<p>Sana / EPA</p>
<p>Sana / EPA</p>

Former ambassador to Syria says UK must ‘swallow our pride’ on Assad



A former UK ambassador to Syria has warned the government to “swallow its pride” and come to terms with the reality that the Assad regime is “here to stay”.

Writing in a publication for British lawmakers, Lord Green of Deddington, who served as ambassador in Damascus from 1991 to 1994, criticised the recent military strikes in Syria by the UK, US and France saying it showed there was no “longer-term strategy”.

Lord Green suggested that reopening the embassy in Damascus would be a “useful” place to start regaining relations with Bashar Al Assad.

Supported by Russia and Iran, the Syrian president has clung onto power throughout the seven year war and has regained control of much of the country.

“His forces have made decisive progress on the ground, strongly supported by Russia and Iran, both now key players in the region,” Lord Green wrote. “Even the Israelis have long learnt to live with the Syrian regime.

“As for ourselves, we will not get a sensible strategy for Syria unless we come to terms with our instinctive rejection of the Assad regime. Certainly, it is a very tough police state and has been so for decades.

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“Surveillance of any possible opposition by six secret police services is intense and their treatment of prisoners hardly bears thinking about.

“This is not due to Bashar Al Assad alone - he is more a figurehead than a dictator. Rather it is the result of the seizure of power by a minority sect, the Alawites, who have held on to it for two generations with ferocious determination.”

In announcing the military strikes on Syria’s chemical weapons infrastructure last week, UK Prime Minister Theresa May said the decision had not been about regime change but rather a response to a chemical attack in Douma on April 7.

Lord Green said the UK had been “bounced” into the attack and warned of further escalation.

“What happens if there is another such incident? Do we bomb again but on a heavier scale? Do we take a further and probably more serious risk of a confrontation with Russia?” he asked.

“More importantly, where is all this heading?  Do we seriously wish to re-engage militarily in Syria with our own armed forces? Have we learnt nothing from Iraq and Libya?”

The former diplomat said the UK’s major interest should be denying Syrian territory to ISIS, who he described as “the greatest threat to our own society since the Second World War”.

Since leaving the diplomatic service, Lord Green has been the chairman of MigrationWatch UK, a right-wing pressure group he co-founded in 2000, which aims to reduce immigration to Britain.

Dolittle

Director: Stephen Gaghan

Stars: Robert Downey Jr, Michael Sheen

One-and-a-half out of five stars

A Prayer Before Dawn

Director: Jean-Stephane Sauvaire

Starring: Joe Cole, Somluck Kamsing, Panya Yimmumphai

Three stars

SPECS

Engine: 1.5-litre 4-cylinder
Power: 101hp
Torque: 135Nm
Transmission: Six-speed auto
Price: From Dh79,900
On sale: Now

COMPANY PROFILE

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)

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.”

Naga

Director: Meshal Al Jaser

Starring: Adwa Bader, Yazeed Almajyul, Khalid Bin Shaddad

Rating: 4/5

The currency conundrum

Russ Mould, investment director at online trading platform AJ Bell, says almost every major currency has challenges right now. “The US has a huge budget deficit, the euro faces political friction and poor growth, sterling is bogged down by Brexit, China’s renminbi is hit by debt fears while slowing Chinese growth is hurting commodity exporters like Australia and Canada.”

Most countries now actively want a weak currency to make their exports more competitive. “China seems happy to let the renminbi drift lower, the Swiss are still running quantitative easing at full tilt and central bankers everywhere are actively talking down their currencies or offering only limited support," says Mr Mould.

This is a race to the bottom, and everybody wants to be a winner.

Profile of Udrive

Date started: March 2016

Founder: Hasib Khan

Based: Dubai

Employees: 40

Amount raised (to date): $3.25m – $750,000 seed funding in 2017 and a Seed+ round of $2.5m last year. Raised $1.3m from Eureeca investors in January 2021 as part of a Series A round with a $5m target.

Voy! Voy! Voy!

Director: Omar Hilal
Stars: Muhammad Farrag, Bayoumi Fouad, Nelly Karim
Rating: 4/5

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

The specs

Common to all models unless otherwise stated

Engine: 4-cylinder 2-litre T-GDi

0-100kph: 5.3 seconds (Elantra); 5.5 seconds (Kona); 6.1 seconds (Veloster)

Power: 276hp

Torque: 392Nm

Transmission: 6-Speed Manual/ 8-Speed Dual Clutch FWD

Price: TBC

Specs: 2024 McLaren Artura Spider

Engine: 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6 and electric motor
Max power: 700hp at 7,500rpm
Max torque: 720Nm at 2,250rpm
Transmission: Eight-speed dual-clutch auto
0-100km/h: 3.0sec
Top speed: 330kph
Price: From Dh1.14 million ($311,000)
On sale: Now

Five famous companies founded by teens

There are numerous success stories of teen businesses that were created in college dorm rooms and other modest circumstances. Below are some of the most recognisable names in the industry:

  1. Facebook: Mark Zuckerberg and his friends started Facebook when he was a 19-year-old Harvard undergraduate. 
  2. Dell: When Michael Dell was an undergraduate student at Texas University in 1984, he started upgrading computers for profit. He starting working full-time on his business when he was 19. Eventually, his company became the Dell Computer Corporation and then Dell Inc. 
  3. Subway: Fred DeLuca opened the first Subway restaurant when he was 17. In 1965, Mr DeLuca needed extra money for college, so he decided to open his own business. Peter Buck, a family friend, lent him $1,000 and together, they opened Pete’s Super Submarines. A few years later, the company was rebranded and called Subway. 
  4. Mashable: In 2005, Pete Cashmore created Mashable in Scotland when he was a teenager. The site was then a technology blog. Over the next few decades, Mr Cashmore has turned Mashable into a global media company.
  5. Oculus VR: Palmer Luckey founded Oculus VR in June 2012, when he was 19. In August that year, Oculus launched its Kickstarter campaign and raised more than $1 million in three days. Facebook bought Oculus for $2 billion two years later.
Where can I submit a sample?

Volunteers can now submit DNA samples at a number of centres across Abu Dhabi. The programme is open to all ages.

Collection centres in Abu Dhabi include:

  • Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (ADNEC)
  • Biogenix Labs in Masdar City
  • Al Towayya in Al Ain
  • NMC Royal Hospital in Khalifa City
  • Bareen International Hospital
  • NMC Specialty Hospital, Al Ain
  • NMC Royal Medical Centre - Abu Dhabi
  • NMC Royal Women’s Hospital.
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


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