16 events that will shape 2017

AMEinfo came up with this formidable vision of next year titled 16 events that will shape 2017; we could not help but reproduce it here all for the benefit of our readers.  All comments are welcome but we would advise to address direct to AMEinfo with nevertheless a copy to MENA-Forum.  

AMEinfo, is a well known and reliable middle east online medium of information.

Historically as per Wikipedia, AMEinfo.com was initially Arabian Modern Equipment Est., incorporated in Abu Dhabi, in February 1993 by Saif Al-Suwaidi and Klaus Lovgreen. The first version of the AME Info CD-ROM database of 125,000 companies was developed and compiled late 1996 and sold some 10,000 copies.  

The listing of the events as proposed by AMEinfo summed up thus.

  •  Many events of 2016 will have repercussions spilling over into 2017
  •  Positive impacts include Saudi Vision 2030, OPEC deal
  •  The fallout of Trump’s presidency, JASTA law, Italy referendum, etc. remain to be seen

The year 2016 was eventful, to say the least, with the world shaken by several momentous events whose repercussions will spill over into 2017.

Here are 16 events of 2016 that will most probably shape the coming year:

 

Saudi Vision 2030

This vision, announced in April, is one of the top economic highlights of 2016. Its repercussions are yet to be experienced throughout 2017 and beyond. Some of the biggest follow ups to this event are the Saudi Aramco IPO, expected to take place in 2018, privatising Football Clubs in the kingdom and its green card plan.

 

Trump as president of the United States

President-elect Donald Trump filling posts for his administration, getting ready to officially take office in January. This is when his foreign policy is expected to take its final shape and impact the whole world, starting with countries of the Americas, passing through Europe and the Middle East and reaching Asia.  

(Donald Trump wins US elections 2016: What it means for MENA)

 

Brexit

The United Kingdom voted to exit the European Union last June through a national referendum. Since then, the country underwent several months of economic chaos that it tried to keep under control, especially because it had not yet left the European Union. The chaos is expected to continue until the announcement of an exit plan, expected in March 2017.  

(Brexit: Who’s next?)

 

JASTA

The Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act is a law passed by the United States Congress, allowing survivors and relatives of victims of terrorist attacks to pursue cases against foreign governments in the US federal court. The bill raised tensions with Saudi Arabia – when the bill was introduced, Saudi Arabia threatened to sell up to $750 billion in United States Treasury securities and other US assets if the bill is passed. Saudi Arabia is still lobbying the US over the law.

 

Egypt’s floating of the pound

Egypt’s central bank floated the pound currency in November, devaluing by 32.3 percent to an initial guidance level of EGP 13 to the dollar and hiking interest rates by three per cent to rebalance currency markets following weeks of turbulence. According to many observers, Egypt’s floating of its currency comes in a bid to attract more investors to the country.

 

China’s AIIB development bank

China launched the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), a new international development bank, seen as a rival to the current, US-led World Bank. Countries such as Australia, Britain, Germany, Italy, the Philippines and South Korea agreed to join the AIIB, recognising China’s growing economic strength.

 

Google Alphabet

Last August, Google announced creating a new public holding company, Alphabet. Alphabet become the mother of a collection of companies, including Google, which includes the search engine, YouTube and other apps; Google X, the Alphabet arm working on big breakthroughs in the industry; Google Capital, the investment arm; as well as Fiber, Calcio, Nest  and Google Ventures.

 

Panama papers leak

Roughly 11.5 million documents were leaked in April, detailing financial and attorney-client information for hundreds of thousands of offshore entities. The documents contained personal financial information about famous, wealthy individuals and public officials.

The documents were created by a law firm in Panama, with some dating back to the 1970s.

 

Iran nuclear deal: lifting of sanctions

Although the framework of this agreement was announced in 2015, economic sanctions started to lift only in January 2016. The year saw the beginning of Iran’s return to international markets and more is expected for 2017 as the country has not yet made a full comeback.

 

Samsung Galaxy Note 7

Samsung Galaxy Note 7 phones, released this year, started to heat up and explode, causing some injuries in different markets around the world and killing the model altogether. This created massive chaos for the South-Korean manufacturer, which withdrew all units from the markets and started a gruelling investigation into the rootcause of the issue.

