Despite Oil Wealth, Poverty Fuels Despair in South Iraq

From patchy supplies of water and electricity, to pockmarked roads and toxic pollution, Basra residents are struggling -- a job in the petroleum sector is the ultimate prize - AFP
From patchy supplies of water and electricity, to pockmarked roads and toxic pollution, Basra residents are struggling -- a job in the petroleum sector is the ultimate prize - AFP
TT

Despite Oil Wealth, Poverty Fuels Despair in South Iraq

From patchy supplies of water and electricity, to pockmarked roads and toxic pollution, Basra residents are struggling -- a job in the petroleum sector is the ultimate prize - AFP
From patchy supplies of water and electricity, to pockmarked roads and toxic pollution, Basra residents are struggling -- a job in the petroleum sector is the ultimate prize - AFP

In Iraq's southern province of Basra, the oil flows freely but little of the wealth trickles down to the people, and many struggle to make ends meet.

Sajad, 17, who lives in Basra city, says he "has no future" and no present. Like other young people, he says he just survives, a living emblem of the city's maladies.

Basra province produces about 70 percent of crude oil in Iraq, itself the second biggest exporter in the Middle East after Saudi Arabia.

Yet the province is hit especially hard by many of the problems plaguing Iraq, which is still seeking to recover from years of war and turmoil since the 2003 US-led invasion that toppled dictator Saddam Hussein.

Unemployment in Basra affects 20 to 25 percent of the people and almost 30 percent of youth, estimated Iraqi economist Barik Schuber in the absence of official figures.

This compares to a national rate of 13.7 percent, according to World Bank figures, AFP reported.

From patchy supplies of water and electricity, to pockmarked roads and toxic pollution caused by extracting hydrocarbons, Basra province and its four million inhabitants are struggling.

But what hits hardest is the despair of the young.

Gathered around their shisha pipes, Sajad and Jawad, both aged 16, are hard pressed to find anything to be optimistic about.

Sajad does not work, while Jawad said he toils for "eight to 13 hours in a restaurant for 7,000 dinars (about $4.80) per day".

"I don't see a future here, I want to go to Baghdad," said Sajad, sitting on the shores of the Shatt al-Arab waterway, where the Tigris and Euphrates rivers meet.

Some investments have been made, such as a new stadium under construction ahead of the Gulf Cup football tournament due to be held in Basra in January 2023.

But the deputy governor of Basra, Dorgham al-Ajwadi, conceded that "the people are angry".

He blamed the distant government in Baghdad for the inequitable distribution of the federal budget.

"In 2021, the Iraqi budget is about 130 trillion Iraqi dinars ($89 billion), but for Basra it's less than one trillion," he told AFP.

"It is maybe 0.7 percent of the total budget, while more than 108 trillion come from Basra."

For Basra resident Mortada, 27, it's not Baghdad that's to blame but rather the local authorities.

Before the pandemic, he ran an unregistered ice cream shop, he explained.

"Then the authorities shut down the illegal businesses, including mine," he said, requesting that his surname not be published to avoid problems "with certain people".

In Iraq's October 10 parliamentary elections, he voted for an independent candidate unaffiliated with the major parties because "I believe he can change things".

For many, the grievances run deeper.

Basra was a hotbed of massive protests in mid-2018, a precursor to the near-nationwide protests that rocked the country from October 2019.

Anger erupted in Basra over corruption, poor public services and, above all, the influence of neighboring Iran, whose local consulate was set ablaze.

Tehran has long exercised influence over Iraq through certain political parties, as well as factions of the Hashed al-Shaabi -- a former paramilitary umbrella organization that was folded into the Iraqi armed forces.

In Basra, some accuse "groups loyal to Tehran" of wielding harmful influence and of infiltrating the economic fabric.

One such critic refused to give his name, saying that "if it is published, I risk being killed".

Three years after the Basra demonstrations, little has changed, according to Mortada, who does odd jobs and dreams of working "for the state".

In Basra, more than in any other part of the country, a job in the petroleum sector is seen as the ultimate prize for its promise of stability and prosperity.

But according to Mac Skeleton, executive director of the Institute of Regional and International Studies based in Iraqi Kurdistan, jobs in Basra's petrol industry are handed out through nepotism.

"Each of the major Shiite majority parties are competing over the Basra oil company, they're competing over the security contracts in the oil fields, for different assets," he explained.

