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Thursday, 22 May 2008

Air Arabia begins service to new Bangalore airport

Air Arabia begins service to new Bangalore airport
Staff Report GULF NEWS Published: May 21, 2008, 15:57

Dubai: Air Arabia, the first and largest low-cost carrier in the Middle East and North Africa, on Wednesday said it will start flying to Bengaluru International Airport, Bangalore's new airport, beginning on May 22, 2008.

The new airport is located east of the Bangalore-Hyderabad National Highway (NH7) and is the largest greenfield, private sector-owned and operated airport in India. A user development fee charged by the airport authority of Dh93 (INR 1,070) will be collected at Bangalore Airport in cash from all outbound passengers. Beginning July 1, this fee will be included as part of Air Arabia's fare.

Air Arabia has flown to Bangalore since October 2007, and continues to fly daily from Air Arabia’s hub in Sharjah, leaving at 22.50pm and arriving in Bangalore at 04.05am. Return flights depart Bangalore at 04.50am and land in Sharjah at 07.10am.

Air Arabia serves 11 destinations throughout India including Bangalore, Ahmedabad, Calicut, Chennai, Coimbatore, Delhi, Jaipur, Kochi, Mumbai, Nagpur and Thiruvananthapuram.

Weather bureau warns of repeat of Cyclone Gonu in Oman


Weather bureau warns of repeat of Cyclone Gonu in Oman
By Sunil K. Vaidya, Bureau Chief GULF NEWS
Last updated: May 20, 2008, 18:01

Muscat: Less than a year after Cyclone Gonu devastated the coast of Oman, a UK-based international weather bureau has predicted that another tropical storm could hit Oman and Yemen at the end of May.

This time the forecast of landfall of the cyclone is on May 29 around Oman/Yemen coast.

A senior official at the Directorate General of Meteorology and Air Navigation (DGMAN) confirmed that they have initial reports about the possibility of a storm.

“We are in preparedness,” Badr Al Rumhi of DGMAN told Gulf News on Tuesday. He, however, did not elaborate.

According to the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF), the onset phase of this year’s monsoon could feature a cyclone in the west Arabian Sea.

However, when contacted in London, Manfred Kloeppel, Assistant to Director, ECMWF, said: “We do not issue any warnings ourselves to any states in the world but make our products available in particular to our Member and Co-operating States.”

Kloeppel further added that the forecast last Monday (May 19) showed a system developing and hitting Oman on 28 May. “This not so prominent in Tuesday’s forecast,” he added.

He also clarified that ECMWF do not forecast a cyclone to hit the Gulf states, although "there clearly is still some potential for this to happen."

He added that the message from the forecast was that such a development might happen, but one must wait and see what happens in the next forecasts, a task, he stressed, was with the National Meteorological Services.

The forecast states that “the system is forecast to develop in the west central Arabian Sea and is expected to make a landfall over the Yemen/Oman coast around May 29.”

It further states that the timing of the ‘cyclogenesis’ (birth of a cyclone) and the path for onward movement would resemble those of tropical Cyclone Gonu, which killed 48 people when it struck Oman on June 6 last year.

The only redeeming feature, according to ECMWF, would be that this time the storm would be comparatively at a reduced strength.

However, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) says that unlike tropical cyclone Gonu, the intensity of this impending storm would be low.

The ECMWF forecasts say that the rogue circulation spin up in the west-central Arabian Sea about the same time as the westerly winds are predicted to accelerate in the run-up to monsoon.

The circulation is shown to move in a west-northwest direction, away from the Indian coast, during the two days from May 27 for which forecasts are available.

“This is more or less the track pursued by tropical cyclone Gonu last year,” says ECMWF.

Oman residents 'will be warned if cyclone imminent'

Oman residents 'will be warned if cyclone imminent'
By Sunil K. Vaidya, Bureau Chief GULF NEWS Published: May 22, 2008

Muscat: A senior member of the National Committee for Civil Defence (NCCD) in Oman yesterday told Gulf News that the local authorities would forewarn residents about any impending cyclone.

Reacting to a Gulf News report, based on a forecast on Monday by the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF), on the possibility of a storm hitting the Oman/UAE coast on May 29, Lieutenant Colonel Azhar Al Kindi, a senior NCCD member, said: "None of the reports or forecasts are talking about 'it' coming but have only raised the possibility of it."

He stressed that the local Meteorological Department and other relevant authorities had handled the last Tropical Cyclone Gonu well.

"We had concrete proof of the cyclone coming last time and we gave enough warning to residents and subsequently we also handled the disaster well."
He did not deny nor agree with reports of another cyclone.

"We will act as and when we know it is happening," he said, urging people to keep full faith in the local weather bureau.

Last year, the local authorities forewarned residents in the country well in advance of cyclone Gonu striking Oman on June 6. This action saved a lot of lives as people moved out of low-lying areas as well as places under threat from the storm.

"We handled the situation well at that time [Gonu] and any time in the future we are capable of handling any situation well," he added.

The possibility of a storm at the end of this month has become the talk of the town - so much so that some of the expatriate community schools have floated the idea of an early summer vacation.

"Some teachers as well as students were keen to know if the vacation would be advanced slightly," a official at an expatriate school said.

Employers advised to keep staff keen

Employers advised to keep staff keen
Rania Abouzeid, THE NATIONAL

Last Updated: May 18. 2008

DUBAI // Employers who want to keep talented staff on board should woo them using the same tactics they would adopt to win repeat business from customers, says a human resources expert.

“Let’s stop thinking of employees as people who have to do what we say because we pay them and think of them as customers,” said David Creelman, the chief executive of Creelman Research, a Toronto-based human resources management company, at the seventh annual Middle East Human Resources Conference yesterday.

“How do you sell the job to them and get them to recommit?”

In a keynote address, Mr Creelman said managers should apply marketing principles to human-resource management.

“Think about marketers,” Mr Creelman said. “How would they get a customer to recommit? People in the sales side don’t just sit there and push products out. Go out there and get engaged with your people. Find out what it is they want.”

Recruiting and retaining skilled employees is particularly challenging in the UAE because of the transient nature of the country’s workforce and its multicultural makeup.

A report released last week by Hill & Knowlton Middle East and YouGov Siraj, said that managers in the UAE were acutely aware of the difficulties of finding the right people for the right jobs; more than two thirds of those surveyed said it was not an easy task to accomplish and, said Mr Creelman, “It’s not enough just to pay someone and hope they’ll recommit”. Before offering incentives, human-resources managers should consider where individual employees fell on what he called the four-point “recommitment scale”.

At the top of the scale were employees who were excited and eager to work hard. Next, those willing to do the work but not excited, followed by bored employees and, finally, those who were clearly dissatisfied.

Once an employee’s position on the scale had been identified, suitable incentives, ranging from higher salary, longer holidays or a more challenging position, could be used to retain their services.

“Different people will be looking for different things,” Mr Creelman said. “HR is not like calculus. There’s no one right answer.”

Mr Creelman said that even simple things, such as paying attention to employees, would affect their desire to remain committed to the company.

“Managers should ask themselves: ‘Who are the people you really want to keep? How much attention do you pay to them? When was the last time you had a conversation with them about their goals?’.” Mr Creelman added that managers should also evaluate their own performance and its effect on their staff.

“Did you hire dead wood or did you create it? Did you hire good people and turn them into dead wood?” Noora al Bedur, the manager of the Employment and Skills Development Center of Tanmia, the national human-resource development and employment authority, said that when it came down to it, a wage increase was usually all it took to keep an employee on the staff.

“The more you pay, the more people will stay,” she said.

Ms Bedur, who has been with Tanmia for seven years, said that, in addition to pay rises, financial incentives such as free parking and health insurance helped to keep employees committed to a company, but in her experience salary accounted for 60 per cent of an employee’s motivation.

Ms Bedur oversees about 25 employees and offers vocational training to 1,600 Emiratis a year, finding jobs for another 2,600.

“The most important thing in Dubai now is the salary,” she said, “And it’s the same for everybody, not just the locals.

“You’re talking about Dubai, one of the most expensive cities to live in. Motivation can get you through two years, but employees will then tell you that they can make more money elsewhere.”

Pauli Liimatainen, the vice president of human resources for Ericsson in the Middle East, said that his company carried out regular employee surveys to ascertain staff concerns. He also kept an eye on what his competitors were offering their staff.

Although his company’s staff turnover was less than five per cent per annum, Mr Liimatainen said that it could not afford to rest on its laurels.

