World Bank Grants $175 Million to Tunisia

A vendor displays clothing for sale at "Souk Libya" marketplace in the town of Ben Guerdane, near the Libyan border in Tunisia May 24, 2019. REUTERS/Zoubeir
A vendor displays clothing for sale at "Souk Libya" marketplace in the town of Ben Guerdane, near the Libyan border in Tunisia May 24, 2019. REUTERS/Zoubeir
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World Bank Grants $175 Million to Tunisia

A vendor displays clothing for sale at "Souk Libya" marketplace in the town of Ben Guerdane, near the Libyan border in Tunisia May 24, 2019. REUTERS/Zoubeir
A vendor displays clothing for sale at "Souk Libya" marketplace in the town of Ben Guerdane, near the Libyan border in Tunisia May 24, 2019. REUTERS/Zoubeir

The World Bank has granted Tunisia two loans totaling $ 175 million to finance digital transition programs, Tunisian Minister of Communications Technologies and Digital Economy Anouar Maarouf announced on Saturday.

Maarouf added that the funding would expedite the implementation of the national strategic program Digital Tunisia 2020 and provide ground for making Tunisia an international digital reference.

According to the ministry, the first loan worth USD100 million will be allocated to fund the digital transformation inside the Tunisian administration, while the second loan worth USD75 million will be dedicated for funding projects of emerging projects and SMEs in Tunisia.

Notably, restructuring the Tunisian administration is one of the reforms demanded by the IMF to receive consecutive loan installments from 2016-2020 worth USD2.9 billion.

Tunisian authorities seek to allocate a minimum of USD45 million of the total amount to establish the 'fund of the funds' that would fund emerging firms in Tunisia.



GCC Secretary General, EU Trade Chief Discuss Ways to Enhance Trade, Economic Relations

Secretary General of the Gulf Cooperation Council Jasem Mohamed Albudaiwi. (GCC)
Secretary General of the Gulf Cooperation Council Jasem Mohamed Albudaiwi. (GCC)
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GCC Secretary General, EU Trade Chief Discuss Ways to Enhance Trade, Economic Relations

Secretary General of the Gulf Cooperation Council Jasem Mohamed Albudaiwi. (GCC)
Secretary General of the Gulf Cooperation Council Jasem Mohamed Albudaiwi. (GCC)

Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Secretary General Jassim Mohammed Al-Budaiwi and European Commission Executive Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis met in the Emirati capital, Abu Dhabi, on the sidelines of the World Trade Organization’s (WTO's) 13th Ministerial Conference, SPA said on Monday.
The two sides reviewed economic and trade relations and discussed ways to enhance them, building on their historical partnership.
They also expressed aspiration to build stronger relations and expand the scope of economic and trade cooperation between the GCC countries and the European Union to achieve common objectives and enhance the interests of both parties.


Over SAR6 Bln to Be Invested in Environmental Compliance Projects in Saudi Arabia until 2030

Saudi Vice Minister of Environment, Water and Agriculture Eng. Mansour Al Mushaiti speaks at the event in Riyadh. (SPA)
Saudi Vice Minister of Environment, Water and Agriculture Eng. Mansour Al Mushaiti speaks at the event in Riyadh. (SPA)
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Over SAR6 Bln to Be Invested in Environmental Compliance Projects in Saudi Arabia until 2030

Saudi Vice Minister of Environment, Water and Agriculture Eng. Mansour Al Mushaiti speaks at the event in Riyadh. (SPA)
Saudi Vice Minister of Environment, Water and Agriculture Eng. Mansour Al Mushaiti speaks at the event in Riyadh. (SPA)

Saudi Vice Minister of Environment, Water and Agriculture Eng. Mansour Al Mushaiti said on Monday over SAR6 billion will have been invested in environmental compliance projects in Saudi Arabia by the end of 2030.

He made his remarks at the inaugural two-day Environmental Compliance Forum in Riyadh that ended on Monday.

Al Mushaiti stressed that the environment is closely related to the economy, community health and quality of life, and as such, it is one of the priority areas of the wise leadership, whose support contributed to an “unprecedented development of the environment, water and agriculture sectors” in line with the Kingdom's Vision 2030.

