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KUWAIT: The Kuwaiti Cabinet held its weekly meeting yesterday before submitting its resignation to His Highness the Amir, discussing during the gathering issues connected to the Amiri pardon, the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26), and other issues of importance. Also during the meeting, Health Minister Sheikh Basel Al-Humoud Al-Sabah updated the Cabinet on the recent COVID-19 developments in Kuwait, saying that the situation was improving drastically. He renewed calls for citizens and residents to receive the booster shot of the COVID-19 vaccine providing that their second doses were taken six months prior.
After the meeting, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of State for Cabinet Affairs Sheikh Dr Ahmad Nasser Al-Mohammad Al-Sabah said that the members of government were informed about the approval of the pardoning by His Highness the Amir Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah for some Kuwaitis sentenced on several cases in the previous years. Pardoning decrees 202 and 203 were issued yesterday.
The Cabinet, during the meeting chaired by His Highness the Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah Al-Kahled Al-Hamad Al-Sabah, was pleased with the new decisions driven by the vision of His Highness the Amir after the initial pardoning report was handed to him by the heads of the judiciary, legislative and executive authorities, Sheikh Dr Ahmad Al-Nasser said. He added that the Cabinet also thanked the National Assembly for their contribution to the pardoning process, affirming that MPs had taken a step towards bringing views together and seeking what was in the interest of Kuwait and its people.
His Highness the Amir Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah and His Highness the Crown Prince Sheikh Mishal Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah’s efforts in promoting political stability and positivity is well received and appreciated, Sheikh Dr Ahmad said after the meeting. He indicated that His Highness the Prime Minister had tendered the government resignation to His Highness the Amir in line with Amiri directives for a positive political scene in the country. The minister thanked the Kuwaiti leadership for its guidance during this exceptional period, hoping that the future would bring more positive outcomes for Kuwait and its people
On COP26, His Highness the Prime Minister — the Amir’s representative — informed members of the Cabinet on the proceedings of the event held in Glasgow, Scotland, indicated the state minister of Cabinet affairs. Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled briefed the government on Kuwait’s national strategy to decrease carbon emissions by 2050, in line with the Paris Agreement, he indicated, reflecting Kuwait strong stance towards environment protection.
Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Sheikh Dr Ahmad Al-Nasser provided the Cabinet with the outcome of his visit to Libya where he participated in the chairmanship of the conference to support of Libya in line with Kuwait’s presidency of the 165th Arab League Ministerial Council. He briefed the Cabinet on the Libya visit and his meetings with top Libyan figures, focusing on the welfare and development of the fellow Arab country. Sheikh Dr Ahmad also informed the Cabinet on his recent visit to Tunisia and his meetings with senior officials there.
The Cabinet then tackled recent regional and international happenings. The Cabinet expressed strong condemnation over the continuous Houthi militia attacks against Saudi Arabia and its people, saying that the targeting of civilians and facilities in the Kingdom amounted to war crimes. The State of Kuwait stood in solidarity with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia against all acts threatening its people.
On Iraq, the Cabinet expressed utter condemnation over the failed assassination attempt of Iraqi Mustafa Al-Kadhemi, affirming that the terror attack aimed at destabilizing Iraq’s peace and security. The Cabinet also condemned the recent terror attack against a military hospital in Kabul, Afghanistan, expressing detest towards the attack that killed and injured a score of people. – KUNA
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KUWAIT: His Highness the Crown Prince Sheikh Mishal Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah received yesterday at Bayan Palace Dr Rasha Al-Homoud Al-Jaber Al-Sabah on the occasion of winning the Order of the Star of Italy with the Rank of Officer. The Order of the Star is considered Italy’s highest order to non-Italians. – KUNA
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By Abdellatif Sharaa
KUWAIT: A Kuwaiti Ministry of Health official urged men, especially those aged 50 or older, to carry out periodic prostate cancer checks, warning that this type of cancer remains the most widespread among males in Kuwait. Speaking in a press statement on ‘Movember’ – an annual event raising awareness of men’s health issues during the month of November, Head of the Urology Department at Jaber Armed Forces Hospital Dr Mohammad Al-Ghanem said that prostate cancer is widespread around the world, adding that based on the Kuwait cancer register report, the disease became in 2015 the most widespread cancer among Kuwaiti men at the rate of 15 persons per 100,000. “It is necessary for men to carry out periodic prostate examinations as they grow in age,” he said.