 

King Salman bin Abdel Aziz Bridge

Last April, Saudi Arabia and Egypt agreed to build a bridge over the Red Sea, linking the two countries together. This was seen as a historic move highlighting the excellent relationship between the allies. The bridge would be called “King Salman bin Abdel Aziz Bridge”.

 

OPEC deal

Members of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and non-OPEC members as well, reached their first deal since 2001, to curb levels of oil output to ease a global glut after oversupply pressured prices for more than two years. Long-term market reactions to the deal are yet to be felt and will probably be seen throughout 2017.

 

Pokémon Go

The new augmented reality game, developed by Niantic, quickly became a global phenomenon and was one of the most profitable apps of 2016, with more than 500 million downloads worldwide.

 

Italy referendum

Italy’s government, led by then-Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, held a nation-wide referendum proposing reforms and amendments to the country’s constitution. The referendum failed, leading to the resignation of Renzi, tipping the country into potential political turmoil and the rise of the populist, right-wing movement in the country.

Renzi’s resignation and the country’s instability also brought up concerns over a looming banking crisis in Italy, the third-largest national economy in the euro zone.

(Italy referendum: Step 1 to another Brexit?)

 

Fed raises interest rates

The US Federal Reserve raised interest rates, signalling a faster pace of increases in 2017, with central banks adapting to the incoming of a Donald Trump administration, which has promised to cut tax. The year 2017 will probably see the repercussion of that decision.

 

Turkey’s coup

A coup d’état was attempted in Turkey in July against state organisations including the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The failed coup was carried out by a faction of Turkey’s armed forces, who attempted to seize control of several areas in the capital of Ankara, Istanbul and elsewhere.

The coup, and other terrorist attacks, disturbed Turkey’s peace and stability and harmed its tourism industry, among others.

 

Advertisements

Offshore Deals that deprive Africa of Billions

Offshore Deals that deprive Africa of Billions . . .

The ICIJ, producer of the Panama Papers has published an article written by Will Fitzgibbon on July 25, 2016. It is about those Offshore Deals that deprive Africa of Billions; commonly known thing by many, members of the public, journalists and all, did finally make it through to the long-awaited international audience. It addresses issues of that nature that lasted only too long unchallenged on the African continent.

Once again, it looks as if, Algeria is doing it one more time, being at the forefront not of Africa’s liberation from colonisation but this time from perverse behaviour in the world of business.

Excerpts of this article are reproduced with our compliments to the author / publisher, in MENA-Forum for their obvious interest to all our members and readers generally.

Offshore Deals that deprive Africa of Billions . . .

The ICIJ, producer of the Panama Papers has published an article written by Will Fitzgibbon on July 25, 2016. It is about those Offshore Deals that deprive Africa of Billions; commonly known thing by many locals, members of the public, journalists and all, did finally make it through to the long-awaited international audience.  It addresses issues of that nature that lasted only too long unchallenged on the African continent.

Once again, it looks as if, Algeria is doing it one more time, being at the forefront not of Africa’s liberation from colonisation but this time from perverse behaviour in the world of business. 

Excerpts of this article are reproduced with our compliments to the author / publisher, in MENA-Forum for their obvious interest to all our members and readers generally.  

Secret Offshore Deals Deprive Africa of Billions in Natural Resource Dollars

The Panama Papers show politicians and mining, oil and gas interests benefit from secrecy and dubious multimillion dollar transfers

◾Twelve of 17 companies under investigation by authorities in Italy in relation to a $10 billion oil and gas deal in Algeria were created by Mossack Fonseca

◾Italian authorities called one offshore company “a crossroads of illicit financial flows”

◾Dozens of companies created by Mossack Fonseca have been involved in law suits or public allegations of wrongdoing, according to an ICIJ analysis

When he wasn’t aboard his yacht, Farid Bedjaoui held court in the Bulgari Hotel in Milan, a renovated 18th century palace nestled between the botanical gardens and the La Scala theatre.  Over five years, Bedjaoui’s hotel tab there exceeded $100,000.

