Saturday, January 17, 2009

UAE shows solidarity with Palestinians

The Gulf Today, 10-Jan-09 (Pix by Kamal Kassim)

Thousands stage anti-Israel rallies in the UAE

"Gaza will never die, Protect Gaza, With you Gaza, Wake up Muslims" are a few lines seen in the collage of thousands of messages written by Palestinian supporters, numbering more than 5,000, on a giant black cloth placed near the Eye of the Emirates in Sharjah.
The long cloth of messages and reactions of Palestine lovers will be sent to Gaza in solidarity with the victims of war, stated an official at Al Qasba, the cultural hub of Sharjah.
Anti-Israel rallies
Peaceful processions set off Friday afternoon in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah and Ras Al Khaimah. The processions were aimed at assisting and consolidating the Palestinian people in Gaza.
A protest was held at Buheirah Corniche in Sharjah, starting from the Noor Masjid area. The demonstration witnessed the participation of around hundreds people showcasing their solidarity with their brothers in Gaza.
In similar protests across the country, thousands of people from different nationalities held demonstrations in various emirates.
In Abu Dhabi, people participated in the protest which started at around 4pm on Friday at the Abu Dhabi Chamber of Commerce and Industries area in the Corniche and ended at Khalidiyya.
In Dubai, a rally at the Creek Park drew over 3,000 Palestine supporters, including local citizens and expatriates. They carried banners and flags of Palestine and raised slogans in support of Gaza victims and against Israel.
In Ras Al Khaimah, Dr Sheikh Sultan Bin Kayed Al Qassimi, the chancellor of al Etihad University, headed a procession that set off from Al Manar mall. Dr Abdullah Belhen Al Shehi, member of the federal national council and Mohammed Ahmed Al Keet, counselor at the Emiri court, in addition to a number of officials and a crowd of UAE nationals, Palestinian, Arab and Islamic communities in Ras Al Khaimah took part in the procession.
The UAE ministry of interior gave permission to organise the processions. The ministry thanked all the participants for holding the rallies.
Similar demonstrations were also organised by humanitarian associations, including the Red Crescent Authority, in different Middle Eastern countries.
Dhs315m aid
A nationwide telethon to raise funds in support of Palestinian people in Gaza got underway on Friday afternoon. The live TV and radio campaign, which started at 2.00 local time, has so far raised Dhs109.1 million.
Extending cultural support to the victims of Israeli atrocities on Gaza, hundreds of Palestinian expatriates as well as Gaza supporters of different nationalities congregated on Friday evening at Al Qasba, Sharjah.
"The programme titled "To the Children of Gaza with Love" is aimed at raising awareness of the children to Palestinian culture, as the UAE is the second home to thousands of Palestinians and expatriates from other parts of the world," Hassah Sultan, public relations manager at Al Qasba said.
National anthem of Palestine
"My country, the land of my grand fathers, the nation of eternity.... with resolve of the winds and the fire of the guns, and the determination of my nation in the land of struggle...," hundreds of Palestinian teenagers were singing their national anthem loudly.
"Palestine is my home, Palestine is my fire... I swear under the shade of the flag, to my land and nation, and the fire of pain, I will live as a revolutionary, I will go on as revolutionary, I will expire as a revolutionary until I will be back...," they continued to sing.
With love
Eleven-year-old Bader has drawn a picture of Gaza city and the lives of people there, as he dreamt of his mother country. Then he pasted the water colour painting on a wall set up under a palm tree in Qasba. Many children gathered in the corner painting Palestinian symbols, traditional icons, flags, suffering people lives, damaged building after the Israel's attack as well as their hopes on the city of Gaza.
"My parents don't usually allow me to watch television, so I was not aware of the issues over there. Now only I realised about what is happening over there, and the pains and agonies of thousands of the people and children at my age," said Raghad, an eight year old girl from Bethlehem. She was expressing her solidarity to the Palestinians by designing a flag of her nation.
Cultural support
"There are a number of cultural activities and entertainment programmes involved in the campaign and all the proceedings will go to strengthen the humanitarian initiatives in Gaza. Well-wishers have been donating gold and other valuable items, and spending on different kinds of objects showcased at the venue for fundraising," Hassa added.
Amgie Sharaf, a Palestinian national and volunteer of the programme, said: "Aimed at inspiring young minds, the campaign activities include face painting, art designing, story telling, puppet show, candle lighting and a long black cloth for writing messages for the even visitors. Different corners and kiosks also arranged to receive contributions by selling Palestinian antiques and T-shirts imprinted with the message "Gaza dying to live".
Light of hope
"The corner named "Light a Candle for Gaza" has been set up to bring children to the frontline of the humanitarian activities, by asking them to drop some coins and enjoy the passion of lighting up a candle to share their solidarity towards the Gaza victims," she added.
At a kiosk where Mohammed, an expat from the northern Palestine, has displayed a plenty of accessories such as wrist bands, head bands with Palestinian flags, necklaces, chains, mobile hangers and different scarves.

