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Lekela to build $350m Egypt wind power plant

Lekela Power, a pan-African renewable power generation company, has signed a deal with Egyptian government to build a 250 MW wind power station in the Gulf of Suez area at an investment of $350 million.

Lekela Power is 60 per cent owned by Actis, a leading emerging markets investor and 40 per cent Mainstream Renewable Power, a global wind and solar company.

This is the company's third project in Egypt following the signing of two power station contracts earlier this year - a 50 MW solar power station and 50 MW wind power station.

The upcoming project, to be situated in the Gulf of Suez area, aims to capitalize on Egypt’s unique wind resources and will be managed with a build, own and operate (BOO) framework, said a statement from Lekela.

Commenting on the deal, Chris Antonopoulos, the chief executive of Lekela Power, said: "We are delighted to have agreed heads of terms for our third project in Egypt and we look forward to continuing to provide clean, safe, and cost competitive energy to the Egyptian people through our wind and solar projects."

Launched in February of this year, Lekela Power has over 1,100 MW of wind and solar projects under construction or due to commence construction across South Africa, Egypt and Ghana.

Lekela Power is one of the biggest international platforms focused on renewable energy targeting the emerging markets.-TradeArabia News Service

Remco to start work on $509m Egypt mixed-use project

Egypt-based Remco Touristic Villages Construction Company (RTVC) will start work on its new E£4 billion ($509 million) mixed-use project, Stella Di Mare II, in Ain Sokhna in the Suez Governorate.

The project, located on the 45th km of Al-Zafarana Road/ Suez Road, close to Stella Di Mare I, is expected to be completed by 2019, reported the Daily News Egypt.

RTVC's pilot project, spread over a 1.75-million-sq-m area abutting the Red Sea coast, includes three hotels in addition to 1,865 housing units ranging in size from 80-sq-m chalets to 500-sq-m independent villas.

A leading real estate firm in Egypt and the flagship of the Remco Group, RTVC has several touristic and residential projects lined up in Cairo, the North Coast and Sharm El Sheikh.

The company is eyeing sales worth E£5 billion ($636 million) from these projects, stated the report.

The real estate firm was first traded on the Egyptian Stock Exchange in 1998 and its current paid-up capital exceeds E£2 billion ($254 million).

Dubai Properties unveils new residential community

Dubai Properties Group (DPG), one of the largest fully integrated real estate and community development businesses in Dubai, has unveiled the masterplan for Serena, its upcoming residential development in Dubailand.

Spanning a total area of 8.2 million sq ft, the smartly-designed residential community targets the surging affordable housing segment, said a statement from DPG.

With architecture inspired by a Mediterranean Spanish theme, Serena will be developed in five phases, with the first one anticipated to be completed by the fourth quarter of 2018.

Consisting of aesthetically-pleasing landscaped clusters of 4 to 6 units, Phase One consists of two- to three-bedroom townhouses and three-bedroom semi-detached villas, the new and smartly-designed concept brings Spanish lifestyle and ambiance to the UAE, it stated.

In close proximity to Downtown Dubai, Serena enjoys direct access to Emirates Road, surrounded by a number of well-known communities developed by Dubai Properties, including Layan and Al Waha, said the developer.

Serena will feature a variety of amenities comprising recreational facilities, swimming pools, gym, play areas, and a healthcare facility, propounding the development’s idealness for families.

The development enjoys ample leasing retail spaces of 100,000 sq ft, offering its residents significant choices of retail options that serve their daily needs.

According to DPG, the unique design encourages neighbourliness, and enhances the lifestyle of its residents with outdoor activities, making it an ideal location for families looking for a lively residential destination with a communal feel.

Surrounded by greenery, Serena will promote a dynamic, lively and vibrant atmosphere through the concept of plaza in the heart of the community that will offer a host of retail options. It is anticipated to become one of the most sought after communities in Dubai, it added.

Abdullatif AlMulla, the group CEO, said: “Dubai Properties is helping lead the resurgence of Dubai’s real estate market through the smart and strategic development of iconic mixed-use destinations, as we anticipate and deliver on the rapidly changing and diversifying Dubai."