But "connections" are necessary for a way in, he said, adding that "at the end of the day there is a kind of limit to how many people can benefit from these different spheres of power".

Some people miss out despite having connections, said Sajad, whose uncle works at the oil ministry.

The young man complained that his elder relative had already "accommodated two people from his family" and therefore "cannot hire me".



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
TT

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.


Saudi Arabia Tells the Story of its Energy Transformation

Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman presents the progress made by Saudi Arabia in the field of energy transition. (World Energy Forum website)
Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman presents the progress made by Saudi Arabia in the field of energy transition. (World Energy Forum website)
TT

Saudi Arabia Tells the Story of its Energy Transformation

Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman presents the progress made by Saudi Arabia in the field of energy transition. (World Energy Forum website)
Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman presents the progress made by Saudi Arabia in the field of energy transition. (World Energy Forum website)

Saudi Arabia shared the story of its energy transformation that began in 2019, displaying its achievements towards an innovative and sustainable future at the 14th Symposium of the International Energy Agency, the International Energy Forum and OPEC, which was recently held in Riyadh.

During the event, Saudi Minister of Energy Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman presented a report entitled, “The progress made in Saudi Arabia towards the energy transition and the upcoming global challenges,” stressing that energy transition in the Kingdom has been proactive and comprehensive since 2019, when the country adopted the circular economy approach.

The minister pointed to the launch of two major initiatives in 2021, namely the Saudi Green Initiative, which aims to pump investments worth about $266 billion to generate clean energy, in addition to reducing carbon emissions by 278 billion tons annually until 2030.

The second is the Middle East Green Initiative, which aims to mobilize efforts of various stakeholders to reduce carbon emissions by an amount equivalent to 10 percent of global contributions, thus reducing carbon emissions from oil production in the region by more than 60 percent.

The report explained the progress Saudi Arabia has made in the field of energy transition, including saving the equivalent of 492,000 barrels of oil per day since the start of the Saudi Energy Efficiency Program (SEEP) in 2012 and implementing the liquid fuel displacement program in the electricity production sector, which aims to eliminate the burning of one million barrels of liquid fuel by utilizing renewable energy sources.

The Kingdom also plans to increase its capture and storage capacity to 44 million tons annually by 2035, which includes capturing and using two million tons annually of carbon dioxide to produce glycol, green methanol, and clean fuel.

Moreover, the report pointed to the goal of generating 50 percent of electricity from renewable energy by 2030 and increasing reliance on clean hydrogen and low-emission fuel by shipping 150,000 tons of clean ammonia to the world.

Saudi Arabia is also considering establishing a complex to use carbon dioxide and hydrogen gas for the purpose of producing clean fuel derivatives and works to plant 600 million trees by 2030.

The Kingdom has the second lowest methane intensity, and is committed to further reducing methane emissions from oil and gas, according to the report.

Based on a study conducted by the King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center (KAPSARC), using the Kayrros satellite emissions measurement, it was found that the density of methane gas in Saudi Arabia was 73 percent lower than the value reported by the International Energy Agency. This means that the Kingdom has the second lowest methane intensity among major oil and gas producing countries.

The carbon intensity of the barrel produced by Saudi Arabia is also among the lowest in the world. It has the second lowest carbon intensity among major crude oil producers. In 2021, the country joined the Zero Neutrality Forum for Oil Producers with Canada, Norway, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and the United States, which aims to discuss how to support the implementation of the Paris Climate Change Agreement.

As of 2024, the Kingdom plans to offer 20 gigawatts of renewable capacity annually, a goal that only China and the United States have exceeded.

In December 2023, Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman announced that the Kingdom plans to launch renewable energy projects with a capacity of 20 gigawatts in 2024, after it has succeeded in doubling its production of renewable energy four times from 700 megawatts to 2.8 gigawatts.

Also in 2023, the market mechanism for compensating and balancing greenhouse gases (carbon equivalents) was activated. The mechanism aims to issue carbon certificates to stimulate investments in projects that seek to reduce emissions of these gases in all sectors in the Kingdom, and to help achieve the country’s nationally determined contributions under the umbrella of the Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Paris Agreement.

Globally, the Ministry of Energy says that the world has made progress towards mitigating the effects of climate change since the Paris Agreement in 2015, with green investments exceeding $1.8 trillion in 2023, in addition to reviving the Loss and Damage Fund.