“We are a little bit fortunate because our staff turnover is low,” he said after the keynote speech. “But you can’t ever relax because you have competition for labour. You need to be ahead. “

rabouzeid@thenational.ae

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

ETA-Ascon: muti-dimensional and successful


ETA-Ascon: muti-dimensional and successful
By Saifur Rahman, Business Editor GULF NEWS Published: February 23, 2008

Syed M. Salahuddin, managing director of Dubai-based $4.3 billion diversified conglomerate ETA-Ascon Group, tells Financial Review of the opportunities arising in the neighbourhood

As high oil prices fuel the Gulf economies, local and regional companies benefit from the opportunities in their locality and beyond. For many local businesses, a proper footprint across the Gulf and South Asia regions, especially India, is vital.

Last time I interviewed you, your company had 26,000 people. I believe it has now reached 58,000, working in trading, shipping, construction, manufacturing, real estate, transportation, aviation and hospitality. How do you manage such a huge workforce and range of operations?
Honestly, I don't know! My people will be able to tell you more. However, providing accommodation for them has become the biggest challenge for us.

We are building large accommodation facilities. However, before the projects are completed, their housing facilities become inadequate, since, by that time, we have hired more people for new projects.

ETA-Ascon Group has been particularly active in trading, shipping and construction. Of late, you have also ventured into a number of new areas like the real estate and hospitality areas. Are you venturing into yet further activities?
We have started a $70 million steel rolling plant in Sharjah that is capable of producing 600,000 tonnes per year, including steel structures.

Besides, we as Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) are launching a new regional airline in India, which should take off in October this year. We are talking to manufacturers of regional jets including Embraer, Bombardier and ATR.

We have also entered the aircraft leasing business under Star Aviation, with a portfolio of eight aircraft in operation with some airlines. We are also manufacturing cement in Abu Dhabi, Ajman, and Bahrain, and in Bangladesh, where we see a lot of opportunities.

We have also entered into the hospitality sector, with three properties currently operational with 600 rooms in Dubai and Sharjah. We would like to roll out a new hotel chain under the Star branding. Right now we have Star Metro and Star Boutique brands operational.

You appear to have entered the manufacturing sector very late. Why is that?
One of the biggest problems we have is the lack of adequate gas supply. We have a number of manufacturing units planned. However, we cannot proceed due to a shortage of energy, especially gas. For example, we have a large fertiliser project planned.

For years we have been waiting for the necessary gas supply. The Qatari gas being brought to the UAE will merely meet the growing demands of the power and desalination plants.

So, we are now thinking of shifting the project to another location where we could get adequate gas supply. Besides, we have plans for iron-ore based industries to manufacture various steel products. However, the lack of gas supply is delaying those projects too.

What are the areas that you are currently expanding business in?
Geographically - India, and sector-wise anything from infrastructure to real estate. India provides the biggest opportunity for us, as we do see so much scope for growth and development there.

However, investment in infrastructure could unlock opportunities in other areas. For example, we have recently started a cargo rail service (Railway Wagon) to move containers between Delhi and Bombay, which will expand to all other major Indian cities as the economy grows there.

Developing a supply-chain infrastructure also provides a good business opportunity for us, while it also helps the country's economy: where demand for goods and services are expected to go. We are one of the 14 companies licensed by the Indian government to offer such a service.

Do you have plans as well in the power sector?
There we see huge opportunities. India needs massive amounts of power to be able to maintain growth. There is a need for massive investment, and the private sector could play a very dynamic role in coping with the demand.

We want to participate in independent water and power projects (IWPPs), where India could benefit from our expertise. We have the engineering and financial capabilities.

We are just completing an 800 MW power plant in Aweer with Siemens for Dubai Electricity and Water Authority. We have good capabilities in distribution.

Moreover, we have recently signed an MoU with the Meghalaya government to set up two hydro-power plants to produce 65MW of power each, with an investment of about $100 million each.

However, the implementation could take a long time. The biggest problem in that regard is lack of proper infrastructure. Getting the right land is a problem. Then the lack of a proper supply chain is another problem - that's apart from the social and political ones.

How's the shipping business? How are your companies coping with the strong demand in the Middle East and the Asia Pacific?
As 80 per cent of global trade moves by sea, we are also enjoying our share of the world's economic growth. Last year we carried 25 million metric tonnes of cargo, which we anticipate to go up to 30-35 million tonnes.

Due to strong demand, we are also expanding our capabilities. We have ordered 30 vessels worth $1.5 billion that will join our 35-strong fleet within four years.

Among the new vessels, the ratio between bulk carriers and liquid will be 50:50. As per market demand, we are also expanding our liquid carriers fleet to carry crude oil, clean oil and chemical and petrochemical products.

What about the real estate sector? Your company has made a strong foray in this sector lately.
Yes, we have a very good presence in real estate. We have a planned supply in excess of 15 million square feet of built-up area coming up in the next five years, with a potential value to the tune of $10 billion.

This includes a number of residential and commercial towers, a number of mixed-use projects in the UAE and India. In Dubai we are building two towers at the Business Bay, one at the Dubai International Financial Centre, two on the Palm Jumeirah Crescent, two towers at the Jumeirah Lake Towers.

We are also developing the Dh2 billion Dubai Lifestyle City. In fact, we are planning to develop Lifestyle Cities in other parts of the world. Meanwhile, in India we are building three townships, one in Chennai and two in Bangalore.

Overall, then, how do you rate your prospects in the UAE, Gulf and India?
We see strong and uninterrupted growth for the next ten years at least. The fundamentals are very strong, so we see no problem or issues.

The UAE, especially, has shifted away from the traditional economic activities to knowledge-based areas such as information technology, education, banking and financial services. They will continue to drive economic growth.

This in turn will create jobs for more professionals, and thus the demand for housing, power, water and infrastructure will continue to grow.

Slow drivers 'not being fined'


Slow drivers 'not being fined'
By Ashfaq Ahmed, Chief Reporter and Alia Al Theeb, Staff Reporter GULF NEWS May 21, 2008

Dubai: Plans to implement a minimum speed limit on Dubai's roads have gone down the drain because of friction between the authorities responsible for implementing the decision, Gulf News has learnt.

Early last year the Dubai Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) introduced a minimum speed limit of 60 km/h on roads, which have a maximum speed limit of 100km/h and above but this has not yet been implemented.

The RTA also spent a huge amount on advertisements and sign boards warning motorists about the minimum speed limit but motorists driving below the speed limit have never been fined.

Plans for the minimum speed limit triggered debate when introduced by the RTA. A top traffic police official objected saying that it should be 70km/h but the RTA stuck to its guns saying that it had taken the decision after comprehensive studies.

However, the friction continued between the Traffic and Roads Agency at the RTA and the Traffic Police and no measures were taken to implement the decision.

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"We announced the decision and also educated motorists through advertisements and sign boards but the police were responsible for implementing this and it never happened," said a senior RTA official.

He said the disagreement between the RTA and the police on the issue regarding the minimum speed limit was not resolved.

A top traffic police official told Gulf News the police were never convinced on the issue. He said that there was a need for better coordination between the RTA and the Traffic Police on this important issue.

An RTA official said the aim was to encourage motorists to maintain an average speed and to avoid driving too slowly on highways.

Slow drivers cannot be caught on automatic speed cameras installed on roads because these only capture speeding motorists. Slow drivers were supposed to be tracked by cameras manned by the police but it has not been done so far.

Dangerous: Risk to road users

A study conducted by the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) reveals that introducing a minimum speed limit does not mean that a motorist has to drive at 60 km/h; rather it says a motorist should drive at a speed (above 60km/h) to keep up with the traffic flow within the given minimum and maximum speed limits depending on the traffic situation.

The decision is aimed at motorists who drive too slowly.

The RTA study also says if the minimum speed is set at 30 per cent less than the maximum speed of 120km/h, it would be 84 km/h and it would not be workable because it would be more than the maximum speed of 80km/h fixed for trucks on highways.

The RTA's decision to have a minimum speed limit of 60 km/h on roads calculates at 50 per cent less than the maximum speed on roads with a 120km/h upper limit and some 40 per cent on roads with a maximum speed limit of 100km/h.

COMPARISON

Limits on major roads
Country Max Speed Min Speed % of Min spd < Max speed
UK 112 km/h 64 km/h 42%
USA 105 km/h 64 km/h 39%
Germany 130 km/h 60 km/h 54%
Spain 120 km/h 60 km/h 50%
Belgium 120 km/h 70 km/h 40%
Dubai 100 to 120 km/h 60 km/h 40% to 50%

Some of the main roads in Dubai which will have minimum speed limit of 60 km/h

Shaikh Zayed Road

Emirates Road

Al Khail Road

Al Ittihad Road

Dubai Outer Bypass Road

Dubai-Hatta Road

Dubai-Al Ain Road

Garbage collector has dream for son

Garbage collector has dream for son
By Zoe Sinclair (Our staff reporter) KHALEEJ TIMES 21 May 2008

DUBAI — More than 40 years ago, Abdul Salaam Azizurahman fled Myanmar after losing his home and suffering under the government.

