Friday, 26 October 2012
OLYMPICS spending fuelled Britain’s strongest quarterly growth in five years, springboarding the country out of recession in the third quarter, data showed on Thursday.
It provided some rare relief for a government accused of favouring austerity over growth, and may make another stimulus injection of cash from the central bank less likely.
The Office for National Statistics said gross domestic product rose by 1 percent between July and September, beating forecasts for a 0.6 percent gain, after shrinking by 0.4 percent between April and June.
The country is not out of the woods, however. It has still not recovered the output lost in the 2008-2009 slump and faces a rough road to recovery as the eurozone - its main trading partner - is heading for recession and global growth drivers such as China slow.
The data was also inflated by temporary factors - ticket sales for the London Olympics and a rebound from an extra public holiday in the previous quarter.
But it was nonetheless better than expected and could prevent the economy from have an overall contraction in 2012.
Sterling hit a one-week high versus the dollar and British government bonds extended losses after the data was released as markets reassessed the chances of more central bank asset-buying stimulus.
A number of economists changed their view in the wake of the growth figures and more upbeat comments from central bankers, which seem to hold high hopes that a new funding scheme for banks will unblock lending and get the recovery going.
“In the absence of a renewed stalling in the recovery, we expect this month’s asset purchases to be the last,” economists at Barclays said in a note.
Any more sustainable recovery could also ease the pressure on the government to ease its austerity plan of tax hikes and spending cuts aimed at erasing a huge budget deficit.
Prime Minister David Cameron, who is trailing in the polls, said the return to growth was a vindication of his policies, though he also struck a note of caution.
“There is still much more to be done, there is a long road to travel,” Cameron said. “But we have got the right approach and we must stick to that approach.
Opposition Labour finance spokesman Ed Balls meanwhile kept up his call for a change of tack. “The complacent thing to do now is simply to wait and hope things will get better,” he said.
Most economists agree that a sustained recovery is far from certain after business surveys have indicated a weak start to the final quarter of the year and oneoff factors were the main drivers behind the strong bounce. The statistics office estimated that Olympics ticket sales accounted for a fifth of the quarterly GDP rise, which followed three consecutive quarters of contraction.
BRITAIN on Thursday awarded one of its highest ever number of licences to drill oil and gas wells in the North Sea and said it had 5 percent more oil reserves than previously thought.
BP, Shell, Total and Centrica were among winners of 167 new licences to drill for oil and gas, a sector that adds 40 billion pounds to the UK’s trade balance and employs 440,000 people.
New government figures also showed 2011 proven and probable oil reserves at 788 million tonnes, up 5 percent from its 2010 estimate as new technology has made previously uncommercial wells viable.
Gas reserves were cut by 5 percent to 493 billion cubic metres.
“Our fiscal regime is now encouraging small fields into production and our licensing regime supports new faces as well the big players to invest,” Energy Minister John Hayes said, highlighting the government’s drive to maximise natural resources output to help the ailing UK economy.
Last month, Britain announced that income from some mature oil and gas fields would be shielded from an additional tax charge on producers.
Investment bank Jefferies said that the North Sea now offered attractive opportunities as the UK’s tax allowances encouraged investment in small, old, or technically challenging fields.
“The best strategies to deliver value in the North Sea are where E&Ps (Exploration and Production companies) develop several smaller fields in tandem using shared infrastructure and tax allowances to maximise value, and entering frontier regions like the Barents Sea, West of Shetland, and Atlantic Margin, which have seen material exploration success in recent years,” the bank said in a research note on Wednesday.
Analysts at Energy Aspects said they expected UK oil production to continue declining by 100,000 barrels per day year on year this and next year despite the tax incentives.
Britain’s ex-Energy Minister Charles Hendry said in an interview last month that UK oil and gas production could increase this year after the worst annual decline in output last year since the 1960s.
Britain’s energy sector contributed 4.4 percent of GDP last year, a slight increase on previous years due to higher oil, gas and electricity prices, but well below its peak at 10.4 percent of GDP in 1982.