Global renewable capacity additions also rose from about 150 GW in 2015 to nearly 510 GW in 2023, the fastest growth rate in the past two decades. Since 2015, more than 300 million people have had access to electricity and more than 700 million people have obtained clean cooking fuels, in addition to the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) reaching a historic agreement on the deep, rapid and sustainable reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in a nationally defined way through eight global efforts.

However, the ministry indicated that despite this progress, further efforts should be deployed to achieve the global transformation in the field of energy, by overcoming major challenges, most notably mobilizing investments and financing.

Gaps in transition financing represent a major obstacle for developing countries in pursuing their net zero ambitions.

The energy transition requires annual investments estimated at about $6 trillion ($1.8 trillion secured in 2023). The annual investments needed represent 7.5 percent of the entire global GDP. This therefore requires that international financial systems evolve to facilitate the required growth of public and private financing.

The Ministry of Energy believes that although renewable energy sources are growing at a record rate, more efforts are needed to increase renewable capacity three-fold in less than a decade. For this purpose, $8 trillion is needed for new installed capacity and $3.6 trillion for grid expansion.


QatarEnergy Set to Further Expand LNG Output at North Field

The new Qatar Energy logo is pictured during a news conference in Doha, Qatar, October 11, 2021. Qatar News Agency/Handout via REUTERS/File Photo
The new Qatar Energy logo is pictured during a news conference in Doha, Qatar, October 11, 2021. Qatar News Agency/Handout via REUTERS/File Photo
TT

QatarEnergy Set to Further Expand LNG Output at North Field

The new Qatar Energy logo is pictured during a news conference in Doha, Qatar, October 11, 2021. Qatar News Agency/Handout via REUTERS/File Photo
The new Qatar Energy logo is pictured during a news conference in Doha, Qatar, October 11, 2021. Qatar News Agency/Handout via REUTERS/File Photo

QatarEnergy chief Saad al-Kaabi announced on Sunday a new expansion of its liquefied natural gas production that will add a further 16 million tons per annum (mtpa) to existing expansion plans, bringing total capacity to 142 mtpa.
With this added boost, the overall expansion of the North Field from 77 mtpa currently to 142 mtpa by 2030 represents an increase of 85% in production, Kaabi said at a press conference in Doha.
State-owned QatarEnergy has already signed a string of supply deals with European and Asian partners in its massive North Field expansion project, which was expected - prior to Sunday's announcement - to produce 126 million mtpa of LNG per annum by 2027, from the current 77 mtpa.
Exploration activities in the west of North Field prompted the company's decision to expand further.
In December, Kaabi told Reuters that QatarEnergy had been drilling wells to assess expansion opportunities beyond the North Field East and North Field South phases.
This latest expansion will require the construction of two LNG trains, in addition to six already underway for the earlier expansions dubbed North Field East and North Field South.


Oman Insurance Sector Expected to Grow by More than 10 Percent

The insurance sector's contribution to the gross domestic product is about 1.23 percent. Oman News Agency
The insurance sector's contribution to the gross domestic product is about 1.23 percent. Oman News Agency
TT

Oman Insurance Sector Expected to Grow by More than 10 Percent

The insurance sector's contribution to the gross domestic product is about 1.23 percent. Oman News Agency
The insurance sector's contribution to the gross domestic product is about 1.23 percent. Oman News Agency

The Sultanate of Oman's insurance sector is expected to witness a 10 percent growth in 2024, said Mustafa Ahmed Salman, member of the Board of Directors of the Oman Chamber of Commerce and Industry (OCCI) and Chairman of the Chamber’s Finance and Insurance Committee.

The insurance sector is one of the fastest growing sectors in the Sultanate. Its contribution to the gross domestic product is about 1.23 percent, and the growth rate of insurance premiums in 2022 reached about 13 percent.

Salman pointed out that raising the capital of insurance companies will contribute significantly to their ability to bring in more investors and help their businesses to grow better.

In a statement to the Oman News Agency, Salman said: “The contribution of the insurance sector to the gross domestic product of the Sultanate of Oman currently amounts to 1.3 percent. This is a good percentage rate compared to other Arab countries.”

He further said that the volume of Arab insurance reached about $45 billion and constitutes one percent of the volume of global insurance industry.