He could never have imagined that he would be honoured for his hard work by the leader of his adopted country, the UAE, as happened at the Dubai Government Excellence Programme Awards 2008 this week.

Abdul guesses he is about 70 years old, but the hard worker says he will continue until his legs give way.

As a young man, Abdul gained a Bangladeshi passport and came to Dubai via Pakistan.

Abdul took whatever work came his way as a casual street cleaner, before taking the chance to start his own business trading in small items like cosmetics.

The business fell by the wayside and Abdul took a job with the Dubai Municipality where he stayed for 25 years.

Although he retired once, Abdul supports a family of 10, including his wife, five daughters, one son and two grandchildren.

He returned to the municipality where he has worked for another eight years, from 5am to 12.30pm for Dh900 a month.

Never shy of work, he instead says he is grateful to have met his wife and had his family in Dubai.

"I've been given everything here," Abdul said.

"Allah says to work hard and Allah will give you everything."

He was overcome with surprise when he found himself being honoured by His Highness Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, and Shaikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai.

Shaikh Mohammed kept a humble Abdul Salaam, dressed in his orange uniform and white cap, by his side and often with an arm around Abdul's shoulder, for the remainder of the awards presentation.

"Shaikh Mohammed spoke to me in Urdu," Salaam said.

"He asked me how long I've been working here, what I do.

"I like to work because of Shaikh Mohammed."

His moments of rest are spent with his family and he never expected reward except to see his family happy and living a better life. "My dream is to go on Haj. Being a Muslim I have to go on Haj and that is my dream to go at least once and put myself at the feet of God.

“My son is a coolie and I want for him to have a better job. He is a good driver and I hope he finds a job as a driver."

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Exchange students

Exchange students

The IPL has given young players the opportunity to interact with their elders and betters - both from India and overseas

Siddhartha Vaidyanathan May 20, 2008

VRV Singh is among the many young Indian players who have benefited from sharing a dressing room with overseas cricketers in the IPL © AFP

It was the penultimate over of the Delhi Daredevils' innings and Punjab's VRV Singh, as he had done while bowling in the death through the tournament, was trying to get every ball in the blockhole. The first, which ended up a low full-toss, was turned to short fine leg by Virender Sehwag; the second, which Tillakaratne Dilshan tried to pull, was an attempted yorker that turned into a beamer down leg side; and the third, which Dilshan paddled past short fine leg, was another low full-toss.

That was when Mahela Jayawardene, fielding at deep third man, decided to run halfway across the field to have a word with the bowler and captain. As someone who captains Dilshan in the Sri Lankan team, it was obvious Jayawardene saw through his plan. Fine leg was pushed back, three full-ish balls followed, the line was controlled according to how Dilshan moved in the crease, and the remainder of the over produced just three. In a game that was decided by six runs, it was a crucial over.

There are many reasons for Punjab's ascendancy to second spot in the IPL - balanced side, strong bowling attack, good mix of Indian and foreign talent - but tactics have played a big part.

The international players have imparted their ideas and the local players have chipped in during brainstorming sessions. Australians have helped in analysing Australian opponents, and Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara have been perfect allies for Yuvraj Singh.

Brett Lee, for the two weeks he was available, was a big brother to the fast bowlers. One young Indian bowler talks of the "highly emotional" atmosphere in the dressing room the day Lee left. "We became so close to him that we felt bad when he said goodbye. The amount we learnt from him in such a short time was unbelievable. He used to treat every practice session as if it was his last."

Sangakkara has missed the last four games but that hasn't stopped him from making a serious contribution. "Uday Kaul [the young replacement wicketkeeper] had never kept to quality fast bowling before," says a team member, "but Sangakkara has ensured he gets adequate training." Even during the early games, Sangakkara made sure Kaul got enough preparation in the nets.

How useful has it been brain-storming with international and local players? "It's interesting to see how the same questions are approached by people with different perspectives," Sangakkara told Cricinfo. "Sometimes you get two or three opinions on the same subject - or more. The debate then starts. It's important how you bring all those into one thought process or one strategy."

What's been really challenging for Sangakkara and Jayawardene is coming up with strategies to counter their fellow Sri Lankans - which they haven't quite managed against the wily Muttiah Muralitharan, who's foxed them both at crucial moments. Sangakkara thinks there are advantages to planning against your own countrymen.

"You find yourself coming up with new ways to combat these players [like Murali]," he says, "but you then realise there are new dimensions to their game that can be exploited to Sri Lanka's benefit later. When you analyse someone's game, you try and find how you can get the better of them, but also find new ways in which they can be lethal. It's nice to sit back and analyse your own team members - gives you an appreciation and new-found respect."

If he gets a direct hit, he analyses what went right. If he misses, he analyses what went wrong. It's the attention to detail that was mind-boggling for us
Aakash Chopra on Ricky Ponting's approach to fielding in the IPL

The Australian way

Like Punjab, all eight franchises are experiencing the benefits of players interacting with their international peers and elders. The prolific Rohit Sharma has attributed part of his success to Adam Gilchrist. "He told me not to get swayed by the results, as my job is only to keep performing." Delhi's young bowlers can't stop raving about Glenn McGrath, and over in Jaipur, Shane Warne has been inspiring a whole generation.

McGrath's influence goes beyond his role as a fast bowler: he asked for videos of Pradeep Sangwan's Ranji Trophy matches to analyse his action and suggest improvements. "McGrath makes it a point to stand at mid-off or mid-on when the youngsters are bowling," says TA Sekhar, cricket operations chief of GMR Holdings, the owner of the Delhi franchise. "Now that itself is a great inspiration for young bowlers like Yo Mahesh and Sangwan. If they bowl a no-ball, he's encouraging them, telling them how to deal with the free-hit ball. If they bowl five good balls, he makes sure they don't get carried away with the sixth."

Halhadar Das, the Orissa wicketkeeper who plays for the Hyderabad franchise, says he never imagined he would even see Gilchrist, let alone learn from him. Sumit Khatri, Rajasthan's chinaman bowler, says he needs to pinch himself every time Warne says "Well bowled." And S Badrinath, who is yet to make the national side despite years of domestic consistency, talks of the lessons learnt from Michael Hussey, who went through a similar phase ("His message was simple," Badrinath says. "Enjoy whatever you are doing and the rest will follow")

Ricky Ponting's dedication to fielding was an eye-opener for everyone in the Kolkata side. "His dedication to fielding is unbelievable," says Aakash Chopra, the former India opener who's currently with the Knight Riders. "If he gets a direct hit, he analyses what went right. If he misses, he analyses what went wrong. It's the attention to detail that was mind-boggling for us."

Australians have dominated the tournament so far but it's been their attitude to practice that has really benefited their teams. McGrath is the first to arrive at nets and the last to leave. Ponting ensured that every batting session was planned properly, and while he may not have scored many runs, his approach was inspiration enough. Warne has managed to throw in tactics even while relaxing in a swimming pool in Goa. ("It was great to sit around the pool and talk about how to construct an over," he said.)

The approach is likely to rub off. "I always wondered how some Australians manage to score despite looking so badly out of form," says one former India player. "Now I realise it's because of the amount they practise. They target one area and go on striking the ball there, irrespective of the length. It's such routines that makes them come out of slumps."

The likes of McGrath and Lee have taken their duties as mentors seriously, and have also set good examples with their dedication to practice © Getty Images

Local flavour

It's not all been one-way traffic. In an era of packed international schedules, the IPL has also allowed Indian superstars to interact with domestic players. "I hadn't seen him earlier but one ball was enough to convince me that he was a talented bowler," said Sachin Tendulkar of Dhaval Kulkarni, the 19-year-old medium-pacer who is the highest wicket-taker for Mumbai after nine games.

Ross Taylor made it a point to talk to Rahul Dravid and Shivnarine Chanderpaul about batting in England, where he was set to join New Zealand for a Test series; and Cameron White said his most satisfying experience in the IPL was discussing legspin with Anil Kumble.

India's domestic cricketers, who could never have imagined sharing the same dressing room with legends like Tendulkar have probably benefited the most. "More than anything else, it's given domestic cricketers a strong belief," says a former India allrounder who is currently with one of the franchises. "There is a general perception that international cricketers are perfect, but you realise that all of them have weaknesses too. It's because they work around these weaknesses that they play at the international level. So domestic cricketers will start to believe they can make it too, as long as they are focused and totally dedicated."

The downside

It hasn't been all good, though. A few foreign players have treated the tournament like a circus that offers them generous pay packets, and some have shown no restraint when it comes to late nights.

"Most of them are used to drinking late and partying hard but the worrying aspect is that some of the young Indian players are emulating this," says an Indian player who is part of one of the franchises. "They must know their limits. Just because they see their heroes partying, it doesn't mean they need to follow that."

