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BEIRUT, June 18 : Lebanon Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri on Tuesday called for parliament to quickly approve the country’s 2019 budget and urged his coalition government to avoid internal disputes.The cabinet this month agreed a budget plan that shrinks the projected fiscal deficit by 4 percentage points from last year to 7.6% by cutting spending and raising taxes and other fees.“What I want during the debate is for us to be responsible and united, and not contradictory,” Hariri said in a statement, addressing cabinet ministers as to their comportment during the parliament debate.Parliament’s finance committee is debating the draft budget and has suggested amendments, local newspapers reported. It will then put the budget to the full assembly to ratify it.Parliament is mostly composed of parties that are also present in the coalition government and which supported the budget there.Since the budget was agreed there have been fierce arguments between parties in the coalition over several subjects, though these have not targeted the budget.Lebanon has one of the world’s heaviest debt burdens, equivalent to about 150% of GDP, and the International Monetary Fund has urged it to cut spending.“We have held 19 cabinet meetings to agree on this draft budget and these sessions were not for fun, but for deep, detailed debate over every clause and every idea,” Hariri said.“For this reason, I consider it the responsibility of each of us in government to have ministerial solidarity...to defend in parliament the decision that we have taken together,” he added.After the 2019 budget is agreed, the cabinet must quickly start working on the 2020 budget and on approving the first phase of a program of investments toward which foreign donors have offered $11 billion in project financing. (Reporting by Angus McDowall, editing by Ed Osmond)
LONDON: Ireland has announced it will ban the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles by 2030 as part of its new climate change plan.
The government hopes to have 950,000 electric vehicles on Irish roads by then, supported by a network of charging stations.
The measure is one of 180 proposals covering business, construction, transport, agriculture and waste management intended to put Ireland on a path to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050.
“Our approach will be to nudge people and businesses to change behavior and adapt new technologies through incentives, disincentives, regulations and information,” said Prime Minister Leo Varadkar.
“Our objective... is to transition to a low-carbon and climate-resilient society. Our call to action in the fight to save our planet,” he added.
Dublin hopes to increase its level of electricity generated from renewable energy from 30 percent of the total mix to 70 percent by 2030.
The “Climate Action Plan” also includes the elimination of non-recyclable plastic and higher fees on the production of materials that are difficult to recycle.
Friends of the Earth Director Oisin Coghlan called the plan “the biggest innovation in Irish climate policy in 20 years.”
But Greenpeace criticized the government for not committing to the 2050 target, only making it a goal.
PARIS: Saudi Arabian Airlines has decided to expand its order of the existing Airbus A320neo family of planes from 35 to as many as 100, including 35 options, the companies said.
The additional firm order takes the airline’s order from the A320neo family of aircraft to 65, of which 15 are the new Airbus A321XLR planes, the companies said on Tuesday.
LONDON: London Heathrow, Europe’s busiest airport, on Tuesday issued plans for its controversial third runway, including the rerouting of rivers and roads, as it sought also to allay environmental concerns.
Britain’s government last year finally approved the third runway after decades of acrimonious debate.
“Heathrow today unveils its preferred masterplan for expansion,” said a statement from the airport, which is owned by a consortium led by Spanish infrastructure giant Ferrovial.
The detailed plan includes “tough new measures” to reduce emissions, limit noise and curb night-time flights.
The M25 motorway that rings London will be rerouted under the new runway, while river corridors will also be diverted.
“We’re working with those impacted residents, communities and local authorities to identify appropriate mitigation measures,” the plan said.
“New river corridors will be created to channel the existing rivers and wildlife away from construction sites and the new runway.”
Construction is expected to start in 2022, with the runway built by approximately 2026. New terminals will not be ready until around 2050.
The expansion is expected to cost about £30 billion ($38 billion, €34 billion), according to the BBC, including £14 billion on the first phase.
The hub, west of London, aims to increase its total capacity to 130 million passengers per day, compared with the current level of about 78 million.
“Expansion must not come at any cost,” said Emma Gilthorpe, Heathrow’s executive director for expansion, presenting a new public consultation that will run until September.
“That is why we have been working with partners at the airport, in local communities and in government to ensure our plans show how we can grow sustainably and responsibly — with environmental considerations at the heart of expansion.
“This consultation is an opportunity for people to have their say on our preferred masterplan,” she added.
Heathrow will also issue compensation for affected homeowners, and establish a noise insulation policy and a community fund.
The third runway has faced stiff opposition for many years from campaigners who cited the negative impacts on noise and air pollution, habitat destruction, transport congestion, and climate change.
Last month, London Mayor Sadiq Khan, along with environmental charities and local councils, lost a court battle to prevent the Heathrow expansion.
