Government employees and police secure a ballot box from a referendum on a draft constitution on August 7, 2016 in Bangkok, Thailand. Brent Lewin / Getty Images
Government employees and police secure a ballot box from a referendum on a draft constitution on August 7, 2016 in Bangkok, Thailand. Brent Lewin / Getty Images

Thais approve controversial new constitution



BANGKOK // Thai voters on Sunday overwhelmingly approved a new junta-backed constitution that lays the foundation for a civilian government influenced by the military and controlled by appointed – rather than elected – officials.

With 91 per cent of the ballots counted, 62 per cent of voters in the referendum said they approved of the new constitution, while 38 per cent rejected it, said election commissioner Somchai Srisutthiyakorn.

The referendum was seen as a test of the popularity of prime minister Prayuth Chan-ocha’s military government. The retired army general has severely curtailed dissent since coming to power in a 2014 coup. But his rule has also brought a measure of stability and ended the frequent street violence and divisive politics that had frayed Thailand’s social fabric for years.

That veneer of stability could help explain the “yes” vote for the new constitution.

In addition to asking for an opinion on the constitution, the referendum also asked a supplementary question on whether voters wanted an appointed senate to choose a prime minister. That question elicited a less enthusiastic approval – 58 per cent “yes” and 42 per cent “no”, Mr Somchai said.

Although no irregularities were reported in the voting process, critics are likely to point out that the “no” camp was denied the opportunity to present its case.

The junta imposed severe restrictions in the run-up to the referendum, banning political rallies, independent campaigns and open discussion about the draft constitution. Criticism of the draft was made punishable by 10 years in jail. Critics say the restrictions ensured that most people were unaware of the pitfalls of the charter, and were probably anxious to get the long-drawn process over with so that they could move on.

There was also the allure of new elections that Mr Prayuth has promised to hold in 2017, after the approval of the new constitution, although he said he would call the vote even if the referendum was defeated.

Some 50 million voters were registered for Sunday’s referendum, but only about 55 per cent of them voted, Mr Somchai said.

Analysts had said that a “yes” vote would be a setback for democracy in Thailand.

“If you say ‘yes’ to the constitution, it means you agree with the content of the constitution ... what makes matters worse is you also give legitimacy to the coup, to the coup makers,” Pavin Chachavalpongpun, an associate professor at the Centre for South-east Asian Studies at Kyoto University in Japan, said on Friday.

Mr Pavin, a Thai and vocal critic of the junta, said a victory in the referendum would give the junta more reason to tell the world “don’t you dare criticise us anymore because we have the legitimacy”.

Critics of the draft constitution point to the fact that it calls for a transition period of at least five years to civilian rule, and that it would establish a 250-member appointed senate that includes the commanders of the army and other security services. They also highlight the fact that a deadlock in the 500-member elected lower house could trigger the selection of a prime minister who is not an elected member of parliament, and that emergency decrees enacted by the junta without any parliamentary consent remain valid.

Under the abolished 2007 constitution, meanwhile, half the Senate was elected, and the prime minister had to come from the lower house.

Thailand has endured 13 successful military coups and 11 attempted takeovers since it replaced an absolute monarchy with a constitutional one in 1932. This would be Thailand’s 20th constitution.

Leaders of the latest coup say frequent political conflicts had made the country ungovernable and that military rule was necessary for stability. The junta set up hand-picked committees to draft a charter that would enshrine its declared goal of reforming politics by eliminating corruption.

But others believe the new constitution has a different aim: to weaken allies of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Mr Thaksin’s political machine has easily won every national election since 2001, mainly due to the support of working-class and rural voters who benefited from his populist policies. Leading the other side is Thailand’s traditional ruling class and royalists – known as the “yellow shirts” – who are unnerved by Mr Thaksin’s support.

The army ousted Mr Thaksin in a 2006 coup, after “yellow shirt” protesters took to the streets and accused him of abuse of power, corruption and disrespecting the king. He has lived abroad since 2008 to avoid prison for a corruption conviction that he says was politically motivated. The 2014 coup ousted his sister Yingluck Shinawatra, who was elected prime minister in 2011.

