Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Jeddah Running Out of Bread

Tuesday, 12 February 2008
By Adel Al-Malki

JEDDAH - Many Jeddah bakeries closed their doors to customers because of ever increasing high flour prices.

Bakery owners waiting for flour from flour distributors said they were like beggars waiting outside a mosque. "I have closed one of my bakeries that has been in operation for 40 years, after tomorrow I will close the others," said Abu Ahmad who owns several bakeries in Jeddah.

Ahmad said that outside the Grain Silos and Flour Mills Organization (GSFMO) the atmosphere is more closely related to a mafia rather than a government flour distributor.

"There are a lot of people who sell the flour at unreasonable prices - they bought it from the government for SR22 then they sold it on the black market for more than SR80," Ahmad said.
Ahmad said that when he reported the high prices to the GSFMO about the illegal practices of the grain dealers, they responded by saying that was none of their business.

Flour sellers like Jadal Haq Hosein said he cannot provide customers with flour in sufficient quantities because he himself does not get enough from the distributors.

"Flour shops do not sell more than five kilograms per customer for two reasons: the first being we want to satisfy all our customers and secondly the distributors of flour don't supply shops with enough quantity," Hosein said.

Some customers spend up to three hours looking for bread. Many have asked the government for help. Adnan Kutubkhana, a Saudi customer said that bakeries cannot meet the demand of their customers in the conditions as they are.

"At these rates, after three days, the supermarkets and bakeries will be out of bread," Kutubkhana said.

"I looked for bread in more than 10 supermarkets, when I found it the bread vendor refused to give me more than two riyals' worth."

On Jan. 29, Saudi Gazette reported that the Ministry of Commerce would hold an emergency meeting with the GSFMO to resolve the issue of increasing flour prices.

Kutubkhana said he has not seen any action by the government as promised.

"Where is the control by Ministry of Trade and the committee that was formed to control the prices and markets?" he said.

Previously officials at the GSFMO said the shortage was caused by to several factors: a 10 percent rise in demand, population increases, suppliers not receiving flour ordered and flour smuggling to Yemen.

Poor management at the GSFMO is to blame, said a former grain supplier Ahmad Al-Ghamdi."The deliveries are not punctual and complaints have no effect. This is not a rumor, but if there is any talk of solving the problem, that is the rumor," Al-Ghamdi said.

Mesh'aal Al-Jabri, a flour distributor, said the crisis is orchestrated. Some workers reduce the quantity allocated to each retailer to force them to buy the flour at a higher price from the black market.

The GSFMO director at Jeddah's Islamic Seaport, Ali Obaid, said that the crisis would end in a few weeks.

The Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Sunday, called for an emergency meeting with flour distributors and bakery owners to discuss the matter.

Hassan Ageel, undersecretary for Internal Trade Affairs at the Ministry of Commerce, said: "The prices are being monitored and a solution to the problem is underway.

The meeting will hopefully be able to end this crisis by providing more flour in the market and have the price decrease once again.

Many bakeries in Makkah, nearby villages and Taif have also closed due to the shortage of flour.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Traffic Interrupted on Majed Street

Monday, 11 February 2008
By Adel Al-Malki

JEDDAH - Motorists using Prince Majed Street here be warned: there's a traffic diversion at the old Plane roundabout with second phase work underway to transform the street into a freeway.

"The second phase work in the north of the Plane roundabout and Sari Street, is to connect Al-Rawdah Street with Al-Madinah Road," said Ahmad Ba-Nafe'e, general projects supervisor of Jeddah Municipality, on Sunday.

The third phase that will start later this month will see work starting on the south of the Plane roundabout, to link Prince Majed Street with Al-Tahlia Street.

First phase work to a built bridge connecting Hera'a street with Prince Majed Street, meanwhile continues.

All in all, the street will be problematic for motorists for months to come. "The area of the Plane roundabout will close completely in the fourth phase and traffic will be diverted to the south and north side of Prince Majed Street," Ba-Nafe'e said.

The municipality is implementing a SR470 million project to build nine new bridges and a tunnel in the city.

"The project aims to ease traffic jams by giving motorists alternatives, which in turn will decongest the streets," said Ba-Nafe'e. He said the new bridges will be built on the following intersections: Prince Majed Street- Grenada Street, Al-Tahlia Street-Umm Al-Qura Street, Makkah Road-Al-Eskan Street, Sari Street-Prince Sultan Street, Al Makkarouna Street- Hera Street, Al-Tahlia Street- Prince Met'eb Street, King Fahd Street- Quraish Street, and Prince Majed Street- Palestine Street.