While prostate cancer numbers are growing, only a small percentage of patients develop an aggressive tumor that spreads quickly. Therefore, it is important to spread awareness about periodic checkups and early detection that could “save the lives of thousands of people,” according to Dr Ghanem. “The month of November is a good opportunity to remind of the dangers of prostate cancer, especially that this month is linked with a campaign named ‘Movember’ during which men grow their mustaches and go for all the necessary tests,” Dr Ghanem added.
The doctor noted that the reasons this type of cancer develops remains unclear, noting that genetics “also has a role” in its occurrence as the percentage increases among first degree relatives. Dr Ghanem said treatment of the disease is done in various ways including the use of robotic surgery, also through an incision behind the pubic bone, in addition to radiation. There is another treatment through which seeds are placed in the prostate and hormone are injected to make the body stop secreting male testosterone, in addition to the chemical and biological treatment for tumors spread out as prostate domain.
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KUWAIT: Minister of Information, Culture, and State Minister for Youth Affairs Abdulrahman Al-Mutairi inaugurated yesterday the new strategy of Kuwait’s Public Authority for Sport for 2022-2028. Minister Al-Mutairi said that this strategy aimed to achieve the country’s national policy in the field of sports in line with Kuwait vision 2035. “Basically, this strategy involves cooperation between the public and private sectors to attain the goals of sustainable development in sports,” said Mutairi.
“The strategy aims to specify a national day for sports, and to motivate society to exercise. It also seeks to create six sport stadiums in several governorates in the country, to establish an integrated Olympic city, and to host 45 international and regional championships,” he said.
He noted that the Public Authority for Sport would provide a professional system to athletes that will enable them to achieve highest levels of performance, and to empower Paralympic athletes, in addition to enabling more than 300 journalists to analyze and host different sport venues. The minister praised the Kuwaiti youth for working hard on this strategy as he expressed his faith in them in achieving its goals. Several senior officials attended the inauguration ceremony. – KUNA
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MANAMA: Bahrain Crown Prince and Prime Minister Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifah stressed yesterday the importance of enhancing integration and supporting the development process in the GCC countries. This came during a meeting of the Crown Prince with finance ministers of the GCC’s countries participating in the 114 session of the financial and economic cooperation committee hosted by Kingdom of Bahrain, in the presence of the GCC Secretary General Dr Nayef Al-Hajraf, Bahraini news Agency (BNA) reported.
He stressed the keenness to continue working to achieve the desired goals in accordance with the visions of their Majesties and Highnesses, leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council, wishing the ministers all the success in their meeting.
Meanwhile, the GCC finance ministers expressed their thanks and appreciation to the Bahraini Crown Prince for his keenness to strengthen the GCC development process at all levels. They praised the good organization and preparations made for the success of the 114th meeting of the Financial and Economic Cooperation Committee, wishing the Kingdom of Bahrain further progress and prosperity. – KUNA
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KUWAIT: Prominent Indian community member and Chairman of the Indian Business and Professional Council (IBPC) – Kuwait, Anant Kapadiya passed away in Toronto, Canada. He was 75 years old. As part of the Indian Community Support Group (ICSG), he played an important role in extending timely help to those in distress during the COVID-19 pandemic.
A well-known figure in the Indian diaspora in Kuwait, Kapadiya leaves an indelible stamp on Kuwait’s corporate world and Indian cultural arena. He played a crucial role in nurturing Kuwait-India cultural cooperation. After spending around 45 years of his life in Kuwait, Kapadiya left for Canada in February this year to be with his children. He suffered a stroke and passed away on Sunday morning.
“I am deeply saddened to hear about the demise of Shri Anant Kapadiya Ji,” said Indian Ambassador Sibi George in a condolence message. During his over 40 years of stay in Kuwait, he contributed immensely in promoting India-Kuwait relations both in the economic and cultural spheres. He had made his mark in Kuwait as a successful entrepreneur and worked very closely with the embassy during his tenure as the head of Indian Business and Professional Council (IBPC), the ambassador said.
“Kapadiya created an unparalleled legacy with his exceptional contribution to the cause of Indian music and culture and was also instrumental in introducing some of India’s top cultural and artistic personalities in Kuwait. I join the Indian community in Kuwait in extending my sincere and heartfelt condolences to his family and many friends,” the ambassador added in his message.
Not only Kapadiya did hold up the best of India culturally in Kuwait, but as a member and Chairman of IBPC, he also showcased India’s economic might by bringing some of India’s top industrialists, businessmen, and entrepreneurs to Kuwait to strengthen Kuwait-India business relations. He promoted India’s classical music through collaborations with premier organizations in Kuwait like Dar Al-Athar Al-Islamiyyah and Kuwait’s National Council for Culture Arts and Letters (NCCAL).
