Wednesday, 30 April 2008
Includes Cartosat-2A with high imagery resolution
“The mission was perfect and for the first time, 10 satellites were launched within one mission.” – Mr G. Madhavan Nair
THE HINDU Bangalore, April 28
The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) added another feather to its cap on Monday by putting in orbit Cartosat-2A, the remote sensing satellite with the best-ever Indian imagery resolution offer of 0.8 metre.
The same PSLV-C9 launcher delivered nine other satellites — the experimental Indian Mini Satellite IMS-1 and eight tiny commercial satellites — into a 637-km near-Earth orbit.
The record multiple launch of 10 satellites in one shot started at 9.20 a.m. and lasted around 20 minutes. It once again showcased ISRO’s space transportation capability in polar, 1,000-km distances aboard the PSLV launcher.
The ISRO Chairman, Mr G. Madhavan Nair, was reported as saying soon after the launch, “It is really a memorable moment. The mission was perfect and for the first time, 10 satellites were launched within one mission.
“We have set a record. Only Russia had so far tried to launch 13 satellites in a single launch and I am not sure whether that was successful.”
This was the 12th consecutive and successive PSLV flight from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota. The same PSLV is being used to loft the Chandrayaan-1 lunar orbiter mission later this year.
Cartosat-2A, with a life expectancy of five years, will complement Cartosat-2 that is already beaming 1-m imageries since January 2007. The 690-kg satellite is said to have cost Rs 240 crore.
“The highly agile Cartosat-2A is steerable along as well as across the direction of its movement. High-resolution data from it will be invaluable in urban and rural development applications that call for large-scale mapping,” ISRO said.
The eight nanosats were built by universities in Canada, Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands. Called NLS-4 (a cluster of six), NLS-5 and RUBIN-8, they together weigh 50 kg. ISRO’s commercial arm Antrix Corporation charged $600,000 (about Rs 2.4 crore) for their launch.
IMS-1 or the Indian Mini Satellite – earlier called the Third World Satellite (TWSAT) — incorporates many new technologies and has miniaturised sub-systems. Apart from the now common multi-spectral camera (Mx), it is testing a hyper-spectral camera (HySI) operating in the visible and near infrared regions of the electromagnetic spectrum.
“The data from this mission will be made available to interested space agencies and student community from developing countries,” ISRO said. IMS-1 is designed for two years.
30 April 2008
AT THIS moment in time and on this momentous occasion, the 31st year of our publication (1978-2008), we would especially like to thank our readers, our advertisers, our contributors and well-wishers... and also our critics, for the leading role they have played in the making of a leading newspaper. It is always a discerning readership that provides the vital impetus for a discerning newspaper.
And the fact that we have so well matched the aspirations of our readers is also a tribute to our editors, reporters, writers, photographers, commentators and many others in many other departments of the Khaleej Times who have contributed so much over the years.
As we look back with pride we can say with some professional justification that our achievements are also their achievements. Of course, we have changed and transformed rather dramatically over the past three decades as we encountered and absorbed the best of modern technology in print and mass media. But equally, there are certain core elements and characteristics that have remained the same: For instance, our belief and our commitment to quality journalism. And it is the pursuit of this belief in excellence in news coverage that has best tested and tempered us. Of course, our finest achievements must lie in the future... as we constantly try to innovate and adapt ourselves to changing times and their challenges and requirements. And we continue to react and respond to new technology and new thresholds of professional excellence, as always we must. However, it would be fallacious to assume that merely numbers can ever quantify excellence, especially in journalism, which is why our professional integrity is anchored in the substance we chose to offer in our coverage, rather than mere superficiality of style. And that this is of much value is borne out by the consistently rising graph of our readership.
We are also convinced that, even as we further improve and improvise on our print edition, we will also be adding a lot more value to our online edition and make it more interactive and more responsive. So do log on and tell us what more you expect of us. We value your suggestions and your promptings. Lastly, we would like to believe that even a newspaper, like any living organism, evolves best in a dynamic environment. And the dynamism and the vibrancy of a modern nation like the United Arab Emirates and its unique multi-cultural ethos have constantly spurred us to ensure we excel at what we do best — produce a newspaper of substance.
Tuesday, 29 April 2008
Monday, 28 April 2008
Sunday, 27 April 2008
Saturday, 26 April 2008
28 Apr 2008, 0412 hrs IST,PTI
LONDON: Think twice before you pick an email address — it can reveal your personality.
Researchers at the University of Leipzig in Germany have found that an email address may speak volumes about the character of the person who created the unique online identification.
According to lead researcher Mitja Back, even the thinnest slice of communication via the world wide web — the mere email address — contains valid information about the personality of its owner.
In their study, the researchers asked a panel of 100 students to guess the personalities of 600 young adults simply by looking at their email addresses.
The panel's guesses agreed mostly with a personality survey the teenagers had completed when it came to qualities like openness, conscientiousness and narcissism, and diverged most on the trait of extroversion.
Addresses that gave away personality often contained full stops, numbers or a name that was obviously not genuine, the researchers found.
Level of accuracy was explained using lens model analyses — the students made broad use of perceivable email address features in their personality judgements, features were slightly valid and the observers were sensitive to subtle differences in validity between cues.
The study has been published in the latest edition of the Journal of Research in Personality.
By Haseeb Haider KHALEEJ TIMES 27 April 2008
ABU DHABI — With the diversification of Abu Dhabi’s economy, the dominant role of oil and gas sector is being diminished as in 2007 it contributed 65 per cent to the GDP from 66.3 per cent in 2006 and 66 per cent in 2005.
According to an Abu Dhabi Planning and Economy Department weekly status report on the emirate’s economy, share of the government sector to the GDP was estimated at 18.5, 16.7 and 16.1 per cent in 2005, 2006 and 2007 respectively.
Restructuring: The government is currently undertaking a wide-ranging restructuring programme to arrive at the best formula of governance which envisages sustainable constructive public-private partnership.
The restructuring programme has produced new public entities like the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority and Abu Dhabi Council for Economic Development that have specific and clear-cut targets and in which the private sector has a major role to play.
Other entities like Abu Dhabi Education Council and Abu Dhabi Health Authority were also created to upgrade health and educational services.
Private sector: The private sector’s contribution to GDP rose from 15.5 per cent in 2005 to 17 per cent in 2006 and 18.2 per cent in 2007.
The situation needs restructuring of the sector and creating a favourable working environment and removing obstacles hindering its progress and the development of its potential.
The public and private sectors should come together to adopt private-sector oriented economic policies given the strategic operational options under the economic openness adopted by the government.
Other goals include optimum utilisation of competitive edges of the private sector and forging strategic alliances based on mutual interests.
The future of economic development in Abu Dhabi hangs to a large extent on the nature of partnership between the public and private sectors.
Broadening the scope of this partnership and boosting its ability to act as the key driver in the emirate’s economy is the only option to address and tackle the economic challenge ahead, the report said.
However, the private sector is still suffering from drastic deficiencies and defects which invite formulation of proactive, effective restructuring policies from its foundation and motivate it to develop its own capabilities so as to compete in regional and international markets.
Policies seeking to enhance the efficiency of the private sector should based on the following factors :
* Giving the private sector a greater role in carrying out development projects and achieve socio-economic development which is based on diversification of income and economic base.
* Outsourcing more public utilities
* Stimulating research and development of competitive national products
Motivating economic cooperation to merge and create major private sector firms that focus on high value added capital-oriented sectors.
* Providing favourable business and regulatory environment conducive to increasing of productivity.
* Building more modern infrastructure and introducing incentive regimes.
* Offering financial and moral support and incentives to spur national plans to recruit Emiratis and transfer technology to the emirate.
* Facilitating adoption of modern efficient administrative systems at bar with those adopted in advanced economic nations.
* Streamlining issuance of commercial, industrial and professional licences as per economic feasibility studies and actual needs,
* Drawing industrial investment plan to encourage the private sector to play its role in industrial development.
Dubai: Residents of Sharjah and the northern emirates are making a beeline for Adnoc fuel stations because they can still pay by credit card, and their petrol is cheaper as well.
Adnoc has over 180 fuel stations in Abu Dhabi and the northern emirates.
