Lebanon approves World Bank rescue plan for needy families

Lebanon approves World Bank rescue plan for needy families
Lebanese army soldiers stand guard during a protest against the fall in Lebanese pound currency and mounting economic hardships, in Beirut, Lebanon March 12, 2021. (REUTERS)
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Updated 13 March 2021

Lebanon approves World Bank rescue plan for needy families

Lebanon approves World Bank rescue plan for needy families
  • Interior minister sounds alarm on ‘diminishing security situation’

BEIRUT: The Lebanese parliament on Friday approved a $246 million World Bank emergency assistance plan to support struggling families and strengthen the social safety net amid the country’s worst economic and health crisis in decades.

Under the relief plan, 161,251 families classified as the poorest in Lebanon will receive 800,000 Lebanese pounds ($80) per month per family for one year.

The aid program will be implemented under the supervision of the World Bank.

The emergency package is expected to reduce mounting resentment against the country’s political leadership, which is widely blamed for the economic collapse and parliamentary stalemate.

Mohammed Fahmy, the caretaker interior minister, warned of “a diminishing security situation,” adding that “security is a product of politics, and all the country’s systems have diminished.”

He said: “We are part of the people and we are hungry. The political forces must resolve the obstacles to form a rescue government as soon as possible.

“We can no longer take it. The situation is very bad, the country is exposed, and I am sounding the alarm.”

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian warned on Thursday that “time is running out to prevent the collapse of Lebanon, and we do not see any indication that Lebanese politicians are doing what they can to save their country.”

The approval of aid follows growing protests against the economic meltdown.

Protesters attempted to march on the UNESCO Palace in Beirut while a parliamentary session took place, but tight security measures stopped them from reaching the venue.

Meanwhile, the dollar exchange rate on the black market in some regions reached new highs of 11,000 Lebanese pounds.

As the dollar exchange rate soars, the price of essential materials and commodities is increasing, while the value of people’s wages continues to decline.

The minimum wage, once equivalent to $450, has fallen below $62. As a result, public and private sector salaries have lost their value.

In its plenary session on Friday, parliament authorized the government to amend the housing loan ceilings for the Banque de L’habitat from 300 million to 450 million Lebanese pounds, and from 400 million to 600 million pounds.

Parliament also approved an agreement with the World Bank to allocate $5.5 million to support small and medium enterprises.

MP Hadi Abu Al-Hassan objected to financial aid for families, saying that people need to understand “the pain will continue and the loan will not achieve the desired goal.”

Parliament retracted proposals to support the military and security services with 1 million Lebanese pounds per month for each soldier.

The Ministry of Energy’s proposal to give an advance of 1,500 billion Lebanese pounds to Electricite du Liban (EDL) was referred to the joint committees that will meet next Tuesday.

The proposal to give aid to the military and security forces alone in the private sector was met with widespread objections, with activists and some politicians describing it as a bribe for security services.

Public administration employees, who went on strike on Friday, also objected to the plan.

The proposal was rejected by Army Command, which said it had not discussed the proposal, adding: “The military establishment is not concerned with it.”

It stressed that “the citizens have the right to demonstrate to demand their rights.”

MP Bilal Al-Abdallah said that the handling of the economic and social crisis “is a stop-gap, and we are begging for money from abroad.”

Al-Abdallah told Arab News: “We need government formation and reforms. Otherwise, the treatment is temporary.

“I objected during the session to giving the families this aid in Lebanese pounds instead of dollars.

“The Banque du Liban and the banks have made this decision because they want to keep their dollars, and people will not receive the full value in dollars as it will be calculated less than its exchange rate in the market.”

The Supreme Judicial Council on Friday approved the resignation of two judges and rejected applications for deposit submitted by other judges.

 


Saudi TRSDC gets a boost with environmental ISO accreditation 

Saudi TRSDC gets a boost with environmental ISO accreditation 
Updated 25 January 2022

Saudi TRSDC gets a boost with environmental ISO accreditation 

Saudi TRSDC gets a boost with environmental ISO accreditation 

RIYADH: The Red Sea Development Co., achieved another milestone in its journey to develop the world's largest sustainable tourism project. 

The Saudi developer, known as TRSDC, was awarded the Environmental Management Standard, ISO 14001:2015 accreditation.

TRSDC’s Environmental Management System was developed as the company launched the EMS manual in January 2021, it said in a statement. 

With respect to the environment, the EMS aimed at guiding and managing TRSDC’s activities throughout design, construction, and operational stages of the project.

“We made a commitment to ourselves, our project and to the Kingdom to go beyond the current expectations of environmental best practice, to deliver a regenerative approach to tourism development,” CEO, John Pagano, said. 

“Achieving this certification is rewarding for our team, who work tirelessly to deliver against our commitments to the environment in which we are working,” said Raed Albasseet, the chief environment and sustainability officer.

TRSDC is developing an area over 28,000 square kilometres on the West Coast of Saudi Arabia. 

Recently, it closed a SR14 billion ($3.7 billion) term loan facility and revolving credit facility with four Saudi banks.

Last year, it was one of the first companies in the Middle East to achieve the ISO 9001:2015 certification for quality management for design and construction of assets, as well as a Green Financing accreditation.


Global mining group Rio Tinto restarts Mongolian copper project

Global mining group Rio Tinto restarts Mongolian copper project
Updated 25 January 2022

Global mining group Rio Tinto restarts Mongolian copper project

Global mining group Rio Tinto restarts Mongolian copper project

Rio Tinto, a Toronto listed mining group, is once again going ahead with its most important growth project, the Oyu Tolgoi copper mine in Mongolia.