He said the Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture started to draw up the National Environment Strategy in 2016, and “through practical steps and practices, provided sustainable solutions, with the participation of the private sector, which played a crucial part in achieving many environment-friendly development goals”.

He added that the current forum sought to stress the importance of cooperation to create a sustainable environment that contributes to preserving natural resources, boosting the quality of life and improving the services provided to individuals.

According to a 2014 study by the World Bank, the cost of environmental degradation exceeded SAR86 billion, he noted.

Protecting the environment, he stressed, is crucial to ensuring environment, food and water security, and to progressing and achieving economic prosperity.

Al Mushaiti also highlighted Saudi Arabia’s “remarkable strides” in protecting the environment, preserving natural resources and achieving progress in global indicators.


Israel-Hezbollah Strikes Cloud Lebanon’s Economy, Minister Says 

A man examines a destroyed warehouse, one day after an Israeli air raid at an industrial district, in the southern coastal town of Ghaziyeh, Lebanon, 20 February 2024. (EPA)
A man examines a destroyed warehouse, one day after an Israeli air raid at an industrial district, in the southern coastal town of Ghaziyeh, Lebanon, 20 February 2024. (EPA)
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Israel-Hezbollah Strikes Cloud Lebanon’s Economy, Minister Says 

A man examines a destroyed warehouse, one day after an Israeli air raid at an industrial district, in the southern coastal town of Ghaziyeh, Lebanon, 20 February 2024. (EPA)
A man examines a destroyed warehouse, one day after an Israeli air raid at an industrial district, in the southern coastal town of Ghaziyeh, Lebanon, 20 February 2024. (EPA)

Lebanon's long-troubled economy is shrouded in uncertainty by conflict on its southern border between Israeli forces and Hezbollah militants, Lebanon's economy minister said on Monday.

Minister of Economy and Trade Amin Salam told reporters in Abu Dhabi that Lebanon would miss an annual growth forecast of 2-4% this year as a direct result of the cross-border strikes.

"Lebanon is in a state of lot of questions now but definitely things are declining in a negative way," he said on the sidelines of a World Trade Organization (WTO) meeting.

He said it was unclear if visitors from the Lebanese diaspora and other tourists, who he said injected about $5-7 billion into the economy last summer, would come to the country this season.

The recent winter season had seen fewer overseas visitors than expected after a strong summer season before the war, he said. The US, Brazil, and Australia, home to many Lebanese, are urging their citizens to reconsider travelling to Lebanon.

"We don't know really if in the next few months we can look at a summer season that will pump back billions of dollars into the economy," he said, uncertain if the diaspora will stay away.

Israeli forces and Lebanon's Hezbollah have for months traded fire across Lebanon's southern border, which the Iran-backed group says is in support of its Palestinian ally Hamas.

Hamas launched a cross-border attack on Israel from Gaza on Oct. 7 that left around 1,200 people dead, with more than 200 taken hostage, of which around 100 have been released.

In retaliation, Israel has bombed and invaded Gaza with the aim, its government says, of destroying the Iran-backed Hamas, which rules the coastal enclave of some 2.5 million people. The military operations have killed more than 29,000 Palestinians.

"Lebanon is not just affected by the war in Palestine and Gaza. Lebanon is in a state of war. We are losing our land," Salam said.

Salam said the southern border fighting had weakened Lebanon's exports with about $2.5 billion in agricultural land, trees and goods damaged or destroyed so far in the strikes.

He said the government was seeking international assistance to rehabilitate farmland damaged by the fighting.

"It will take years and it will take a lot of money, so definitely we will be seeking international community to aid us in rehabilitating all the areas," Salam said.

Lebanon's economy began to unravel in 2019 after decades of profligate state spending and corruption.


Ma’aden Annual Profits Fall to SAR 1.6 Billion, Drop 12.5% in 4th Quarter

 A metal factory affiliated with Ma’aden (Asharq Al-Awsat)
A metal factory affiliated with Ma’aden (Asharq Al-Awsat)
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Ma’aden Annual Profits Fall to SAR 1.6 Billion, Drop 12.5% in 4th Quarter

 A metal factory affiliated with Ma’aden (Asharq Al-Awsat)
A metal factory affiliated with Ma’aden (Asharq Al-Awsat)

The Saudi Arabian Mining Company (Ma’aden) recorded a decrease in its net profits during 2023 by about 83.07 percent, mainly as a result of decline in sales on the back of lower commodity market prices of all products except gold.