Britain’s Conservative government argues that the project will provide a major boost to Britain’s post-Brexit economy and could create up to 114,000 local jobs by 2030.
Heathrow is owned by an investment consortium comprising also sovereign wealth funds from nations including China, Singapore and Qatar.
LE BOURGET: Airbus struck a $6 billion plane deal with Philippines budget airline Cebu Air on Tuesday, extending its lead on orders at a subdued Paris Airshow as rival Boeing struggles following the grounding of its top-selling jet.
Cebu’s order included 10 of Airbus’s new long-range A321XLR passenger aircraft, which was launched at the show on Monday, as well as 16 wide-body A330neos and five single-aisle A320neos.
Reuters reported on Monday that Cebu was poised to buy more than two dozen Airbus planes.
Sources familiar with the matter say American Airlines and leasing giant GECAS are also in talks to buy the A321XLR, which aims to carve out new routes for airlines with smaller planes and steal a march on Boeing’s plans for a potential all-new mid-market jet, the NMA.
Despite the flurry of activity around the A321XLR, however, dealmaking at the aerospace industry’s biggest annual event has been quieter than normal, fueling speculation that a decade-long boom in orders might be coming to an end.
With airlines struggling with over-capacity, slowing economies and geopolitical tensions, some analysts warn Airbus and Boeing could face a growing number of cancellations from their bulging order books.
Boeing in particular is suffering after the grounding of its MAX 737 aircraft in March following two deadly crashes.
However, the planemakers are confident of continued strong demand for more fuel-efficient planes as emissions regulations tighten and as air travel continues to rise, driven by Asia’s growing middle classes. Boeing on Monday increased its 20-year industry demand forecast.
“Although investors have started to ask questions about the state of the upcycle, the aerospace industry remains very confident in the current state of the market,” analysts at Vertical Research Partners said in a note.
Cebu Air Chief Financial Officer Andrew Huang told a news conference the 16 A330neo jets it was buying would have up to 460 seats, allowing the airline to add new international routes.
Cebu, which operates the Cebu Pacific brand, had a 51 percent share of the Philippine domestic market in 2018, according to company data. In the international market, its 19 percent share was second only to full-service rival Philippine Airlines with 28 percent.
After announcing no major aircraft orders on Monday, Boeing could unveil some on Tuesday, including a potential deal with Air Lease Corp. whose founder Steven Udvar-Hazy told reporters on Monday he would be “at Boeing tomorrow.”
NAIROBI: Carrefour will open its first store in Uganda this year, expanding in the region after a successful launch in neighboring Kenya, the Dubai-based operator of the French retailer’s outlets said on Tuesday.
Majid al Futtaim (MAF), a United Arab Emirates-based mall developer that holds Carrefour franchise rights in 37 countries, opened its first store in Kenya in 2016, securing rapid growth in a country where just 30 percent of retail transactions take place on the formal market.
MAF has already secured space at a large mall in the Ugandan capital Kampala and has hired 150 workers ahead of the launch of the store, said Hani Weiss, CEO of MAF Retail in a statement.
“This announcement brings us a step closer toward realizing our long-term expansion plan for East Africa. Uganda is considered one of the fastest growing economies in Africa,” Weiss said.
A second store in the Ugandan capital will be opened early next year, he said.
DUBAI: Fatih Birol, executive director of the International Energy Agency, cracked a joke in the Financial Times a couple of weeks ago.
“Hydrogen is the fuel of the future, and it always will be,” he wrote about the fuel that many experts agree could hold the key to the world’s energy problems.
It was a deliberate poke at those experts who think that the sheer logistics of hydrogen — generation, storage, and transportation — make it always an unlikely solution to global energy challenges.
Birol’s article was followed by a report from the IEA that put some meat on the bones of the argument that hydrogen is key to solving such problems as global warming and environmental degradation.
“The world has an important opportunity to tap into hydrogen’s vast potential to become a critical part of a more sustainable and secure energy future … The world should not miss this unique chance to make hydrogen an important part of our clean and secure energy future,” the report said.
That argument will get a critical boost today, when Saudi Aramco, the biggest oil company in the world, opens its first hydrogen fueling station in Dhahran Techno Valley, in the heart of the Kingdom’s oil producing region.
Aramco has partnered with Air Products, a US company that has been a pioneer in the use of industrial gases, to produce a filling station for hydrogen-fueled vehicles.
It is very much a test. “The collected data during this pilot phase of the project will provide valuable information for the assessment of future applications of this emerging transport technology in the local environment,” Aramco said when the project was first announced.
But it is something Aramco has been investigating for a long time. Ahmed Al-Khowaiter, Aramco’s chef technology officer, said: “The use of hydrogen derived from oil or gas to power fuel cell electric vehicles represents an exciting opportunity to expand the use of oil in clean transport.”
