World Bank approves $600m funding for Philippine reforms

World Bank approves $600m funding for Philippine reforms
The quick-disbursing loan backs measures to free up retail services and promote private investment. (File/Shutterstock)
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Updated 12 December 2021

World Bank approves $600m funding for Philippine reforms

World Bank approves $600m funding for Philippine reforms

MANILA: The World Bank has approved a $600 million loan for a Philippine reform program to position the Southeast Asian country for a competitive and resilient economic recovery, the bank said on Saturday.
The quick-disbursing loan backs measures to free up retail services and promote private investment, cut the cost of doing business, and expand broadband services to boost investments in information and communications technology, the lender added.
Such reforms are crucial to level immediate and long-term barriers to growth, said Ndiamé Diop, the bank’s country director for Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand.
“Reforms that promote competition in broadband and mobile telecommunications will benefit a large portion of underserved populations by increasing coverage and quality of service, increasing their access to markets, as well as access to remote education and health services,” Diop said in a statement.
Reforms that lower trade costs and improve the business environment will benefit all firms but especially small and medium enterprises, by opening the way to a larger market, Diop added.
The Philippines lags peers in east Asia and the Pacific in direct foreign investment into areas such as retail, the bank said, adding that reforms to the sector could draw investment by levelling the playing field for domestic and foreign operators.


Oil Updates — Crude slides; China's oil output plunges to two-year low

Oil Updates — Crude slides; China's oil output plunges to two-year low
Updated 15 min 7 sec ago

Oil Updates — Crude slides; China's oil output plunges to two-year low

Oil Updates — Crude slides; China's oil output plunges to two-year low

RIYADH: Oil prices fell on Monday, paring early gains as investors took profit from a surge in the previous session, albeit in the shadow of supply fear as the EU prepares an import ban on Russian crude and with a limited increase in OPEC output.

Brent crude futures were down $1.66, or 1.5 percent, at $109.89 a barrel at 0356 GMT, while US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures dropped $1.55, or 1.4 percent, to $108.94 a barrel.

Both benchmarks, which jumped about 4 percent last Friday, earlier climbed by more than $1 a barrel, with WTI reaching its highest since March 28 at $111.71.

China’s April oil refinery output plunges to a two-year low

China processed 11 percent less crude oil in April than a year earlier, with daily throughput falling to the lowest since March 2020 as refiners slashed operations on weaker demand due to widespread COVID-19 lockdowns.

Crude throughput last month was 51.81 million tons, equivalent to 12.61 million barrels per day (bpd), data from the National Bureau of Statistics showed on Monday.

This compared with 13.8 million bpd in March and 14.09 million bpd in April last year.

Processing volumes for the January-April period were down 3.8 percent on the year at 223.25 million tons or 13.58 million bpd.

(With input from Reuters) 

 


NEOM project completely falls under Saudi Arabia’s sovereignty, regulations, clarifies official source

NEOM project completely falls under Saudi Arabia’s sovereignty, regulations, clarifies official source
Updated 11 sec ago

NEOM project completely falls under Saudi Arabia’s sovereignty, regulations, clarifies official source

NEOM project completely falls under Saudi Arabia’s sovereignty, regulations, clarifies official source

RIYADH: NEOM, a project fully owned by Saudi Public Investment Fund, is “completely under Saudi Arabia’s sovereignty and regulations,” the Saudi Press Agency reported early Monday, citing an official source.

The clarification came after NEOM's tourism sector head Andrew McEvoy made comments to media during his participation at Arabian Travel Market in Dubai about demographic status within the megacity, suggesting that residents within NEOM will have a special status, distinguishing them from others.

Read More: NEOM seeks to regenerate the area, offer ‘guilt-free’ vacations

The official source refuted the comment, adding that the NEOM project will operate within “special economic zones subject to the sovereignty and economy of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in terms of security, defense and regulatory aspects.” 

Economic legislation specific to the project area will be developed to achieve the best concepts of governance of economic zones in the world, making NEOM one of the most important attractions globally, SPA quoted the source as saying.


Top CEO Conference and Awards to recognize industry leaders in GCC

Top CEO Conference and Awards to recognize industry leaders in GCC
Updated 15 May 2022

Top CEO Conference and Awards to recognize industry leaders in GCC

Top CEO Conference and Awards to recognize industry leaders in GCC
  • Publicly listed firms in GCC bourses are evaluation on their annual financial performance

DUBAI: Braving the setbacks they had faced during the pandemic, head honchos of top companies will be attending the Top CEO Conference and Awards to be held in the city from May 17-18 to celebrate leadership in the Gulf Cooperation Council.

