The leading consumer electronics brand, Sony Gulf, introduced into the region on Sunday, July 3rd, their latest offering of high-tech development, namely, the Bravia line of TVs.
Projected Sales in Millions
Sony Gulf is projecting sales for the coming year in the Middle East and African region to be upwards of 2.5 million units, explaining that this new genre of Internet TV will grab about 40% of the total sales of television products.
Sony Gulf’s Bravia will be available in 24 TV models, 19 of which are able to support internet connectivity. These models are part of Sony’s international campaign of “Television Redefined,” basing its appeal on the desire of consumers to have a TV which can easily accommodate the constantly changing variety of hi-tech home entertainment.
There are three pillars on which rest the foundation of the new Sony TV products: Connectivity to the internet, networking capabilities, and 3-Dimensional viewing. The display is based on a totally new ‘picture-enhancement’ technology called X-Reality. X-Reality creates realistic, high-definition and 3D video, but can also enhance the picture quality of poor resolution internet content.
The managing director of Sony Gulf, Osamu Miura said during the introduction of the new Bravia models that, “As viewers shift their preferences across different forms of entertainment available at home; the ability to provide a platform for watching HDTV or 3DTV, or enjoying apps and browsing the Internet seamlessly on one device is crucial. Our Sony Internet TV is a revolutionary range that meets this hi-tech consumer demand and provides a one-on-one relationship with content. It is truly ‘Television Redefined’.”
“We also launched the next phase of our 3D strategy in earlier this year, where we see 3D becoming more personal. We will add more 3D products including 3D movies, music, games and television programming to further cement our leadership position in this segment. Consumers will be able to capture personal 3D content in the highest quality format and easily play it back on our expanding line of 3D enabled Bravia TVs.”
Last Tuesday the Oman Chamber of Commerce and Industry, (OCCI) elected a new board consisting of 15 businessmen.
Looking Towards Future
There is much optimism in the business community of Oman as the new board takes charge in the aftermath of what has been a large and protracted nationwide agitation by workers from many sectors. This leaves the new board with a great challenge; how to bring together the private sector businessmen to create an atmosphere of trust and confidence to find workable solutions for their issues with the government, one of the most difficult being issues related to employment.
Drawing Foreign Invesment
Another great challenge for the board will be to find creative ways to attract foreign direct investment through advising the government on the best methods to achieve this goal. It is believed by most members of the business community that direct foreign investment is one of the keys to development of the Omani economy.
Next Board Election in 2014
The 15 new board members were elected from a pool of 59 total candidates. They will serve on the OCCI for a term of four years, from 2011 until 2014.
There are a total of 22 seats on the board of the OCCI- 15 elected and the rest nominated through a royal decree.
This was the first year in the history of the OCCI that the election was conducted in a transparent fashion using and electronic counting machine.
“This also helps to announce the results faster,”
said the director general of the chamber, Abdul Adheen Abbas Al Bahrani, about the machine.
Compared to what was expected for 2010 there has been a significant increase in the real budget revenue as well as expenditures in Oman over the past year.
Government revenue expanded by 24% to RO 7916.5 million in comparison to the expected budgetary estimate of RO 6380 million.
Government expenditures also rose, by 11% to 7965.3 million from RO 7180. These figures were supplied by the Central Bank of Oman (CBO.)
The exceptional growth in income was credited mostly to an increase in the price of crude oil in the international marketplace.
Price of Oil Up
According to the CBO, Oman’s average price for crude oil increased by 35.2% to a high of $76.64 per barrel in 2010 up from $56.67 per barrel.Exports rose by 10.6% as well.
The production of natural gas also rose during 2010, by 7.2%, which also contributed to the rise in government revenues.
Oman’s National Committee for Human Rights will be dealing with as many as 200 reported cases of rights abuses in the time period from January to May of 2011.
Committee Directly Deals with Abuse
The abuses complained of include human trafficking and other civil rights violations. The committee is investigating the allegations directly but in coordination with the relevant government bodies.
New Head of Committee
Jihad Al Taye is the secretary-general of the committee. He was appointed at the recently held second session of the panel, replacing Rasheed Al Huraibi, who is the new head of the Tender Board.
The committee also conducts visits to prisons, keeping close watch over the treatment of the inmates to assure their rights are protected as well.