* Associated Press

Karwaan

Producer: Ronnie Screwvala

Director: Akarsh Khurana

Starring: Irrfan Khan, Dulquer Salmaan, Mithila Palkar

Rating: 4/5

Combating coronavirus
Most polluted cities in the Middle East

1. Baghdad, Iraq
2. Manama, Bahrain
3. Dhahran, Saudi Arabia
4. Kuwait City, Kuwait
5. Ras Al Khaimah, UAE
6. Ash Shihaniyah, Qatar
7. Abu Dhabi, UAE
8. Cairo, Egypt
9. Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
10. Dubai, UAE

Source: 2022 World Air Quality Report

MOST POLLUTED COUNTRIES IN THE WORLD

1. Chad
2. Iraq
3. Pakistan
4. Bahrain
5. Bangladesh
6. Burkina Faso
7. Kuwait
8. India
9. Egypt
10. Tajikistan

Source: 2022 World Air Quality Report

Dubai Rugby Sevens, December 5 -7

World Sevens Series Pools

A – Fiji, France, Argentina, Japan

B – United States, Australia, Scotland, Ireland

C – New Zealand, Samoa, Canada, Wales

D – South Africa, England, Spain, Kenya

THE JERSEYS

Red Jersey
General Classification, sponsored by Fatima bint Mubarak Ladies Academy: Worn daily, starting from Stage 2, by the leader of the General Classification.
Green Jersey
Points Classification, sponsored by Bike Abu Dhabi: Worn daily, starting from Stage 2, by the fastest sprinter.
White Jersey
Young Rider Classification, sponsored by Abu Dhabi 360: Worn daily, starting from Stage 2, by the best young rider (U25).
Black Jersey
Intermediate Sprint Classification, sponsored by Experience Abu Dhabi: Worn daily, starting from Stage 2, by the rider who has gained most Intermediate sprint points.

COMPANY PROFILE

Name: Haltia.ai
Started: 2023
Co-founders: Arto Bendiken and Talal Thabet
Based: Dubai, UAE
Industry: AI
Number of employees: 41
Funding: About $1.7 million
Investors: Self, family and friends

German plea

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told the German parliament that. Russia had erected a new wall across Europe.

"It's not a Berlin Wall -- it is a Wall in central Europe between freedom and bondage and this Wall is growing bigger with every bomb" dropped on Ukraine, Zelenskyy told MPs.

Mr Zelenskyy was applauded by MPs in the Bundestag as he addressed Chancellor Olaf Scholz directly.

"Dear Mr Scholz, tear down this Wall," he said, evoking US President Ronald Reagan's 1987 appeal to Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev at Berlin's Brandenburg Gate.

Abaya trends

The utilitarian robe held dear by Arab women is undergoing a change that reveals it as an elegant and graceful garment available in a range of colours and fabrics, while retaining its traditional appeal.

Fitness problems in men's tennis

Andy Murray - hip

Novak Djokovic - elbow

Roger Federer - back

Stan Wawrinka - knee

Kei Nishikori - wrist

Marin Cilic - adductor

COMPANY PROFILE

Company name: Almouneer
Started: 2017
Founders: Dr Noha Khater and Rania Kadry
Based: Egypt
Number of staff: 120
Investment: Bootstrapped, with support from Insead and Egyptian government, seed round of
$3.6 million led by Global Ventures

A QUIET PLACE

Starring: Lupita Nyong'o, Joseph Quinn, Djimon Hounsou

Director: Michael Sarnoski

Rating: 4/5

INDIA SQUAD

Rohit Sharma (captain), Shikhar Dhawan (vice-captain), KL Rahul, Suresh Raina, Manish Pandey, Dinesh Karthik (wicketkeeper), Deepak Hooda, Washington Sundar, Yuzvendra Chahal, Axar Patel, Vijay Shankar, Shardul Thakur, Jaydev Unadkat, Mohammad Siraj and Rishabh Pant (wicketkeeper)

Company profile

Name: Back to Games and Boardgame Space

Started: Back to Games (2015); Boardgame Space (Mark Azzam became co-founder in 2017)

Founder: Back to Games (Mr Azzam); Boardgame Space (Mr Azzam and Feras Al Bastaki)