Recession for Layman- An Indian Perspective

What is recession? How did it happen?How will it affect India and the Gulf?What are the opportunities?

In simple terms, an economy is said to be in recession, when the GDP of a country begins to fall for 2 or more quarters. This fall in GDP continues for many more months, slowing down the economy with it. The GDP is the total cost of all goods and services produced in the country in a year.

What causes recession?
•Recession is a normal business cycle
•An economy naturally expands for 6-10 years and then go in for a recession for about 6 months to 2 years. It is correction process, when consumers/investors realize they are buying at rates beyond its true value
•This loss of confidence, makes buyers/investors to sell off their assets or abstain from buying new
•This act of not buying or selling off, is followed by everybody, and the prices of goods, commodities, land and stocks fall rapidly
•The time for investors or buyers to feel that the economy has reached its bottom, and can now invest or buy, is when the boom (recovery) starts. The period from the start of negative sentiments to positive sentiments is the period of Recession. Historically it has ranged from 6 months to average 2 years

The history of global economic crisis
- During 1930-1939: The Great Depression
- During 1982-83: US Recession due to over production
- In 1990s: US Recession with collapse of junk bonds
- During 1997-1999: Asian Financial Crisis
- In 2001: US Recession- Dot Com bubble burst
- In 2008: US Recession- Mortgages crash

The history of economic crisis in India
- During 1972-1974: Steep rise in global oil prices, when inflation reached 20% in India
- During 1997-99: Asian Financial Crisis, it slowed down India growth from 7% in 1994 to 4.5% in 1997
- In 2008: US Recession- Mortgages crash

Reason for this recession
What caused recession in USA?
•Due to heavy competition in Home Loans, banks in USA began to give loans to people with poor credit worthiness (that is without considering if they can repay the loan) or unstable income.
•These banks came into trouble, when these people where unable to pay back the loan. The banks became at loss and some of them might close down, taking with them the savings of many depositors.
•Now, when the loan was easy to get for anyone, people started to invest in real estate. The construction industry boomed.
•When the people failed to pay back the loans, the banks, real estate and the construction industry collapsed. This along with rising oil prices created problems.
•And this trend began to affect other sectors of the economy as well.
•Since most countries around the world, like India and GCC countries have economic connections with US, the slow down there will affect them as well.

The impact of recession in India- negative aspects
According to the Assocham Business Barometer survey of 250 CEOs:
–About 80% projected GDP growth for 2008-09 at 7.1 per cent from the earlier 7.6 per cent, with strong waves of negative economic sentiment.
–Over 80% of CEOs said manufacturing sector, which has witnessed a negative growth of 1.2 per cent in October, would take double hit from the rapid slackening of domestic demand and heavy shrinkage in new export orders.
–Services sector which recorded an average growth rate of 10.7 per cent in last three years is expected to deteriorate to below 9 per cent growth rate mark

According to FICCI (Federation of Indian Chamber of Commerce & Industries):
–A state of uncertainty is gripping over many services sectors, including financial services, software, outsourcing, civil aviation and real estate, due to the global financial crisis, credit crunch and higher interest rates during the recent months, according to a survey by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry.

