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Egypt selects Siemens to operate huge power plants

Egyptian Electricity Holding Company (EEHC) has selected Siemens to operate and maintain the world’s largest combined-cycle power plants in the country.

Under the milestone agreement, Siemens will provide comprehensive operation and maintenance services (O&M) for the Beni Suef, New Capital and Burullus power plants, for the next eight years.

The agreement, which is the largest ever for the Siemens Power Generation Services in terms of power generated, includes the implementation of the company's Omnivise digital service solutions.

Each of the three 4.8GW power plants is considered to be the largest gas-fired combined-cycle plant ever built and operated. Together the plants represent approximately 40 percent of Egypt's power capacity, at the time of signing contracts, generating 14.4GW – enough to supply 40 million Egyptians with electricity.

"The new agreement aligns with our energy production goals to ensure sustainable growth and maximum reliability and efficiency of new and existing combined-cycle generating facilities," said Eng Gaber El Desouki, chairman of the EEHC. "Strategically, it makes sense for us to enlist a single trusted and credible service provider to help operate and manage our large-scale power assets."

The multi-year agreement covers all on-site equipment including 24 gas turbines, twelve steam turbines, 36 generators, 24 heat recovery steam generators and three 500 kV gas-insulated switchgear systems.

"The new agreement reconfirms our focus to work with Egypt on developing the right mix of solutions to support the country's dynamic needs. It also underscores the tangible cost benefits that digital technologies can bring to the power industry," said Gianluigi Di Giovanni, senior executive vice president of Siemens Power Generation Services in the Middle East and North Africa. "As a key development partner to the country we are committed to contributing to the sustainable growth, diversification and efficiency of the Egyptian energy industry."

Siemens will also implement its services portfolio to improve asset visibility, reliability and availability of the three power plants. Data from the plant operation will be collected, analysed and transformed into actionable insights such as accurate diagnostics, troubleshooting and condition forecasting, improving plant reliability and reducing downtime. Additionally, the data processed can help to balance maintenance costs, optimize inspection intervals and provide valuable insights into operational risks.

Building on more than 20 years of experience in power plant operation and maintenance, Siemens currently manages more than 25 GW in 17 countries. The company's global resources and fleet expertise enable it to provide complement plant services and management, along with sharing best practices and technical knowledge with power plant owners. - TradeArabia News Service


First new Dubai Metro train to arrive next November: TRA

The Director-General and Chairman of the Board of Executive Directors of Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority (RTA), Mattar Al Tayer announced that the first of the new Dubai Metro trains would arrive in Dubai in November, and the last one would arrive by the end of October 2019. Al Tayer made this announcement after attending the technical test run of the first train on a 500m test track at Alstom Company’s factory in Poland. The new metro carriages manufacturing progress had reached 10 percent at the facility.

The train rolled over the test track at varying speeds, and multiple tests were carried out on the safety systems, electric propulsion, braking system, emergency stops and the train doors operating systems.

Attendees besides Al Tayer, included Abdul Mohsen Ibrahim Younes, CEO of Rail Agency, Abdul Rida Abu Al Hassan, Executive Director of Rail Planning and Projects in addition to directors & engineers from RTA and Alstom.

Al Tayer inspected the interiors of the new rail carriages, which are being manufactured under a contract for the supply of 50 trains, 15 of which will be deployed to serve Expo 2020 and 35 will be used to enhance Dubai Metro service.

Al Tayer checked the additions and improvements introduced to the interior design of the metro carriages such as dedicating the last carriage for women and children and leaving part of the first carriage for the Gold Class. Other carriages will be of Silver Class. Seats will be transversal in the Gold Class, and longitudinal in the Silver Class as well as women & children’s carriage. The improved design will increase the intake of trains by 8 percent from 643 riders to 696 riders. The exterior design of trains will remain unchanged to maintain the design identity of Dubai Metro and its familiar colours to the public," said Al Tayer.