A tunnel will be built at the King Abdullah Road- King Abdulaziz Road intersection. Ba-Nafe'e said work on the projects begin next month. The projects will take two years to complete.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Jeddah’s new Dump Opens

Monday, 04 February 2008
By Adel Al-Malki

The mayor of Jeddah, Adel Faqih, inaugurated a new garbage dump which will preserve the environment and have the least possible impact on Jeddah and its population, municipal sources said Sunday. Faqih said that the new garbage dump, located 45 km from the Briman bridge and to be ringed by a 9.5-kilometer reinforced concrete wall, will be larger than any dump created before in Jeddah.

"The new garbage dump will be large enough to span the wingspan of 44 jumbo jets and will be able to accommodate 25 million cubic meters of waste," Faqeeh said.

It will be able to produce fertilizer from wood, livestock and oil waste.

The new dump was built to the standards of the United States Environmental Protection Agency, which include placing a layer of clay between levels of garbage to ensure nothing can escape into the ground below. It will feature a gas production facility designed to function for 30 years.

The dump's operational cost of roughly SR5 per square meter daily, will be financed by recycling processes.

30 People Down with Dengue Fever after Rain

Wednesday, 30 January 2008
By Adel Al-Malki

JEDDAH - Hospitals here diagnosed at least 30 people with dengue fever this month after the recent rains in the city, a Health Ministry official said.

As a result, the municipality has gone on alert to quickly clear floods and water stagnation caused by rain. The mosquito-borne viral infection is likely to increase as winter rains continue, said
Khaled Al-Zahrani, assistant undersecretary for Preventive Medicine at the Ministry of Health. He said those found infected have left hospital after treatment.

In 2006, dengue fever claimed the lives of 1,314 people. However, there were no dengue deaths in 2007, according to Nabeel Abu Khutwah, an environmental science specialist at King Abdul Aziz University and consultant to Jeddah's mayor.

"The number of cases is lower this year compared to last year when MOH reported some 70 to 80 cases monthly. This month, MOH also detected four cases in Jizan while Makkah was reported free of the disease," Al-Zahrani said.

In Jeddah, the disease is isolated to districts in the east. "The sewage lake that is located about 20 km east of Briman Bridge is the reason - it prevents efforts to control the spread of the disease," he added.

The dengue mosquito breeds in stagnant but fresh water such as rain-fed swamps.
"These locations are also a haven for several migratory birds that can also cause avian flu," said a source in Jeddah Health Affairs, who requested anonymity.

Khutwah said people in flood-prone areas are at risk of catching the virus.
Dengue fever is believed to be the most dangerous mosquito-borne disease after malaria. Worldwide, there are around 40 million cases of dengue fever each year, and several hundred thousand cases of dengue hemorrhagic fever. More than 16,000 people died because of the disease worldwide in 2007.

The mayoralty's laboratory, which has detected 21 varieties of mosquitoes in the city, found that the second most common variety in the sewage lake area is the Aedes aegypti.

Jeddah Municipality's emergency plan to deal with flooding includes insecticide and pesticide spraying operations, said Abdul Ghaffar Azhari, deputy vice mayor for Cleanliness Services. The implementation of the plan includes several measures, such as securing the necessary pesticides.
"We will mobilize all insect prevention workers for a field survey immediately after rainfall," Azhari said. "We are also using GPS to locate clusters of water." "Three cleaning companies will implement the plan by working three shifts a day to clear water from the locations identified," he said.

"The Municipality has three classifications for water swamps. The first - rated dangerous - are swamps that cannot be cleared and so must be dealt with by spraying operations."

The second classification involves swamps that can be drained out to a large extent. Remaining water will be periodically sprayed with chemicals until such time the water is fully cleared. The third level - least dangerous - is running water, which can be controlled and chemically treated accordingly.

"Spraying process will focus on water storage basins and foliage areas plants, construction sites, industrial areas, rain water canals, and parks," Azhari said.

The dengue virus is contracted from the bite of a striped Aedes aegypti mosquito that has previously bitten an infected person. It cannot be spread directly from person to person. The symptoms are sudden onset of headache, fever, exhaustion, severe joint and muscle pain, swollen glands, and rash. Dengue hemorrhagic fever is a more severe form of the illness and can be life-threatening or even fatal. Because dengue is caused by a virus, there is no specific medicine or antibiotic to treat it. For typical dengue, the treatment is purely concerned with relief of the symptoms.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Traffic Fines Exclude use of Bluetooth, Hands-Free Devices

Tuesday, 29 January 2008
By Adel Al-Malki

Jeddah - Starting in April drivers will no longer be allowed to use their mobile phones while on the road in an attempt by the Ministry of Interior to decrease the 5,000 annual traffic related deaths. Violating this new law would result in a fine of up to SR150.

