Fortnightly, 20 September 2018

Fortnightly, 20 September 2018

September 20, 2018


20 September 2018
11 Tishrei 5779
10 Muharram 1439




1.1  Israel to Fund Foodtech Incubator in the Galilee
1.2  Israel Awarded Best Anti-Bribery Ranking by Transparency International


2.1  Tel Aviv to Host 2019 Eurovision Song Contest
2.2  Haagen-Dazs Coming to Israel
2.3  Israel Aerospace Takes Delivery of First Arrow 3 Canister
2.4  Intel Collaborates With Overwolf to Establish $7 Million Fund for Apps for Core Gamers
2.5  BreezoMeter Closes Series B Fundraising with $7.75 Million
2.6  EU Fund Invests $20 Million in Israeli High-Tech
2.7  TAP Air Portugal to Launch Tel Aviv – Lisbon Flights
2.8  Newsight Imaging Named a Cool Vendor in Novel Sensors by Gartner
2.9  Ituran Closes Acquisition of Road Track Holdings
2.10  DarioHealth Closes on $10.345 Million Through Private Placement Offering
2.11  Setoo Closes €8 Million Series A Funding Round with AXA


3.1  MenaITech First in Region to Implement Virtual Sign Language Avatar
3.2  Andersen Global Continues Expansion in Middle East with Zalloum & Laswi Law Firm
3.3  Excite Medical Installs DRX9000 and DRX9000C Back Pain Treatment Units in Third Major City in Iraq
3.4  Gulftainer Signs 50 Year, $600 Million Concession Agreement with Delaware’s Port of Wilmington
3.5  Russia’s Kalashnikov Eyes UAE Market for Electric Bikes & Cars
3.6  The UAE Weight Loss Market – $1.12 Billion Outlook to 2023
3.7  Northwestern Memorial Hospital Signs Agreement with the UAE
3.8  Middle East’s First Nutella Cafe Opens in Dubai
3.9  Hampton by Hilton Expands International Presence with First Property in Middle East
3.10  Dubai’s Coffee Planet Signs Deal to Expand Into Oman
3.11  Perma-Pipe International Holdings Announces Major Contract Award in Saudi Arabia


4.1  Dubai’s RTA Starts Driverless Vehicle Trial in Sustainable City
4.2  Egypt Signs Deal With Spain’s TSK to Build Solar Park in Kom Ombo, Aswan
4.3  Greece to Increase Its Wind Energy Capacity By 50%


5.1  Lebanon’s Trade Deficit Widens to $10.14 Billion by July 2018
5.2  Lebanon’s Industrial Exports Grew by 4.43% y-o-y to $1.26 Billion in First Half of 2018
5.3  Lebanon’s Balance of Payments Registered a $757.2 Million Deficit in July 2018
5.4  Amman Publishes New Draft Income Tax Law Legislation
5.5  Jordanian Exports Increase by 3.1% & Imports Decrease by 2.5% During H1/18
5.6  Jordan Sees 18.7% Unemployment Rate During Q2/18
5.7  Jordan Issued 16,000 Flexible Construction Work Permits for Syrian Refugees in 2017
5.8  Amman Abolishes Sales Tax on Some Fresh Foods
5.9  Germany to Provide Jordan with $133.4 Million in Funds for Vital Projects
5.10  Low Priced and Damaged Imported Cars Pose Risks to Drivers in Iraq
5.11  Finland to Reopen Embassy in Baghdad

♦♦Arabian Gulf

5.12  Gulf States’ Defense Spending to Hit Record High Amid Ongoing Regional Conflict
5.13  Bahrain Said to Raise $500 Million as it Awaits Support from Arabian Gulf Allies
5.14  UAE to Introduce Retirement Visa for Expats & Takes Other Steps As Well
5.15  Saudi Private Sector Growth ‘Weakest On Record’ So Far in 2018

♦♦North Africa

5.16  Egypt’s Headline and Core Inflation Rise in August
5.17  Al-Sisi Approves Changes to Egypt’s Customs Laws
5.18  US to Release $1.2 Billion in Military Aid to Egypt
5.19  Egypt & US Sign $65 Million Grant for Infrastructure in Rural Areas
5.20  Egypt to Establish Seven Technology Innovation Hubs at Universities
5.21  Egypt’s Natural Gas Output Reaches 6.6 bcf/d
5.22  Egypt Invests EGP 77 Billion in Transportation Sector
5.23  Morocco Ranks 123rd in World Human Development Index


