Saudi ministry asks for $4bn to spend on labor reform

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s labor ministry is asking the government to spend 14.9 billion riyals ($4.0 billion) annually on labor market reform and steps to move Saudi citizens into private sector jobs, the ministry said in a report. The figure was contained in the ministry’s annual statistical report for 2013, published on its website. The goal of labor policy is full employment of the Saudi workforce, the report stated. The 14.9…

World Cup fever a break from politics in Lebanon

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s capital Beirut is awash with flags. But instead of the usual political colors, they’re the bunting of World Cup competitors like Brazil and Germany being flown by local megafans. Lebanon’s national team didn’t qualify for the event, and the tiny nation has no great sporting track record. But its citizens display a nearfanatical enthusiasm for chosen proxy nations, mainly countries that tend to do well in the World…

Lebanese employees demand big pay raise – Syria, political discord weighing on economy

  BEIRUT: Thousands of Lebanese teachers, civil servants and children rallied outside parliament yesterday in the biggest of a year of pay protests as the assembly debated a much-delayed bill on public sector salaries. The draft being discussed in parliament fell far short of the demands for a doubling of pay, as the government struggles with a ballooning deficit and an economic slowdown. The International Monetary Fund last week urged…

Saudi eyes ‘qualitative’ steps to boost economy

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia said yesterday it would take new “qualitative measures” to improve its economic development, signalling a potential shift of emphasis in its drive to raise living standards by spending tens of billions of dollars on welfare. The huge increase in welfare spending has helped buy social peace in Saudi Arabia and has spared the kingdom the kind of upheaval that toppled governments elsewhere in the Middle East and…

Northern emirates offer cost haven in booming UAE

  RAS AL KHAIMAH: When French cognac bottle maker Saverglass decided to expand three years ago, it chose a relatively remote, less affluent location in the United Arab Emirates for its plant rather than the business hubs of Dubai and Abu Dhabi. The company sited its 75 million euro ($105 million) factory, which produces some 400,000 bottles a day, in the desert emirate of Ras Al Khaimah, an hour’s drive…

Rouhani honeymoon over as Iran economy bites

TEHRAN: Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani was elected on hopes that he could revive the country’s sanctions-neutered economy, but the public’s goodwill towards him is showing the first signs of fading. Having raised expectations of more moderate rule and wider engagement after eight years under the acerbic leadership of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Rouhani has established a cautious detente with the West since taking power last August. At home he has started to…

Gulf Arab states strike new deal to heal rifts – Crisis ‘between brothers’ finally over?

RIYADH: The Western-allied Arab states of the Gulf Cooperation Council said the bloc has agreed on the mechanisms to implement a security pact, marking a possible first step toward bridging deep rifts among its six energy-rich states. Qatar’s official news agency confirmed that Doha’s Foreign Minister Khalid Bin Mohammed Al Attiyah took part in the GCC Foreign Ministers meeting held in Saudi Arabia’s capital of Riyadh. The GCC statement was…

Dubai airport upgrades runways, Emirates’ revenue hit

DUBAI: Dubai’s flagship carrier Emirates faces losing revenue of 1 billion dirhams ($272 million) when it reduces flights to 41 destinations from Dubai International Airport during work to upgrade and refurbish the two runways, it said yesterday. The 80-day program of work will start on May 1 with Emirates taking the brunt of reductions in flying, as it accounts for about 50 percent of the traffic from the airport, the…