Saturday, June 29, 2013

François Hollande cosies up to Qatar with his principles in his pocket

What price French socialism? That's the question President François Hollande is being asked as he tries to reconcile his "Mr Normal" image with his unashamed courting of the multibillionaires of Qatar.

Before coming to power last year, Hollande admitted: "I don't like the rich," and pledged a top income tax rate of 75%. That, like so many of his much-vaunted plans, hasn't quite worked (the legislation is still in the pipeline) but his antipathy towards the wealthy has already seen some flee the country, mainly to more liberal tax regimes including the UK and Russia.

In which case, those who remain ask, why on earth did Hollande look so gleeful last week on a visit to Qatar's outgoing emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al Thani, and his Harrow-educated son Sheikh Tamim? Hollande appeared to have shed all reservations about high-end, trans-border capitalism as he highlighted the "mutual respect and understanding" between France and Qatar, encouraging the liquid gas-rich emirate to pour its petrodollars into everything from prestige Paris real estate to the city's troubled immigrant suburbs. The equivalent of some £10bn has arrived over the last five years, with Qatari investors given every incentive to keep the cash coming, including the waiving of stamp duty on their property purchases in France.

Qatar is, of course, casting its asset net across the world. You can see its influence all over the UK – from Harrods to major sporting events such as the horse racing at Ascot, through almost every new luxury development in Knightsbridge and Chelsea – but there is something extremely peculiar about the most overtly leftwing head of state in Europe becoming so reliant on the Gulf state's largesse. While in Doha, Hollande even praised his detested conservative predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy for doing so much towards strengthening Franco-Qatari relations, portraying him as some kind of economic visionary.

The reality, however, is that there's nothing astute about cosying up to the super-rich. It's just something that comes easily to the French political establishment, whether right or left. When I asked a senior Hollande aide how the president could square his once outspoken socialism with the financial clout of absolute and hereditary rule there was the predictable huffing and puffing about "knowing who our friends are" and "the need to be realistic".

This "realism" extends to the French supplying up to three-quarters of Qatar's armaments. One of the main reasons for Hollande's trip to Doha was to try to persuade the Qataris to replace their ageing Mirage fighters with Rafale ones, so signing military contracts that will be as lucrative as the ones Sarkozy wanted Muammar Gaddafi to sign for the same planes (Sarkozy failed, perhaps hastening his decision to destroy the colonel's Libyan dictatorship). It's all about realpolitik – something that invariably persuades politicians to betray their principles.

France is certainly in crisis too, with the cost of living spiralling along with the unemployment rate. Domestic recession has combined with the eurozone slump to send Hollande's approval rating into freefall, making him one of the most unpopular presidents in French history.

But just as Sarkozy – a man once laughably dubbed the "Gallic Margaret Thatcher" – achieved next to nothing during his single term in office, apart from a kind of showbiz ignominy (the Paris home he shares with his pop singer wife, Carla Bruni, was raided by anti-corruption police within a few days of him losing presidential immunity from prosecution), so Hollande appears set on a course of unprincipled mediocrity. His relations with Qatar do not necessarily rule out his claim to be a socialist, but they certainly suggest he's prepared to overlook it if the price is right.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Qatar Rail awards $8.2bn in Doha Metro contracts

Qatar Rail awarded four design and build contracts worth approximately $8.2 billion for the first phase  of the Doha metro.

The Doha Metro project will include four rail lines and an underground section in the center of the capital Doha. The lines will link stadiums for the 2022 World Cup soccer tournament to be held in the tiny Gulf state.

The Red Line North project has been awarded to a consortium led by Italian construction firm Impregilo S.P.A. and including South Korea’s SK Engineering & Construction and Qatar’s Galfar al-Misnad Engineering and Contracting, it said.

The Red Line South project went to a consortium led by QDVC, a joint venture between Qatari Diar and France’s Vinci Construction Grands Projets, and including South Korea’s GS Engineering and Construction Corp and Qatar’s Al-Darwish Engineering, it said.

The Green Line project was awarded to a consortium led by PORR Bau GmbH and including Saudi Binladin Group and Qatar’s Hamad Bin Khalid Contracting.

A consortium led by South Korean construction firm Samsung C&T Corp and including Spain’s Obrascon Huarte LainS.A. (OHL) and Qatar Building Company was selected to design and build the metro’s major stations.

Qatar Rail did not provide values for each individual contract.

Expected to employ more than 20,000 workers at its peak, construction is scheduled to begin later this year for completion by 2019, it said.

Qatar and UK to promote cultural, educational links

HH Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, chairperson of Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development (QF), yesterday met with the Prince of Wales at Windsor Castle in the UK to foster new avenues of collaboration and promote cultural and educational partnerships.
The visit underscores the importance of the cultural and educational relations between Qatar and the UK and reflects the close and historic ties between the two nations as they celebrate the Qatar UK 2013 Year of Culture.
The meeting with the Prince of Wales is intended to further bolster relations, while providing a solid platform from which both countries can continue to pursue innovation in the fields of science, technology and education and build strategic alliances.
Through its involvement in Qatar UK 2013, QF is eager to continue promoting an awareness and appreciation of each nation’s culture, achievements and heritage. At the heart of its mission is the desire to develop the creative potential of youth and support their interests in a wide range of fields. By working with leading UK institutions to encourage greater cooperation in arts and culture, this mission can be further advanced.