In a disclosure to the Saudi Stock Exchange (Tadawul), the company said that its net profit after zakat and tax dropped to SAR 1.58 billion, compared to SAR 9.32 billion in 2022.

The company attributed the reason for the decrease in net profit due to the decline in sales as a result of lower prices of commodity for all products except gold.

The company added that net profit was also impacted by higher finance cost due to increased borrowing rates and lower share of profit from joint ventures on the back of lower commodity market prices. This was partially offset by lower raw material prices, higher income from time deposit and lower income taxes and zakat.

Moreover, sales during the current year decreased by SAR 11 billion (27%) compared to last year, which is mainly due to lower commodity prices for all products except gold. This decrease in sales was partially offset by higher sales volumes of ammonia phosphate fertilizer, alumina and gold, Ma’aden reported.

It noted that sales amounted to about SAR 29.27 billion, compared to SAR 40.28 billion in 2022.


Saudi Jafurah Field Discovery Boosts Kingdom’s Gas Production Status

The resources at Jafurah are now estimated at 229 trillion standard cu ft of gas and 75 billion barrels of condensates. (Saudi Aramco)
The resources at Jafurah are now estimated at 229 trillion standard cu ft of gas and 75 billion barrels of condensates. (Saudi Aramco)
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Saudi Jafurah Field Discovery Boosts Kingdom’s Gas Production Status

The resources at Jafurah are now estimated at 229 trillion standard cu ft of gas and 75 billion barrels of condensates. (Saudi Aramco)
The resources at Jafurah are now estimated at 229 trillion standard cu ft of gas and 75 billion barrels of condensates. (Saudi Aramco)

Saudi Aramco, the Saudi Arabian oil giant, has made a groundbreaking discovery in its unconventional Jafurah Field, adding 15 trillion standard cubic feet of gas and 2 billion barrels of condensate to its reserves.

With this find, the resources at Jafurah are now estimated at 229 trillion standard cu ft of gas and 75 billion barrels of condensates.

This strategic discovery not only increases the total reserves in Jafurah but also underscores Saudi Arabia’s positioning in the natural gas sector amid its ongoing energy transition efforts.

The Ministry of Energy confirmed the find in a press statement, quoting Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman.

The ministry emphasized that Aramco’s adherence to the highest international standards in estimating and developing hydrocarbon resources has ensured the proper exploitation of these resources.

Jafurah is considered the biggest shale gas reserve in the Middle East. It holds around 200 trillion cubic feet of natural gas underground, which could help cut emissions and serve as a source for cleaner fuels in the future.

Experts predict that this increase will make Saudi Arabia a major global gas producer, diversifying its energy mix and allowing it to stockpile substantial gas reserves for export.

This shift reflects the Kingdom’s ambition to be recognized as an all-encompassing energy producer, not just reliant on oil.

Dr. Mohammed Suroor Al-Sabban, a former senior advisor at the Saudi Ministry of Energy, emphasized the importance of this increase, noting it aligns with the Kingdom’s goals of energy diversification.

In remarks to Asharq Al-Awsat, he highlighted that it solidifies Saudi Arabia’s position as a leading energy producer and enhances global interest in its energy sector.

Al-Sabban also highlighted the increasing global interest in gas and its role in electricity generation and water desalination.

He stressed that Saudi Arabia’s large gas reserve will make it a significant player in the global market, especially with advancements in shale oil and gas technologies reducing production costs.

Last August, the China Petroleum & Chemical Corp., also known as Sinopec, expressed interest in Saudi Arabia’s shale gas development project at Jafurah.

In October, South Korea’s Hyundai Engineering and Construction and Hyundai Engineering also signed a $2.4bn contract with oil giant Saudi Aramco to build a gas processing plant at Jafurah.