Additions include revamping the designs, without affecting the identity of handles, lighting, and locations of digital signage. They also include an illuminated dynamic map for the metro route & stations, using LED power-saving lighting system, and modifying the design of the luggage compartment to make it usable by standing commuters. Improvements also cover the shape and number of handles, the use of modern digital display systems, distributing seats at the two sides of the train and increasing the gangway connecting between carriages. The new carriages are customised to be used by People of Determination and the smooth boarding and alighting of riders.

Al Tayer described the technical test run of trains as a milestone in the construction of Route 2020 Project, which involves the extension of the Dubai Metro Red Line 15 km from Nakheel Harbour & Tower Station to the site of Expo 2020.


Dubai offers auto renewal of vehicle registration

Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) has launched automatic renewal of vehicle registration service for individuals, having run the service earlier for the corporate sector.

“The automatic renewal of vehicle registration service is part of the Licensing Agency’s plan for migration to online services. The service is now up-and-running for vehicles of both companies and individuals through RTA’s website (rta.ae). The beneficiary is required to have an e-wallet account,” said Jamal Assada, director of Vehicle Licensing at RTA’s Licensing Agency.

“The e-wallet is a free service enabling clients to pay for service fees. To be able to use the e-wallet service, the client needs to have an account in the e-wallet service through signing up in (www.nol.ae), complete the information, associate the service with the licensing services, and add credit to the account through a credit card or Al Ansari Exchange. The service aims to reduce customers’ visits to service centres, and make them happier,” he added.

The client can avail the service by signing in through RTA’s website, selecting Licensing Services and clicking on ‘Automatic Renewal.’ The customer can enter the number plate of vehicle required for the ‘Automatic Renewal.’ It is possible to renew registration 90 days before the expiry date.

The client may also specify the maximum amount permitted for paying fines through the e-wallet, verify the e-mail address, select the delivery method of the new registration card, complete the information and confirm the subscription to the service. A text message is sent to the client confirming subscription to the service.

The client can use the automatic renewal service and have the vehicle registration renewed on due time. A notification is sent stating that the vehicle(s) registration is under process along with a confirmation of fee payment through the e-wallet.

The client can then receive the registration card through the postal company or one of RTA’s customer happiness centres in case plates need replacement. A video will be posted on social media platforms, and brochures will be distributed to service centres explaining the subscription to the service. – TradeArabia News Service


Dh3,000 fine for carpooling in UAE

Dubai: Carpooling in the UAE is not allowed, with authorities beefing up public awareness to prevent motorists from carrying out the traffic offence.

Abu Dhabi Police warned motorists that if found carpooling, the violation will be punishable with a fine of Dh3,000, 24 black points and the vehicle impounded for 30 days.

Brigadier Ibrahim Sultan Al Zaabi, director of the transport security department, said the main reason to ban carpooling was to protect members of the public from becoming a victim.

“There are a number of threats associated with using an unlicensed taxi, which include sexual harassment, theft, fraud, quarrels, and the driver may also be in violation of residency laws,” said Brig Al Zaabi.

In the first six months of 2018, more than 2,000 motorists were been fined for illegally transporting passengers in their private vehicles in the emirate of Abu Dhabi, according to police.

Last June, Gulf News reported that the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) in Dubai suspended carpooling permits to encouraged commuters to use public transport and other smart alternatives.

Mohammad Abu Bakr Al Hashemi, Director, Planning and Business Development at RTA’s Public Transport Agency, said: “The RTA introduced various services which include ‘Smart Car Rental’, taxis, limousine and E-Hail services to help commuters reach their destinations and connect with different public transport modes. We encourage commuters to use public transport and other smart alternatives.”


Abu Dhabi to have 30,000 extra school seats

Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation reveals details of four packages which will be updated every six months

Abu Dhabi: Tens of thousands of extra seats for students, doubling housing loans and thousands of new housing units are among the first phase of the Abu Dhabi Accelerators programme, the executive committee in charge of the programme announced on Monday.

The Executive Committee of the Executive Council of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi announced the details of 10 community development initiatives of the Abu Dhabi Government Accelerators Programme ‘Ghadan 21’ (Tomorrow 21), which fall under three tracks: education and employment, housing and communities and social support services.