According to McKinsey:
–The country will run out of capital to support economic expansion.
–Sectors like textiles, metals and mining, automotive, cement, real estate, media, IT need working capital to fund projects underway.
–The economy is under stress with growing bank non-performing loans and job losses in sectors like textiles.
–The firm said operating margins in almost all sector have reduced and will fall further over the next two years.
–Increased cost of debt will erode the profitability more and interest coverage
–Pressure on the real sector likely over next two years will have negative consequences for the broader economy
–According to McKinsey projection, even in steady state, infrastructure financing would face a deficit of $150 billion and it can increase sharply in current scenario.
–Along with a deficit in the infrastructure sector, fall in corporate savings and foreign inflows can also result in a potential shortfall of $200 billion of the total savings and investment.

The impact of recession in India- positive aspects

Strong banking system
- The Indian financial system has the potential to survive due to the stringent regulatory framework, and other factors like,
–Limited exposure to US-mortgage backed securities.
–The central bank's regulations ensured that the Indian financial system has a leverage of 13:1 (while the US investment banks' leverage is 30:1)
–The dominant role that government-owned banks play in the Indian banking sector. These banks hold financial assets worth 77.2 per cent.
–All banks, irrespective of ownership, need to invest over 32 per cent of their deposits with RBI or invest in sovereign bonds.
–Reserve requirements set by RBI are among the highest in the world. This ensures that RBI and the banking system have enough muscle to support the economy when there is a slowdown or liquidity crisis. And also that banks have limited credit risk and the balance sheets have significant liquidity.

Export exposure
-Indian exports to the US is just over 3% of GDP. India has a healthy trade surplus with the United States.

Confidence factor
According to a study, around 42 per cent of people feel that 2009 will be better than 2008. India has been ranked as the seventh most optimistic nation along with Russia, according to study by global market information group TNS and Gallup International.
–Citi retained its forecast for India's economic growth in fiscal 2009 and 2010 on "positive coordinated measures" by the central bank and the finance ministry.

Lowering inflation
–The crude prices started easing and hovered near $38 a barrel at the year end, while global commodity prices took a more than 50 per cent dip, providing relief to both government and consumers.
–Steel prices have almost halved from the peak of $1,200 per tonne earlier this year.

Some sectors that did well from April –November 2008
According to survey by FICCI, a few services that have seen a high growth of 10% to 20% in April-November 2008 are (Figures in bracket refer to growth in year-ago period )
•Railway revenue earning passenger traffic 12.2 per cent (14 per cent)
•Revenue earning railway freight traffic 15.7 per cent (14 per cent)
•Housing finance 12 per cent (12 per cent),•Entertainment & media industry 10 per cent (16 per cent)
•IT/software/software services 15 per cent (33 per cent)
•Organized retail trade 15 per cent (30 per cent).

Impact of recession in India on different sectors
Ad Industry, Aviation, B-Schools, BPO, Business Consulting, Event Management, Exports, HR & Recruitment, Infrastructure Related, IT/ITES, Jewellery Exports, Leather, Legal Consulting, Real Estate, Retail & Transport

Opportunities in recession
We can divide them in 3 categories: Red, Yellow & Green

The Scenario
Red: The industries in Red are going to have problems in getting revenues and capital during this recession. These business, if it can survive liquidity problems, will continue to do good, as it did before the recession, after 1 or 2 years.
Yellow: The industries in Yellow are going to have a mixed opportunity. Various situations will dictate how they fare in their market.
Green: The industries in Green are those who are going to do well, in this recession. These business will not typically need fund, unless they are planning for expansions or increasing their marketing to exploit the opportunity.

