Disappearance of Saudi journalist puts Erdogan in difficult situation

Keeping an eye on what is happening with “disappeared” journalist Khashoggi, it would appear that a full-blown diplomatic incident is looming. This is not surprising. Journalists often “disappear” in Saudi and in the United Arab Emirates. This is how Al Monitor reports the incident.

 

Disappearance of Saudi journalist puts Erdogan in difficult situation

Semih Idiz October 9, 2018

 Article Summary

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Where is the Saudi journalist, Jamal Khashoggi?

I apologise for not having been around recently. I’ve travelled from the United Kingdom to New Zealand, arriving back on Wednesday evening, and now I’m getting back into things.

One of the items which appears to be on top of the news agenda is the alleged murder of the Saudi journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, (whom I’ve met) at the Saudi embassy in Turkey. I’m told by a Saudi source that murder is not typically the Saudi way. That it’s more likely that the Saudis will abduct someone and blackmail the family. Let’s see.

This is what the BBC wrote about the case.

Jamal Khashoggi: Turkey says journalist was murdered in Saudi consulate

7 October 2018

Fears are growing over the missing Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi, after Turkish officials said they believed he had been murdered.

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Qatar isn't paying World Cup stadium workers

One of the Qatari construction companies isn’t paying its workers. And workers just can’t up and leave, or move to another employers, according to the article below.

When I arrived in Dubai, in the UAE, the weekend was still only a day and a half (half of Friday and Saturday) although journalists seldom got Friday off (or I didn’t anyway). And if you wanted to leave an employer that was in Dubai proper- ie not in a free zone- you needed to ask the permission of your employer. Employers also retained employees’ passports.

This was the same in Qatar. A lot of people were not allowed to move to another employee.  And I’ve heard of other people and companies not being paid. Therefore, I was not surprised to read this article in The Daily Mail.

 

 Amnesty International says Qatar isn't paying World Cup stadium workers, with hundreds owed up to £4,000

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Barriers for refugees in NZ with employment and heathcare

Press Release: 24 September 2018- Christchurch, New Zealand

 Failure to speak English is the main barrier refugees face when looking for employment and accessing healthcare.

 Other barriers to finding employment include discrimination- ethnic and gender- a lack of local work experience and a failure by employers to recognise qualifications gained outside New Zealand.

 These are discussed further in a study carried out by the Canterbury Refugee Resettlement and Resource Centre (CRRRC). This study gathered information on the challenges refugees face when seeking employment, the quality of that employment, the state of refugee health and the ability of refugees to access health services.

 The information was elicited from refugees themselves via a questionnaire. “Although the survey was conducted among refugees in Christchurch and its surrounds, the answers can be extrapolated to the rest of New Zealand,” one of the co-researchers, Sumaiya Nasir, general manager of the CRRRC said.

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Filipina expat forced to work as prostitute in Arab country

There are many Filipinas/os in the Middle East, most of whom are looking for good employment opportunities so that they can send money back home- often to send their children to work. It’s a sad situation. Even more so, when we learn that the mother is forced into prostitution and documents taken away.

 I spotted this on the website of Khaleej Times, a national newspaper in the UAE.

 Filipina expat forced to work as prostitute in Arab country

Filed on September 19, 2018 | Last updated on September 19, 2018 at 05.58 pm

 

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Ben Bernanke on the financial crisis of 2008 (2)

There’s been a great deal in the media recently, the radio, the television and newspapers, about the financial crisis of 2008-2009- since it’s 10 years since the demise of Lehman Brothers, the investment bank.

I was in Dubai at the time, and suddenly our pay was cut somewhere between £2000-£3000 a month. It was then denominated in pound sterling rather than UAE dirhams, even though we had never agreed to the change. That seems to be the way companies are nowadays- domineering and bullying. Employees are only seen as a cost.

At the same time, the financial crisis coincided with the property crisis in Dubai- too much property and not enough investors. Blame the financial crisis, not government policy.

Here’s an article by Ben Bernanke, former chairman of the Federal Reserve, published by the Brookings Institute.

At the height of the financial crisis a decade ago, economists and policymakers underestimated the depth and severity of the recession that would follow. I argue in a paper released today by the Brookings Papers on Economic Activity (BPEA) that remedying this failure demands a more thorough inclusion of credit-market factors in models and forecasts of the economy. I also provide new evidence that suggests that the severity of the Great Recession reflected in large part the adverse effects of the financial panic on the supply of credit.  In particular, the housing bust alone can’t explain why the Great Recession was as bad as it was.

