Middle East Briefing

A fortnightly bulletin which analyses the meaning of industry and sector trends and points to real business opportunities.

1999 ISSUES: 

Title: The Middle East: Calling Out

The telecommunications market has become one of the Middle East's strongest foreign investment magnets. In a region that has an underdeveloped fixed-phone line system compared to developed nations, demand for mobile phones has been particularly large. Countries privatizing their phone companies, such as Saudi Arabia, Morocco and Egypt, are leading the way in this telecommunications expansion. While more and more inhabitants of the region today have access to phone lines, citizens in Syria, Algeria and Yemen continue to lag behind. The following briefing examines telecommunications development in various countries of the Middle East.

  October 14, 1999, No. 52  
Title: The Middle East: Islamic Values An Issue that Foreign Investors Cannot Afford to Overlook

Although the countries of the Middle East are heterogeneous in character, all are influenced to some degree by Islamic principles. Foreign companies wishing to enter the Middle East must not overlook the impact of this important issue on consumer preferences and marketing strategies. The following report will demonstrate that if proper sensitivities are employed, religious beliefs may create lucrative opportunities for international investors, or at least avoid unpleasant circumstances.

  October 11, 1999, No. 51  
Title: The Middle East: A Hub for Consumer Products' Smuggling

In the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), the smuggling of consumer goods accounts for a substantial portion of aggregate trade. While this activity occurs throughout the developing world, its prevalence in the MENA region is even more widespread. The following report will document the scope of clandestine trade in the Middle East, and outline its associated economic consequences.

  August 4, 1999, No. 50  
Title: The Palestinian Authority: Domestic Policies Stunt Economic Growth

The state of the Palestinian economy has deteriorated noticeably over the past six years. Despite the injection of massive amounts of international assistance, Palestinian per capita GDP has declined by over 17 percent during this period. While Palestinian officials blame their weak condition on the Israeli administration, indigenous policy-makers are also at fault. Widespread corruption and monopoly practices deter foreign investment and free competition, hence stunting growth.

  July 22, 1999, No. 49  
Title: Middle East: Regional Economic Cooperation The Smaller the Better

Since the change of leadership in Israel, a new sense of cautious optimism has been sweeping through the region. Hopes are high that Premier-elect Barak will take steps to invigorate the stalemated peace process. Discussions are now being held to reconvene the annual Middle East and North Africa economic summit, which was suspended last year. Although the economic achievements of these conferences were marginal, the events helped expose foreign investors to potential opportunities in the Middle East and establish concrete person-to-person business contacts.

  June 15, 1999, No. 48  
Title: Middle East: Mergers & Acquisitions Gathering Steam

The trend toward consolidation and hostile takeovers has been sweeping through the international business community. The Middle East has not been removed from the "bigger is better" philosophy, and thus mergers are occurring, but at a much slower pace than in the rest of the world. Most Middle Eastern companies are small-scale and family run. As these firms are forced to adjust to the challenges of globalization, mergers and acquisitions are sure to become more prevalent phenomena throughout the region.

  May 27, 1999, No. 47  
Title: Gulf States: Human Resources Development the Case of Bahrain

Throughout the 1990s, all Gulf governments have emphasized the need to replace foreign workers with local labour. Even though an abundance of youth have been graduating from the region's universities, most are ill-equipped to undertake high-skilled jobs currently held by expatriates. The following Briefing will focus on the human resource development problem in Bahrain, and highlight the steps taken to overcome this dilemma.

  May 18, 1999, No. 46  
Title: Middle East: Competitive Intelligence (CI) Sources - Problems & Solutions

The nineteen nations of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) represent a market of nearly 300 million people. The region is home to roughly 65 percent of the world's proven oil reserves. Yet, Western business leaders, decision-makers and other interested parties who aim to gather CI, face many content, technical and other obstacles. This article will provide several specific case studies illustrating the inherent difficulties to obtain CI throughout the region, and the methods to garner necessary materials and leads. This Briefing is based on Info-Prod's experiences both as the builder of a business database on the Middle East and as a user of such databases.

  April 29, 1999, No. 45  
Title: Middle East: Canada's Commercial Interest Picking up Steam

Canada has a growing commercial and foreign policy interest in the Middle East. The region's vitality was demonstrated in late February, when Canada's Minister of International Trade led a business delegation to the Gulf states and Israel. During this tour, numerous commercial contracts were cemented. Canadian companies have had a long-standing presence in the region. Nevertheless, an analysis of Canadian foreign policy and trade data reveals that since the onset of the Middle East peace process, the region has become an ever-increasing attractive market for Canadian businesses.

  March 22, 1999, No. 44  
Title: The Millenium Bug: Can the Middle East Handle it?

The Year 2000 Problem (otherwise known as "Y2K") will be caused by computer software having two-digit date fields. The two-digit values of "00" will be interpreted as "1900" instead of "2000." This misinterpretation may result in incorrect arithmetic operations, logic and sorting comparisons, and reports. While much of the Western world has recognized this problem several years ago, many Mideast countries have remained negligent, and have only recently established working groups to confront this potential catastrophe. However, these task forces are facing constrained budgets and a race against time to solve this threatening issue.

  February 18, 1999, No. 43  
Title: Middle East: Initial Upbeat Reaction to Euro

The recent introduction of the Euro, a unified currency, will ultimately have a significant impact on the economies of the Middle East. It is, however, still premature to determine the Euro's long-tern economic effects. In the preliminary period following the Euro's emergence, the general reaction in the region has been quite positive, as local economists believe that it will enhance their international competitiveness.

  February 2, 1999, No. 42  
Title: Arab Gulf States: Impact of Oil Price Decline

Global oil prices, which have declined to record-low levels, are sure to have a detrimental effect on the Gulf economies, which depend on oil for three-quarters of government revenues. Recently released 1999 budget predictions indicate that austerity measures will be introduced. Governments will thus need to increase the pace of privatization and implement economic reforms in order to diversify sources of revenue.

  January 19, 1999, No. 41  

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