"Serena stems from our long standing experience in the market, and our understanding of the growing demand for affordable housing in the emirate," he observed.

Al Mulla said: "We believe that everybody should have access to good quality affordable housing that meets their needs and we are delighted to be embarking on 2016 with the launch of Serena as one of the most sought after destinations in the country."

Serena is a master planned development that is rich in facilities, with 3 community centres including recreational facilities, swimming pools, gym, retail options, play areas, and a clinic, he added.

The official sales launch and pre-registration for public will open soon at the DP’s Sales and Customer Service Center.-TradeArabia News Service

Dewa wins ISO certificate for asset management

Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (Dewa) has received the ISO 55001: 2014 Certificate for Asset Management after passing an external audit conducted by an international organization.

With this recognition, Dewa said it has become the first government utility in the world to receive the prestigious award for the integration of high quality asset management in operations pertaining to the generation, transmission, and distribution of electricity and water.

Dewa’s success in asset management has brought the utility to a new height of international competitiveness, surpassing the likes of other European and American companies, said a statement from the utility.

Dewa's total assets' worth amounts to Dh120 billion ($33 billion), while assets in conjunction with affiliated companies exceeds Dh127 billion ($35 billion), it stated.

"We are committed to sourcing infrastructure capable of meeting all energy and water demands as part of the development of the emirate," remarked Saeed Mohammed Al Tayer, the managing director and chief executive after receiving the ISO certificate in the presence of Hussain Lootah, EVP-Transmission Power.

“Dewa makes use of the best international methods of practice among all fields, in addition to adopting the integrated systems needed for efficient preservation of asset management, based on the highest standards from around the globe," observed Al Tayer.

"This is mainly to assure balance between costs, risks, and asset performance, in support of our vision of becoming a sustainable, innovative world-class utility capable of achieving great results for our customers, clients, and stakeholders,” he added.

Dewa, he stated, has launched a host of successful initiatives and have allocated over Dh2.6 billion towards the development of world class electricity and water infrastructure in the emirate, ahead of the World Expo 2020.-TradeArabia News Service

Damac unveils six-tower luxury project in Dubai

Luxury real estate developer Damac Properties has launched 'Aykon City,' a massive six-tower luxury project on the Sheikh Zayed road overlooking the Dubai Canal.

The major new project, destined to become another icon of Dubai's real estate landscape, is being developed in collaboration with Meraas Holding, said a statement from Damac.

'Aykon City' will boast Dubai's first all-suites, 80-storey Aykon Hotel and Residences, a 63-storey Damac Maison Serviced Hotel Residences, a 60-storey apartment tower, a 65-storey office tower and two 30-floor ultra-luxury residential towers featuring state-of-the-art car lifts to each unit and direct views over Dubai Canal and Safa Park.

Limited release of the serviced residences go on immediate sale with further releases in due course, it stated.

'Aykon City' is a 4 million sq ft development, located on the eastern and western sides of Sheikh Zayed road at the Safa Park intersection and in close proximity to the Dubai Canal.

It will join other iconic developments in the golden quadrant of the business district of the city such as City Walk, the Burj Khalifa, Emirates Towers and the Dubai International Financial Centre district (DIFC).

This project will also feature the 'Aykon Dare', an addition to Dubai's tourist attractions; an adrenaline experience on the 80(th) floor of the hotel where guests get to walk around the outside of the tower's roof for a real adventure and with magnificent views of the city.

For the less adventurous, 'Aykon City' will also consist of the 'Aykon Plaza' with swimming pools, Spa, beach club, cafés, restaurants, Yoga and Tai-chi areas, and private members club.

The project sales value is Dh7.4 billion ($2.02 billion) and construction is due to commence before this summer with a completion date of 2021, said the statement.

On the launch, chairman Hussain Sajwani said: "Damac is an established, chosen and trusted real estate developer in the region, selected for the largest and most influential projects, and this area of our city is one of the most important developments in Dubai's expansion, opening up access to many kilometres of the Dubai Canal."

