appoint human rights commissioners and provide a conducive working environment to aid workers and civil society.

“One of our concerns is the bill for the protection of journalists, which has not been actually tabled, though we understand that this bill has been drafted,” Kaminara said.

The ambassador lauded a recent Supreme Court judgment barring the death penalty for at least three inmates with mental disorders.

“I have to note that most of these people on death row are not there on the basis of terrorist charges, which is of course of particular concern to Pakistan. For other types of crimes, however, we won’t expect them to lead to the death sentence,” she said.

The EU has also been working with the Pakistani judiciary to improve access to justice, manage caseloads and ensure swift delivery of justice to litigants. Under the program, the Pakistani chief justice would undertake study visits to European countries for training, exchange of knowledge and experience.

“It’s a peer-to-peer knowledge transfer program,” she said.

The EU is spending around 100 million euros annually in Pakistan under its development cooperation program to train and enhance the capacity of the police to collect evidence and curb sexual violence against women. It is also financing a forensic laboratory in Lahore to upgrade its equipment to ensure that evidence is not lost, the ambassador said.

“Properly handled evidence can help the judiciary prosecute in certain cases, while evidence that is not properly handled, such as lost fingerprints, can mean that perpetrators of crimes are not convicted,” Kaminara said.

The ambassador said the EU was launching a 90-million-euro program for business development at the local level in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan and Sindh to help women entrepreneurs and small and medium enterprises.

“We are working actively with the business community in Pakistan to see what opportunities exist and what potential impediments exist for them to export in the EU,” she said. “This country has quite a lot of talent, not just in men, but also in women, and if the country is to develop, you need the totality of the talent to be able to participate in business.”

The ambassador also acknowledged Pakistan’s performance to meet an action play by the Financial Action Task Force so that it could be removed from the global watchdog’s grey list of countries with inadequate terror funding controls.

“Huge progress was made,” she said.


Price of oil surges past $80-a-barrel landmark

Price of oil surges past $80-a-barrel landmark
Updated 29 September 2021

Price of oil surges past $80-a-barrel landmark

Price of oil surges past $80-a-barrel landmark
  • OPEC urges investment in production

DUBAI: The price of oil surged above $80 a barrel on Tuesday amid soaring demand from global economies and increasingly tight supply.
Brent crude, the global benchmark, jumped past the psychologically significant landmark for the first time in three years, after five days of rising prices.
Oil analysts believe the surge could have a long way to go. Christyan Malek, head of oil and gas at US bank JP Morgan, told Arab News: “The bull case suggests that oil could hit more than $100 a barrel by 2023, though it could reach that level within the next six to 12 months.”
Another US banking giant, Goldman Sachs, this week forecast a price of $90 a barrel for Brent by the end of this year.
Oil has risen in price by more than 90 percent over the past year as the output strategy of OPEC+ — the oil alliance led by Saudi Arabia and Russia — drained the global oil glut that depressed prices in 2020.
Global crude inventories that ballooned during the pandemic have shrunk to their lowest levels since January 2020 as the biggest oil consumers, the US and China, fuel their recovery.
Several other factors are also behind the recent run. Robin Mills, chief executive of consultancy Qamar Energy, said it was down to “gas shortages and revived demand colliding with US hurricanes and maintenance delays.”
Adding to the upward pressure on prices, oil demand will grow sharply in the next few years as economies recover from the pandemic, OPEC forecast in its World Oil Outlook published on Tuesday.
“Energy and oil demand have picked up significantly in 2021 after the massive drop in 2020,” OPEC Secretary-General Mohammad Barkindo said. “Continued expansion is forecast for the longer term.”
Oil use will rise by 1.7 million barrels per day in 2023 to 101.6 million bpd, OPEC said, adding to robust growth already predicted for 2021 and 2022, and pushing demand back above the pre-pandemic 2019 rate.
The organization said the world must continue investing in oil production to avert an energy shortage, despite the transition to renewables. Upstream oil capital spending dropped by nearly 30 percent to about $240 billion last year because of the pandemic.
“It is clear that underinvestment remains one of the great challenges for the oil industry,” Barkindo said. “Without the necessary investments, there is the potential for further volatility and a future energy shortfall.”
Nevertheless, OPEC is upbeat about its prospects. “Oil is still expected to retain its No. 1 position in the energy mix,” Barkindo said.


Saudi stock market continues upward momentum

Saudi stock market continues upward momentum
Updated 28 September 2021

Saudi stock market continues upward momentum

Saudi stock market continues upward momentum

RIYADH: The Saudi stock market ended Tuesday’s session in the green zone for the third consecutive session, amid broad gains for Saudi Aramco shares, which coincided with oil prices recording their highest levels since October 2018.