Citizens Can Feel Secure
Sayyid Fahd bin Mahmoud Al Said
The deputy prime minister for the Council of Ministers, His Highness Sayyid Fahd bin Mahmoud Al Said, has proclaimed that citizens of Oman can feel confident in the knowledge that their rights as citizens of Oman are safe and secure.
“The human rights in the Sultanate are secured by the principles of the Basic Law of the State and national laws and regulations, as also by the Sultanate’s joining a number of international conventions and charters,” Sayyid Fahd reiterated.
Human Rights Top Priority in Oman
The Human Rights Committee was created to guarantee that the right of citizens will always be protected by the state, emphasized Sayyid Fahd.
The committee has urged the government departments to correct any inconsistencies or irregularities concerning human rights under their purview.
The committee is also aligned with international human rights organizations with which they exchange opinions and information.
Sultan Qaboos Bin Said of Oman sent a message of support to President Bashar al-Assad of Syria via the Omani Foreign Minister Yusuf bin Alawi during his visit to Damascus this past week.
Omani Foreign Minister Yusuf bin Alawi
The Syrian president and the Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem met with bin Alawi to discuss the latest events taking place in the region with an emphasis on the developments now in Libya and Yemen.
Crisis in Syria Discussed
The leaders discussed the volatile situation in Syria as well. President al-Assad told Alawi about the violence which is being perpetrated by armed, organized groups who are specifically targeting Syria’s security and its citizens.
President al-Assad explained to the Omani delegation that he is confident that Syria will be able to deal with the present crisis and come out stronger and more united when control is regained.
Oman Pledges Support for Syria
Bin Alawi was also told about the reforms which Syria is beginning to institute by the Syrian leadership. The Omani Foreign Minister pledged total support of and confidence in Syria from Oman, explaining that Oman stands together with Syria against the destabilizing efforts of the opposition and the terrorism they are committing against the Syrian people.
In recent months the Syrian president has received letters from several kings and leaders of Arab countries pledging their complete and total support of the security and stability of Syria.
One of the demands posed by demonstrators during the “Arab Spring” in Oman was to create a fund to help Omani men finance the lavish weddings and high dowries which are expected by the bride and her family.
Shura Council Offers Partial Solution
The parliamentary-like body in Oman known as the Shura Council has offered to create a “Marriage Support Fund” which will distribute interest-free loans to those that cannot afford the cost of a wedding and dowry. There is also a plan to offer counseling and advice which will help to encourage the couples to spend less on their weddings and bring the bride-prices down.
One demonstrator, Abdullah Alabri, 27 explained the painful situation for Omani men.
“We have reached a stage where we cannot get married. We kept competing with our peers and now we are begging the government for help.”
Interest Free Loans
Couples making less than 500 rials per month will be eligible to apply for the 4,000 rial loans. This amount however will probably not do too much to alleviate the overall cost of marriage for most people.
Lower Dowry Prices Needed
A wedding in Oman can cost upwards of 30,000 rials, with large numbers of guests, luxuries venues and sumptuous meals. A dowry can cost an additional 15,000 rials, while deeply inside Oman the dowry can cost as much as 30,000 rials. The bride-price is set by the woman’s parents with the bride having little to say about it, in general.
“High dowries are demanded in the interior cities such as Buraimi and Ibri due to existing tribal ideas and social pressure,” said Abdul Jalil, an Omani who works at a petroleum company.
“A low dowry arouses suspicion that something is ‘wrong’ with the girl, making higher dowries a matter of pride,” he added.
Ofer Hi-Tech Investments
Established in 1997 as a subsidiary of Ofer Group run by the Ofer Brothers, Ofer Hi-Tech fast established itself as a “strong international presence.” The goal of Ofer Hi-Tech has always been to provide backing to “private equity investments in the pioneering and rapidly expanding IT and life science industries in Israel.”
Today, Ofer Hi-Tech is dedicated to developing technological entrepreneurship through “pre-seed and seed technological research and development companies in both life sciences and IT sectors.” In this way, it seeks companies that require this assistance.
Ofer Group and Activiews
One of these companies is Activiews, which was set up in 2007 and operates in Asia Pacific, Canada, EMEA and America. The aim of the company is to offer clinicians “simple, innovative solutions to enhance their experience in performing minimally invasive image-guided procedures.” Its product – ActiSight – enables the clinicians to choose their specific target path using CT images and “then provides real-time target guidance.” Basically how this product is extremely helpful to clinicians and patients alike is in its capacity to “improve minimally invasive procedures performed under CT.” So how does it work? A regular CT is performed but first, the patient has a small, one-time use pad placed on the specific area. The target is then selected and the 3D software put in place. A small video camera (special, for one-time use) is put on needles and then non-stop data is provided by a software display which facilitates the clinician getting right on target. Two years after its inauguration, the company was given CE approval and began selling in Europe the following year.