During the meeting, HH Sheikha Moza shared several of QF’s forthcoming initiatives within the realms of education, science, research, arts and culture. Sheikha Moza also emphasised her commitment to dialogue and to the creation of fruitful agreements that can enhance the two-way flow of knowledge.
“Qatar greatly values its relationship with the UK as a long-term partner for mutual development, cultural partnerships and growth. Qatar Foundation is working to create a tangible legacy from the Year of Culture, by building strong bridges of co-operation with British institutions that can play a significant role in enhancing this legacy of common understanding.” said HH Sheikha Moza.

After the meeting, Dr Mohamed Fathy Saoud, president of QF, met with Andrew Wright, executive director of The Prince of Wales’s Charitable Foundation and signed a memorandum of understanding that emphasised the importance of the working relationship between the two organisations in education, cultural awareness and community development.

Dr Saoud commended the Charitable Foundation for promoting understanding and fostering the exchange of knowledge between organisations with similar missions.

“Qatar Foundation is strongly committed to sharing knowledge and deeply appreciates the breadth of work that is being undertaken by institutions like the Prince of Wales’s Charitable Foundation, which share common values for the advancement of quality education, culture, and community development,” he said.
“Qatar Foundation plays a fundamental role by building upon partnerships that have been identified as central to developing the skills of youth and achieving Qatar’s National Vision 2030.”

In the course of this flourishing bilateral relationship, both nations have reaped the rewards of advancements in multiple fields, such as information and computing technology, healthcare, and arts. Within the sphere of science and research, QF supports a large number of projects in collaboration with UK institutions and universities, which also serve Qatar’s needs in developing human capacity and earning recognition as an important generator of knowledge across the world. Both nations have a shared interest in developing excellence in a variety of fields, including museology and library and information studies.

A number of activities will be held in the coming months to further develop and build upon QF’s relationship with UK entities. In September, a series of UK-based lectures will be presented by scholars and senior researchers from Education City, who will discuss engaging topics that highlight advancements in the areas of computing, energy, environment, healthcare, medicine, architecture and urban planning.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Qatar team begins title defence in Brasilia

The Qatar team, the defending World and Pole Position F1 H20 World Champions, begins the defence of their titles at this weekend’s Grand Prix of Brazil on Lake Paranoá in the country’s federal capital Brasilia.

Twice World Champion Alex Carella and team-mate Shaun Torrente are confident and raring to go at the start of what promises to be another thrilling season of F1 H20 racing with a calendar that starts in Brazil and finishes in Sharjah in December, with stops in Kiev, Shanghai, Liuzhou, Doha and Abu Dhabi en route. This weekend’s race is the first ever F1 H20 race in South America and the second ever in the southern hemisphere – South Africa hosted a race in 1992. The team tested in Italy in the spring and is now in Brazil making final preparations for the start of the weekend’s on-course action on Saturday morning. Brasilia is located in central-west Brazil and is the fourth largest city in the country. The racecourse is situated around 920 metres above sea level.

“The whole team is looking forward to racing at the new venue for the first time and beginning our campaign to bring the world title back to Qatar again,”said Khalid bin Arhama al-Kuwari, head of formula racing at the Qatar Marine Sports Federstion (QMSF), which runs under the presidency of His Excellency Sheikh Hassan bin Jabor al-Thani.

Torrente is upbeat about his chances: “It’s good to be back in the boat, that’s for sure. For me, Brazil is more about staying in the race and scoring good points. Obviously we want to win, but I have to race smarter and think about the whole year. We are expecting about an eight to 12% power loss with the altitude depending upon the weather conditions.

“The good thing is that all the teams have the disadvantage and our crew chief Brendan Power and I have some experience from racing in Windsor, where the elevation is above 5,000 feet (1,530 metres).” Carella has been keeping busy in the close season and joined Team China’s Philippe Chiappe and the Morin brothers to win the recent Rouen 24-hour race in the Class 3 Moore cat ‘Drakkar’ on the River Seine.

Khalid Abdullah al-Kuwari will represent the Qatar Team in the competitive UIM F-4S category that runs in conjunction with the F1 H20 races. He faces competition from the likes of Kornel and Viktor Vo, Jan Andre Landsnes, Mohammed al-Mehairbi, Tobias Munthe-Kaas and Bincheng Wu.

After technical scrutineering and dunk tests on Friday (May 31st), the F1 drivers take to the water for the first time at 09.15hrs local time (15.15 Doha time) on Saturday morning for a one-hour free practice session.

The F-4S runners follow with their first practice and time trials and the first of the weekend’s two F-4S races begins at 14.30hrs. Qualifying for F1 gets underway at 15.00hrs.

Free practice starts at the earlier time of 08.00hrs on Sunday, June 2nd and F-4S practice and time trials precede the second F-4S race at 09.45hrs.