Captain Abdullah Al-Qahtani, director of Jeddah Traffic and safety specialist, said the fines would help make the streets of Jeddah safer.

"The new fines would reduce (excess mistakes) that contribute to an increase in traffic accidents and would then increase safety on the road." Al-Qahtani said.

He added that fines were a solution but not the panacea, as we need to assess community response instead of dealing with the same treatment. "Unfortunately, every day we hear about incidents." Al-Qahtani emphasized that most fatal accidents occur when drivers text message while they drive.

Drivers who use hands-free devices such as Bluetooth technology and wired headsets would not be subjected to fines.

"The drivers we are concerned about are the ones who have their mobile phones in their hands while they drive. We are attempting to increase awareness with a new campaign for the next 180 days." Al-Qahtani said.

The new fines will not only be limited to mobile phone usage. Reading newspapers and holding infants in drivers laps will be embodied in the new fines.

Maj. Gen. Fahd Al-Bishr, director general of the Traffic Department said the new traffic law passed by the Council of Ministers last Monday would help reduce road accidents in the country.
The Interior Ministry will form a Supreme Traffic Council, which would oversee the formation of traffic policies throughout the Kingdom.

"The council will help make decisions to resolve traffic problems as well as enact new rules and regulations to cut down accidents saving lives every day," Al-Bishr said.

The new law had given the interior minister more powers to enact regulations in order to deal with modern developments. Under this provision new traffic courts will be set up where traffic violations can be contested. These courts will have the authority to review and cancel fines on a case by case basis.

Over the last five years, 1.36 million registered accidents occurred in the Kingdom, killing 21,900 people and injuring 122,600 others. Every minute at least 11 traffic violations take place in the Kingdom. Annual material losses from road accidents are estimated at SR21 billion.

According to the www.cnn.com web site over 43 countries around the world have already banned mobile phone use while driving

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Jeddah Dump Blaze Anew

Tuesday, 22 January 2008
By Adel Al-Malki

Even as the hue and cry continued over massive atmospheric pollution caused earlier this month by a week-long fire in the city's main garbage dump, another fire broke out in the same place Sunday around 6 P.M.

The city's fleet of 200 water supply tankers was diverted to help 10 Civil Defense firefighting units still battling the blaze at press-time Monday.

Brigadier Mohammad Al-Ghamdi, director of Civil Defense in Jeddah, said investigations suggest that the fire was caused when pressurized containers - even a cigarette lighter- in the garbage exploded under pressure from bulldozers clearing up the dump which is being transferred to a new site further away from the city.

"The firefighters have remained at the site since the earlier fires and there are many Civil Defense units ready for any emergency," Al-Ghamdi said.

Khaled Aqeel, deputy mayor for Services, was seen at the location of the blaze stopping garbage trucks from dumping more waste into the old garbage yard.

"Nobody started this fire intentionally," Aqeel said. The earlier blaze was allegedly caused by copper scavengers in the area.

"The dump will be moved to the new location in the next few days." Aqeel said.
Brigadier Mohammed Al-Asmari said security forces were keeping a watch for people - mostly illegal residents - trying to transporting things away from the garbage yard.

After the inferno in early January, Jeddah municipality pledged to close down the site and move the garbage yard.

"We only hear promises but we don't see action," said Nashi Al-Harbi , resident of Al-Smair neighborhood.

He said only a small part of the old garbage yard has been moved to the new location.
About the municipality's pledge to build a fence around the site, he said as he pointed a finger all round the site, "The municipality didn't build anything.

Other residents said they would take their complaints to Makkah Emir Prince Khaled Al-Faisal to end the problem once and for all.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Bid to Save Jeddah’s Dying Coast

Sunday, 20 January 2008
By Adel Al-Malki

The municipality here has identified as many as 90 major sources of coastal pollution, including the towering Jeddah Desalination Plant that's a landmark along the Corniche.
"The Municipality used the GPS system to identify the sites," said Faisal Shawli, director of the Jeddah Municipality's Environmental Sanitation Department. "The process covered all parts of the city such as the Corniche, the main garbage dump (in the northeast) and the sewage dump (further northeast)," he said.