Investment in oil and gas extraction rose to a record 8.5 billion pounds last year, overtaking money spent on the power and gas sector for the first time since 2006.
DOHA QATAR Charity (QC) will distribute 1,000 sacrificial animals to Syrian refugees both inside and outside their homeland on the occasion of Eid Al Adha.
The goodwill gesture is aimed at sharing Eid joy with the Syrians refugees in various camps in Syria, Turkey and Jordan.
The sacrificial animals were purchased through the ‘Make them happy with your sacrifice’ campaign intended to ensure that even the poor and needy have the opportunity to participate in the celebrations.
The charity organisation allocated around 600 of the animals to the refugees within Syria as part of its efforts to focus on the internally displaced persons.
The QC also allotted about 250 animals to Syrian refugees in Jordan and about 100 to those in Turkey.
Representatives of QC will oversee the distribution of the animals in collaboration with their local partners.
Chairman of Strategy and Support Services for International Programs at QC Ibrahim Zainal will supervise the distribution of the sacrificial animals in Jordan, while QC’s Executive Director for International Operations Mohammed Mubarak Salem al Adsani will oversee the distribution process in Turkey.
The representatives hope to provide consolation to the refugees and share the joy of the festive occasion with them.
The charity body has also distributed various relief items to the refugees at different camps in Syria, Turkey and Jordan.
The ‘Make them happy with your sacrifice’ campaign continues in order to receive more donations towards the purchase of sacrificial animals in future for onward delivery to the needy recipients.
DOHA OVER 3,000 visitors from different communities participated in the meena bazaar organised by the Pakistan Women’s Association (PWA) at Wakrah Stadium recently.
The fair featured more than 50 make-shift stalls, showcasing traditional Pakistani and Indian cuisine, readymade garments, henna, arts and crafts, electronics, jewellery, cosmetics and decoration items.
The event also offered fun, amusement and entertainment for both children and their parents.
“We were overwhelmed by the huge response at the fair. The event provided the visitors with an opportunity to combine merrymaking with shopping in a relaxed manner, said PWA President Rahat Mansoor.
Children as well as their parents were given the opportunity to test their physical and mental strength in various games.
The face painting stalls attracted a huge crowd of children waiting patiently to have their faces painted in different designs and colours.
A good number of women and girls got their hands decorated with henna while others spent time in selecting different colourful bangles and other jewelleries.
The food stalls offered haleem, biryani, dahi bhalay, katlama and kebabs.
The event was supported by LG.
DOHA IDEAL Indian School (IIS) Under-19 football team emerged as the champions of the CBSE Qatar Cluster Football Tournament for the second consecutive time.
The team defeated Shantiniketan Indian School 5-0 in the finals. Sebastian, Ihthisham, Abdul Azim and Sabeeh scored for Ideal Indian School.
Earlier, IIS team had defeated DPS-MIS 5-2 in the semi-finals.
Meanwhile, IIS winning team will participate in the CBSE National Tournament, which will be held in Haryana, Indian, in December.
DOHA QATAR Tourism Authority (QTA) and Qatar Airways hosted eight UK tour operator, product managers to explore and experience the culturally diverse Middle Eastern destination, Qatar.
Arriving on a Qatar Airways flight recently, representatives from Opodo, Carrier, Trailfinders, Travel Republic, Jewel in the Crown Holidays, Wexas, Travelpack and Abercrombie and Kent were escorted by QTA and Qatar Airways on a four-day tight itinerary, showcasing some of Qatar’s finest hospitality with state of the art leisure and business facilities for tourists and residents alike, its cultural heritage and contemporary 21st century skyline.
Director of Tourism Abdullah Bader said, “We are delighted to welcome such a group of top international tour operators from the UK so that they can experience Qatar at first hand as we firmly believe, ‘Seeing is believing’. This trip is part of QTA’s international marketing strategy to raise awareness of the destination and all that it has to offer within the UK market, and grow the overall tourism industry by 20 percent in the next five years.”