It is the only company to sell E+ (octane 91) petrol, at Dh5.75 per gallon, a dirham less than Super petrol.
"Work at the fuel station has doubled with Sharjah residents coming to fill up their cars at Adnoc stations. They can pay by credit card and the petrol is cheaper," said an Adnoc attendant at the fuel station on Al Ittihad Road in Sharjah.
"Motorists who own ordinary cars choose E+, but those who have luxury cars choose Super quality," he said.
Emarat, Eppco and Enoc petrol stations stopped accepting credit cards last October, citing high bank charges. Since then motorists have to pay either in cash or with smart cards.
Adnoc said motorists can look forward to more savings once self service is introduced at their fuel stations.
Motorists in the northern emirates, especially those who own saloon cars, said they saved money by using E+ petrol.
Majid Abdullah, an Indian resident, said he has not visited a fuel station in Dubai since Adnoc opened their outlets in Sharjah.
"The best thing is paying by credit card and the E+ petrol. I hope they do not stop accepting credit cards."
Mahmoud Ali, an Iraqi from Sharjah, said: "I used to fill my car with Special [octane 95], but with prices going up all the time I switched to E+. Now I pay much less."
Ashraf Siddique, a Pakistani resident from Ajman, said he shifted to E+ only a couple of weeks ago when fuel stations in the emirate ran out of Special.
"It was an Eppco gas station attendant who told me to go to Adnoc and get E+ because they only had Super on that particular day. Now I plan to use this type of petrol regularly as it suits my wallet," he said.
E+ petrol is sold only at Adnoc fuel stations. It costs Dh5.75 per gallon. Diesel costs Dh8.50 per gallon at Adnoc. Diesel costs Dh15.30 per gallon at other stations.
The price of other types of petrol is the same at Adnoc, Emarat and Eppco stations. Special (octane 95) costs Dh6.25 per gallon, and Super (octane 98) Dh6.75 per gallon.
Simon Webb for The National
Contract terms could set the pace of development. Bloomberg
DOHA // BP hopes to sign a service contract designed to boost output in Iraq by 100,000 barrels per day (bpd), a senior executive said.
The deal is one of five that Iraq is negotiating with major oil companies to boost output by 500,000 bpd, or nearly a quarter, from its largest oil fields.
“I’d say we might sign around the middle of the year,” said Steve Peacock, the president of BP’s Middle East and South Asia exploration and production unit. “These are active discussions with serious intent, there is no sense that they’ve stalled or reconsidered, it’s just taking longer than anticipated.”
Payment terms for the service contracts were yet to be concluded, he said. Iraq has indicated each contract could be worth up to $500 million.
Iraq wants to sign two-year technical service contracts with major firms as part of stopgap measures to boost oil production in the absence of a vital oil law. Legislation to set the terms and extent of foreign investment in the country has been stalled in parliament for more than a year.
“In this politically sensitive and difficult situation, service contacts are a pragmatic step forward for Iraq,” Mr Peacock said.
Oil firms would prefer contracts that offer long-term involvement in Iraq and were looking for a link in the service contracts to future development of Iraq’s giant oilfields.
“Whether it gets linked into the contract or not – it’s a natural question that’s on the table. These contracts are valid for a couple of years; how does that link with what comes afterwards?” Mr Peacock said.
The longer-term link would help ensure that work undertaken under the two-year contracts would be in line with future field development plans, he added.
Mr Peacock said he was confident that the companies concerned and Iraqi negotiators would come up with a contract that gave an incentive for firms to use all their skills and expertise, while at the same time respecting political opposition to deals that gave companies a share in production.
The terms of the contracts could set the pace of oil field development for years to come, he said.
“I think it’s important acknowledging the political sensitivity of using barrels as a form of reward,” Mr Peacock said.
“That shouldn’t be confused with giving up national sovereignty over the ownership – that’s never in question. The question is, do you want to use barrels or cash as a form of reward? Whichever it is, I think, is going to be key for the long term. It will determine how fast production can be realised and how fast new developments can be brought on stream.”
The service contract Iraq is negotiating centres on the giant Rumaila oil field in the south of the country.
The target to boost output by 100,000 bpd from the field was possible, although to do so in two years would require an aggressive development plan, Mr Peacock said.
The contracts call for larger project management roles in the fields. Aside from boosting production and long-term planning, the oil firms would be required to bring in supplies to Iraq.
Companies will supervise the work from outside the country as security concerns will prevent them from sending in ground staff, at least initially.
The companies have studied the same fields and have provided training and technical assistance for years as they look to position themselves for any future contracts.
“We’ve studied the whole of the rest of the country, so we’re waiting for what comes next after the service agreements. And we have an opinion on which bits we’d be more interested in,” Mr Peacock said.
BP was in similar discussions in Kuwait, he said.
Kuwait aims to include a performance-related clause in its service contracts that would increase the attraction for signing up for international oil companies.
Discussions currently revolved around the details of that clause. Mr Peacock said: “If Kuwait were to pay more for that expertise, how could that be justified? One way to justify it is to link it for achievement of output. The devil is in the details – how aggressive are the targets and how much do you get paid if targets are met?”
The contracts would likely be concluded over a period of months, he added. In Oman, drilling would start on BP’s project to develop tight gas reserves by the end of the fourth quarter.
The company is evaluating different ways of commercialising gas output from early appraisal wells. BP won a contract to develop tight gas reserves in Oman in early 2007. The reserves are in complex formations from which it is difficult to extract the gas.
Last Updated: April 24. 2008
Since Singapore was labelled the world’s leading retail destination in 2005, Dubai has set out to outpace, outdo and out-shop the Asian city and any other competition in its bid to build the emirate as a shopper’s paradise and attract more tourists to the “shopping hub” of the Middle East.
In fact, Dubai has already achieved this goal, as it was recently ranked eighth among the top 15 international retail markets, while Singapore fell to 13th place, according to the global emerging markets survey released two weeks ago by CB Richard Ellis.
Retailing has changed dramatically in the past five years, with high-profile developments bringing in high-end labels to Dubai. Today, 40 per cent of retail sales are generated by tourists, so continued success depends heavily on an increase in travelling shoppers.
Dubai already has the region’s largest shopping centre, Mall of the Emirates, complete with its own ski slope. Dubai Mall, near the world’s tallest building, Burj Dubai, will become the world’s largest mall, according to the developer, when it opens at the end of August, while the giant Mall of Arabia is in the making and is due to open in 2010. Three of the world’s five biggest malls will be in Dubai – but can Dubai really sustain more mega malls?
Currently, the emirate has 4.2 billion square metres of retail space and, with Nakheel’s recent announcement that it plans to develop five new mega malls, a few hundred million more square metres will be added by 2012.
However, if you look at the numbers, Dubai is already heading towards overcapacity by 2010. Based on current shopper numbers, per capita retail spending would have to increase by 280 per cent to support the planned retail space growth – without taking Nakheel’s expansion into consideration.
Newly developed communities will need retail space to reach a wider consumer base and offer shopping in the direct vicinity of residents, and this is the niche that Nakheel intends to cover. Although faced with no other choice than to offer more retail space, will Nakheel compete in a sector where market share can only be gained by taking it from others?
The success of a mega mall does not solely depend on community traffic; it also relies heavily on shoppers from further afield. In an environment where size is not the only differentiator, success is also dependent on the entertainment factor and attractions produced to lure shoppers away from the competition.
Size has been known to hinder sales, as is the case with Ibn Battuta Mall on the outskirts of Dubai, which is widely known as having suffered from its complex layout. The same happens when malls become too large. Customer traffic density declines and “dead corners” develop, leading the mall to opt for more expensive entertainment and attractions to tempt consumers back.
For Nakheel to succeed, it needs to diversify in terms of licensed brands. Currently, all malls carry, more or less, the same labels and product offerings. If malls do not differentiate through brands and clear market segmentation, they become a commodity, no matter how high-class the interior may be. Malls run the risk of becoming “out of fashion” quickly, once the next mega mall becomes operational. These factors, paired with declining occupancy rates, quickly cause a mall’s demise, requiring another circus to revive it.
