Urmia-Sero Highway to Facilitate Iran-Turkey Road Link

Iran is to inaugurate Urmia-Sero Highway in the northwest that facilitates cross-border road transit through Turkey. The construction of the Urmia-Sero Highway in the West Azarbaijan Province in Iran as part of the country's west road network plays an important role in developing economic transactions and freight and passenger transit between Iran and Turkey.  This transit route cost IRR 15,000 billion (~US$41.6 million) and is completed after 27 years. It would form the road gateway to Europe and the shortest route to Turkey for Iran. The 51 km long highway is expected to be inaugurated soon. Infrastructural investments in the Sero border terminal have also been considered for increased economic transactions.  Noteworthy, the rail link between Iran and Turkey is via ECO freight train along the Islamabad-Tehran-Istanbul (ITI) Corridor which successfully resumed its operation in December 2021. During the 11th Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) Ministerial Meeting on Transport hosted virtually by Turkey in February 2022, the ECO meeting acknowledged the activation of the ITI Corridor and emphasized the removal of the impediments to the regularization of this Corridor. - Mehr


Iran Seeking Greater Role in Tajikistan's Hydroelectric Projects

Iran's Energy Minister Ali Akbar Mehrabian says that Tajikistan has a series of important hydroelectric projects to which the Iranian companies can contribute. Mehrabian made the remarks on Monday on the sidelines of the 15th summit of Iran-Tajikistan intergovernmental economic commission. The minister told the IRNA that Tajikistan has nearly 6.5 gigawatts (GW) of hydroelectric power plants, adding that the country plans to increase its electricity generation capacity in the sector to 10 GW. He said that building hydroelectric power plants seems to be the economically viable option in Tajikistan due to the abundant water resources in the country and its geographical position which is located in mountain ranges. Mehrabian said he had urged Tajik authorities to try to make use of Iranian firms to develop the Rogun hydropower project. - IRNA


Liquid Ring Compressors Localized at Iranian Petchem Plant

The liquid ring compressors of Arvand Petrochemical Company were localized by knowledge-based companies through reverse engineering methods.

According to Arvand Petrochemical Company, these compressors, which are responsible for creating a vacuum and aeration in various processes for filtration and discharging gas and steam mixtures for drying, play a critical and vital role in the production process of CA, S-PVC, EDC, VCM units of Arvand Petrochemical Plant.

According to the announcement of the manufacturing committee in Arvand Petrochemical Company, due to the sensitivity of this equipment in maintaining the continuity of production and taking into account the increase in breakdowns of the mentioned devices, it was also not possible to purchase spare parts from the main manufacturers due to unilateral sanctions against the petrochemical industry of our country, Arvand Petrochemical Company, trusting domestic companies, managed to manufacture the required spare parts and compressors by reverse engineering method, and after installing the mentioned devices in the complex, their performance was evaluated as favorable. - Shana


Qatar & Malta to Boost Trade, Investment Ties

Minister of Commerce and Industry H E Sheikh Mohammed bin Hamad bin Qassim Al Abdullah Al Thani met with H E Dr. Ian Borg, Minister for Foreign and European Affairs of the Republic of Malta, and the accompanying delegation currently visiting the country.

The meeting featured previewing issues of common interest aimed at strengthening cooperation between the two countries in the sectors of trade, investment, and industry. During the meeting the Commerce and Industry Minister highlighted the successful economic policies Qatar has put in place to support the private sector, and pointed out the incentives, legislations, and promising opportunities that are aimed at encouraging investors, businessmen, and business owners to invest in Qatar.


UAE Secures Almost Half of Japan's Crude Oil Needs in October

The UAE secured 40.1% of Japan's crude oil needs in October, which is equal to 33.99 million barrels, according to the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy in Tokyo.
The agency, part of the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, stated that the amount of crude that Japan imported during that month amounted to 84.58 million barrels, of which 80.10 million barrels, or 94.7%, originated from five Arab countries: UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman.
Oil remains the most significant energy source in Japan, accounting for about 40% of the country’s total energy supply, according to the International Energy Agency.


IMF Suggests GCC Maintain Reform Pace amidst Higher Energy Prices

To respond to near-term shocks and firmly address medium-and long-term challenges, the IMF policy paper recommended implementing a comprehensive package of policies that includes using additional revenues from higher oil prices to rebuild buffers and strengthen policy space.