His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, earlier this month approved a three-year Dh50 billion budget for the programme.

“Dh20 billion will be allocated to the 2019 development package,” Shaikh Mohammad said.

‘Ghadan 21’ will focus on four main tenets: business and investment, society, knowledge and innovation and lifestyle.

As part of its efforts to secure and provide employment opportunities for citizens, the government of Abu Dhabi has developed a sustainable job creation system aimed at creating job opportunities, qualifying and training job seekers, addressing challenges through activation of replacement plans and building strategic partnerships with the private sector in terms of Emiratisation.

As for initiatives in the education sector, six private partnership schools with a total capacity of 15,000 seats will be launched and 15,000 seats added to other schools catering to all segments of society over the next three years.

These initiatives in the education sector will ensure the expansion of the absorptive capacity of cost-competitive education facilities for all segments of society while maintaining the high quality of education outputs, increasing the opportunities offered and encouraging the private sector to inject more investment into the education sector.

The public schools programme will also be reduced Dh20,000 per student per year.

In line with the decision to double the number of approved housing loans to citizens to 5,000 loans annually, the government has also increased the offer of housing units. The Abu Dhabi real estate market will be supplied with 15,000 housing units over the next three years. Some 2,500 units have already been completed and obtained the necessary approvals, while another 2,500 units are expected to be approved before the end of this year.

An amount Dh3 billion allocated for the development of the main community facilities in Khalifa City, Mohammad Bin Zayed City, Shakhbout City and Madinat Zayed is also being dispensed.

A social investment fund will be created to serve projects that have a clear impact on the development of social services in the emirate.

It will seek to create opportunities for volunteering which will contribute to the development and strengthening of the social fabric of the emirate of Abu Dhabi.

The Social Support Authority’s mandate includes providing financial and non-financial support to eligible families in the emirate to ensure a decent life and develop programmes in collaboration with strategic partners to enable families to help them achieve financial independence. The first programme is expected to be launched during the first quarter of next year.


New standards for juices and dairy products from next year

Dubai: Juices, milk and other dairy products manufactured and sold in the UAE will have to comply with a new set of regulations from next year, the Emirates Authority for Standardisation and Metrology (ESMA) announced on Wednesday.

The announcement comes as ESMA aims to enhance quality standards of all consumables available in the market, protecting the rights of the consumers in the country.

The new regulation covers beverages as well as fruit juices, milk and dairy products, taking the quality of the products to the next level.

According to ESMA, traders and manufacturers will have a year’s time to adhere to the new standards and the authority has set up an awareness workshop for more than 300 traders and suppliers in the UAE on mandatory technical regulations.

Abdullah Al Muaini, ESMA’s Director General, said enhancing the quality of these products would preserve the health and safety of the consumers.

He added that new standards will cover every stage of production and supply of these products, complying with approved health and hygiene standards in the country.


Vehicle-monitoring traffic incident management system launched in Dubai

Mattar Al Tayer, Director-General and Chairman of the Board of Executive Directors of Roads and Transport Authority, RTA, and Major General Abdullah Khalifa, Commander-in-Chief of Dubai Police General HQ, yesterday launched the Traffic Incidents Management Unit vehicle.

The unit’s vehicles will be deployed on a 70km stretch of the Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Road on a trial base for one year.

The launch of the Traffic Incidents Management Unit reflects the solid relationships between RTA and Dubai Police and their concerted traffic safety strategy, which is aligned with Dubai’s strategy and traffic safety plans. The ultimate objective of this move is to make Dubai a safe and stable city that cares for the protection of lives and properties.

Al Tayer and Al Marri inspected one of the unit’s vehicles that were fitted with advanced technologies such as interactive screens, communication devices among others. These vehicles will be stationed at five sites on the Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Road. Each vehicle will cover about 13km to ensure speedy access to accident scenes in no more than 10 minutes.