The highlight of the trip was a visit to the desert to experience dune bashing, with a stop at the fabled Inland Sea. The magical show cruise on a traditional Qatari boat lit up the ambience and offering the group unimaginable views of the shoreline from the sea.
DOHA MINISTER of Education and Higher Education HE Dr Saad bin Ibrahim al Mahmoud, Turkish Ambassador to Qatar HE Hakki Emre Yunt, along with several officials and representatives of foreign diplomatic missions in Qatar took part in a reception to mark the country’s National Day recently.
Speaking on the occasion, the envoy stressed on the close and friendly relations between Qatar and Turkey, both at political and economic levels.
“I am proud to serve as the Turkish ambassador in Doha. Qatar is now undergoing a huge social and economic development,” the envoy added. “Qatar is an important country in the region. At political level, Qatar and Turkey are working closely together for the freedom of the Syrian people. The two nations are at the forefront in helping the Syrian people.”
At the economic level, “Turkish companies in Qatar have worked in some of the major projects in Qatar.”
Being a democratic and secular country, ambassador Yunt said, “Turkey is seen as a model of modernity. It has a stable government, a vast economy and a young population. Turkey is the 16th largest economy in the world. It is an emerging market.”
DOHA QATAR Leadership Centre (QLC) wrapped up its executive education workshop titled ‘Managing a Multinational Enterprise – The Leader’s Perspective’ on Wednesday.
Professor Corey Phelps, associate professor of strategy and business policy at HEC Paris, and Professor Alain Roux, HEC Paris’ adjunct faculty member held a three-day session for the QLC Current and Future Leaders group.
The workshop was part of QLC’s programme for the group to assist future leaders “to reach their full potential”. It was also to support the country’s drive towards the Qatar National Vision 2030.
The economic strategy modules were based on the HEC NegoSim business simulation exercises, which deliver module- based strategic role playing. The exercises enable candidates to research and analyse real life business scenarios and then create solutions for cost control, general management, financial management and international finance scenarios.
QLC’s Board Member and Executive Director Sheikh Abdulla bin Ali al Thani said, “The NegoSim business simulation is part of QLC ethos of delivering international level leadership solutions for our candidates.”
“Market conditions are such that our future leaders need to be able to understand and react to new types of behaviours, develop competitive strategies and have internationally accredited measures of performance. Modules using the NegoSim platform offer our candidates a real insight into how we can address future challenges and learn through practical experience.”
LONDON THE WikiLeaks website began publishing on Thursday what it said were more than 100 US Defense Department files detailing military detention policies in camps in Iraq and at Guantanamo Bay in the years after the September 11 attacks on US targets.
In a statement, WikiLeaks criticised regulations it said had led to abuse and impunity and urged human rights activists to use the documents to research what it called “policies of unaccountability”.
The statement quoted WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange as saying: “The ‘Detainee Policies’ show the anatomy of the beast that is post-9/11 detention, the carving out of a dark space where law and rights do not apply, where persons can be detained without a trace at the convenience of the US Department of Defense.” “It shows the excesses of the early days of war against an unknown ‘enemy’ and how these policies matured and evolved, ultimately deriving into the permanent state of exception that the United States now finds itself in, a decade later.” A spokeswoman for the US Embassy in London said it had no immediate comment.
In January, UN human rights chief Navi Pillay said the United States was still flouting international law at Guantanamo Bay by arbitrarily and indefinitely detaining individuals.
Almost 3,000 people were killed in 2001 when militants from Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda flew hijacked airliners into the World Trade Center towers in New York, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania.
Then President George W Bush set up a detention camp at a US naval base at Guantanamo in Cuba after US-led forces invaded Afghanistan to expel Al Qaeda following the September 11 raids. Of the 779 men held there, 167 remained as of mid- September 2012.
WikiLeaks said a number of documents it was releasing related to interrogation of detainees, and these showed direct physical violence was prohibited.