The GCC economies, whose growth is slated to more than double to 6.5% in 2022 on higher energy prices, should maintain momentum in reforms, irrespective of the level of hydrocarbon prices, according to a recent policy paper of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Accordingly, it suggested using additional revenues from higher oil prices to rebuild buffers and strengthen policy space; keeping medium-term fiscal policy geared towards ensuring fiscal sustainability and increasing savings, through a credible fiscal framework; maintaining financial sector stability; and accelerating ongoing structural reforms.

"Surging commodity prices have limited the spillovers from the war in Ukraine and the impact from tighter global financial conditions, and have allowed for a more positive outlook for the GCC economies," it said.

Throughout its history, the GCC region has experienced distinct periods of rising oil revenues. During those periods, countries deepened their dependency on oil and gas, increased wages and hiring in the public sector, expanded social safety nets, and ramped up capital expenditure.

During 2002-08 and 2010-14, the public sector wage bill increased by 51% and 40% respectively.

The policy paper analysis suggests that the GCC countries will save far more resources than during previous episodes because of the fiscal and structural reforms taken in the region.

In 2022 alone, the overall fiscal surplus will amount to over US$100 billionn, as the rise in expenditures — particularly on wages —remains contained so far.

While the GCC countries have benefited from higher, albeit volatile, oil and gas prices, numerous risks still cloud the outlook—notably a slowdown in the global economy, the paper cautioned.

In this context, it said the "reform momentum established in previous years should be maintained — irrespective of the level of hydrocarbon prices".

To respond to near-term shocks and firmly address medium-and long-term challenges, the policy paper recommended implementing a comprehensive package of policies that includes using additional revenues from higher oil prices to rebuild buffers and strengthen policy space.

"Given the available fiscal space, targeted support for the most vulnerable can be prioritized, leveraging the progress made on digitalization," it said.

On keeping medium-term fiscal policy geared towards ensuring fiscal sustainability and increasing savings, it said over the long term, this "is critical" to ensure equity between generations and a smooth energy transition out of fossil fuels.

This can be supported through non-oil revenue mobilization and energy subsidy phase-out, which will also contribute to climate change mitigation.

Other supporting measures include the gradual reduction of public sector wage bills and increasing spending efficiency through continuing reforms to improve procurement and investment planning.

"A proper assessment of the fiscal stance will require fully incorporating the sovereign wealth funds’ operations, given their role in diversifying savings from oil revenues and their involvement in national development strategies," it said.

As a result of high oil prices and abundant liquidity, which are facilitating credit expansion, the GCC bank balance sheets are currently shielded from tighter global financial conditions. However, bank soundness should continue to be carefully monitored, according to the paper.

It suggested accelerating ongoing structural reforms, including by raising female labor force participation, increasing flexibility for expatriate workers, improving education quality, further leveraging technology and digitalization, enhancing regulatory frameworks, strengthening institutions and governance, deepening regional integration, and addressing climate change adaptation and mitigation challenges.

Implementing policies for sustained private sector-led economic growth and diversification will be as important as ever, it said.


ITA Doha Office to Hold More B2Bs for Qatari, Italian Companies

Plans are in the pipeline to network Qatari buyers and Italian suppliers during the horticultural event Expo Doha 2023, which carries the theme ‘Green Desert, Better Environment’ to be held in Doha in 2023, an official of the Italian Trade Agency (ITA) has said.

The ITA Doha Office will be organizing many events next year involving different Italian delegations, including Coldiretti, Italy’s main institutional organization of agricultural entrepreneurs and farmers based in Rome, Italian Trade Commissioner Paola Lisi said.

Italian ambassador Paolo Toschi also said Coldiretti is very focused on territory and how a single piece of territory can express itself not only in agro-food but also in terms of culture.

“The bottom line is that these farmers represent the local community effectively and reflect Italian culture. Expo Doha 2023 will see the participation of Italian players that represent the territory,” the ambassador said.

He noted that Coldiretti specializes in organizing markets that illustrate how a community represents itself in the agri-food sector.

“They do this beautifully in Rome and I’m sure we can also do something similar here in Qatar. The difference between the Coldiretti markets and the traditional access to these services and products is that in these markets you develop a direct connection with the producers or the farmers.

“This initiative provides small, family-owned businesses, as well as well-established companies, access to international markets, such as Qatar in particular. There’s a balance between small and big players. We know that the public likes to perceive the farmer as an individual because that gives you a customized experience, which you don’t get from a larger platform,” Toschi explained.

The ambassador also said Expo Doha 2023 will also open areas of collaboration between Italy and Qatar in the field of sustainability.

“A large endeavor that awaits Qatar next year is the Expo Doha 2023, which is a specialized international exhibition devoted to topics like sustainability in dry lands and how to irrigate and produce in dry lands, among others.