Kapadiya organized several Indian events in Kuwait featuring legendary musicians like Lata Mangeshkar, Pandit Ravi Shankar, Ustad Alla Rakha, Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia, Pandit Shivkumar Sharma, Ustad Zakir Hussain, Ustad Shujat Khan, Ustad Amjad Ali Khan and others.
Kapadiya also has served on the board of the Indian Community School (ICSK), Kuwait. The Indian community members in Kuwait will forever remember him fondly and the moments they spent with Kapadiya. “We were always fond of him and loved to interact with him, learning from him,” said Gurvinder Singh Lamba, acting Chairman of the IBPC. Kapadiya is survived by his wife Indira and three children, Akshatha, Mriga and Amit.
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DUBAI: The Opportunity Pavilion at Dubai Expo 2020 provides visitors with an inspiring experience that addresses the most important global challenges of our time and what can be achieved when individuals and societies work hand in hand to build a better future. The pavilion takes its visitors on an interactive display journey through three halls representing basic human needs, water, food and energy, which are part of the sustainable development goals.
During their visit to the pavilion, visitors live an inspiring, interactive journey with people from all over the world who have turned their dreams into reality by implementing their projects with the least number of resources, which in turn made a great change in their local communities and from there it moved to the public good. – KUNA
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KUWAIT: Kuwait Food Bank on Monday launched a new charitable project, in cooperation with Kuwait Awqaf Public Foundation, to supply free-of-charge cold potable water to workers onsite. The fresh initiative is one of the biggest advanced projects in the charitable sector in the region, since it provides clean water in cooled containers for workers at their workplaces, in addition to people on roads and at mosques, hospitals and vital places, the charity’s Deputy Chairman Meshal Al-Ansari said.
Ansari added that this project is a big step in charitable and humanitarian work, given the modern methods used by the bank to make it a success and benefit as many people as possible. He praised the Kuwait Awqaf Public Foundation’s support for charitable, voluntary activities and efforts carried out by the bank to serve the Kuwaiti society. – KUNA
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KUWAIT: Central Bank of Kuwait (CBK) announced yesterday an increase in Broad Money Supply (M2) by about 0.1 percent last September to settle at KD 38.9 billion ($128.6 billion). Local banks’ private sector deposits increased by 0.2 percent last September to settle at KD 35.1 billion ($116.2 billion), said the CBK’s economic research department in a release to the press including statistical tables.
It added that private sector deposits in foreign currency decreased by 1.2 percent to reach KD 2.032 billion ($6.72 billion), while total local banks claims on CBK represented by CBK bonds settled at KD 2.9 billion ($9.6 billion). The bank clarified that total local banks’ assets rose by 0.6 percent to record KD 76 billion ($251 billion) indicating that Net Foreign Assets decreased by 3.1 percent to reach KD 5.79 billion ($19.1 billion).
CBK mentioned that Time Deposits with CBK decreased last September by around two percent to reach KD 2.24 billion ($7.41 billion), whereas Balance of Utilized Cash Credit rose by one percent to reach KD 41.6 billion ($137.7 billion). It indicated that the average Interest Rate on One Year Treasury Bonds settled at 1.375 percent while Financing of Kuwaiti Imports increased by 25.8 percent last August to reach KD 758 million ($2.5 billion), and US dollar exchange rate against Kuwaiti Dinar settled at 300 fils.
Narrow Money Supply indicates total volume of money in circulation including notes, coins and operational money deposits, whereas Broad Money Supply includes time deposits and saving accounts as well as liquid money. – KUNA
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Cabinet approves amnesty decrees • Speaker thanks AmirHH the Amir Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah
By B Izzak
KUWAIT: The Cabinet yesterday approved draft Amiri decrees which will pardon dozens of former MPs and political activists who had been convicted and sentenced to various jail terms, an official statement said. The statement was issued following an extraordinary meeting of the Cabinet chaired by HH the Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled Al-Sabah.
The move came after several sessions of national dialogue called by HH the Amir Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah in which the government, National Assembly Speaker Marzouq Al-Ghanem and three opposition MPs took part. HH the Amir then invoked article 75 of the constitution, which authorizes him to pardon prisoners or reduce their sentences, and decided to pardon a number of Kuwaiti citizens convicted and sentenced to jail terms.
HH the Amir had assigned the Assembly speaker, prime minister and head of the judicial council Ahmad Al-Ajeel to set out conditions for the planned amnesty. The three submitted their first report on the issue to HH the Amir late last week. “The Council of Ministers approved the necessary draft decrees which will be referred to the Amir,” the Cabinet statement said yesterday.