6.1  Turkey’s Budget Sees $11.4 Billion Deficit in First Eight Months of 2018
6.2  Egypt & Cyprus Sign Agreement to Construct Gas Pipeline Worth $800 Million
6.3  Cyprus Inflation Reaches 2.5% in August 2018
6.4  Cyprus’ Economy Expands by 3.9% in Second Quarter
6.5  Cyprus’ Trade Deficit Shrinks by 6.5% in First Seven Months on Export Surge
6.6  Cypriot Tourism Revenue Up During First Six Months of 2018
6.7  Cyprus the 7th Most Visited Country Per Capita



7.1  Israel’s Population More Than 8.9 Million on Eve of Jewish New Year 5779
7.2  Sukkot Holiday Celebrated
7.3  Shemini Atzeret/ Simchat Torah Celebrated


7.4  World Bank Report: Lebanon Education Public Expenditure Review 2017
7.5  Illiteracy Rate in Jordan Stood at 5.2% in 2017
7.6  UAE Judo Contest Back on After it Lifts Ban on Israeli Flag
7.7  English Language to be Taught in Egyptian Kindergartens for the First Time
7.8  Morocco Introduces Law to Combat Violence Against Women


8.1  Leviticus Cardio Successfully Completes Third Chronic Animal Study
8.2  Nucleix’ Positive Clinical Results for Lung EpiCheck in Lung Cancer Early Detection
8.3  Carevature Medical’s Dreal Decompression System is Safer for Patients
8.4  Cannabics Pharmaceuticals Granted Patent in Israel for Its Core Technology
8.5  Hebrew University Research Team Paves Way to Cure for Acute Leukemia
8.6  Alpha Tau Medical Raises $29 Million for Cancer Therapy
8.7  XACT Robotics Receives CE Mark for Its Robotics Navigation System
8.8  Sheba Medical Bolsters Patient Safety Practices with MedAware’s Medication Safety Platform
8.9  Teva Announces U.S. Approval of AJOVYTM Injection for Anti-CGRP Treatment
8.10  Cannabics Receives Positive Results in Cannabinoid-anticancer Drug Development
8.11  Anlit’s Technology Ensures Long-life Probiotics in a Flavorful Chewy Supplement


9.1  Fleetonomy Launches AI-Based Next Generation Fleet Management Platform
9.2  SecBI Partners With Intelligent Wave to Bring Autonomous Investigation Technology to Japan
9.3  PureSec Debuts Free Serverless Protection Library to Help Harden Serverless Security
9.4  Altair & Ethertronics Announce High-Performance Small Antenna Technology
9.5  Nova’s Materials Metrology Solution Selected for 5nm Technology Node
9.6  D-ID Officially Launches Product for Protection Against Face Recognition
9.7  NanoLock Security Selected to Prestigious Thales CYBER@Station F Program
9.8  Cyber Security Startup Pcysys Unveils PenTera 2.0, Delivering the Power of 1,000 Ethical Hackers
9.9  eyeSight’s Computer Vision Capabilities Are Now Available in NTT DOCOMO’s dtab Compact
9.10  WhiteSource Now Available on Amazon AWS Marketplace
9.11  Karamba Security Selected as an Auto-ISAC Strategic Partner
9.12  Habana Labs Announces World’s Highest Performance AI Inference Processor


10.1  Israel’s Inflation Rate Rises by Only 0.1% in August
10.2  Israeli Exports Expected to Reach $54.5 Billion by Year’s End
10.3  Foreign Exchange Reserves at the Bank of Israel at $116 Billion
10.4  Record Year for Tourism in Israel
10.5  Israel’s Fiscal Deficit Reaches 2.5% of GDP
10.6  Bank of Israel Report on Prices of Common Banking Services for Households
10.7  Israeli Housing Starts Increase for First Time in 18 months


11.1  ISRAEL: Israeli Gas Is Almost Ashore, But Challenges Remain
11.2  LEBANON: Small Lebanese Craft Brewers Introduce Big New Tastes in Beer
11.3  EGYPT: Egypt Announces Massive Budget to Develop Sinai
11.4  EGYPT: Bumpy Road Ahead for Egypt’s First Female Coptic Governor
11.5  EGYPT: Is ‘The Wedding’ a New Beginning for LGBTQ Cinema in Egypt?
11.6  TURKEY: Surging Inflation Tightens Circle Around Turkish Economy


1.1  Israel to Fund Foodtech Incubator in the Galilee

Israel’s Innovation Authority (IIA), the Israeli government’s innovation investment arm, announced its intention to establish a foodtech-focused incubator in Tzfat, in the northern Galilee.  The IIA said it intends to invest more than $28 million over an eight-year period of the initiative.  Companies selected to participate will receive financing of up to $1.4 million.  The IIA operates 18 tech incubators in Israel.

