King says Syria refugee influx is depleting Jordan’s natural resources



AMMAN // King Abdullah II said on Sunday the influx of hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees is depleting Jordan’s scarce natural resources, and called for international assistance to deal with the problem.

“Jordan currently hosts around 600,000 Syrian refugees – an issue that depletes our already limited resources and puts enormous pressure on our infrastructure,” the king said in a speech to parliament.

“If the international community does not move quickly to help us shoulder the burdens of the Syrian crisis... Jordan is able to take measures to protect the interests of our people and country,” he said without elaborating.

The monarch said that since the start of the Syria conflict, Jordan had stuck to a policy of supporting a political solution that preserved the war-hit country’s unity and territorial integrity, as well as security in the region.

The UN refugee agency says there are 541,025 registered Syrian refugees in Jordan, including more than 100,000 in the northern desert Zaatari camp near the border.

Jordan has repeatedly called for more international aid.

It says the growing refugee influx has placed a huge burden on already overstretched water and power supplies as well as housing and education, while unemployed Jordanians face tough competition from Syrians for jobs.

On Thursday, Amnesty International urged the world to support Jordan and other countries hosting Syrian refugees end border restrictions on those fleeing the conflict.

More than 115,000 people have been killed and over 2.1 million forced to flee – mostly to Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt – since the conflict erupted after a crackdown on protests that began in March 2011 against President Bashar Al Assad.

* Agence France-Presse

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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Name: Xpanceo

Started: 2018

Founders: Roman Axelrod, Valentyn Volkov

Based: Dubai, UAE

Industry: Smart contact lenses, augmented/virtual reality

Funding: $40 million

Investor: Opportunity Venture (Asia)

Hili 2: Unesco World Heritage site

The site is part of the Hili archaeological park in Al Ain. Excavations there have proved the existence of the earliest known agricultural communities in modern-day UAE. Some date to the Bronze Age but Hili 2 is an Iron Age site. The Iron Age witnessed the development of the falaj, a network of channels that funnelled water from natural springs in the area. Wells allowed settlements to be established, but falaj meant they could grow and thrive. Unesco, the UN's cultural body, awarded Al Ain's sites - including Hili 2 - world heritage status in 2011. Now the most recent dig at the site has revealed even more about the skilled people that lived and worked there.

Women’s T20 World Cup Qualifier

UAE fixtures

25 April – Ireland v UAE*
27 April – UAE v Zimbabwe**
29 April – Netherlands v UAE*
3 May – UAE v Vanuatu*
5 May – Semi-finals
7 May – Final
UAE squad: Esha Oza (captain), Al Maseera Jahangir, Avanee Patel, Heena Hotchandani, Indhuja Nandakumar, Kavisha Kumari, Khushi Sharma, Lavanya Keny, Mehak Thakur, Rinitha Rajith, Samaira Dharnidharka, Siya Gokhale, Suraksha Kotte, Theertha Satish, Vaishnave Mahesh.

*Zayed Cricket Stadium

**Tolerance Oval

DUBAI BLING: EPISODE 1

Creator: Netflix

Stars: Kris Fade, Ebraheem Al Samadi, Zeina Khoury

Rating: 2/5