New Lord Mayor of London hails maturity of Gulf economies

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Updated 02 December 2023

New Lord Mayor of London hails maturity of Gulf economies

New Lord Mayor of London hails maturity of Gulf economies
  • Michael Mainelli, heading to COP28 in UAE, says appointment of new UK foreign secretary will ‘help deepen connections with Saudi Arabia’
  • Mainelli tells Arab News he is ‘extremely impressed at the commitment to net zero’ in both Gulf states

LONDON: Maturation of Gulf states’ economies presents further opportunities to deepen the relationship between the region and the UK, the new Lord Mayor of the City of London told Arab News before departing for COP28 in the UAE.

Just a few weeks into the role and Michael Mainelli was on hand, like his predecessor, to witness yet another British Cabinet reshuffle.

But with the return to frontline politics of former Prime Minister David Cameron, Mainelli is optimistic that this will further strengthen ties with Saudi Arabia, one of several Gulf states to have announced participation in a £30 billion ($37.9 billion) investment pledge into the UK.

“When it comes to that investment it’s enormously welcome, but what I think is great is it shows how Saudi and other Gulf states have really matured their economies,” Mainelli said.

“They’ve gotten a better understanding of what they want to achieve with their sovereign wealth funds beyond just investments and returns, and that includes knowledge transfer. That’s really exciting as it offers two-way transference between us and them,” he added.

“With Cameron’s appointment (as foreign secretary), you get undoubted foreign policy expertise, including in the Gulf, which I think will prove a good move and help deepen connections with Saudi Arabia.”

Pushing the idea of London as a “hub of connectivity” appears central in Mainelli’s year-long tenure, which he said he is serving under the theme “Connect to Prosper.”

Asked where the Gulf figures in this, he replied: “The Lord Mayor typically spends 100 days traveling each year. Of this, three weeks will be in North America, three in Asia, after which a smattering of other countries.

“And then, interestingly, the Lord Mayor will typically spend two weeks of travel around the Gulf each year. This shows you just how important it is as a destination, being right up there with Asia and North America.”

COP28 in Dubai has been designed with a strict focus on carbon, which plays into Mainelli’s “personal ambition.”

While he would be “going in with an open mind,” he said he would also use the event to revive interest in the notion of voluntary carbon markets, which first emerged during COP3 in Kyoto in 1997.

“I believe there’s a lot more work to be done when it comes to carbon markets … but we do need to get these to work,” he added.

“The initial idea was to have emission trading permits and businesses paid to remove carbon from the atmosphere — typically this would involve planting trees or seagrass — with the idea being we reduce our environmental impact by taking it out of the atmosphere.

“But it became subject to a lot of issues, ranging from the difficulty of measuring to ensuring the carbon was sequestered properly, and frankly also issues of fraud and corruption.”

Despite the initial difficulties, Mainelli remains convinced that it is a feasible and practical solution to reducing carbon levels in the atmosphere.

“It’s just the market hasn’t been fully formed and the basis upon which prices are set not properly calculated,” he said.

Of particular concern is what he described as the “final bit,” adding: “Let’s say I pay you to for a ton of carbon offset a year over a 25-year period, which you agree to facilitate through the planting of a forest.

“Now let’s say having planted that forest, a hurricane hits and uproots the trees, or there’s an avalanche, perhaps there’s a parasite, and the trees are destroyed, maybe the soil doesn’t allow them to grow, or maybe at the end of the 25 years you simply chop the forest down.

“Were any of these to happen, then nothing really has been achieved. All that has happened is you’ve deferred 25 years of emissions.”

For Mainelli, the solution to the issue and restitution of carbon markets as a tool in the route to net zero resides in the “appropriate use of insurance,” which he said would put a financial impetus behind the idea and “drive clearer, harder standards.”

Of particular pertinence, he noted, would be the fact that insurers would not insure carbon capture sites without having conducted “sufficient due diligence.”

Insurers “would crawl all over whoever was planning to set up one of these carbon capture sites, and they’d want to know what trees were being used, where seeds were sourced,” he said.

“They’d survey the ground, they’d ask why it was located at the base of a mountain. They’d do all this, and not only would they insure the site, they’d be building knowledge.”

This, said Mainelli, would be pivotal as that increased understanding would serve to improve the means and methods of carbon capture deployed in these carbon markets, leading to standardization.

It is “fairly evident” that the Gulf is determined to find workable solutions to address the climate crisis, he added.

“I spent a week earlier this year in Abu Dhabi, and also spent a week last year in Saudi, really trying to understand the situation on the ground there, and I was extremely impressed at the commitment to net zero in both nations and in other areas,” he said.

Pointing to the 25 substantial hydrogen projects in place in the UAE and the 40 Saudi Arabia has in the pipeline, Mainelli said there is an opening for closer ties with the City of London.

While development of hydrogen production would always be of interest, he said there is also reason to considering the creation of a sufficient transport mechanism for getting this hydrogen out into the world. This, he added, offers “great potential for collaboration.”