Halfway through the tournament, Bangalore's think-tank felt the need to read the riot act to the players, listing the kind of discipline that was expected from them. Murmurs have been heard about the Deccan Chargers being distracted about the number of get-togethers and promotional events being organised. Such talk usually accompanies teams that are not doing well but it's a warning one mustn't ignore: revolutions have their flip side too.

Siddhartha Vaidyanathan is an assistant editor at Cricinfo

Stay young for long

Stay young for long

By Bharat Thakur Published: May 16, 2008, 23:39 GULF NEWS

Everyone would like to remain young forever. However, the laws of nature dictate that each of us gradually ages.

In today’s times, people are much concerned about how they look as they age.

Hence, we find many people turning to Botox and other cosmetic treatments such as facelifts.

Unfortunately, these invasive treatments have a detrimental effect on the individual’s health.

Before we look into ageing, we must understand what health is.

In layman’s terms, health can be defined as a feeling of wellbeing, with the individual possessing physical and mental competence. As we age, the body’s functioning deteriorates.

Spinal flexibility

Yoga, more than any other therapy in the world, helps those who practise it to “age gracefully”.

The first thing to understand is the importance of spinal flexibility. Yogic wisdom shows us that the flexibility of the spine is directly linked to the ageing process.

As one’s spine gets more rigid, the muscles of the neck also stiffen and the blood supply to the face, scalp and brain is restricted.

This speeds up the wrinkling and hair-greying process. Yoga helps loosen the muscles of the back, spine and neck so that the face and head receive regular nourishment through blood supply.

Apart from the spine, yoga helps in firming up the skin, enhancing our immune system and improving our posture and tone of the muscles. It also helps maintain regular blood pressure levels.

Those who wish to invest in their health from a young age and want to retard the ageing process must give special importance to their lifestyle.

Inverted poses beneficial

You must practise some yogic stretches for the body. Yogic inverted poses are especially beneficial as they redirect blood supply to the head and face.

Apart from slowing down greying of hair and wrinkling, these postures help enhance and maintain mental faculties such as memory and concentration.

To stay young we also need to get adequate sleep. Sleep is the time when the body’s cells rejuvenate, allowing you to cope with daily life.

Nutrition also plays a big role. Important foods that help in ageing well are apples (rich in antioxidants), berries (vitamin C), garlic (detoxfies the liver) and broccoli.

Finally, the best deterrent to ageing is to practise pranayama (breathing exercises) and meditation. It has positive effects on the physiology as well as the mental make-up.

Meditating will help you deal with ageing and understand that change is the law of nature and you cannot hold on to your youth.



Vipareet karni mudra

* Lie flat on your back.
* Raise your legs to form a 90° angle with the torso, and support your hip with your hands as you raise it off the ground.
* Maintain this posture and close your eyes.
* Hold for as long as is comfortable (not exceeding 30 seconds to one minute).
* Slowly, bring the back down to touch the floor. Lie flat on the back for about 1 minute.



Halasana

* Lie flat on your back.
* Raise your legs to form a 90° angle with the torso, and support your hip with your hands.
* Now, begin to bend your legs further and try to touch the toes to the floor.
* Maintain this posture for as long as is comfortable and close your eyes.
* Slowly, return to the first step. Lie on your back for about one minute.



Maha bandha

* Sit comfortably in a cross-legged position on the floor, or on a chair. (If you sit on a chair, keep your legs apart).
* Place palms on your knees.l Inhale deeply. Exhale completely.
* First, contract the anal region of the body (this is called mool bandha.).
* Second, contract and pull the stomach inwards (uddiyaan bandha.).
* Third, drop and press the chin to the jugular notch on the chin (jalandhar bandha.).
* Hold for 5-10 seconds.
* Then, slowly release the chin, the stomach and finally the anal locks.
* Breathe in and slowly exhale.
* Repeat this practise. Maha bandha can only be done thrice, as further practise will cause an imbalance in the hormonal level.

Caution: People suffering from high BP should avoid holding their breath in the practise. They may hold their breath in the final step for no more than 3 seconds.



Shavasana

* Lie on your back.
* Keep your legs slightly apart and your hands beside the hips with the palms facing the ceiling.
* Begin to practise deep abdominal breathing.
* Count your breaths from 11 down, till 1.

This is a highly relaxing exercise and can be done everyday before going to sleep.

— Bharat Thakur is the founder of Bharat Thakur’s Artistic Yoga. For questions on yoga, write to dubai.artisticyoga@gmail.com. For more information, log on to www.bharatthakur.com

Monday, 19 May 2008

Expat Cleaned Out

In recognition of Excellence

The fourth Shaikh Fatima bint Mubarak Awards for Excellence 2008 were presented at GEMS Wellington International School, Dubai, under the patronage of Shaikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, UAE Minister for Higher Education and Scientific Research. Pictures from the event - Khaleej Times



Boy's bus death results in Abu Dhabi text alert technology


Boy's bus death results in Abu Dhabi text alert technology
By Binsal Abdul Kader, Staff Reporter GULF NEWS Last updated: May 19, 2008, 13:29

Abu Dhabi: The case of a young boy found dead on a school bus hours after he should have arrived at school has prompted two software companies to develop systems to put parents' minds at rest.

One tracks the location of a bus and the other sends text alerts if their child has not arrived at school.

The companies told Gulf News the death of four-year-old Aatish Shabin last month in Abu Dhabi prompted them to develop security systems, the boy had been accidentally locked inside the bus.

The 'iMessenger,' software developed by an Abu Dhabi-based company will enable schools to send automatic SMS messages if a child does not show up at school.

The system can send pre-set texts to notify parents of an absence or even to send school notifications, said P. H. Abdul Aziz, manager of Invent Systems & Solutions in Abu Dhabi.

It works by using a simple database, and all school staff need to do is enter the parents' details into the system. Then if a pupil is marked absent when the register is taken, the software will find the mobile numbers and send an SMS automatically, he added.

Schools can create any number of message templates said Abdul Aziz. He said the system costs about Dh6,000.

The "school bus locator," a system developed by a Dubai-based company offers to track the location of a school bus, its speed and how it is being driven.

The school administration will have a network connection that will allow parents to log in to the locator's web-based software via the school's website, said Basel Al Salah, CEO of Sekurus International.

The parents can just insert the number of the school bus to get all the details, he said.

"In real-time parents will be able to see the location of the vehicle," he said. "Alternatively, parents can automatically receive an SMS message based on the anticipated arrival of the bus at a pre-determined destination such as home."

"There are many schools in the UAE which have shown an interest in getting our system for their school buses," he added. He did not quote the price of his product.

Schools told Gulf News they would consider installing such a system. "I will propose to the management that they install such a system," said the principal of a prominent Abu Dhabi kindergarten.

Parents are also excited about the new security system. "An SMS alert is better than making calls as parents may be busy at work", said Mohammad Mustafa Saidalavi, whose daughter is a kindergarten pupil.

Sending an SMS to both the father and mother will give them a secure feeling, he added.

Ministry: Inquiry completed

The Ministry of Education has completed its investigations into the death of a child who was locked inside a school bus for three hours.

The legal department of the ministry completed the investigations after receiving a report from Abu Dhabi Educational Zone (ADEZ), a senior official at the ministry told Gulf News.

"We have sent our conclusions to ADEZ which can take further action," said the official at the legal department who requested anonymity.

He declined to disclose the conclusion of the investigation.

Emirati entrepreneurs introduce water-saving car wash


Emirati entrepreneurs introduce water-saving car wash By Emmanuelle Landais, Staff Reporter GULF NEWS Published: May 19, 2008, 00:17

Dubai: It might sound unbelievable, but it is indeed possible to wash your car with just five litres of water.

This new water-saving technology, a mobile, low-pressure cleaning unit, will be at motorists' fingertips within the next few months and was officially unveiled on Sunday at the Franchise Middle East Exhibition in Dubai.

Q2 General Cleaning Services, a new business initiative launched by budding Emirati businessmen promises to leave any vehicle clean and shiny by just spraying a fine mist of water over the bodywork, cleaning and polishing it.

It will not be able to remove any caked on mud or filth but fine dust and dirt will be tackled easily, said Gustavo Ayus, president of Geo Wash, business partner of Q2 and initiator of the device.

"We started using this in Argentina 6 years ago and already it's present in over 30 countries across Europe and the Americas," said Ayus.

The system, a small manoeuvrable buggy, is made up of a 60 litre capacity water tank, hose, brushes, a vacuum cleaner and storage for biodegradable detergents.

Around 35 mobile car wash carts will be available across the country. Hotels and malls are being more heavily targeted to provide this service, said Abdullah Al Shahi, general manager of Q2.

"People are worried about time and sometimes cannot get to the carwash. This will save people a lot of time. Especially local ladies who do not go to the car wash, but they go to malls - the service will be there for them," he said.

