Lebanon’s economy will end 2012 on a negative note as political and security instability drags on with medium- and long-term economic indicators showing continuing signs of mediocrity, experts told The Daily Star Monday.
“The year would now most probably end in negative GDP growth. Growth was already negative or near zero in the second and third quarters,” chief economist at Byblos Bank Nassib Ghobril told The Daily Star.
“We had expected a quiet fourth quarter when some compensation should have taken place given that it is the quarter of highest trade activity. But now this is obviously impossible,” he added.
The United Arab Emirates’ key Fujairah pipeline bypassing the Strait of Hormuz will be fully operational by the end of the year and will carry most of Abu Dhabi’s oil exports, the oil minister of the OPEC member said on Tuesday.
Alarmed by Iranian threats to block the world’s biggest oil shipping lane, the Strait of Hormuz, the UAE opened its long-delayed pipeline to pump up to 1.8 million barrels a day and shipped its first export cargo in July.
“Hopefully by the end of the year it should be fully operational,” Mohammed al-Hamli told reporters on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Dubai.
Saudi Arabia, Iran and Iraq are vying to gain leadership of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), with all three countries putting forward nominees for the next term as secretary-general of the energy body.
OPEC members gathered in Vienna on Monday to interview nominees, with Ecuador, the smallest member of the energy bloc, making up the fourth nominee in the running to replace Libya’s Abdalla el-Badri.
While the position as secretary-general’s main role is to coordinate emergency meeting in times of crisis, the role is also political in nature, with the big decisions made by oil representatives from the 12 individual members.
Kurdistan has begun selling its oil into international markets in independent export deals that further challenge Baghdad's claim to full control over Iraqi oil after first signing independent exploration deals with foreign oil majors last year.
The move is likely to enrage the government, which is still locked in a battle with Exxon Mobil over its independent deal with Kurdistan last year to explore for oil in six Kurdish blocs. But it also paves the way towards greater Kurdish autonomy as Baghdad has long insisted it alone has the right to market Iraqi oil and gas products.
By involving two of the world's largest trading houses, Trafigura and Vitol, Kurdistan has made it difficult for Baghdad to retaliate, as it depends on those firms for a proportion of its refined oil imports like gasoline and diesel. If Baghdad were to decide to shop elsewhere, it could face paying much higher prices for its fuel.
The Emir of Qatar entered the Gaza Strip on Tuesday for a visit that will raise the prestige of its isolated Islamist rulers in the Hamas movement, but disappoint Israel and mainstream Palestinian leaders in the West Bank.
Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani crossed into Gaza from Egypt at the head of a large delegation on what is billed as a humanitarian visit to inaugurate $250 million worth of reconstruction projects.
Kuwait banned gatherings of more than 20 people and gave police more powers to disperse protests, local media reported on Tuesday, in an escalating standoff with the opposition ahead of the December 1 election.
Kuwait has been on edge since the emir ordered changes to the election law in a move condemned by the opposition as an attempt to undermine their chances in the vote. The opposition will boycott the poll and has called for protests.
On Sunday, security forces used tear gas, stun grenades and smoke bombs against thousands of demonstrators as they began marching in downtown Kuwait City to protest against the changes. At least 29 people were hurt and more than 15, including a former member of parliament, were arrested.
Barack Obama went on the offensive over foreign policy in the third and final presidential debate, repeatedly accusing Mitt Romney of flip-flopping on major international issues but failing to deliver a killer blow to his opponent's resurgent campaign.
While the president emerged as the narrow winner on the night, the encounter, which was cordial and largely uneventful compared with the previous two debates, is unlikely to have much impact on the outcome of the election.
Going into the debate at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida, Obama had an inbuilt advantage on foreign policy and security. As president, with access to daily briefings by intelligence analysts, diplomats and generals, he is better briefed and it showed as he dominated Romney in the first half of the debate.
Millions of pilgrims arrive this week in Mecca for Islam’s annual haj pilgrimage, which starts on Wednesday, with Saudi authorities warning they will stop any disruptive protests over the conflict in Syria.
The Grand Mosque, the focal point of the Islamic faith, was already teeming with joyful pilgrims at dawn on Monday, wearing the simple white folds of cloth prescribed for haj, many of them having slept on the white marble paving outside.
“I feel proud to be here because it’s a visual message that Muslims are united. People speaking in all kind of languages pray to the one God,” said Fahmi Mohammed al-Nemr, 52, from Egypt.