Robert Ziegler is the vice president of AT Kearney Middle East
By Scott Shuey, Chief Business Reporter GULF NEWS Published: April 26, 2008, 00:35
Q: Last month I received some messages from a Yahoo mail saying you are the winner of "YAHOO MSN DONATION AWARD 2008 One Million Great Britain Pound Sterling". But when I contacted them, they advised me that I have to pay $1,000 for service and transaction charges. Again they are sending messages. Can I believe them?
A: To put it simply, you cannot believe them. This is spam, and the person who sent it would like nothing more than to steal your money. No company gives money at random. There are no free lunches.
1The people who send these mails are thieves, and often of the organised variety. It's estimated that spammers and cyber thieves, as an industry, make more money than the illegal drug trade.
2If you receive such an email again, delete it immediately. These thieves have developed many strategies over the years to take your money. Even clicking on a link within the email could cause problems. You will likely be directed to a site that will employ software devised to steal personal information in the hope that it will unlock your bank account.
3Don't let greed or misplaced hope override your common sense. Despite what resent emails have promised, no one ever received an unsolicited corporate donation, no one has even won a lottery they didn't enter, and the odds of you having a rich and recently deceased relative giving you the cash is zero. I was going to say slim and none, but I don't want anyone to mistakenly get a glimmer of hope.
- Send your questions to : firstname.lastname@example.org
By Binsal Abdul Kader, Staff Reporter GULF NEWS Published: April 26, 2008, 00:36
Abu Dhabi: A four-year-old pupil died after he was allegedly left locked in his kindergarten van on Thursday.
Aathish, a KG grade 1 pupil of Merry Land kindergarten on Muroor Road in Abu Dhabi, boarded the van on Thursday morning and a phone call from the school at 12.50pm said he had met with an accident, his father told Gulf News.
"When my wife, father and friends reached Shaikh Khalifa Medical City, the doctors said the child was dead," said Shebin Sreedher who works at Jebel Ali in Dubai and hails from the southern Indian state of Kerala.
"He was my only son," he said. Dhanya, the boy's mother, works for Etihad Airways.
"A hospital report said the cause of the death was unknown, but we came to know from officials that he suffocated," said Shebin.
"We came to know that he did not alight from the van at the kindergarten. He was put in the van at 7.35 am by my father. It is suspected that no staff checked whether the boy alighted from the bus and reached the class.
"The driver and attendant might have taken the bus to the parking space and found the boy inside the bus in the afternoon," said Shebin.
He said police officials told him the matter is under investigation. Police were not available for comment.
A spokesman for the school said that the child had taken ill and was absent from classes for three days.
He said that they were not aware the child had boarded the bus that morning.
The driver himself rushed the child to hospital after he found him in the vehicle, the spokesman said.
The school is cooperating in the police investigations.
Friday, 25 April 2008
Cheerleaders ‘a distraction'
David Clough Last Updated: April 25. 2008 3:00AM UAE / April 24. 2008 11:00PM GMT
Cheerleaders have certainly done their part to add entertainment for spectators attending Indian Premier League games. Washington Post
HYDERABAD // Cheerleaders may have added a dash of glamour to the billion-dollar Indian Premier League, but Shahid Afridi sees them as a distraction.
The Pakistan all-rounder, who is signed up to the Deccan Chargers, rejects the idea they add to the entertainment value of the game.
“The girls in skimpy dresses should be removed from the ground as this is distracting the batsmen,” he said.
“Cricket itself is an entertainment. It does not require such cheerleaders to entertain.”
Afridi, a veteran of 258 one-day matches, made an inauspicious IPL debut on Tuesday. He scored just two runs in seven balls, while 17 runs were scored off his two overs as the Chargers lost to the Delhi Daredevils by nine wickets.
Afridi, who was bought by his team for $675,000 (Dh2.5m), also feels Pakistani players have been undervalued in the IPL.
“Bids on Pakistan players have not been as high when compared to the bids on other players,” he said.
“Players like Misbah-ul-Haq, Umar Gul and Shoaib Malik, who performed exceptionally well in the Twenty20 World Cup last year, did not get their due.
“I feel some Pakistan players should have received much higher bids.”
* PA Sport
Ridham Desai for Money Control.com
Ridham Desai, MD and Co-Head-Equity, Morgan Stanley feels that one is likely to see more downside before market bottoms out and there’s 20-25% probability of the Sensex going down to 11,000. The market may take some more time to form a bottom, Desai said. He alsosaid that, the price correction shows that India may be in a bear market. Desai said that, most indicators show that the market is in a 'fear zone'. On a more positive note, he affirms that the market may see an end to the pain by the third quarter of this year
Desai is skeptical about whether companies will disclose their losses this quarter. He feels that the valuation gap between sectors needs to narrow down. He further added that if India falls another 10-15% as against other emerging markets, it will create a buying opportunity.
“It has not satisfied the time requirement because bear markets usually are longer. It has definitely satisfied the price correction requirement. We have been through a couple such corrections in this bull market. If this is not a bear market then it could turnout to be like May 2004 or 2006 when we went through a similar type of price corrections. This time around, the fundamentals are under the scanner and that’s what makes me feel that this is a bear market. We may have a little bit more time to go before we get to that so-called bottom,” he added.
Excerpts from CNBC-TV18’s exclusive interview with Ridham Desai:
Q: Are we in a bear market?
A: It looks like one. It has not satisfied the time requirement because bear markets usually are longer. It has definitely satisfied the price correction requirement. We have been through a couple such corrections in this bull market. If this is not a bear market then it could turnout to be like May 2004 or 2006 when we went through a similar type of price corrections.
This looks more like a bear market because the fundamentals in 2004 and 2006 were different. In May 2004 and 2006, the macro was pretty much intact and we got some global surprise which has caused markets to correct in terms of valuations. We found a bottom very quickly and the markets rallied all over again. This time around, the fundamentals are under the scanner and that’s what makes me feel that this is a bear market. We may have a little bit more time to go before we get to that so-called bottom.
Q: What's your definition of a bear market? There are many definitions, some say a 20% fall is enough for a bear market, but obviously you define it differently?
A: 20% is one criteria, another criteria would be the 200-DMA. From 2003 till now, we have had only one penetration of the 200-DMA and that too for a very brief time in 2004.
Q: This time we are consistently below it.
A: Yes, we are consistently below it. One should look at is falling intermediate tops and bottoms. That’s another thing that was not met in the previous two corrections of 2004 and 2006. In that there were one or two falls and then the market actually did not establish lower bottoms. This time we are getting consistently lower bottoms and tops. So, that feels like a bear market if you look at the long-term trend lines.
I am not a big believer in trend lines because you can draw many lines through two points and justify a lot of things on trend lines. But these are the three things that I look at. The percentage of fall, are successive tops and bottoms lower or higher, and how long we stay below that 200-DMA? The percentage of fall at 20-25% is a good number. We have at least three bottoms which have been lower than the 200-DMA and have been staying below that for a while.
Q: Is history a good guide to how long bear markets typically last or have things changed because one contention has been now-a- days that the bear markets are much shorter, so we don’t need to worry about 4-6 quarters it will all get over in two quarters?
A: There were three bear markets since the early 90’s. We had the Harshad Mehta scam-related bear market that lasted approximately 50-weeks and the fall was about 50%. Then, we had the mid-90’s emerging market sell-off, which produced 55% fall and lasted about 86-weeks. Last, we had the tech bubble where the price fall was approximately 50%, but it lasted longer. It took 110-weeks for the markets to bottom out.
This is what distinguishes this time from the previous and this is debated quite hotly because this is intuition rather than based on any facts or data. India has moved on structurally, we are not the same economy that we used to be in the 90’s. Therefore, to argue for a100-week prolonged bear market like we had gone into during the tech bubble days or in the mid-90’s will be a little bit too aggressive.
We will probably get a 50% fall if this turns out to be a bear market. In terms of depth, you will still get that 50% fall and several parts of the markets are already down 50%, so we are getting there. In terms of length, we will not get the type of the 90’s bear market that we got, so this will be shorter. May be it will last for another 15-weeks but it won’t establish the 70-80-90 week period that we have seen in the past.