Saudi Arabia’s tourism fund signs agreement with New Murabba  

Saudi Arabia’s tourism fund signs agreement with New Murabba  
Updated 6 sec ago

Saudi Arabia’s tourism fund signs agreement with New Murabba  

Saudi Arabia’s tourism fund signs agreement with New Murabba  

RIYADH: Financing and investment opportunities are set to rise in Saudi Arabia’s new downtown project, with the Tourism Development Fund signing an agreement with New Murabba Development Co.   

This memorandum of understanding aims to foster cooperation and contribute to the Kingdom’s social and economic growth by developing New Murabba, situated northwest of Riyadh.  

According to the agreement, the fund will explore direct financing or investment opportunities in the project through its partners, investors, or contractors, aligning with its policies and procedures, the Saudi Press Agency reported. 

The MoU was signed by Qusai Al-Fakhri, CEO of TDF, and Michael Dyke, CEO of New Murabba Development Co., a subsidiary of the Public Investment Fund. 

The collaboration will also include workshops to discuss potential cooperation opportunities, while New Murabba Development Co. will be responsible for qualifying the project’s infrastructure and foundation.  

Al-Fakhri emphasized the deal's significance in achieving the goals of Saudi Vision 2030, noting that New Murabba aims to provide an exceptional lifestyle, work, and entertainment experience.  

The MoU is an extension of several memoranda and cooperation agreements the fund has signed with the private sector, emphasizing the importance of collaborative work to achieve shared goals.   

Al-Fakhri noted that these agreements would support the TDF’s efforts to promote the tourism sector’s growth and diversity, attracting domestic and foreign investments to make tourist destinations a modern lifestyle model that attracts tourists and offers quality experiences.  

Dyke said that the deal aims to develop a modern downtown in line with Saudi Vision 2030’s goals noting that New Murabba’s design focuses on sustainability standards and life quality improvement, including green spaces, walking paths, and promoting health and sports concepts.   

He added that the project also aims to offer a unique living, working, and entertainment experience within a 15-minute walking radius, along with internal transportation means.  

Established in 2022 by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, New Murabba Development Co. plays a crucial role in realizing Saudi Vision 2030. It focuses on developing a modern downtown centered around the iconic Cube building, redefining Riyadh’s cityscape. 

This initiative is designed to be a cultural symbol for Riyadh, featuring hotel and residential units, office spaces, and entertainment facilities, all incorporating the latest digital technologies. 

Central Bank of Jordan introduces new Shariah-compliant monetary policy tools 

Central Bank of Jordan introduces new Shariah-compliant monetary policy tools 
Updated 28 February 2024

Central Bank of Jordan introduces new Shariah-compliant monetary policy tools 

Central Bank of Jordan introduces new Shariah-compliant monetary policy tools 

RIYADH: Liquidity management in Jordan’s cash market is set to undergo a significant transformation as the country’s central bank introduces new tools for monetary policy. 

Aligned with Shariah laws, the Central Bank of Jordan has introduced these instruments in collaboration with Islamic banks operating within the country. The goal is to enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of liquidity management in the cash market, the Jordan News Agency reported. 

These new measures will not only assist Islamic banks in achieving more flexible liquidity management but also contribute to the establishment of an effective interbank market among them. 

Under the framework of these tools, the central bank will be able to provide Islamic banks with daytime liquidity, overnight liquidity, and liquidity extending up to one week.

This will be done based on the banks’ requests or at the apex bank’s initiative, allowing flexibility in terms of timing, amount, and duration. The Central Bank of Jordan will determine these parameters to align with its operational objectives in implementing monetary policy.  

This move by the central bank comes as part of its efforts to develop the operational framework of monetary policy and diversify the tools at its disposal. The decision is in line with the best practices of central banks and addresses the specific needs of the local cash and banking market, as reported by PETRA. 

In a related development, earlier in January, 16 Jordanian banks jointly launched the first private sector investment fund, committing $388 million to foster the growth of local businesses. 

The Jordan Capital and Investment Fund, established in 2021 with a capital commitment of 275 million dinars ($387.6 million), was officially registered under the 2022 Investment Environment Law, the state news agency reported. 

The instrument aims to inject money into emerging firms with growth, development, and expansion prospects, providing financing to enhance job opportunities and propel nationwide growth, as stated in an official statement reported by the Jordan News Agency. 

As the country’s first and largest private sector investment fund, it is designed to allocate funds to vital and promising sectors, such as food and health security, manufacturing, and information and communication technology. The objective is to harness Jordan’s potential in building the future, it added. 

At that time, Hani Al-Qadi, the chairman of the Jordan Capital and Investment Fund, had said the fund is crucial for achieving “accelerated growth” by fully leveraging Jordan’s economic potential. 