"There is a big market here for this service because there are so many cars. New, big cars. We also want to save water. People in the UAE should be aware that they need to be saving water."

Q2 will offer several packages not yet defined but starting from around Dh20. Car interiors and exteriors can be cleaned. "We hope to have 100 mobile car washes eventually," said Al Shehi.

The cleaning process will take around 20 minutes and uses only ecological products without chemicals. Once the wash is over the ground is not flooded with excess water, as there is none.

The average amount of water used per car is 5 to 6 litres. "Some people like to have their car washed everyday. There is a lot of dust and sand here," said Hamad Al Hammadi, deputy general manager of Q2 who himself washes his car 3 times a week.

How the q2 works

- Motorists will find mobile car wash carts in 35 locations initially ranging from hotels, malls, golf courses or supermarkets.

- A fine mist of water is sprayed over the car manually by an attendant.

- The car is cleaned with chemical-free detergents.

- An average of 5 litres of water is used to wash and rinse the car.

- The vacuum cleaner is plugged into the cart so the car can be switched off.

- It only takes 20 minutes to have clean vehicle.

Monday, 12 May 2008

Adnoc finds elixir for its oil fields

Adnoc finds elixir for its oil fields
Tamsin Carlisle, THE NATIONAL

Last Updated: May 08. 2008 10:11PM UAE / May 8. 2008 6:11PM GMT

Abu Dhabi’s quest to become a global hub for energy technology took a step forward yesterday when Linde Group, the German technology company, announced an US$800 million (Dh2.9 billion) joint venture with Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (Adnoc) to extract nitrogen from air and pump it into ageing oil fields.

The initial project of the companies’ “Elixier” joint venture would be among the largest in the world to use nitrogen on an industrial scale to boost oil production.

It calls for the construction of a US$65 million air-separation plant at the Ruwais industrial complex on Abu Dhabi’s coast, which would produce nearly 600,000 cubic feet of nitrogen gas a day for injection into oil fields from late 2009. The plant would also supply liquefied nitrogen and oxygen to industrial customers at Ruwais.

Nitrogen, an inert gas, is the major constituent of air, comprising nearly 80 per cent of the earth’s atmosphere. It is also one of several gases that oil producers around the world are increasingly employing to coax more crude from big deposits with falling production.

Nitrogen’s big advantage for enhanced oil recovery (EOR) projects is its ready availability: air is everywhere. That means the gas can be produced close to big oil fields, avoiding high transportation costs.

The drawback is the cost of the technology used to separate air into its constituent parts, a complex engineering process that involves passing gases through “molecular sieves” as they are cooled, reheated and compressed.

But Adnoc hopes to recoup that cost by pumping more of the natural gas found in oil reservoirs. Without the injection of another gas, such as nitrogen, the natural gas would have to be left underground to maintain the pressure required to push oil into produ­cing wells.

The commercial use of nitrogen for EOR is not new, and in the US dates back to the 1980s.

Still, the economics of such projects were often shaky. Now, soaring oil prices accompanied by rising natural gas prices on international markets are making the technology more economically viable, and much more in demand.

For Linde, the Abu Dhabi project could open the possibility of supplying other customers in the Middle East, said Stefan Metz, a company spokesman.

Indeed, Linde is already building eight air-separation plants at Ras Laffen in Qatar to supply oxygen to the Pearl project, a joint venture between Qatar Petroleum and the Anglo-Dutch energy company Royal Dutch Shell to make petroleum fuel products from natural gas.

In that project, scheduled for completion in 2010, nitrogen from the air-separation process is considered a by-product.

That is not the case with the world’s biggest air-separation plant, located in Mexico. At the end of the last millennium, output from Mexico’s Cantarell oilfield complex, site of one of the planet’s biggest crude deposits, had begun to falter.

In 2000, the country’s national oil company, Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex), built an air-separation plant to pump out 1.2 billion cubic feet a day of high-pressure nitrogen for injection into the big offshore fields.

Oil production from Cantarell shot up 75 per cent over the next four years, peaking at 2.1 million barrels a day in 2004, when it accounted for nearly half of Pemex’s total output.

Although Cantarell crude production is again declining, billions of barrels of oil were pumped from the fields that otherwise would have stayed trapped below the seabed. Mexico, which had been slow to develop its large gas reserves as it expanded its industrial base, also reaped substantial economic benefits from producing Cantarell’s gas. The parallels between the UAE’s current circumstances and Mexico’s a few years back are striking: both countries are among the biggest oil producers in their respective hemispheres and, indeed, in the world.

The UAE today, like Mexico earlier this decade, is in the midst of an unforeseen industrial and population boom that has increased domestic gas demand faster than supply.

Other GCC countries have similar problems. Mr Metz said Linde was in negotiations to supply nitrogen to several potential new customers in the region, either from the Abu Dhabi plant or from additional air-separation plants that the firm hopes to build.

The German company’s clients already include Borouge, an Adnoc petrochemicals venture with the Austrian chemicals producer Borealis. In 2006, Linde was awarded a contract to build a large ethylene plant at Ruwais. Borouge may soon begin using oxygen supplied by Elixier.

tcarlisle@thenational.ae

Plastic fantastic

Plastic fantastic

Last Updated: May 10. 2008 9:48PM UAE / May 10. 2008 5:48PM GMT

The process by which Abu Dhabi’s natural gas is transformed into a Chinese car bumper more than 6,000km away is an unknown method to most people.

But governments in the Gulf are betting that by the end of the next decade, many consumers around the world will drive cars made, in part, from plastics manufactured in the region. The UAE and Saudi Arabia, in particular, are hoping that massive investments in chemical infrastructure and technology will diversify the revenue base for their oil-dependent treasuries.

Abu Dhabi’s plans to produce plastics for the Chinese car market illustrates how complex that wager will be.

First, natural gas must be harvested from wells in the Western Region and piped to Ruwais, where ethane is separated from the mix of compounds that occurs in natural gas.

The ethane gas is “cracked” with blasts of steam at high temperatures for short periods, producing ethylene. That is converted to propylene, then a catalyst is introduced to create polypropylene.

The little pellets of tough plastic that emerge will eventually be shipped to a planned compounding plant in Shanghai, where reinforcements, other modifiers and colouring will be added. Next, they are trucked to a factory, where they will be moulded into the bumpers and interior panelling of a Chinese-made car.

Car bumpers are but one piece of a strategy to develop a sophisticated, multi-step chemicals industry.

Last month, Borouge, the Abu Dhabi-based plastics maker, announced it would consider building a third plant at Ruwais that would more than double the company’s annual output of plastics. With its new plant in Shanghai and hefty stakes in two European chemical companies, Borouge wants to go global and grab a piece of the huge profits that come with selling more sophisticated products that require a highly skilled workforce.

The company’s expansion is one small piece of a global shift in the petrochemical industry from established bases in North America and Europe to the Middle East and Asia, where they gain a cost advantage in hydrocarbon feedstock at a time of rising energy prices.

Jean-François Seznec, a professor at Georgetown University in Washington DC and an expert on Gulf chemicals, said governments had realised they could employ more people and make more money by selling sophisticated products derived from crude oil and natural gas. So-called “downstream” operations enable producers to sell each part of their precious resource at a premium.

“Everybody in the region realises – at least the leadership in the region realises – they cannot just keep producing oil or just gas in Qatar,” Dr Seznec said. “Sooner or later, it’s going to run out.”

Abdulaziz Alhajri, the chief executive of Borouge, said regional petrochemicals producers were bringing advanced stages of plastics and chemicals production to the Gulf that were traditionally undertaken overseas.

“Today, the compounding and the downstream and some of the ingredients that we use in our industry are imported from outside,” he said.

But he noted that the model was steadily changing. “I see the future as very bright for the UAE, the overall Middle East,” he said.

In addition to the Borouge expansion, the International Petroleum Investment Company (Ipic), a Government investment fund, and Borealis, one of Borouge’s parent companies, announced plans earlier this year to build the largest integrated chemicals and plastics complex in the world at Taweelah, near the border between Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

The plant will use naphtha, a derivative of crude oil, as a feedstock and produce plastics, petrol and basic chemicals.

The UAE is not the only one working on such a plan. In Saudi Arabia, the government plans to make the kingdom the largest producer of chemicals in the world in less than five years.

But building a sophisticated chemicals industry takes more than new plants, as companies have to either acquire or develop the catalysts and specialised equipment that allow them to compete in a market that is well established in the West.

Saudi Arabia’s drive to reach the top is being put into action by the twin behemoths Saudi Aramco and Saudi Arabia Basic Industries, or Sabic, which began laying the groundwork for its rise in the 1990s. Aramco has focused its downstream operations on refining and petrochemicals based on crude oil, while Sabic has steadily moved towards higher-end chemical products derived mainly from natural gas.