In April, the Israeli government announced it will allocate $27 million to establish foodtech research and activity in Kiryat Shmona.  The plan is part of an economic development scheme, called ii2020, that will see the establishment of seven dedicated tech hubs in areas of the country that are remote from Tel Aviv.

There are currently more than 250 foodtech startups operating in Israel.  The sector saw two major exits so far in 2018, with the recent acquisition of home water carbonator company SodaStream International for $3.2 billion by PepsiCo. and the May acquisition of flavor and fragrance company Frutarom Industries by NYSE-listed Flavors & Fragrances Inc. (IFF) for $7.1 billion.  Frutarom itself announced it was launching a food tech innovation lab in April.

Israeli food and beverage manufacturer Strauss Group, operates a foodtech accelerator, The Kitchen, in the central port city Ashdod.  In August, The Kitchen announced that it was commissioned by Swiss flavor and fragrance company Givaudan to scout Israeli food technologies and startups for potential investments and acquisitions.  (IsraAg 08.09)

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1.2  Israel Awarded Best Anti-Bribery Ranking by Transparency International

Israel has received a high mark for its enforcement of laws against international bribery offenses.  The Transparency International organization has for the first time given Israel the best rating in its index for corruption in international transactions.  The ranking constitutes recognition of Israel as a country actively countering corruption in the international business arena.  In 2015, Israel received the lowest ranking in this category.

Israel was awarded the highest ranking because of its recent stepped-up enforcement and large number of investigations against Israeli companies and businesspeople for bribery of public servants in foreign countries in which they operate.  Bribing a foreign public servant has been listed in Israeli law as an offense for a decade (since 2008), but the law enforcement authorities have taken action in such cases only in the past two years.  Enforcement has reached a peak in recent months with breakthroughs taking place in three out of five investigations.

Among other things, Transparency International’s report is based on the auditing procedures conducted for Israel by a working group for prevention of corruption in international transactions of OECD, which was successfully concluded in November 2017.  Representatives of the organization visited Israel, and the Israeli branch of Transparency International presented to them the measures being taken in Israel to combat bribery of foreign public servants.

The report noted the stepped-up enforcement and improvement in international cooperation in enforcement of laws against bribery of foreign public servants; measures taken by the Tax Authority and the Money Laundering and Terror Financing Prohibition Authority; and increased awareness of offenses of bribery of foreign public servants and criminal responsibility of corporations in the public and business sectors.  Other countries sharing Israel’s high rating include the US, Germany, UK, Italy, Switzerland and Norway.  (Globes 12.09)

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2.1  Tel Aviv to Host 2019 Eurovision Song Contest

Tel Aviv has been selected as the host city for the 64th Eurovision Song Contest in 2019, the European Broadcasting Union has announced.  The decision was taken by the Eurovision Song Contest (ESC) Reference Group (the Contest’s steering committee) after Israeli public broadcaster KAN was asked to present at least two potential candidate cities.  The Eurovision Song Contest semi-finals will take place in Tel Aviv on 14 and 16 May, with the final on 19 May at the Expo Tel Aviv (International Convention Centre).  It is believed that the organizers were not enthusiastic about holding the event in Jerusalem because of limitations being placed on rehearsals during the Sabbath.