Under Kuwaiti law, the Cabinet approves decrees and HH the Amir officially issues them. No details were published on the content of the decrees or the names of people who will be pardoned. But local media cited unnamed senior government sources as saying that around 70 people will be pardoned, topped by a dozen opposition former lawmakers and activists who have been living in exile in Turkey since the summer of 2018 to escape verdicts of jail terms passed against them for storming the National Assembly building following an anti-corruption protest in 2011.
They include former prominent opposition MPs Musallam Al-Barrak, Faisal Al-Mislem, Jamaan Al-Harbash and others. The list is expected to include some convicts in Kuwait. More people will be pardoned later as the three-man high-level panel is still considering more cases, according to Ghanem, who thanked HH the Amir profusely.
The Cabinet also expressed its thanks and appreciation to HH the Amir for his gesture. It also thanked the Assembly speaker, head of the judiciary and members of the Assembly for their efforts. “The Council of Ministers is confident that this move will pave the way for fruitful cooperation between the legislative and executive authorities in accordance with the principles of the constitution,” said the Cabinet statement.
Last Thursday, the speaker told reporters that the panel had submitted its first report and recommendations they had reached unanimously. “Things are now in the hands of the Amir,” he said. He added there will be more reports as more cases of convicts will be discussed. “I was honored today, along with the heads of the judicial and executive authorities, with a meeting with His Highness the Amir to present the report, including the recommendations, to His Highness the Amir Sheikh Nawaf,” Ghanem said. He indicated other reports concerning “crucial and complex” issues would be delivered to HH the Amir after “studying them”, indicating that these matters could not be examined in a short period of time.
Ghanem had reaffirmed that HH the Amir solely enjoys the power to issue an amnesty in such cases. He expressed gratitude to HH the Amir, hoping that the Kuwaiti people will be satisfied with the work he had done with his colleagues, whom he thanked, along with consultants who had expressed their views during the meeting, in addition to MPs who were helpful in the mission.
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BAGHDAD: Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhemi escaped unhurt from an “assassination attempt” in which an explosives-packed drone hit his Baghdad residence early yesterday, a new escalation in the country’s post-election turmoil. Washington condemned the “apparent act of terrorism” while Iraqi President Barham Saleh called the attack, which was not immediately claimed by any group, an attempted “coup against the constitutional system”.
Kadhemi, aged 54 and in power since May 2020, appealed for “calm and restraint” before chairing a meeting at his office in the high-security Baghdad Green Zone, where the overnight attack took place. Three drones were launched from near a Tigris River bridge but two were intercepted, according to security sources, who said two bodyguards were wounded.
Gunfire rang out and smoke rose from the Green Zone after the strike, which the premier’s office labelled a “failed assassination attempt”. Photos issued by Kadhemi’s office showed debris strewn on the ground below a damaged exterior stairway and a door that had been dislodged. Kadhemi said in a short video that “my residence has been the target of a cowardly assault. Praise God, I am fine.”
The attack came two days after security forces clashed with supporters of Iran-backed parties that lost support in the October 10 parliament election and who have charged they were the victims of vote irregularities. The Conquest (Fatah) Alliance, the political arm of the pro-Iran Hashed al-Shaabi paramilitary network, suffered a substantial decline in seats, leading it to denounce the outcome as “fraud”. After the drone attack, Qais Al-Khazali, the head of Assaib Ahl al-Haq, one of the main pro-Iran groups of the Hashed, called for the perpetrators to be “brought to justice”.
The United States, which has around 2,500 troops in the country, said it was “relieved to learn the Prime Minister was unharmed”. “This apparent act of terrorism, which we strongly condemn, was directed at the heart of the Iraqi state,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said. Iran condemned the attack and urged “vigilance to foil plots aimed at the security and development” of Iraq.
Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Said Khatibzadeh directed blame at the United States, which led the 2003 invasion of Iraq that toppled dictator Saddam Hussein and kicked off years of sectarian conflict. “Such incidents are in the interest of those who have violated the stability, security, independence and territorial integrity of Iraq over the past 18 years,” said Khatibzadeh. “They have sought to achieve their sinister regional goals by creating terrorist groups that seek to cause sedition.”
President Saleh said Iraq must not “be dragged into chaos and a coup against the constitutional system”. The attack was also condemned by the Arab League, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria and United Arab Emirates as well as the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq. Moqtada Sadr, an influential Shiite Muslim preacher whose political movement was the big election winner, condemned the drone attack as “against Iraq and the Iraqi people”.
The strike came amid soaring tensions over the elections, the fifth such vote since the 2003 US-led invasion. Hundreds of Hashed supporters clashed with police on Friday while protesting near the Green Zone to vent their fury over the preliminary result. One protester died of injuries in hospital, according to a security source, while a Hashed source said two demonstrators were killed.