Source: ExxonMobil Weighs Offers for Argentina Shale Assets

FILE PHOTO: ExxonMobil logo is seen in this illustration taken, October 6, 2023. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: ExxonMobil logo is seen in this illustration taken, October 6, 2023. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo
TT

Source: ExxonMobil Weighs Offers for Argentina Shale Assets

FILE PHOTO: ExxonMobil logo is seen in this illustration taken, October 6, 2023. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: ExxonMobil logo is seen in this illustration taken, October 6, 2023. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

US energy giant ExxonMobil Corp is weighing offers for its oil and gas assets in Argentina's Vaca Muerta shale region, a source familiar with the plan said on Friday, adding there was no time frame for a decision and the sale may not move forward.
Bloomberg earlier on Friday reported that ExxonMobil was exploring a $1 billion sale of its shale assets in the South American country, a process that started last year.
"The process began in August, it continues to advance and the offers are being evaluated," the source said, asking not to be named as the matter was confidential. The person added that the firm had received offers earlier this month.
"At the beginning of February they presented binding offers. There is no time or due date to provide a response to say how the operation continues. They are being evaluated by the shareholders," the source said.
Earlier this week, Mexican firm Vista Energy , Argentina's second-largest shale oil producer behind state-owned YPF, publicly expressed its interest in Exxon's Vaca Muerta assets.
"They have interesting assets. And yes, we are looking into that," Vista CEO Miguel Galuccio said on a conference call on Wednesday.
Exxon's assets in Argentina include stakes it owns in seven oil-and-gas blocks in Vaca Muerta.
The company declined to comment on the matter when contacted by Reuters.
Argentina, battling an economic crisis, is betting on Vaca Muerta, the world's second-largest shale gas reserve and fourth-largest for shale oil, to turn the country into an energy powerhouse and curb dependence on costly imports.
The source told Reuters that any sale, if it went ahead, would not be a "political" decision but part of a wider portfolio management. It also would not include a large global service center with some 3,000 employees in Buenos Aires, the person added.
Argentina's new right-wing libertarian President Javier Milei is contending with a severe economic crisis, with inflation running at more than 250%, depleted foreign currency reserves, and strict capital controls to defend the peso currency.
The economic crisis has created challenges for companies operating in the country, though the government is making a major push to ramp up investment in Vaca Muerta.


Investment Ministry: Development of Local Investments is Major Catalyst of Saudi Economy

Dr. Saad Alshahrani participates in a session at the Priority Summit in Miami. Asharq Al-Awsat
Dr. Saad Alshahrani participates in a session at the Priority Summit in Miami. Asharq Al-Awsat
TT

Investment Ministry: Development of Local Investments is Major Catalyst of Saudi Economy

Dr. Saad Alshahrani participates in a session at the Priority Summit in Miami. Asharq Al-Awsat
Dr. Saad Alshahrani participates in a session at the Priority Summit in Miami. Asharq Al-Awsat

The Saudi Investment Deputy Minister for Economic Affairs and Investment Studies, Dr. Saad Alshahrani, has stressed that the development of local investments is a major driver of the Saudi economy, pointing out that the economic performance of the Gulf region and the Middle East has made it attract more foreign investments.

He cited the significant growth achieved by the Kingdom in the last three years in the volume of local and foreign investments.
In a statement to the Saudi Press Agency during his participation in the Priority Summit in Miami, Al-Shahrani pointed out that fixed capital formation achieved a growth of 29% in 2022.
The number of issued investment licenses in recent years, reached nearly 9,000 licenses issued during 2023 while previously, it did not exceed 400 licenses.

The investment opportunities before launching the National Investment Strategy (NIS) were approximately 200, and today there are approximately 1,600 investment opportunities in different quality industries and multiple regions in the Kingdom, through 40 initiatives and four pillars.
Al-Shahrani said that the National Investment Strategy signifies Saudi Arabia's commitment to diversifying its economy and catalyzing growth through strategic investments, adding that the comprehensive incentives program, including 30-year tax exemptions, showcases Saudi Arabia's determination to attract and support global investors in key sectors like manufacturing and technology.


UAE's ADQ Consortium to Invest $35 Bn in Egypt

Officials sign the Ras El-Hekma project agreements in the presence of Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly. (WAM)
Officials sign the Ras El-Hekma project agreements in the presence of Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly. (WAM)
TT

UAE's ADQ Consortium to Invest $35 Bn in Egypt

Officials sign the Ras El-Hekma project agreements in the presence of Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly. (WAM)
Officials sign the Ras El-Hekma project agreements in the presence of Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly. (WAM)

ADQ, an Abu Dhabi-based investment and holding company, has unveiled plans to invest $35 billion in Egypt.  

