29 April 2008

-Lebanese Army: 12 Israeli Warplanes Flew over Country

Israeli warplanes violated Lebanese airspace on Monday, flying on reconnaissance missions over Beirut and elsewhere in the country, the Lebanese army said.
The army said in a statement that "12 enemy Israeli warplanes" violated Lebanese airspace before noon, four flew over the Mediterranean off the coastal city of Byblos in the north and headed toward the eastern province of Hermel.

Eight other Israeli warplanes flew over the southern town of Rmeish and then headed north to Beirut, the Chouf mountains, southeast of the capital, and Hermel before heading back to the "occupied territories," the statement said. It added that the Israeli over flights lasted about an hour.

There was no immediate statement from the Israeli army which usually does not comment on its flights in Lebanon.

Israeli warplanes frequently fly over south Lebanon in what Israel says are reconnaissance missions. The over flights have drawn ground fire from Lebanese troops on at least two occasions since a U.N.-brokered cease-fire ended a 34-day war between Israel and Hizbullah in August 2006.

Lebanon insists incursions into its waters or airspace violate the United Nations Security Council resolution that ended the 2006 conflict.

The over flights have been a constant source of tension between the two countries.

Lebanon has complained in the past to the U.N. about the Israeli over flights. The U.N. has repeatedly called on Israel to stop its over flights, describing them as a violation of Lebanese sovereignty.

28 April 2008

-Pitfalls in paradise: why Palm Jumeirah is struggling to live up to the hype

Low-paid workers and villa gripes cast a cloud over 'eighth wonder of the world' in Dubai

Dubai's sheikhs have claimed it is "the eighth wonder of the world", and seen from space the tree-shaped sand and rock formation of the Palm Jumeirah looks exactly that.

But after the hype about David Beckham buying a mansion here and the novelty of living four miles out to sea has faded, that claim is starting to look shaky. It seems there is a little trouble in paradise.

Four thousand "Palm pioneers" have moved in and are getting to grips with life in the sweltering Arabian Gulf. This week, when the Guardian visited, the gripes were as common as the plaudits among the Brits who are in the vanguard of this new community.

Multimillion-pound villas have been squeezed together "like Coronation Street", air-conditioning bills are hitting £800 a month and persistent snags have led some to joke it is more "eighth blunder" than "eighth wonder".

The villas were developed by the government-owned Nakheel Properties, and many residents believe the company's slogan, "Our vision inspires humanity", which flutters on flags around the place, is beginning to look over-egged.

It is not all bad news. The blue seas which lap the man-made shores are teeming with rays, hermit crabs and baracudas. Away from the ongoing construction, which has four years to run, life in the middle of the ocean is incredibly peaceful.

But for Rachael Wilds, 42, an exhibition organiser from Surrey who moved in with her family to a palatial villa on one of the Palm's "fronds" a year ago, it was not what she expected. She found her £3m property squashed against a neighbour's and set in a barren, almost treeless, landscape. "It was absolutely nothing as it was depicted in the brochure," she says. "There was a massive gap between the villas and it was full of lush tropical gardens. We were totally shocked at the closeness of the villas."

Despite summer temperatures of 48C and high humidity, access to centralised air conditioning was not included in the purchase price of apartments, and residents are rebelling against plans to ask them to pay extra. More seriously, there is evidence the low-pay and hard conditions endured by the thousands of migrant workers who built the area are driving many into despair and debt.

It has made for an awkward start for a development that is far more than a whim of the Dubai royal family. Palm Jumeirah is the testing ground for the United Arab Emirates' strategy for life after oil - big-scale tourism. Once complete, there will be homes and hotel rooms for 65,000 people.

Crucially, the Palm adds 40 miles to Dubai's coastline. The sheikhs are gambling this will keep the visitors coming back. Two even bigger man-made islands are under way along the coast: a replica of an existing island called The World and another called The Universe.

The lab rats in this experiment are a strange mix. They include England footballers, a battalion of middle-class Britons from places such as Salisbury and Weybridge, and even, it is said, Hamid Karzai, the president of Afghanistan, who is thought to have a house opposite Kieron Dyer, the West Ham midfielder.

Raffaele Cannas, 47, a British property consultant, was one of the first to pick up his keys in late 2006 and found himself squeezing a couple of England players into his Mini after they'd asked to see how he had decorated his apartment. "I didn't know who they were at first, but I had David James doubled up in the front seat and Andy Cole tucked in the back," he says.

After the Brits came the Russians, and a growing number of rich Iranians. Many aspects to life here are undeniably good. Residents can soak up an incredible amount of sunshine - some years it never rains - and the beaches are groomed at least twice a week.

But this is no picture-book desert island. Its size is the most arresting characteristic for newcomers. An eight-lane motorway is at the Palm's trunk, and each frond is a mile long. Meanwhile, there is yet more expansion, with 40 hotels being built on the breakwater.

At times it is also a harsh environment. Lawns routinely wither without intense watering and the tallest trees are, in fact, mobile phone masts dressed up to look like palms.

Just 18 months after moving in, Cannas is thinking of leaving for New Zealand. "The marketing machine was so powerful, calling the Palm the eighth wonder of the world, that people's expectations went through the roof," he says. "It hasn't turned out like that."

For many soaring property prices have softened any discomforts. A "signature villa" which went for £750,000 in 2002 is now worth £3m.

A nagging guilt for some is the quality of life of the migrant construction workers who built all this. Most are from India and Bangladesh and they travel in bus convoys from labour camps in the desert each morning.

A typical labourer earns £25 a week, and many are in debt to agents in their home countries who paid for their passage. KV Shamsudheen, a workers' rights activist in Dubai, says interest rates can be as high as 120% a year.

One hundred migrant workers killed themselves in the Emirates in 2006, and the trend is rising, he says. Alcohol is a growing problem, with workers racking up debts to buy drink.

In Jebel Ali, a dusty camp almost 10 miles from the Palm, 30,000 male workers live up to 12 a room in prefabricated blocks. "I am not happy," says a Bangladeshi carpenter known locally as Sofiull, 52. "The company said I would earn £60 a week, but I am getting £30. They have delayed my pay two months and it's a great problem."

Mohamed Mahboub, 30, has been in Dubai for three years. He hasn't seen his daughter since she was a baby, but sends £30 of his £45-a-week supervisor's salary home. "I miss her, but I am a poor man and I owe money, so I cannot go back yet," he says.

It is a world away from the exclusive gated fronds back on the Palm, where the only sound is often the splash of a paddle from a kayak, the favourite pastime of Palm dwellers.

"Life here is 150% better than in the UK," says Donna Dempsey, 46, a ballet teacher from Kent. "We have our garbage collected every day, we have clean streets, we have low crime. You can really chill here. Sometimes it's hard to go to work."

In numbers

The number of litres of desalinated drinking water the Palm Jumeirah uses when at capacity

Bottlenose dolphins have been flown in from the Solomon Islands to populate Dolphin Bay, an 11-acre lagoon

The cubic metres of sand used to build the Palm Jumeirah

The site has doubled the natural 42-mile coastline of Dubai

The Palm is four times the size of Hyde Park in central London


27 April 2008

-Gun Prices Shoot Up in Lebanon after Fears of War

The Washington post said in an article that gun prices have shot up in Lebanon after fears of war.
It said Abu Omar, a money changer and father of 11 who lives in Beirut, has bought at least 10 firearms since the beginning of last year.

"Everything I can put my hands on and I can afford, I buy. I never sell," he said. "Now is a time for buying arms."

Many Lebanese, increasingly worried about the country's political paralysis devolving into violence, are preparing themselves in the same way, the newspaper said.

It said one measure of their anxiety is the price of small arms: An AK-47 that went for $75 to $100 a year ago now costs somewhere between $600 and $1,000.

Even larger, outdated arms are gaining value, including rocket-propelled grenade launchers that were once considered the "garbage of weapons," said Ghassan Qarhani, a former fighter familiar with the arms market. Today, RPG launchers cost $500, up from $50, he said, noting that they are useful for street warfare.

Lebanon is facing its worst political crisis since the end of its 1975-1990 civil war, with the feuding factions unable to agree on a compromise to elect a replacement to pro-Syrian former president Emile Lahoud, who stepped down in November at the end of his mandate.

Despite disarmament accords, many of Lebanon's militia members have retained their weapons, The Washington Post wrote.

It said supporters of newer groups, such as the predominantly Sunni Future Movement, and those loyal to Christian opposition leader Gen. Michel Aoun, appear to be buying weapons now.

Qarhani, who lives in the northern city of Tripoli, estimated that half of the residents in the city's low-income Sunni neighborhoods now have weapons. A couple of years ago, "very, very few were armed," he said.

The Washington Post said that according to dealers and buyers most of the weapons on the market date from the civil war and had been stored away. Now they are changing hands.

"There are more arms dealers in this country than there is hair on my head," said Abu Omar, who has long white hair.

"I buy from three different sources: a Syrian, a Palestinian and a Shiite from the southern suburb. I call them and tell them what I want, and they bring the pieces to me; sometimes, they call me when they have a special piece," he said.

Most dealers are part-timers who start as aficionados and then transition into trading until they are known for what they do, the Washington Post wrote.

"The government knows everything. They know who is buying and they know who is selling, and right now, the policy is to allow people to own guns, as long as they shoot only in the air and not at each other," Qarhani said.

The Lebanese government has not removed weapons from Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon or disarmed Hizbullah.

Events in January 2007 drove many Lebanese to invest in personal protection, dealers and others told the Washington Post.

A strike called by the opposition was followed two days later by clashes between Shiites and Sunnis in the university neighborhood of Tarik Jadideh, leaving four people dead. The violence brought Beirut to closer to civil war, with snipers on rooftops and tanks on the ground. Concerns about sectarian warfare compelled Lebanese leaders to restrain their supporters, but tensions persist between Sunnis and Shiites.

"Tarik Jadideh was a slap on our face," said Assad al-Sabaa, who belonged to a Sunni militia during the civil war. He was referring to clashes between Shiites and Sunnis at the Beirut Arab University in January 2007.

"It was the first warning; they burned our cars and threw stones at our houses. We realized that we have to depend on ourselves to protect our neighborhoods and our families and our properties."