Several hundred supporters of pro-Iranian groups returned to the edge of the Green Zone on Saturday to protest, and some burned a portrait of the prime minister, whom they called a “criminal”. Final election results are only expected in a few weeks. Kadhemi brought forward the ballot, originally planned for next year, in a concession to anti-government protests over endemic corruption, unemployment, failing public services and the influence of Iran.
Activists accuse the Hashed’s armed forces – whose 160,000 fighters are now integrated into Iraq’s state security forces – of being beholden to Iran and acting as an instrument of oppression against critics. Other drone attacks in Iraq have occurred over the last few months, particularly against American interests. – AFP
TEHRAN: The Iranian army began yesterday drills in the southwest of the country, near the strategic Strait of Hormuz, where it said a stand-off with the US recently took place. “The exercise of the army of the Islamic Republic of Iran on an area of more than one million square kilometers east of the Strait of Hormuz and the Sea of Oman and north of the Indian Ocean has begun,” state television said.
It broadcast images of the military exercises which involved helicopters, tanks, drones, ships and speedboats. “This exercise is a serious warning to our enemies and those who have ill intentions towards Iran,” the spokesman for the drills, Admiral Mahmoud Moussavi, was quoted as saying by Irib News Agency.
The elite Revolutionary Guard Corps announced on Wednesday it had thwarted an attempt by the US Navy to seize a vessel carrying its oil in the Sea of Oman the previous week. But US defense officials offered a contrasting version of events, saying the Iranians had seized the tanker, while US forces “monitored” the incident without engaging.
The Strait of Hormuz is a chokepoint for global oil shipments, where US and Iranian naval vessels have faced off in the past. The latest tanker incident took place amid protracted efforts to revive a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers that the US unilaterally pulled out of in 2018 under then-President Donald Trump. The deal would offer Iran vital relief from debilitating sanctions in return for severe limits in its nuclear activities.
In 2019, a series of attacks on tankers in the Gulf threatened to further drive US-Iran tensions. Nuclear talks are expected to resume on November 29 in Vienna, after they had been suspended since June after the election of Iran’s hardline President Ebrahim Raisi. – AFP
WASHINGTON: The United States reopens its land and air borders today to foreign visitors fully vaccinated against COVID-19, ending 20 months of restrictions on travel from around the globe that separated families, hobbled tourism and strained diplomatic ties. The ban, imposed by former president Donald Trump in early 2020 and upheld by his successor Joe Biden, has been widely criticized and become emblematic of the upheavals caused by the pandemic. The restrictions were particularly unpopular in Europe and US neighbors Canada and Mexico.
In an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus, US borders were closed after March 2020 to travelers from large parts of the world, including the European Union, Britain and China, India and Brazil. Overland visitors from Mexico and Canada were also banned. The months of restrictions affecting hundreds of millions of people helped fuel both personal and economic suffering brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s been so hard,” Alison Henry, 63, told AFP. “I just want to see my son.” The British woman plans to fly Monday to see her son in New York, after 20 months of separation. Families on both sides of the Atlantic are eager to finally reunite with their loved ones. Although travel from the United States to Europe has been possible since the summer, foreign US residents holding certain visas have had no guarantee of being able to reenter the country.
To cope with surging demand, airlines have increased the number of transatlantic flights. They also plan to use larger planes, as the easing of restrictions represents a major boost for a sector plunged into crisis by the pandemic. Along the border with Mexico, many cities in the big US states of Texas and California have seen significant economic struggles due to anti-COVID trade restrictions. Local economies are also impatiently waiting for a return to normalcy. Meanwhile, Canadian seniors will be able to resume their annual car trips to Florida in order to escape the bitter northern winters.
Lifting the travel ban will affect more than 30 countries. But entry to the United States will not be totally unregulated: US authorities plan to closely monitor travelers’ vaccination status and will still require them to present negative COVID-19 tests. The United States, from today, will require air passengers to be fully vaccinated and be tested within three days before travel. Airlines will be required to put in place a contact tracing system.
The land border opening will happen in two phases. Starting today, vaccines will be required for “non-essential” trips – such as family visits or tourism – although unvaccinated travelers will still be allowed into the country for “essential” trips, as they have been for the last year and a half. A second phase beginning in early January will require all visitors to be fully vaccinated to enter the United States by land, no matter the reason for their trip.