ADQ will acquire the development rights for Ras El-Hekma for $24 billion to develop the region into one of the most significant new city developments by a private consortium.  

ADQ will also convert $11 billion of deposits that will be utilized for investment in prime projects across Egypt to support its economic growth and development.  

Ras El-Hekma is a coastal region in Egypt located approximately 350 kilometers northwest of Cairo, spanning over 170 million square meters.

The significant investment marks a pivotal step towards establishing Ras El-Hekma as a leading first-of-its-kind Mediterranean holiday destination, financial center, and free zone equipped with world-class infrastructure to strengthen Egypt's economic and tourism growth potential.  

The Egyptian government will retain a 35% stake in the Ras El-Hekma development.  

Ras El-Hekma will be a next-generation city comprising mainly of tourism amenities, a free zone, and an investment zone combining, among others, residential, commercial, and recreational spaces with seamless connectivity domestically and internationally.  

ADQ is leveraging its expansive portfolio and partners, aiming to unlock the appeal of Ras El-Hekma as a premium international financial and tourism destination, adopting the latest cutting-edge digital and technological smart city solutions.  

The Holding Company will also benefit from Egyptian and international partners to support its development and investment plans.  

ADQ's experience in providing fully integrated infrastructure solutions across a broad range of services promises to bring significant benefits to the new development and Egypt's economy and is expected to attract over $150 billion in investments.  

ADQ CEO Mohamed al-Suwaidi said the company is a long-standing investment partner in Egypt and has demonstrated its ability to select opportunities aligned with its investment framework and benefit the Egyptian economy.  

"The investment underscores our commitment to developing Ras El-Hekma into one of Egypt's most attractive coastal destinations through the enablement of mega-infrastructure and development projects," Suwaidi was quoted by the UAE state news agency (WAM).  

He explained that the company will work with partners such as Modon Properties and Talaat Moustafa Group to deliver value across multiple sectors of Egypt's vibrant economy.


Red Sea Attacks Hike Up Shipping Insurance Rates

A giant cargo ship near the Red Sea (AFP)
A giant cargo ship near the Red Sea (AFP)
TT

Red Sea Attacks Hike Up Shipping Insurance Rates

A giant cargo ship near the Red Sea (AFP)
A giant cargo ship near the Red Sea (AFP)