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Will Hamas, Israel call Qatar-brokered truce?

 The role Qatar plays in Palestine, as well as with Israel, is an interesting one. There is more going on than often meets the eye. Here is an overview of what’s happening, from the Palestine Pulse, part of Al-Monitor. I was in Doha when Hamas had one of its first meetings there.

 Will Hamas, Israel call Qatar-brokered truce?

Adnan Abu Amer August 30, 2018

 

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Redefining Palestine

I’m posting this article from Al Monitor about President Trump redefining UNRWA- continuing last week’s theme. There is no doubt that UNRWA is an anomaly, given that there is already a commission for refugees- UNHCR.

 

Article Summary

Israeli diplomats claim that the UNRWA’s mandate must be revised so that the issue of Palestinian refugees will include only the generation that really lost its home.

In the words of President Donald Trump, the (symbolic) transfer of the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem served to take the Jerusalem problem “off the table.” Trump put a checkmark next to the Jerusalem issue, a conundrum that has cast a shadow on anyone who tried to mediate between Israel and the Palestinians ever since the 1993 Oslo Accord. Now, it seems, Trump is also removing the Palestinian refugee problem from the agenda. This is an issue that the Palestinian narrative views as central and imperative, even more than Jerusalem.

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Saudi halts Aramco IPO

The Saudi Aramco IPO was going to be the largest ever and it has now been halted. Here’s a report from CNBC this morning.

Saudi Arabia reportedly calls off Aramco IPO and disbands advisers

Saudi Arabia cancels plans to list shares of its state-owned oil giant Aramco, Reuters reports.The initial public offering was expected to be the largest ever and underpinned an ambitious plan to overhaul the Saudi economy.

Tom DiChristopher | @tdichristopher

Published 17 Hours Ago Updated 14 Hours Ago CNBC.com

Saudi Arabia calls off Aramco IPO: Report   16 Hours Ago | 02:06

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US outsources Syria aid to Gulf

It’s hard to believe that Donald Trump really has won against Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. These countries have reportedly pledged USD 250 million towards stabilising Syria, taking the place of America. Is there real money yet or have they made pledges only? Will they have control over the projects or the USA?

 I can tell you that having lived in Dubai, and covering some of these topics as a journalist, the UAE (namely Abu Dhabi) will take control of the projects, if it’s putting up the money. The region wants influence and through aid it’ll get it.

 America will probably regret not financing aid in the region. Its influence will diminish but that of Saudi Arabia and the UAE will increase. Both countries sing from the same song sheet.

 Bryant Harris August 17, 2018

 

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Turkey wants its share of Syria's reconstruction

Back at the end of 2013, when the war in Syria was in full swing, there was the belief among many Western and GCC politicians, construction companies and private equity firms that the war in Syria would be at an end in the following few weeks. And Bashir Assad would step down as President. How wrong they were.

This conference, held at the Madinat Dubai, was not well publicised. Back then, the war in Syria didn’t make the headlines, as it does now.

These people were talking about the reconstruction efforts, and what countries and companies, would get to do what- from water purification to airport reconstruction. There was no talk of Turkey.

With this in mind, I was interested to read the article below from Al Monitor talking about Turkey’s role in the reconstruction effort. How times have changed.

By Fehim Tastekin August 15, 2018

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The summer of Israel

I haven't written a blog for about a week because my Apple Mac Pro went kaput and I've been arguing with Currys PC World (in the UK) ever since. For the meantime, I've now got a PC but I miss my Mac. It was going to cost me £800 to have a new screen fitted- on a computer which needs replaced anyway because the memory was overloaded. I was first told by Currys that I could get the screen repaired for £60 plus the cost of the repair- which I was told would be about £60, a big difference from £800, which all the Mac shops also told me. Why the difference? Currys PC World  buys at trade so it's therefore cheaper. Turns out it isn't. To cut a long story short I am going to get my retrieved data tomorrow, for the fifth time.

Maybe this is just a deviation from the day-to-day writing I must do. But I'm not the only one who's deviating it seems- Israel is too. This article, from Brooking s Brief, (which first appeared in Foreign Policy) below explains why this is the case, and why "friends" might be fleeting.