Q: What would convince you that it is a bear market? You are saying it could be a bear market, which you think is likely. But it could also be a deep correction in a bull market. What would utterly convince you that this is a bear market that we have entered?
A: From a fundamental perspective, it is earnings because bear markets never come with earnings rising and that too at a base of 20-25%, which is what we have all got used to. Even in the early and late 90s, we got earning declines. So, maybe we don’t get earnings declines but get a slowdown in earnings. So, that is one thing we need to watch out for. When earnings start declining, we know that it is a bear market. So, that is fundamental.
Technically, I am kind of more or less convinced. There is not much room left because the market breadth has collapsed, midcap index has collapsed, several sectors with fluff have gone away, and the momentum stocks have gone away. We have discussed this 200-DMA, the tops and bottoms have fallen. So, I cannot imagine that there is much of a debate there.
The debate will be on the earnings and fundamentals. Have they peaked or is this just a mild correction and we are going to recover pretty quickly? So, if that is going to now fall then this is a bear market.
Q: The scary bit is the 50% number that you are working with. In past bear markets, we have fallen 50% from the top.
A: Yes, we have fallen 50% or slightly more.
Q: Is it likely then that we will go back from that 21,000 peak to something like 10,500-11,000?
A: We need two conditions to get there. First, we need some extensive turmoil in global financial markets beyond what we have already had. We need some more things to happen, maybe Europe will get into trouble, or may be non-financials in America will get into trouble. We need that because without that I do think India on its own is going to slip into a 50% correction. Second, we need a policy mistake at home.
It is a challenging time right now. Growth is slowing down, inflation is rising, and it is an election year. These conditions are similar to 1996 when growth had peaked out, inflation was rising, and we were in election year. If there is a rate hike, or there is a response from the policy side which accentuates the growth slowdown, then we could argue for a 50% correction. Otherwise, we may miss that precise 50% point and may bottom out before that.
Q: What kind of a probability would you attach to it happening?
A: A 20-25% probability of the Sensex going to 11,000. We will probably bottom out before that.
Global financial market conditions may not worsen dramatically from here. It may spread a bit in the US. In the US, the pain in the financial sector is probably behind us. We may get some pain in non-financials, industrials, and materials notably. In Europe, we may see a bit more pain because they have not really seen that pain. But it may not be a catastrophe. It may not be like what we saw in the US, it may not be like a Bear Stearns effect. We have seen some pain come out in the last one week and the markets have responded well to that. So, we may get a bit more pain, but nothing of the nature that we need to take the markets down another 20-30%.
At home we look okay. We are getting some response from the government, which is the right response in the circumstances. So, we don’t want the central bank to come around and say okay, inflation is high so let me hike rates because our own view is that rates are already prohibitively high. They are already in restrictive zone, and they need to be lower. If you hike them further, then growth will probably fall even harder and that will create a problem for the markets here. It will be hard to recover from those lower levels later on. So far, as we don’t do that, I feel confident that we may not do that. I think we should be okay.
So, we may not get to 11,000, but it is still a one in a four chance. We may bottom out before that.
Q: It is a general feeling in many quarters that we may have in some sense established a near-term bottom. We won’t violate that because we have been just hovering around those 15,000 levels. Do you think that is a bottom or you would be surprised if that turns out to be a bottom?
A: We need a confirmation from companies on how much they have lost on their balance sheet and off- balance sheet trades. Until, companies come and tell us that the markets will speculate and will be nervous. That’s what the condition we are in right now.
Q: Can that end at the end of this quarter, if all disclosures are made?
A: I am actually skeptical that we will get all disclosures this quarter. I hope they come.
Q: Despite ICAI?
A: Yes, despite ICAI. We may not get it because ICAI does leave a room for you to disclose it in your notes. The notes will not be revealed until the balance sheets come out and that will happen only in August-September or June. It may actually go beyond this quarter. I hope that companies disclose it because if they disclose it the pain will be behind us and we will establish a bottom.
Second, we need commodity prices to come off and some dollar strength because of our inflation problem is not our problem. This time around it is actually the world’s problem and we are just importing that problem. It is going to be very hard to generate a response to that. So, we just plainly need commodity prices to come off. We need oil, wheat, and metal prices to come off.
Third, we need a little bit of despondency among retail investors. We have not seen that as yet. Retail investors are holding fort. It is quite remarkable that the market has come off as much as it has and mutual fund flows are still positive. If I get a month or two of negative mutual fund flows, I will feel a lot more comfortable that we have hit a market bottom.
Q: Do you think that the final capitulation hasn’t happened yet?
A: I don’t think so. That’s why I don’t think that the bottom that we have seen in the last couple of weeks cannot be violated. It can be violated and we could see some more downside before we bottom out. It has to be combined with these three things. I would add one more factor to this which is not an event related thing, but it is an adjustment process in the market and that’s valuation dispersion. If you look at the market even after what has happened, there are three or four sectors that are trading way above historical averages in terms of valuations and way below the gap which was much wider in January.
The three sectors on the higher side are financials, industrials, and utilities, while those that are trading at a discount are notably consumer staples, technology, and healthcare. The gap has narrowed because financials, industrials and utilities have sold off whereas staples, technology, and healthcare are relatively better but it is still there. If that gap narrows further -- so if financials, utilities and industrials compress, and staples like technology and healthcare stay put -- then we may also get that adjustment process required to establish a bottom.
Q: What about emerging markets overall because our rally was in sync with emerging markets and we have all underperformed the US big time this year? Do you see that continuing for the rest of the year? The US actually does not fall too much but emerging markets correct even more?
A: On the emerging market front, India and China were behaving a bit more differently from the rest of the emerging world in terms of valuations and performance. By early January, we were outperforming emerging markets by 30% from our August 2007 lows. So, we were significantly better off. Since then we have given up all the gains. Now, we are trading flat from August 2007, so that’s good news actually. That performance gap was a worry for me. We have given that up, at least relative to emerging markets. Now, we look better. Valuations were at a 100% premium on the January 9-10 peak, and are now down to 50%. I feel very comfortable with that
Q: Will that unwind more you think?
A: It could unwind more because we have domestic risk factors to deal with. So, may be it unwinds to 35%. If it goes to 35%, India becomes a very good buy relative to emerging markets.
Right now, it is neutral. It was a sell relative to emerging markets in January. It is now neutral. If it falls a bit more now -- another 10-15% relative to emerging markets -- we become a buy. From an emerging market standpoint, commodity prices falling, which is good for us, is actually bad for emerging markets because a lot of emerging markets are anchored around commodities. So, Brazil, Russia, West Asia, and even parts of Eastern Europe will suffer. India actually stands to gain, so if commodity prices fall and if that becomes a trigger, the country will actually outperform. That could be a major differentiating factor going forward.
Q: If we just take out the off balance sheet items like derivatives etc, do you see chances of negative surprises in core earnings over the next three quarters?
A: There is risk because EBITDA margins are actually at an all-time high. They are sitting at five-year high levels and revenue growth will slowdown because GDP growth is slowing down. I don’t think we can runaway from the fact that the economy is slowing down, which is the right response or which was the response that we should have expected when the RBI tightened last year.
This is just a reflection of what has happened last year in terms of tightening and a reflection of the slowdown in capital flows. The economy is slowing down, revenue growth therefore has to slowdown, and so earnings will slowdown. The consensus is a tad too optimistic about earnings right now. We may actually end up getting lesser earnings growth that what is being forecasted by the street which is around the 20% mark. Earnings could probably slip into the low teens or even the high single-digits. It is quite possible that if things turn really bad and some of those worst-case scenarios turn up, you get actually a quarter or two of negative earnings growth which is definitely not out there.
Q: We could de-rate further then?
A: It is possible. We are trading at about 15 times on an absolute basis, and 50% premium to the emerging market multiple. Historically, we have traded at close to the emerging market multiples, so if things turn bad one could get a bit of de-rating for a short time. If such things happen, then you would have sold your house and buy equities. Then, you satisfy the condition to really buy equities in a big way.
Q: Just one more point on sentiment. You spoke about retail not having had that capitulation yet but when you measure global and local sentiment, do you think there is more downside or do you think we are pretty much at the lowest ebb of sentiment?