Muntajat and Qatar Petrochemical Company (Qapco) have jointly participated in ChinaPlas 2013

Qatar Chemical and Petrochemical Marketing and Distribution Company (Muntajat) and Qatar Petrochemical Company (Qapco) have jointly participated in ChinaPlas 2013, Asia’s famous plastics and rubber trade fair.

Muntajat has been established to consolidate the marketing and distribution efforts of Qatar’s annual production of 10mn tonnes of chemicals and petrochemicals. It has been mandated to market, sell and distribute low density polyethylene (LDPE) and other petrochemicals produced by Qapco. The onboarding of Qapco products is planned to be completed in a few months.

“ChinaPlas is a fantastic opportunity to showcase the high quality of ‘Made In Qatar’ products...It is a highly strategic platform for Qatari products as major suppliers and users can meet, interact and exchange on the latest technologies and trends, especially looking at environmentally friendly and sustainable techniques and innovations related to plastic and its applications, to contribute to building a greener and safer world for the generations to come,” said Qapco vice chairman and CEO Dr Mohamed al-Mulla.

After the successful transitions of the marketing and distribution activities of the chemicals and fertilisers produced in Qatar over the past four months, Muntajat is committed to implement a seamless transition of Qatar’s export portfolio of polymers, according to Muntajat CEO Abdulrahman Ali al-Abdulla.
He said Muntajat’s strategic transitions plan has so far resulted in the “flawless onboarding of nearly 80% of Qatar’s export portfolio of chemicals and petrochemicals.”

Terming China as a key market for Muntajat as it continues to grow requiring a reliable supply of chemical and petrochemical products, he said that “by having a joint presence between Qapco and Muntajat, we reinforced confidence among our customers in the Chinese market and beyond.”

As the world’s population selects more packaged goods, he said the demand for polymers, including LDPE and LLDPE (linear low density polyethylene) produced by Qapco and Qatofin, will rise in the coming years.
Muntajat will be prepared to serve these growing needs through its planned network of offices spread all around the world, he added.

“ChinaPlas raises awareness amongst the public about the many developments related to eco-friendly plastics and their numerous practicalities and features, that contribute for instance to making cars or planes lighter, hence reducing energy consumption. Let’s not forget that if plastic was replaced by traditional materials in packaging, world energy consumption would double,” al-Mulla said.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Qatar research agency to unveil strategy, latest grants

Manama: Future initiatives and new research grants by Qatar National Research Fund (QNRF) for the next five years will be revealed at the funding agency’s fifth annual forum in the Qatari capital Doha starting today (Tuesday).

In a statement ahead of the forum, held under the theme Research Forward, Faisal Al Suwaidi, president of Research and Development at Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development, congratulated QNRF on its “success in building research culture, human capital and infrastructure for Qatar since its establishment in 2006”.

“QNRF is making a vital contribution to Qatar’s research community,” he said. “They have paved a sustainable path for Qatar’s research advancement and made wise investments in human capacity and research infrastructure. As QNRF embarks upon a new phase in its growth cycle, it will expand its role as the prime enabler of research by directing its funding towards the national priority needs of Qatar as specified in the Qatar National Research Strategy,” he said in the statement e-mailed to Gulf News.

Abdul Sattar Al Taie, Executive Director at QNRF, said that the agency had “more than 75 approved research offices in Qatar”.

“Under the NPRP, we have funded more than 29 of these organisations for research worth more than $500 million (Dh1.83 million) over the past five years, and with collaboration from more than 385 international research institutions,” he said in a testament to QNRF’s impact on research development in Qatar,
QNRF is embarking on a new phase of development, aimed at further expanding the country’s flourishing research culture and driving research forward to find solutions to the “grand challenges” facing Qatar and the region, he said.

The various aspects of the funding agency’s five-year plan will be highlighted at the forum.
Topics to be taken up include details on new funding opportunities, financial re-structuring of existing programmes, plans to address the country’s grand challenges, increased stakeholder engagement and partnerships, enhancing QNRF’s research management capabilities and infrastructure and evaluating and leveraging research outcomes.

The highlight of the forum will be the announcement of results of the sixth cycle of the agency’s flagship programme, the National Priorities Research Programme.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Qatar National Bank SAQ mulld as the top most bank of the world

Qatar National Bank SAQ, one of the largest lenders in the Middle East and one of the most profitable in fiscal year 2012, got the honor after surpassing $100 billion in assets this year.

It beat some 77 other banks with at least that much money, including Singapore’s Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp. (OCBC), which dropped to No. 2 after enjoying the top spot for the past two years.

State-backed strength

According to Bloomberg, QNB’s stellar fiscal performance has a great deal to do with the financial strength of Qatar itself, which is the world’s richest country per capita.

For example, the bank’s chairman, Yousef Kamal, is the country’s finance minister. And QNB is 50 percent owned by the Qatar Investment Authority. The report continues

Bigger than all other publicly listed domestic lenders combined, QNB provided 66 percent of loans to the government and government-owned entities last year, while state agencies accounted for more than half of deposits, according to data provided by the bank.