Along the Corniche area, as many as 19 channels from storm-water drainage networks, government quarries and cement factories pour polluting effluents into the sea.

Additionally, there is the smoke emitted from Saudi Electricity Company and Jeddah Desalination Plant, Shawli said.

The Municipality also identified more recent sources of atmospheric pollution from as-yet unidentified places along Jeddah's eastern fringe where tire-fires have been fouling up the air of late.

Shawli said a municipality team is out investigating why people are setting fire to tires and how the problem can be solved.
The northern Corniche is one of the focal points of the municipality's anti-pollution drive.
"We are working to account for all pollutants in the northern Cornish and stop the sources," Shawli said.

The anti-pollution drive is the latest of the municipality's efforts to improve the quality of life in the Red Sea coastal city. Last week, it announced completion of a three-phase city cleaning operation.

The municipality's stress on hygiene and anti-pollution measures is in keeping with the spurt of gigantic real estate development projects under way in the city.

These include five-star hotels, top-class resorts and high-end residential units such as the 40-story Al-Jawharah residential tower along the Corniche (near Hilton) and the luxury residence project in the same area by Saudi Economic and Development Co. Ltd. (SEDCO) and Singapore-based Keppel Land Ltd. Another landmark coming up along the Corniche is the Business Headquarters Park.

One research study that recently won funding from King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST) revealed alarming environmental pollution in Jeddah.

The study by Ahmad Bin Hassan Al-Ghamdi of King Abdulaziz University pinpointed the three main environmental hazards in Jeddah as follows: sanitary drainage 90.7 percent, air pollutants 62.1 percent and solid home-waste 21.4 percent. He estimated pollution from the three sources at 25, 36 and 12 percent respectively.

The study put the monetary cost of environmental and health hazards from sanitary drainage water as high (between SR50 million and 200 million a year), air pollutants as average (between SR5 million and SR50 million a year) and solid home waste low as average to low (less than SR5 million a year).

Meanwhile, the Human Rights Commission has drawn up a draft report on how badly the recent inferno at the city's garbage dump affected public health.

The report about the blaze, which raged for nearly a week, is to be submitted to the Custodian of the Holy Mosques soon, reports said.

Sewage pollution of Jeddah's coastline has been a long-standing problem.
In 1997, a published study by the Department of Marine Biology at King Abdul Aziz University said the mangrove stand of Avicennia marina in the South Corniche receives about 100,000 cubic meters of sewage per day.

The sewage has high values of COD (chemical oxygen demand), BOD (biochemical oxygen demand), nutrient concentrations, heavy metals and faecal coliform counts, the study said.

Consequently, as early as the mid-1990s. the mangrove stand occupying an area of about less than half a square kilometer, was dying or getting retarded. The study attributed the cause to the sewage discharge in the area.

South Africa, JCCI to hold Tourist Activities

Friday, 18 January 2008
By Adel Al-Malki

JEDDAH - The South African Consulate in cooperation with Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry next month will hold workshops on potential tourism investments in South Africa.

Mahdi Basdeen, South Africa's Consul General, also said that up to 125 Saudi companies have been invited to invest in his country's thriving tourism sector.

"The Consulate will organize workshops in various provinces of the Kingdom like Jazan, Najran and Madina to discuss possible trade and investment cooperation," Mahdi said.

The proposed visit of Saudi businessmen in South Africa, which will run for a couple of days, is expected to be concluded with an investment and economic cooperation agreement to be signed between the two countries, he said.

About 20 South Africa representatives, from the government and private sectors, under the chairmanship of Ibrahim Rasul, who is premier of the Western Cape in South Africa will participate in the Jeddah Economy Forum 2008.

"The delegation will talk about the investment environment and economic cooperation relations between the Kingdom and South Africa, where they will also talk about a number of successful investment experiences in various sectors (in South Africa)," the consul commented.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

JCCI Invited to invest in Sri Lanka

Thursday, 17 January 2008
By Adel Al-Malki

The Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry has received an official invitation from the Sri Lankan government to visit a number of cities and consider the South Asian country's tourism potential.

Abdull-Lateef Dhafer, the Sri Lankan Consul, recently discussed with JCCI Secretary Generel Mustafa Sabri possible avenues to improve bilateral trade, tourism and labor relations between the two countries on Thursday.

"The meeting was fruitful... we discussed ways of increasing tourism and labor exchanges. My Sri Lankan counterpart wanted to extend bridges of cooperation with the hotel sector in the Kingdom... and expressed his desire on a possible of employment and experience between the two countries," Sabri said.