Economic expert Tareq Al-Ateeq sees the big increase in gas and condensate reserves in the Jafurah field as a boost for Saudi Arabia’s economy.

He predicted that once the field is up and running, Saudi Arabia will be the world’s third-largest gas producer. This will help diversify the Kingdom’s energy and support Aramco in becoming the world’s largest energy company.

Al-Ateeq believes this will bring in more money for Saudi Arabia and fund big projects, supporting the Kingdom’s growth plans. It will also meet the needs of different sectors like electricity, water, and mining, helping the economy grow.

He also underscored that exporting gas is becoming more important and expected a big increase in demand for gas by 2040.

Gas is cleaner and cheaper to produce than oil, and it will help create jobs and boost the Kingdom’s economy, stressed Al-Ateeq, adding that the financial benefits of these changes will show over time as production increases.


Heathrow Airport Shelves Plan for Third Runway

A strong Q4 performance helped the airport reach their first adjusted profit in four years with £38 million adjusted profit before tax. (Reuters)
A strong Q4 performance helped the airport reach their first adjusted profit in four years with £38 million adjusted profit before tax. (Reuters)
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Heathrow Airport Shelves Plan for Third Runway

A strong Q4 performance helped the airport reach their first adjusted profit in four years with £38 million adjusted profit before tax. (Reuters)
A strong Q4 performance helped the airport reach their first adjusted profit in four years with £38 million adjusted profit before tax. (Reuters)

London’s Heathrow Airport is shelving plans to add a third runway and will examine other options to handle more passengers, The Sunday Times of London reported.

Chief executive Thomas Woldbye has begun the processing of disbanding a team focused on the project, the newspaper said, citing sources it didn’t name.

The airport, which saw passenger numbers rise about 29 percent to 79.2 million in 2023, will review proposals including extending the use of buses to deliver travelers to aircraft and other measures to boost runway efficiency, according to the report.

Heathrow Airport is “looking at how we can optimize the current airport to achieve short-term growth within our current infrastructure.

A strong Q4 performance helped the airport reach their first adjusted profit in four years with £38 million adjusted profit before tax.

Behind-the-scenes investments are underway across the airport to boost passenger experience and operational resilience. Heathrow Airport are upgrading 146 security lanes as part of their £1 billion investment in next generation security equipment, and have appointed a lead contractor to replace the T2 baggage system.

“2023 was a good year for Heathrow from a challenging start to a great finish – We delivered much improved service for our customers, and managed to turn a small profit after three consecutive years of losses,” said Woldbye.


Jordanian Trade Deficit Drops by 10% in 2023

The Jordanian Prime Minister speaks during his opening speech at the meeting on the executive program for the economic modernization vision. (Prime Minister’s account on X)
The Jordanian Prime Minister speaks during his opening speech at the meeting on the executive program for the economic modernization vision. (Prime Minister’s account on X)
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Jordanian Trade Deficit Drops by 10% in 2023

The Jordanian Prime Minister speaks during his opening speech at the meeting on the executive program for the economic modernization vision. (Prime Minister’s account on X)
The Jordanian Prime Minister speaks during his opening speech at the meeting on the executive program for the economic modernization vision. (Prime Minister’s account on X)

The Jordanian trade balance deficit witnessed a 10% drop in 2023, reaching JD 9.3 billion ($13.12 billion), from 10.4 billion dinars ($14.6 billion) in 2022.

Jordan’s Prime Minister Bisher Khasawneh said the primary deficit as a proportion of GDP experienced a decrease, falling to 2.6 percent of GDP in 2023, down from approximately 2.7 percent in 2022.

He noted that the kingdom attracted foreign direct investments worth JD 673 million ($948.9 million) by September 2023.

Tourism income surged by 27% in 2023, reaching JD 5.2 billion ($7.33 billion), said the PM at a meeting on the executive program for the economic modernization vision

Total exports reached JD 8.9 billion ($12.5 billion) in 2023, a slight 1.5% decrease from 2022, due to lower prices in global markets, he continued.

Inflationary pressures were contained at 2.1% in 2023, below the targeted 3.8% and lower than 4.2% in 2022.

Khasawneh highlighted Jordan's robust foreign currency reserves, surpassing $18 billion last year, covering imports for over eight months.