Hydrogen — essentially what is left when you take the oxygen out of water — has been recognized as a potential fuel source for many decades. Motor manufacturers developed a hydrogen motor engine 50 years ago, but the ease and accessibility of hydrocarbon fuels — oil, gas and coal — made it uneconomic to develop this technology beyond the prototype stage.
Now, as the debate over the role of hydrocarbons in the global environmental balance has become ever more intense, some experts, including Birol and other influential parts of the thought-leadership establishment, believe hydrogen is the next Big Thing in global energy trends.
The World Economic Forum (WEF) said recently that “green” hydrogen offers a solution to the world energy challenge, and that is the problem the theoreticians are struggling with: Hydrogen is released naturally in the process of burning hydrocarbons, but it is self-defeating, in an environmental sense. if you have to burn oil, gas or coal to produce it.
On the other hand, renewable sources, like sun, wind and water, do not produce enough hydrogen to be practically or commercially viable, and not at the right times, when people actually need it.
But, as the WEF noted recently “low-cost green hydrogen is coming”, as technology advances mean the cost of renewable energy falls dramatically each year. The Middle East already has a very big and very cost-efficient program for solar energy generation.
The other challenges lay in how to store and transport hydrogen. It can be loaded onto a tanker like LNG, or pushed through pipelines, but it would require a huge investment to change current logistics systems — essentially designed for oil and LNG — to handle hydrogen.
Many countries, including Saudi Arabia, already have the infrastructure associated with oil and gas refining and petrochemicals production to be able to equip “hydrogen hubs,” as long as there is government will and commercial incentive to do so.
For the Kingdom, it looks like a no-brainer for the future. As Birol said: “So, hydrogen offers tantalising promises of cleaner industry and emissions-free power. Turning it into energy produces only water, not greenhouse gases. It’s also the most abundant element in the universe. What’s not to like?”
ArabClicks, a performance-based e-marketing platform, has signed a joint strategic cooperation agreement with Basma Media, developer of omnesmedia.com. The two parties aim to build effective relationships and foster business connections between publishers and social media influencers on the one hand, and various e-commerce platforms operating in the Arab world on the other, thus laying the foundation stone for the largest digital marketing network in the Arab region.
The agreement was signed by ArabClicks Co-founder and CEO Mauro Romano, and Nasser Al-Sarami, CEO of Basma Media, at the latter’s headquarters in Dubai Media City.
According to the agreement, Basma Media will work with various publishers, media professionals and social media influencers in the Arab world to familiarize them with the mechanism employed by ArabClicks and then connect them to the platform. The intent is to benefit from the media content provided by these publishers to promote commodities and products marketed across Arab e-commerce platforms such as Noon, Namshi, Sivvi, Java, eBay and Tajawal, and benefit from sales commissions.
Romano said: “We are delighted to partner with Basma Media to reach out to the largest segment of media professionals and influencers in the Arab world. Through the partnership, we seek to capitalize on the exponential growth of e-commerce which has become a key business sector in the Middle East, where ArabClicks is supporting and assisting various businesses in enhancing their market share of the steadily growing electronic sales in the region.”
Al-Sarami said: “Over the past two years, we have been working at Basma Media to strengthen the omnesmedia.com platform with as many databases as possible for the benefit of media organizations and influencers. Today, the platform incorporates a database of more than 10,000 influencers and around 35,000 geographically diversified influential media people, in addition to 3,000 freelance gifted innovators working in various media production fields as well as 23,000 titles for various media products representing seven different types of mass media covering 35 countries all over the world, a record which makes us one of the key and largest media references on the Arab and international levels. And that’s the reason it would be easy for ArabClicks to deliver its message through omnesmedia.com in a successful way to the benefit of all parties concerned, including influencers and publishers as well as brands, rights holders and e-commerce platforms.”
Romano added: “With its innovative marketing tools based on transforming web content into a potential source of revenue, ArabClicks provides assistance to e-commerce companies to enhance their reach to various segments of society and to grow in the Middle East market, therefore, helping publishers do business and make easy money through web links, seamlessly and without introducing any changes to the published content or disturbing site users in any way.”
Saudi Arabian Airlines (Saudia), the Kingdom’s national flag carrier, has launched a set of collector-edition amenity kits under the brand “Fly Through Our Heritage.”
The new comfort kits provide a mosaic of colors and images that represent the features and cultural elements of five regions of Saudi Arabia: Southern region (Al-Qatt Al-Asiri decorative art), Eastern region (Al-Ahsa pattern decorative art), Western region (Hejazi rowshan wooden windows), Central region (Najdi doors with unique pattern and decorative art), and Northern region (sadou fabric craft).
The new kits will be shared with guests flying on designated as well as long-haul routes with more than seven hours of flying time.