US health authorities have said all vaccines approved by the US Food and Drug Administration and the World Health Organization would be accepted for entry by air. At the moment, this includes the AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, Moderna, Pfizer/BioNTech, Covaxin, Sinopharm and Sinovac vaccines. The United States has not yet commented on the increase in COVID-19 cases in Europe.
But speaking for the US, Surgeon General Vivek Murthy said yesterday on ABC that “I’m cautiously optimistic about where we are,” while adding: “We can’t take our foot off the accelerator until we’re at the finish line.” The WHO, for its part, expressed “grave concern” over the rising pace of coronavirus infections in Europe, warning that according to “one reliable projection” the current trajectory would mean “another half a million COVID-19 deaths” by February. – AFP
CAIRO: Cash-strapped Egyptians fearful of banks have long relied on a “gameya” to access money in time of need, but now tech startups are cashing in on the age-old money-pooling association. Navigating an app with strangers is “easier and safer” than the traditional face-to-face practice, said one user, Menna Shaarawi, 31.
“I receive the money in my bank account without any delays and I don’t have to chase after people to get what’s owed to me. It’s perfect really,” the marketing manager told AFP about her use of the ElGameya (association in Arabic) app, which is quickly rising in popularity. Dina Rabie, an economist and lecturer at the British University in Egypt, explained that the gameya is “more of a social norm” in the country where the practice dates back to at least the turn of the 20th century.
The cooperative system that allows people to save and borrow money is popular in parts of the world, including Africa and Latin America. Participants put an equal amount each month in a pot and take turns to collect the sum that has accumulated. On average, a gameya lasts between five and 20 months and is not limited to a particular economic class, Rabie said.
Almost 30 percent of Egypt’s 102-million-strong population lives below the poverty line, according to state figures. Less than a third of Egyptians have bank accounts, a 2017 World Bank report said. The gameya is often formed among relatives or co-workers facing financial hardships. Operating outside the confines of a formal banking sector, it works particularly well for young couples saving up for a wedding or for a health emergency that requires hefty fees. In a country where 63.4 percent of workers earn their income from the informal economy, according to the World Bank’s 2018 figures, such avenues often prove essential.
Ahmed Mahmoud, 28, who founded the ElGameya app in 2019, said: “In three simple steps we get rid of logistical hassles” that come with the old way of doing things. Users need to register, upload their supporting documents and sign a contract to start using the app, he said. Registration requires a national identity card rather than a credit card or other proof of finances, while contributions can be made via cash or electronically with a mobile phone.
Ahmed Wadi, creator of the popular MoneyFellows app, agrees that online transactions are easy. His app has around 173,000 users who contribute between 500 pounds ($30) to tens of thousands monthly. One user, Ashraf Salah from the southern city of Qena, said he was “sceptical” at first. “But after I registered, I ended up raising money to renovate my home.”
Salah said he likes the anonymity the app provides, unlike the “embarrassing” traditional method where everyone knows how much you put in the pot. Mahmoud, of ElGameya, maintains that his app contributes to “financial inclusion”, an initiative espoused by the authorities to integrate the finances of Egyptians into the formal economy.
The Central Bank of Egypt is cooperating with both apps to incorporate the savings of Egyptians, shifting them from the shadow economy to a more formalized setting. MoneyFellows succeeded in raising $4 million last year from venture capital firms to expand its digital footprint. They attribute this to their “solid evaluation system” where users get higher credit ratings if they can provide more proof of their ability to pay funds.
In Cairo’s competitive and well-established startup ecosystem, both ElGameya and MoneyFellows say they have boosted their user bases by around 700 percent and 300 percent respectively in the last year. Mahmoud said that the coronavirus pandemic actually helped, rather than hindered, the expansion. His app has 30,000 clients, including 30 percent from rural and economically marginalized Upper Egypt in the country’s south.
ElGameya has mostly attracted people “who want to get married or pay for private schools”, Mahmoud said. A study by the American University in Cairo found that 43 percent of Egyptians who have savings are part of money-pooling clubs. But some, like Ragab Farghaly, 50, question the need for an app, where fees are charged. “We help each other out and the whole issue is based on trust so that’s why I don’t like the online gameya,” he said. “I know the people in my gameya. If one of them doesn’t pay up I go to their brother or mother and they pay instead of him.” While Farghaly likes to keep things close to home, MoneyFellows and ElGameya are looking further afield and eyeing Africa and the Gulf. – AFP
KHARTOUM: Sudanese security forces yesterday fired tear gas at multiple anti-coup rallies, with protesters in several cities joining a call for two-days of civil disobedience against last month’s military takeover. Hundreds of anti-coup protesters rallied Sunday in the capital Khartoum, as well as in its twin city of Omdurman, Wad Madni to the south, and the northern city of Atbara. “The authority belongs to the people”, protesters chanted, calling “no, no to military rule”, and demanding a “civilian government”.