Sabic’s petrochemicals growth has been driven and sustained by access to cheap ethane feedstock, according to John Vautrain, a senior vice president at the petrochemical research firm Purvin and Gertz. He noted that Sabic pays US$0.75 for a million BTUs of ethane, 15 times cheaper than some competitors. The historic average price for ethane in the United States has hovered just above US$4.50 per million BTUs.

“They have a powerful platform for growth. Cheap ethane gives them an enormous cash flow,” he said. “They have such an enormous advantage, no one else can touch them.”

Sabic’s ambitions are well known. In 2006, the chief executive, Mohamed al Mady, announced that Sabic wanted to “be the preferred world leader in chemicals” by 2020.

Mr Seznec said the company had steadily moved into more and more sophisticated chemicals in the past 10 years, with a two-pronged strategy of signing joint ventures with Western companies and also buying up the companies themselves, along with the patented technology and skilled workers.

The strategy required a large cash reserve and a disciplined company leadership that had been able to set its sights on the long-term horizon, Mr Seznec said.

“This is really due to the vision of people. Money by itself is important, but it is not a sufficient variable to really create this growth,” he said. “I mean, Iran has the money, but they don’t do anything with it.”

The company’s headline-grabbing move came last summer, when it bought GE Plastics, a US-based company, to give itself more exposure to advanced chemicals technology.

Abu Dhabi has made its own moves to acquire sophisticated technology. The Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (Adnoc) created Borouge from a joint venture with the European chemical company Borealis. Ipic then bought a 65 per cent stake in Borealis itself and a 19.6 per cent share in OMV, the largest refiner and petrochemicals company in Austria.

Even with these investments, however, Mr Seznec noted that Saudi Arabia’s technology remained far ahead of the curve.

“I think the Saudi products will be a lot more downstream because, as they go into fine chemicals, they’ll be way beyond the more basic chemicals that are going to be produced by Kuwait, Abu Dhabi and Qatar,” he said.

Mr Vautrain, the Purvin and Gertz analyst, noted the industry was entering a down cycle in terms of profit margins due to a glut of petrochemical products coming on to market, and the low-cost producers in the Middle East would increase their advantage.

“Overseas assets may become cheaper,” he said. “This is the time to do deals.”

Mr Seznec said the drive to develop a chemicals industry was not merely fuelled by a need to diversify the region’s economies, nor simply about making more money. It is also an effective strategy for conserving the region’s vast hydrocarbon reserves.

“At the end of the day, instead of having Saudi Arabia sell US$200 billion [Dh734.6bn] of oil, for instance, they will be selling maybe US$100 billion of oil, but then they’ll start selling US$100 billion worth of petrochemicals,” he said. “In the process, they will need to produce only one-fifth as much oil because there’s so much value into this business.”

Unfortunately, other GCC states face more challenges in entering the chemicals market. Bahrain, for instance, already has diversified industries, with several large refineries and the largest aluminium smelter in the world, but now has perhaps only eight years of natural gas left.

Dr Seznec said Kuwait half-heartedly moved downstream in a venture with Dow Chemical. But he said it lacked large natural gas reserves and had not moved towards using crude oil as a feedstock. It is now experiencing political infighting that could upend any attempts at large-scale economic reform. And despite recent announcements, Qatar was more concerned with managing lucrative LNG exports than committing to a large-scale petrochemicals expansion, he said.

But in Saudi Arabia and the UAE, Mr Seznec has been following events closely and is hopeful, almost gleeful, about the future.

“What they’re trying to do is go into value-added productions, knowledge-based industries, basically, and that’s going to make them able, first of all to use a lot less of their resources to make a lot more money,” he said. “And in the process create employment for the locals, and in the long term make these countries major industrial producers in the world by 2020.”

@Email:cstanton@thenational.ae

Shell out of Iran gas deal

Shell out of Iran gas deal
Tom Bergin, THE NATIONAL

Last Updated: May 10. 2008 8:50PM UAE / May 10. 2008 4:50PM GMT

Royal Dutch Shell has pulled out of a planned US$10 billion (Dh36.7bn) gas project in Iran, after coming under pressure not to participate from US lawmakers who were concerned about the country’s nuclear programme.

A spokesman said yesterday that the world’s second-largest oil company by market capitalisation was pulling out of Phase 13 of the giant South Pars gas field, but may yet join later stages of the field’s development.

Shell, Spain’s Repsol and the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) signed a memorandum of understanding in January 2002 to develop Phase 13 in a project known as Persian LNG.

At the time, Shell said deliveries of liquefied natural gas – gas cooled to liquid under pressure for transportation in special tankers – could begin in 2007.

However, United Nations sanctions on Iran related to its nuclear programme, which it claims is for power generation, but which the US and European states believe is aimed at developing weapons, and criticisms of the deal from US politicians and investors, slowed progress.

Meanwhile, Iran grew impatient and threatened Shell with eviction from the project if it did not commit formally. The spokesman for the Anglo-Dutch company said: “We have agreed the principal of substitution of alternative later phases for the PLNG project so that NIOC can proceed with the immediate development of Phase 13.”

She would not give a reason for the decision. Repsol was not available for comment.

Iran will now need to find new partners for the project. Media reports have suggested Russia’s Gazprom, Indian Oil Corporation and Chinese companies could join, as they were expected to be less susceptible to US political pressure, but the companies have limited experience of LNG.

Shell and Repsol began negotiating with the Iranian government to pull out of the natural gas project at the beginning of this month. The companies wanted Iran to agree to drop their current development plans for block 14 of the South Pars field, but to allow them to bid for other parts of the field in the future if the international political climate improved.

On May 3, a Repsol spokesman declined to comment on the report. Shell and Repsol had planned to export South Pars gas via ship in liquefied form as part of the Persian LNG project. Now, it is more likely the gas will supply the Iranian market or be exported by pipeline.

The US discourages Western companies from investing in Iran, which it accuses of trying to develop nuclear weapons. Iran denies the accusation.

* Reuters

Test run of the Dubai Metro begins




Test run of the Dubai Metro begins
Staff Report Published: May 12, 2008, 10:18

Dubai: Officials from the Dubai Road and Transport Authority (RTA) have tested a five-car Metro train on a stretch of completed track near Jebel Ali on Monday.

Witnesses said the train, which can reach speeds of up to 40km per hour, passed through an uncompleted station a number of times.

The first line of Dubai’s Dh15.5 billion Metro system is expected to be complete by September next year. The second will be ready by March 2010.

The RTA said more Metro trains will be seen travelling up and down the test stretch in the coming months as testing continues.

Temperatures soar in the UAE

Temperatures soar in the UAE
By Mahmood Saberi, Senior Reporter Published: May 12, 2008, 13:51

Dubai: It was extremely hot and dry throughout the emirates on Monday, with the mercury going past 44 degrees Celsius in Abu Dhabi and 45 degrees Celsius in Jebel Ali and Minhad Air Base in the desert.

“Summer is here officially,” said the duty forecaster at National Centre for Metereology and Seismology in Abu Dhabi.

In Dubai and Sharjah the temperature was hovering around 44 degrees Celsius and dropped slightly as a north-westerly wind developed.

“The temperature has reached a high this month.” said the duty forecaster in Sharjah. The wind blew up dust reducing visibility to 3000 meters, but not dusty enough to affect flights.

When cool sea breezes mix with the high surface temperatures usually it throws up dust, according to the forecaster.

The sea breeze blowing inland will drop temperatures to 38 degrees Celsius over the weekend making it pleasant in the evenings, said Dr S.K. Gupta, duty forecaster at the Dubai Met Office. The Comfort Index is at 2 as humidity is low between 24 to 30 percent.

It was cloudy over Qatar on Monday with a few spots of rain but the cloud cover was unlikely to head for the UAE.

I'll Do it When I Get Around To It

Sunday, 11 May 2008

Race is on

Top tips for the morning after


Top tips for the morning after

If in spite of your best intentions you end up drinking more than you should, there are a few things you can do to ease the morning after.

* Drink as much water as you can before going to sleep, and put some beside the bed too.
* A painkiller - soluble is best - helps with the headache
* Take an antacid to settle your stomach
* Alcohol is a depressant, so tea or coffee can perk you up (but it can dehydrate you, so keep up the water as well)
* Drinking lowers your blood sugar level, so eat as soon as you can. Bananas, cereal, or egg on toast are all good morning-after snacks
* Never ever do hair of the dog - you'll just prolong the agony
* Have 48 hours off the booze if it was a heavy session
And next time, follow our top tips for a great night out and you won't suffer again

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

YouTube launches India-specific site to tap local flavours

YouTube launches India-specific site to tap local flavours

Internet search firm Google Inc launched an India-specific version of its free video hosting site YouTube on Wednesday, aiming to be a traffic generator for everyone from media companies seeking new markets to small-time music bands seeking global glory.