In the plush rooms and the granite-lined lobby, Bedjaoui met with Algerian government officials and executives from Saipem, the Italian energy giant.  Their agenda, according to witnesses later interviewed by Italian prosecutors: arranging some $275 million in bribes to help the energy company win more than $10 billion in contracts to build oil and gas pipelines from the North African desert to the shores of the Mediterranean.

To shift the bribe money between countries, Bedjaoui used a cluster of offshore companies that helped him shield the transactions from scrutiny, Italian prosecutors claim.  Twelve of the 17 shell companies linked to Bedjaoui were created by Mossack Fonseca, the Panama-based law firm that is at the centre of the Panama Papers scandal, a review of the law firm’s internal records by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and other media partners has found.

The garden at the Bulgari Hotel in Milan. Photo: bulgarihotels.com

Italian investigators described one of those companies, Minkle Consultants S.A., as a “crossroads of illicit financial flows” that channelled millions of Dollars from subcontractors to an array of recipients whose identities are still being untangled.  Prosecutors allege Bedjaoui used one company set up through the law firm to funnel as much as $15 million to associates and family members of Algeria’s then-energy minister.

The cross-border bribery scandal is one of dozens of cases in Africa in which companies created or administered by Mossack Fonseca have played a role in oil, gas and mining deals that have spawned public allegations of tax dodging, corruption, environmental destruction or other misconduct. In all, ICIJ’s review identified 37 companies within the Panama Papers that have been named in court actions or government investigations involving natural resources in Africa.

Ventures that drill or dig for oil, gas, diamonds, gold and other resources have long been dogged by evidence that contracts are often secured through bribery and other corrupt tactics that benefit a few and harm average citizens. Suspect mining and energy deals are usually organized through secretive companies and hard-to-trace bank accounts, corruption experts say.

“Companies may be given access to lucrative extractive projects because their owners are politically connected, or because their owners are willing to engage in questionable deals aimed at generating quick profits for a few rather than benefits for wider society,” Fredrik Reinfeldt, former prime minister of Sweden and now head of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, told ICIJ.

He said the use of anonymous companies makes it harder to prevent money laundering and corruption because it allows wrongdoers to “hide behind a chain of companies often registered in multiple jurisdictions.”

ICIJ’s review of Mossack Fonseca’s internal records shows that the Panama-based law firm is a major provider of secrecy to companies involved in extractive industries. The firm’s internal files include more than 1,400 companies whose names refer to mining, minerals, oil, petrol or gas.  Other less explicitly named companies – including the 12 companies allegedly used by Bedjaoui in the Algerian energy deal – also played roles in the extractive sector, the files show.

Mossack Fonseca’s files reveal offshore companies that were established to own, hold or do business with petroleum, natural gas and mining operations in 44 of Africa’s 54 countries. Many of them are controlled by politicians, their family members and business associates. Often, the oil, gas, gold and diamonds formed beneath the earth’s surface over millions – even billions – of years are traded by shadow companies that have existed for months.

Companies created and assisted by Mossack Fonseca include at least 27 subsidiaries of one of the world’s biggest gold producers, the mining behemoth AngloGold Ashanti and its predecessor. AngloGold told ICIJ it complies with relevant tax laws and that its offshore companies held investments and allowed it to “mitigate ‘double taxation.’”

Mossack Fonseca declined to answer detailed questions for this story. It told ICIJ that “our firm, like many firms, provides worldwide registered agent services for our professional clients (e.g., lawyers, banks, and trusts) who are intermediaries. As a registered agent we merely help incorporate companies, and before we agree to work with a client in any way, we conduct a thorough due-diligence process, one that in every case meets and quite often exceeds all relevant local rules, regulations and standards to which we and others are bound.”

The law firm added: “Filing legal paperwork to help incorporate a company is a very different thing from establishing a business link with or directing in any way the companies so formed. We only incorporate companies, which just about everyone acknowledges is important, and something that’s critical in ensuring the global economy functions efficiently.”

Saipem, the Italian energy company, told ICIJ it is “fully cooperating” with prosecutors and it has “implemented significant managerial and administrative restructuring measures.”  External consultants reviewed the company’s books, Saipem said, and “found no evidence of payments to Algerian public officials through the brokerage contracts or subcontracts examined.”  In February 2016, an Algerian court found a Saipem subsidiary guilty of fraud, money laundering and corruption in obtaining contracts from Algeria’s national oil company, Sonatrach.

