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MEED: Qatar seeking to mitigate the worst of region’s unemployment 4, July 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Middle East.
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Middle East Economic Digest (MEED) is the preeminent source of news and analysis on Middle East affairs. Its focus is by no means restricted to economic affairs. For anyone wanting to keep up to date with Middle Eastern affairs as a whole, and in particular those looking for harder to get reliable reporting on the smaller countries, MEED is essential.

For example, although I have been studying Qatar specifically and the GCC more generally for some time now, I had not come across Silatech, the Qatari venture to curb unemployment amongst the region’s young men and women. Enter MEED, which, as usual, offers an excellent introduction and analysis. Here are the salient points of Silatech.

– Silatech was established in 2008 by (who else?) Sheikha Moza, the Emir of Qatar’s most outspoken wife.

– “More than 30 per cent of the region’s estimated 320 million population are aged 15-29 and unemployment among this age bracket averages 28 per cent.”

– “The region has the highest rates of youth unemployment anywhere in the world and, with two-thirds of the population still under the age of 24, the challenges are set to multiply in the years ahead.”

– Silatech has a decidedly international approach and is not parochially Qatari in nature.

– “The organisation offers financial and institutional support to youth employment projects across the region. Other than schemes in Qatar, it is initially focusing on projects in Yemen, Morocco, Syria, Tunisia and Jordan. The percentage of 15-29 year-olds not in work or education in these countries ranges from 21 per cent in Jordan to 49 per cent in Yemen.

– “In Bahrain, where unemployment in the 15-29 age group is among the highest in the GCC, at 27 per cent, Shiite youths are regularly involved in violent street clashes with the local authorities.

– “The survey also lends support to the long-suspected belief that some young people in the GCC lack the motivation to work, according to Gallup. “In the Maghreb, Levant, Egypt and East Africa, lack of motivation was not an issue whatsoever,” says Dalia Mogahed, senior analyst at the Gallup Centre for Muslim Studies. They were very motivated and wanted to work. The only place where that came up was in the Gulf, where young people said that one of the reasons they were unemployed was a lack of motivation to work, although a lack of quality work and proper training were more frequent answers.”

– “Most of the schemes that Silatech is supporting are based around a mix of education and retraining centres, which offer people the skills needed by businesses, along with improved access to capital and business support for entrepreneurs.”

– “In June, Silatech agreed to invest $200,000 to set up a microfinance fund with Al-Amal Bank targeted at 18-30 year-olds. It aims to offer loans to more than 800 entrepreneurs over the next two years and estimates this will create 1,000 jobs for young people.”

Elizabeth Bains, MEED

US expand military port in Bahrain 8, June 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Bahrain.
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The ever-reliable MEED reports on the US acquisition of extra port space in Bahrain. Despite having their largest American military port outside the US already in Bahrain, the US clearly feel that they need more capacity and have thus bought up a former container port to convert to military use. Bahrain authorities will be pleased to hear this. Not only do they have to think (worry) about a potentially hostile Iran but relations with their disenfranchise Shia majority is getting increasing fractious leading to, as you can see, riots:

The MEED report, quoted at length below, also list some interesting facts about the US in Bahrain.

The 5th Fleet has some 3,500 personnel and 16 vessels based in Bahrain, while the total fleet numbers 25,000 sailors and marines, and close to 40 ships. The vacant facilities at Mina Salman will provide the navy with 15 extra berths, cargo and container facilities.The current lease agreement at the site sees the navy pay the Bahrain government $6.7m a year for use of its current 265,000 sq m of space in Bahrain, including harbour patrol space and berthing at Mina Salman, and aviation unit space at Bahrain International airport. The US will pay an additional $2.9m a year for the extra waterfront space.

“The navy’s lease agreement is renewed on a yearly basis, with an indefinite number of renewal terms,” says the spokeswoman.

The US is also seeking permission to build a flyover bridge linking its base close to Mina Salman with the port itself, to improve security for US personnel.

Had the agreement not gone ahead, other ventures for the site had been proposed. “If the base had not been there I think Mina Salman would have been converted into a tourist terminal but with the fleet next door that wasn’t really viable,” says a ports official in Bahrain.

Bahrain’s new commercial facility, Khalifa Bin Salman Port, received its first ships in April and is operated by the Dutch group APM Terminals.

The site has initial container capacity for 1 million 20-foot equivalent units.

Qatar articles 19, May 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Qatar.
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Some recent articles on Qatar:

  • LNG supply to be mopped up by thirsty China, according to Qatar’s Energy Minister.
  • A good summary article of the LNG UK-Qatar relationship which will, among other things, reduce Russia’s strangle-hold on European gas supplies.
  • A far more detailed overview of Qatar’s LNG in MEED.
  • Germany are to sell main battle tanks to Qatar.
  • ‘The Doha Deceleration’  – Qatar’s ‘Doha Centre for Media Freedom’ and UNESCO have made something of a (relatively) bombastic statement on the importance of media freedoms.
  • The opening of a Japanese school in Doha.
  • A very good Economist article on the limits of freedom facing Qatar’s ‘Doha Centre for Media Freedom’. It focuses on its controversial French director, Robert Ménard, and his apparent desire to either poke, prod and push the powers that be in Qatar into sacking him or to really test the boundaries of Qatar’s press freedom.
  • Qatar set to reopen its North Field after a long moratorium.