Pep Montserrat for The National
Pep Montserrat for The National

International censure may be link to begin domino chain in Yemen



Finally, after years of ruling an independent-minded country, after thousands of citizens took to the streets to demand his departure, after a long rule that polarised public opinion and set the north against the south, a tough billionaire leader of a sun-drenched country has agreed to step down. Sadly, that leader was not Yemen's Ali Abdullah Saleh but Italy's Silvio Berlusconi.
Ten months on, Yemen's uprising is still ongoing, still bloody, with no clear end in sight, the longest of all the Arab uprisings. Tens of thousands have taken to the streets, all across the country, a size of popular resistance unmatched in any Arab country bar Egypt.
Of the three Arab leaders that have resisted the winds of Arab change these past few months, Yemen's leadership remains the only one to escape serious international censure. That may soon change. If it does, the dominoes may begin to fall and Yemen may shift to a new future. But what type of future?
This week, Ali Abdullah Saleh promised in a television interview that he would step down. Yet that possibility now seems more remote than before. Listening carefully to the president's words in the interview, it is clear that Saleh envisages many hurdles before that time: he would only leave after an agreement on the GCC initiative has been reached, and that agreement signed, and a power transfer agreed, and elections occur.
Given that Saleh has come close to signing the agreement before, and that an agreement was reached for his prime minister to assume the power to call presidential elections, it seems unlikely this is a serious offer.
Syria and Yemen are incredibly complicated countries: Syria externally, because of its geographical position and regional alliances; Yemen internally, due to its complicated web of politics. It is this complexity that makes any movement by international actors so risky.
For a start, the political parties of Yemen have not been as clearly co-opted by the regime as Syria's - the country has had democratic institutions and elections for some time. There is a political opposition but, like the opposition to Ben Ali's rule in Tunisia, years of making accommodations with Saleh and his ruling General People's Congress party have tainted them in the eyes of most citizens. When the Arab Spring swept across the country, the official opposition, the Joint Meeting Parties, were left scrambling. For many Yemenis, such parties offer only incremental change in a stagnant political system, rather than the wholesale reform the protesters are demanding.
There is a second layer of political power, the fluid grouping of elites that have helped and hindered President Saleh at various times, while enriching themselves. These are chiefly the Al Ahmar family and a former close ally of Saleh, General Ali Mohsen, who defected from the president's side at the height of the protests. It is likely both of these groups will try to capitalise on the instability to increase their power.
Into this equation comes the southern independence movement. Since unification in 1990, what was South Yemen has sat uneasily in the union. The south has fewer people and most of the country's wealth, yet the years of unification have seen a gradual slide of economic and political power away from the south. As the protest movement has continued without resolution, some southerners have begun to grumble that it is time to move away from the protest movement and push for independence.
The final part of this tapestry is the best known, the eclectic and energetic youth movement whose protests have gripped the country for the past 10 months. In Tawakkol Karman, the journalist and activist who was last month awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, the movement acquired a powerful new spokeswoman, one with international recognition. It was after a meeting in Paris last week with Karman that France's foreign minister first mooted the idea that Saleh's assets might be frozen, suggesting talks on that move would take place this week among European leaders.
So far, the loose alliance of youth protesters, southern secessionists and Saleh's political rivals has not been sufficient to force the resignation of the president. External actions, either by the European Union, the Arab League or the United Nations could break the stalemate. The danger is that the stalemate - as bloody as it currently is - may yield to more violence.
Sanctions, or the threat of sanctions, would at least represent some movement on the part of the international community. The youth movement has been calling for more international involvement, which could involve travel restrictions on Saleh and/or his inner circle and the freezing of assets, such as were used against Libya's Qaddafi.
There is also the novel experience of the Arab League, who last week used the serious diplomatic weight of suspending Syria to try to push Al Assad to end the violence against his people. This week in Yemen's capital, a rally was held to call on the Arab League to suspend Yemen's membership. Just a week ago that would have seemed an unimaginable situation. Now, the use of such a suspension - only once previously invoked when Egypt was suspended following the Camp David accords - has become possible, even plausible.
And then there is the carrot of safe haven in another Arab country - although, given that Saleh seems uninterested in the GCC-brokered plan that offers immunity from prosecution, it may not be persuasive.
Some movement by the international community is essential because it might finally push Saudi Arabia and the United States - the two most powerful influences on Yemen's government, both of whom appear to have accepted that Saleh is the only game in town - into more coherent action.
The trouble with all of these options is that they might cause more of the very things they seek to end. None of the mooted suggestions will necessarily mean that Saleh leaves immediately - the most pressing issue is to stop the bloodshed of civilians and to make Saleh take the GCC plan seriously.
Yet Saleh and his supporters have shown their determination to stay in power. At the same time, the youth movement is unlikely to give up, having persevered peacefully for so long in the face of violence. Having seen other protest movements succeed in the Arab world, the movement is determined to continue.
In Sanaa's "Change Square", the spiritual heart of an uprising that has spread to other cities, as many as 150,000 people can be found camping out, living in the square - really a series of connected avenues, so wide have the protests grown.
The protesters, despite incredible odds, remain connected to the outside world via blogs, email and social-networking sites, and good humoured, poking fun at their situation and that of Yemen's political order.
The protest movement is frustrated by the GCC deal, seeing it as offering Saleh too much. "No immunity" is a call often heard. That the main deal on the table is unacceptable to most of the protesters is serious, a harbinger of more conflict. It is noteworthy that the action that has thus far proved most likely to remove Saleh from power was a bomb attack on his compound that forced him to seek medical treatment abroad.
The fear in Yemen, the fear in the Middle East, is that attempting to cut the Gordian knot of Yemen's uprising might only break the already weak chains that still slimly hold the country together.
Faisal Al Yafai is a columnist at The National. Follow him on Twitter: @FaisalAlYafai