"Aykon City is a testament to our solid commitment and belief in Dubai's strong economy and especially in the future of the real estate sector," he added.- TradeArabia News Service

Mall of Qatar to open in Q3

Qatar-based UrbaCon Trading & Contracting has announced that the Mall of Qatar in Doha will be opened in the third quarter of this year.

In a statement today, Moataz Al-Khayyat, CEO of UrbaCon, has said that the construction of the mall, one of the largest shopping malls in the world, will be completed in August 2016.

“The shopping mall will attract visitors from the Gulf states as it is also located next to the railway project that will link Qatar and the GCC in 2019,”said Al-Khayyat.

The expansive 450,000-sq-m Mall of Qatar provides visitors with 7,000 parking spaces, a premium Carrefour hypermarket, a family entertainment area of 16,500 sq m featuring KidzMondo, an impressive scaled-down miniature city, Salam luxury department store, more than 100 restaurants, 500 stores, an indoor streetscape with double-height flagship stores from across the globe.

It will also have a Cinemacity complex of 19 cinema screens including the largest Imax laser 3D in the world, two signature restaurants and a five-star Fashion Hotel composed of 210 rooms operated by Curio Collection Hilton. - TradeArabia News Service

Manara ready to hand over key residential project

Manara, a leading Bahrain-based real estate development company, said the construction work at its Kenaz Al Bahrain project is 90 per cent complete and is due for handover in the next three months.

Kenaz Al Bahrain consists of eight modern design buildings comprising four floors with two apartments in each floor thus totaling 64 apartments alongside a group of facilities designed to achieve economic and social sustainability of which are crucial in modern residential establishments.

Each 160-sq-m apartment boasts three bedrooms, a spacious kitchen, in addition to an open living room, three bathrooms and a maids room, in addition to car parking - all key facilities to fulfill the needs of the modern Bahraini family.

On the new project, Dr Hasan Al Bastaki, the managing director, said: "Kenaz Al Bahrain comes to complement the wide array of Manara’s projects aimed towards residential development of which it had initiated in the past in Muharraq (Wahat Al Muharraq – 3 phases) and Tubli (Tubli Gardens – Four phases)."

The project comes within Manara’s ambition to play a leading role in co-operation and partnership with the public and private sector and in line with its commitment to achieving public housing development and the kingdom’s strategies and efforts for national housing support at affordable cost and to meet the needs of modern families thus achieving social stability and sustainability, he remarked.

It was launched for the first time at last year's Bahrain International Real Estate Exhibition, held under the patronage of Deputy Prime Minister Shaikh Khalid bin Abdulla Al Khalifa.

Dr Al Bastaki said the reponse had been overwhelming with more than 50 per cent of the offered units being sold.

According to him, Manara continues to establish itself as a distinguished development company by strictly adhering to project timelines, and ensuring the effective use of high quality primary building materials as well as high quality finishing.

"Moreover, Manara takes into consideration environmental factors while its prices remain within an affordable range," he added.-TradeArabia News Service

Bahrain airport expansion project set for launch

A multimillion-dollar project for the expansion of Bahrain International Airport is being officially launched today (February 17) under the patronage of His Royal Highness Prime Minister Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa, said a report.

The Transportation and Telecommunications Ministry will be inaugurating the Bahrain International Airport Expansion Programme, the largest aviation infrastructure project in the kingdom over the past 20 years.

The project will consolidate the kingdom's strategic location, and status at the regional and international levels in the aviation sector as the airport will be able to accommodate 14 million passengers a year, reported the Bahrain News Agency.

The expansion includes a 201,467 sq m passenger terminal, departure hall, check-in counters, passport control booths and 28 security lanes, the Duty Free, jetty-served departure gates, arrivals, passport control booths, e-Gates, baggage reclaim belts and car park.

The passenger terminal will also boast of various retail shops, which will create jobs for Bahrainis, said the report.

Transportation and Telecommunications Minister Kamal bin Ahmed Mohammed said the scheme would enhance the competitive potential of the airport, stimulate various economic sectors and cement Bahrain's status as a gateway for the GCC market and revitalise the civil aviation and business sectors in the country, it added.

Alstom wins $85m tram contract in Algeria

Alstom, a French-based leader in rail transport markets, has won a contract worth $85 million to provide 26 tram kits to the city of Setif in Algeria, a report said.