Nationwide anti-coup protests have occurred since the Oct 25 power grab by the army, but have been met by a deadly crackdown. At least 14 demonstrators have been killed and about 300 wounded, according to the independent Central Committee of Sudan’s Doctors. “Protesters barricaded the streets, set car tires ablaze, called out against the military rule, and chanted that civilian government is the people’s choice,” said Hoda Othman, who witnessed protests in Omdurman yesterday.
Almost two weeks ago Sudan’s top general Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan dissolved the government, as well as the ruling joint military-civilian Sovereign Council – that was supposed to lead the country toward full civilian rule. Burhan also declared a state of emergency and detained Sudan’s civilian leadership. Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok was briefly detained, but later placed under effective house arrest.
Yesterday’s rallies followed calls for two-days of civil disobedience made by the Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA), an umbrella of unions which were also instrumental in the protests which led to the ouster of longtime strongman Omar Al-Bashir in April 2019. “The Sudanese people have rejected the military coup,” the SPA said, vowing “no negotiation, no partnership”.
The SPA’s appeals for the civil disobedience were circulated via text messages, to bypass internet outages in place since the putsch. In Khartoum’s eastern Burri district, protesters built burning barricades of tires. “Security forces later dispersed the protest by firing tear gas and began removing the barricades,” said protester Mosab Abdalla.
Earlier yesterday, dozens of teachers also rallied against the army outside the education ministry. “Police came and fired tear gas at us, though we were simply standing on the streets and carrying banners,” said geography teacher Mohamed Al-Amin. There were no confirmed reports of casualties but about 87 teachers have been detained, according to the SPA.
The teachers’ rally came after the military leadership replaced heads of department at the education ministry, as part of sweeping changes it made in multiple sectors. “The protest rejects the return of remnants of the old regime” linked to now jailed ex-resident Bashir, the teachers’ union said. Meanwhile, classes in two of Sudan’s main universities have been suspended indefinitely.
The University of Khartoum “denounced the military coup” and decried attacks on students by armed men on October 25, the day of the putsch. The Red Sea University, in the eastern city of Port Sudan, said Sunday it had suspended classes for “students’ safety”. The military takeover sparked international condemnation, including punitive aid cuts and demands for a swift return to civilian rule. Burhan insists it “was not a coup” but a move to “rectify the course of the transition.”
On Thursday, the military released four civilian members of the government. But other key officials are still under guard and, on that same day, security forces arrested other civilian leaders after they met with UN Special Representative for Sudan Volker Perthes. “We call upon the military leadership to cease arresting politicians and activists and to stop committing human rights violations,” Perthes said afterwards. – AFP
KUWAIT: His Highness the Amir of Kuwait Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah sent a cable to Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, congratulating him on the 7th anniversary of assuming office. His Highness the Amir praised the brotherly relations that the two countries share and commended all the accomplishments the Kingdom has achieved, wishing the King good health and the kingdom further development and prosperity under his reign. His Highness the Crown Prince Sheikh Mishal Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah and His Highness the Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled Al-Hamad Al-Sabah sent similar congratulatory cables.
In other news, His Highness the Crown Prince Sheikh Mishal Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah received yesterday National Assembly Speaker Marzouq Ali Al-Ghanem at Bayan Palace. His Highness the Crown Prince also met His Highness the Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled Al-Hamad Al-Sabah.
Furthermore, His Highness the Crown Prince received Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister Sheikh Hamad Jaber Al-Ali Al-Sabah, Minister of Foreign Affairs and State Minister for Cabinet Affairs Sheikh Dr Ahmad Nasser Al-Mohammad Al-Sabah and Minister of Interior Sheikh Thamer Ali Sabah Al-Salem Al-Sabah. His Highness the Crown Prince also welcomed Deputy Prime Minister, Justice Minister and Minister of State for Nazaha Enhancement Abdullah Al-Roumi. – KUNAHis Highness the Crown Prince Sheikh Mishal Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah meets His Highness the Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled Al-Hamad Al-Sabah.
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KUWAIT: Having been launched by the Kuwaiti Health Ministry in the first quarter of 2015, the air ambulance and medical evacuation service has rescued more than 4,500 people. Air medical services are mainly intended to use air transportation, airplane or helicopter and to take patients from accident scenes to healthcare facilities, offering them prehospital and emergency care. In this context, the Health Ministry’s Medical Emergency Department Monther Al-Jalahma underlined that airborne medical services are now unquestionably essential for rescuing patients, specifically at outlying desert and frontier areas where ambulances can hardly reach.
