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Qatar acquires stake in German construction company 9, December 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Qatar.
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Qatar is to acquire a 9% stake in Hochtief, a German construction company that was under threat of a hostile takeover by their Spanish arch rival ACS.

Currently, Hochtief has significant work in Qatar and with the World Cup to host, clearly, this business relationship is going to be busy for a decade or so.

It is intelligent and in keeping with Qatar’s plans to attempt to keep as much of the money that it will spend – the reputed $50billion – in Qatar. Given the size of the Qatari market and the industries based there, obviously, much will have to be contracted in, but I expect more deals like this in the near future so that some Qataris profit from the outlay of World Cup costs.

Ahmad Mohamed Al-Sayed, Qatar Holding’s chief executive, said the investment would “cement our relationship with one of the key trading partners for the development of the infrastructure of Qatar ahead of the World Cup in 2022”.

This deal also follows a predictable pattern. Qatar likes to invest, wherever possible, in companies or real estate that are looking for investment and are, to some degree, desperate. This helps to drive down the price and get Qatar a bargain: it has been a long time since unscrupulous Western businessmen went to the Gulf to sell gold-plated Rolls Royces to newly minted and naive Shaikhs.

China creates its own Peace Prize 9, December 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in China.
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After Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, China led a group of nefarious countries (Russia, Cuba, Iran, Afghanistan, Venezuela and Egypt among others; hardly a democracy or human rights loving bunch) in boycotting the Nobel Peace Prize Ceremony.

Yet, rather astutely, China has ‘magicked up’ their own peace prize giving ceremony under the auspices of the Confucius brand. In another clever move, not only are they giving the prize the day before the Nobel, but they are giving it to a former Vice-President of Taiwan.

He won out of an eclectic short-list of five: Mahmoud Abbas (God loves a trier), Nelson Mandela (always a favourite), Microsoft founder Bill Gates (the somewhat curious dark-horse), Chinese poet Qiao Damo (a nod to the domestic audience) and the Chinese-appointed Panchen Lama of Tibet (the stooge of Lhasa).

Interesting stuff. It seems that China is aware of the negativity surrounding this Nobel furore and is – despite their size and power which prompts some people to suggest that China does not need to care about such ‘soft’ incidents – eager to repair the damage and bolster its soft power too.

Moreover, I think that this shows an evolution in China’s grasp of PR. A few years ago, they might well have not done anything after such a fiasco or if they had, they’d have called it the ‘Chairman Mao Peace Prize’ and have given it to the Chairman himself, for he was such a peace-loving soul.



Qatar to review recruitment 9, December 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Qatar.
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The Qatari Government has announced that it is to review its recruitment policies to prepare for World Cup 2022. Thus far, there are no specifics on what they will do.

Clearly, to build the stadiums and the infrastructure for the competition, Qatar will need yet more workers from abroad. There are, so far as I see it, two points of concern that they need to be aware of.

At the moment Qatar is on the watch list to enter tier 2 on the US State Department’s people trafficking watch list. The lowest tier is tier 3. In a simple ‘moral sense’ but also for a country as concerned with its international image as Qatar, this is not good enough. I expect that Qatar will be able to use the enormous bonus – this reputed $50 billion – as a carrot to persuade the business community to adopt more humane practices as the government has pressed for in the past.

A second concern is the potential inflationary pressures that such a staggering potential input into the Qatari economy may well bring. Qatar has struggled in recent years with inflation and it has been brought under control only in the past year or so. Though I am no economic expert, I fail to see how such an amount of money in such a small state can but bring on inflation.

Economists’ comments are welcome…


Kuwait’s Ambassador in Iran 9, December 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Iran, Kuwait.
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The Kuwaiti Ambassador to Iran has invited President Ahmadinejad to Kuwait for the 50th anniversary of Kuwait’s Independence. This is yet another example highlighting, firstly, just how fractured the ‘unity’ of the GCC against Iran is and, secondly, the impracticability of America’s notion of using the GCC as a block to isolate Iran.

This is the same Ambassador who, earlier this year and severely contrary to directives from home, stated that the term ‘Arabian Gulf’ is not accurate and that the term ‘Persian Gulf’ is correct and should be used. An example, perhaps, of a diplomacy ‘going native/bush’ if ever there was one.

While practically every week there is a story about the proper name of this body of water, I noticed that recently America purposefully directed its Navy to use the term Arabian Gulf, contrary to their own legal standards, just to annoy the Iranians. Very mature. While the US Navy, in deference to their Arab GCC allies usually uses this terms, officially demanding its use it another matter.



The nadir of Egyptian conspiracy theories 9, December 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Egypt.
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As many of you will know, the Middle East is riddled with conspiracy theories. Perhaps the general untrustworthiness of the press in the region and the lack of government transparency fosters such a ripe climate for such theories.

The latest one to be doing the rounds states that the recent spate of shark attacks in Egypt is actually some kind of diabolical Mossad plan to destroy Egypt’s tourist industry. This theory was recently given credence by the governor of South Sinai.

Yes. I agree. Words fail.