Based: Dubai and Abu Dhabi 

Industry: Back to Games (retail); Boardgame Space (wholesale and distribution) 

Funding: Back to Games: self-funded by Mr Azzam with Dh1.3 million; Mr Azzam invested Dh250,000 in Boardgame Space  

Growth: Back to Games: from 300 products in 2015 to 7,000 in 2019; Boardgame Space: from 34 games in 2017 to 3,500 in 2019

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

The specs

Engine: 3.0-litre flat-six twin-turbocharged

Transmission: eight-speed PDK automatic

Power: 445bhp

Torque: 530Nm

Price: Dh474,600

On Sale: Now

UAE currency: the story behind the money in your pockets
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder's Revenge

Developer: Tribute Games
Publisher: Dotemu
Consoles: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4&5, PC and Xbox One
Rating: 4/5

The Dark Blue Winter Overcoat & Other Stories From the North
Edited and Introduced by Sjón and Ted Hodgkinson
Pushkin Press 

Could We Be More

Artist: Kokoroko
Label: Brownswood Recordings
Rating: 3.5/5

Virtual banks explained

What is a virtual bank?

The Hong Kong Monetary Authority defines it as a bank that delivers services through the internet or other electronic channels instead of physical branches. That means not only facilitating payments but accepting deposits and making loans, just like traditional ones. Other terms used interchangeably include digital or digital-only banks or neobanks. By contrast, so-called digital wallets or e-wallets such as Apple Pay, PayPal or Google Pay usually serve as intermediaries between a consumer’s traditional account or credit card and a merchant, usually via a smartphone or computer.

What’s the draw in Asia?

Hundreds of millions of people under-served by traditional institutions, for one thing. In China, India and elsewhere, digital wallets such as Alipay, WeChat Pay and Paytm have already become ubiquitous, offering millions of people an easy way to store and spend their money via mobile phone. Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines are also among the world’s biggest under-banked countries; together they have almost half a billion people.

Is Hong Kong short of banks?

No, but the city is among the most cash-reliant major economies, leaving room for newcomers to disrupt the entrenched industry. Ant Financial, an Alibaba Group Holding affiliate that runs Alipay and MYBank, and Tencent Holdings, the company behind WeBank and WeChat Pay, are among the owners of the eight ventures licensed to create virtual banks in Hong Kong, with operations expected to start as early as the end of the year. 

CONCRETE COWBOY

Directed by: Ricky Staub

Starring: Idris Elba, Caleb McLaughlin, Jharrel Jerome

3.5/5 stars

Teams

Punjabi Legends Owners: Inzamam-ul-Haq and Intizar-ul-Haq; Key player: Misbah-ul-Haq

Pakhtoons Owners: Habib Khan and Tajuddin Khan; Key player: Shahid Afridi

Maratha Arabians Owners: Sohail Khan, Ali Tumbi, Parvez Khan; Key player: Virender Sehwag

Bangla Tigers Owners: Shirajuddin Alam, Yasin Choudhary, Neelesh Bhatnager, Anis and Rizwan Sajan; Key player: TBC

Colombo Lions Owners: Sri Lanka Cricket; Key player: TBC

Kerala Kings Owners: Hussain Adam Ali and Shafi Ul Mulk; Key player: Eoin Morgan

Venue Sharjah Cricket Stadium

Format 10 overs per side, matches last for 90 minutes

Timeline October 25: Around 120 players to be entered into a draft, to be held in Dubai; December 21: Matches start; December 24: Finals

T20 WORLD CUP QUALIFIERS

Qualifier A, Muscat

(All matches to be streamed live on icc.tv) 

Fixtures

Friday, February 18: 10am Oman v Nepal, Canada v Philippines; 2pm Ireland v UAE, Germany v Bahrain 

Saturday, February 19: 10am Oman v Canada, Nepal v Philippines; 2pm UAE v Germany, Ireland v Bahrain 

Monday, February 21: 10am Ireland v Germany, UAE v Bahrain; 2pm Nepal v Canada, Oman v Philippines 

Tuesday, February 22: 2pm Semi-finals 

Thursday, February 24: 2pm Final 

UAE squad:Ahmed Raza(captain), Muhammad Waseem, Chirag Suri, Vriitya Aravind, Rohan Mustafa, Kashif Daud, Zahoor Khan, Alishan Sharafu, Raja Akifullah, Karthik Meiyappan, Junaid Siddique, Basil Hameed, Zafar Farid, Mohammed Boota, Mohammed Usman, Rahul Bhatia

Credit Score explained

What is a credit score?