Alstom would deliver the tram kits to Cital, a joint venture of Alstom, Algeria’s State-owned rail company Algiers Metro Company (EMA) and transport and urban infrastructure provider Ferrovial, reported Engineering News.

The Citadis kits would be assembled in its plant of Annaba and would circulate on a 15.2 km line, scheduled to enter into commercial service in the first quarter of 2018, it added.

The 44-metre-long trams can carry up to 302 passengers, according to the report

New Anantara hotel to open in Oman

Omran Hotels & Resorts and Musstir, one of Oman’s leading property developers and investors, have announced the opening of a new Anantara hotel in the sultanate's Dhofar region this summer.

Welcoming guests with traditional Omani style, Anantara Salalah - Al Baleed Resort, located between a natural lagoon and the beach, will be managed by Anantara Hotels, Resorts and Spas, the luxury hospitality brand renowned for offering indigenous experiences for modern travellers.

Carefully designed to reflect Dhofar’s rich heritage, the resort’s striking Dhofari design featuring intricate artistic details is inspired by the region’s iconic coastal fortresses and is surrounded by towering palms, magnificent trees, tropical gardens and lush water features. With 136 guest rooms and studios as well as one, two and three bedroom pool villas – the first of their kind in Salalah and Oman - the resort is conveniently located just 10 km from the city centre and 15 km from the airport.

One of the many highlights of the resort experience, the Anantara Spa will feature a hammam and will offer a range of Anantara’s signature spa treatments featuring local ingredients and techniques. Guests can enjoy a range of activities from water sports to tennis, and the dedicated children’s and teens’ club will feature an outdoor splash area and the latest game console equipment as well as a host of fun and creative activities. Culinary experiences range from a Middle Eastern beach bar to a signature Asian restaurant, showcasing cuisine from along the Mekong River. The new resort will offer direct access to the beach and is only a boat ride away across the lagoon from the city’s renowned Botanical Garden and the Al Baleed Museum of Frankincense. The resort also puts guests in close proximity to the Al Baleed Unesco archaeological sites, the Citadel, City Wall and Grand Mosque.

James Hewitson, general manager of Al Baleed Resort – Salalah by Anantara, said: “On behalf of the team at Anantara Hotels, Resorts & Spas, it is a great honour to work with such visionary partners as Musstir and Omran and to be given the opportunity to open such a distinguished resort in a destination which is developing at such a strong pace. Salalah is a unique location - not just within Oman but for the whole of the GCC. The Anantara brand has been built by drawing upon the expertise and heartfelt hospitality of our hosts in each destination – my team and I look forward to welcoming team members from the local region.”

“We are also actively meeting with leading premium and luxury travel companies and will announce later this week rates and introductory offers as well as opening room rates for residents and citizens of Oman,” he said

Dr. Ali bin Masoud Al Sunaidy - Minister of Commerce and Industry and Chairman of Omran, said: “The opening of Al Baleed Resort – Salalah by Anantara is a major milestone for the region and reflects our commitment to developing the tourism sector to support the local economy on a long-term, sustainable basis. Salalah is a very popular destination, known for having some of the best beaches in the GCC as well as a rich cultural heritage, and the opening of Al Baleed Resort – Salalah by Anantara puts Dhofar firmly on the map for international travellers.” – TradeArabia News Service

Deadline for taxi meter adjustment extended to March

AMMAN -- The Land Transport Regulatory Commission (LTRC) has extended the deadline for adjusting taxi meters to reduce fares until the beginning of March, a municipal official said on Wednesday.

Abdul Rahim Wreikat, director of the Greater Amman Municipality's public transport operations department, said the municipality and the Jordan Standards and Metrology Organisation will start labelling vehicles with meters operating according to the new price system.

"The drivers of cars that do not have the labels will be considered as violators of the law who charge higher prices," he told The Jordan Times over the phone.

Ahmad Abu Haidar, president of the Transport Services and Taxi Owners Union, said the deadline was extended because drivers did not implement the changes in protest against the new prices.

"They believe that the prices are not fair and they have many expenses to meet," Abu Haidar added.