"Beirut has its people, and we will not let them occupy it," Sabaa said of a long-standing Hizbullah tent city in downtown Beirut. "Should I wait until they occupy my house?"

The need to buy guns is felt by rich and poor. Nada, a resident of the upscale Clemenceau neighborhood, told The Washington Post that she was surprised when her father first gave her a gun and asked her to keep it in the house. Now, she's used to it. She declined to give her full name.

"This is history repeating itself. When people feel unprotected and they fear the other, they seek self-protection, they buy guns, and from that moment on, the road is very slippery," said Assad Shaftari, a former leader in a militia that fought during the civil war.

Shaftari said he remembers very well buying his first gun, from a Palestinian. "He was my enemy, and we both knew it, but business was business," he said.

"It was an amazing feeling, carrying a gun," he said. "It makes a person feel more manly, more protected, but once you own a gun, you start treating it like a baby, you clean it, you take care of it, and wait for the time to use it, you want to see how it works.

"And then you use it, and it uses you, you find yourself in a war, just like that.

25 April 2008

-What is the Kyoto Protocol and what can it do to curb climate change?

The Kyoto Protocol is an international agreement, initially negotiated by government representatives meeting in Kyoto, Japan, in 1997, that sets targets to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions causing climate change. It requires a variety of actions by governments, including specific emission reduction requirements for industrial countries, as well as provisions to assist developing countries in limiting their emissions.

For the Protocol to “enter into force,” it must be ratified by at least 55 nations representing 55 percent of industrial-country 1990 carbon dioxide emissions. As of as of 15 April 2004, 122 countries (representing 44.2 percent of industrial country 1990 emissions) had ratified or acceded to the Kyoto Protocol, including those of the European Union, Canada, Japan, and a host of developing countries. But because the world’s largest emitter—the United States—withdrew from Kyoto, the 55 percent threshold that allows the treaty to enter into force will be crossed only if Russia ratifies the agreement.

According to many studies, enforcing the Kyoto Protocol would protect the environment, reduce air pollution, and create new jobs in industries such as energy conservation, solar energy, wind power, and hydrogen technology, all of which could become powerful growth sectors in the decades ahead.

The Kyoto Protocol, during its first phase (through 2012) is a modest, yet important first step. Perhaps its greatest contribution in the short term will be to put in place mechanisms that can be built on, such as emissions trading and the transfer of clean technologies (such as renewable energy) to the developing world. Even though it hasn’t yet entered into force, it is already spurring corporations and governments to action, from the U.S. to the E.U. to Japan, and many developing countries as well.

-Why won’t the U.S. ratify the Kyoto Protocol?

The Kyoto Protocol was signed by the U.S. government during the Clinton Administration in 1997. However, in March 2001, the Bush Administration withdrew its support for the agreement over concerns that the treaty would cause undue harm to the U.S. economy. The treaty requires that the U.S. cut its greenhouse gases to 7 percent below 1990 levels by 2012. The Administration claimed this put too heavy a burden on the U.S. economy, arguing that there was too much uncertainty around climate change to make the economic changes that would be necessary for such emissions reductions. The Administration also argued that the treaty does not require developing nations to curb their emissions.

The vast majority of governments, ranging from Great Britain to Japan, disagree with the Bush Administration, and believe that the Kyoto Protocol represents a moderate step that will not only be affordable, but will actually spur the market for cleaner and more energy-efficient technologies and thereby strengthen economies. Many nations are enthusiastic about the international emissions trading system that would be created by the Protocol, which ironically is an idea that originated in the United States and was adopted in response to the lobbying of the U.S. government. In addition, there is a growing sense that the costs of curbing emissions and reducing the threat of climate change will be far lower than the costs of inaction.

-CIA admits they will continue rendition program, which allows torture overseas

Documents show they expected legal challenges from the start

The Central Intelligence Agency knew from the beginning that its secret detention and torturous interrogation tactics probably bordered on illegal from the start, according to new documents identified through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.

In a filing yesterday, the CIA said it had identified 7,000 pages of classified memos, emails and other records relating to President Bush's secret detention and interrogation program. Human rights groups quickly jumped on the filing -- which came after their own Freedom of Information Act lawsuit seeking information about those detained.

The CIA also acknowledged in their filings that the program “will continue.” Terror suspects detained or "renditioned" by the United States are transferred to third party countries that allow torture which gives the US a legal loophole to allow harsh interrogation without being legally liable. Such suspects, who effectively disappear, are held without access to courts.

The US has refused to produce a list of the suspects it is holding in sites overseas, and only recently provided a list of those held captive at Guantánamo Bay.

Amnesty International says at least 30 people are believed to still be held in secret prisons.

In 2006, President Bush muted dissent surrounding the program by announcing that he would transfer 14 "high-value" detainees to Guantánamo Bay.

The filing also shows that the agency sought legal advice from the White House Office of Legal Counsel numerous times over several years.

"The CIA's purpose in requesting advice from OLC was the very likely prospect of criminal, civil, or administrative litigation against the CIA and CIA personnel who participate in the Program," Ralph S. DiMaio, information review officer for the CIA's clandestine service, said in the documents.

Such proceedings, he added, would "be virtually inevitable."

Nineteen documents were withheld; the Bush Administration cited "presidential communications privilege." The withholding of documents under presidential privlige has been a common practice of the Bush Administration -- but its decision to do so in this case appears a tacit acknowledgment of the high-level interaction between Bush advisors and CIA officials.

The filing says that some of the withheld documents were "authored or solicited and received by the President's senior advisors in connection with a decision, or potential decision, to be made by the president."

Rights groups say CIA is hiding criminal activity

Amnesty International USA, the Center for Constitutional Rights and the International Human Rights Clinic at NYU School of Law were the key litigants seeking the documents made the claim following a summary judgment motion by the agency.

“For the first time, the CIA has acknowledged that extensive records exist relating to its use of enforced disappearances and secret prisons,” Curt Goering, AIUSA senior deputy executive director, said in a statement yesterday. “Given what we already know about documents written by Bush administration officials trying to justify torture and other human rights crimes, one does not need a fertile imagination to conclude that the real reason for refusing to disclose these documents has more to do with avoiding disclosure of criminal activity than national security.”

RAW STORY was the first news outlet to identify the exact location of one of the sites in the CIA's secret prison network, which was revealed first by the Washington Post. Raw Story identified a prison in northeastern Poland, Stare Kiejkuty, that was used as a transit point for terror suspects.

Once a Soviet-era compound once used by German intelligence in World War II, Stare Kiejkuty is best known as having been the only Russian intelligence training school to operate outside the Soviet Union. Its prominence in the Soviet era suggests that it may have been the facility first identified – but never named – when the Washington Post’s Dana Priest revealed the existence of the CIA’s secret prison network in November 2005.

The groups say that they're not the only ones being stonewalled. Congress, they say, is getting the short end of the stick as well.

"Documents released to plaintiffs by the CIA demonstrate that many within the government itself have been unable to obtain accurate information from the CIA," the groups said. "These documents, which include letters from Members of Congress to the CIA, demonstrate a pattern of withholding information from Congress. In a pointed bipartisan letter on Oct. 16, 2003, then-Chair and Ranking Member of the House Select Committee on Intelligence requested that CIA Director George Tenet provide senior level briefings on the treatment of, and information obtained by, three men known to be held in secret CIA detention, admonishing the CIA by stating that the committee was 'frustrated with the quality of the information' provided in past briefings."

“The CIA has employed illegal techniques such as torture, enforced disappearances, and extraordinary rendition,” said Meg Satterthwaite, Director of the NYU IHRC. “It cannot use FOIA exemptions as a shield to hide its violations of U.S. and international law.”

CIA has begun to lose, destroy documents

Two recent reports signal that the agency has begun to destroy evidence of harsh interrogations conducted at US prisons. Last year, the CIA acknowledged it had destroyed videotapes of two interrogations they were asked to provide to the Sept. 11 commission.

Earlier this week, the erstwhile director of interrogations at Guantánamo Bay said records of a prisoner who accused his captors of torturing him had been destroyed.

"Retired general Michael Dunlavey, who supervised Guantánamo for eight months in 2002, tried to locate records on Mohammed al-Qahtani, accused by the US of plotting the 9/11 attacks, but found they had disappeared," the Guardian writes. "The records on al-Qahtani, who was interrogated for 48 days - "were backed up ... after I left, there was a snafu and all was lost."

24 April 2008

-Spike in weapon sales in Lebanon

Many Lebanese worried about the country's political paralysis devolving into violence are purchasing firearms to protect themselves.

The increase in the price of firearms has also become an added concern for the people who are now buying AK-47 firearms for $600 to $1,000 compared to a year ago which ranged from $75 to $100.

Ghassan Qarhani, a former fighter familiar with the arms market says outdated arms such as rocket-propelled grenade launchers, once considered the "garbage of weapons," are gaining value. Today, RPG launchers cost $500, up from $50, he says.

Qarhani, who lives in the northern coastal city of Tripoli, estimated that half of the residents in the city's low-income Sunni neighborhoods now possess weapons.

A couple of years ago, "very, very few were armed," he says.
(yalibnan/iran tv)

-Mutiny and Riot in Roumiyeh

Dozens of inmates rioted Thursday at Lebanon's largest prison and took several prison guards hostage, just steps away from Fatah al-Islam prisoners. Riot police and reinforcements were sent to Roumieh penitentiary, to get the situation under control.

Roumieh is Lebanon's main jail. It is made up of several buildings and the detainees there include four former generals held in connection with the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, and also members of the al-Qaida-inspired Fatah Islam militant group.

Riot policemen inched their way across the convicts building of the central Roumiyeh Prison Thursday to disperse a mutiny and free eight guards taken hostages.

Security sources said hundreds of riot policemen advanced across the ground floor of the building after firefighters extinguished a blaze that inmates had started in mattresses after taking guards hostage.

"The riot police force moved into the building through emergency outlets, cleared the ground floor which includes the management offices and moved into the first floor" of the three-story building, said one source who asked not to be identified. Each floor includes 60 cells.