Criminal charges have been filed against Bedjaoui by Italian authorities.  Prosecutors allege that he inflated contracts for the benefit of Algerian officials, adding a standard cut for himself, which earned him the nickname “Mr. 3 Percent” after police found the ratio scrawled on Bulgari Hotel stationery during a raid.

Interpol issued a Red Notice – an international alert for a wanted person – on Bedjaoui at the request of Italian authorities.

Bedjaoui, the nephew of a former Algerian foreign minister, is currently living in a Beverly Hills-inspired gated community in Dubai.  He did not reply to repeated requests from ICIJ for comment.

In previous responses to the media, his lawyers have denied he was involved in any wrongdoing.  They insist that, as a thirty-something management graduate, he could never have wielded enough influence among Algeria’s political, military and business elites to coordinate a $275-million-dollar bribery scheme.

The Saipem-Sonatrach bribery case fits a pattern in Africa and other developing regions, where countries with the richest natural endowments often lose the most money offshore.

Between 2004 and 2013, Algeria, home to the second-largest oil reserves in Africa, lost an average of $1.5 billion annually through tax avoidance, bribery, corruption and criminality, the research group Global Financial Integrity estimates. Across the continent, the United Nations estimates at least $50 billion each year goes unaccounted for due to illicit money flows.

Read more at the ICIJ’s website address given above.

Anti-corruption summit in London

devex published an article on May 13th, 2016 about the recently held anti-corruption summit in London .  Excerpts of it are reproduced here.  Do please tweet the author for any comments otherwise get back to this site for any thought sharing.

Anti-corruption summit outcomes: Promises for the world’s poorest

Written by Molly Anders

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari doesn’t want an apology from UK Prime Minister David Cameron for calling his country “fantastically corrupt.”   What he wants, he told audience members at the civil society event, “Tackling Corruption Together” in London on Wednesday, is the return of assets stolen from Nigeria and currently being held in British banks.

Speaking ahead of an anti-corruption summit in London on Thursday, Buhari underlined the role developed countries play in propagating corruption, money laundering and illicit cash flows, often cutting into the potential domestic resources of developing countries and hurting the world’s poorest.

The summit was convened by Cameron in the wake of the Panama leaks, which revealed the identities and financial activities of more than 200 clients of Panama-based corporate service provider Mossack-Fonseca. While largely technically legal, the revelations turned the spotlight on the exploitative effects of tax havens and offshore finance on developing economies and brought renewed calls for international action against corruption.

Adrian Lovett, interim deputy chief executive of the ONE Campaign told Devex by phone that he was “pleased how much of that poverty agenda was central at the summit as the first and primary reason to push forward in the fight against corruption.”

Another promising shift for developing countries, said Stephen Twigg, member of the Parliament and chair of the International Development Committee, could be the announcement of a new “institutional integrity network” designed to foster developing countries’ capacities to fight corruption.

“We look forward to learning more about how U.K. institutions, such as the National Audit Office and National Crime Agency, will support the strengthening of counterpart agencies in countries such as Nigeria, Tanzania and Kenya and, consequently, those countries’ efforts to achieve SDG 16,” Twigg said in an email to Devex.

Commitments for change

Among the summit’s most significant achievements were commitments from six countries — Great Britain, Afghanistan, Kenya, France, the Netherlands and Nigeria — to establish open registries of the owners of companies operating within their borders. . .

Read more in the above mentioned publication.

