Gulf in the News – April 17, 2013

Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed meets Obama

Source: The Gulf Today (Read full story)

Sheikh Mohammed exchanged views with the US President on the latest regional and international developments, as well as international initiatives and efforts to promote peace, stability and development in the Middle East. During his visit, Sheikh Mohammed also met with the US Vice President Joseph Biden and discussed with him the strong ties and shared interests between the UAE and the USA.  According to recently released US government data, the UAE is ranked among the US’ fastest growing trading partners. Total bilateral trade between the two countries grew from approximately $4.5 billion in 2002 to $24.8 billion in 2012.  While in Washington on his two-day visit, the Crown Prince will also meet with senior US government officials and members of the Congress.

GCC force ‘plans headquarters in Bahrain’

Source: Gulf News (Read full story)

An additional permanent headquarters for the Peninsula Shield, the military arm of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), is set to be inaugurated in Bahrain soon, a report has said.The headquarters will be named The Advanced Command of the Peninsula Shield Forces, the London-based Al Hayat daily said on Tuesday, quoting Gulf sources it did not identify. The report did not specify the size of the Gulf force to be stationed in Bahrain.  Gulf officials will attend the official inauguration of the new headquarters. In December, Shaikh Khalid Bin Ahmad Al Khalifa, Bahrain’s foreign minister, said that the Peninsula Shield had several stations, explaining that the headquarters were in Hafr Al Baten in northern Saudi Arabia while its naval force was in Bahrain.

Qatar condemns Boston bombings

Source: Gulf Times (Read full story)

“The State of Qatar condemns such terrorist and criminal acts aiming to destabilise security and terrorise innocent people,” the source said . The source expressed Qatar’s condolences and sympathy to the US government and the families of the victims and wish speedy recovery to the injured. The source reiterated Qatar’s “firm positions renouncing violence and terrorism in all its forms and manifestations”. Doha’s embassy in the US said that all Qatari students and citizens living in Boston were fine. The embassy urged Qatari students and nationals in Boston to exercise caution and follow safety instructions issued by local authorities and to communicate with the embassy in case of emergency. Saudi Arabia, the Gulf Co-operation Council and the Organisation of Islamic Co-operation also condemned the twin bombings at the Boston Marathon, calling them an act of terrorism.

Kuwait political leaders attack unified press law – Coup d’etat against constitution

Source: Kuwait Times (Read full story)

Representatives of political powers launched a scathing attack against the unified press law, adopted by the government, and described it as a coup d’etat against the constitution. These sentiments were expressed during a rally at the Democratic Forum premises in the diwan of former MP Abdallah Al-Naibari. Former MP Mushari Al-Osaimi said, “I believe the coming days will see many issues that could lead to catastrophes. We have read this law including article 243, and it is a copy of the text that is in the penal law and contradicts articles 36 and 37 of the constitution.” Al-Osaimi said articles 2 and 3 give the information minister full authority to take any steps and muzzle the media’s voice.

IMF warning to region after oil falls

Source: The National (Read full story)

The oil price that GCC governments need to balance their budgets has crept up in recent years as spending on wages and other social spending and infrastructure have risen. In a report last October, the IMF estimated Bahrain as having the highest break-even price at about $120 per barrel. The UAE’s was closer to $80, it estimated. “For oil exporters, increases in hard-to-reverse government expenditures such as wages should be contained to build resilience to a possible sustained decrease in the oil price,” analysts wrote. “Capital expenditures can be sustained but need to be prioritised to ensure that the quality of public investment is not compromised.”

New GCC law to regulate foreign labor

Source: Arab News (Read full story)

GCC countries will soon pass a law regulating foreign labor in the Gulf countries, including returning to their home countries “marginal” and unskilled foreign workers, a Gulf official said. “There are responsible parties at the Council looking for a mechanism to verify whether or not the expat worker does have the skill for which or was brought to the Gulf,” the official told local media. The Council will also attempt to eliminate workers who claim skills they do not possess. Fawzi Al Majdali, secretary general of the program for restructuring the labor force and the executive agency in Kuwait, said the new regulations will minimize unused labor, which has no clear contracts with employers. “This kind of labor created imbalances in the Gulf labor market, and neither businesses nor the society is benefiting from it, not to mention that they move around with no controls,” he said.