“The bank is essentially an extension of the state,” says Akber Khan, director of asset management at Al Rayan Investment in Doha. “Any concerns about future capital adequacy or balance sheet strength are entirely redundant.”

But QNB’s CEO, Ali Shareef Al Emadi, argued that his bank’s success isn’t completely due to government ties.
“We are very close to the government and government agencies, but we get deals on a very much commercial basis,” he says. “We lose deals; we get deals.”

Al Emadi added that instability in the region due to the Arab Spring revolutions and Dubai’s fiscal woes all ended up benefiting Qatar.

“We always see good liquidity coming to us when things get bad in the market. That’s a very strong signal from customers and investors that they view the bank as a safe haven.”

Qatar is leading the world in many fields, they will host the olympics and Qatar/s Tourism is developing steadily to reach a popular destination of the future

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Qatar says charter will protect workers of worldcup 2022

The committee responsible for the football World Cup in Qatar says a new "workers' charter" will protect workers deployed for the preparations of worldcup 2022.

Dario Cadavid, Assurance and Integration Senior Manager, Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee, said worker safety was of "paramount importance".

However the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) said it was "very disappointed".

The ITUC's Sharan Burrow said the charter will not help migrant workers. Ms Burrow was critical of a process under which, she said, "none of (the) documents have been released to the public or discussed with unions, and workers remain in the dark about their rights".

The charter was announced at a conference of the Institute of Occupational Health and Safety (IOSH) held in the Qatari capital Doha on Wednesday.

Mr Cadavid told the conference: "We look forward to a long-term partnership with IOSH to ensure a lasting legacy of worker welfare standards in Qatar."

He added "we are working very hard preparing the groundwork, including developing a comprehensive strategy on workers' safety, health, security and welfare and the workers charter is is only a first step. We are aware of the task that is ahead of us and will work in a sustained and committed manner to succeed".

Qatar and other Gulf states have long been criticised by international labour and human rights organisation for the poor treatment of migrant workers who suffer from low wages, high death rates on construction sites and substandard living conditions.

Most of the workers come from the Indian subcontinent and the Philippines.

A new study on human trafficking by the International Labor Organisation (ILO) states that migrant workers in the Middle East are among the most likely group of people to become victims of forced labour.

The report highlighted the Kafala (sponsorship) system where workers are not allowed to end unfair employment contracts or change employers, calling it "inherently problematic".

The ITUC's Sharan Burrow said that what she called loopholes in the Qatari labour law created "conditions of 21st Century slavery".

She added: "Reform of Qatari labour law to meet international standards is the only way to give workers in Qatar their rights."

In a statement to the BBC, FIFA - the international football body which runs the World Cup - said that the ITUC and the ILO were among a number of organisations it was meeting to "ensure healthy, safe and dignified working conditions" are in place when stadium construction begins later this year.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Qatar to use solar power for cooling in Worldcup

BERLIN reported by CNN that Qatar is racing to develop efficient solar-powered cooling technology to counter the searing heat of the Middle Eastern summer in its stadiums during the 2022 soccer World Cup quoting a senior organising committee official Mr. Nasser Al-Khater Al-Khater said the wealthy emirate already boasted the world's first cooled stadium, albeit with traditional energy sources. Temperatures in Qatar can reach more than 40 degrees Celsius in the summer months.

"We showed (world governing body) FIFA how the cooling technology works, it was warm outside but in stadium was cold they wanted their jackets," Al-Khater said during a trip to Berlin for a Qatari business and investment conference. "So cooling a stadium is not the issue." The issue is that Qatar has promised to hold a carbon-neutral World Cup and so is researching solar-powered cooling technology. It will either create a central solar power farm or have individual ones installed in each of the 12 stadiums it is building, said Al-Khater.

 "When you don't use it for the stadiums you feed it into the grid," he said. The emirate developed a small, solar-powered prototype stadium seating 500 during the bid process but wants to develop more efficient technologies ahead of 2022. "With solar, the big challenge is how do you deal with solar technology in the desert in terms of withstanding the elements and getting it clean so it is efficient," Al-Khater said. He said he had met several German companies during his trip to Berlin that had interesting proposals. Germany has been a pioneer in solar technology.

 Many leading voices in football such as UEFA president Michel Platini have called for the World Cup to be held in December or January, when the average temperature is 17 degrees, rather than in the middle of the year. Historically, the World Cup has always been held in June and July and any change could lead to a major scheduling headache with the major European leagues normally playing through the winter. Qatar's right to stage the 2022 World Cup if the event is moved to the winter months would also be open to a legal challenge.

Al-Khater said Qatar would go ahead researching and installing the cooling technology either way as the stadiums would be used in the summer months even after the World Cup. "Whether it is a winter or summer World Cup we will be ready," he said. Al-Khater said Qatar, a tiny country home to just 1.7 million inhabitants, was using modular seating for the upper tiers of its new stadiums in order to be able to downsize after the World Cup.

