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January 2014

Jobs hold the key to Mideast problems

THERE is no denying the fact that Arab springs were fuelled primarily by unemployment and economic inequality against a backdrop of social and political injustices and general corruption.

Indeed, youth unemployment is particularly rampant in the region, averaging 25 per cent, compared to an average of about 17 per cent in developed countries. But whose responsibility is job creation in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region anyway?

Bayt.com, the Middle East’s No 1 job site, conducted its ‘Change and Challenges in the Middle East Job Market: How Is It Viewed?’ to ask Mena professionals who they thought was responsible for creating jobs.

About 47.1 per cent of those polled hold the government accountable for unemployment in their countries, while 7.3 per cent blame the private sector, 5.2 per cent the education sector, and 6.3 per cent say it’s the responsibility of individuals themselves, stated the survey.

Respondents were also asked to what extent they thought the government held responsibility for job creation. The vast majority (71 per cent) felt the government was ‘largely’ or even ‘exclusively’ responsible, said the study by Bayt.com, which boasts of more than 40,000 employers and more than 13.8 million registered job seekers from across the Mena region and the globe, representing all industries, nationalities and career levels.

So what is a government expected to do when it is seen by many as the employer of first and last resort and the key arbiter of change?

The same Bayt.com poll asked jobseekers how the government could best improve employment in their countries; 10 per cent said ‘create more jobs in the public sector’, 8.1 per cent said ‘improve the education sector’, 5.6 per cent said ‘foster a better environment for business’, 4.7 per cent said ‘improve labor laws’, 17.1 per cent said ‘stop corruption’ and 3.7 per cent said ‘develop better transparency and legal guidelines’. Nearly half (48.1 per cent) said ‘all of the above’.

With a vast majority of poll respondents (86.5 per cent) indicating they believed it was possible to dramatically improve employment prospects through better public policies, there seems to be no substitute for a close public-private partnership in nurturing job growth and addressing employment bottlenecks, if not outright job creation, in the long run.

 

Mideast billionaires top superrich list

THE Middle East’s billionaires – with a combined net worth of $354 billion – hold a higher percentage of total wealth than in any other region in the world with Saudi Arabia and the UAE topping the list, said a report.

Forty per cent of the Middle East’s ultra high net worth (UHNW) wealth is being held by the region’s 157 billionaires, compared to 28 per cent in Europe, 22 per cent in North America and 18 per cent in Asia, according to the data from ‘Wealth-X and UBS Billionaire Census 2013.’

The census compiled by Singapore-based Wealth-X and Swiss bank UBS is the first-ever global study on the billionaire population.

According to the report, the billionaires in Saudi Arabia control more than 70 per cent of the country’s wealth, while their counterparts in the UAE hold 24 per cent. The total wealth of Saudi billionaires ($204 billion) is more than half the combined net worth of their counterparts in the Middle East, it stated.

The kingdom leads the region with the most billionaires (64), and 25 of these individuals are based in the country’s capital, Riyadh, the report added.

The report shows that there are 157 billionaires among the 5,300 UHNW individuals (defined as those with net assets of $30 million and above) in the Middle East. This makes the Middle East the region with the fourth most billionaires – after Europe (766), North America (552) and Asia (508), but ahead of Latin America (111), Africa (42) and Oceania (34).

Middle Eastern billionaires increased their wealth in the last year by $39 billion (12.4 per cent) with five additional billionaires (3.3 per cent).

Headquartered in Singapore, Wealth-X is the definitive source of intelligence on the ultra wealthy with the world’s largest collection of curated research on UHNW individuals, defined as those with net assets of $30 million and above.

 

Mideast IT spending to hit $32bn in 2014

THE Middle East region will be one of the world’s fastest growing IT markets with spending on the products and services likely to top $32 billion in 2014 growing at an average 7.3 per cent year on year, according to a report.

Consumers, the public, communications and financial services sectors are expected to be the biggest IT spenders in the region, contributing to nearly 74 per cent of the total Middle East IT spending in 2014, said International Data Corporation (IDC) while announcing its annual predictions for 2014 for the information and communications technology (ICT) industry.

“Organisations in 2014 will be faced with a growing need to adapt as effects of the 3rd Platform continue to disrupt and change industries in the region,” remarked Jyoti Lalchandani, the group VP and regional managing director for IDC in the Middle East, Africa, and Turkey.

“We anticipate that major players in the region will make significant investments to enhance their infrastructure to scale up cloud and big data capabilities. In this context, securing data will be more vital than ever before,” she noted.

Smart city initiatives have gained momentum in the GCC in recent years with three countries announcing projects for future smart cities, namely, the six economic cities in Saudi Arabia, the three projects in Qatar – Lusail’s Smart and Sustainable City, Pearl-Qatar Island, and Energy City Qatar, - and two projects in UAE - Masdar City in Abu Dhabi and Smart City Dubai.

IDC expects the total spending on machine-to-machine (M2M) connections in the GCC countries to increase by 19 per cent in 2014 to reach $224 million.

“Multi-channel” strategies will drive citizen/resident services penetration and usage in the GCC with “mobile” becoming a game changer, predicted the IDC report.

 

UAE-China trade surges 14pc

BILATERAL trade between the UAE and China hit $21.4 billion during the first half of the year, up nearly 14 per cent compared to the same period in 2012, according to a study.

China’s exports to the UAE stood at $15.4 billion, while its imports from the UAE touched $5.9 billion, stated the study released ahead of the 12th Chinese Commodities Fair Sharjah (CCFS), which was held last month at the Expo Centre Sharjah.

GCC countries accounted for up to 70 per cent of China’s trade with Arab countries, said the event organisers. Saif Mohammed Al Midfa, CEO of Expo Centre Sharjah, said: “The UAE is now China’s largest export market and the second largest trade partner among Arab countries.”




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