"In brief, the force would have to search 180 cells. It is expected to be a complicated operation that might last until Friday, unless the mutineers surrender," he added.

The rioting inmates are armed with makeshift knives, and "sharp tools," the source added.

"They don't have firearms simply because the guards they took hostage were not armed in line with prison rules," the source explained.

The advancing force is using "tear gas canisters to control the inmates, some of whom are surrendering," he added.

Most of the mutineers are convicts of Palestinian descent, the source said.

He explained that four ex-security commanders, jailed in Roumiyeh in connection with the 2005 murder of ex-Premier Rafik Hariri, are in "another building that is 150 meters away from the convicts' compound."

Meanwhile, army paratroopers cordoned off the walled prison compound sitting on a hill east of Beirut, in a precautionary measure to prevent possible escape of mutineers or reinforcement.

The mutiny started at 4:35 p.m. as a dispute between one of the inmates and a guard distributing food, the source added.

"It quickly developed into a mutiny as other inmates joined in and overpowered guards," he added.

The prison is extremely overcrowded: 4500 are housed in a complex originally designed for 1500 inmates.

"The riot police force moved into the building through emergency outlets, cleared the ground floor which includes the management offices and moved into the first floor" of the three-story building, said one source who asked not to be identified. Each floor includes 60 cells.

"In brief, the force would have to search 180 cells. It is expected to be a complicated operation that might last until Friday, unless the mutineers surrender," he added.

The rioting inmates are armed with makeshift knives, and "sharp tools," the source added.

"They don't have firearms simply because the guards they took hostage were not armed in line with prison rules," the source explained.

The advancing force is using "tear gas canisters to control the inmates, some of whom are surrendering," he added.

Most of the mutineers are convicts of Palestinian descent, the source said.

He explained that four ex-security commanders, jailed in Roumiyeh in connection with the 2005 murder of ex-Premier Rafik Hariri, are in "another building that is 150 meters away from the convicts' compound."

Meanwhile, army paratroopers cordoned off the walled prison compound sitting on a hill east of Beirut, in a precautionary measure to prevent possible escape of mutineers or reinforcement.

The mutiny started at 4:35 p.m. as a dispute between one of the inmates and a guard distributing food, the source added.

"It quickly developed into a mutiny as other inmates joined in and overpowered guards," he added.

22 April 2008

-AUB alumni named Carnegie Scholar

Tufts University professor and Cambridge resident Leila Fawaz was named a 2008 Carnegie Scholar by the Carnegie Corp. of New York and will receive a two-year grant of up to $100,000 for her research on "The Experience of War: Muslims in the Middle East and South Asia, 1914-1920."

"My plan is for my research to be a book that will help to give people a deeper understanding of the complex issues of power and identity that continue to affect the Muslim world today," said Fawaz.

Fawaz was among 20 new Carnegie Scholars selected this year for their compelling ideas and commitment to enriching the quality of the public dialogue on Islam. The corporation provides funding, with two-year grants of up to $100,000, and intellectual support to well-established and promising young thinkers, analysts and writers. The 2008 awardees are the fourth consecutive annual class to focus on Islam, bringing to 91 the number of Carnegie Scholars devoted to the topic since the program began in 2000.

Fawaz is the Issam M. Fares Professor of Lebanese and Eastern Mediterranean Studies and director of the Fares Center for Eastern Mediterranean Studies. She holds a joint appointment at Tufts as professor of history in the School of Arts and Sciences and as professor of diplomacy at The Fletcher School.

A social historian, her research will focus on connections between the Middle East and South Asia and the influence World War I had on Islamic identities. About one million South Asian soldiers fought on the side of their British colonial power, some in the Ottoman-controlled Middle East -- the largest Muslim territorial empire of the time. Her research will examine the complex relationship this caused for the Muslim and Hindu soldiers, especially the Muslim soldiers who sided with non-Muslims against their own religious leaders.

Born in the Sudan and raised in Lebanon, Fawaz attended the American University of Beirut and later received her doctorate from Harvard University. She joined the Tufts faculty in 1979 as an assistant professor, was promoted to the rank of professor in 1994, and served as chairperson of the history department from 1994 to1996 and dean for humanities and arts from 1996 to 2001. She has written and co-edited three books, including "Modernity and Culture: from the Mediterranean to the Indian Ocean," as well as articles and reviews.

Established by Vartan Gregorian in 1999, the Carnegie Scholars program provides financial and intellectual support to writers, analysts and thinkers addressing some of the most critical research questions of our time. Scholars are selected not only for their originality and proven intellectual capacity, but for their demonstrated ability to communicate their ideas in ways that can catalyze public discourse as well as guiding more focused and pragmatic policy discussions. Since 2005, the program has supported scholars whose work seeks to promote American understanding of Islam as a religion, the characteristics of Muslim societies, in general, and those of American Muslim communities, in particular.

20 April 2008

-FPI wins contract values at over Dhs276.5m to supply pipe systems to Abu Dhabi Sewerage Services Company

Dubai-based Future Pipe Industries Group (FPI), the leading global manufacturer of large-diameter fiberglass pipe systems, has won a major new contract to supply Fiberstrong fiberglass pipes and fittings for the Abu Dhabi Sewerage Services Company (ADSSC).

The total value of FPI's contract exceeds Dhs276.5m (approximately $75.8m).

During the first phase of the contract, FPI will supply around 40kms of Fiberstrong fiberglass pipes with diameters ranging from 400mm to 1600mm for Al Saad Wastewater Treatment Plant.

FPI will begin delivery this month and plans to complete the delivery of these pipes and fittings by the end of June 2009.

For the second phase of the contract, FPI will deliver a total of 135kms of Fiberstrong pipes, with diameters up to 2600mm for Al Wathba Wastewater Treatment Plant.

Delivery of the pipe systems will begin in June 2008 and is expected to be completed by December 2009.

Abu Dhabi Sewerage Services Company was established to provide sewerage, wastewater treatment and disposal services within Abu Dhabi and has recently taken over ownership, management and operations of the sewerage system from the Abu Dhabi and Al Ain municipalities. ADSSC is wholly owned by Abu Dhabi Water and Electric Authority (ADWEA).

Commenting on the contract win, Rami Makhzoumi, President and CEO of FPI said:

'The awarding of this important contract demonstrates our commitment to the UAE market and our ability to service some of the largest municipal projects in the country. Our home market, the GCC, is the fastest growing fiberglass pipe market in the world. Our UAE operation dates back to 1971, the same year as the founding of the Federation, so we are delighted to be participating in this vital development project for Abu Dhabi'.

FPI's pipe systems will be used for the trunk sewer line and the distribution of treated sewer at both the Al Wathba and Al Saad Wastewater Treatment Plants.

The Al Saad and Al Wathba projects were awarded to FPI in March and April respectively.

16 April 2008

-This is why we love Lebanon!

-Toilets Invade Downtown Beirut! Woman puts one to good use...

In commemoration of the progress we have made since the end of our civil war, crappers have been installed where once a hundred thousand fell... ah the sweet smell of justice.


-The Divorce of Aoun and Murr

It is amazing how everything is bi-polar to the extent that 14th of March has a lot of supporters now calling Michel Murr as "The Wiseman" while the Opposition call him "The Traitor". The Opposition seems to have forgotten what he has done to the Syrians.

One of the shakiest alliances that took place between any two individuals was between Aoun and Michel el Murr. During last year elections, 14th of March gambled on the chance that Aoun and Murr will break their alliance, to which the latter two disappointed them when both announced loud and clear that the trilogy alliance between Aoun, Murr, and Tashnag is still alive and kicking. Although it has to be noted, Murr and Aoun forgot to mention the Syrian Social Nationalist Party's votes (estimated at least 4500) that gave Camille Khoury the breaking factor.
Couple of months later, Michel el Murr appeared on Marcel Ghanem's show, and he defended his alliance to Aoun on the basis of paying back an old friend a favor for saving his son during the last couple of years in the civil war. But Michel el Murr was explicit to also state that he doesn’t talk with Aoun's men, and in fact he indirectly slapped their form of talking on TV with the highest pitch (almost every time between Tony Nasrallah, Alain Aoun, Salim Aoun, Nicholas Khoury, Jubran Ba"th"il, and others. Michel el Murr also stated that if he was a Maronite Christian, instead a Greek Orthodox Christian, he would have run on the elections.

To be honest, in my personal opinion, the smartest politician to join then Michel Aoun's coalition "Reform and Change" was el Murr. The man managed since the late sixties to sustain himself in the parliament, knocked out Bshara Merhej to grab hold of the Ministry of Interior, and developed a gigantic empire in Matn whereby he swept over 80% of the municipalities. To be more exact, Murr's empire was gigantic. At a one point, he was the deputy for the Speaker of the Parliament, his son was the Minister of Interior, and his daughter was head of the Upper Matn Municipalities. When Albert Mokhaiber passed away in 2002, he ran his daughter to the Parliamentary elections. The only candidate who was supposed to block his daughter from making it to the Parliament and attain a seat next to her daddy was ironically Gabriel el Murr, his own brother. When Gabriel el Murr, supported by anti-Syrian forces, won, Michel el Murr successfully closed down his channel (and don't laugh it was called MTV, aka Murr TV), and found charges to disqualify his own brother, which ironically made Ghassan Mokhaiber win in default the elections (who was actually Joubran Tuieni's and Walid Junblatt's candidate, eventually the tides changed when MP Ghassan ran against his ex - allies in Matn).

Prior to the divorce between Aoun and Murr, Michel Murr still remained one of the most powerful politicians within the Reform and Change coalition. He emerged victorious from Upper Matn elections, he became a powerful figure head in the Opposition while his son is a powerful figure in the Government. Even strangely, the current government is hanging on the edge, if one more Minister resigns/gets assassinated, the government collapses. Elias Murr remained within the government. Probably what triggered the distrust in the first place between these two figures is the assassination attempt on his son, the current minister of Defense: Elias Murr. Hence, Michel Murr immerged as the most controversial figure of 2005 elections, and of course preserved his title as "King of the Upper Matn Constituency".

So who is Michel Murr?