The unit will cater to vehicle breakdown, rapid intervention at the site and surrounding roads, and the handling of minor accidents that do not warrant the presence of the police. It will also remove vehicles involved in traffic accidents and restore traffic movement back to normal plus assessing damage inflicted to the infrastructure and file relevant reports. It will also carry out detours on-site or surrounding roads, assist road users, lend assistance to the police on site, protect parked vehicles and provide traffic support during events.

Al Tayer said, "The Traffic Incidents Management scheme culminates in the strategic relationship and coordination between RTA and Dubai Police. It aims to ensure rapid clearance of vehicles involved in minor incidents or experiencing a breakdown on roads besides alleviating snarls and streamlining traffic flow at the site.

"The scheme will cut short the time taken to remove affected vehicles and fend off potential secondary accidents triggered by the sudden traffic build up. The SMZ Rd was selected as it is a high traffic density area, especially in peak times, and has a high rate of minor traffic incidents and vehicle breakdown," Al Tayer added.

Major General Al Marri hailed the strategic partnership between Dubai Police and RTA and their coordination in streamlining traffic enforcement measures in the interest of citizens and residents of Dubai. He described the operation of the Traffic Incidents Units as a tribute to the strategic partnership between the two parties aimed at establishing an integrated system that supports the vision of Dubai.

"Dubai Police will investigate serious accidents, injuries, and traffic offences. It will also provide judicial support to the Unit, monitor traffic cameras and handle rescue operations among others."

"RTA will provide technical support to the Traffic Incidents Management Unit, and look after traffic diversions, light signals timings, virtual messaging signs, and tactical traffic signs. It will also monitor the traffic movement as well as response plans, in addition to cameras at the site and preparing the infrastructure for the trial site," Al Marri explained.

Comprehensive studies about the management of traffic accidents in Dubai show that about 250,000 vehicles experience a breakdown on roads each year, and about 200 minor traffic accidents occur in the Dubai annually. Studies also reveal that the Traffic Incidents Management scheme will reduce the accidents clearance rate by 35 percent, slash congestion and associated costs by 25 percent and curb the potential for secondary accidents.

Attendees of the launch of the Traffic Incidents Unit vehicle included Brigadier Dr Mohammed Nasir Al Razooqi, Director of Transport and Rescue and Brigadier Saif Muhair Al Mazroui,

Director of Traffic at the Dubai Police. From RTA also attended Eng. Maitha bin Adai, CEO of Traffic and Roads Agency, Husain Al Banna, Executive Director of Traffic, and other directors.


Abu Dhabi named safest city in the world for second year running

Abu Dhabi has been ranked the safest city in the world for the second year, with Dubai close behind in 11th place, according to a website that collates crime statistics on the world's major cities.

Numbeo, a website for crowd-sourced global data, has placed the capital first and given the lowest crime index of more than 300 cities.

“Safety is paramount when choosing a city to visit or live and work in and we are proud to be the top of the list for the second year running," said Saif Saeed Ghobash, undersecretary at the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi.

"Our capital’s strong reputation for safety and a virtually crime-free society is a testament to the ongoing efforts to establish the Emirate as a destination of distinction with international standards of safety. And we hope that adds to all visitors and residents of Abu Dhabi enjoying their time and making the most of our renowned Emirati hospitality.”

The index ranked 338 cities and is an estimation of overall safety levels in any given city or a country. It also measures the cost of living, pollution, the cost of travel and quality of life.

Abu Dhabi's crime index was 13.63, better than 14.41 last year and Dubai's was 19.03, a slight improvement on 19.50 last year.

Police have been aggressive about tackling what crime there is, including drug use.

In June, Dubai's most senior security official said police are "at war" with traffickers following a large rise in the amount of drugs seized in the UAE.

Nationwide figures showed anti-narcotics officers arrested 6,440 people in relation to drug smuggling and drug use last year, up from 5,130 in the previous year.

“When smuggling techniques are detected by the anti-narcotics unit, traffickers create new ones. Police must focus on busting drug lords rather than addicts,” said Lt Gen Dhahi Tamim, Deputy Chairman of Police and General Security in Dubai, speaking at the time.

On Numbeo's scale, 1 would be no crime at all and 100 would be extremely dangerous.

