Japan Ready to Support Saudi SMEs, Increase Joint Investments


Riyadh – The Saudi-Japanese Business Council discussed on Monday in Riyadh means to overcome obstacles, bolster investments and support the small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) sector.

The council said that recent talks between the two countries paved the way for increasing the volume of bilateral trade to reach around $27 billion in 2016, adding that about 6 percent of the Kingdom’s total imports came from Japan, while around 11 percent of Saudi exports were directed toward the Asian country.

Tareq al-Qahtani, head of the Saudi side of the Saudi-Japanese Business Council, noted that Saudi Arabia was one of the countries that attracts foreign investments due to the abundance of natural resources and its economic, political and social stability.

He said he hoped investments would increase remarkably with the establishment of the Saudi-Japanese Investment Company and the implementation of programs aimed at promoting trade and attracting further investments within the framework of Saudi Vision 2030.

The joint meeting held on Monday between the Saudi-Japanese Business Council and the Council of Saudi Chambers reviewed ways to enhance trade and investment relations between the business sectors and introduce investment opportunities available in both countries. It was attended by about 100 Saudi and Japanese investors and representatives of Saudi and Japanese companies operating in different sectors.

For his part, Hiroshi Saito, chairman of the Council’s Japanese side, reaffirmed his country’s readiness to strengthen cooperation with the Kingdom in various sectors and exchange expertise in areas of mutual interest in the light of the Saudi-Japanese Vision 2030.

The Japanese official underlined the importance of enhancing trade cooperation to boost the volume of trade exchange and opening the door to investment to the private sector to reach wider horizons for joint cooperation.

He also expressed his country’s willingness to support the Saudi SMEs sector, noting that Japan had a distinguished experience in this regard.

London’s National Theatre Helps Deaf People Watch Shows Using New Techniques

London, Asharq Al-Awsat — To help people with hearing disabilities watch theatrical shows, London’s National theater began using the “augmented reality” technology. Epson has developed smart glasses to help people with deafness or hearing impairment to watch theatrical performances. The eyewear displays subtitles in their field of vision wherever they’re sitting.

The CNET website quoted Jonathan Suffolk, the theater’s technical director, saying: “the problem we’re aiming to solve is the lack of choice and customer experience. It’s twofold.” He said, “The smart glass tech gives customers the chance to come anytime they want, matinee or evening, and sit anywhere they want in any size theater.”

The trial will run for a year with the support of tech consultancy Accenture and is part of the National’s wider vision of ensuring theater access for all. The always-on service will run in all three of the organization’s theaters, starting with the Dorfman this month, followed shortly by the Olivier and the Lyttelton.

It will be supplemented by always-on audio description for visually impaired customers by April 2019.

The National Theatre’s experiment marks yet another way augmented reality (AR) is beginning to infiltrate the everyday life.

Unlike virtual reality, in which a headset envelops a viewer in a computer-generated world, AR acts as an intermediary, showing digitally rendered images, think Pokemon Go critters or Snapchat filters.

In contrast with VR headsets, Epson’s augmented reality smart glasses are light and discreet enough to be comfortable throughout a performance. Wearers have the option of changing the positioning, size, and color of the captions to suit their own preferences.

IMF Mission in Tunisia to Assess Advancement of Economic Reforms


Tunis – An International Monetary Fund (IMF) mission has kicked off a new phase of talks with Tunisian authorities on the advancement of economic reforms, as part of the loan agreement.

The mission asserted that the IMF will maintain its support for the economic reforms, which will accelerate the development pace in Tunisia.

During his meeting with Ziad Al-Athari, minister of international cooperation and development on Friday, the mission’s head Bjoern Rother praised the efforts of Youssef al-Shahed’s government over the few past months to preserve financial balances.

Athari stressed the importance of the IMF’s understanding of the difficult economic situation in the country, highlighting its role in cooperating Tunisia in this phase to ensure the success of its nascent democratic experience.

The government is determined to promote investment as a cornerstone to enhance growth and wealth, work on supporting the public-private partnerships as a mechanism to accelerate the completion of important projects and decrease the financial pressures on the state budget.

The IMF’s mission’s visit to Tunisia comes as part of a review of the economic reforms and funding of $2.9 billion allocated to support the economic reform program.

Ezzeddine Saidan, a Tunisian economist said: “The IMF mission has not come to Tunisia for tourism, but to look at the developments of the Tunisian economic situation, aims of the draft fiscal law for the coming year, and the most important economic axes proposed within the structural reform program, along with preparing for the completion of the second review of the economic program supported by the Fund in the framework of facilitating the loan.”