In January, the LTRC decided to cut taxi fares by 10 per cent in light of the drop in oil prices, after a review of the operational costs of the different means of public transport, giving taxi drivers two weeks to comply.

The morning fare for taxis has been reduced to 19 fils for every 100 metres, and the night fare has been decreased to 25 fils for every 100 metres.

Abu Haidar claimed that the market already faces "unfair competition".

"There are many motorists who own private cars and operate them as taxis, and this affects our business negatively. We believe that our market is unprotected."

He noted that around 17,000 taxis operate in the Kingdom, 11,400 of which are in Amman.

New rules for expats hiring Filipina domestic helpers

AMMAN -- The Land Transport Regulatory Commission (LTRC) has extended the deadline for adjusting taxi meters to reduce fares until the beginning of March, a municipal official said on Wednesday.

KUWAIT: The Philippine Embassy has set a requirement preventing maid recruitment agencies from allowing expatriates to hire Filipina domestic help. The reason given by the embassy is that some expats were taking the Filipinas to work outside of Kuwait without informing the embassy.

Abdrahim, who runs a maid agency in Hawally, told Kuwait Times that the agency faced problems when helpers they had recruited ended up in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia. "This order [from the Embassy] was applied one month ago in some agencies," he explained. "So we asked anyone who needs Filipina maids to get the approval from the embassy."

However, not all agencies have applied the rule and when Kuwait Times asked, several noted that they would still provide Filipina domestic helpers to expatriate residents.

One employer argued that nonworking mothers are not required to hire maids, and went as far as suggesting that they should be stopped from hiring helpers because some of them force maids to work for others in exchange of money. "We face some complaints about forcing the maids to work for others by the hour," said the recruiter who wished to be identified only by her first name Sharifa. "If the mother is not working then she does not need a helper." Conditions for employment, however, seem to vary from agency to agency.

No policy

Cesar Chavez, Philippine Labor Attaché to Kuwait Attorney, told Kuwait Times that there is no such policy but the embassy does require non-Kuwaiti families to get an additional approval with no extra fees to give the embassy the information about the number of family's members and so on. Chavez pointed out that if any family wants to travel outside Kuwait for vacation they must update their contact information with the embassy so that it can maintain accurate information regarding the helper's whereabouts.

Kuwait has faced a slew of challenges in recent years regarding the recruitment, hiring and treatment of domestic helpers, most of whom come from impoverished countries in Asia. Last year, the parliament adopted its first ever domestic workers labor law, regulating the thriving industry. There are an estimated 660,000 domestic helpers in Kuwait and the vast majority are brought by recruitment agencies which charge fees of between KD 400 to KD 1,500 to hire a domestic worker for up to two years. Charges are typically determined by the nationality of the domestic worker with agencies charging the highest fees for Filipino domestic workers.

Under the new labor law, domestic workers are granted the right to a weekly day off, 30 days of annual paid leave, a 12-hour working day with rest, and an end-of-service benefit of one month a year at the end of the contract, among other rights. Kuwait is the first in the Arab Gulf states to pass such a law but mechanisms for implementation remain to be developed.

Lebanese expats working in Gulf countries remit $5 billion annually

Lebanese expats working in the Gulf remit around $5 billion annually, with Saudi Arabia leading the list of these countries, an official of that country has said. "The Lebanese economy will adversely affected once the number of expats working in the Gulf begins to decrease," Mohammad Shaheen, chairman of the Lebanese Council for Work and Investments in the Gulf, said. Most of the Lebanese working in these countries occupy prestigious jobs and positions, such as doctors, managers and engineers, he was quoted as saying by local media on Thursday.

More than 300,000 Lebanese expatriates send remittances to about 600,000 beneficiaries in Lebanon who are bound to experience hardships if immediate steps are not taken by that country to mend its ways," he said. Shaheen demanded that the Lebanese authorities take diplomatic measures to avoid what he described as a "growing crisis." "According to the statistics of the Central Bank of Lebanon, from 1975 to 2015, the country received more than $50 billion in the form of direct and indirect aid, in addition to multiple bonds," he said. Meanwhile, investments by Saudis in the mountains of Lebanon have reached more 70 percent of the total investments, he said. "Such figures have now already begun to evaporate."