Speaking on the facility, the official said the paramount significance of the project stems from the fact that it provides critical medical care and transports those wounded in accidents, and even handles natural disasters like fire, where fast-track help matters a lot. The substantial service is always done in collaboration between several state bodies concerned, primarily the health, interior and defense ministries and Kuwait Fire Force (KFF), he said.
He emphasized that his directorate is using all its potential in order to save the lives of citizens and residents, boasting that medial services are carefully done nationwide. Swiftness matters so much in view of airborne rescue services, so it just takes a few minutes for a medically equipped plane to be on the spot, the medical official pointed out.
Meanwhile, Chairman of Al-Sabah Health District’s Air Ambulance Center Naser Al-Sarhan said the facility is a landmark in medical services in the country, and is part of the Health Ministry’s blueprint purposed to revamp the medical system and back clinics and hospitals. The center boasts some 65 highly qualified, efficient and professional medical workers, two air ambulance planes and a jet aircraft to transport patients in need of overseas medical care, he elaborated.
The service provider’s Air Ambulance Base Commander Captain Jassem Boqambar said that they had initially used two helicopters for air ambulance services, together with a jet aircraft for medical evacuation. Boasting that all pilots are retired Kuwaiti aviators of the Air Force, he said they have carried out 4,565 operations since the air ambulance and medical evacuation facility was put in place. The contracted company was established by retired officers of the health, interior and defense ministries, KFF and Kuwait National Guard, he said, expounding that it has 20 pilots, 20 medics, eight maintenance technicians, four helicopters and two jet aircraft.
Under the contract signed between the Health Ministry and the company, once given a tip about an emergency, a helicopter or a jet aircraft must be on the spot within 15 minutes and 24 hours respectively, he pointed out. Immediate response is of paramount significance to rescuing those wounded in accidents, he said, noting that medically equipped planes are always on standby for medical emergency. – KUNA
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By Ben Garcia
KUWAIT: Many foreign workers aged 60 and above (without university degrees) are still contemplating whether to renew their residencies, wait for some more time or not renew at all. “I am still waiting for clarification about the private health insurance charges. The new rule is that KD 500 must be paid to the immigration department, and around KD 500 to KD 700 to private insurance companies. But many of us in this category are still waiting,” a Jordanian employee told Kuwait Times.
“I have to pay it, whether it’s KD 1,500 or KD 2,000, because I have to stay in Kuwait legally since my children are under my sponsorship,” he said. “I hope the authorities will be sympathetic towards us. I’ve been in Kuwait since I was 18. I got married here, had kids and they are all under my sponsorship. I am 60 with a steady job here, so I have no option but to pay the new fees. It’s difficult, especially during the pandemic, but again I have no choice,” he added.
Last week, the Public Authority for Manpower allowed expats aged 60 and over who do not hold a university degree to renew their residence permits, provided they pay an annual fee of KD 500, in addition to paying for private health insurance. The decision means that the authority has scrapped a controversial decision it issued last year for elderly expats to leave Kuwait, some of whom have spent most of their lives here.
The government’s legal body, the Fatwa and Legislation Department, ruled last month that the decision breaches the constitution and called for abolishing it. Close to 90,000 residents were reportedly affected by this decision. A Filipina restaurant worker in her early 60s said she is no longer willing to renew her residence permit. “My employers won’t pay – they said it’s a big amount. So my decision is to stay as I have a job, even though I have no iqama for the past four months. But I am also packing my bags in case I am arrested,” said Linda, who has worked in Kuwait for almost 33 years.
“I was very happy to hear last month that they were scrapping the KD 2,000 fee agreed before, but after I heard the new rules, I still don’t think I have enough money to pay. I will set aside this amount instead and go home. KD 1,200 is a huge amount in the Philippines and I can start a small business with it,” said Linda.
When private health insurance companies were contacted, they told Kuwait Times they have not received any directives about this new decision. “We are waiting for confirmation. At the moment, we only deal in regular health insurance,” an insurance agent said. Residents aged over 60 under article 22 (dependent) visas will continue paying the usual immigration fees plus the regular health insurance. Meanwhile, Minister of Commerce and Industry Abdullah Al-Salman exempted children and spouses of Kuwaiti women, holders of Palestinian passports and people born in Kuwait from the new decision.
The earlier decision was harshly criticized by many MPs and local human rights bodies as “inhumane”, who repeatedly called on the government to cancel it. It was also seen by some as a means to reduce the number of foreign residents, who form close to 70 percent of Kuwait’s population of 4.5 million.