Michel Murr has been a powerful figure that won elections since the late 1960s in Matn area. In 1979, he was a minister of President Sarkis. It has to be noted that by then Sarkis was a close ally of Bashir Gemayel who didn’t mind bringing Bashir Gemayel's loyalists to the government. Michel el Murr is actually the primary funder of Bashir Gemayel's child "the Lebanese Forces." He was the one responsible to secure that the Lebanese Forces were properly funded. Eventually, he remained a minister till 1982, primarily when Bashir Gemayel was blown to kingdom come due to his alliance with Israel.

Like Michel Aoun, Elie Hobeika, Samir Jaajaa, Karim Bakradouni, Fadi Freim, the Sarkis family, and a lot others: he was one of Bashir Gemayel's powerful figures. His marriage to the Syrians secured Upper Matn as his little kingdom, and of course Murr abused his Ministerial authority and made sure that everyone in that district found work as long as they found work.

Through blackmail, giving the Lebanese nationality to over 10,000 blue collared Syrians (and not to forget the non-Syrians), by "coincidence" they were allocated in Upper Matn. He is associated and accused of the Burj Hammoud cheating when "the electricity went out" in 1996 and of course the expulsion of Nassib Lahoud's "Freedom List" observant in 2000. Murr is also notorious for his generousity in elections during the vote cast.

Personally, I think I am risking my life by talking about this man. I myself fear him more than any other politician. This is also not to forget the speed of securing Elections Voting Cards for his supporters and their relatives while it took almost forever to secure these cards for opposition supporters. Murr's strength grew to give license for arms to all his hooligans (and a shoot-out occurred on Nassib Lahoud without the 'Ministry of Interior' investigating it).

The man, don’t get me wrong on this, has an amazing sense of humor. I think he is really the devil's advocate when it comes to politics.

Murr and Aoun lullaby

Now this is the interesting part. Aoun and Murr knew each other since 1978, when Bashir Gemayel completed his climbing of the ladder of the Phalange Party. Aoun was Bashir's Gemayel's hand inside the army; however, in Bashir's last final days he switched his allegiance to Amin Gemayel, who was then the last person to oppose Bashir politically (since Bashir militarily ended Amin's pocket cell in Bikfaya).
While Michel Murr participated in the Syrian game and the forging of the Ta'ef agreement, Aoun eventually went to exile by living in a "five-stars hotel". Murr's network and Aoun's alliance in 2005 came as a bombshell to everyone. The alliance proved fruitful for both of them, since the government wanted to politically end Michel Murr's winning streak. Even Sarkis Sarkis almost defeated Pierre Gemayel Jr. in the elections.

With Michel Murr's son in the government holding the most powerful ministry, Ministry of Defense, and he is holding a powerful position at the Opposition, specially due to his highly controversial links to Syria, the family seemed to have won the hearts of both coalitions. Probably the only person to hate him till he goes to the grave his Gabriel Murr. It is only a matter of time how long can Murr tolerate Aoun's ego and worse, Aoun's footsoldiers: the figureheads of the Free Patriotic Movement. Despite the fact that Murr tried to end his alliance peacefully with Aoun, again Aoun had to explode on Murr.

Murr argued that it is illogical to keep the nation without a president for so long, and it is insane to keep the parliament closed for that long as well. He was one of the figureheads who supported the closure of the Parliament. Yet, the top of the iceberg was exposed when Murr went to elect a President when his Son supported the election of Michel Suleiman as the President of Lebanon. While Murr said it loud and clear he wants to vote for a president, all the Free Patriotic Movement in December boycotted the Parliamentary Session to occur, and pushed the Opposition to break the quorum of 2/3 to get things rolling within the parliament. (Only AMAL's coalition in a symbolic manner were

What About the 2009 Parliamentary Elections

Well, I know one powerful leader who told me in December 2007: "Be prepared, in six months, the alliances will fluctuate and the borders will change between 14th of March and the Opposition." In fact, he added: "Expect anything!". Seems he is right although I was skeptical at first.

If the 2009 parliamentary elections take place , then where Murr will stand? Will he step down and allow his son lead his tens of thousands of supporters? Technically the primary obstacle for the 14th of March was Rafi Madayan since he is the sworn enemy of the Tashnag. Yet, now Murr fluctuated his alliances currently to neutral grounds. This may lead to a scenario of throwing Nassib Lahoud outside the Matn Formula and forge a strong alliance between 14th of March , Murr, and the Tashnag. After all, Rafi Mayadan switched sides.

Another scenario would be that Murr himself, in a vigorous manner, will go elections again but he will seek to win Matn as a whole. He might be weaker without the SSNP votes and the Free Patriotic Movement's votes (as well as the foreign votes), he still can pull it through. The Opposition and the Government can leave two or three seats for him and vote for him in the face of the others.

Or Aoun and Murr would probably strike a new alliance under different circumstances and run the elections again. This, I have to stress, has lost its cutting edge after Aoun's Tsunami disappeared to only 400 votes against Amin Gemayel. Someone will tell me that it was a nobody (Mr. Camille Khoury) crushing the ex-President, I would like to stress that Camille Khoury was not running but in name, the man who behaved as if he was running was Aoun himself.

The question would have to be asked: What about Murr's allies from the reign of the Syrian Mandate? What about Hezbollah and AMAL movement? Will they in defecto abandon the man who facilitated all black market issues for them and covered them politically? The other question is: Did Michel Murr divorce the Syrian Baathi Regime? Did the attempt on Elias Murr's life break that alliance? Time will tell…
Now isn’t it hilarious how 14th of March and the Opposition automatically switch sides in terms of Opinion?

What a long road we still have to go through…

15 April 2008

-Future Pipe Industries Group Limited (FPI) announces launch of IPO on DIFX

Price range of US$5.00 - 6.60 per share

Offer size of up to 84.0 million shares resulting in up to 35% free float for FPI post IPO (including an over-allotment option of up to 12.0 million shares)
Indicative offer size (based on the mid-point of the price range) of approximately US$487million, including the over-allotment option
Final offer price expected to be announced on or around 30 April 2008

Dubai, 13 April 2008: Future Pipe Industries Group Limited, the Dubai based global leader in the development, manufacture and supply of fiberglass pipe systems, today published its preliminary prospectus as well as a summary document and application form for its UAE retail offer and announced an indicative price range of US$5.00 to US$6.60 per share for up to 35% of its shares in its initial public offering (IPO) on the Dubai International Financial Exchange (DIFX)

Up to 84.0 million shares, including an over-allotment option of up to 12.0 million shares, will be offered to investors globally. The price of FPI's shares will be denominated in US dollars and will be priced through a global book building process with institutional investors. Retail and institutional investors will pay the same price for FPI's shares, which is expected to be announced on or about 30 April 2008. ...


14 April 2008

-The Causes of the Lebanese Civil War

There are several factors that tackle the events that led to the break-out of the Lebanese Civil War. Theodor Hanf (in his book Irrevocable Covenant) and others discuss different reasons that become entangled in the end, and trigger the Lebanese Civil war in 1975.

The first reason according to Hanf that the war broke out is due to the nature of Lebanon and its political structure. Lebanon is a state composed of communities whereby one community can never dominate the rest. This balance of power forced into Lebanon democracy as the best solution between the different communities. The second factor would be the class-income distribution between the sects to be involved in the 1975 clash. All the communities got their elites as well as their lower income wage earners. The 1960s witnessed class inequality on the rise among the different communities which made the major Sect leaders aim to mobilize the masses easier against the others. A third factor is the perception of the Muslims and Christians of Lebanese Nationalism. To the Christians, Lebanese Nationalism is strictly Lebanese and nothing else (as long as they were in power) while the Muslims regarded Lebanese Nationalism as complementary to Arab Nationalism and didn’t mind having both. This would play a major role in the different factions who would ally with the Palestinians. These double standards of Nationalism would threaten the Christians’ sense of Lebanese independence.

Another dimension to Theoder Hanf was the Palestinians’ activities in Lebanon starting from the late 1960s and the arrival of large quantity of combatants in 1970 after Black September in Jordan. This tipped the balance of power among the Lebanese communities as the Left-Wing considered that the Lebanese army was already biased for the Lebanese Christian Leaders and the PLO’s mass arrival can balance the power against the “isolationist” Christian Leaders. The Palestinians used Lebanon since the late 1967 as a base to launch operations on Israel. This spread fear among the Christians that Lebanon’s independence was marginalized and they became a minority in Lebanon as the PLO learnt their errors from the Jordan 1970 experience and armed its allied parties in Lebanon. They further established networks, since the PLO got no place else to go and Lebanon was the only country allowing them to launch their military operations. Solidarity to the Palestinians was expressed through the Muslims (mostly the Sunni) but with the aim to change the system in a limited manner while the left-wing Lebanese National Movement aimed to demolish the sect-based system. The PLO eventually transformed the Western Part of Beirut into its stronghold.

A third dimension to several authors is the Army and its incapability to dominate or control the PLO. The Lebanese Army was always a weak army compared to the neighboring armies’ strength of Jordan, Syria, Israel, and Egypt. The purpose of the army, as advocated by head of the Phalange Party, Pierre Gemayel, that the nation’s strength would be its weakness. Having a weaker army means discouragement for other nations to feel threatened. Nevertheless, despite its weakness compared to other institutions, the army has been the core balancer of power between the Christian Militias and the rest of the communities. The Army from 1967 till 1969 entered several confrontations with the Palestinian Commandos in order push away the PLO from the borders, primary allies of Kamal Junblatt and the Left-wing, till the Cairo agreement was signed. After 1970, with the PLO still expanding their networks and continuing with their operations on Israel, the Christian Parties decided to transform their parties into militias. The Left-wing leaders organized mass demonstrations against the Army’s crackdown attempts on the PLO.