Blind Spot

By Khaled Elgindy

U.S. President Donald Trump took a bipartisan hit after meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki earlier this month, with Republicans and Democrats alike assailing what’s being peddled as his full capitulation to Putin. Undercutting the U.S. intelligence community to endorse Putin’s denial of Russian tampering with the 2016 election, Trump won wall-to-wall scorn for his performance. Meanwhile, in Israel, the summit was understandable cause for celebration.

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Abraaj: what went wrong?

The story of Abraaj, the largest private equity house in the Middle East, is perhaps the story of Dubai. How, after excessive hubris, the private equity firm was brought down to size. This seems to be happening to Dubai itself. Just read the article: "Dubai is melting like a glacier in the desert". https://www.luciadore.com/blog/dubai-is-melting-like-a-glacier-in-the-desert

This article in Bloomberg's Business Week explains what happened. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-06

The Downfall of Dubai’s Star Investor

With the potential collapse of Arif Naqvi’s Abraaj Group comes trouble for the United Arab Emirates’ nascent financial industry. ByTracy Alloway, Dinesh Nair, and Matthew MartinJune 14, 2018Pakistani financier Arif Naqvi shared a stage with Bill Gates at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, in January for a panel on global health. Even alongside the billionaire philanthropist and two medical professionals, Naqvi stood out for his enthusiasm: “Like Bill, I’m an optimist,” he said. “So I believe the glass is half full, very firmly. I don’t believe it’s half empty.”Unbeknownst to the audience, four investors in Naqvi’s Dubai-based $1 billion health-care fund, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, had recruited forensic accountants to investigate where their money had gone. The existence of the inquiry was first reported less than a week later by the Wall Street Journal. A subsequent review by Deloitte LLP, made at the request of Abraaj Group, Naqvi’s holding company, found it had dipped into money reserved for the health-care fund as well as a private equity fund, according to a draft summary sent to creditors and seen by Bloomberg News. Abraaj’s senior managers shared “collective responsibility” for “lapses in governance and control,” Deloitte said.In March, Naqvi halted fresh investments and released investors from commitments to a new fund, what would have been Abraaj’s largest to date. Later that month, the company began slashing jobs and downsizing its business to better prepare it for “sustainable growth,” according to a statement.

Abraaj was still pushing creditors to agree to a standstill on debt payments as of mid-June. Now it’s considering filing for provisional liquidation ahead of a June 29 court hearing on a petition from Kuwait’s Public Institution for Social Security seeking to dissolve its holdings, according to people with knowledge of goings-on inside the company.

“We should have reacted to the kind of questions that investors were asking, arguably, in a different way,” Naqvi says. “The fact that we didn’t, the fact that we took a particular perspective and stuck to that is in hindsight not the smartest thing we could have done.”

“Private equity is still a nascent industry in the region, so it’s a shame to see the biggest name falling apart”

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Does Israel need to be in a state of emergency?

Israel is in a state of emergency, and has been since 1948. How can this be allowed and what does it mean for the population? Reading this article in Al Monitor by a former justice and religious affairs minister, Yossi Bellin, t shows there is a whole list of ramifications.

Does Israel need to be in a state of emergency?

A cease-fire between Israel and Hamas was announced the night of July 14, following large exchanges of fire between the Islamist movement and the Israel Defense Forces. That there is an undeclared cease-fire — one not officially authorized by the Israeli government — does not, however, end Israel’s state of emergency. Actually, the state of emergency is always in effect, making it unnecessary to declare it every time there is an escalation of violence. There is no need to declare a state of emergency for an urgent call-up of the reserves, because such a call-up, under Order 8, does not depend on that. Whether dealing with people from Gaza setting nearby fields on fire or with using heavier weapons systems, there is no need for a formal decision on a new security status. The state of emergency is always present in Israel, because the tail wags the dog.

On July 12, Haaretz announced that a joint committee of the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee and the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee had decided to respond positively to a government request and recommend to the Knesset that it extend the current state of emergency by another year. No one was upset about it. How can anyone get excited over a situation that has existed since May 19, 1948?

It began at the height of the 1948 War of Independence. Israel needed to ensure that the public received goods and services, and there was nothing more natural for the interim government than deciding that a country that was just 5 days old, and already in a state of war, to declare a state of emergency. This way, it could procure existing resources from the public on behalf of the security effort. The war ended less than a year later, but the state of emergency remained in effect. Someone forgot to revoke it, or perhaps it was just all too convenient to give it up so easily.