"The idea is we will contribute the seats to countries that need to develop their sporting infrastructure." He said it was too early to discuss whether or not alcohol, which is legal in Qatar albeit under restrictions, would be allowed in the stadiums. "One thing we want people to know is alcohol is not part of our culture," he said. "And every World Cup you go to, people experience the local culture, its differences and similarities." Though led by a ruling family viewed as highly progressive by Gulf standards, the fact remains that most Qataris are very conservative.

Most practice Wahhabism, the austere form of Islam also practiced in Saudi Arabia. "We will come up with a solution that will keep everyone happy, so whether it means certain zones where alcohol is permitted, or another type of arrangement," he said. "Around the world people are steering away from alcohol in the stadium." Al-Khater said he hoped hosting the World Cup would further bolster Qatar's status as a sports hub in the region. "Qatar is also a second home to many teams that find they cant host matches, for example it is home turf for Iraq for their qualifying matches," he said.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Qatar eyes IPO for $12bn vehicle

Qatar is planning to offer shares in a new $12bn investment vehicle in May, in a move that will set in train one of the largest initial public offerings (IPOs) in the Middle East.

The investment vehicle – called Doha Global Investment Co – will list on the local stock market after the end of a public subscription period, Hussain Ali Al Abdulla, chairman of Qatar Exchange, said on Sunday.
He added that the IPO will be open only to Qatari companies, institutions and citizens and the nominal value of the shares listed will be 10 Qatari riyals. Foreign investors will be able to buy the company’s shares after the as-yet unspecified listing date.

Qatar announced the creation of the investment vehicle two months ago, in a move analysts said was aimed at boosting its international clout, and enriching its tiny population. The entity will be half-owned by the country’s sovereign wealth fund and is planning to invest across asset classes – potentially expanding Qatar’s widespread and fast-growing portfolio of global investments that range from German carmakers Porsche and Volkswagen to Tiffany, the American jeweller.

The investment firm will give the Qatari people and its companies “the opportunity to enjoy the access and deal flow that Qatar Holding has”, Ahmad al-Sayed, chief executive of Qatar Holding, the sovereign wealth fund, said in February. Qatar Holding has stood out from its sovereign wealth fund peers in the Gulf over the past year by investing in high-profile assets in the wake of the financial crisis.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Qatar’s efforts lift hopes for rare bird

Al Wabra Wildlife Preservation, Qatar’s globally-recognised conservation organisation, has reaped yet another success by breeding Bulwer’s pheasant, classified as vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.

Established by Sheikh Saoud bin Mohamed bin Ali al-Thani in central Qatar, Al Wabra has earlier been credited for the stellar conservation work on the Spix’s macaw, Beira antelope, Somali wild ass and the Birds of Paradise.
“Naturally occurring in the lower montane forests of Borneo, Indonesia, the Bulwer’s pheasants are extremely difficult to breed and have not successfully bred in several decades in captivity,” Al Wabra’s director Dr Tim Bouts told Gulf Times.

The efforts of the bird team have been rewarded by the hatching of two Bulwer’s pheasant chicks, a first for Al Wabra, and their successful rearing.

“Breeding behaviour was observed and afterwards the female laid three eggs,” Dr Bouts recalled. Once candling revealed that two eggs were fertile, they were moved to the incubation room just before hatching.
The chicks, both males, barely weighed 35 grams when hatched. Raj, one of the bird keepers, taught them to eat by pecking towards the food with a small paint brush.

“It was amazing to see how the chicks immediately followed this pecking movement and started taking the food off the floor,” he said.

When the chicks were old enough and could eat completely independently, they were moved into a heavily planted outside aviary.

The chicks have already started displaying towards each other.

Al Wabra is now awaiting the arrival of a donated female soon from Al Bustan Zoological Centre near Dhaid, Sharjah, in the UAE, to hopefully form a second breeding pair.

“This will hopefully be the beginning of successful breeding of Bulwer’s pheasant, as a vibrant captive breeding population is needed to bring attention to the conservation of this elusive species,” Dr Bouts added.
Al Wabra, which focuses on breeding and protecting threatened species, is non-commercial and not open to the public. A member of the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria, it is considered the only hope for the survival of the Spix’s macaw, the most endangered parrot in the world.

Native to the Caatinga region (Curaca, Bahia) in Brazil, the species is extinct in the wild and as per statistics updated on November 1, 2012, just 79 were left in the world – all in captivity – with Al Wabra holding 60 (79%), comprising 24 males and 36 females.

With a far reaching vision of reintroducing the Spix’s macaw to the wild, Sheikh Saoud purchased in 2008 the 2,380 hectare Concordia Farm, in the Caatinga near the town of Curaca, where the species was last seen.
The farm was used as the field base for the Spix’s macaw recovery efforts in the 1990s and still boasts the tree nesting-hollow used by the last known wild pair back in the 1980s.