The Regional Situation also played a role into contributing factors that would eventually lead to the break out of the Lebanese Civil War. Ever since the end of the Six Days War, the PLO received massive support from the gulf nations in compensation to the great humiliating Arab Defeat. The Cairo agreement was drafted between the PLO and the Head of the Lebanese Army, which was approved by the Lebanese Parliament, gave the PLO legitimacy over the camps, safe influx of arms from Syria, and made West Beirut the safe-haven for the PLO warriors. The Cairo Agreement’s aftermath also made the Christian Leaders, after the influx of more PLO warriors from Jordan, to focus on their own strengths. According to Dr. Moubarak, the Arab states blocked PLO operations from their borders but encouraged the PLO’s use of arms and support in Lebanon. (Walid Moubarak, Position of A Weak State In An Unstable Region: Case of Lebanon (The Emirates Center For Strategic studies & Research ,2002), P. 3) Syria on the other hand, had its own Palestinian Militias active in Lebanon, the Sa’iqa. They were always a support to the PLO’s activism specially if the Lebanese Army pressured the PLO in a military sense. What aggravated the situation more was the fact Kamal Junblatt was the Minister of Interior, who was the PLO’s primary ally, to this, the Christian Leaders never liked it.

The International Arena also played a role into negotiations. Kissinger never struck deals with the PLO, rather with Egypt and Syria after 1973 war. The PLO were regarded as Refugees with no rights whatsoever which forced its leadership to bomb its away to attain recognition and a bargaining card via Lebanon after they changed policy and have a Palestinian State in the West Bank and Gaza (which will happen in the Oslo agreement). Israel’s policy was also dramatic which increased the tension between the Christian Leaders and the PLO. Whenever the PLO launched an operation, Israel responded mainly on the South and the refugee camps. When Israel bombed in 1968 the 12 Middle East Airlines, Israel signaled a message to all leaders of Lebanon to control their half of the borders and cripple the PLO. The development of the Peace Treaties between Egypt and Israel via Henry Kissinger got al-Assad to develop the three nation (Syria, Jordan and Lebanon) – four people unity strategy (Lebanese, Syrians, Palestinians, and Jordanians).

The US administration, under Kissinger’s dominion, was bothered with the turn of events inside Lebanon. With the escalation of the Lebanese situation, Kissinger was worried that Israel would be dragged to war with Lebanon, which in turn would trigger another regional war in less than a year. Furthermore, Kissinger didn’t want to see Israel entering a war because finally an Arab nation (supposedly the strongest military then), Egypt, decided to follow the Step-By-Step with the Zionist State. Nevertheless, PLO operations threatened a regional war. Syria already took a positive step with the States after the 1973 war, and agreed to follow the disengagement plan. The problem was Syria always supported the PLO from cross-border artillery, or its Palestinian made militias: the Palestinian Liberation Army (PLA). This did not stop Syria from establishing good contacts with the Christian Militias, in case, according to Syrian calculations, the other side dominated. To the Syrians, they wanted intervention into Lebanon, but not a left-wing Lebanese Party establishing a socialist government that would shake the whole region. Worse, they wanted to dominate the PLO politically in order to become the sole spearheads for the “Arab Cause”. This clicked with Kissinger on a latter stage to cripple the PLO.

The Division of Lebanon into Two Camps intensified matters. The Leaders of the “Lebanese Front” declined to lose one bit of their political advantage and public sector recruitment benefits (6:5). Imam el-Sadre radicalized his Shiite base and moved closer to President Suleiman Frangieh’s coalition hence forth isolating the Sunni Sect and the Left-Wing (who were attempting to link their demands with the crisis of the South). Junblatt became the recognized Muslim leader in the Arab world, as he got the support of Syria and Egypt as well as the presence of the PLO armed groups broke the hegemony of the Christian domination. His bargaining would be narrowed down to reform the system in return of limited strikes of the PLO against Israel. Pierre Gemayel and Camille Shamoun wouldn’t want to lose any privileges for their parties stressed and accompanied the army in their clashes with the PLO. Should the Christian leaders accept any declines, the warring Lebanese factions probably would have been avoided with a new Status Quo (Fawwaz Traboulsi, A History of Modern Lebanon, Pluto Press (2007), P. 180)

The state, due to the interests of both camps, has lost legitimacy in the eyes of the left-wing camp. The erosion of the State started when Israeli Commandos entered West Beirut and assassinated three PLO figures in 1973. The Army was present and didn’t do anything as Ehud Barak stated he remained for one hour in the Verdun area disguised as a blond woman in a skirt. Escalations occurred from the soon to be Lebanese Front Alliance and the Lebanese National Movement leaders. Since 1970, the future LNM leaders called for demonstrations every time the Army (usually backed with Phalange supporters) attacked the PLO.

Two incidents will trigger the Lebanese civil war in 1975 despite the fact some confrontations occurred between Junblatt’s socialists and the Phalange militia earlier to the zero hour. The first is the demonstration led my MP Ma’ruf Sa’ad against Protein Corp. in Saida. The corporation itself has the Ahhrar’s Camille Shamo’un as one of its primary shareholders. The army shoots on the demonstrators, and the Pro-Nasserite MP Sa’ad is killed among others. Riots break up between the Army and the Nasserite, leftist, and Palestinian supporters. President Frangieh refutes to hold the army accountable while the Phalange supporters did several counter – demonstrations in solidarity with the army. After a month Frangieh transfers two officers from Saida while its governor was placed on probation. Eventually Pierre Gemayel objects on the rotation of the Army’s officer transfer. A month later, the Project of establishing Protein in Saida was abandoned and the government decides to compensate the fishermen. The Next day, April 13,1975, a shoot out takes place in Ain el-Remaini at the Phalange (which is assumed an operation on Pierre Gemayel) while the Phalanges retaliate by shooting a bus going to Tel el-Zaatar camp. The war would break and would last for a decade and a half. (Fawwaz Traboulsi, A History of Modern Lebanon, Pluto Press (2007), P. 183).

Different factors boiled down to trigger the Civil War in Lebanon. Whether it was class inequality among the sects which allowed the “Sect-Defenders” to mobilize their supporters against the “other”, or the newly balance of power between the Leftists and the Christian militias has triggered down the civil war. The presence of two armies, the PLO guerilla warfare organized commandos and the Lebanese Army, definitely shoved the direction of Lebanon towards a new civil war. Philip Habib once compared Lebanon to a vacuum that sucked in the Palestinians, the Syrians, the Israelis, the United States, and others into its whirlpool.

Keep in mind that this is just a summary of a summary for the causes why the Civil War broke, I didn’t tackle the events of the war. All are to be blamed. Just to make a remark, the causes which triggered the war on Lebanese level, the Christians and the Left, changed as the civil war, accompanied with different foreign interventions, progressed till 1990. The war is divided into different reasons, which changed as the turn of events progressed. This reflects also the expulsion of the Palestinians from their homeland triggered a chain reaction that reflected badly on Lebanon. In the end, the Proletariat suffered the greed of the elites.

13 April 2008

Future Pipe Industries Group Limited (FPI) announces launch of IPO on DIFX

Future Pipe Industries Group Limited, the Dubai based global leader in the development, manufacture and supply of fiberglass pipe systems, today published its preliminary prospectus as well as a summary document and application form for its UAE retail offer and announced an indicative price range of $5.00 to $6.60 per share for up to 35% of its shares in its initial public offering (IPO) on the Dubai International Financial Exchange (DIFX).

Up to 84.0 million shares, including an over-allotment option of up to 12.0 million shares, will be offered to investors globally. The price of FPI's shares will be denominated in US dollars and will be priced through a global book building process with institutional investors. Retail and institutional investors will pay the same price for FPI's shares, which is expected to be announced on or about 30 April 2008.

FPI, founded by the Makhzoumi family, has become the global leader in the large diameter fiberglass pipe industry with operations spanning four continents and servicing clients in over 50 countries. FPI has pioneered the use of fiberglass in the large diameter pipe market and provides pipe systems for some of the world's largest development projects including Ras Laffan Industrial City in Qatar and the Dubai World Central Airport.

FPI highlights include:

• FPI is the global leader in large diameter fiberglass pipe systems servicing the oil & gas, water distribution, infrastructure & municipal, industrial, petrochemical, and desalination & power markets;

• FPI believes it has the world's most comprehensive portfolio of fiberglass pipe products, which enables it to provide fiberglass pipe solutions across most industry sectors;

• FPI currently operates 11 factories and a global network of sales offices;

• for the year ended 31 December, 2007, FPI's sales and EBITDA were approximately $556.4m and $87.6m, respectively. Sales derived from FPI's factories in the GCC in 2007 accounted for approximately $422.5m;

• FPI's share of the global large diameter fiberglass pipe market for 2007 is estimated at 11.6%;

• FPI has a leading market position in the GCC where demand for large diameter fiberglass pipes is estimated to have grown annually by 16.5% between 2001 and 2006, exceeding the annual growth rate for global large diameter fiberglass pipes which grew at 12.1%; and

• between 2005 and 2007 total group sales grew by 50.6%, primarily driven by strong growth throughout the GCC.

The intention to float up to 35% of FPI was announced on 30 March 2008. The IPO will be in the form of a sale of shares by Future Management Holdings S.A, the sole shareholder of FPI, which is wholly-owned by the Makhzoumi family. Future Management Holdings S.A. will retain majority ownership of the company.

Commenting on the announcement, founder and Chairman of FPI, Fouad Makhzoumi said:

'FPI has come a long way since we founded the company in 1984. I believe this IPO will be one of the most important milestones in our history and, as a Dubai based company that has grown with the Emirate, I am delighted that through this offer, we will be able to share our exciting future with investors from the UAE and the GCC.'

President and CEO of FPI, Rami Makhzoumi remarked:

'Pipes are the veins and arteries of civilization, delivering essential resources such as water, oil and gas to the world. Governments and nations simply do not have a choice but to invest in pipe systems. The world pipe market in 2006 was estimated to be worth over $120bn, 80% of which can be addressed by fiberglass as a pipe material. Fiberglass currently accounts for only 5% of that addressable market and this is where FPI's long-term growth opportunity lies.'

'Core to our strategy, therefore, is our ability not only to continue to grow FPI's share of the world fiberglass pipe market but also to convert customers and end users to fiberglass usage. Our mission is to convert the world to fiberglass. We aim to achieve long-term growth by enhancing our market share, through organic and non-organic growth, continuing to position fiberglass as a superior alternative to other, more traditional, pipe materials and growing the addressable market through further investment in technology, research and development.'