The project began after the company reached an agreement with the government of Mongolia, and solved key issues hindering the $7 billion expansion of the project.

On Jan. 25, an underground caving process was launched, which means that the mine will start production in the first half of next year.

Rio Tinto had previously refused to start the undercut until it ended its dispute with the Mongolian government. Rio Tinto-controlled subsidiary company Turquoise Hill Resources, which owns the majority of the Oyu Tolgoi project, has been fighting with Ulan Batur for years over how to split the cost of an underground expansion that is more than $1 billion over budget and several years late.  

Rio Tinto and its subsidiary have agreed to write off $2.4 billion of loans and interest used by the Mongolian Government to fund its share of the development costs, according to the Financial Times. The government will let the company extend an existing deal to import power from China to at least 2026, followed by another extension until 2030 if a domestic energy source is not made available, according to the newspaper.

“The size and the complexity [of the project] requires an aligned way forward, and we haven’t had that for years, I have to admit,” Rio Tinto Chief Executive Jakob Stausholm said in an interview quoted by the Wall Street Journal. “So it is a big, big step forward.”

Rio has mined copper from an open pit mine at Oyu Tolgoi for a decade. Given that much of the deposit lies deeper below the Earth’s surface, it has been difficult for the company to reach the ore.

Once at full speed, the Oyu Tolgoi project will be one of the biggest copper mines in the world, producing at peak capacity 500,000 tons a year of the metal. It will also double Rio’s copper division output, according to the Financial Times


Tourism Development Fund to develop destination in Saudi city Taif

Tourism Development Fund to develop destination in Saudi city Taif
Updated 25 January 2022

Tourism Development Fund to develop destination in Saudi city Taif

Tourism Development Fund to develop destination in Saudi city Taif

RIYADH: The Tourism Development Fund will invest more than SR300 million ($80 million) in the Saudi city of Taif, which is located in the western part of the Kingdom, in a bid to attract visitors.

The TDF, a goverment-run organisation fund that aims to strengthen the tourism sector has formed a strategic partnership with the distinguished Al-Ameen Compan.

It will see the development of a hotel with approximately 150 hotel units, retail and entertainment facilities, with additional space for a large outdoor corridor and designated spaces for local and international shops in the area.

The 100,000 square kilometre project reflects a modern concept in shopping by integrating the retail sector and leisure activities.

The project reflects the Fund's commitment to developing emerging tourist areas within the framework of the National Tourism Strategy, Qusay Al-Fakhri, CEO of the Tourism Development Fund said.

He added that it will highlight Taif's distinct and promising potentials, including its mild climate and agricultural sector and enhance the region's attractiveness through world-class tourism facilities.


Saudi PIF selects PwC to implement 6 renewable energy projects, CNBC says

Saudi PIF selects PwC to implement 6 renewable energy projects, CNBC says
Updated 25 January 2022

Saudi PIF selects PwC to implement 6 renewable energy projects, CNBC says

Saudi PIF selects PwC to implement 6 renewable energy projects, CNBC says

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, PIF, has selected the global consulting firm PwC as an advisor on six renewable energy projects, including wind and solar plants. 

The projects will be implemented in cooperation with the Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture, CNBC Arabia reported, citing banking resources. 

This comes in line with the sovereign fund’s plan to transform the Kingdom into a green economy and diversify its energy mix. 

With a total capacity of around 2.3 gigawatts, the PIF will start financing the second phase of renewable energy projects that it is working on in collaboration with local companies, CNBC Arabia reported. 

The new phase of projects includes the Shoaiba power plant, with two gigawatts of energy from renewable resources and a production capacity of 900 megawatts, CNBC reported citing an informed source. 

Established in 1988, London-based PwC is a one of the Big Four accounting firms that offers business advisory services. 

 


Leading Norwegian oil and gas producer Vaar Energi plans IPO   

Leading Norwegian oil and gas producer Vaar Energi plans IPO   
Updated 25 January 2022

Leading Norwegian oil and gas producer Vaar Energi plans IPO   

Leading Norwegian oil and gas producer Vaar Energi plans IPO   

Vaar Energi, the third biggest oil producer in Norway, is planning an Oslo stock market listing and to raise capital through two private placements.

The initial public offereing could, depending on its size and market value, be the largest oil and gas listing since Aramco raised $25.6 billion at a $1.7 trillion valuation during its IPO in 2019, according to the Financial Times, quoting data provider Dealogic.

The company, which is valued at between $10 billion-$15 billion, had an average production of 247,000 barrels per day during the third quarter.

The group, which is about 70 percent owned by Eni with the rest owned by HitecVision is looking at institutional investors but Eni intends to remain the majority shareholder after the listing. DNB, JPMorgan, Morgan Stanley and SpareBank 1 are acting as joint global coordinators for the IPO.

“We believe oil and gas will continue to be part of the energy mix for decades to come. The current gas market developments in Europe confirm our view that a reliable and safe supply of natural gas from Norway will be crucial,” said CEO Torger Roed.

Norway is western Europe’s biggest hydrocarbon producer. The company sees the Norwegian continental shelf as one of the most appealing regions for exploration and production globally, thanks to cost competitive and stable regulatory environments as well as low emissions.

Yet recent IPO have faced hurdles as investors insist on sustainability. Vaar Energi wants to achieve zero carbon emissions in its own production by 2030. It is also looking to boost its production to 350,000 bpd by 2025.