Sabri said Dhafeer expressed his country's desire to receive a delegation of Saudi businessmen through the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce.

"Sri Lank has a beautiful climate ideal for tourism business... which we hope that Saudi businessmen will invest in Sri Lanka's thriving tourist section," Abdull-Lateef said.

Greenspan to Grace JEF 2008

Wednesday, 16 January 2008
By Adel Al-Malki

Former US Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan will be one of several eminent speakers in the Jeddah Economic Forum (JEF) 2008 to be held between Feb. 23-26.

The JEF 2008 is under the patronage of Khaled Al-Faisal, the Emir of Makkah region. The theme this year is "Value Creation through Alliances and Partnerships."

However, for the first time since its inception in 1999, the forum, the premium business event on the Gulf conference calendar, will not be held at the Jeddah Hilton.

Instead, JEF will be held at the Jeddah Center for Exhibitions and Conferences (JIEC), the venue of expos such as annual motor shows and household appliances showcase. Preparations at the 8,000 sq. m. JIEC will start 23 days prior to the event.

"The open space and the many facilities in the venue are more conducive in terms of organization," said Sami Bahrawi, President of JEF 2008.

He added that keynote speeches will be followed by discussion and debate to encourage interaction among the delegates. Six main issues and 18 working papers will be studied.

"We carefully chose the politicians, economists and Saudi businesswomen we invited so they would effectively contribute to, and at the same time, benefit from each other's expertise and experience," said Bahrawi.

Greenspan was the leading authority on American domestic economic and monetary policy during his nearly 20-year tenure. He was lauded for his handling of the Black Monday stock market crash and the Internet-driven, "dot-com" economic boom in the 90s.

The other well-known speakers in the forum are Prince Khaled Al-Faisal, Emir of Makkah; Prince Charles, Prince of Wales; Dr. Hashim Bin Abdullah, Saudi Minister of Commerce and Industry; Dr. Ghazi Abdul Rahman Al-Gosaibi, Minister of Labor; George Soros, global financier and philanthropist; Dr. Salam Fayyad, Prime Minister of the Palestinian National Authority; Lee Kuan Yew, Minister Mentor Singapore; Eric Stark Maskin, economist and co-winner of the 2007 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences; Prof. Muhammad Yunus, Noble Laureate and founder of Grameen Bank; Dr. Abdallah E. Dabbagh, president and chief executive officer of Ma'aden, Muhammad Al-Jasser, Vice Governor of the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency (SAMA); Dr. Khalid Al-Anqari, Minister of Higher Education; Jim O'Neill, head of Global Economic Research; Goldman Sachs, Silajdžic, The Bosnia and Herzegovina Presidency member; Suresh Vaswani, president of Global IT Service Lines Wipro Technologies and president of Wipro Infotech; Gen. Barry McCaffrey, Atif Abdulmalik, CEO Arcapita; Mark Morial, president and chief executive officer National Urban League; Sheppard, Chair of the Duke CE board of directors and the Dean of the Fuqua School of Business, Duke University; and Peter Lange, The Provost, chief academic officer of Duke University .

Select university students will also attend the forum.

Bahrawi said that past participants of JEF laud its contribution to the development of economic thought, commercial, industrial, and tourism industry and trade sectors.

"They said that the forum brought information for business development, and deepened economic opportunity in response to the practical reality with the new regulations of free
market economics," he said.

Jeddah is now Clean, Claims Municipality

Wednesday, 16 January 2008
By Adel Al-Malki

Jeddah - The municipality here on Tuesday announced completion of a three-stage city cleaning operation. New cleaning contracts totaling approximately SR900 million were recently awarded to three contractors - Dallah, Sadaqah and Alwan cleaning company - to keep the Red Sea port city and Gateway to the Two Holy Mosques spic and span over the next five years.

The contracts are for three zones - south, north and central Jeddah. Previously, only one cleaning company, Dallah, handled the operation.

Ahmad Al-Ghamdi, the municipality's PR director said the three contractors efficiently met the deadlines set in timetable, and the specifications of their contracts.

"The municipality deployed some 2,073 cleaning workers and 64 trucks for the three-stage operation," Al-Ghamdi said.

The first phase, completed in December, included putting in place a mechanism to regularly wash pavements, clean beaches, canals, bridges, tunnels and graveyards, collect bodies of dead birds and animals and clear or prevent water and sewage leaking on to the streets.