But it added the documents showed “a formal policy of terrorizing detainees during interrogations, combined with a policy of destroying interrogation recordings, has led to abuse and impunity”.
A number of what can only be described as “policies of unaccountability” would also be released, it said.
One such document was a 2005 document “Policy on Assigning Detainee Internment Serial Numbers”, it said.
DOHA QATAR Airways (QA) plans to more than double its US footprint to seven destinations, Chief Executive Akbar al Baker has said. The process gets underway in April.
“The airline’s number of US gateways will soon grow to seven, up from the three it flies to as of today,” Baker was quoted as saying by USA Today on Thursday.
The carrier announced it will embark on the new round of expansion in the US market in April with flights to Chicago O’Hare airport. At present QA flies to New York JFK, Washington Dulles and Houston Bush Intercontinental.
According to the newspaper, the three other destinations to which Qatar Airways plans to launch services are Atlanta, Detroit and Boston.
Though Baker declined to give a precise timetable, he did say: “It will be soon, because we plan to add 15 to 16 destinations to our network next year.” Asked if Qatar Airways was worried by the current turmoil at American Airlines (AA), its new partner, Baker told the newspaper he was not worried by the state of affairs at American, one of the anchor carriers in the Oneworld Alliance that Qatar Airways joined earlier this month in a splashy ceremony in New York.
“Not at all,” Baker quickly answered when asked whether American’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganisation and subsequent labour woes have given him reason to worry about the future of one of Qatar Airways’ newest strategic partners.
“I think it is just a restructuring of the cost base,” Baker said of American’s decision to file for bankruptcy protection.
“They should have done it a long time ago. But they are a very resilient airline. I am sure that my friend (and American CEO) Tom Horton is going to do a very good job in reshaping American for the next decades.” Asked about the prospect of American-US Airways merger, strongly championed by the latter, he said “I think a merger will only make them stronger. It will not make them weaker.” That’s true regardless of who might take control of American, he asserted. US Airways’ merger proposal calls for American’s name and headquarters to remain, but for its management to give way to the team currently in US Airways’ executive suite.
If such a merger comes to pass, Baker said, those are things “that they have to decide between them(selves).” “At the end of the day, whatever they will do, I’m sure they will do in the best interests of the shareholders and their passengers,” the Qatar Airways CEO said.
BEIRUT THE Syrian army promised to observe a four-day cease-fire for Eid Al Adha starting on Friday, while rebels claimed to have taken control of new areas in the key battleground of Aleppo.
In the announcement read on Thursday on state TV, the army granted itself significant loopholes, saying it will respond to rebel attacks or efforts to bolster their positions as well as the entry of fighters into Syria from neighbouring countries.
The call for a four-day ceasefire for the Eid al Adha holiday is currently the international community’s only idea on how to try to stop 19 months of violence in Syria.
International envoy Lakhdar Brahimi proposed the idea, saying he hopes it will lead to a longer term cease-fire and negotiations between the sides. Brahimi represents the UN and the Arab League.
Rebels fighting to topple the regime of President Bashar al Assad have no unified command, and rebel reaction to the idea ranged from scepticism that the government would keep its promises to outright refusal.
Abdelbaset Sieda, head of the main opposition group in exile, the Syrian National Council, said he had little faith the regime would hold its fire, but that rebels would respond accordingly.
“We are awaiting the regime side.
If they accept it, we will accept it also,” he said by phone.
Rebel commanders inside Syria have said in recent days that they did not plan to stop fighting.
The cease-fire pledge came amid rebel claims of major advances in Syria’s largest city on Thursday, with the rebels claiming to have seized area long controlled by the regime.
Activists reported heavy clashes citywide on Thursday, particularly around a military airport. Bassam al Dada, a rebel spokesman, said in a phone interview that anti-regime fighters have taken several areas that have seen months of clashes, including the southwestern neighbourhoods of Salaheddin and Suleiman al Halabi.