Diabetes Plaguing Middle East

Flag of WHO

Flag of WHO

According to health experts, the level of diabetes in the Middle East is the highest in the world, affecting almost 43 million people. The rising number of people with diabetes will also lead to an increased number of diabetes-related illnesses, the experts warn.

In 1980 only 6 percent of the population of the Middle East was affected with diabetes. In 2014 that number has risen to almost 14 percent of adults over 18 years old. These are the statistics for Type 2 diabetes which is caused by obesity, lack of physical activity, and poor diets, according to the World Health Organization.

According to the first world report on diabetes conducted by the WHO, the prevalence of diabetes has quadrupled worldwide since 1980. Today there are in excess of 422 million adults, mostly living in developing countries, who are suffering from this disease.

Complications caused by diabetes include stroke, heart attack, blindness, kidney failure, and lower limb amputation.

Veolia Wins Contract to Manage Waste in North West Oman

Veolia waste management dump truck.

Veolia waste management dump truck.

A leading international leader of resource management, Veolia, has finalized its first contract in Oman along with its partner, locally-based Al Ramooz National.

The Oman Environmental Services Holding Company, known as Be’ah, awarded the contract to Veolia to manage the municipal waste in the governorates of Al Dhahirah and Al Buraimi.  Both areas are in the north-west Oman.

The contract outlines Veolia’s responsibilities to collect and transport municipal waste as well as operating two landfills in the North West region. The activities of Veolia will benefit over a quarter of a million residents in the area.

Veolia views this new deal as a major milestone. The French company has been working in Oman for ten years, but it has never before utilized its waste management know-how there before.

On the contract win, Xavier Joseph, the chief executive of Veolia Middle East, said: “Together with Al Ramooz National, we look forward to supporting Oman and its people with the best-in-class expertise in waste management.”

“Our key focus for this contract will be to contribute to the implementation of the best standards for the waste management operations in the sultanate, as well as support the Omani economy through in-country value,” he stated.

Pac Brands’ Bonds Moving to Middle East

 Bond's ads (taken for General Display Co.)

Bond’s ads (taken for General Display Co.)

The popular Australian underwear brand, Bonds, is making plans to enter the Middle Eastern marketplace. Pacific Brands, owner of Bonds, announced that it is hoping to open 20 stores around the Middle East all dedicated to the 100-year-old label.

The move is part of a greater push by Pacific Brands to expand the range of the groups clothing globally. The company has signed a licensing agreement to open stores in shopping centers, although the exact locations have not yet been released.
The first store should be open for business before the end of 2016.

The news of the expansion comes as Pac Brands returns to profitability after two years of not paying dividends to its shareholders. The company has been struggling for the past few years, and the positive announcements are indications that the company has made great headway towards success.

David Bortolussi, CEO, explained that the new, improved performance of Pac Brands came after the company sold off its non-core brands such as Hard Yakka and Volley shoes. This allowed the company to focus more efficiently on higher growth in the underwear and linen markets.

“Our change in strategy in the past 18 months to exit the underperforming businesses to focus on the higher quality part of our portfolio is delivering,” said Bortolussi.

Millions Starving in Syria and Elsewhere as Food is Used as Weapon

According to Business Insider, soldiers fighting in the various bloody conflicts in the Middle East today are using food as a weapon. The result: millions of people from

Ban Ki-moon. Secretary - General, UN. Photo by  ITU Pictures from Geneva, Switzerland

Ban Ki-moon. Secretary – General, UN. Photo by ITU Pictures from Geneva, Switzerland

Yemen to Syria and Iraq, are starving, and some cases dying from starvation.

Children have been hit the hardest. Without basic nutrition children succumb more readily to malnutrition. Their parents are forced to sell their possessions to get the most basic commodities such as water, medicine and fuel, just to keep alive.

The worst country is Syria, where a civil war has already devastated the country for five years. Estimates are that half the population of Syria has been displaced while a quarter of a million have perished. All the belligerents in the conflict have used blockades to force submission and surrender.

Humanitarian workers have recently arrived at one Syrian town witnessing scenes that “haunt the soul,” according to Ban Ki-moon, the Secretary-General of the United Nations. He pointed his finger at President Bashar Assad of Syria as well as at the rebels for using food as a weapon, saying starving the population on purpose is a war crime.

Oman’s Budget Deficit Heading Down

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Darwish al-Balushi. Photo courtesy Times of Oman

Darwish al-Balushi, Financial affairs Ministrer of Oman, announced yesterday the government’s intention of cutting the 4.5 billion-rial deficit by 27 percent this year, down to 3.3 billion rials ($8.6 billion.) Al-Balushi said that the deficit will be reduced mainly by the reduction of spending.

The recent low oil prices have hit Oman hard. The original deficit projection was placed at 2.5 billion rials last year. But that calculation was based on the price of oil hovering at about $75 per barrel. Today’s price for Brent crude oil is closer to $40 per barrel.

Al-Balushi predicted that state spending for this year should reach about 11.9 billion rials, a much lower figure than last years’ 14.1 billion rials. Revenues are expected to reach about 8.6 billion rials.

Oman Business Leaders Call for Subsidy Phase Out

Khalil bin Abdullah al Khonji, the former head of the Oman Chamber of Commerce and Industry says that the present economic reality demands a reduction and eventual elimination of the regions huge subsidies.

Despite the fact that the public will protest the withdrawal of subsidies, business leaders say “there is no other way out due to the new economic reality.”