In the UAE your credit score is a number generated by the Al Etihad Credit Bureau (AECB), which represents your credit worthiness – in other words, your risk of defaulting on any debt repayments. In this country, the number is between 300 and 900. A low score indicates a higher risk of default, while a high score indicates you are a lower risk.

Why is it important?

Financial institutions will use it to decide whether or not you are a credit risk. Those with better scores may also receive preferential interest rates or terms on products such as loans, credit cards and mortgages.

How is it calculated?

The AECB collects information on your payment behaviour from banks as well as utilitiy and telecoms providers.

How can I improve my score?

By paying your bills on time and not missing any repayments, particularly your loan, credit card and mortgage payments. It is also wise to limit the number of credit card and loan applications you make and to reduce your outstanding balances.

How do I know if my score is low or high?

By checking it. Visit one of AECB’s Customer Happiness Centres with an original and valid Emirates ID, passport copy and valid email address. Liv. customers can also access the score directly from the banking app.

How much does it cost?

A credit report costs Dh100 while a report with the score included costs Dh150. Those only wanting the credit score pay Dh60. VAT is payable on top.

The Details

Article 15
Produced by: Carnival Cinemas, Zee Studios
Directed by: Anubhav Sinha
Starring: Ayushmann Khurrana, Kumud Mishra, Manoj Pahwa, Sayani Gupta, Zeeshan Ayyub
Our rating: 4/5 

Email sent to Uber team from chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi

From: Dara

To: Team@

Date: March 25, 2019 at 11:45pm PT

Subj: Accelerating in the Middle East

Five years ago, Uber launched in the Middle East. It was the start of an incredible journey, with millions of riders and drivers finding new ways to move and work in a dynamic region that’s become so important to Uber. Now Pakistan is one of our fastest-growing markets in the world, women are driving with Uber across Saudi Arabia, and we chose Cairo to launch our first Uber Bus product late last year.

Today we are taking the next step in this journey—well, it’s more like a leap, and a big one: in a few minutes, we’ll announce that we’ve agreed to acquire Careem. Importantly, we intend to operate Careem independently, under the leadership of co-founder and current CEO Mudassir Sheikha. I’ve gotten to know both co-founders, Mudassir and Magnus Olsson, and what they have built is truly extraordinary. They are first-class entrepreneurs who share our platform vision and, like us, have launched a wide range of products—from digital payments to food delivery—to serve consumers.

I expect many of you will ask how we arrived at this structure, meaning allowing Careem to maintain an independent brand and operate separately. After careful consideration, we decided that this framework has the advantage of letting us build new products and try new ideas across not one, but two, strong brands, with strong operators within each. Over time, by integrating parts of our networks, we can operate more efficiently, achieve even lower wait times, expand new products like high-capacity vehicles and payments, and quicken the already remarkable pace of innovation in the region.

This acquisition is subject to regulatory approval in various countries, which we don’t expect before Q1 2020. Until then, nothing changes. And since both companies will continue to largely operate separately after the acquisition, very little will change in either teams’ day-to-day operations post-close. Today’s news is a testament to the incredible business our team has worked so hard to build.

It’s a great day for the Middle East, for the region’s thriving tech sector, for Careem, and for Uber.

Uber on,

Dara

The lowdown

Rating: 4/5

The specs

Engine: 6.2-litre V8

Transmission: ten-speed

Power: 420bhp

Torque: 624Nm

Price: Dh325,125

On sale: Now

World Food Day

Celebrated on October 16, to coincide with the founding date of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation, World Food Day aims to tackle issues such as hunger, food security, food waste and the environmental impact of food production.

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.”

COMPANY PROFILE

Company name: Revibe
Started: 2022
Founders: Hamza Iraqui and Abdessamad Ben Zakour
Based: UAE
Industry: Refurbished electronics
Funds raised so far: $10m
Investors: Flat6Labs, Resonance and various others