Like its other offerings, the localised site (http://www.youtube.co.in) will differentiate content using its search technologies to throw up content relevant to India, which is the 20th in the series of country-specific YouTube sites that Google has launched. The global YouTube site already has 5 million Indian users.

It is not clear yet how YouTube will make money from its site which has established itself as the leading global hub for amateur videos.

For the moment it is experimenting with revenue-sharing with established media companies like Rajshri Films and UTV on a trial basis, while also carrying out in-house experiments on unobtrusive overlay advertisements on the videos. Revenue sharing is not available now for amateurs.

The challenge for Google is to evolve a mechanism to perfect revenue-sharing and payments, like it has done for its search-based ads and content for its Blogger.com site.

“Once we get to a point where we are comfortable, we’ll get there in a heartbeat,” Sakina Arsiwala, YouTube’s Mumbai-bred International Manager, told Hindustan Times in an interview.

YouTube, which is a company acquired by Google, is building volumes, while Google’s own video site (http://video.google.com) is focused on video search, Arsiwala said.

To help protect the copyrights of established media players and at the same time track users in a manner that could generate advertisement-friendly data, Google has developed audio and video “fingerprinting” technologies that can catch intellectual property thieves.

YouTube is for video streaming, not downloads, and has not evolved digital rights management (DRM) technologies that could help content generators make money by selling their videos through YouTube.

World learns from Abu Dhabi

World learns from Abu Dhabi
James Bennett

Abu Dhabi has been identified as the ultimate “power city” of the next millennium in a survey of 130 global cities drawn up by one of the world’s largest property advisory firms.

In its fourth biennial World Winning Cities study, Jones Lang LaSalle unveiled Abu Dhabi as the “power city” that would become one of the world’s fastest growing “urban stars” and be on the “radar screen of the real estate industry” for the next decade.

The company also predicted that Abu Dhabi would be a “city of substance” by 2010, a “regional hub” by 2015 and a “world winning city” by 2020, a decade ahead of its proposed Plan 2030.

“In our first study in 2002, we highlighted Dubai, Dublin and Las Vegas as being among a new wave of city winners. However, this year’s winner is Abu Dhabi, [which] in the past used to learn from other cities, but now other cities are learning from Abu Dhabi and its approach and impressive vision for the future,” said Blair Hagkull, the managing director for the Middle East and North Africa at Jones Lang LaSalle.

“It now has a lot to teach the world and in a decade, it has gone from being a student to being a teacher,” Mr Hagkull said.

The company chose Abu Dhabi after extensive research assessing more than 130 countries and cities. It assessed 10 principles of city competitiveness: performance, population, planning, power, place making (events, culture, meeting places), purity (sustainability, quality of life, environment), people, physical and property.

The report stated that Abu Dhabi offered one of the most favourable combinations of ingredients to become an emerging world-winning city, as well as having a chance to learn from the successes and challenges of Dubai.

“The predominant factor is its ambition to become a truly sustainable world-class city based on massive infrastructure investment, large real estate development, world-leading cultural facilities and major events, underpinned by significant population and employment growth,” said Mr Hagkull.

The report said the city was fully embracing urban master-planning with the launch of Plan Abu Dhabi 2030. This, it said, was unique to the region and created a “structured and clearly articulated framework for the city’s long-term growth”.

It added that the city epitomised a fresh spirit of city building, which is almost “unmatched anywhere else in the world”.

“We believe that Abu Dhabi is a city to watch over the next decade with an importance and influence that is expected to extend well beyond its immediate geography,” Mr Hagkull said.

“It is not often you get a city of fewer than one million people that has so much global influence. How many countries with such a small population have as much power as Abu Dhabi? Virtually none. It is one of the most influential cities in the world in the fact that it is a city that is not only building itself, but also helping to build others around the world.

“Historically, it learnt lessons from other places around the world, but now people are coming to Abu Dhabi, international firms like ours, to learn from what it is doing. Its influence is now being applied to other cities around the world. It is not only the capital city that is growing, but it is emerging as a global investor.”

The report said Abu Dhabi was chosen as this year’s winning city despite Dubai’s growth and proximity.

“Abu Dhabi’s city planners have clearly watched Dubai’s less controlled growth and, arguably, an erosion of its local heritage to formulate their own expansion agenda,” the report said. “One that puts culture and community ahead of pure commercialisation.”

Mr Hagkull said: “Abu Dhabi is complementing Dubai. It is not often you get two very different cities 150km apart growing at such a rate. Both have different focuses. Abu Dhabi is in a unique position that it can learn from what Dubai has done well and the mistakes it has made and build on them.”

The research also identified the challenges ahead for the city and emirate.

The main challenges, said Mr Hagkull, would be for the city planners to carefully manage its ambitious expansion plans and, from a property perspective, to ensure the market was transparent.

The city would also have to cultivate indigenous growth and ensure sufficient differentiation in its offer from neighbouring Dubai, he said.

“Not only does a transparent market attract global property investors, but crucially it is a key constituent of an open and globally connected city,” the report said, adding that it was imperative the city attracted top quality multinational corporations to “feed” it with intellectual capital.

“The challenges for Abu Dhabi are that it is a very young and very fast growing city. There is a lot of pressure being put on some very young institutions and some that are only just being formed,” said Mr Hagkull.

“Infrastructure could hamper its progress. The challenge for any city is infrastructure.

“There are many things under one vision, but the key will be for that to be effectively distributed to the right people. It will need organisations like the Urban Planning Council to take the pressure off the leadership.

“Usually, the biggest risk is that ambition and capital don’t meet. Abu Dhabi has laid out a very clear and defined vision and the risk is not being able to achieve that. Abu Dhabi has the chance to be the epitome of a 21st century city, but you won’t have to wait until 2030 to see the city being completed. The majority of its ambitions will be achieved well before that date.”

jbennett@thenational.ae

Plans for tax on goods ready by end of 2008

Plans for tax on goods ready by end of 2008
Robert Ditcham, THE NATIONAL

Last Updated: May 07. 2008 1:56AM UAE / May 6. 2008 9:56PM GMT
The introduction of VAT is likely to be unpopular with Emiratis, residents and businesses, who have enjoyed years of tax-free conditions. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National
The UAE will be ready to introduce a system of value added tax (VAT) by the end of the year.

Abdul Rahman al Saleh, the executive director of Dubai Customs, said the “infrastructure” for an Emirates-wide taxation system would be put in place between October and December.

Dubai Customs was commissioned by the Government two years ago to look into a potential VAT and is finalising the strategy. If implemented, it would be the first time VAT, which is applied to the sale of goods and services and not income, has been imposed in a GCC nation.

However, a government source said although the mechanics would be in place, it was “very unlikely” that VAT would be introduced this year because Federal approval and GCC co-operation, on several related issues, would be required.

VAT would be introduced to replace customs duties, which the UAE must phase out as part of the free trade agreements (FTAs) it is signing with a number of major trading partners, Mr Saleh said.

The government source, who declined to be identified, said a GCC-wide agreement on these FTAs is still some way off.

Mr Saleh told a seminar at the Arabian Travel Market in Dubai that VAT was likely to be set at a flat rate of between three and five per cent. It would be applied to all goods and services.

The introduction of VAT is likely to be unpopular with Emiratis, residents and businesses, who have enjoyed years of tax-free conditions.

If the UAE were to introduce it before other members of the GCC, analysts warned the tax could drive business away from the UAE.

Although the proposed three to five per cent rate is lower than in many other countries – the rate in the UK, for instance, is 17.5 per cent – residents are likely to oppose any measure that could increase already rising food and accommodation costs.

But Mr Saleh said prices were unlikely to climb because of the removal of customs duties.

“I don’t expect a negative reaction from the public because the providers of the services and the goods will take care of this [VAT expense],” he said.

“They would not be paying customs duty so they should not need to increase their prices.” Mr Saleh said if Federal authorities decided to press ahead with VAT, there would be a provision for tourists to claim back the tax they paid on purchases over a set amount. Small businesses with revenue of less than a specific annual figure – expected to be about Dh3.67 million (US$1m) – would also be exempt, he added.

Customs officials have said the VAT would be necessary to replace the “lost revenue” from the removal of customs duties. The funds would be required for investment in health, education and public infrastructure, they said.

The International Monetary Fund is backing the initiative.

Mr Saleh said Dubai Customs had been working for the past two years to develop a VAT system that could be applied across the Emirates.

He said research was conducted in countries such as the UK and New Zealand, many of which use different forms of the taxation system. While some countries apply a low flat rate to all goods and services, others tax certain goods heavily but exempt others.