He added that Tunisia has prepared for this visit by establishing a new ministerial portfolio, the Ministry of Economic Reform, which may convince the IMF to pay the third installment of the loan before the end of November.

Saidan expected that the IMF will eventually approve the new installment of the loan, after a short period of pressure on the Tunisian authorities to stress the importance of economic reforms for the Tunisian economy to achieve a real recovery.

Tunisia received the first and second installments of the IMF loan, valued at $ 628.8 million. Now, it is waiting the Fund’s approval on paying the third installment, which is estimated at nearly $370 million (about 875 million Tunisian dinars).

According to most economic observers in Tunisia, the country deeply needs those loans paid in hard currency to revive the local economy, cover part of the budget deficit after the collapse of the Tunisian dinar and survive the slow economic growth and the instability of the trade balance.

Google’s Instant Translation Headsets are Likely Anomalous


London, Asharq Al-Awsat — In light of having different accents and vocabularies in the same language, the Guardian newspaper concluded that the new Google in-ear translation headsets may not be a useful gadget.

A few months ago, Google has invented new set of earphones that can simultaneously translate spoken language directly into the ear of the listener, when coupled with the correct headset and software.

According to the Guardian, the aim of many new technologies is to remove speech from the process of communication, so the excitement generated by Google’s in-ear headphones seems curiously anomalous.

The British newspaper considered that the success of Google’s new headset is like the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy starred by Douglas Adams, this represents nothing less than the first coming of the Babel fish, an aquatic creature that excretes simultaneous translations directly into its host’s ear canal.

The Guardian saw that Adams knew what he was doing. By making his Babel fish a naturally occurring phenomenon, he was implicitly acknowledging the impossibility of humans ever producing something “so mind-bogglingly useful”, capable of tackling not just the raw vocabulary of a language, but also the cultural baggage that goes with it.

The newspaper reported that interpreters in Brussels still regale newcomers with the tale of the newbie who translated, “En ces temps difficiles, il faut compter sur la sagesse normande” quite correctly. The problem is that, “In these difficult times, we must count on Norman Wisdom” has quite a different message for native English speakers.

But at least when humans fail in their translations, they are usually making some attempt to understand what it is they’re translating. To really screw things up, you need a computer.

The Guardian continued: “I have no idea who was responsible for the road sign “Cyclists dismount” being translated into Welsh as “Bladder disease has returned”, but I suspect something went wrong while copying and pasting.

The same with “Nid wyf yn y swyddfa ar hyn o bryd. Anfonwch unrhyw waith i’w gyfieithu”, which is not Welsh for “No entry for heavy goods vehicles. Residential site only”, but means “I am not in the office at the moment. Send any work to be translated.”

Shuly Wintner, associate professor of computer science at the University of Haifa, quotes an early example of computer mistranslation in his 2005 introduction to computational linguistics.

“The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak,” was put through Altavista into Russian, he says.

“The vodka is excellent but the meat is lousy” may well have been true, but it almost certainly wasn’t what the writer was looking for.

Spare a thought, too, for translators working the other way around. Donald Trump’s incoherent speech patterns are currently driving Japanese interpreters to distraction. Such is the structure of Japanese that you can’t begin to translate a sentence from English until you know what it’s about.

“When the logic is not clear or a sentence is just left hanging in the air, then we have a problem … There’s no way we can explain what he really means,” one shell-shocked interpreter told the Guardian in June.

Saudi Ministry of Finance Releases Draft of Government’s Tender, Procurement Regulations

Saudi Ministry of Finance Releases Draft of Government’s Tender, Procurement Regulations

Riyadh- Saudi Arabia’s Finance Ministry released on Sunday the first draft of the government’s tender and procurement regulations on its website, so that related parties can share their views and suggestions until Saturday 28 October.

The move comes as part of the Ministry’s efforts to regulate government procurement procedures, aiming to ensure equal opportunities and transparency in order to support local content and the Kingdom’s small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

The draft includes mechanisms to identify the qualifications of the bidders and their ability to execute contracts and ensure quality outputs.

It also includes mechanisms needed to determine bid criteria (price related and non-price related) and to resolve disputes.

The new regulations will promote performance assessment and will tie the contractor’s level of performance to the fulfillment of payments due.

In addition, the new rules will adopt compensating the contractors if the prices of main materials see any change or the tariffs, fees or taxes were modified.