WTO Launches $50Mln Fund for Female Entrepreneurs in Developing World

Director-General of the World Trade Organization Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala launched on Sunday a $50 million fund to help female entrepreneurs in developing countries. (UNCTAD website)
Director-General of the World Trade Organization Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala launched on Sunday a $50 million fund to help female entrepreneurs in developing countries. (UNCTAD website)
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WTO Launches $50Mln Fund for Female Entrepreneurs in Developing World

Director-General of the World Trade Organization Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala launched on Sunday a $50 million fund to help female entrepreneurs in developing countries. (UNCTAD website)
Director-General of the World Trade Organization Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala launched on Sunday a $50 million fund to help female entrepreneurs in developing countries. (UNCTAD website)

Director-General of the World Trade Organization Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala launched on Sunday a $50 million fund to help female entrepreneurs in developing countries to export more using the opportunities offered by the digital economy.

The announcement came ahead of the 13th ministerial conference of the WTO which opens on February 29 in the United Arab Emirates.

Okonjo-Iweala said the “ground-breaking initiative... embodies our collective commitment to empower women.

“We need catalytic solutions to solve the financing issue that women face,” she added.

The fund will help businesses run by women in developing countries to adopt digital technologies and increase their online presence.

Dr. Thani Al Zeyoudi, UAE Minister of State for Foreign Trade, said his country would contribute $5 million to the fund, adding: “This initiative allows us to celebrate the invaluable contribution of women entrepreneurs and women-led businesses around the world and to recognize the critical role they play in driving economic growth.”

“While women are one half the world’s population, they only contribute 37 percent to the global GDP,” he said.

Also at the announcement was Saudi Arabian Minister of Commerce Majid al-Kasabi, who called it a “milestone” and said his country was “dedicated” to supporting female empowerment.

Okonjo-Iweala said that in meeting female entrepreneurs, “a common refrain among them is the need for adequate financing to scale their businesses and to tap into the vast opportunities of global trade.”


Saudi Arabia, Austria Discuss Economic Cooperation

The Saudi Minister of Economy and Planning met on Sunday with the Austrian Federal Minister for the EU and Constitution. SPA
The Saudi Minister of Economy and Planning met on Sunday with the Austrian Federal Minister for the EU and Constitution. SPA
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Saudi Arabia, Austria Discuss Economic Cooperation

The Saudi Minister of Economy and Planning met on Sunday with the Austrian Federal Minister for the EU and Constitution. SPA
The Saudi Minister of Economy and Planning met on Sunday with the Austrian Federal Minister for the EU and Constitution. SPA

The Saudi Minister of Economy and Planning, Faisal bin Fadhil Alibrahim, met in Riyadh on Sunday with the Austrian Federal Minister for the EU and Constitution, Karoline Edtstadler.

During the meeting, the two sides discussed bilateral relations between the Kingdom and Austria, and ways to strengthen economic cooperation between both countries, in addition to recent developments in the region.


Saudi Arabia Announces Significant Increase in Proven Reserves of Gas, Condensate in Jafurah

Minister of Energy Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman bin Abdulaziz. Asharq Al-Awsat
Minister of Energy Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman bin Abdulaziz. Asharq Al-Awsat
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Saudi Arabia Announces Significant Increase in Proven Reserves of Gas, Condensate in Jafurah

Minister of Energy Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman bin Abdulaziz. Asharq Al-Awsat
Minister of Energy Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman bin Abdulaziz. Asharq Al-Awsat

Minister of Energy Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman bin Abdulaziz stated that Saudi Aramco has been able to significantly increase the quantities of proven reserves of gas and condensate in the Jafurah unconventional field.

The additional proven reserves reached 15 trillion standard cubic feet of gas and 2 billion barrels of condensate.

The Minister indicated that this achievement is a result of applying the highest international standards in estimating and developing hydrocarbon resources in a manner that ensures proper exploitation.

Resources at Jafurah are now estimated at 229 trillion standard cubic feet of gas and 75 billion barrels of condensates. Resources and proven reserves estimates have been certified by a major independent consulting company, specialized in assessing resources and proven reserves.