The remaining nine safest cities were Doha, Basel, Singapore, Quebec City, Osaka, Tokyo, Bern, Munich and Zurich, in that order.

The most dangerous was San Pedro Sula in Honduras and Caracas in Venezuela, where gun violence, drug dealing and kidnapping are rife.

Also in the bottom ten were the South African cities of Durban, Pretoria and Johannesburg, despite a recent economic revival in the latter.


UAE plans to grant residency to retired expats

In a significant move, the UAE government is set to allow expatriates above 55 years of age to stay in the country after retirement for a period of five years, under a new law, said a report.

The move is seen as part of the government’s policy reforms that seek to boost economic growth. It comes following a raft of similar changes earlier this year such as to allow investors and key workers such as doctors or engineers access to long-term visas.

The law was approved at the UAE cabinet meeting, chaired by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai.

As per the law, which will come into effect from next year, all expatriates above 55 years of age will be able to stay in the country even after retirement for a period of five years (with the possibility of renewal), if they own a property worth Dh2 million ($544,450) in the emirates, reported state news agency Wam.

Outlining the requirements to qualify for the long-term visa, the cabinet said those expats having financial savings of no less than Dh1 million, or having an active income of no less than Dh20,000 per month would also be eligible for getting this special treatment post retirement, it added.


Riyadh Metro project work 75pc completed

Steady progress was being made on the Riyadh Metro development with about 75 per cent of the work already completed on the kingdom's ambitious project, reported Saudi Gazette citing a top official.

Work at 250 sites along the metro network routes is under progress, revealed Riyadh Emir Prince Faisal Bin Bandar after chairing the Arriyadh Development Authority meeting yesterday (September 17).

Prince Faisal, who is also the chairman of the board of directors of Arriyadh Development Authority and chairman of the supreme committee for supervision of the King Abdul Aziz Public Transport Project in Riyadh, expressed happiness at receiving coaches for the Riyadh bus project.

He was briefed on the project and the services available for Riyadh residents in the coming year, said the report.

The meeting approved awarding contracts for operation, maintenance and linking telecom networks in the Riyadh buses project for a period of 10 years, it added.


Oman opens new airport at Duqm region

Oman's Special Economic Zone Authority of Duqm (SEZAD) has announced the opening of the new airport at the sultanate's Duqm region.

Considered one of the main components of the Sezad, the new airport features a new passenger terminal, an air cargo terminal, an air control tower and other components, reported Times of Oman.

This includes a well-developed road network and a logistics zone to service both the airport and the port, which will contain logistics services related to aviation and port activities, car hire, tanker services, marine shipping offices, warehouses and industrial and real estate services, it stated.

The first flight at the new airport took off at 5pm yesterday (September 17) drawing parallels with the country’s economy spreading its wings to scale new heights, under its Tanfeedh plans for economic diversification, the report added.

The total area of the new passenger terminal is some 5,700 sq m, with the capacity of the airport expected to be around 500,000 passengers per annum.

The cargo terminal has been designed to accommodate 25,000 tonnes of goods annually, and with a runway that is four kilometres long, Duqm airport has the ability to operate internationally, it added.


OTaxi service makes getting a cab easier in Muscat city

Muscat - Oman’s first taxi app - OTaxi is up and running, again. Its operations were shut down last year due to administrative and technical issues but it has come back after getting approval from the Ministry of Transport and Communications (MoTC).

OTaxi is the first Omani application on smartphones to give customers a convenient, hassle-free ride. Its success tells the story of a team of Omani youth starting a business despite numerous challenges.

Speaking to Muscat Daily , Harith al Maqbali, CEO of OTaxi said, “Our aim is to give customers comfortable rides whenever and wherever they want.”

He said that they first came up with the app in 2014 as a result of a Sas 48H competition organised by Information Technology Authority (ITA). The competition fostered startups with innovative ideas and solutions in information and communication technology to compete for the best eGame, Web and mobile services or apps within a span of 48 hours.

We started operations in January 2017. In August 2017, we were asked to close operations by MoTC due to certain administrative and technical issues. In February this year, we resumed operations after getting the licence from the ministry. With new competitive rates, we are now growing rapidly.”