Khonji stated that,

“The fall in oil prices is affecting Oman in a big way. All the reports indicate that the prices are unlikely to reach US$70 until 2020.

“I hope my predictions are wrong, but there is a strong indication that the prices might fall further after the crucial Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries meeting in Vienna on Friday. It might even touch US$30.”

He added that now is the best time to phase out subsidies, especially those on oil.

“We understand from government officials that citizens will not be affected if the subsidy is removed. We have to prevent smuggling of diesel and petrol to other countries.”

Doing Business in Oman is Getting Better

Buildings in Fujairah, Oman. Photo by: Aravind Sivaraj

Buildings in Fujairah, Oman. Photo by: Aravind Sivaraj

According to the World Bank’s “Ease of Doing Business” ranking for 2015, Oman made significant strides, rising from 77th place in 2014 to 70th this year.

The ranking takes into account ten different regulatory aspects of business, such as “enforcing contracts,” “paying taxes,” and “getting credit.”

In the GCC region the sultanate was ranked the fourth best place to do business, ranking much higher than the UAE (31), Bahrain (65), and Qatar (68). Kuwait ranked 101st.

Oman’s rise is mostly due to great improvements in two measurements; ‘getting electricity’ and ‘trading across borders.’ Last year the country was ranked 124 in ‘getting electricity,’ and this year shot up more than 60 places to be ranked 60th in this parameter.

The report explained the change in Oman’s ability to deliver reliable power to business customers:

“In January 2015, the utility in Oman began recording the duration and frequency of outages to compute the annual system average interruption duration index and system average interruption frequency index. This enabled the utility to analyze outage date, identify and eliminate inefficiencies and accurately assess the impact of these initiatives on the distribution network.”

The sultanate climbed from 76th place to 69th in ‘trading across borders’ because

“Oman reduced the time for border compliance for both exporting and importing by transferring cargo operations from Port Sultan Qaboos to Sohar Port,” the report said.

China Pledges Humanitarian Aid to Middle East

Xi Jinping. Photo by Antilong

Xi Jinping. Photo by Antilong

As the crisis in Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East continues, the plight of refugees and others worsens. China, whose president, Xi Jinping is scheduled to visit in Britain next week, promised additional humanitarian assistance to the embattled Middle East.
The Chinese Deputy Foreign Minister Wang Chao announced that China is carefully following the developments in the region, and is ready to add significantly to the 375 million yuan ($54.9 million) it has already given to the region.

Wang explained that the aid will help the refugees flowing out of the countries in conflict as well as reduce their numbers. He also said that President Xi will discuss with his British counterparts a variety of issues of concern to both sides. In the past the countries have cooperated on critical issues such as the Ebola epidemic, the Iran nuclear threat and the trouble in the South Sudan.

“China-Britain relations have surpassed the bilateral scope and adopted strategic significance and global influence,” Wang said.

Wang added that China and Britain will continue to cooperate on issues like world economic growth, global security, and the reform of global governance.

Saudi Arabia & America Meet to Discuss Iran Deal

Weighing in on the Iran nuclear deal, Saudi Arabia is satisfied with US President Barack Obama’s assurances and they believe that the agreement will contribute to security and stability in the area. Saudi King Salman met with Obama on Friday at the White House and was the king’s first visit to the US since he took the throne in January of 2015.

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said,

“Now we have one less problem for the time being to deal with, with regards to Iran. We can now focus more intensely on the nefarious activities that Iran is engaged in in the region.”

Having skipped a Gulf Arab summit at Camp David in May, Salman was seemed to have snubbed Obama over the Iran strategy. However, the recent visit appears to have smoothed over those issues.

Saudi Defense Minister Mohammed bin Salman also met on Friday with US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter and they discussed Saudi Arabia’s defense needs.

As Obama said on Friday,

“We continue to cooperate extremely closely in countering terrorist activities in the region and around the world, including the battle against ISIS.”

Defensive Fences Going Up All Over Middle East

Somewhere south of Mahbes, Western Sahara, in the freed zone. Sahrawi women in the II International march against the Moroccan built wall that divides western Sahara. The longest wall built on Earth, this wall consists of a long wall with a berm, barbed wire, millions of landmines and electronic systems, survived by thousands of Moroccan soldiers.By Western Sahara (Sahrawi women against the wall of shame) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Somewhere south of Mahbes, Western Sahara, in the freed zone. Sahrawi women  march against the Moroccan built wall that divides western Sahara. The wall consists of a long wall with a berm, barbed wire, millions of landmines and electronic systems, survived by thousands of Moroccan soldiers.Photo by Western Sahara (Sahrawi women against the wall of shame) via Wikimedia Commons

As terrorism continues to rear its ugly head throughout the Middle East, several countries are taking an old approach to defending themselves, construction of walls and fences.

Tunisia, the country where a group of terrorists murdered foreign tourists along a popular beach is building a fence with watchtowers on its border with Libya. It is believed the killers were trained there.

After a suicide bomb exploded in a town in Turkey, the Turkish government announced its plans to strengthen the border with Syria, putting up a security fence.

Saudi Arabia is planning a wall along its entire border with its southern neighbor, Yemen.

In Morocco the world’s oldest functioning security barrier, built in the 1980s, protects the country from areas controlled by Polisario. Another barrier along the border with Algeria has been under construction since 2014.

“The Middle East and North Africa is now the most walled region in the world,” said Said Saddiki, a professor of International Relations and International Law at Al-Ain University of Science and Technology in Abu Dhabi. They range from “fences inside cities to anti-migrant walls and separation barriers to counter-insurgency” barricades, he said.