12 April 2008

-No More Elements in Lebanon

-The element of communication is dead
-The element of compromise is dead
-The element of integrity is dead
-The element of respect is dead

You, Lebanese... How can you move forward with any initiative of peace and understanding?

The real Lords are either dead or out of the game. You are left alone in the battlefield, and you know what happens to whoever is left alone in the battlefield... total chaos, like a chicken without a head! only soldiers of war who consider themselves marshals or leaders now!

My advice? No advice... it's your bed and you lie in it! The Lebanese are fed-up but I do blame them all.... I do blame them all of being ignorant by blindly following their leaders, being the Hariri death initiative or any other news

-Bad signs of Lebanon

Beirut, Lebanon - When asked about the investigation into the Jan. 25 assassination of security intelligence officer Maj. Wissam Eid, Police chief Gen. Ashraf Rifi said: "There are some clues...but these terrorist crimes were committed by professional murderers and more time is needed," to find the culprits.

Rifi did not rule out new assassinations in Lebanon.

"There is always a possibility," Rifi said after meeting Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir in Bkirki on Friday.

He said that the government's top priority was to make sure that civil war does not ignite.

"We don't have signs that any side wants" civil war, Rifi said

When such a seminal question is raised it is not meant to show an interest in who holds title to property but the question is raised in an effort to get a handle on who in society is empowered to make the important decisions that shape the social, political and economic policies for the state. Who is it that is responsible for the design of the national fabric?

In many parts of the world the above question would be dismissed not because it is not important but because citizens view such a question as being very so elementary that they would be surprised about even the need to ask it. They would regard it as being the epitome of triteness and banality. It would be taken for granted that in the same way that the sun shines every morning the stakeholders, the everyday citizens own the nation and that elected officials are their only to serve the public.

11 April 2008

-Israel Says it is Better Prepared for Hizbullah Missiles

Israel wound up its largest ever civil defense exercise on Thursday to guards against missile attacks from Syria, Lebanon's Hizbullah and Gaza militants.
The latest phase of the drills, a simulation of a chemical weapons attack on a hospital, was concluded successfully and the five days of drills worked well, according to Israeli officials.

In the final drill a hospital in the northern city of Afula was evacuated during a simulated chemical weapons strike, a military spokesman said.

The home front maneuver was aimed at preparing Israel for possible attacks involving conventional weapons as well as missiles equipped with chemical or bacteriological warheads.

The exercise, which began on Sunday "worked very well, everything worked according to what we planned. We thought we would have many more problems," said defense ministry spokesman Shlomo Dror.

The drills also aimed at preparing the country for possible concerted attacks by Syria, Hizbullah from the north, and the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas from the south.

The nationwide exercise raised tensions with Israel's northern neighbors Syria and Lebanon, but Israel insisted the drill was solely designed to test civilian defenses.

"The objective of the drill was to check all kinds of situations," Dror said. "We said earlier that if everything went well (during the 2006 Lebanon war) we wouldn't have to do a drill."

The commander of the home front northern command said Israel was today much better prepared for missile attacks than it was at the 2006 war against Hizbullah when over 4,000 rockets struck northern Israel.

"We are at a completely different place today. The level of our readiness is much higher and everyone understands what they have to do," Colonel Yossi Luchy told AFP.

An official inquiry harshly criticized Israel's leadership for failing to protect civilians during the 34-day conflict which killed more than 1,200 people in Lebanon, mostly civilians, and 160 Israelis, most of them soldiers.

08 April 2008

-Sirens sounded across Israel on Tuesday...

Sirens sounded across Israel on Tuesday as part of a massive civil defense exercise aimed at preparing the country for an air or missile attack involving non-conventional weapons.
Schoolchildren in kindergartens, primary schools, and secondary schools were ordered into shelters and told to stay there for one hour, while in the north there was a simulated missile attack on the town of Nazareth.

The five-day exercise aimed at preparing Israel for a possible attack involving Iran, Syria and Hizbullah is the largest of its kind in the country's history.

The nationwide drills have raised tensions with Israel's northern neighbors Syria and Lebanon, which have gone on alert for fear the exercise might be concealing a military operation.

Israel has said the exercise is purely to test civilian defenses.(AFP)

Lebanon Phone Network Jammed Following Israeli Drill

Lebanon's telephone network has been jammed by Israel following a five-day nationwide defense drill launched by the Jewish state on Sunday.
The daily As-Safir on Tuesday quoted security sources as saying that the move, which targeted both cell and regular phone lines, began Monday afternoon.

FPI wins new $138m contract to supply pipe systems for Ras Laffan project in Qatar

Dubai-based Future Pipe Industries Group (FPI), the leading global manufacturer of large-diameter fiberglass pipe systems, has won a major new contract to supply Fiberstrong fiberglass pipes and fittings for Phase 2, category II, of the project to expand the seawater cooling facility at Ras Laffan Industrial City, in Qatar.

These new pipe and fittings orders for Fiberstrong pipe systems are valued at over $138m (QR505m).

FPI, through its subsidiary, Future Pipe Industries Qatar, has already supplied Fiberstrong for a portion of Ras Laffan's piping systems in connection with Phase 1 and the category I of Phase 2. By the time Phase 2 is complete, FPI is expected to have delivered approximately 176,000 meters of Fiberstrong fiberglass pipes. or equivalent to one third the length of Qatar's coastline.

FPI Fiberstrong pipe systems will be used for above and below ground seawater cooling lines, fire water and chlorination.

Located 80km north east of Doha, Ras Laffan City's industrial port, operated by state-owned Qatar Petroleum (QP), is amongst the largest facilities in the world for the export of liquefied natural gas (LNG), gas that is cooled to a liquid for transport by ship. A common cooling water supply facility is critical given the scale of industries present there. By 2010, QP expects demand for more than 1 million cubic meters of cooled water per day, compared with supply of just under 600,000 cubic meters now.

Commenting on the contract, Rami Makhzoumi, President and CEO of FPI said:

'This important contract demonstrates our ability to service some of the world's largest infrastructure projects. Our home market, the GCC, is the fastest growing fiberglass pipe market in the world and it is here that FPI has proved that fiberglass can be the pipe solution of choice for the biggest infrastructure and industrial projects.'

'In the case of Ras Laffan, our fiberglass pipe systems demonstrated their ability to perform at a superior standard to other materials, given harsh environmental conditions in the Gulf region, the design parameters, and the highly corrosive elements of seawater being transported. Cutting edge technological innovation and quality make FPI's Fiberstrong pipe systems ideally suited for a project of this caliber, the largest of its kind in the region.'

FPI will supply Fiberstrong fiberglass pipes for the cooling water system as this type of pipe system is highly capable of resisting the region's high temperatures - which can soar to 50 degrees centigrade - and the corrosive conditions from seawater. GRP pipes are also more efficient carriers, light in weight, durable and easy to install.

The delivery of these fiberglass pipe systems in connection with Phase 2 category II , which are directed through Athens-based Consolidated Contractors Co, is expected to commence this year. The project is expected to be completed by the first half of 2010.

06 April 2008

Pipe dreams

Future Pipe Industries is set to become the latest addition to Dubai's DIFX. Sean Cronin speaks to CEO Rami Makhzoumi to hear what investors can expect from the listing.

Rami Makhzoumi talks almost evangelically about the pipe business. The well-groomed CEO of Future Pipe Industries has reason to be excited. The world's largest fibreglass pipe manufacturer is preparing to sell shares to the public in what will be a global offering expected in early May.

"This is an emerging technology and material. Something like Google was to the research world or what the mobile phone was to communications," says Makhzoumi. "In order to do things like these great companies, like the Googles and the Nokias of this world, going public is certainly a fundamental component."

The shares will list on the Dubai International Financial Exchange (DIFX), which was opened in 2005 with the aim of becoming the Gulf's first bourse to open to issuers and investors of any nationality.

That plays to the company's desire to tap international institutional investors as well as the local players who may more readily grasp the opportunity presented by a company that makes pipes upon which much of the oil and gas, petrochemical and desalination industries rely.

"Regional investors are important to us, but at the same time we are a multinational. I would say people in the region are perhaps a lot more aware of what is happening here with infrastructure and oil and gas.

At the same time, people abroad in countries with, let's say, poorer economic conditions, are increasingly looking to markets like this," says Makhzoumi.

Future Pipe is the first new security to tempt investors since Nanodynamics Inc, pulled the plug on its planned DIFX listing in February.

It was intended to be the first US company to list its shares on the bourse, but one day before it should have listed its shares, the alternative energy company instead told the exchange that it was not going ahead with the sale.

This latest listing is also an alternative of sorts. Future Pipe uses fibreglass to manufacture pipes, instead of alternative materials like steel and plastic.

And so far it has made enough of them to circle the globe three times, says Makhzoumi.

Future Pipe will sell up to 35% of its shares to the public although the company is not saying how much it hopes to raise from the sale, pointing to a ‘book-building' process to determine the value of the offering.

The oil-fuelled economies of the Gulf are investing record budget surpluses into large-scale infrastructure and industrial projects. From Doha to Dammam, the construction boom is helping manufacturers such as Future Pipe boost sales to new oil refineries, desalination plants and district cooling facilities. The global pipe market is estimated to be worth about US$120bn.

"Oil and gas and water infrastructure is where the core of our business is. So if you look at the infrastructure explosion in oil and gas, this consists of about 70% of our sales," he says. Spending on pipes across the Middle East is soaring with construction projects worth US$1 trillion already underway.

Utilities are also investing record sums in building new power and water plants to cope with the rapidly expanding populations of cities such as Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

Dubai's state utility plans to spend about US$13.6bn through 2010 expanding power and water desalination capacity. Similarly large-scale investment programmes are also planned in countries such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

Outside the Middle East, the Future Pipe CEO points to the economies of Europe and the US, which he says have a pressing need for pipe replacement.

While the global pipe business may be worth an impressive US$120bn, the fibreglass market represents less than 3% of that with a value of just US$3.5bn.

Nonetheless, Future Pipe claims to have a market share approaching 12% in a business where the top five players control almost a quarter of global supply.

Makhzoumi also stresses the market is growing fast, helped by demand driven by the oil and gas industry, reinvesting profits accrued from record oil prices into new infrastructure.