OTaxi manages a fleet of 200 orange-white taxis who are connected through the app. “OTaxi is as of now operational in Muscat. We are conducting trials for operations in Salalah.”

A ride can be pre-booked through the app which also has a timer to let the traveller know how much time it would take for the car to reach. One can also see how much the traveller has to pay for the ride.

“The app gives a confirmation when a ride is booked. We have eight supervisors in our operations team, working in shifts 24x7. There are three women in the marketing team. After restarting operations this year, we have been focusing on ensuring quality.”

OTaxi charges 190bz per kilometre. Talking about competitors, Maqbali said, “We offer better rates. On-time performance is also an important factor for us. Transparency is another factor that we focus on. Travellers can track the movement of drivers throughout the journey duration. The most important thing is that customers’ information is kept confidential.”


Millennium Hotels and Resorts opens new five-star resort in Salalah

Millennium Hotels and Resorts, Middle East and Africa has opened a new 285-room five star resort in Oman's summer tourist hotspot, Salalah.

The Millennium Resort Salalah is the hotel chain's fourth property in Oman, after Grand Millennium Muscat, Millennium Executive Apartments Muscat and Millennium Resort Mussanah.

The group currently operates 35 hotels in the Middle East, with 11 more to open by the end of 2018 and 40 others in construction.

Located in the area of Al Saada in Northern Salalah, the hotel is built to a capacity of 1,000 guests, with facilities including four restaurants and cafes, a lazy river traversing the exterior of the resort, gardens clastered around a freshwater pool, a children’s playground and a spa complex.

“We are delighted to launch our fourth property in Oman – an increasingly ‘hot’ travel destination for the region," said Kevork Deldelian, chief operating officer at Millennium Hotels and Resorts in the Middle East and Africa.

"This is a key destination for the group and we are confident it will be a huge success.”


Bahrain's IKEA store enters final stage of construction

Scandinavian retail giant IKEA is set to open in Bahrain after officials announced that one of the country's most anticipated stores is in its final stages of construction.

IKEA Bahrain in Salmabad will be the biggest in the region with a retail area of 37,000 sq m spread over two floors, said IKEA Bahrain properties and expansion manager Saleh Khalaf.

“IKEA Bahrain is well on its way to being open to the public. The support of various government bodies has been monumental for the progress we have made with the facility,” he said in a statement.

Following the store’s groundbreaking in October 2016 construction for the project was carried out by the Bahrain-based company Kooheji Contractors.

IKEA Bahrain will consist of a showroom, market hall and self-serve section as well as a bistro and Swedish food market plus the biggest restaurant in the kingdom with a capacity of up to 650 seats and 1,200 parking spaces and a free play facility, called Smaland.

IKEA, which is the world’s largest retailer for furniture and is known around the world for its ready-to-assemble furniture and other home accessories, is being opened in Bahrain in partnership with Saudi Arabia’s Ghassan Ahmed Al Sulaiman Furniture Trading Co Ltd, IKEA Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.

Upon completion, over 1.2 million people are expected to visit IKEA Bahrain every year.


Exiting expats impact economy – SPECIAL REPORT

KUWAIT: “We sent our kids home today,” said Lissy Antony, fighting back tears that welled up in her eyes as she walked out of Kuwait International Airport’s departure area with her husband Antony Joseph. For Antony and his wife, parting with their young children Alan and Alena was a traumatic experience. And for their two children, aged 12 and 10, saying goodbye to the country they considered their home presented a psychological and emotional crisis.

As Kuwait introduces new rules and regulations as part of Kuwaitization, thousands of foreigners are either being laid off or restricted from taking up jobs in key sectors. While many expats are compelled to tighten their belts by resorting to the painful remedy of sending their children home, others are left with an even harder choice – leaving the country before things get worse.