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Level B DeChambeau (US), J Rose (Eng) 

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Mercer, the investment consulting arm of US services company Marsh & McLennan, expects its wealth division to at least double its assets under management (AUM) in the Middle East as wealth in the region continues to grow despite economic headwinds, a company official said.

Mercer Wealth, which globally has $160 billion in AUM, plans to boost its AUM in the region to $2-$3bn in the next 2-3 years from the present $1bn, said Yasir AbuShaban, a Dubai-based principal with Mercer Wealth.

Within the next two to three years, we are looking at reaching $2 to $3 billion as a conservative estimate and we do see an opportunity to do so,” said Mr AbuShaban.

Mercer does not directly make investments, but allocates clients’ money they have discretion to, to professional asset managers. They also provide advice to clients.

“We have buying power. We can negotiate on their (client’s) behalf with asset managers to provide them lower fees than they otherwise would have to get on their own,” he added.

Mercer Wealth’s clients include sovereign wealth funds, family offices, and insurance companies among others.

From its office in Dubai, Mercer also looks after Africa, India and Turkey, where they also see opportunity for growth.

Wealth creation in Middle East and Africa (MEA) grew 8.5 per cent to $8.1 trillion last year from $7.5tn in 2015, higher than last year’s global average of 6 per cent and the second-highest growth in a region after Asia-Pacific which grew 9.9 per cent, according to consultancy Boston Consulting Group (BCG). In the region, where wealth grew just 1.9 per cent in 2015 compared with 2014, a pickup in oil prices has helped in wealth generation.

BCG is forecasting MEA wealth will rise to $12tn by 2021, growing at an annual average of 8 per cent.

Drivers of wealth generation in the region will be split evenly between new wealth creation and growth of performance of existing assets, according to BCG.

Another general trend in the region is clients’ looking for a comprehensive approach to investing, according to Mr AbuShaban.

“Institutional investors or some of the families are seeing a slowdown in the available capital they have to invest and in that sense they are looking at optimizing the way they manage their portfolios and making sure they are not investing haphazardly and different parts of their investment are working together,” said Mr AbuShaban.

Some clients also have a higher appetite for risk, given the low interest-rate environment that does not provide enough yield for some institutional investors. These clients are keen to invest in illiquid assets, such as private equity and infrastructure.

“What we have seen is a desire for higher returns in what has been a low-return environment specifically in various fixed income or bonds,” he said.