When I first joined the business, our chairman used to send me to conferences in obscure parts of the world where they talked about gas lines running from Qatar to the UK - mega-projects that simply never materialised,"he recalls.

While such projects may have been in the realms of fantasy a few years ago, Gulf budget surpluses are encouraging governments to spend on projects that are only now stacking up commercially.

05 April 2008

Kanoo says vanity driving IPO surge

Local family-owned businesses planning an initial public offering (IPO) are often ill-prepared for shareholder scrutiny, according to a Dubai business leader.

Mishal Kanoo, Deputy Chairman of Kanoo Group, said family businesses in the region tend to be driven to go public by the vanity of boasting an enlarged company from the raised capital.

“It is fashionable. People’s perception of the recipe for success is to go public. This is a wrong perception, unfortunately, that you have to go public to be massive,” Kanoo told Emirates Business on the sidelines of the 2008 World Summit on Innovation and Entrepreneurship (WSIE) in Dubai.

“In any company, specifically family businesses, if they decide to get public money, [they must] be ready for the public scrutiny that comes with it and a lot of them are not ready for that concept,” he said.

Kanoo added that it is more traditional firms that are reluctant to relinquish control. “This is an interesting phenomenon that family businesses are not used to, especially if it is a patriarch of a certain age. To get that person to accept that someone else is going to be questioning him is a very hard pill to swallow.”

New legislation from the UAE Government is expected to encourage more family businesses to go public, as it essentially lowers the amount they are forced to give up to investors.

Changes in the new Companies Law would allow local family-owned businesses that convert into public companies, to retain a maximum stake of 70 per cent and to list a minimum stake of 30 per cent, down from the current 50 per cent.

Nasser Al Shaikh, Chairman of Amlak Finance, recently said the changes resolve the main issue of family businesses’ opposition to going public, which is loss of management control.

Mahmood Ibrahim Al Mahmood, CEO of Al Qudra Holdings, said, the firm will raise $1.2 billion (Dh4.4bn) in an IPO after the new law is finally passed.

Last week, Lebanon’s Makhzoumi family, the owner of Dubai-based Future Pipes Industries, said it plans to sell about 35 per cent of its shares in an IPO, in a sale next month and list on the DIFX.

President and CEO Rami Makhzoumi told Emirates Business that the decision was setting a “critical” precedent to other family-owned businesses in the region.

“Unlike other exchanges in the region, the DIFX offers a minimum of a 25 per cent float. Many family businesses have no real intention to exit… and they have never had the opportunity to reap the benefits of being public without foregoing the majority of their business,” he said.

04 April 2008

Ein Mreyseh & Sporting Club views

Ein Mreyseh:

Ein Mreyseh:

Ein Mreyseh:

Ein Mreyseh:

Sporting Club:

03 April 2008

Analysis: Inflation is the macro surprise of 2008

INTERNATIONAL. The macro surprise of the year so far has been the upside surge in inflation, not the downside cut to growth. Since it launched its forecasts four months ago, Merrill Lynch economists have ratcheted up 2008 global inflation expectations by a full 0.8ppt, from 3.4% to 4.2%, while shaving growth just by 0.2ppt. The threat of inflation at the global level is real, they say.

In a new report Merrill Lynch looks at ten different ways of analysing inflation. Seven of its ten indicators show bubbling inflation. Most worrying are tightness in food and energy markets, surging money supply growth, repressed inflation in emerging markets, the reaction function of central banks and the continued central bank financing of the US current account deficit. Deflationists can point to still no evidence of accelerating unit labour cost growth and to a cyclical growth downturn emanating from the United States.

In nearly all of the measures of inflation, the threat in emerging markets is greater than in the United States, where rising inflation is less likely against a weakening labour market and deflating home prices. The threat to US inflation would come primarily from emerging markets allowing their currencies to appreciate dramatically, thereby “exporting” some of their inflation back to the US.

Given the view of Merrill Lynch that the rest of the world should remain better protected from a US downturn than consensus expects, there is concern about global upside inflation risks. The report takes the opinion that the current global economic expansion will come to an end when emerging market central banks decide to deal with this threat more aggressively. In Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed, Ruler of Dubai and Prime Minister of the UAE said just this week that a committee had been formed to study the de-pegging of the UAE Dirham to the US Dollar. It will report at the end of this year. Watch out for aggressive policy tightening, civil unrest among labour workers, or capacity constraints. But we are not there yet.

So where now for global inflation? It depends on which economist you ask. Some highlight the labour market as the main driver, some insist that money is the only determinant of prices in the long run, and others yet focus on the elusive inflation expectations.

Rather than focusing on one particular theory of inflation, what Merrill Lynch did in this report was examine every theory it could think of. Does this wide array of theories point to a common conclusion?

Here are ten theories of inflation and what each implies for the future.

1. Policy reaction function: HOT
In recent years, central banks have behaved asymmetrically: easing more aggressively than tightening, easing quickly but normalising slowly and easing both when inflation falls and when inflation rises too much. We would expect an upward trend in inflation as a result.

2. Food and energy: BOILING
Most economists think of commodity prices as exogenous, yet they are clearly not for the global economy as a whole. We find that commodity prices have been driven higher by emerging market demand growth. Thus, a substantial tightening in policy conditions in those countries is a prerequisite for any medium-term downward correction. The longer-term outlook for food and energy prices remains favourable as emerging market demand has a long way to go and supply is constrained. Over the near term, central bankers and others are worried about further commodity price “super-spikes”. Thus, regulators and markets that focus on core rather than headline inflation do so at their own risk.

3. Output gap: NEUTRAL
Emerging economies have almost reached the point where capacity-constrained supply will not be able to meet strong demand, thereby starting to generate inflation. In the developed world, the output gap has closed rapidly in both the Euro area and Japan, while it has slipped into negative territory in the US. Below-trend growth is necessary to arrest this factor.

4. Labour markets: COLD
Labour markets are increasingly tightening. Coupled in some cases with sluggish productivity, this is gradually leading to a pick-up in wage growth and labour costs. These trends are most evident in emerging, not developed, markets. Despite a recent pick-up, however, unit labour cost growth remains well contained at a global level. Any spillover from tightening labour markets into higher inflation
remains a forecast, rather than a reality.

5. Money and credit: HOT
Merrill Lynch finds that global money supply is currently growing at a rapid rate, having accelerated clearly above its long-term trend over the recent past. The current rise in global inflation might be a reflection of the above-trend money supply growth over the past two years. As of the beginning of this year, we find no evidence of a slowdown in global money and credit growth sufficient to help contain inflationary pressures over time. The recent US credit crisis might eventually contain money growth, but it hasn’t done so yet.

6. Globalisation and the effect of China: GETTING HOTTER
The days of low global inflation could be numbered, as China’s once-vast labour supply begins to run dry. Low Chinese wage costs, driven by wide-scale integration of the Chinese workforce into the world economy, have underpinned the virtuous cycle of strong growth, low inflation, soft real rates and high profitability. The good news is that we are not quite there yet. Although Chinese wages are rising, there are still some 50 million workers to go. The bad news is that the end may come sooner than most people think, as early as 2009-2010.

7. Repressed inflation in emerging markets: HOT
Repressed inflation measures inflationary pressures that the government suppresses by administrative fiat, whether through administrative controls, subsidies, or export/import bans. This is particularly prevalent in emerging markets in Asia, the Gulf, and Latin America, and in goods such as oil, food, metals and electricity. We can expect such measures to persist for the foreseeable future and to be lifted only gradually. Such measures lead to suboptimal allocation of resources, transfer the onus of reduced consumption for commodities back to countries – particularly in the developed world – that don’t feature them, support infrastructure plays, and constitute a long-term inflation threat in the event commodity prices do not subside.

8. Inflation expectations, credibility: GETTING HOTTER
Currently, survey-based measures of inflation expectations show remarkable stability in the United States and the Euro area, but are drifting higher in Japan. Market-implied measures of inflation have drifted slightly higher in the US and the UK (though not in the Euro area) and have also shown an upward tendency in
some emerging markets.

9. Currency effects: NEUTRAL
Exchange rates have no effect on the total level of global inflation. However, exchange rates are relevant in the distribution of global inflation across countries. In an environment with a falling US Dollar, countries with their currency implicitly or explicitly pegged to the greenback (such as the Gulf and Hong Kong) will
experience greater inflationary pressures. Accordingly, exchange rate pass-through adds to inflationary pressures in the US (as imports to the US become more expensive) and decreases inflationary pressures for US trading partners with floating exchange rate regimes (as imports from the US become less expensive).

10. The inflation endgame: HOT
Inflation is the natural endgame to 'Bretton Woods II', the international financial system whereby the bulk of the US current account deficit is financed by central bank intervention in emerging markets such as China, the Gulf and Russia. By intervening to support the US Dollar, these central banks effectively expand domestic money supply and add to upward inflationary pressures. Eventually the system reaches its natural endpoint, when pressures become too high to tolerate and the lesser evil of currency appreciation is chosen. Merrill Lynch expects this to take place in 2008. Such appreciation would effectively 'export' these inflationary pressures back to the US. The good news is that current estimates suggest very small inflation pass-through from a weaker US Dollar, though such estimates are notoriously unstable.

What about lags?

Some investors see the recent run-up in inflationary pressures as cyclical, and expect the current global growth downturn to arrest inflation, with some lag. The report makes several comments on this.

First, inflation has accelerated sharply as the US credit crisis has unfolded. To put it differently, if you were told nine months ago that the US would be going into a recession, you would not have expected oil prices above US$100 per barrel. This is not a product of lags, the report says, but of a mistaken view on the source of the pressures.

Second, the source of the inflationary pressures is not the United States but the rest of the world, which has not slowed down sharply as the US credit crisis has unfolded and whose central banks continue to fund their expansion.

Third, inflationary pressures are cumulative, not marginal. The longer you grow above trend, the faster inflation accelerates. Inflation is a non-linear process.

Because of the longevity of the current global boom, a substantial downturn is required to alleviate bottlenecks. A shallow growth downturn will not do the trick.