 

Bribery and Corruption offences in the UAE

The Wall Street Journal published this story on 22 February 2016 that involves a case of corruption in the UAE. Sweett Group CSG.LN -1.28% PLC holds the distinction of becoming the first company sentenced under Section 7 of the U.K. Bribery Act, which pertains to corporate failure to prevent bribery. Legal experts told Risk & Compliance Journal the sentencing serves as a reminder to companies not to be apathetic about the law, despite a paucity of prosecutions, and that the law has a broad reach.
The same item of news was also covered by The Construction Index as follows.
Sweett Group has been fined £1.4m and handed a confiscation order of £851,152 for bribery and corruption offences in the United Arab Emirates.
The sentence was handed down at Southwark Crown Court on Friday 19th February 2016 following the company’s admission of guilt last December to breaching Section 7(1) of the UK Bribery Act 2010

The Wall Street Journal published this story on 22 February 2016 that involves a case of corruption in the UAE. Sweett Group CSG.LN -1.28% PLC holds the distinction of becoming the first company sentenced under Section 7 of the U.K. Bribery Act, which pertains to corporate failure to prevent bribery. Legal experts told Risk & Compliance Journal the sentencing serves as a reminder to companies not to be apathetic about the law, despite a paucity of prosecutions, and that the law has a broad reach.

The same item of news was also covered by The Construction Index as follows.

Sweett Group has been fined £1.4m and handed a confiscation order of £851,152 for bribery and corruption offences in the United Arab Emirates.  

 

The sentence was handed down at Southwark Crown Court on Friday 19th February 2016 following the company’s admission of guilt last December to breaching Section 7(1) of the UK Bribery Act 2010 (failing to prevent an associated person from bribing another to attract or retain business for the company).

The Serious Fraud Office began investigating Sweett on 14th July 2014. It discovered that its subsidiary Cyril Sweett International had paid £680,000 in bribes to Khaled Al Badie, the vice chairman of the board and chairman of the real estate and investment Committee of AAAI to secure the award of a contract with AAAI for the building of the Rotana Hotel in Abu Dhabi.

Judge Martin Beddoe said that the construction consultancy had deliberately tried to mislead Serious Fraud Office (SFO) investigators. He described the offence as a system failure and said that the offending was patently committed over a period of time.

The confiscation has to be paid within three months; 50% of the fine is to be paid by February 2017, with the remaining sum paid by February 2018.  The company has also been instructed to pay £95,000 to cover the prosecution’s legal costs.

SFO director David Green said: “Acts of bribery by UK companies significantly damage this country’s commercial reputation. This conviction and punishment, the SFO’s first under section 7 of the Bribery Act, sends a strong message that UK companies must take full responsibility for the actions of their employees and in their commercial activities act in accordance with the law.”

SFO’s investigation into certain individuals continues.

Sweett Group chief executive Douglas McCormick sought to draw a line under the affair. He said: “Sweett Group’s Middle East legacy issue is closed and this marks an important step in the delivery of the company’s new strategy.

“Over the last year, the company has been transformed with the appointment of a new leadership team, which has successfully addressed key issues facing the business. The group has delivered on a number of strategic objectives including the sale of the APAC and India business, resolution of the SFO investigation, withdrawal from the Middle East market and the re-organisation of the business into five regions.

“We have strengthened our internal systems, controls and risk procedures, and refined our strategy, focusing on profitability and cash flow. We are excited by the opportunities we see ahead in our core markets the UK, Europe and North America, and we look to the future with confidence.”

the-bribery-act-2010-2-638

 

The Most and Least Corrupted Countries in the World

Denmark emerged as the least corrupt nation worldwide on Transparency International’s Global Index 2015. This measures the perceived levels of public sector corruption worldwide.  Overall, two-thirds of the countries on the 2015 index scored below 50.  So here is our view on The Most and Least Corrupted Countries in the World.

In the MENA region, Qatar has jumped from the 26th spot of last year’s whilst the UAE moved up as well from the 25th position.  Among the other GCC countries, Saudi Arabia was ranked 48th, Bahrain followed at 50, Kuwait was ranked 55 and Oman was placed 60.  In the Maghreb countries, Tunis came on top at the 76th followed by Algeria, Egypt and Morocco all at the 88th position with Libya at the 161st.  

Globally, Denmark topped the list of 168 countries on the index for another year, while Somalia and North Korea were ranked the most corrupt nations.

The Chairman of Transparency International José Ugaz said: “Corruption can be beaten if we work together. To stamp out the abuse of power, bribery and shed light on secret deals, citizens must together tell their governments they have had enough.”  . . .  [ms-protect-content]  Continue reading “The Most and Least Corrupted Countries in the World”