Tips for Promoters
Red: If a businessman is interested in getting into this business, by setting up his own firm, then he should start it by planning his time and finances properly. If the setup period (construction etc) takes 1-2 years, then it is ideal to start now. As he can commence operation when recession is over. Constructing now, also gets him construction expenses at lower cost.
Yellow: If a businessman is interested in getting into this business, by setting up his own firm, then he should start it by planning his time and finances properly. If the setup period (construction etc) takes 1-2 years, then it is ideal to start now. But has to study how this business will perform, after the recession is over.
Green: If the setup period is less, say can be done in few months, then it is worthy of entering these industry. But not recommended. As by the time, the new business builds up a reputation, the boom caused by general recession to this business will be over, and the financials may not be that promising, after the recession. But some industries or firms, will continue to perform well, so it depends on case to case basis.

Tips for Investors
Red: If an investor is planning to invest in this business from scratch, then above tip is relevant for him. But if he wants to be part of an established player in this industry, then also this is a good time. Most of these firms will need extra cash to meet their working expenses and debts. By investing in, to keep them survive the recession, helps you enter these companies without paying much premium or goodwill.
Yellow: If an investor is planning to invest in this business from scratch, then above tip is relevant for him. But if he wants to be part of an established player in this industry, then also this is a good time. Most of these firms will need extra cash to meet their working expenses and debts. By investing in, to keep them survive the recession, helps you enter these companies without paying much premium or goodwill.
Green: If an investor is planning to invest in this business from scratch, then above tip is relevant for him. But if he wants to be part of an established player in this industry, then this is a bad time. As the firm will request premiums and good will.

Impact of recession in the Gulf
•The recession due to flight of capital has started affecting the Gulf region, and is expected to affect the job market seriously
•The Indian expatriates who contribute to the bulk of work force in Gulf countries is expected to have a hard time. Hundreds of employees have already lost their jobs in construction, real estate and financial sector.
•About 80% of the construction workers in GCC are Indians, and with the construction sector hit the hardest, their future is in the dark
•Dubai had been the hotspot of development for the past many years, and it stood as the largest market for speculative buying of some of the world’s most prestigious projects. Needless to say, with the recession, Dubai is hit the hardest among other GCC cities
•Banks in the region are reviewing credit policies and loans have become harder
•Banks have setup higher salary ceiling to approve personal loans and easy credit on credit card is no longer easy. This is quite opposite to the situation in past where credit cards were easily given to anyone
•In way of remittance, Kerala alone was expected to receive Rs. 42,000 crores this fiscal year, but the situations do not look that promising anymore
•The Gulf economy is expected to have tougher times ahead


On Papyrus

The Ancient Plant
Papyrus is a vital and indispensable flowering fresh-water reed of ancient Egypt. On the banks of the Nile and throughout the delta, tall papyrus clumps and thickets flourished.
It was a natural symbol of life itself and the primeval marsh from which all life came. Papyrus shaped columns common in many temples may reflect this double symbolism.
In art, the papyrus clump represented the marshlands. Papyrus represented the concept of "around" or "behind", as a depiction of the phrase "All life and protection are around".

Historical relevance
It made an extraordinary and historical impact on the Western world. But papyrus paper was not its only use. There were many things made from this most adaptable and extraordinary plant, which grew in great abundance along the banks and in the marshes watered by the great Nile River.
German Egyptologist Georg Ebers wrote, “It was of the greatest consequence for Egyptian industrial arts that one of the most useful plants the world has ever known grew in every marsh. The papyrus reed was used as a universal material by the Egyptians, like the bamboo or the coco-nut palm by other nations; it was the more useful as it formed a substitute for wood, which was never plentiful.”
Papyrus is quite a fun plant and it will amaze you in how many ways it pervaded the lives of the ancients. Papyrus played an important role in keeping their land vigorous and humming with energetic activity.
Papyrus is one of the most ancient plants known to humankind. Egypt is believed to be its place of origin. The tall, willowy plant predates the Dynastic Period.
Throughout the dynastic periods, papyrus brought nothing but satisfaction and benefits to Pharaoh and his people.
The green plant played an important utilitarian role in the ancient Egyptians daily life, but today, it has almost disappeared from the land. Scottish traveller James Bruce (1730-1794), wrote about the papyrus growing in Egypt and expressed his thoughts about where it came from: “The papyrus seems to me to have early come down from Ethiopia, and to have been used in Upper Egypt.”

