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.

Oman’s Budget Deficit Heading Down


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.