Houthi attacks on commercial ships in the Red Sea hiked the shipping insurance rates, with fees being imposed to cover risks associated with conflicts.
Since last Nov. 19, Iran-backed Houthis have targeted ships in the Red Sea that they suspect are linked to Israel or heading to its ports.
Houthis say their attack is in support of the Gaza Strip, which has been witnessing a war since Oct. 7, 2023.
According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Red Sea container shipping dropped 30% within a year.
The Red Sea is a vital route that usually carries about 12-15% of global trade, based on European Union figures.
Commercial boats need to obtain three types of insurance: hull insurance covers damage to the vessel, cargo insurance covers the vessel's load, and protection and indemnity insurance includes coverage for damage caused to third parties.
However, Premiums for ships and their cargos have "increased significantly" following the Houthi attacks, according to Frederic Denefle, head of Garex, a French firm specializing in marine risk insurance.
Garex told AFP that they have increased in proportion to the threat level.
Head of Marine and aviation at the Lloyd's Market Association (LMA), Neil Roberts, told AFP that the Red Sea is a Listed Area, meaning that vessels planning to enter must notify their insurers.
Insurance providers can then review the vessel and its voyage and demand an extra war premium on top of normal coverage.
The war premium, however, is limited to a short period.
However, Marsh Marcus Baker's global head of marine, cargo, and logistics explained that this new coverage is usually valid for only seven days, considering that hostilities may escalate.
General Manager of Ascoma International Claire Hamonic indicated that war insurance premiums have multiplied by five to ten times for vessels and cargo crossing the Red Sea.
- Huge sums of money
According to several sources contacted by AFP, the current rate of war risk premium stands at between 0.6 percent and 1.0 percent of the value of the ship.
The amounts can equal a considerable sum when some of the enormous vessels are worth over 100 million euros.
The nationalities of the companies owning or operating the ships are also considered.
Houthis have begun targeting US and UK ships, considering that they have become "legitimate targets" since Washington and London launched joint strikes on Houthi sites inside Yemen several times since Jan. 12.
The US Army alone carries out strikes from time to time that it says target sites or missiles and drones prepared for launch, the most recent of which was last Wednesday.
Head of operations at war insurance specialist Vessel Protect Munro Anderson said that the Houthis expressly indicated that they are targeting US and UK-connected vessels" or those linked to Israel.
Anderson explained that many vessels are flagged or associated with countries that don't carry the same risk profile.
"For example, Chinese connected vessels. Hong Kong Chinese connected vessels, of which there are lots, are trading in that area. Those will be able to add less premium than those connected with Israel, UK and US."
The Houthi strikes have also prompted some shipping companies to detour around southern Africa to avoid the Red Sea.
However, Hamonic warned that the diversion of ships around the Cape of Good Hope could "very possibly lead to a resurgence in piracy in the Indian Ocean."
"That risk extends from just below the Red Sea and towards the coast of Somalia," she added.
The journey takes an additional 10 to 15 days via this route, and sometimes up to 20 days, depending on the vessel's speed.
According to a London Stock Exchange Group report, the cost of a trip from Asia to northwestern Europe increased by 35% for a large container ship, and up 110% for an Aframax, an oil tanker with a deadweight between 80,000 and 120,000 metric.
- Impact on inflation
Meanwhile, analysts from Moody's Investors Services said on Thursday that attacks on merchant vessels in the Red Sea have delayed cargo and sent higher shipping costs, but soft demand and ample ship availability are muting the impact on inflation.
Nevertheless, Daniel Harlid, a transport sector analyst, said diversions are not expected to affect inflation because they are not driven by demand significantly.
Rerouting ships around Africa requires anywhere from 6% to 10% more vessels due to longer sail times, slowing the return of ships to their origination points, and sending on-demand spot rates on some routes up more than 100%.
The increases came off rock-bottom levels, and shipping experts expect them to normalize. Owners who have new ships arriving were struggling to fill existing vessels with cargo before the Houthi attacks began in November.


A Money Laundering Watchdog Removes UAE from a Watchlist

A UAE flag flies over a boat at Dubai Marina, Dubai, United Arab Emirates May 22, 2015. (Reuters)
A UAE flag flies over a boat at Dubai Marina, Dubai, United Arab Emirates May 22, 2015. (Reuters)
TT

A Money Laundering Watchdog Removes UAE from a Watchlist

A UAE flag flies over a boat at Dubai Marina, Dubai, United Arab Emirates May 22, 2015. (Reuters)
A UAE flag flies over a boat at Dubai Marina, Dubai, United Arab Emirates May 22, 2015. (Reuters)

An international watchdog said Friday that it was removing the United Arab Emirates from its so-called gray list of countries that don't take full measures to combat money laundering and terrorism financing.
The announcement was made by the Paris-based Financial Action Task Force following its meeting in the French capital. The FATF welcomed the UAE's "significant progress in improving” its anti-money laundering and counterterrorism financing policies.

UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs, Chairman of the Higher Committee Overseeing the National Strategy on Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, said the achievement is the result of efforts made by the relevant ministries and federal and local government agencies to accelerate the pace of the national action plan, and embody the directives and aspirations of the leadership in strengthening competitiveness and consolidating the UAE as a global economic, commercial and investment center.
He stressed that the UAE, in a concerted and complementary manner with international partners, will continue to strengthen its position in the financial system by keeping pace with developments in this sector, developing legislation, strengthening the legal and supervisory base, and activating collective efforts on an international scale to combat financial crime.
Barbados, Gibraltar and Uganda will also be removed from the FATF's gray list, the watchdog said in a statement Friday following its plenary meetings.
They "will no longer be subject to the FATF’s increased monitoring process,” the watchdog said in a statement.
Being on the watchdog’s gray list can scare away investors and creditors, hurting exports, output and consumption. It also can make global banks wary of doing business with a country.