“Another area that we recognize and appreciate is Qatar’s interest in the diversification of energy resources, which is something Italian engineers and scientists are working really hard to identify new solutions. Some of our players are leaders in global markets on several solutions. But there’s a lot that we could do together with Qatar going forward,” Toschi emphasized.

Lisi added: “We can also cooperate in the area of the circular economy. Italy has a strong experience in that field. We are looking forward to cooperate with Qatari companies and authorities in all possible fields.”


US Sanctions Preventing Iran from Paying Membership Dues to OPEC

The Oil Minister Javad Owji said the country has been prevented from paying its membership dues to the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) because of U.S. sanctions.

Owji said that Iran has been struggling to find a way to pay its membership dues to the OPEC, adding that U.S. restrictions on Iran’s banking ties with the rest of the world had made it almost impossible to settle the arrears.

“The unilateral, oppressive American sanctions against our country and restrictions on money transfer have caused problems,” he said, adding, “We will move to pay Islamic Republic of Iran’s membership dues as soon as we find a solution.”

The minister made the remarks following a virtual meeting of OPEC members and allies, a grouping known as OPEC+, in which oil producing nations agreed to stick to output cuts of 2 million barrels per day that had been decided in October for implementation from November until the end of 2023.

Iran, a founding member of the OPEC, has been exempt from cuts agreed by the alliance due to restrictions imposed on the country’s oil sales by the U.S.

However, Owji said after the OPEC+ meeting that members of the alliance were unanimous in their decision to stick to output cuts as he insisted that oil producers were still concerned about the impact of a slowing Chinese economy on global demand. - Kayhan


Bahrain Oil Minister Attends OPEC, OPEC+ Meeting

Minister of Oil and Environment, Special Envoy for Climate Affairs, Dr. Mohammed bin Mubarak bin Daina, participated in OPEC and OPEC+ meeting which was held virtually with the participation of the energy and oil ministers from the member states. The online meeting convened to discuss the approved oil production policy and the possibility to control production as well as other key issues pertaining to this vital sector.

The minister pointed out the importance of these meetings to discuss controlling the current levels of oil production in order to support the market stability amidst the challenges and geopolitical and economic difficulties the world is going through. He underscored support to continuous cooperation between producers and consumers to brave challenges and work out appropriate solutions to maintain stability and sustainability of the oil market and serve the global economy.

Dr. bin Daina stated that there was an agreement at the meeting to keep the oil production policy unchanged and adjust the frequency of meetings into two months instead of one month in order to back the stability of the markets. He noted that the OPEC Plus group agreed at the meeting last month to reduce oil production by 2 million barrels per day, starting from November 2022 until the end of 2023.


Saudi National Development Fund Launches Operations at SME Bank

In a move to bridge the financing gap in the small and medium enterprises sector, Saudi Arabia’s National Development Fund has announced the start of operations at the Small and Medium Enterprises Bank.

The opening of the new bank will help the SME sector contribute as much as 35% to Saudi Arabia’s gross domestic product in line with the Saudi Vision 2030. 

Launched in 2021, the bank focuses on providing all its products and services in digital form without the need to establish branches. 

In an attempt to create partnerships and further enhance the contribution of financial institutions in terms of financing SMEs, the bank signed a total of 15 cooperation agreements, worth an accumulated SR3 billion (US$797 million), with several financial institutions, Alarabiya reported. 

Overall, Saudi Arabia is witnessing an acceleration in licensing SME factories while taking advantage of government facilities to stimulate specific sectors and industries related to the fourth industrial revolution. 

In November, Saudi Arabia’s cabinet approved the Small and Medium Enterprises Bank System, according to the Saudi Press Agency.

Ministers signed off the transfer of Kafalah SME Loan Guarantee Program from Monsha'at to SME Bank.

This comes as industrial SMEs in Saudi Arabia are urged to transform into resilient and technologically savvy operations in order to go global and be able to compete internationally, according to a report by the multinational professional services network KPMG. 

Moreover, the SME sector is perceived as a vital economic engine, a key generator of new employment, and the foundation of the global economy, senior vice president of technical services at Aramco, Ahmad Al Sa’adi said, in an exclusive interview with Arab News earlier. 

In addition to this, SMEs are set to play a significant role in achieving Saudi Arabia’s objectives of lowering the unemployment rate from 11.6% to 7%, and increasing women’s participation in the workforce from 22% to 30%. 

In October, the Saudi Arabian Oil Co, also known as Aramco, announced the launch of the Taleed Program, which aims to maintain and further grow the SME sector, Al Sa’adi added.