A: We have a proprietary sentiment indicator where we combine 15 market matrix. A lot of them are suggesting that we are in fear zone. That’s good news. I like that because fear is essential ingredient to market bottoming out.
So, I am not getting granular about this. Normally, I don’t because I just take the composite reading and say okay, this is fear, euphoria. Now, I am getting more granular because we want to get more accurate about this. Then, there are a few indicators that are still not sold off enough or still not fallen enough. If they would fall more then we would have entrenched ourselves into a fear zone. So, from a sentiment perspective we would have probably kissed a market bottom.
Q: What's your best case in terms of the turnaround timing? If I put a gun to your head and say by when you think the turnaround will happen, given the three factors that you mentioned where would it be -- third quarter, fourth quarter, or next year? What is the highest probability of the inflation point?
A: May be by third quarter, we should have a lot of these things behind us. We will know by the third quarter whether commodity prices are going to fall or not and by that time the adjustment processes should have happened in the commodity markets. By then, we will know the losses that are there on balance sheets and the earnings slowdown that’s coming and consensus would have revised earnings lower. I am quite certain that by then retail would have given up as well, if the markets don’t go anywhere.
So, we would have satisfied a lot of these things. By the third quarter of this year, we should be okay. Therefore, long-term investors, and there are very few left these days in this market, who have a 1-2 years timeframe should actually start looking for stocks. This is a good time for them to start bargain hunting and there are a lot of places in the marketplace where things have turned attractive.
Q: Has it come as a bit of a surprise that in the last one-month, despite a fall of 30% on the index, a lot of the supposedly long-term money did not buy this dip, because at 21,000 there were a lot of India bulls? Some things have changed fundamentally but a 30% fall did not induce a whole lot of long-term money coming in?
A: It is also surprised me that institutional money has not sold heavily either and the markets have fallen 30%. We have not seen that type of selling, which if I go back to January and somebody had asked me what is going to trigger a market fall, and I would say that would be basically institutional selling. That never really came in a big way. May be we should be surprised because a lot of long-term investors were very bullish on India in 2007 and suddenly that bullishness has been threatened by a few events.
There isn’t that many really long-term investors left out there who have the luxury of taking a one-two year call. Most investors are by the mandates, which they have, forced to look at a one-three month scenario. The one-three month scenario still doesn’t look that comfortable for them to actually pull the trigger. Even the investors who are buying in this market are buying in very small quantities because they don’t want to commit their capital up front. They are saying let us put 5-10% today, and we will wait for another two-three weeks, see where prices go and put another 10%. Even the buying is happening in a very spaced out fashion. So, that doesn’t allow the market to actually bottom out.
Q: What is your base-case scenario because third quarter is the end of the pain and downside is what 10-15% from here at best?
A: I would be comfortable with 13,500 or so on the index which is the August 2007 low. We will test that. If one looks technically, the market has very strong support at 12,500. So, I am not thinking about that being broken at this stage. For that to be broken, we need really terrible news. Probably, we won’t break that but from current levels to 13,700 or 14,600 could get violated.
Q: Somewhere around July-August you think is the end of the pain?
A: Yes, third quarter is a reasonable timeframe.
A lesson in good behaviour
By Mohsen Rashid and Preeti Kannan (Our staff reporters)KHALEEJ TIMES
25 April 2008
The recent incident of a private school’s Grade III student allegedly slapping the library teacher after she prevented him from running inside the library had raised disturbing questions on the upbringing of children.
Even as the parents of the child were summoned, the student’s mother, grandparent and the housemaid walked into the library and beat up the teacher.
Neeta Metra, the principal of the school, said, “What happened was far from proper conduct and behaviour which we are all familiar with. The problem is not only the assault on a teacher by a student, but also the reaction by the student’s family, who behaved in an indecent way instead of minding the conduct of the son. This manner is thoroughly unacceptable.”
She added that the student was suspended for seven days by the administration of the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA). As for the student’s mother, grandparent and the housemaid, a case was registered by the police based on the medical report and the statements recorded by the police.
She said she could not dismiss the student and deprive him of a year. “We see cases where teachers beat students and stringent action is taken against those teachers, but what about students who assault teachers? Who will protect the teachers’ dignity?” demanded the principal.
The Grade VI students were seen weeping when they watched the teacher being attacked, she pointed out.
Meanwhile, a similar incident in another private school was equally shocking. A Grade XI student of a school, located near the Ministry of Education, verbally abused his teacher. When the teacher called the supervisor, both the teacher and the supervisor were subject to verbal abuse by the student and his father. The student was, however, suspended for 10 days.
Mahasen Sa’d, principal of the school, said, “Students and their parents have dared to assault the teachers verbally because of the wrong policy and approach adopted by the MoE years back, where the ministry insisted that the client always has the power, implying that the students’ parents are always on the right side.”
She pointed out that when the student’s father was summoned by the school authorities, he came dressed in army suit as he was working for the Armed Forces and tried to assault the supervisor.
Even the Grade III student’s father worked in the police department and was reportedly always threatening the school management and teachers.
An official with the Knowledge and Human Development Authority, who preferred not to be named, observed these problems were not new, but were the result of poor upbringing and a clear absence of the role the family played in rectifying the flaws of their children.
“Since the regulations governing the students’ conduct did not include any penalty for the parents in both cases, the two cases were reported to the police on the insistence of the management of the schools,” the source added.
Senior officials at the Ministry of Education have strongly condemned the incidents and insisted that the ‘miscreants’ should not go unpunished.
Corporal punishment was an old way to discipline unruly students but does not exist any more, observed Abdullah Mousabbah, Director-General in the Ministry of Education (MoE).
The rights, prestige and dignity of the teachers are supreme, and no one, be it the ministry, school management or parents should be allowed to undermine them, he noted. The problem could not be dubbed as a phenomenon since it was reported in one or two private schools, because every school is keen on preserving its name and reputation.
The physical punishment of students by some teachers is unacceptable, said Obaid Al Qawood, Director of Umm Al Quwain Education Zone. But any attempt by a student to beat up his teacher should also be regarded as a crime, which should not be ignored and allowed to go unpunished. The ministry, however, will not tolerate such acts, he pointed out. The student who is found guilty of physical assault on a teacher will be expelled from school.
The director of Sharjah Education Zone, Fawziyya Hassan, emphasised that a policy of disciplinary action should be drafted.
Parents often defended the mistakes of their children. They should rather keep an eye on their children and hold them accountable for their offences, she suggested. The role of the school is being confined to education while its responsibility of raising and educating students on discipline and conduct is fading away, she added.
KHDA officials said they were keen on working with the school which had been unfortunate to witness an act of violence and would set up mechanisms to help victims of such incidents.
A statement from KHDA said, “The Knowledge and Human Development Authority will not tolerate violence in schools. They should be an environment in which everyone feels safe and protected. Incidents of violence are, of course, logged in the schools’ records. As an authority we will be working on the best way to collate this material so that we can identify problem areas or any trends that may emerge.
“We are also keen to set up a mechanism for following up on such incidents, so that victims and everyone else who has been involved can feel they are being supported for as long as they need.”
Thursday, 24 April 2008
Wednesday, 23 April 2008
Laws proposed to limit debt
Mahmoud Habboush The National Last Updated: April 23. 2008 3:41AM UAE / April 22. 2008 11:41PM GMT
People using credit cards are getting trapped into a cycle of high-interest payments they had very little hope of escaping. Sammy Dallal / The National
ABU DHABI // The Federal National Council has proposed stringent rules for personal loans to prevent more people falling deep into debt. At a meeting yesterday, officials urged the speedy creation of an independent credit bureau to regulate the multi-billion dirham lending industry.During the session, attended by Obeid al Tayer, the State Minister for Financial Affairs, and Sultan al Suwaidi, the Central Bank Governor, members also recommended a credit reporting system to stop people borrowing more than they can afford to repay.
UAE courts have to settle thousands of debt-related cases despite the overall amount of personal debt in the UAE being a relatively low Dh43 billion (US$16bn). There is also no system to track credit history and assess people’s borrowing capacity. A special FNC committee reported that while banks were required to limit personal loans to Dh250,000, some were lending customers with low salaries more than 55 times their monthly wage.