Qatar, Iran rival to make Prophet Mohammed movies

Movie makers from Iran and Qatar are competing  for a new movie depicting the life of holy Prophet Mohammed (Peace be upon him) both the countries are  racing to bring the movie to the big screen.
The Qatari production is set to be shown as a series of films aiming to target a worldwide audience. With a spending budget of $1 billion, the movie is funded by Qatar-based Alnoor Holdings. The film’s production will be led by Muslim scholar Yusuf al-Qaradwai to ensure that events in the movie are parallel to the Quran.
“They are being understandably very cautious," said The Lord of the Rings producer Barrie Osborne, who was hired as the project advisor.
Now, Iranian director Majid Majidi is competing with Qatar’s production, beginning to film another story of the Prophet in October, with a set budget of $30 million.
The character of the Prophet will be shown in Majidi’s production; his figure shown without revealing his face.
However, it is unlikely that the prophet’s figure will be shown in the Qatari production, in accordance to Sunni Islamic laws stating prophets cannot be depicted on screen or in print.
Last year, protests swept the Muslim world in September following the release of the U.S. produced movie, Innocence of Muslims, which depicted the image of Prophet Muhammad as a womanizer.
Following the protests, the United Arab Emirates held an event in Dubai, as part of global campaign, named “The True Message of the Prophet,” involving a group of young Muslims offering roses with a message of “peace and good manners” inspired by the sayings of Prophet Mohammed.
Similar initiatives were seen across the Arab world as a backlash to the film they deemed offensive.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Qatar Rail bags Visionary Project of the Year Award

DOHA: Qatar Railways Company, the organisation overseeing the construction of an integrated railway network, received the ‘Visionary Project of the Year Award’ at the 6th Global Infrastructure Leadership Forum in New York City recently, a press statement said yesterday.

Organised by CG/LA Infrastructure, the forum focuses on infrastructure projects locally, regionally, and globally and identifies real opportunities in the dynamic global infrastructure market.

“Qatar Rail is one of a number of transformational projects that aim to continue the progress of Qatar through the National Vision 2030, the Qatar National Strategy, the Qatar National Development Framework 2012-2032 and the Transport Master Plan for Qatar,” Saad Al Muhannadi, CEO of Qatar Rail, said.

He added: “The State of Qatar has a very clear vision and strategy for the future of the country; at Qatar Rail, we support the four pillars of this national vision: Economic, social, human and environmental development, including the significant benefits of reducing congestion and emissions and leading to more efficient movement of people and goods.”

He said the integrated rail system will be an essential part of Qatar’s urban infrastructure and will be recognised as one of the most successful, safe and environmentally-friendly railway systems in the world.

‘Made in Qatar’ coach unveiled by Mowasalat

DOHA: Mowasalat launched its first bus that was fully assembled in Qatar by the company’s technicians.
The technical team at the Karwa Services Unit (KSU) assembled the 41-seat “Made in Qatar” coach from a complete set of imported spare parts.

This is the first of a series of prototypes being developed by Mowasalat as part of its plans to enter bus assembling and manufacturing industry in a big way.

The company is working on a project to establish a large-scale facility in Oman to assemble buses for the Arab and GCC markets.

“This marks a major achievement for us in terms of technology transfer. We will develop more bus models locally as we prepare to establish our assembling and manufacturing unit in Oman,” Jassim Saif Al Sulaiti, Mowasalat’s Chairman and Managing Director, said in a press conference yesterday.
“We will develop two or three new models every year but we have no plans to assemble buses locally on a large scale,” he added.

He said that the proposed facility in Oman once ready will assemble 2,000 buses every year to meet the requirements of the local and GCC markets.

“We are in the final phase of preparations to establish the facility. We have also plans to enter bus manufacturing industry in a later phase,” said Al Sulaiti.

He said the locally assembled buses are more cost-effective compared to the imported ones.
The first “Made in Qatar” bus has joined the fleet of Mowasalat buses that are available for private hire.
Assembled from Complete Knockdown (CKD) units, the bus offers the same comfort, safety features, stylish looks and versatile body of the imported Karwa buses.

The bus is designed to meet various requirements such as transportation of schoolchildren and company staff, feeder services and for tour and travel.

The bus took shape in-house, with strict inspection and quality checks during assembly, ensuring stability.
The CKD-assembled bus passed test conditions successfully and was rolled out as a new in-house- built coach bus in December last year.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

‘Great’ turnout at Qatar Academy Quackfest

There was a great turnout at the Qatar Academy (QA), a member of Qatar Foundation's event, which encouraged its students and their parents to donate to local and international charity projects at its student-organised annual Quackfest yesterday.

The event at QA senior school grounds attracted a large number of students with their parents. There were a number of commercial participants who put up more than 20 stalls,  displaying artworks, artifacts, clothes, gifts and sweets. Food items from different places were on offer. Students took part in different activities.

Heather Schuaberow, a QA teacher and organiser of the event, said that donations collected through the event would mainly go to Eravur Education and Development Institute in Sri Lanka and QA’s  community and service programmes.

She explained that QA had tied up with local and international charities such as Qatar Charity and Roots & Shoots, which is the Canadian-based Jane Goodall Institute’s global network of youth taking action to make the world a better place and other charities as well.

A considerable part of the donations will be allocated to Syrian people and orphan support in different places around the world such as Somalia.   