According to the organizer’s statement, the Top CEO Awards are based on the financial performance, size and corporate governance of GCC-listed companies.

Julien Hawari, organizer of the TOP CEO, Special Edition, said in the statement: “All of the publicly listed companies in the Arabian Gulf stock markets are evaluated on their annual financial performance, and the ranking is not a result of a nomination by a jury relying on undisclosed metrics.”

The statement added that companies are evaluated if they are listed on any of the seven GCC stock markets. Moreover, Hawkamah Institute has provided corporate governance guidelines developed by the Top CEO in partnership with INSEAD Business School.

One of the Big Four has audited the results, and KPMG is auditing the Top CEO ranking for the 2022 awards, the statement said, while adding that Arab News and Al Arabiya News channel were chosen as media partners of the event.

According to Hawari, the awards were created in 2012 to recognize those who created value and boosted the region’s economy while maintaining transparency and good corporate governance.

FASTFACT

One of the Big Four has audited the results, and KPMG is auditing the Top CEO ranking for the 2022 awards.

The statement added that there are 10 categories of companies to be divided into, and the Top 10 CEOs in each category are recognized, totaling 100 awards.

The 10 categories are banking, energy and utility, financial services and investment, insurance, logistics and industrials, malls, real estate and construction, mining, metals and chemicals, retail, FMCG and consumer care, Shariah-compliant banks and financial services and telecom, tech and media.

Commenting on the event, Hawari said: “Global market forces are coming together in the post-pandemic economies to rebuild communities and businesses, and our region is no different.”

Compared to the pause of business in 2020 and slow growth in 2021, the first three months of 2022 saw Arabian Gulf stock markets increase by the most since the global financial meltdown.


Boeing sees sustainable fuel key to reducing emissions as airlines bill hits $1tr

Boeing sees sustainable fuel key to reducing emissions as airlines bill hits $1tr
Updated 15 May 2022

Boeing sees sustainable fuel key to reducing emissions as airlines bill hits $1tr

Boeing sees sustainable fuel key to reducing emissions as airlines bill hits $1tr

RIYADH: As global airlines increase their spending to meet their net-zero carbon targets, Boeing is investing to find new solutions.
The American aircraft manufacturer is working hard to find better fuel blends that will not only reduce emissions but also help airlines become more efficient, according to a top company’s executive.

International airlines have invested around $1 trillion in the last 10 years to reduce carbon emissions and cut dependence on traditional fuel, said Brian Moran, the vice president of global sustainability policy and partnerships for Boeing.
“In the next 20 years, the world needs 43,000 new airplanes. So it’s on us to make sure that we continue this descend of emissions reduction that we have been on,” Moran told Arab News on the sidelines of the Future of Aviation Forum in Riyadh last week.

Investment
“The airlines are buying new, more efficient aircraft. Every generation is about 15 to 25 percent more efficient than the airplane it replaces. At Boeing, we’ve invested $60 billion over 10 years in research and technology to build and design these products,” he added.
Moran said sustainability has become even more important following the outbreak of the pandemic.
“The airlines agreed to reach net-zero emission by the middle of the century. My particular role was looking for new partnerships and supporting the customers on their journey to net-zero,” Moran explained.

Sustainability
One of the main themes at the forum was sustainability and reduction of carbon emissions as speakers from different companies highlighted the efforts of their firms to meet these targets in the future.
A key area where Boeing is investing is sustainable aviation fuel, which Moran considers a vital area for the industry.
“It’s not one silver bullet, but (SAF) sustainable aviation fuel and low carbon fuels on the road to sustainable aviation fuels play a really vital role. And that’s why we’re so invested there,” he added.

Aviation fuel
Moran explained that sustainable aviation fuels are those that are made from different feedstock like biomass residue, different cooking oils, or waste gases.
There are different pathways that have been created to convert recycled carbon by combining it with hydrogen to produce a new fuel, he said.
Sustainable aviation fuel development is part of a larger strategy for Boeing to tackle the issue of sustainability.
Boeing looks at different strategies to do that, Moran added.
First is fleet replacement and renewal. The second is about advanced technology.
The third is operational efficiency, and this is about flying more efficient using digital tools in the cockpit that help the airlines make better choices and to use less fuel.