The institutions also offered them several credit cards with spending limits above Dh50,000, which trapped them in a cycle of high-interest payments they had very little hope of escaping. About 560,000 people borrowed nearly Dh700bn last year, according to the committee. The lawmakers approved a recommendation that banks provide personal loans in proportion to a customer’s salary, and that the amount not exceed 25 times their total income.
Banks were also urged to stop a practice whereby customers were required to sign cheques guaranteeing the amount of their loan. Several lawmakers complained this was a common practice and said many people had been jailed for dishonoured cheques.One of the lawmakers, Yousef al Noaimi, who represents Ras al Khaimah, noted that some banks offered “marriage loans” that were repaid over 14 years.“Is fair to do that to the citizens?” he asked.
The proposals will be forwarded to the Cabinet for approval.Some lawmakers further suggested that the Central Bank was failing to protect ordinary lenders.“The Central Bank hasn’t fulfilled its role as a monitor. I hope the Central Bank will wake up and realise the gravity of the situation,” said Mohammed al Zaabi, a lawmaker from Sharjah. “We need transparency. Personal loans have become a rolling snowball.”
Another member, Dr Abdullah Shaheen, from Ras al Khaimah, said the Central Bank had been “inactive” and was being too lax on banks that helped customers to circumvent the rules to borrow amounts exceeding their means.“The Government needs to decree a political decision to control loaning policies. People have become portable banks with salaries not exceeding Dh3,000,” he said.Mr Suwaidi responded that the Central Bank was working with banks to limit extravagant personal loans. He said car loans should not exceed Dh150,000 dirhams and not be more than 80 per cent of the value of the vehicle.
The Central Bank chief added that the institution was working on new regulations for property loans. “We’ve been improving our control apparatus along with the increasing population and international developments in the field,” he said, noting that the Central Bank last month launched a programme to train some 80 Emiratis in auditing standards to be part of loan monitoring teams. Mr Suwaidi added that about three-quarters of 33,000 debt-related cases handled by the courts last year were disputes between landlords and tenants. A significant amount involved disputes between businessmen or bounced checks, while only seven per cent cases related to banks.
“Bank disputes only constitute 5,710 [of the cases] and they barely end by jailing people,” he said.Mr Tayer also said the Government was drafting a law to regulate real estate loans. He rejected suggestions that the Government pass a law prohibiting lenders from guaranteeing loans with salaries. The minister said that would prevent too many people whose only guarantees were their salaries from obtaining small business loans. “We shouldn’t prevent this layer of society from benefiting from loans,” he said.
The FNC committee also recommended the establishment of specialised courts to examine cases of Emiratis unable to pay their bank loans, as well as the establishment of a government fund in co-operation with charities to help people with heavy debts.
Abu Dhabi Police unveil ambitious proposal to cut crime
By Rayeesa Absal, Staff Reporter GULF NEWS Published: April 23, 2008, 00:17
Abu Dhabi: Abu Dhabi Police is aiming to cut the crime rate in the city by five per cent over the next five years.
Plans and a course of action have also been laid out to cut by 20 per cent road accidents causing serious or fatal injuries. The ambitious plans were unveiled as part of the police's five-year strategy for 2008 to 2012.
"Our strategy is focused on the control of crime by prevention, control of its rates and eradication of its impact, to maintain general safety and security, make the roads safer and establish mutual trust between the public and police force as well as ensuring optimised use of human resources by adopting the best international practices without ignoring the provision of all operational support to the police operations", said Lieutenant General Shaikh Saif Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Minister of Interior.
He was addressing the media and officials in video footage presented at the unveiling ceremony held at the Police Officers Club on Tuesday morning.
Named the Abu Dhabi Police Strategic Plan 2008 to 2012 new progressive development plans have been put forth under the theme Progressive Police for a Modern City.
The plan identifies six priorities which have five year targets to achieve. Concrete courses of actions have been mapped, alongside stages of execution, by police officers with the cooperation of international experts.
"We are looking forward to achieving our priorities with extreme determination and faith in a close partnership with all parties and strategic partners. Through this we are endeavouring to satisfy the needs of all community segments be they Emirati, residents, visitors, service or security agencies, in full integration with Abu Dhabi government's strategy and political agenda and in harmony with the general strategy of the UAE Federal government," the minister said.
The strategy establishes the vision, mission and values of the police department, apart from the strategic steps they will be implementing towards achieving the objective of becoming "the most operationally effective police force in one of the safest countries in the world."
Announcing the plan, Brigadier Nasser Al Nuaimi, Director-General of the office of the Minister of Interior, said it focuses on modernising the department and improving its function and role in society to be on a par with the best police services in the world.
"The continuous process of modernisation and developing of Abu Dhabi Police, motivated by the wisdom and insight of the leadership of the UAE, is aimed at transforming the capital into an important economical regional power. The role of the police has been of great significance during the past decades in promoting this ambition," Al Nuaimi said.
Faisal Sultan Al Shuaibi, Head of the Strategy department at Abu Dhabi Police, said: "We have kept the crime rate and traffic statistics of 2007 as a baseline. Our focus will be to achieve the targets we have set."
Although the UAE and Abu Dhabi are considered to be safe, Al Shuaibi said the need is to anticipate new threats which may raise their heads as the city is growing by the day.
"Our priority is also to keep track of high profile crimes and curb them. Reaching out to all communities within our society is another important aspect."
Surveys conducted by the police showed very high satisfaction levels amongst the public of up to 90 per cent.
Blueprint: Important areas
* Controlling crime
* Making the most of staff through the implementation of the best international practices, qualified staff will be recruited and the focus will be on increasing efficiency
* Increasing community confidence
* Maintaining the security of Abu Dhabi
* Making the roads safer. Various structural bodies and an action plan for casualty reduction will be developed
* Providing all policing operations with functional support
* Financial and administrative powers will be delegated to speed up decisions. To ensure technical efficiency of the plan, it will be assessed from time to time.
1957-1966 - Foundation stage
1966-1979 - Building stage
1979-1995- Progress stage with the merging of Abu Dhabi Police with the interior ministry
1995-2007-Qualitative and strategic development with Lt. Gen Shaikh Saif Bin Zayed Al Nahyan taking over as General Commander of Abu Dhabi Police
23 April 2008
ABU DHABI — Emirates Palace was named the world’s leading conference hotel at the 14th annual world travel awards (WTA) ceremony this week.
Its grand suites were also named the world’s leading suites over elite collection of renowned hotels and resorts.
“Since its launch two years ago, Emirates Palace has consistently been recognised as the leading hotel and resort in Abu Dhabi with the most lavish suites and the best conference and convention facilities,” said Noel Massoud, General Manager of Emirates Palace.
He added that “we have now taken this to the worldwide hospitality arena and are extremely proud to receive such prestigious awards.
At a glittering ceremony held at the island of providenciales, Turks Caicos in the Caribbean, the WTA celebrated some of the people and companies behind the year’s best travel products. Over 330 representatives from the travel trade, VIPs and local and international media from 30 countries across the globe converged for the event.
Director of sales and marketing for Emirates Palace, Janet Abrahams attended the ceremony to receive the awards on behalf of Emirates Palace.
With over 7,000 square metres of space available, Emirates Palace is the largest meeting and conference venue in the Middle East and North Africa. The luxury resort hotel boasts a state-of-the-art auditorium with a seating capacity of 1, 100.
Earlier this year, Emirates Palace affirmed its position as the leading hotel in the region when it received nine of the most important coveted awards, including leading conference hotel and leading suite at the Middle East and Africa leg of the awards.
BY HABIB SHAIKH KHALEEJ TIMES 23 April 2008
JEDDAH — Following an increase in salary of their employees declared by some private companies, government employees in Saudi Arabia are expected to receive a 30-per cent pay rise.
Some private companies had declared pay hikes of up to 40 per cent as part of efforts to confront an unprecedented rise in consumer prices.
According to a recent report carried by Al-Arabiya satellite channel, a decision on the salary increase for public sector employees would be issued shortly. But there was no official confirmation of the report.