AI Challenges Take Center Stage at FII Summit in Miami

Public Investment Fund (PIF) Governor and Chairman of FII Institute Yasir al-Rumayyan at FII. (Future Investment Initiative)
Public Investment Fund (PIF) Governor and Chairman of FII Institute Yasir al-Rumayyan at FII. (Future Investment Initiative)
TT

AI Challenges Take Center Stage at FII Summit in Miami

Public Investment Fund (PIF) Governor and Chairman of FII Institute Yasir al-Rumayyan at FII. (Future Investment Initiative)
Public Investment Fund (PIF) Governor and Chairman of FII Institute Yasir al-Rumayyan at FII. (Future Investment Initiative)

Artificial intelligence was at the heart of discussions at the Future Investing Initiative (FII) in Miami, where participants discussed its challenges amid investor enthusiasm for the technology.

It is the second time the FII "Priority" summit has been held in Miami, US, under "On the Edge of a New Frontier."

About 1,000 attendees at the summit discussed technologies, promoting innovation to invest and improve civil societies, harmoniously integrating technical developments in advanced AI, robotics, healthcare, finance, and sustainability.

Central to the summit's goals is to connect the two Americas to global markets and address critical challenges for a prosperous future in light of Miami's dynamic entrepreneurship and vibrant corporate scene.

PIF Governor

Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF) Governor and Chairman of FII Institute Yasir al-Rumayyan stressed during a panel session at the summit opening on Thursday that the Kingdom is well positioned to be a significant global hub for AI and related industries.

Rumayyan explained that it has many competitive advantages to achieve this goal, including its leadership in clean energy resources, political determination, funding capabilities, and human competencies.

He also addressed PIF's strategy, saying that more than 70% of its investments are local and directed towards the Kingdom's economy, while the public share of international investments has declined to less than 25%.

Rumayyan explained that PIF investments mainly target new sectors under its goal to make a long-term impact by being the economic driver of the transformation journey within Vision 2030, which is distinguished from other international strategic plans by its success in achieving many of its goals before their set timelines.

"The fund invests between $40 billion to $50 billion annually, which will continue until 2025. We look at our investments in the Kingdom and their impact on the gross domestic product, job creation, and local content increase."

"We are looking forward to increasing local revenues generated from investments as per the framework to create a sustainable impact on the Saudi economy and realize the targets of Vision 2030," he said.

On the fund's international investments, Rumyyan said their value continues to rise in terms of volume despite a decline in their percentage compared to local investments.

He pointed out that investments in the US market amount to 40% of the fund's total international investments in the form of investments or purchases, which amounted to more than $100 billion between 2017 and the end of 2023.

Meanwhile, Nvidia's total revenue rose 265% from a year ago, based on solid sales for server AI chips, amounting to $22.1 billion in the fourth quarter. The company is anticipating stronger sales thanks to growing spending on artificial intelligence.

Blackstone

Stephen Schwarzman, co-founder and CEO of Blackstone and an early supporter of AI, was one of several executives at the summit.

He highlighted the ethical implications of artificial technology, warning that countries and leaders need to come together on AI to prevent its misuse.

Schwarzman said he wondered about the "astonishing power of AI" and its effect on the human condition.

He stressed that AI will likely impact society and humanity, especially healthcare.

Accenture

Accenture CEO Julie Sweet said that AI has the potential to bridge North-South divides, exploring the far-reaching impact of AI on addressing global challenges in a panel discussion titled "FII Priority Compass: What matters most to citizens?"

She said: "The question is how much AI can help the Global South and the countries that need help through precision farming, through telemedicine and better healthcare."

Sweet highlighted Saudi Arabia's proactive stance in utilizing artificial intelligence to achieve societal progress and stressed the importance of global cooperation in harnessing the potential of artificial intelligence to address complex issues.

"One of the things that's been great to see is Saudi Arabia taking the lead in many places to think through how AI can help and how can they be a leader," she said, adding, "I think it's really important to always stay focused on what are the opportunities with AI to solve the world's problems."

She also highlighted the efforts of organizations such as the United Nations and stressed the urgent need to understand how to harness technology to avoid widening disparities.

"Regulation needs to be the outcome of a very strong public-private partnership because most governments in the world don't have the access or the talent inside to know it," Sweet said, adding that there have been a few successful examples of governments balancing innovation and safety.

She added: "That's one of the most important things governments must do, particularly because the technology is changing rapidly. And I think the good news is that everyone has agreed that some regulation is needed."

Regarding the AI-related risks in the upcoming US elections, Sweet warned against relying solely on government regulation.

She called for increased cooperation between private entities.

The second and final day of the summit discussed topics related to finance, venture capital, IPO markets, innovation, and others.