The kits have been created in collaboration with the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Heritage (SCTH), with an aim to showcase the various distinct colors and patterns unique to each region of Saudi Arabia.
The two-year partnership between Saudia and the SCTH not only allowed for content collaboration, but also set the course for building a framework for creating kits in an eco-friendly manner, using recyclable materials in the content and packaging.
This approach will be eventually cascaded to the rest of the onboard products featured on Saudia.
The kits include an eye mask, socks, ear plug, toothbrush and toothpaste, an external collector bag, and an introduction leaflet with a brief on the architecture and heritage represented on each bag.
As Saudia prepares for the upcoming summer season, the airline has added three destinations this month: Athens, Greece on June 5; and Malaga, Spain and Marrakech, Morocco on June 6.
SABB and Alawwal Bank have created Saudi banking history by legally combining their businesses. Following regulatory and shareholder approvals, the banks have now become a single listed company, creating the third largest bank by assets in Saudi Arabia. The two banks will continue to operate a normal service while work continues to fully integrate their products and services.
Lubna S. Olayan, chair of SABB, said: “We have combined two great banks, each with a rich history and legacy of playing key roles in the Kingdom’s development. Now our size, enhanced capabilities and fantastic talent will help us build on that history and legacy to become the bank of choice for a modern Saudi Arabia. We will be the best place to bank and the best place to work in the Kingdom, for a new generation of Saudi men and women and for the new era of development under Vision 2030.”
The combined bank will cement its position as a top-tier Saudi financial institution, with total revenue of SR10.9 billion ($2.9 billion), more than 1 million retail customers and the second largest corporate bank by assets.
Joining the two banks is expected to create a significant retail and wealth management business, with greater resources to innovate and connect a young, tech-savvy population to a digital banking experience.
David Dew, managing director of SABB, said: “The combination of SABB and Alawwal Bank creates huge potential for our customers and staff. The increased scale and capacity will allow us to support the growing needs of our diverse customer base, while also providing unrivaled international connectivity for retail, corporate and institutional clients. Our focus now is on our customers while at the same time completing the integration process and executing our vision of being the leading international bank in the Kingdom.”
The combined bank has SR257 billion in total assets, SR168 billion in customer loans and SR195 billion of customer deposits. It will deliver long-term shareholder value by combining the best of SABB and Alawwal Bank, while capitalizing on its long-term strategic partnership with HSBC Holdings PLC to provide an international banking experience in Saudi Arabia.
A new board and leadership team are in place, overseeing the integration of the two banks, which is expected to take between 18 and 24 months.
Emirates has made a network-wide commitment to reduce single-use plastics onboard its aircraft. As of June 1st, eco-friendly paper straws have been introduced and all Emirates flights will soon be plastic straw-free.
The airline has been working on various long-term sustainability initiatives. In addition to plastic straws, plastic swizzle sticks and stirrers will also be replaced with eco-friendly alternatives by the end of the year. From August, plastic bags used for inflight retail purchases will also be replaced with paper bags. These initiatives will remove an estimated 81.7 million single-use plastic items from landfill each year.
Trials have been conducted on Emirates flights to explore various recycling initiatives onboard and Emirates staff and cabin crew constantly give feedback and suggestions on other environment-friendly ideas. As part of its long-term vision and fueled by a cabin crew member’s suggestion, the airline has been segregating large plastic bottles onboard to be recycled in Dubai and the rest of the world.
This diverts an estimated 3 tons or about 150,000 plastic bottles from landfill in Dubai each month.
The initiatives are part of the airline’s ongoing sustainability efforts. In 2017, Emirates introduced ecoTHREAD blankets made from recycled plastic bottles for its economy class cabin. Each blanket is made from 28 recycled plastic bottles and by the end of this year, Emirates would have saved 88 million plastic bottles from landfill from this initiative alone.
The first edition of “Restaurants, Cafés & Lounges” conference and exhibition will be held on Oct. 7 and 8 at the Roda Al-Bustan Hotel in Dubai.
Leila Masinaei, managing partner of Great Minds Event Management, organizers of the event, said: “We are organizing ‘Restaurants Cafés & Lounges’ to bring together all the stakeholders who are involved in creating business models from menu selections, growth strategies, location mapping, to technology implementation, from across the Middle East and North Africa.”
Arvind Shekar, event director, said: “More than 250 attendees from 25 countries will discuss the latest consumer trends and growth strategies in the MENA market, and share their experiences and ideas during 10 hours of networking sessions, while enjoying the chance of meeting 40 exhibitors, showcasing the latest technology trends and new innovative products.”
Chef Thomas A. Gugler, president of World Association of Chefs’ Societies, said: “I am looking forward to having some fruitful discussions, some exchange of thoughts and work experiences and to support our colleagues from all around the world.”