Focusing on inflation cyclicality misses the point: after many years of growth, particularly in emerging markets, the global economy has reached its capacity constraints and thus the growth/inflation trade-off has now changed. This creates a different investment backdrop from the 1990s whether or not you get any temporary cyclical inflation respite.

What next?

The repercussions of inflation can manifest themselves in a number of ways. First, policy could be tightened. Ideally this would happen via currency tightening in the emerging markets world, thought it is more likely to come in a cocktail of currency tightening, higher interest rates and quantitative measures.

Second, civil unrest could ensue, if authorities do not act decisively to contain inflation. Inflation disproportionately affects those on fixed incomes, with few assets or with a greater weight of food in their consumption basket. Watch out for simmering discontent.

Third, capacity constraints could become increasingly common. These can take a number of forms such as power blackouts, physical shortages, or more frequent interruption of production as a result of seemingly random events such as extreme weather.

A natural starting point in trying to predict inflation is to examine how policy makers themselves conduct policy. Merrill Lynch argues that in recent years central banks have behaved asymmetrically: easing more aggressively than they have tightened, easing quickly but normalising slowly and easing both when inflation falls and when inflation rises too much. We would expect an upward trend in inflation as a result.

Central banks ease more aggressively than they tighten

First, central banks have been more aggressive in their easing than in their tightening campaigns. This means that easing cycles have been faster and deeper – but shorter in duration – than hiking cycles. For example, this decade, the probability of a rate cut in any particular quarter (28%) has been slightly smaller than the probability of a rate hike (33%). However, the probability of an aggressive rate cut – say more than 50bp – (59%) has been nearly double that of an aggressive rate hike (32%). By aggressively protecting the downside more than limiting the upside, central banks over time slowly shift agent expectations higher.

Fed Governor Mishkin has rebutted such criticism by arguing that central banks rightly react more aggressively to downside growth surprises because they tend to happen faster, and with shorter notice, than upside growth surprises. In effect, Governor Mishkin argues that recessions are infrequent – but highly damaging – events and thus central banks need to be aggressive in dealing with them.

There is indeed some evidence in support of this theory with the distribution of growth surprises skewed to the left in line with that of rate surprises. However, this would also imply that the central bank should be quick to normalise rates when growth itself normalises; we do not find that to be the case.

Central banks ease quickly, but normalise slowly

When global growth drops below trend, it does so quickly, and central banks react accordingly. Merrill Lynch finds that three quarters after a dip below trend, growth has slowed by an average of 1.5ppt, and central banks have eased an average of 90bp.

When growth rebounds above its trend, however, the reaction is slower. Three quarters after the dip above trend, growth has accelerated by an average of 1ppt, and central banks have tightened by just 14bp.

Asymmetry in inflation target as well

This asymmetry carries through into reactions relative to a central bank’s inflation target. Most major central banks have adopted some form of explicit (or implicit) inflation target with lower and upper comfort bands. The report estimate sthe central bank reaction as inflation approaches these upper/lower bands. It finds that central banks on average cut 5bp when inflation reaches within half a percentage point of the lower end of their comfort zone; but they also cut 4bp when inflation reaches within half a percentage point of the higher end of their comfort zone.

This counterintuitive result could be explained by the extent to which inflation is a lagging indicator; and forward-looking central banks are focused on downside risks to growth by the time actual inflation is approaching their upper limit. But this explanation would not account for the former result, in other words why central banks cut as their lower limit is reached.

The fight against deflation inevitably produces inflation. It is often said that policy mistakes are the product of an attempt to avoid repeating previous policy mistakes. The report concludes that the three behavioural patterns described above have been the natural by-product of a policy of ensuring that Japan’s experience of deflation is not repeated in other countries. Having concluded that the Bank of Japan’s main policy error in the early 1990s was to fail to ease monetary policy soon enough after asset deflation ensued, the report concludes that that policymakers adopted a much more aggressive stance towards protecting the downside in the decade that followed. Further strengthening this was the general acceptance that the war against inflation had been won (a war fought in the 1980s as a result of policy errors made in the 1970s) with inflation expectations contained, allowing central banks to pursue 'opportunistic inflation'.

The logical endpoint to this, of course, is a general upward drift in inflation until lower band, upper band central banks’ tolerance on the upside is once again tested.

What about emerging markets?

The report attempted to replicate the results above in emerging markets. However, the countries are not homogeneous enough (in trend growth, or target inflation rates) to draw firm conclusions. Nevertheless, it is evident that the relationship between growth, inflation and central bank rates is less clear-cut than in the developed world, and our main conclusion is that many emerging markets have a greater variety of policy targets (implicit or explicit) than just inflation. These often include explicit growth targets, such as that quoted at the beginning of this section as well as other variables. As a result, central bank tolerance of inflation in emerging markets is higher than in the developed world.

When forecasting growth and inflation, most economists tend to think of commodity prices as exogenously determined. Viewed through this mirror, higher commodity prices undoubtedly lower growth and increase inflation. Many central banks also focus on core, not headline, inflation, assuming commodity prices are
either mean-reverting or cannot be consistently influenced by monetary policy.

Yet both views are obviously incorrect at a global (general equilibrium) level, where commodity prices, inflation and growth have to be jointly determined. All else being equal, stronger demand growth should be correlated with higher, not lower, commodity prices. Indeed, this has been the case during the past decade.

Thus, any forecast of global inflation needs to include a forecast of commodity prices. Are we getting close to the end of the commodity price rally? What would bring about a substantial correction lower? Merril Lynch concludes that commodity prices have been driven higher by emerging market demand growth, and a substantial tightening in policy conditions in those countries is a pre-requisite for any medium-term downward correction. The longer-term outlook for food and energy prices remains favourable as emerging market demand has a long way to go and supply is constrained.

Of course, the situation is not the same in every commodity market. Agricultural commodities tend to follow short cycles as a result of production dynamics and fierce competition. However, the oil sector is facing a much darker future. Our long-term oil supply outlook is bleak, according to Merrill Lynch, partly because non-OPEC production is predicted to peak in the next five years. The cost of developing ultra-deep, arctic or oil sands reserves has continued to increase in recent years, and the ability of large oil companies to produce this hard-to-extract oil is limited.

As the world becomes more dependent on OPEC, which is essentially a cartel controlling the world’s most precious commodity, prices are unlikely to come crashing down.

Nevertheless, commodities have only a weak link to OECD inflation

The limited ability of commodity producers to expand supply ultimately means that emerging markets will continue to face a trade-off between inflation and growth. These inflationary pressures coming from the commodities side could ultimately have an impact on terms of trade, potentially putting some upward pressure on OECD inflation in the long run. However, commodities themselves maintain only a very weak link to OECD inflation.

Longer-term, energy efficiency and technology hold the key

Commodity supply growth will likely continue to disappoint due to a combination of resource, labour and equipment constraints. Growing commodity demand from emerging markets will put upward pressure on commodity prices, and possibly emerging market inflation, for years. However, we also believe that the market will help devise alternative solutions. Longer-term, energy efficiency and new technology will hold the key to commodity price movements.

In particular, energy efficiency and new technologies will help countries like China to continue to enhance the relationship between energy and economic growth. Of course, higher prices will ultimately force more efficiency in energy and food consumption.

Moreover, further developments in biological sciences may boost agricultural productivity, helping to resolve the acute water and land shortages that the world faces today. And new technological breakthroughs in the energy sector will enable the global economy to continue to grow strongly in the 21st century and beyond.

Lebanon Time-Line

Introducing Lebanon

Coolly combining the ancient with the ultramodern, Lebanon is one of the most captivating countries in the Middle East. From the Phoenician findings of Tyre (Sour) and Roman Baalbek's tremendous temple to Beirut's BO18 and Bernard Khoury's modern movement, the span of Lebanon's history leaves many visitors spinning. Tripoli (Trablous) is considered to have the best souk in the country and is famous for its Mamluk architecture. It's well equipped with a taste of modernity as well; Jounieh, formerly a sleepy fishing village, is a town alive with nightclubs and glitz on summer weekends.

With all of the Middle East's best bits - warm and welcoming people, mind-blowing history and considerable culture, Lebanon is also the antithesis of many people's imaginings of the Middle East: mostly mountainous with skiing to boot, it's also laid-back, liberal and fun. While Beirut is fast becoming the region's party place, Lebanon is working hard to recapture its crown as the 'Paris of the Orient'.

The rejuvenation of the Beirut Central District is one of the largest, most ambitious urban redevelopment projects ever undertaken. Travellers will find the excitement surrounding this and other developments and designs palpable - and very infectious.

Finally, Lebanon's cuisine is considered the richest of the region. From hummus to hommard (lobster), you'll dine like a king. With legendary sights, hospitality, food and nightlife, what more could a traveller want?

Introducing Beirut

What Beirut is depends entirely on where you are. If you’re gazing at the beautifully reconstructed colonial relics and mosques of central Beirut’s Downtown, the city is a triumph of rejuvenation over disaster.

If you’re in the young, vibrant neighbourhoods of Gemmayzeh or Achrafiye, Beirut is about living for the moment: partying, eating and drinking as if there’s no tomorrow. If you’re standing in the shadow of buildings still peppered with bullet holes, or walking the Green Line with an elderly resident, it’s a city of bitter memories and a dark past. If you’re with Beirut’s Armenians, Beirut is about salvation; if you’re with its handful of Jews, it’s about hiding your true identity. Here you’ll find the freest gay scene in the Arab Middle East, yet homosexuality is still illegal. If you’re in one of Beirut’s southern refugee camps, Beirut is about sorrow and displacement; other southern districts are considered a base for paramilitary operations and south Beirut is home to infamous Hezbollah secretary general, Hassan Nasrallah. For some, it’s a city of fear; for others, freedom.

Throw in maniacal drivers, air pollution from old, smoking Mercedes taxis, world-class universities, bars to rival Soho and coffee thicker than mud, political demonstrations, and swimming pools awash with more silicone than Miami. Add people so friendly you’ll swear it can’t be true, a political situation existing on a knife-edge, internationally renowned museums and gallery openings that continue in the face of explosions, assassinations and power cuts, and you’ll find that you’ve never experienced a capital city quite so alive and kicking – despite its frequent volatility.