Schuaberow was satisfied about the turnout of visitors, describing it as “great”. She expected to raise around QR10,000 as net donations for the various causes. Allana Beaton, QA arts teacher, displayed her students’ production of artifacts and selling them at prices down to QR5.

She said that the sales of her goods surpassed expectations as visitors were attracted to have a look and buy some, expressing their admiration at the skill and innovation of students’ work.

Steve Parenteau, QA head of counselling and support services, said that QA was trying to raise students’ awareness’ of  labourers’ issues and make them directly communicate with such category to enlighten them about their rights and how to approach them.

He also pointed out that QA often donated used and new computers, laptops and mobile phones to workers to facilitate their communication with the world.

Meanwhile, Mukhtar, a QA teacher of Islamic studies, said that his department took part in the fair through raising students and their parents’ awareness about dilemma and sufferings of the Syrian people and people of other conflict zones, and how they should do something to ease their hardships.

He said that donations for such causes had been increasing over the years.

The event incorporated fun, shopping, musical shows, games, traditional Henna drawings, community service and a good opportunity for concerned families to share the activities of their children from near.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

New study points to Qatar’s shifting economic trends

A report issued by the Ministry of Trade and Business this week gives an overview of Qatar economy’s evolution over the last three decades until 2012.

The report, called Qatar Business and Trade 2012 Study, aims to provide context to economic stakeholders and decision-makers with information and data that will facilitate Qatar’s way forward to growth and sustainable development.

The Ministry hopes to publish similar reports on an annual basis from now on. Next year’s report will compare the results from 2013 with those of the previous years. The report brought out the fact that Qatar is embarking on plans to diversify its economy away from its heavy dependence on hydrocarbons to a knowledge-based economy.

But it will be a challenging mission for the state. As hydrocarbons account for 58% of Qatar’s nominal GDP, it will be extremely difficult to reduce dependence on them. But with vision and proper planning, this could be achieved gradually. To diversify its economy, Qatar has already taken steps like investing in foreign assets, introducing regulations to stimulate economic growth, encouraging a knowledge-based economy and promoting itself as a tourist destination leading up to the 2022 FIFA World Cup. And some of these measures have already started paying dividends.

 As QNB Capital CEO Salman al-Muhannadi pointed out during a panel discussion at the report’s release, the only way to shift from a hydrocarbon-based economy to a knowledge-based one was through the creation of quality human resources. He urged the private sector to play a key role in this economic shift. The education sector, the report notes, has experienced a 19% growth over the last 10 years while the healthcare sector in Qatar has witnessed a strong 15% growth in terms of the number of new entities registered.

The positive growth trends in the education and healthcare sectors indicate that the Qatari market is moving in line with the 2030 National Vision. Octogenarian leader holds Italy’s fate As Italy faces a deep political crisis, the fate of the country is in the hands of an octogenarian former communist only weeks from retirement. Under Italy’s constitution, President Giorgio Napolitano, 87, is charged with trying to find the way out of an intractable impasse caused by a huge protest vote in the February 24-25 election, which saw no group emerge with enough support to govern.

 The task is exceedingly difficult, but if anybody can succeed it is probably Napolitano, who enjoys both huge respect and popularity, and has shown skill in navigating previous major storms in Italy. In fact after an election in which Italians vented their rage against the politicians, he may be the only traditional political figure left who commands much respect at all.

Monday, March 4, 2013

London Luxury-Home Rise Most in 10 Months

Central London luxury-home prices unexpectedly rose at the fastest pace in 10 months in February as the British pound’s depreciation helped attract international investors, Knight Frank LLP said.
The average price of a house or apartment in the city’s most expensive neighborhoods climbed 0.9 percent from January, according to an index compiled by the broker. Knight Frank, along with Jones Lang LaSalle Inc. and Savills Plc (SVS), last year forecast that prices would be little changed in 2013 after an 8.7 percent increase in 2012.

“The fall in the value of sterling has increased the appetite for prime central London homes among overseas buyers,” Knight Frank said in a statement today. Prices have risen every month since November 2010, he said.

Investors from overseas are buying London real estate to preserve wealth amid political, economic tension in their home markets. The pound’s lost about 5.5 percent this year against a basket of currencies, a Bank of England index shows, and 18 percent in the past five years. On March 1, an industry report showed U.K. manufacturing unexpectedly shrank in February and the pound fell to less than $1.50 for the first time since July 2010.

Overseas Sales Developers such as Berkeley Group Holdings Plc (BKG) and Battersea Power Station Development Co. are benefiting from efforts of Asian governments to cool their property markets with new restrictions and the weakened pound by marketing their projects overseas. Berkeley, the U.K.’s second-largest homebuilder by market value, sells 40 percent of its properties to people living outside the U.K.
Prime residential prices rose 8.4 percent in February from a year earlier, Knight Frank said. The monthly increase was the biggest since April 2012’s 1.1 percent gain.

