Author AFP

India
Indian Rupee plunges to new low against Dollar

India’s rupee hit fresh lows against the dollar on Wednesday as emerging market currencies continue to be sold off. The under-pressure currency in Asia’s third-largest economy slid to 70.56 against USD, a record low. The rupee has been steadily falling throughout 2018 after starting the year at 63.67. Earlier this month it crossed 70 for the first time as India was buffeted by the turbulence of the Turkish financial crisis. The rupee was not alone, with the currencies of other emerging economies heavily dependent on dollar-dominated foreign capital like Brazil, South Africa, Argentina and Brazil also slipping in August.The rupee slump is widening India’s current account deficit, when the value of imports exceeds that of exports. India is a massive net importer of oil, securing more than two-thirds of its needs from abroad. High oil prices have been squeezing the rupee, making it less appealing to investors, analysts say. India’s…

Qatar
Qatar first in Middle East to approve gate-to-gate internet connectivity on-board aircraft

Qatar’s Communications Regulatory Authority (CRA) has approved the provision of internet service onboard aircraft at all altitudes after being previously approved only when the aircraft is flying at least at 3,000 meters above sea level. This follows responses from service providers, key stakeholders and other interested parties at public consultations conducted by the CRA between November 2017 and January 2018 regarding possible revisions to the Class License for the Provision of Public Telecommunications Services On-board Aircraft. Approval by the CRA means that Qatar is the first country in the Middle East and North Africa region to approve the provision of gate-to-gate internet connectivity onboard aircraft. The amended Class License, issued on April 15, 2018, authorizes operators of aircraft, registered in Qatar, to provide internet access from the point a passenger boards the aircraft until the passenger disembarks at their final destination. Global technical standards now ensure that provision of internet…

India
Indian airports stretched as passengers reach new heights

India’s airports are struggling to cope with a massive surge in passenger numbers and billions of dollars must be spent to boost their capacity, analysts have warned. The country is witnessing a huge boom in air travel as its growing middle class increasingly takes to the skies but experts say infrastructure is failing to keep up. “There’s an urgent need for capacity building in major Indian airports as they are bursting at the seams and close to saturation,” Binit Somaia, South Asia Director at the Centre for Aviation (CAPA), told AFP. India has witnessed a six-fold increase in passenger numbers over the past decade as citizens take advantage of better connectivity and cheaper fares thanks to a host of low-cost airlines. Indian airports handled 265 million domestic passengers in 2016 and will cross 300 million this year, according to CAPA. The country’s entire airport network is only capable of handling…

Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia to allow cinemas in kingdom after 35-year ban

Saudi Arabia has lifted a decades-long ban on cinemas, part of a series of social reforms by the powerful crown prince that are shaking up the ultra-conservative kingdom. The government said it would begin licensing cinemas immediately and the first movie theatres are expected to open next March, in a decision that could boost the kingdom’s nascent film industry. Reviving cinemas would represent a paradigm shift in the kingdom, which is promoting entertainment as part of a sweeping reform plan for a post-oil era, despite opposition from conservatives who have long vilified movie theatres as vulgar and sinful. “Commercial cinemas will be allowed to operate in the Kingdom as of early 2018, for the first time in more than 35 years,” the culture and information ministry said in a statement. Like most public spaces in the kingdom, cinema halls are expected to be segregated by gender or have a separate…

Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia lifts ban on internet calling applications

Saudi Arabia will lift its ban on internet calling applications on Wednesday, authorities said, easing restrictions online as the conservative kingdom faces new criticism over censorship. Voice and video calling apps such as WhatsApp and Skype will be ‘widely available to users’, a government statement said on Tuesday, in a move aimed at improving business confidence as the kingdom transitions into a post-oil era. “Access to VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) will reduce operational costs and spur digital entrepreneurship,” the statement said, citing a directive from the communications and technology ministry. “Digital transformation is one of the key kick-starters for the Saudi economy, as it will incentivise the growth of internet-based businesses, especially in the media and entertainment industries.” Alongside the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain, Saudi Arabia imposed a blockade on Qatar in June, in the worst diplomatic crisis to roil the Gulf in years. “The recent cooperation…

Around The Region
Saudi-led bloc to continue Qatar boycott after ‘negative’ response to demands

Foreign ministers of the Saudi-led bloc that imposed an embargo on Qatar said Wednesday they regretted Qatar’s “negative” response to a list of demands to end a diplomatic crisis. The ministers of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates “regret the negative response from Qatar,” they said, in a statement read out by Egyptian foreign minister Sameh Shoukry, after meeting in Cairo. Speaking to reporters after reading the statement, Shoukry said Qatar’s response to the bloc’s conditions had “no substance”. Qatar calls for dialogue Meanwhile, Qatar’s foreign minister called for “dialogue” to resolve the Gulf diplomatic crisis, accusing Arab states that have cut ties with Qatar of trying to undermine the nation’s sovereignty. H E Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani was speaking at the Chatham House think tank in London. “As the 48 hours extension is coming to an end, Qatar continues to call for dialogue despite the…

Qatar
Qatar receives cargo planes full of food from Iran

Iran has sent five planes of food to Qatar, Iran’s national carrier told AFP on Sunday, days after Gulf countries cut off air and other transport links to the country. “So far five planes carrying perishable food items such as fruit and vegetables have been sent to Qatar, each carrying around 90 tonnes of cargo, while another plane will be sent today,” Iran Air spokesman Shahrokh Noushabadi said. “We will continue deliveries as long as there is demand” from Qatar, Noushabadi added, without mentioning if these deliveries were exports or aid. Three ships loaded with 350 tonnes of food were also set to leave an Iranian port for Qatar, the Tasnim news agency quoted a local official as saying. The port of Dayyer is Iran’s closest port to Qatar. In the biggest diplomatic crisis in the region in years, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, plus Egypt and…

UAE
Sheikh Mohammed orders three men to clean Dubai zoo over cat killing video

The ruler of Dubai on Wednesday ordered three men accused of feeding a cat alive to two dogs and filming it to clean the city’s zoo for three months.  Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum ordered “those detained for torturing the cat to perform community service by cleaning the Dubai zoo for four hours a day for three months,” a government statement said.  It is not clear if the men will also face prosecution. A recently enacted law on animal cruelty stipulates punishment of up to a year in prison or a fine of up to 200,000 dirhams.  Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum ordered the men who tortured the cat to perform community service by cleaning the Dubai zoo for four hours a day for three months, a government statement said. Emirati newspapers said a Gulf citizen and two Asians had been arrested over the video, which was widely shared on…

Around The World
Passengers hurt in Qatar Airways plane emergency landing

A Qatar Airways jet made an an emergency landing at a Portuguese military base in the Azores islands Sunday after heavy turbulence injured passengers. The Boeing 777, bound from Washington to Doha, was re-routed during a storm to the Azores, a Portuguese territory in the North Atlantic, and landed at the Lajes Air Base. #QR708 not continuing to Doha after horrific turbulence forces plane to land on Potuguese island. pic.twitter.com/kESPKaz98a — Azad Essa (@azadessa) December 4, 2016 Officials and witnesses said the plane had dropped steeply in altitude, hurling several passengers out of their seats and causing one traveller to suffer heart trouble. when plane dropped, three year old Lebanese boy flew out his seat, and landed across aisle into the lap of an Indian man who held him #QR708 — Azad Essa (@azadessa) December 4, 2016 “All the passengers were taken to a hotel in the evening and are…