Other Gulf economists and analysts attributed the current crisis to the continuous and unified stance of the Gulf. Ali Al-Shatti, a Kuwaiti analyst, was quoted as saying that the announcement by the Central Bank of Lebanon about the value of remittances coming from Gulf is clear evidence of what the area has given to -- and provided for -- Lebanon. "The stance of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Lebanon is still not convincing," he said. Abdulaziz Al-Rukabi, an expert in economic affairs, said the deterioration of the Lebanese economy is the result of wrong political attitudes. "The collapse will include all the sectors, mainly tourism and real estate. The Lebanese expatriates have been until now described as the "pampered nationality" in the Gulf with high positions and prestigious jobs and high salaries, he added.

Qatar foundation partners with harvard graduate school of education to enhance teaching and learning in Qatar

New School Leadership Development Programme Set To Implement New Strategies and Structures in Qatar Foundation Academies Doha, Qatar, 31 January 2016

The Education Development Institute (EDI), a member of Qatar Foundation for Education, Science, and Community Development (QF) , has partnered with the prestigious Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE) in Massachusetts to launch a custom-made leadership programme.

The project is entitled 'Implementing Strategies and Structures to Enhance Teaching and Learning in Qatar Foundation Academies (ETLQ)'. Falling under QF's wider, year-round commitment to developing Qatar's teaching professionals, the programme aims to promote continuous life-long learning and supports the Qatar National Vision 2030 (QNV2030).

The unique initiative, specially created by HGSE, was designed to explore multiple frameworks for organisational development and to develop skills in the practice of instructional leadership. Launched with a three-day interactive session in January, which was attended by representatives from QF's Pre-University Education Office and educators from various Qatar Foundation academies, the project will continue online until May.

"The Harvard programme on 'Implementing Strategies and Structures to Enhance Teaching and Learning in Qatar Foundation Academies (ETLQ)' will enrich our leaders' insights and skills across a number of areas. These include instructional leadership and understanding of the value of sharing experiences, working collaboratively, and reflecting on practices to implement strategies and structures that will enhance learning in schools," said Sheikha Noof Ahmed bin Saif Al-Thani, Director of Institutional Development, Pre-University Education Office.

"I would like to extend my sincere appreciation and gratitude to Katherine Merseth, Faculty Chair for ETLQ and Senior Lecturer on Education, Faculty Director, Teacher Education at HGSE, as well as her team for the comprehensive three-day course. We truly look forward to a productive and professionally rewarding collaboration," Sheikha Noof concluded.

"The excitement of the participants is palpable. We have been warmly welcomed and look forward to continued learning together," said Katherine Merseth, Faculty Chair for ETLQ and Senior Lecturer on Education, Faculty Director, Teacher Education at HGSE.

Others on the ETLQ faculty team include Deborah Jewell-Sherman, Professor of Practice, and Tom Cassidy and Habeeb Qaudri, both regular contributors to professional education programmes at HGSE.

Morocco, citing Arab disunity, says won't host summit

RABAT, Feb 19 (Reuters) - Morocco has decided not host the 2016 Arab League meeting, saying on Friday it wanted to avoid giving a false impression of unity in the Arab world.

The annual meeting, which would have been the group's 27th, was initially set for on March 29 in the Moroccan tourist city of Marrakesh but had already been postponed to April 7 at Saudi Arabia's request.

"Amid the lack of important decisions and concrete initiatives to submit to the heads of states, this summit will be just an other occasion to approve ordinary resolutions and to pronounce speeches that give a false impression of unity," a statement from the Moroccan foreign ministry said.

"Arab leaders cannot confine themselves, once more, to simply analysing the bitter situation of divergences and divisions without giving decisive responses," it added.

Saudi Arabia said on Friday it suspended a $3 billion aid package for the Lebanese army in what a official called a response to Beirut's failure to condemn attacks on Saudi diplomatic missions in Iran.

The region is riven by the rivalry between Sunni Muslim power Saudi Arabia and the leading Shi'ite power Iran. The two are backing different sides in Syria's civil war and different factions in neighbouring Lebanon.