Scientific features
The scientific name of Papyrus is Cyperus Papyrus. It’s a sub-species from the family Cyperaceae, or sedges, a large family of grasslike plants of probably four thousand species known in various parts of the world.
It is a tall flowering freshwater reed, which had at one time grown in great abundance in the marshes along the Nile River. The plant had flourished well in these abundant waters, in the rich, wet and muddy areas, which provided its nourishment.
Papyrus, a fresh water plant, was doomed. Much later when paper was produced from material other than papyrus, the plant was no longer necessary to be cultivated and it died out.
A closer look at the Cyperus papyrus will bring into focus a few of its main botanical characteristics. The plant in great detail, only part of its very complicated structure will be highlighted, excluding its intricate cell system.

Papyrus Paper
Egypt was the inventor of papyrus paper. Actually we probably think of papyrus as paper when we think of it at all. True, the principle importance of papyrus was as a surface for writing and illustrations. It is still unknown, though, exactly when papyrus was created in Egypt as a writing material. Much about the history of Egypt and the ancient world came down to us as recorded on papyrus paper.
Rolls and documents on papyrus were kept in wooden chests, which are often represented standing on the ground in front of scribes.
Much information about the Greek civilization has come down to us through papyri. Egyptian papyrus became the basic writing material for the Greeks. In the Ptolemaic Period, when Greek pharaohs sat on the throne of Egypt, high quality papyrus production and trade was under royal ownership, a monopoly in the control of Pharaoh. Papyrus was mainly used by the literati, for legal papers, and affairs of state.
Egypt had manufactured papyrus paper by carefully guarded processes…. They had made of it the finest writing material known…indeed, without such a relatively cheap and convenient material literature and the sciences could scarcely have developed as they did. Apparently Egypt was able to keep its process a deep secret and maintain its monopoly.
It was portable and easy to record information via a reed pen, compared to the “more cumbersome or more expensive writing material, such as stone and metal plates, wooden and clay tablets, or leather.”
Many writings on papyrus by the ancient Egyptians did manage to survive. They are preserved in museums and institutions all over the world. The ancient Egyptians did not leave the method of making papyrus paper, but only wall paintings of its being collected.

Uses of Papyrus
Uses for the plant were endless. They show the artistic, inventive and practical character of the ancient Egyptians in utilizing this most important natural resource that surrounded them.
Peasants as well as the wealthy had many useful items made of papyrus in their dwellings. There were also numerous medical uses.
The plant was also of greatest use as food. Egyptians chewed the papyrus raw, swallowed the juice and spit out the remains.
Papyrus is represented in many paintings and temple reliefs as well as in architecture.

The ancient species is now found growing naturally in the Wadi Natron, an oasis area just west of the Delta in Egypt as was mentioned earlier. This survivor is considered as the ancient species, but there are so many variants that problems have arisen in pinpointing the exact ancient plant species.
The ancient plant is still profuse along the White Nile in the southern Sudan, some 1,500 miles south of the Egyptian border. Various species of papyrus are found in other parts of the world, including the United States, and the continent of Africa such as in large areas of west, east and central Africa and on the island of Madegasca. The papyrus groves of Sicily are thought derived from papyrus introduced from Egypt by the Arabs in the 10th century A.D.