The Ministry stressed that the project was founded for developmental concepts that meet the needs of the concerned public and private sectors in line with the objectives of achieving the Kingdom Vision 2030.

The most significant of these changes is the establishment of a strategic procurement unit for the purpose of concluding framework agreements on the types, contracting and services that are often needed by more than one government agency to enable the parties to meet their needs at competitive prices.

The changes also include the establishment of a committee to determine the preference ratios for SME support and local content and encourage their participation in government competitions, the completion of competition procedures, the introduction of the concept of advance planning and the publication of plans annually through the unified portal, which contains a record of the projects and procurement of each government entity and the necessary information.

Aramco Inaugurates New Delhi Office to Support Saudi Oil Investments

Security personnel stand guard in front of the India Gate amidst the heavy smog in New Delhi

Dammam- Middle East oil giant Saudi Aramco announced its most dramatic expansion so far with the opening of Aramco Asia India’s new office in New Delhi. India is the world’s third-largest energy-consuming economy.

The State-run oil giant Aramco is in talks with several Indian refiners and hopes to land a joint venture deal by next year, the company’s chief executive told Reuters on Sunday.

“We are hoping to land on a JV sometime,” Aramco’s CEO Amin Nasser said at India Energy Forum by Cera Week in New Delhi.

Asked if a deal could be finalized next year, he said: “We hope so. We are in serious discussions.”

Aramco wants to buy a stake in the planned 1.2 million barrels per day (bpd) refinery in India’s west coast, India’s oil minister said in June.

The world’s biggest oil producer is investing in refineries abroad to help lock in demand for its crude and expand its market share ahead of its initial public offering next year.

Aramco plans to float up to 5 percent of its shares in 2018 in what could be the world’s largest IPO, raising as much as $100 billion.

Nasser said Aramco is interested in investing in India’s downstream sector – refining, petrochemicals and fuel retailing including lubricants.

Saudi Arabia is competing with Iraq to be India’s top oil supplier, with Iraq displacing it for the fifth month in a row in August, data compiled by Reuters showed.

Earlier this year Saudi Arabia pledged billions of dollars of investment in projects in Indonesia and Malaysia to ensure long-term oil supply deals.

The International Energy Agency estimates India’s refining capacity will lag fuel demand going forward, requiring investment in new plants.

Saudi Aramco earlier on Sunday launched a new office in New Delhi as it aims to expand its presence in India.

India’s oil minister Dharmendra Pradhan, who inaugurated Aramco’s India unit, said Aramco is interested in investing in refinery projects in the Asian country and “very soon they will come to India.”

Nasser said Aramco will increase its staff strength in India by four-fold compared to now. The company which had 14 employees has now raised staff numbers to around 30.

“India by itself is an important market. The size of India’s market is huge. The growth in India last year is 8 percent last year as compared to 1.5 percent globally in energy,” Nasser said.
“We need to be here.”

Aramco, Saudi Public Investment Fund to Found ‘Super Contractor’


London – Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) and Saudi Aramco are planning to set up a “super contractor” in partnership with local and international contractors.

MEED reported on Saturday that Aramco, PIF, a local contractor and an international contractor, will each own a 25 percent stake in the new entity.

Among the companies interested in this partnerships are: Al-Muhadib Contracting, El-Seif Engineering Co., Al-Rashid Trading & Contracting Co., and Nesma & Partners Contracting Co.

According to MEED, the new entity will replace distressed contractors, particularly Saudi Binladin Group and Saudi Oger, which have suffered financial difficulties in recent years and have been forced to scale back their operations.

The new entity is expected to take over major projects announced by the Public Investment Fund such as the Red Sea Project and Jeddah Downtown.

The new company will be responsible for the construction projects, which were assigned to Aramco. The construction sector will be separated from the mother company, and it is expected to recruit about 15,000 employees and employees.

Aramco plans to sell about 5 percent of the giant oil company, the cornerstone of Saudi Vision 2030, as a major reform plan led by Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, aimed at diversifying the Saudi economy away from oil.

Aramco has signed five memorandums of cooperation with Russian hydrocarbon giants during the Russian-Saudi Investment Forum. The agreements include: a trilateral MoU with the Saudi Public Investment Fund and Russian Investment Fund, for direct investments in the energy and industry sectors.

A MoU with the Russian Energy Giant Gazprom (cooperation in the field of Gas), and another memorandum with LITASCO (cooperation in trade); a MoU with Gazprom (for cooperation in the field of technology, research, and development); and finally, an agreement with Sibur and the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) (for strategic marketing of petrochemicals). These MoUs will allow all parties to jointly assess the potential for joint investments and marketing in petrochemical projects in both countries.