While some are quitting Kuwait because they lost their jobs, others are doing it of their own volition in the face of a situation they call “beyond their control”. As the number of foreigners leaving the country rises, the impact has started to ripple through the economy, affecting sales in almost all retail segments – from automobiles and garments to food and beverages and household goods. “For decades, Kuwait remained an Eldorado for expats, especially for Asians. Not anymore. I think it is time we folded up,” said Riyas Ahamad, an Indian engineer working with an oil company in Ahmadi.

According to Expat Insider, Kuwait ranked last in a global poll about working abroad. Respondents reportedly considered a set of indicators including quality of life, ease of settling in and overall general satisfaction. Kuwait came 68th, a position it already held from 2014 to 2016, while it came second to last in 2017, the report said.

‘Lean and mean’

Large-scale retrenchments are taking place in the private sector too. As part of cost-cutting, private universities and schools are firing expats while organizations and hotels are easing out expat staff as part of their new strategy to become “lean and mean”. Many Asian schools admit, albeit secretly, that a large number of parents like Antony have opted to take transfer certificates of their wards to relocate them to their home countries amid radically “deteriorating financial conditions”. Several others are sending their families home as they find it hard to balance their monthly family budget.

“Be it the exorbitant fees for medical services, high petrol prices, new visa regulations or taxation moves, the tide is inexorably turning against expats,” said Alfred Williams, a lecturer at a private university in Kuwait.

“In most consumer segments, there is a palpable drop in sales. Usually there is a lull in sales during summer, but this time it has been slightly higher,” an executive at a supermarket said on condition of anonymity. However, he said no official estimates are available yet for the quarter.

According to a recent report by NBK, growth in its consumer spending index eased to 6.5 percent year-on-year in July. The consumption of durables was flat in July with growth easing to 7.3 percent year-on-year from 10.8 percent in June, as the sector continued to feel the impact of seasonally lower demand during the summer months. Sales of cars, furniture, and luxury items were weaker, while spending on electronics picked up, the report added.

Flats for rent

If the sudden spurt in ‘Flat for Rent’ hoardings across the country’s residential areas is any indication, one can assume that demand for apartments is in a fairly steep negative price trajectory. “During summertime, usually there will be a drop in demand for residential apartments. This is the time when expats normally seek a ToR (transfer of residence). But this year, we see an unusual trend. The number is surprisingly high,” said Anand Kumar, a supervisor at a real estate firm in Mahboula. According to Al-Shall economic report, percentage of vacant buildings dropped slightly in the first half of the year, as per PACI figures, increasing to 11.2 percent. They numbered approximately 22,800 buildings out of a total of 203,800 buildings (23,400 vacant buildings, out of a total of 202,400 buildings in the end of 2017, i.e. 11.6 percent).

Hundreds of residential apartments in Kuwait are lying vacant currently amid declining demand and availability of newly-built apartments. Interestingly, apartment owners have begun to show more flexibility towards their customers, either to retain occupants or woo new tenants. In many residential areas like Abbassiya, Salmiya, Mangaf and Fahaheel, building owners have reduced rents to keep their properties occupied. As the rental market in Kuwait is oversupplied currently, rent declines in the country vary from roughly 2.5 percent up to 10 to 15 percent, according to some estimates.

“There were four flats vacant in our building two months ago. But today, there are eight flats vacant in the building,” said Yousef, a Pakistani taxi driver who stays near Don Bosco School in Salmiya.

Market experts are of the view that property owners and tenants may be in the process of converging on a new lower equilibrium price in tandem with building valuations and high vacancy rates for apartments – approximately 13 percent – according to the Real Estate Association. “We anticipate prices in this sector to stabilize only if the gap between demand and supply narrows. We don’t expect this to happen anytime soon because currently the market is oversupplied and the demand appears very weak,” said Fakruddin Ali, a real estate expert.

According to experts, building prices remain in negative territory. More than 75,000 flats in Kuwait are empty and need to be “absorbed” by the real estate market in four to five years, a recent study warned.

The balancing act

Kuwait has adopted a two-pronged strategy in the face of a volatile oil price scenario to reduce dependency on oil and balance the demography by slashing the burgeoning expat population in the country. According to UN estimates, Kuwait’s current population is 4,206,085 as of August 2018. Expatriates account for about 70 percent of the country’s population, with 1.1 million Arabs and 1.4 million Asians.