Oil Updates – prices ease as Fed caution, stock build outweigh OPEC+ news

Oil Updates – prices ease as Fed caution, stock build outweigh OPEC+ news
Updated 28 February 2024

Oil Updates – prices ease as Fed caution, stock build outweigh OPEC+ news

Oil Updates – prices ease as Fed caution, stock build outweigh OPEC+ news

NEW DELHI: Oil prices pulled back in Asia on Wednesday as the prospect of a delay in Washington’s rate-cutting cycle and a rise in US crude stocks offset a boost on Tuesday from news OPEC and its allies might extend its output cuts, according to Reuters.

Brent crude futures fell 30 cents, or 0.36 percent, to $83.35 a barrel by 6:02 a.m. Saudi time, while US West Texas Intermediate futures dropped 28 cents to $78.59 a barrel.

On Tuesday, Federal Reserve Governor Michelle Bowman signalled she is in no rush to cut US interest rates, particularly given upside risks to inflation that could stall progress on controlling price pressures or even lead to their resurgence.

Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank President Jeffrey Schmid made similar remarks on Monday. Their remarks underlined concern in financial markets that the potential economic benefits of lower rates will be pushed back.

“There is some profit-taking this morning after the past two sessions recouped the $2 per barrel of Mideast risk premium that crude shed on Friday,” said Vandana Hari, founder of oil market analysis provider Vanda Insights.

“It’s a combined response to the weekly US crude stock surge in the API data this morning and continuing hope that a Gaza ceasefire deal will be reached in the next few days,” Hari added.

On Tuesday, US President Biden said Israel has agreed to halt military activities in Gaza for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. However, Israel and Hamas as well as Qatari mediators all sounded notes of caution about progress toward a truce in Gaza.

US crude stocks rose 8.43 million barrels in the week ended Feb. 23, according to market sources citing American Petroleum Institute figures on Tuesday.

Gasoline inventories fell by 3.27 million barrels, and distillate stocks fell by 523,000 barrels, the data showed.

Brent and WTO futures rose more than $1 per barrel on Tuesday after Reuters reported the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and allies, including Russia, will consider extending voluntary oil output cuts into the second quarter.

Extending the output cuts into the second quarter is “likely,” one of the OPEC+ sources said. Two said a longer extension to the end of 2024 was possible.

Last November, OPEC+ agreed to voluntary cuts totalling about 2.2 million barrels per day for the first quarter this year, led by Saudi Arabia rolling over its own voluntary cut.

Analysts at ANZ Research wrote in a note that such a move by the OPEC+ alliance would likely tighten the market.

Russian authorities announced on Tuesday a six-month ban on gasoline exports from March 1 to compensate for rising demand from consumers and farmers and to allow for planned maintenance of refineries.

Saudi PIF sets 7-year sukuk yield at 85 basis points above US Treasuries: Reuters

Saudi PIF sets 7-year sukuk yield at 85 basis points above US Treasuries: Reuters
Updated 28 February 2024

Saudi PIF sets 7-year sukuk yield at 85 basis points above US Treasuries: Reuters

Saudi PIF sets 7-year sukuk yield at 85 basis points above US Treasuries: Reuters
RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund has set the yield for its seven-year dollar-denominated sukuk at 85 basis points above US Treasuries, according to a banking document reported by Reuters on Tuesday. The Kingdom’s sovereign wealth fund adjusted the yield from its initial guidance of 115 basis points earlier in the day, following strong demand that led to orders surpassing $17 billion. (With inputs from Reuters)

Saudi Arabia introduces clean diesel and gasoline fuels in Kingdom’s market

Saudi Arabia introduces clean diesel and gasoline fuels in Kingdom’s market
Updated 27 February 2024

Saudi Arabia introduces clean diesel and gasoline fuels in Kingdom’s market

Saudi Arabia introduces clean diesel and gasoline fuels in Kingdom’s market

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s sustainability drive is gaining momentum with the Ministry of Energy announcing the launch of clean diesel and Euro-5 compliant gasoline in the Kingdom’s market. 

According to a Saudi Press Agency report, these newly introduced fuels offer lower emissions than traditional diesel and gasoline.

Like their predecessors, these energy sources are suitable for all means of transportation, and are also expected to contribute to preserving the environment and achieving the goals of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, the report added. 

Euro-5 is a standard set by the EU to regulate the emissions of vehicles. 

Saudi Arabia is leading the Middle East and North Africa region in sustainable efforts through various undertakings, including the Saudi Green Initiative. 

The Ministry of Energy said that the introduction of these two fuels comes as part of the Kingdom’s efforts to reduce emissions and reach net zero in 2060 through the application of the circular carbon economy approach. 

The report added that the launch of these resources would encourage car manufacturers to introduce the latest energy-efficient vehicle technologies to the Kingdom. 

In January, multi-project developer Red Sea Global announced that it has become the first company in Saudi Arabia to use low-carbon biofuel in all its delivery trucks.

In a press statement, RSG revealed that the entire fleet of land vehicles is now powered by electricity or biofuel. 

The biofuel is produced from used cooking oil sourced within Saudi Arabia. The type of fuel RSG has adopted emits only 0.17 kilograms of carbon dioxide equivalent per liter, compared with 2.7kg CO2e per liter from regular diesel usage.