Abdullah Dahlan, a member of the Shoura Council, emphasised the need for urgently discussing the issue in the Shoura in order to present its recommendations to the Council of Ministers.
“I am very happy to learn this news and hope the government would take a quick decision on this matter,” said Mohammed Shaker Al-Dahlawi, director of compensations at the ministry of transport.
He urged the ministry of commerce and industry to prevent businessmen from increasing prices of essential commodities further after the new salary raise as they did last time.
In August 2005, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz issued an order raising the salaries of public employees, including military officers, by 15 per cent. Businessmen exploited the increased purchasing power of consumers and hiked prices.
Al Dahlawi called on the government to take steps for bolstering the value of the Saudi riyal against other currencies as part of efforts to control growing inflation in the country. The riyals peg to a weakening US dollar has made imports more expensive.
“I believe that the large number of loans received by people is another reason for inflation,” he said, proposing a 25 per cent cut in such loans. An increase in salaries and reeling in inflation would reduce the demand for consumer loans.
By Preeti Kannan (Our staff reporter) KHALEEJ TIMES
23 April 2008
DUBAI — Nine schools under the Gems group in the emirate will stop running their own school buses and instead outsource the service from June 1. The announcement comes in the wake of the recent decision by education authorities in the emirate to turn down requests to increase tuition fee above the set fee cap of 16 per cent.
However, the circular has sparked concern among parents who now anticipate rising transportation fees, tuition fees and fear disruption of services. They say that this would mean the school is now free to hike transport costs. HC, a parent said, “This is definitely an arm-twisting tactic on the part of the school. Since their request for a 16 per cent fee hike has been turned down, they are resorting to smarter ways to increase costs.”
Another parent, NM, said, “If they had informed us earlier, we would have probably changed school as I do not want my child to travel with a new conductor and driver everyday. The safety of my children is of high priority and we cannot afford to risk it, especially in the light of the numerous molestation charges against bus conductors.”
Students from the group’s Dubai schools, including Our Own Indian School, Our Own English High School, Our Own High School, Al Warqa’a, Dubai Modern High School, The Kindergarten Starters, The Millennium School, The Westminster School, The Winchester School and Cambridge International School have received the circulars or are in the process of receiving them this week.
It states, “Fuel costs have alone risen by 300 per cent. Rising cost of buses together with over 50 per cent remuneration increase for our bus drivers and conductors have contributed to this astronomical rise in the cost of operating the school bus.”
Adding further, the Dubai Modern High circular elaborates, “In the absence of approval from regulatory authorities, we have been unable to increase transport fees. We wish to remind the parents that the transport service has been an optional service. We are no longer in a position to subsidise this service, regrettably, as of June 1. Modern High School will no longer operate a school provided transport service but will outsource this provision to an external provider.”
According to the school, its transportation costs are as low as Dh1,500 per annum in comparison to external providers ranging from Dh5,000 to Dh8,000 and cites that there has been no increase in transport charges since April 2006. Families, who have paid transportation costs for the full term will, however, be refunded in full.
Confirming the decision, Monica Harter, head of Corporate Communications at Gems, said, “We cannot continue to sustain the losses anymore and have been providing transportation to our students at subsidised costs. However, there will be no disruption of services.”
She added that since the service was being outsourced there will be a definite increase in transportation costs, though she did not state the figure since they were still on the lookout for a provider.
Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA), which supervises private and public schools in the emirate, maintained that schools which provide transport as an optional service have the choice of increasing costs to suit market rates, irrespective of the fee cap.
Mohammed Darwish, Chief of Licensing and Customer Relations, said, “In the case of optional services provided in addition to the basic tuition, and not imposed on the parents, the school or service provider is free to set costs in line with market forces. Logically, no school which provides a truly optional service need suddenly outsource this service as they may charge a fair, market rate for it if the parent has a choice.”
He added, “The Authority is not responsible for a school’s decision to outsource optional services nor for the regrettable and undesirable disruption that such a decision is likely to cause. Schools which do so may have other motives as fee regulation is not at issue.”
School heads, who didn’t want to be named, said that KHDA should have clarified the stand earlier as many would then prefer to run their own buses instead of outsourcing, if this was the case.
“It could mean that Gems could do a volte face and run its own buses, probably after an astronomical rise in transport costs, since they are under no obligation to include school bus cost in the fee ceiling,” said a parent.
IPLT20 - Match # 7, If it is Symonds, then obviously it is Sehwag
Delhi Daredevils beat Deccan Chargers by nine wickets
A brilliant 94 off just 41 balls by skipper Virender Sehwag helped Delhi Daredevils crush hosts Deccan Chargers by nine wickets in the seventh match of the Indian Premier League (IPL)
A brilliant 94 off just 41 balls by skipper Virender Sehwag helped Delhi Daredevils crush hosts Deccan Chargers by nine wickets in the seventh match of the Indian Premier League (IPL) Twenty20 tournament at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium, Uppal, here Tuesday.
Daredevils achieved the target of 143 in just 13 overs by losing the wicket of Gautam Gambhir (12). Shikhar Dhawan was unbeaten on 25.
Tuesday, 22 April 2008
By Carole Spiers, Special to Gulf News Published: April 21, 2008, 23:40
As Dubai becomes steadily more multicultural, it is worth examining, from the London experience, the two differing reactions that may greet a new workplace colleague who has arrived from another place and another culture.
On the one hand there can be the defensive attitude, viewing the new arrival as a problem, whilst the other can be the welcoming attitude, viewing them as an opportunity to become familiar with another culture.
The defensive attitude believes that unfamiliar customs - including language, dress and food - can be in poor taste or lacking in sensitivity. Many 'cultural diversity' programmes are aimed at identifying and examining such scepticism and resentment, reducing insensitivity and instructing all staff how to avoid giving unintentional offence. The welcoming attitude appreciates the stimulating effect of new blood and new ideas that come with different perspectives.
By way of example: if there is an increasing trade between Dubai and (say) Sri Lanka, your team will clearly be strengthened by the inclusion of some Sri Lankan nationals and their different work philosophies and styles of problem-solving will, no doubt, enrich the managerial mix. The new team members would normally prove to be an asset as they would bring added-value to the organisation as well as contributing knowledge regarding the Sri Lankan culture - essential to increasing contact and trade.
If the UK experience is anything to go by, the defensive attitude gradually gives way to the welcoming, in most companies. But the change in attitudes can occasionally be difficult when emotion and prejudice obstruct logical debate. Cultural diversity can, all too often, bring out irrational statements that can lead to serious problems unless handled with care. Adequate training to understand and value the differences is important.
For this reason, central government may have to issue recommendations and directives, with a department dedicated to the issue of multiculturalism. All experience shows that the way to encourage positive attitude of welcoming and acceptance is to demonstrate it in action.
The primary learning comes through repeated impressions drawn from observing communication and interpersonal contact in a multicultural context, in the handling of business - as compared to that in a mono-cultural setting. Ideally, a majority would slowly observe the corporate and commercial benefits taking shape in improved performance, and come to their own conclusions about the advanta-ges of multicultural teams.
The alternative route, which is diversity legislation, may look like a quicker way of enforcing good habits, but it will strengthen resistance among those who are defensive. However, after seeing for themselves the success of the new-style multicultural teams, in their own organisations, they will often be among the converted!
Key points: Diversity
New work colleagues of different culture are often viewed as a problem
In time, the greater strength of multicultural teams begins to appear
Corporate diversity policies are more effective than government directives
- The writer is a BBC broadcaster and motivational speaker, with20 years' experience as CEO of Carole Spiers Group, an international stress consultancy based in London.
By Fuad Ali, Staff Reporter GULF NEWS Published: April 21, 2008, 23:40
Fujairah: Motorists in Fujairah have been turned away from most Enoc and Eppco petrol stations for lack of petrol on Monday, Gulf News has learnt.
According to station staff, petrol tanks have failed to make their usual delivery, for the second day running. Most stations were able to serve customers Sunday but by Monday afternoon had run out of petrol.
Gulf News contacted an Enoc representative but the company declined to comment.