“We will put in a low rate and have direct aids to the right people, rather than having exemptions. Products and services in certain areas, such as education and health, can be looked at by the Government.”

rditcham@thenational.ae

New Theory of Evolution

Express train arrived after a long wait

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Points to Think

Kings XI Punjab swings Royal Challengers

Cool ideas to beat the heat

Cool ideas to beat the heat
Bradley Hope for THE NATIONAL

In recent history, property developers have had a pretty basic strategy for dealing with summer heat which can reach 50°C with 97 per cent humidity – air conditioning.

Buildings have blasted out an arctic-style chill to such a degree that some people need a sweater. But as the city evolves into a year-round destination for tourists and business travellers, and a permanent home for an increasing population, developers have been busy working on a slew of new technologies and techniques to mitigate the climate.

Not only have they been trying to create more energy-efficient indoor cooling systems, but they are also working to reduce the outside temperature as well. It is a far cry from the days when Emiratis just evacuated the city by camel to Al Ain in the summer.

The strategies range from the elementary – canopies, building layout, cool-water misters — to the complex, like mechanical roofs that respond to the temperature, or seawater circulating under pavements.

The latest project to go head-to-head with the heat has been planned for a 1.4 million square metre plot of parched desert near Zayed Sport City Stadium. The developer is Capitala, a partnership involving one of the Government’s local investment arms, Mubadala, and a Singapore developer, CapitaLand. Details of the project are expected to be announced next week during the three-day Cityscape Abu Dhabi conference at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre, but the head of Mubadala’s property division, John Thomas, has released a few tantalising early details.

Mr Thomas said the project near the Zayed Sport City Stadium was partially inspired by Clarke Quay in Singapore: once a humid, nearly uninhabitable industrial quarter on the water. CapitaLand transformed Clarke Quay into a trendy shopping and nightlife district while the British firm, Alsop Architects, designed a system of canopies and umbrellas to shade the streets, placing misters and giant fans at different locations to create a cool, artificial breeze.

“It was an eye-opener,” said Mr Thomas. “It’s four or five degrees cooler. They know how to work with a climate similar to ours.”

What is more, if Capitala can make those technologies work in Abu Dhabi, it bodes well for what could become an entire industry devoted to weather mitigation. Developers and architects here could market their designs around the world, and even in nearby GCC countries, which are also undergoing a building boom thanks to an influx of money from high oil prices.

Some of the most dramatic solutions have been devised by the Abu Dhabi development company, Sorouh, and Arup, a UK-based design and architecture firm, on Shams Abu Dhabi. At the centrepiece of the island, which is an 84,500-square-metre green space with amphitheatres and activity areas called Central Park, the developer has planned to circulate seawater underground to cool the pavements and benches and hide misters in nooks and crannies on the exterior of buildings. Everything in the project will be crafted to take advantage of breezes and natural shading. Arup estimates that it can lower the temperature by at least 6°C.

Another firm at the forefront of this innovation is Foster & Partners, which has been designing the new Central Market, a residential development at Al Raha Beach, as well as Masdar, the zero-emissions project.

Gerard Evenden, a senior partner at the company, said that climate control starts with simple things like materials used in construction and the orientation of the building.

“It’s extremely important to consider the relationship of the building to the sun and the wind, and for Abu Dhabi, you have to think about the water supply and the dust,” Mr Evenden said.

For instance, in contrast to the wide avenues and tall buildings in Abu Dhabi, narrower spaces between buildings are shaded for longer periods of the day, which can prevent heat from generating in the walls.

“It’s called solar build-up,” Mr Evenden said, adding that heavy concrete walls should be in the shade because they absorb heat. But if kept cooler “the wall itself will radiate cooling”, he said. The effect can be felt in cathedrals, which are cold in the winter, cool during a summer’s day and warm at night.

At Central Market, Foster & Partners had designed a mechanical roof that can respond to weather and the time of day. In the summer, it can close to retain the air-conditioning, but in cooler months be opened to pull in a breeze.

“It’s about giving people choices in the way space changes throughout the year,” Mr Evenden said.

Building design itself can create a more energy efficient type of cooling. At Auto Mall, a development of three buildings in Dubai’s Business Park MotorCity, Union Properties has been using state-of-the-art architecture to reduce heat.

Adib Moubadder, the company’s director of facilities, said hot air was less likely to penetrate the Auto Mall because its design “reduces the cooling load by creating positive pressure on the whole building”.

Still, developers need to be wary of too many technological solutions, which can reduce the energy efficiency of a building, said Alan Paterson, Aldar’s head of planning. Air conditioning is inherently a wasteful way to cool a space, but cool water misters are not particularly efficient either, especially in a desert environment where water is scarce.

“Supplying the water to allow the misters and under-pavement supply may produce cooling locally but may be unsustainable generally,” he said.

Mr Paterson added that a major driver of smart cooling techniques was the increasing trend among developers, including Aldar, to use environmental standards like Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) when making their plans.

“Although LEED covers all issues related to sustainability, this necessarily includes natural cooling and the reduction of energy requirements across the board,” Mr Paterson said. “All options are considered for each of our projects, but this has to be balanced against realistic and cost-effective proposals.”

bhope@thenational.ae

UAE may buy Pakistan farms

UAE may buy Pakistan farms
Sarmad Khan and Vivian Salama

ABU DHABI // Inflation and the spectre of long-term food shortages have prompted the Government to consider a new strategic investment – the purchase of large-scale farms in Pakistan and other countries.

The aim is to protect the country from the turmoil of soaring wheat and rice prices and export bans by producing countries that could lead to food shortages.

The Government is holding exploratory talks with Pakistan on the proposal, according to a senior Pakistan government official and the Emirates Society of Consumer Protection, a division of the Economy Ministry.

The Government was looking to acquire large land holdings and import food at 20 to 25 per cent less cost, a senior Pakistani government official said.

There are six parties in the chain between the farmer and the time the product reaches retailers including the farmer, broker, exporter, importer here, wholesaler and retailer.

According to a Pakistani official each party retains a 5 per cent margin on each transaction, and by eliminating several steps the government can bring the cost of food down by 20 to 25 cent, according to a senior Pakistani government ­official.

“The talks have been going on between Pakistan’s government and the UAE’s Ministry of Economy for some four months, however no concrete decision is made yet,” he said. The ministry was seeking support and guarantees from Pakistani counterparts before getting into large-scale corporate farming, he added.

Rising inflation is one of the driving forces behind the Economy Ministry’s decision to consider alternative food sources that would secure supplies for the country while cutting costs.

“We believe that, if we get products directly from the farms, it will encourage market competition,” an official at the Emirates Society of Consumer Protection said, adding that the government was studying similar options in other countries.

Pakistani officials say their government will facilitate negotiations between farmers and UAE representatives but it is not involved in growing food and cannot help the UAE set up government-supported farms.

Last week Pakistan announced the introduction of tax exemptions, duty free import of equipment and 100 per cent land ownership in specialised free zones in its agriculture, livestock and dairy sectors to lure potential investors.

It is expected to announce more concessions to entice investments.

“Agricultural free zones will be set up within the next four to five months, which will open up doors for the nations to own sources of food supply,” the Pakistani official said. “It is a good opportunity, especially for GCC countries which are dependent on food imports.”

GCC countries rely heavily on imported food and the UAE imports nearly 85 per cent of its supplies for an estimated Dh11 billion (US$3bn) annually.

The GCC is the largest importer of food from Pakistan, according to Pakistani officials. A number of GCC-based companies have already turned to Pakistan for alternative resources. Qatar Livestock Company is to invest $1bn in corporate farms in Pakistan, according to Huma Fakhar, an adviser to the Bahraini government. Some Saudi Arabian groups, particularly Al Rabie Group, a dairy company, have expressed interest in buying land in Pakistan.

“There is a global crisis right now,” said Miss Fakhar. “If you do not prepare these reserves now, then three to four years down the line it will turn extremely critical.”

Several UAE-based retailers including Baniyas Co-operative Society, Carrefour, Union Co-operative Society and Lulu hypermarkets have agreed to help the government to curtail inflation by putting price caps on basic commodities.

Last week the Economy Ministry urged retailers to start stockpiling basic food items to prevent shortages resulting from export bans by countries like India, Egypt and Brazil.

The UAE government has also urged retailers to consider eliminating middlemen when importing commodities to cut costs. While executives like José Luis Durán, the chief executive of Carrefour, encourages supermarkets to work directly with farms, others are concerned that this carries a hidden catch.

“If you want to make money as a farmer, go to a place where the farmers are making money, not a place where the land is cheap,” said Jannie Holtzhausen, chief executive of Spinneys in Dubai. “What has now suddenly changed in the world that the economic model drives governments to become farmers?”

Concerned about what the initiative means to their businesses, local importers are speaking out against it.

“Eliminating traders from this process would be a mistake,” said Burhan Turkmani, the general manager of Dubai-based Al Rabiah Trading Company.

“Farmers are not exporters and governments are not importers,” added Riaz Hussein Bhojani, the general manager of Rashwell Company, another trading company.

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