“In this environment, we have seen a de facto increase in the risk that clients are taking in things like illiquid investments, private equity investments, infrastructure and private debt, those kind of investments were higher illiquidity results in incrementally higher returns.”

The Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, one of the largest sovereign wealth funds, said in its 2016 report that has gradually increased its exposure in direct private equity and private credit transactions, mainly in Asian markets and especially in China and India. The authority’s private equity department focused on structured equities owing to “their defensive characteristics.”

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KEY DATES IN AMAZON'S HISTORY

July 5, 1994: Jeff Bezos founds Cadabra Inc, which would later be renamed to Amazon.com, because his lawyer misheard the name as 'cadaver'. In its earliest days, the bookstore operated out of a rented garage in Bellevue, Washington

July 16, 1995: Amazon formally opens as an online bookseller. Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies: Computer Models of the Fundamental Mechanisms of Thought becomes the first item sold on Amazon

1997: Amazon goes public at $18 a share, which has grown about 1,000 per cent at present. Its highest closing price was $197.85 on June 27, 2024

1998: Amazon acquires IMDb, its first major acquisition. It also starts selling CDs and DVDs

2000: Amazon Marketplace opens, allowing people to sell items on the website

2002: Amazon forms what would become Amazon Web Services, opening the Amazon.com platform to all developers. The cloud unit would follow in 2006

2003: Amazon turns in an annual profit of $75 million, the first time it ended a year in the black

2005: Amazon Prime is introduced, its first-ever subscription service that offered US customers free two-day shipping for $79 a year

2006: Amazon Unbox is unveiled, the company's video service that would later morph into Amazon Instant Video and, ultimately, Amazon Video

2007: Amazon's first hardware product, the Kindle e-reader, is introduced; the Fire TV and Fire Phone would come in 2014. Grocery service Amazon Fresh is also started

2009: Amazon introduces Amazon Basics, its in-house label for a variety of products

2010: The foundations for Amazon Studios were laid. Its first original streaming content debuted in 2013

2011: The Amazon Appstore for Google's Android is launched. It is still unavailable on Apple's iOS

2014: The Amazon Echo is launched, a speaker that acts as a personal digital assistant powered by Alexa

2017: Amazon acquires Whole Foods for $13.7 billion, its biggest acquisition

2018: Amazon's market cap briefly crosses the $1 trillion mark, making it, at the time, only the third company to achieve that milestone

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Started: 2018
Founder: Siddiq Farid and Musfique Ahmed
Based: Dubai
Sector: FinTech / PropTech
Initial investment: $650,000
Current number of staff: 35
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Investors: Various institutional investors and notable angel investors (500 MENA, Shurooq, Mada, Seedstar, Tricap)

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Ruwais timeline

1971 Abu Dhabi National Oil Company established

1980 Ruwais Housing Complex built, located 10 kilometres away from industrial plants

1982 120,000 bpd capacity Ruwais refinery complex officially inaugurated by the founder of the UAE Sheikh Zayed

1984 Second phase of Ruwais Housing Complex built. Today the 7,000-unit complex houses some 24,000 people.  

1985 The refinery is expanded with the commissioning of a 27,000 b/d hydro cracker complex

2009 Plans announced to build $1.2 billion fertilizer plant in Ruwais, producing urea

2010 Adnoc awards $10bn contracts for expansion of Ruwais refinery, to double capacity from 415,000 bpd

2014 Ruwais 261-outlet shopping mall opens

2014 Production starts at newly expanded Ruwais refinery, providing jet fuel and diesel and allowing the UAE to be self-sufficient for petrol supplies

2014 Etihad Rail begins transportation of sulphur from Shah and Habshan to Ruwais for export

2017 Aldar Academies to operate Adnoc’s schools including in Ruwais from September. Eight schools operate in total within the housing complex.

2018 Adnoc announces plans to invest $3.1 billion on upgrading its Ruwais refinery 

2018 NMC Healthcare selected to manage operations of Ruwais Hospital

2018 Adnoc announces new downstream strategy at event in Abu Dhabi on May 13

Source: The National

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Started: 2023
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