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Rouhani goes on offense against critics

Everything to do with Iran and how it interacts with the other members of the Iranian elite and the West is interesting to me. In Dubai, when Iranians could enter easily, and many worked for the government or pseudo-government agencies, the people provided a great deal of information- far more than the Saudis, for example

This article from Al Monitor explains the difficult relationship between President Hossein and members of his own elite and the West.  

Rouhani goes on offense against critics, shady interests and ‘culture of opacity’

Week in Review July 8, 2018

Iranian President Hassan Ruhani attends a news conference at the Chancellery in Vienna, Austria, July 4, 2018.

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Israeli president stands up against Arab discrimination

The dislike of the Arabs by the Israeli/Jewish State, and the Jews by many Arabs runs deep. This hostility is neither a one-off, nor short lived. As a non-Jewish, non Arab person the tension in Israel and the West Bank is palpable, even after a short visit.

 This article written by Yossi Beilin for Israel Pulse, produced by Al Monitor Group, explains some of the underlying issues.

Yossi Beilin July 11, 2018

Article Summary

In a letter to the prime minister and the Knesset, President Reuven Rivlin pleaded with Benjamin Netanyahu to remove a clause in the proposed Nationality Law that would make it legal to deny Arabs the right to live in Jewish villages.

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800,000 ex-pats have left Saudi Arabia

I was sent this article today, by a Saudi, and read it with fascination. While the article takes a swipe at Saudis, Emiratis are

But then, as I learned today, nor are those working at Ealing Council In London. I waited for one hour before I was served, and I was next in the queue all that time, and then it took forty minutes to sort out my request and go to the cashier. Yes, a new computer system had only just been installed, making it slower for the employees, but ..…. Are these employees not the same as the Saudis or Emiratis?

From Business Insider

 800,000 ex-pats have left Saudi Arabia, creating a hiring crisis because 'young Saudi men and women are lazy and are not interested in working'

Ambrose Carey, AlacoJul. 9, 2018, 1:52 PMThe Saudisation policy of Crown Prince Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) has coincided with an "expat exodus" and flight of foreign investment.Saudi businesses are complaining that locals don't want to do "low-status" jobs that many expats worked — creating a real problem for the economy.In November, a paper by the Institute of International Finance projected capital outflows in 2017 at $101 billion, 15% of GDP.Fortunately, a recent rebound in oil prices has temporarily rescued the ailing Saudi Arabian economy, but it will not be a long-term solution.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman may have portrayed himself as a moderniser rolling back the country’s stultifying social restrictions – but he is struggling to turn the country’s financial fortunes around, with the economy suffering a crisis of confidence.

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Abraaj: why it is troubled

So I see that Abraaj Group, previously the largest private equity firm in the Middle East, is struggling to keep afloat, amid allegations that some of the funds have been mismanaged.

This is a turnaround, especially from the times when it was sponsoring Art Dubai. Indeed it was sponsor of the main art prize, to support contemporary artists of the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia.  

Now, it appears not to have the prestige that it once did.

 I was working on Khaleej Times, from where the article below came, and then on mergermarket, part of the Financial Times Group, and was covering a great deal on private equity. And here’s an article from Arabian Business that explains the background.

 Filed on July 5, 2018 | Last updated on July 5, 2018 at 04.09 pm (Khaleej Times)

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Is Riyadh really pushing for control of Jerusalem holy sites?

I’ve often wondered about the relationship between Saudi Arabia and Jordan. Both are wanting to be the dominant country in the Middle East, but it’s Jordan that has control of the holy sites in Jerusalem. To learn more about this relationship read this article from Al Monitor below.

  Rasha Abou Jalal July 2, 2018

Article Summary

Saudi Arabia is boosting its efforts to take over Jordan's administration of Jerusalem's holy sites, and many think the pressure is coming from Saudi efforts to drum up support for the US peace plan for the Mideast.

REUTERS/Ammar Awad

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Jordan’s political elite warn of more protests if reforms are ignored

Focusing on Jordan in the Middle East is a little unusual in that it is considered one of the most stable societies in the region. To many, it is surprising that it is not.

When I was working in Dubai one Jordanian journalist who was working with me noted the protests that were taking place in Amman and how ineffective the government was. Nothing has changed.

The government is still ineffective and the reforms have not happened. Hence, the public protests at the end of May.

For an explanation of what is happening in Jordan, Osama Al Sharif from Al Monitor gives a good explanation.

 

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