By Rayeesa Absal, Staff Reporter GULF NEWS Published: April 21, 2008, 23:40
Abu Dhabi: The Ministry of Labour has scrapped the degree verification system introduced in 2005.
Effective on Tuesday, certificates can no longer be verified by applying to Emirates Post, which used to verify the certificates via Integra Screen, a private company offering document verification services to applicants as part of their tie-up with the labour ministry.
Saqr Gobash Saeed Gobash, Minister of Labour, yesterday issued law No 240 of 2008 that replaces and nullifies the effects of law No 851 of 2005. And the procedures have returned to what they used to be prior to 2005's law.
Expatriate job applicants will have to go through the attestation process in their own countries and produce the documents before their country's embassy in the UAE and get the attestation from the Foreign Ministry before their visa application can be completed.
If the certificates prove to be fake, then the visa application process will be stopped.
The decree also annuls any punishments or penalties stipulated by the previous law.
If a person whose certificate cannot be attested for a job is already in the country, then as per the new decree, it will be the responsibility of the company to send the person back to his/her country.
A special committee has been formed to review the law.
UAE and US sign agreement on peaceful uses of nuclear energy
By Samir Salama, Associate Editor, and Abbas Al Lawati, Staff Reporter
Published: April 21, 2008, 12:33
Manama/Abu Dhabi: The United States became the second country with which the UAE signed an agreement on peaceful nuclear energy cooperation yesterday, as the top US diplomat praised the UAE as a "responsible power".
Foreign Minister Shaikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Condoleezza Rice, US Secretary of State, met on the sidelines of the GCC summit in Manama, where a memorandum of understanding on cooperation in the peaceful use of nuclear energy was signed. A similar agreement was signed with France in January.
"The UAE-US MoU represents an excellent example of cooperation the UAE hopes to forge with responsible nuclear supplier states. There are potential mutual benefits to both parties from deepening cooperation in the development of the UAE's domestic nuclear energy sector," said Shaikh Abdullah.
The Foreign Minister welcomed the prospect of negotiating a more extensive bilateral agreement with the US, which would establish the necessary legal basis for trade in significant nuclear commodities between the two countries.
"We are very supportive of what you are trying to do. As you know we think access to nuclear energy is very important. The UAE is a responsible partner and a responsible power," Rice said at the signing ceremony.
Hamad Al Ka'abi, the Special Representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for International Nuclear Cooperation, told Gulf News the agreement entails cooperation in developing nuclear infrastructure, training human resources and safeguarding of nuclear materials and facilities.
Al Ka'abi said the MoU does not provide for commercial contracts for American companies to build or operate nuclear plants.
He said the UAE will seek nuclear know-how from all responsible suppliers worldwide.
The government has also said it plans to establish a $100 million agency to look into developing nuclear energy to satisfy rising electricity demand.
GCC countries, the US, Egypt and Jordan said that they supported "the responsible and transparent development of civilian nuclear energy" in a statement.
Shaikh Abdullah also presented to his US counterpart a diplomatic note endorsing the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism.
- With additional inputs from Habib Toumi, Bahrain Bureau Chief, WAM and agencies
20 Apr 2008, 0333 hrs IST,Kounteya Sinha,TNN
NEW DELHI: A 24-year-long American study has offered the strongest evidence yet to show that a diet rich in vegetables, low on animal protein and moderate intake of low-fat dairy products cuts chances of heart attack in middle-aged women by nearly a quarter.
The study, which followed over 88,000 otherwise-healthy nurses, found that those who followed the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet —fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat milk and plant-based protein — over meat had 24% less chances of suffering a heart attack and 18% less likely to have a stroke than women who consume more meat.
Women in the study were in their mid-30s to late 50s when the research began in 1980.
Reporting this finding in the latest edition of the journal "Archives of Internal Medicine", scientists from Simmons College, Boston, said that even though the study only followed women, men too would benefit equally by following a similar dietary regime.
The study’s lead author Teresa Fung said: "People might think they don’t have high blood pressure, so they don’t have to follow it. However, the results suggest that even healthy people should get on it."
Reacting to the study, senior cardiologist at Apollo hospital Dr Deepak Natarajan said: "Besides essential nutrients, food also produces bioactive compounds that improves health and protects against disease. A low cholesterol and high fibre diet, which includes at least six portions of vegetables and fruits a day, contain essential micro-nutrients and vitamins that produce antioxidants — substances that protect cells from the damage caused by unstable molecules known as free radicals. Antioxidants prevent advent of cancer and cardiovascular diseases."
Dr Natarajan added: "A recent study, examining the importance of heart disease risk factors, looked at more than 20,000 people in 52 countries and found that most Indians follow a non-vegetarian diet. Not only is the volume of vegetables consumed low, reheating of vegetarian dishes — a common practice among Indians — destroys the micro-nutrients. Indians, therefore, face heart attacks five years earlier than people in the West."
Designed to stop hypertension (high blood pressure), the DASH diet has previously been shown to reduce both systolic and diastolic BP levels — top and bottom numbers, respectively — in people with high or normal BP.
This BP-reducing diet has been linked to a reduction in low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL), commonly called bad cholesterol. To examine the association between the diet and cardiovascular health, the team analyzed 88,517 female nurses, none of whom had cardiovascular disease or diabetes in 1980.
On seven occasions between 1980 and 2004, participants in the study detailed the types of foods they ate frequently over the past year.
The researchers used eight food and nutrient components from the data to develop a DASH score for each woman. If women ate more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and legumes, then their DASH scores increased.
As participants ate more red and processed meats and sweetened beverages, their scores decreased.
After 24 years of follow-up, the researchers found that 2,129 women had a non-fatal heart attack, 976 died of coronary heart disease, and 2,317 had strokes. Women with higher DASH scores were found to have a reduced risk for heart disease and stroke.
21 Apr 2008, 0007 hrs IST,REUTERS
NEW YORK: Saffron, a spice known for flavouring cuisine, might also offer an antidote to premenstrual syndrome, a small study suggests.
It’s thought that the spice might influence depression symptoms via effects on the brain chemical serotonin. Because alterations in serotonin activity are suspected in PMS, a team of Iranian researchers decided to study whether saffron supplements might help relieve these symptoms.
M Agha-Hosseini and colleagues at Tehran University of Medical Sciences randomly assigned 50 women to take either saffron capsules or a placebo twice a day over two menstrual cycles. The women, had all had PMS symptoms for at least six months.
At the end of the treatment period, three-quarters of the women on saffron capsules reported at least a 50% reduction in PMS symptoms.
That compared with only 8% of women in the placebo group, the researchers report in the medical journal
BJOG. In addition, the researchers found, 60% of the saffron group showed a 50% improvement in depression symptoms.
21Apr 2008, 0001 hrs IST,PTI
LONDON: Scientists have created the world's smallest transistor, measuring a little bigger than a molecule, a feat which they claim could spark the development of super-fast computer chips in the future.
Using the world's thinnest material called graphene, a team at University of Manchester has produced the transistor which is one atom thick and ten atoms wide, marking the first true electronic nanocomponent, the ‘Science' journal reported.
Four years ago, they discovered graphene, the first known one-atom-thick material which can be viewed as a plane of atoms pulled out from graphite. Now, the researchers led by Prof Andre Geim and Kostya Novoselov have shown that it's possible to carve out nanometre scale transistors from a single graphene crystal. Unlike other known materials, graphene remains highly stable and conductive even when it is cut into devices one nanometre wide.
The smaller the size of the transistors, the better they perform, according to them.
Transistors made of graphene start showing advantages at sizes below ten nanometres, the miniaturisation limit at which traditional silicon-based technology is predicted to actually fail.
However, Geim does not expect graphene-based circuits to come of age before 2025 but argues this technology will probably be the only way to shrink microelectronics after the silicon era comes to an end.
"It is too early to promise graphene supercomputers. (In fact) in our work, we relied on chance when making such small transistors. Unfortunately, no existing technology allows the cutting of materials with true nanometre precision. "But this is exactly the same challenge that all post-silicon electronics has to face. At least, we now have a material that can meet such a challenge," Prof Geim said.
"Now one can think of designer molecules acting as transistors connected into designer computer architecture on the basis of the same material (graphene)," added Novoselov.