The average U.K. home price increased 0.1 percent in February from the previous month, the first gain in nine months, Hometrack Ltd. said in a report today. The number of new buyers registering with agents gained 14.3 percent, outpacing an 8.7 percent increase in supply. A year ago, Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne increased the levy, known as stamp duty, on purchases of homes costing 2 million pounds or more. As a result, the volume of transactions of that size will probably drop by 15 percent to 3,400 in the 12 months through March, Knight Frank said. The broker based its forecast on data compiled by HM Revenue & Customs.

Fewer than half of the luxury homes bought in the U.K. capital last year were purchased with cash, down from about three quarters in 2011, as banks reined in bonuses, Cluttons LLP said in a report last week. A “severely limited supply” of homes means the change has had little effect on prices, according to the broker.

VCUQ project documents life in Qatar with moving postcards

A faculty member from Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar (VCUQ) has come up with an innovative research project, “The Moving Postcards Project”, to document the lifestyle of the country for a local as well as international audience. The project depicts facets of life in Doha through a number of moving postcards.

Assistant professor of the Foundation Program at VCUQ, Simone Muscolino, told Gulf Times that he had been working on the project since joining the institute in 2010. He explained, “Each postcard is a video of less than a minute’s duration, depicting one aspect of life in Qatar. Each of these is an innovative endeavour that documents changing life in Doha through a developing collection of video fragments. Moving postcards are micro-video loops that present a space, behaviour or an atmosphere particular to a local environment.”

The assistant professor has produced his own videos and taught the technique to students in his Time Studio classes. During the last five semesters, around 150 students - both Qatari and expatriates - have been involved in the project, and the body of work includes around 1,000 moving postcards on Doha. He added that 50% of the students involved in the project were Qataris. The project provides glimpses into the traditions and customs of the country in motion through the eyes of those who know it best.

Muscolino said he had three objectives in developing the postcards. “Primarily, it is an effort to document the local life and the changes taking place in the country through these slides. Secondly, it is to produce the content through educational activities and teaching the students how to do it. Finally, it is to build a local community of video-makers,” he elaborated. The entire project has been done in collaboration with Doha Film Institute and Qatar Museum Authority (QMA).  Most of the postcards have also been uploaded on the Internet.

A table with an attached computer, a projector and a wide screen are used to show the video. There is a slot on the table to insert the postcard. Once inserted, the video starts playing the content, which can be a particular lifestyle or certain aspect of life in Doha. Some of these videos involve various activities, such as having a drink with a face- veil, checking the purity of pearls, a cobbler working in a shop and many more. 

The project gives an insider’s view as the videos have been recorded by many Qatari students, who have access to some of the lifestyles of the Qatari community. Muscolino said “The videos are a true depiction of some of the daily events in Qatari households and society. The students have recorded them in the true style and given a glimpse into the Qatari culture.” He added that the project would be screened at the Students’ Centre of Hamad bin Khalifa University during the upcoming Tasmeem Conference this month.

Muscolino observed that these snippets of life in Doha with animation would be a great tool for tourists and visitors to Qatar. He said, “The whole project can be used as a tourist guide to learn more about Qatar, the living style of the country and its culture. I plan to add more videos working with the students in the coming years.” 
The entire research project was funded by Qatar Foundation and the university, the assistant professor said, adding that he was granted $12,000 for the same. “It covered the cost of technology. I am going to ask for another grant to continue with the project.”

Sunday, March 3, 2013

FIFA could consider Qatar World Cup in winter

FIFA has suggested for the first time in the history of FIFA world cup that the 2022 World Cup in Qatar could be moved to winter if medical evidence showed that playing in the intense summer heat would be dangerous. The tempratures in Qatar go upto 48 degrees during summer.

FIFA has previously insisted that Qatar would have to make the request to move the tournament.

But the emirate placed responsibility on world football`s governing body to make the call. According to Gulf News, in a sign that the impasse could be ending,

FIFA General Secretary Jerome Valcke said the executive committee could decide on the shift to winter if the June temperatures exceeding 40 degrees Celsius are deemed dangerous. Valcke is sure that moving the tournament would not open up FIFA to legal challenges from the United States, Japan, South Korea and Australia, who lost out to Qatar in the 2010 vote.

Qatar, Saint Lucia, Establish Diplomatic Relations

New York, March 02 (- The State of Qatar and the State of Saint Lucia have formalized diplomatic relations.  
Qatar's permanent delegate to the UN HE Ambassador Sheikh Meshaal Bin Hamad Al Thani, signed the diplomatic relations formalization accord at a ceremony held at the headquarters of Qatar's Permanent Mission to the United Nations in New York, the permanent delegate of Saint Lucia to the UN Menissa Rambally signed for her country.

On the occasion, the two sides underlined their common desire to strengthen and promote ties of friendship and cooperation in the various political, economic, commercial, scientific, technological and cultural fields beside establishing bilateral relations as per the principles of the UN charter and ob bases of peaceful coexistence, equality, mutual respect of the sovereignty of territorial integrity of each country's and the non-interference in the internal affairs of both QatarSaint Lucia. 

The two parties also expressed joint confidence that such diplomatic relations and the exchange of ambassadors between them would further contribute to enhancing joint cooperation and stabilize world peace