The Tadawul All Share Index rose 0.12 percent to close at 11,382 points.

Liquidity in the main market amounted to about SR8.9 billion.

The Saudi Aramco stocks also managed to record a 33 percent rise in its market price since March 2020, while the shares recorded gains of more than 3 percent since the beginning of this year.

SABIC's share also continued its gains for the third consecutive session.

On the other hand, STC shares fell 1.6 percent for the fifth consecutive session.

The parallel market index Nomu ended Tuesday’s session with a slight decrease of 5.25 points, or 0.02 percent, compared to the previous session, and closed at 23918.12 points. The liquidity amounted to about SR88.1 million.


Crypto coins prices seesaw amid growing debate on digital currencies: Market wrap

Crypto coins prices seesaw amid growing debate on digital currencies: Market wrap
Updated 28 September 2021

Crypto coins prices seesaw amid growing debate on digital currencies: Market wrap

Crypto coins prices seesaw amid growing debate on digital currencies: Market wrap

RIYADH: Bitcoin traded lower on Tuesday, falling by 4.21 percent to $41,503.71 at 6:58 p.m. Riyadh time, while Ether slipped down by 7 percent at $2,844.81, according to data from CoinDesk.

Crypto exchanges are increasingly running into resistance from local regulators, who want to be able to monitor their operations better.

Binance, one of the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchanges, said on Monday that users in Singapore would no longer be allowed to buy and trade cryptocurrencies on its main platform, to comply with local regulation.

The Monetary Authority of Singapore this month warned Binance.com that it could be in breach of local laws and should stop providing payment services to the city-state's residents.

From Oct. 26, users in Singapore will no longer be able to deposit fiat currencies, or buy or spot-trade cryptocurrencies on the platform.

In recent months, regulators in Britain, Italy and Hong Kong have said Binance units are not authorized to carry out some activities in their markets, and Malaysia’s financial regulator reprimanded the exchange for operating illegally there

 

Deposit

While cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase said its customers in the US will be able to use the direct deposit service for any percentage of their salary. They can also hold their dollars in dollars or instantly convert them into cryptocurrencies without fees.

“With direct deposit, customers can more easily access our crypto-first financial services and be ready for any trade or purchase,” Max Branzburg, vice president of product at Coinbase, said in a blog post.

“We’re determined to deliver the most trusted full suite of crypto-first financial services to our 68 million users.” 

 

Extreme views

JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon has spoken out about his stance on Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies, stating that anyone who borrows money to buy bitcoin is, in his opinion, a fool.

However, Dimon also acknowledged that there is a potential for the crypto sector to increase its value tenfold in the next years.

"I am not personally interested in bitcoin and am not a buyer. This does not mean that the price of Bitcoin cannot reach 10 times its price today in the next five years,” Dimon said in an interview with the Times of India.

 

Long road ahead

Anthony Scaramucci, CEO of Skybridge Capital, believes that there is still a long way to go for institutional investors to embrace bitcoin and cryptocurrency in general.

He stated in an interview with Bloomberg that according to his experience, most institutions are still not interested in cryptocurrency as an investment and only 10 percent are actively investing in cryptocurrency. While this may be a minority, it is a minority that has some influence.

“The institutions are not there. Anybody who’s telling you there’s institutional adoption into this space is not being totally honest or they’re seeing something that I’m not seeing,” Scaramucci said.


Saudia wins World’s Most Improved Airline award for 2021

Saudia wins World’s Most Improved Airline award for 2021
Updated 28 September 2021

Saudia wins World’s Most Improved Airline award for 2021

Saudia wins World’s Most Improved Airline award for 2021

RIYADH: Saudia has won the Skytrax award for the World’s Most Improved Airline for 2021, Saudi Press Agency reported. 

This award reflects an airline’s quality improvement in different areas. The Saudi airlines ranked 26 jumping 31 places in one year.

The national carrier earned this title for the second time. It first won the award in 2017. 


EV Metals partners with Yanbu Royal commission to build $900m battery chemicals complex

EV Metals partners with Yanbu Royal commission to build $900m battery chemicals complex
Updated 28 September 2021

EV Metals partners with Yanbu Royal commission to build $900m battery chemicals complex

EV Metals partners with Yanbu Royal commission to build $900m battery chemicals complex

RIYADH: The Royal Commission in Yanbu on Wednesday signed a $900 million investment agreement with EV Metals to establish and operate a factory for the production of electric battery chemicals.

The facility will be spread over 127 hectares and the investment volume is approximately SR3,375 million. The project is expected to create 494 jobs.