Oman Shifts Position on Iran and Terrorism

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks with King Salman bin Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia after he deplaned from his Boeing 747 following his arrival at Andrews Air Force Base in Camp Springs, Maryland, on September 3, 2015, to visit President Barack Obama. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

Contrary to its usual role as conciliator and neutral arbitrator, Oman has indicated its willingness to be a part of 40-country alliance to oppose Iran and its state sponsorship of terrorism. Until now the Sultanate has been concerned that a wider regional confrontation with Iran would lead to internal de-stabilization within its own borders.

“Oman has always in the past taken positions and policies that are contrary to the Gulf positions regarding the region. This now shows the return of Oman to the Gulf consensus against Iran and its political positions,” one source said.

Siding with Saudi Arabia against Iran is a huge shift for Oman since “it is known that Oman has been close to Iran, the traditional enemy of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries.”

Saudi Arabian Prince Mohammed will most likely visit Muscat soon to prepare the groundwork for a visit to Oman by King Salman, the source added.

One reason given for the change in policy is that Oman realized that there was a definite “lack of seriousness and of benefits” of cooperation with the Iranians.

The 40-country alliance was announced last December by the Saudis, a move that was met with approval by the United States. Washington has been urging the region to unify in a campaign to fight ISIL militants who have control of land in Iraq and Syria.

ISIL had threatened the monarchies of the Gulf states, promising to overthrow the kingdoms, and has launched several attacks on Shi’ite Muslim mosques and military personnel in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.

Oman Cuts Health Benefits to Expat Government Employees

Graphic by Addicted04.

Due to a larger than expected budget deficit, the Sultanate of Oman will be cutting its budget by 5 percent, and some of those cuts are coming from some health care benefits it bestows on government employees.

Expats working in the Oman civil service will no longer be able to take advantage of free surgeries for 18 conditions, and free medications for six different illnesses. The new rules went into effect as of December 5th, and include operations for heart ailments and arthritis meds.

The decision includes both those employed full and part-time.

Other budget cuts are also under consideration as the deficit is expected to total OMR 4.4 billion during the first nine months of 2016, and no increase in revenues is expected.
Other cuts have been made in other sectors, such as employees of state organizations have experienced loss in benefits. There is also a plan to privatize several government assets. Work visa fees to Oman for expats also went up in November by 50 percent.

Execs Leaving Twitter Asia

Three senior executives have announced they are moving on from their posts in the Twitter management in Asia.

The latest resignation comes from Parminder Singh, the chief of Twitter’s business in India, Southeast Asia and the Middle East. After three years with the popular social media company Singh says he will be leaving within the month.

Singh’s announcement comes only two days after Rishi Jaitly, head of Twitter in India, said he was heading for greener pastures. Only just one week ago Karen Stocks, head of Twitter Australia, exited from her post as well.

Twitter has recently restructured their divisions, adding their Middle East business to the European umbrella and the India-Southeast Asia group added to the general Asia-Pacific jurisdiction. During Singh’s tenure the Middle East and India-Southeast Asia areas were together in their own division.

Analysts believe the new configuration of areas are part of a company cost-savings process. Twitter has also announced layoffs of nine percent of the Twitter staff. Twitter’s Asia business also experienced the departure of about 20 employees from their Bangalore office last September. Other money-saving steps include some jobs moved from their Hong Kong Office to the regional headquarters in Singapore. It is still not known whether anyone from either office will be looking for new jobs any time soon.

BMW Appoints New Head of Middle East Sales and Marketing

MW Tower and museum, Munich, Germany. Photo by Diego Delso, Wikimedia Commons, License CC-BY-SA 3.0"

BMW Tower and museum, Munich, Germany. Photo by Diego Delso, Wikimedia Commons, License CC-BY-SA 3.0

As of October 1, BMW will have a new director of sales and marketing in the Middle East, Dr. Hamid Haqparwar. He will take over his new role in the BMW Middle East headquarters in Dubai, succeeding Ralf Bissinger. Bissinger will be moving on to Thailand in senior management in one of the largest BMW dealerships there.

Haqparwar has held several senior management positions in different areas around the world. His job in Dubai is a return for him to the Middle East where he spent a few years as head of product and price management and then Area Manager for Kuwait, Oman, Bahrain and Iraq.

“It’s a great pleasure to welcome Hamid back to the Middle East where he has solid understanding of the diversity of the region, and considerable experience working closely with our importers.

“Developing new perspectives from his roles in India, will also enable him to contribute to the strengthening of our position in the luxury automotive segment in the Middle East.   I look forward to welcoming Hamid as a member of our management team,”

intoned Johannes Seibert, BMW Group Middle East managing director.

New General Manager is Chosen for Hitachi Data Systems

320px-Hitachi_inspire_the_next-Logo.svgAssaad El Saadi has been appointed to run Hitachi Data Systems Corporation (HDS) in Pakistan and the Middle East.  Saadi will be based in the Dubai office where he will be responsible for the company’s development in the region.

The Emerging EMEA VP of HDS, Tom Pegrume said:

“Assaad has an excellent track record and will play a key role in expanding HDS’ business within the Middle East and Pakistan. His appointment comes at a time when HDS is growing in the region and thriving in digital transformation. We look forward to a successful tenure and growth strategy with the extensive leadership and experience Assaad brings.”

Assaad has over 20 years of experience in the IT sector in the Gulf states. He led the Gulf region’s division of Oracle’s Systems line and led the company’s expansion of market share during its acquisition of Sun Microsystems.

“Recently, HDS has made substantial progress in the Middle East and Pakistan region, and I am looking forward to continue to build and strengthen the ties with existing customers, and grow relationships and solutions for new customers following HDS strategic approach. We will heavily drive our key solutions on; Content, Enterprise Cloud and Converged Infrastructure, which supports both private and hybrid cloud environments with agility,” Assaad said.

Self-Driving Pods Coming to Middle East

Careem, an app-based car hiring service, announced that it will be partnering with Italy-based NEXT Future Transportation to bring self-driving vehicles to the Middle East and North Africa.

The deal comes in the wake of the joint announcement by Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum and the vice president of the UAE that they will be setting as a goal for 25 percent of vehicular travel in Dubai to be driverless by the year 2030.

The pods are being developed by NEXT with unique features making them an intriguing solution for the development of this up and coming technology. They are battery powered, can drive individually or can attach to form bus-like vehicles, and will allow passengers to move between pods.

The company said that the pods will make transportation safer, more efficient, and better for the environment than today’s means of transportation. They will also facilitate less road congestion.

The primary function of this technology is to provide door to door mass transportation resulting in faster and more efficient daily commuting to and from work in the UAE, according to Careem.

“We are honored to create a strategic partnership with such an innovative company as NEXT,” said Careem co-founder and managing director Mudassir Sheikha. “NEXT offers a unique and compelling vision for mass transit. We look forward to working closely with NEXT to pioneer their solutions in the region.”

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.