“For policymakers, it is a tightrope walk. No doubt we need to purge the illegal residents of the country and bring the number of expats down to a sustainable level. At the same time, expats are a critical component for the economic growth of the country and its sociocultural expansion. So the focus must be on the quality of the expat population while we adjust the demographics,” said Kareem Ibrahim, a professor at a private university in Kuwait.


Souq Al Wakra Hotel by Tivoli opens in Qatar

Nestled amongst the newly established Souq on the shores of the Arabian Gulf, Souq Al Wakra Hotel Qatar by Tivoli has officially opened in Al Wakra, the up-and-coming seaside district just a 20-minute drive south of Doha.

Having established itself as a prominent coastal settlement for pearl divers, sailors and fishermen, Al Wakra has flourished as a trading post since the 17th century, but growth slowed down when supplies ran out. Recent investment has resulted in efforts to preserve and revive heritage sites, including the development of Souq Al Wakra Hotel Qatar by Tivoli.

Blending artful Qatari tradition and contemporary leisure, the new hotel comprises of two buildings with a total of 101 guest rooms. Both buildings are former heritage houses where original character has been splendidly preserved with the architecture mirroring a Qatari house or fortress.

In keeping with the local heritage, each of the guest rooms and suites features classic thatched roofs, reflecting traditional basket weaving elements. The guest rooms have been thoughtfully designed with colourful motifs reflecting the jubilant blues of the sea and the sandy tones of the desert, inspired by Al Wakra’s history as a pearl diving and fishing village.

Open walkways and maze-like paths lead to courtyards where multiple guest rooms can be blocked off to create private areas for groups. Offering ultimate privacy, large parties can stay together in guest rooms grouped around authentic Qatari majlis, perfect for celebrations or family gatherings. Historically a majlis was a gathering place for people to discuss family and business-related issues and announcements, a true symbol of Arabian hospitality for centuries. The tradition is now widely used in Qatari homes as a place for convivial events and meetings.

Souq Al Wakra Hotel Qatar by Tivoli has created dining delights in five restaurants and lounges. Jarnen offers Mediterranean all-day dining with fresh seafood sourced daily from the local Al Wakra market and BBQ grilled to order at live cooking stations. Markhan, an Arabic fusion lounge, offers the ideal place to enjoy the sunset from the terrace overlooking the gulf.

Emshoot invites guests to discover the culinary delights of Asia’s diverse flavours and dishes ranging from sushi to tandoori kebabs. For those looking for something lighter, guests can dine upstairs and embrace the sights and sounds of the nearby Souq from Mahaadeg’s terrace, which serves a selection of international dishes. Whether needing to grab breakfast on the go or an afternoon snack, the Lobby Lounge tempts palates with a range of quick bites.

In addition, the colourful majlis, situated across the property, offers an authentic Bedouin-style evening or live BBQ. The comfortable spaces are perfect for groups to share quality time whilst enjoying a casual and convivial atmosphere.

To complement the waterfront location, Tivoli Spa provides an absolute state of relaxation and well-being with separate treatment rooms for men and women as well as a hydro pool, steam room, Vichy Shower and jacuzzi. High-end spa products effectively target the physical signs of stress and fatigue. A multifunctional gym in each building is also available for all guests.

Only a 15-minute drive to Doha’s Hamad International Airport, the hotel is an easily accessible location for business meetings, with both a multipurpose boardroom equipped with the latest audio-visual equipment and a business centre available in each building. The hotel also has direct access to the adjacent Al Wakra public beach and promenade, suitable for running and walking.

Souq Al Wakra is quickly becoming a local meeting point with vendors and merchants selling their native goods from traditional garments to dates and spices, as well as souvenirs. The Souq comes to life at night with locals and tourists who dine and drink tea along the promenade. The regeneration of the area also includes historical landmarks such as Al Wakra Fort, a short walk from the property, which will soon reopen after refurbishment. - TradeArabia News Service

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