Sibur, biggest petrochemicals company in Russia, and the RDIF, inked on Thursday a memorandum of understanding with Aramco on the possible cooperation opportunities in Russia and Saudi Arabia.

In a statement, Sibur said both companies are planning to assess perspectives of the Russian and Saudi petrochemical markets, and to likely expand the cooperation in this sector.

Dmitry Konov, chairman-Mgmt Board at Sibur Holding said: “This partnership with one of the biggest Saudi petrochemicals companies will allow Sibur to develop its expertise and sales, along with studying the Middle Eastern market.”

Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said on Wednesday that Sibur would sign a $ 1.1 billion deal to build a plant to produce gas chemicals in Saudi Arabia.

EU Sets Duties on Iran, Russia Steel

London- The European Union has decided to set duties on hot-rolled steel from four countries, including Iran and Russia, as Germany invited ministers and senior officials from leading steel producing states to a meeting in Berlin on Nov. 30 to discuss overcapacity in the sector.

The EU set on Friday the duties on steel from Brazil, Iran, Russia and Ukraine after a complaint by manufacturers in the union that the product used for construction and machinery was being sold at excessively low prices.

The EU will levy anti-dumping tariffs of between 17.6 and 96.5 euros ($20.6-112.8) per ton from Saturday, its official journal said.

The European Commission had initially proposed setting a minimum price – of 472.27 euros per ton – but revised its proposal after failing to secure backing from EU member states.

In a related development, sources said that officials from countries belonging to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) are expected to join the Nov. 30 meeting in Berlin.

G20 leaders agreed in the last summit they held in Hamburg in July to postpone discussions on a solution to the international differences over the steel market.

“We want to discuss together how we can prevent overcapacity on the global market and guarantee fair competition,” Matthias Machnig, state secretary in the German Economy Ministry, told business magazine WirtschaftsWoche.

“Our goal is to avoid new punitive tariffs for our businesses,” Machnig said.

Reports have said that US President Donald Trump is still determined to impose tariffs on steel imports despite repeated delays on a decision.

Turkey Expects $1.6 Billion Surplus in Medium-term Plan

Ankara- The Turkish government expects its primary surplus at 5.8 billion lira ($1.62 billion) in 2018, as part of its latest medium-term plan.

The government also announced in its Official Gazette that it targeted primary surplus of 11.8 billion lira in 2019 and 25.5 billion lira in 2020 as part of the plan, which is updated annually.

The ratio of primary surplus to GDP was seen at 0.2 percent in 2018 and 0.3 percent in 2019, the Official Gazette said, reaching 0.6 percent in 2020.

Meanwhile, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Simsek said that in 2018, an additional 18 billion lira ($5 billion) would be allocated to the Ministry of National Defense and military industries.

The new allocations will help buy weaponry to modernize the military.

Simsek told a TV interview that the Turkish government intends to lower spending in the 2018 budget.

Also this week, according to released data, the total market value of companies listed on the Borsa Istanbul Stock Exchange (BIST), which stood at 616 billion lira ($172 billion) as of December 30, 2016, have increased, reaching 801 billion lira ($223 billion) in September.

Google Brings Cellular Service to Puerto Rico Using Balloons


The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced it had granted Alphabet Inc. the green light to use solar power balloons to bring cellular service to Puerto Rico, which has struggled to regain communications services since Hurricane Maria hit last month.

The FCC said on Friday that 83 percent of cell sites remain out of service, while wireless communications company are deploying temporary sites.

“FCC issues experimental license to Google to provide emergency cellular service in Puerto Rico through Project Loon balloons,” Matthew Berry, chief of staff to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, stated on Twitter.

Pai said on Friday he was was forming a Hurricane Recovery Task Force focused on addressing challenges facing Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands

“It is critical that we adopt a coordinated and comprehensive approach to support the rebuilding of communications infrastructure and restoration of communications services. The Hurricane Recovery Task Force will allow us to do just that,” Pai also said.

Musk, the chief executive of Tesla Inc, said on Friday the company would send more battery installers to Puerto Rico to help restore power after Hurricane Maria knocked out all power on the island over two weeks ago, Reuters reported.

Tesla had previously said, in late September, that it was sending to Puerto Rico hundreds of batteries that can rely on solar panels to store power which provides emergency aid in the wake of Hurricane Maria.