The Omani Minister for Higher Education, Dr. Rawiyah bint Saud Al Busaidiyah announced at a joint press conference with the Manpower Minister Shaikh Abdullah bin Nasser Al Bakri and the Vice Chancellor of Sultan Qaboos University Dr. Ali bin Saud Al Bimani that His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said recently ordered an increase in the number of educational grants by 8,500 to graduates of high schools to continue their studies within and outside Oman.
Forty Three Per Cent Increase
The additional grants awarded represent an increase of 43% to the original plan, bringing the total number of grants for higher education in Oman to 28,400 for the 2011-2012 academic year.
“The royal grant has made students, parents and all Omani families happy,” al Busaidiyah said.
Fifty Seven Percent of Students Receive Grants
Approximately 51,000 students, both men and women, have applied with the Higher Education Admission Center in expectation of continuing their studies this coming year. With the latest announcement taken into consideration the percentage of students studying for higher degrees this year will be 57%, a significant increase over last year’s 35%.
Dr. Al Busaidiyah added that the ministry of education has been able to increase the number places as well as scholarships this coming year at state run institutions like SQU and Colleges of Applied Sciences.
In addition, the Manpower Ministry will admit more students into the Colleges of Technology which are under their control.
“Raising the number of students receiving higher education will lead to more qualified Omanis entering the job market, thus decreasing the size of the expatriate workforce especially in specialized and technical jobs. This in turn will contribute to the growth of the national economy,” al Busaidiyah said.
The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries is scheduled to meet this week in Vienna. Their task will be to strike a fine balance between setting oil prices just right so that the international economy can continue on its slow and tedious recovery without having to deal with an extra burden of rising oil prices, while at the same time making up for the lack of oil flowing from Libya.
Oil Production Will Stay Steady
Analysts believe that OPEC will be forced to hold the level of oil production steady, with no serious changes on the horizon. OPEC is made up of 12 member nations, and together they produce roughly 40% of the world’s oil supply. The Wednesday meeting will be held in the midst of growing global fears that a significant increase in the price of crude oil will strike a blow at the hesitant international economic recovery which will lead to a decrease in the demand of oil worldwide.
The International Energy Agency (IEA) has requested that OPEC increase oil output and so avoid another harmful rise in prices, taking into consideration that during the coming summer months Northern Hemisphere oil demand will increase.
Rising Oil Prices Blow to Economy
Brent oil prices have risen a startling 21% so far this year, mostly in response to the widespread protests and violence which have occupied much of the past six months in the Middle East and North African region, with a large contribution from Libya, an OPEC member state.
“I would expect OPEC to leave quotas unchanged, rather than raise them, given the growing evidence that global demand is slowing,” said Capital Economics analyst Julian Jessop. “There is speculation in the market that they will be doing something to acknowledge the supply problems in Libya.
“Regardless of what OPEC happens to do — prices have further to fall,” Jessop added, referring to recent economic data showing that one of the world’s most important oil consumers, the United States is having a rough economic time of it and will most likely reduce consumption rather than pay more for the crude.
The Health Minister of Oman, Dr. Ahmed bin Mohammed al Saieedi, and many other Ministry employees were on hand for a seminar on Project Management and Sustainability Methodology in Muscat on Wednesday.
Sustainability Through Management
The goal of the seminar was to introduce ways to achieve sustainability through the efficient use of management, with a special emphasis on usage in the Health Ministry. Of special concern were IT projects which have already been approved and given the go-ahead by a different ministry of the Sultanate, where several Omani employees were trained, accredited and registered as experts in this particular method of management.
Middle East Precedent
This training and accreditation is the first such approval of the use of this methodology in the Middle East, and the accreditation is recognized internationally.
Other institutions in Oman, both in the public and private spheres, are working now to get similar accreditation of international standing.
Approved in UK, Too
In addition, the United Kingdom Trade Ministry has also approved this particular methodology to achieve sustainability as a management tool for many different projects in which they themselves engage.