Saudi Arabia was enraged when Iranians, protesting against the kingdom's execution of a Shi'ite Muslim cleric, raided its missions last month - and many countries in the region came out in support of Riyadh.

New timeline for 2,177-km GCC rail project

RIYADH: As part of an ambitious plan to go ahead with the mega GCC railway project in a more realistic manner despite weak global oil prices, GCC transport ministers will hold their meeting here next month.

A realistic date of completion of the GCC-wide rail network, while defying the recessionary trends, will top the agenda of the ministerial meeting.

"The transport ministers will focus on how to kickstart the 2,177-km GCC railway project, how to fund it and what should be the real date of completion," a reliable source told Arab News.

He said that the GCC ministers' meeting is significant keeping in view the fact that the railway project, as announced earlier, will not be possibly completed by 2018.

In fact, "the 2018 self-imposed completion date has been looking increasingly unrealistic due to the difficulty in getting the six countries to coordinate their plans for the project," said a report published in the latest issue of the 'International Railway Journal', the world's first globally distributed monthly magazine for the railway industry.

The report said that the GCC railway plan may be delayed or exacerbated by the huge reduction in the price of oil, which has reduced the amount of funding available, and the decision by the UAE's Etihad Rail early this year to suspend the second phase of its national railway network.

This suspension has also prompted an Omanis to rethink their priorities in railway sector.

Moreover, a project study is underway for the GCC rail project.

The project study will end in March this year, and then the discussion between the GCC countries will follow to execute the plan.

There have previously been concerns that the GCC rail might be delayed due to varying levels of project progress reported by each member state.

Some of the GCC member states have not achieved the desired level of progress on the project.

Kuwait is one of them. Recently, Kuwaiti minister of parliament Faisal Al-Kandari recommended Kuwait follow a system similar to that followed internationally, and within the Gulf, where a unified body tenders, awards, and manages rail projects.

Al-Kandari added Kuwait must strive to catch up with its GCC neighbors, most of which have "started the implementation of the railway project to link the entire Gulf."

According to Dr. Abdullah Belhaif Al-Nuaimi, UAE's public works minister, GCC transport ministries at a meeting in Doha last year to become "more realistic" in delivering the network.

"We know that 2018 is not realistic," he said in Dubai this week.

Al-Nuaimi says the UAE will now "reconsider" its plans for the national railway network, even though the scope for the regional network has not changed.

It is scheduled that the route of the GCC train project will start from Kuwait via Dammam in the Kingdom to Bahrain through the proposed causeway to be built parallel to the King Fahd Causeway.

The GCC train would also link Qatar with Bahrain via the Qatar-Bahrain Causeway to be established between them, and from Saudi Arabia through Al-Batha to the UAE (Abu Dhabi-Al Ain) and then to end up in Oman across Sohar to Muscat.

Kingdom to have new media city

JEDDAH: The Kingdom would soon have a media city providing technical and other facilities for local and international journalists operating in the country.

The media houses would be given "flexibility" to operate, within the rules and regulations of the country, said Adel Al-Turaifi, minister of culture and information, according to a report by an online publication on Monday. The minister said this was part of the country's plan to strengthen its presence in media abroad. "We have lagged behind... We are trying to deal with it skilfully."

On social media, Al-Turaifi said these were not part of institutionalized media operating here and abroad, but helped to communicate religious and national issues to the public. However, they also have to obey the country's rules and regulations, he said.

More than 47,000 hotel rooms under development in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia: A record 47,431 rooms and 124 hotel projects are currently under development in Saudi Arabia, according to a new report.

The majority of projects are in the final construction and pre-opening stages with 52 projects and almost 20,000 rooms set to open to the public throughout the Kingdom this year, says the new report by TOPHOTELPROJECTS commissioned by The Hotel Show Saudi Arabia 2016.

Hotels with a 2016 opening date include: The Ritz-Carlton, Jeddah (March); Kempinski Al Othman Hotel in Al Khobar (May); and Nobu Hotel Riyadh, the first Nobu hotel in the Kingdom, reported to open in June.

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