Boeing's top executive talks to Arab News in an interview on the sidelines of the Future Aviation Forum in Riyadh. AN
Boeing's top executive talks to Arab News in an interview on the sidelines of the Future Aviation Forum in Riyadh. AN


“And here we have an interesting way to look at where fuel is consumed. Fifty percent of flights today are under 1,000 kilometer, but they only emit about 15 percent of the emissions. And on the flip side, 50 percent of the emissions come from 2800 kilometers or more.
“So in the low end, battery electric technology where we’re investing in electric and hybrid propulsion, may have a role.”
“But on the higher end and on the longer ranges, that’s where sustainable aviation fuels come in. And here Boeing has done a lot over the last 15 years.”
“We were there for the first flight in 2008. We started to help certify the first fuel in 2011. We were the first company to fly on 100 percent sustainable aviation fuel on a triple seven and 2018.” 
“Last year, we committed that every one of our products by 2030 will be capable of flying on 100 percent SAF. So you can see it’s a suite of options. It’s an all of the above approach.”
The quest for reducing emissions is non-ending for Boeing, Moran believes.
“If you think back since the 1960s, the dawn of the jet age, we have reduced emissions by 85 percent. Since 1990, alone, we’ve reduced emissions by 50 percent. So going forward, we want to keep on that trajectory.”


Iraq’s prized rice crop threatened by drought

Iraq’s prized rice crop threatened by drought
Updated 15 May 2022

Iraq’s prized rice crop threatened by drought

Iraq’s prized rice crop threatened by drought

AL-ABASSIYA, IRAQ: Drought is threatening the Iraqi tradition of growing amber rice, the aromatic basis of rich lamb and other dishes, and a key element in a struggling economy.

The long-grained variety of rice takes its name from its distinctive scent, which is similar to that of amber resin. It is used in Iraqi meals including sumptuous lamb qouzi, mansaf and stuffed vegetables.

But after three years of drought and declining rainfall, Iraq's amber rice production will be only symbolic in 2022, forcing consumers to seek out imported varieties and leaving farmers pondering their future.

“We live off this land,” Abu Rassul says, standing near a small canal that in normal times irrigates his two hectares (five acres) near Al-Abassiya village in the central province of Najaf.

“Since I was a child I have planted amber rice,” says the farmer in his 70s, his face wrinkled and unshaven, dressed in a dazzling white dishdasha robe. “Water enables us to plant every year.”

Except for this one.

Water shortage

Normally, rice fields planted in mid-May should stay submerged all summer until October — but that is a luxury Iraq can no longer allow.

The country’s available water reserves “are well below our critical level of 18 billion cubic meters,” Shaker Fayez Kadhim, Najaf’s water resources manager, told AFP.

Rice drains between 10 and 12 billion cubic meters during its cultivation period of about five months, so it is “difficult to grow rice in Najaf or other provinces because of the high level of water it needs,” Kadhim said.

Previously, more than 70 percent of the amber crop was grown in Diwaniyah and neighboring Najaf provinces.

In early May, officials limited total rice crop areas to 1,000 hectares (2,471 acres), in Najaf and Diwaniyah only, according to the Agriculture Ministry.

The normal quota is 35 times that.

Water shortages have also led to reduced quotas for wheat farmers.

The country’s annual rice production had been 300,000 tons, according to Mohammed Chasseb, a senior official in the ministry’s planning department.

Climate change

Iraq is known in Arabic as the “country of the two rivers” — the Tigris and the Euphrates. But despite those two legendary water sources, the supply of water has been declining for years and the country is classified as one of five most vulnerable to climate change effects and desertification.

The consequences are dire: Depleted rivers, more intense sandstorms, declining crop yields — all of which add to the multiple challenges the country faces after decades of war and insurgency.

The Tigris and Euphrates, and their tributaries, originate in Turkey and Syria as well as Iran, which dams them upstream. This reduces the flow as they enter Iraq.

Call for action

Kadhim says the Euphrates has dropped to about one-third of its normal level. He wants “political action” to get more water flowing.

Ahmed Hassoun, 51, president of the Najaf farmers’ association, fears the worst.

“There is a risk of seeing rice cultivation disappear for lack of water," he said, blaming authorities.

“We know Iraq will have a shortage of rain in the coming years,” said Hassoun, an agricultural engineer. Despite that, nothing has been done to “modernize the irrigation system,” he complains.