Last year’s competition, hosted in Lisbon, Portugal, saw Israel’s Netta Barzilai crowned the winner with “Toy”; the chart-topping dance track.  Netta’s victory means Israel will host the contest for a third time having previously staged the Eurovision Song Contest in Jerusalem in 1979 and 1999.  Israel has participated 42 times since its first appearance in 1973.  (Globes 13.09)

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2.2  Haagen-Dazs Coming to Israel

Israel’s Antitrust Authority is allowing Osem-Nestle, one of the two main players in the Israeli ice cream market, to distribute Haagen Dazs brand ice cream, owned by General Mills.  Following this approval, Osem-Nestle subsidiary Noga Ice Cream, which manufactures and distributes Nestle ice cream, will begin exclusive distribution of Haagen Dazs ice cream in Israel.  The Antitrust Authority decided to approve the agreement because the market share added by General Mills to Osem-Nestle is “insignificant,” amounting to only a few percentages.  Even if a competitor is removed from the market as a result of the arrangement, this competitor’s business is not enough to have a significant effect on competition in the market, the Antitrust Authority said.  (KT 05.09)

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2.3  Israel Aerospace Takes Delivery of First Arrow 3 Canister

Israel Aerospace Industries has taken delivery of it first Arrow 3 anti-ballistic missile canister from its Mississippi-based subsidiary Stark.  Attending the ceremony were Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant and several members of the Mississippi Congressional Delegation along with senior officials of the Israeli Ministry of Defense (IMOD).  Stark was recently chosen to manufacture canisters for the Arrow-3, an integral component to the latest generation of missile defense systems developed by IAI and deployed by the IMOD to the IAF.

The Arrow Weapon System (AWS) is the upper tier long range defense system against ballistic missiles threats and is the world’s first operational, national missile defense system.  IAI is the prime contractor for AWS and responsible for Arrow 2&3 interceptors development, production and system integration.  The Arrow-3 interceptor capabilities defend against longer range, higher altitude (exo-atmospheric) and precise ballistic missile engagements. The combined interception capabilities of the Arrow-2 and Arrow-3 will enhance Israel’s missile defense shields.  (Globes 05.09)

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2.4  Intel Collaborates With Overwolf to Establish $7 Million Fund for Apps & Mods for Core Gamers

Overwolf is announcing a partnership with Intel Corporation to expand development opportunities for the PC gaming community.  Through the collaboration, a development fund is being created for developers working on game applications, modifications, or game services that enhance the experience of today’s PC games.  Overwolf designed the fund’s evaluation process to be simple and fast so that developers can focus 100% of their efforts on making the best possible application, mod or game extension.

Tel Aviv’s Overwolf‘s mission is to improve gaming experiences for gamers worldwide through useful, effective in-game apps and tools.  Working with developers, Overwolf enables new game features and overlays which ‘should always have been there’ to be implemented effectively and swiftly, bringing new value to millions of players.  Overwolf’s partners include OP.GG, NVIDIA, Cloud9, Team Liquid, Riot Games, Logitech and others.  (Overwolf 06.09)

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2.5  BreezoMeter Closes Series B Fundraising with $7.75 Million

BreezoMeter completed a series B funding, totaling $7.75 Million, led by Goldacre and Entré Capital.  In 2014, BreezoMeter was the first company to introduce location-based and real-time air quality data, available via API, to businesses.  Since then the company has landed major partnerships in the smart home, medical, automotive and lifestyle industries and has received investments totaling $12.5m.

Goldacre, an innovative family office investment house that forms part of the Noé Group’s £2bn asset management business, co-led the investment with Entré Capital, a leading international venture capital firm.  Also participating were Idinvest Partners, a European leader in financing small and medium-sized enterprises with almost €8 billion under management; and HELLA Ventures, the venture capital arm of HELLA, one of the leading automotive suppliers for lighting technology and electronics with more than 40,000 employees in some 35 countries.  Also joining the funding round were AxessVentures, and Plug ‘n’ Play Ventures from Silicon Valley.

Idinvest Partners’ and HELLA Ventures’ investments are part of BreezoMeter’s strategy to expand in the mobility market.  The funding round will enable BreezoMeter to further develop its smart cities solutions, already being used by companies like Cisco, Faurecia and others, and to expand its offering by utilizing proprietary spatial interpolation algorithms to integrate low-cost sensors data.  This addition of small sensor data, to the already robust 1.8 TB of data that is processed hourly, will enable a higher resolution of air quality data in urban areas, down to just 30 meters.

Idinvest Partners’ expansive network will support BreezoMeter’s expansion in the European and Asian markets, while AirShield, HELLA Ventures’ automotive solution for in-cabin air pollution monitoring, will integrate with BreezoMeter’s outdoor air quality data, and will address the health risks drivers and passengers face as a consequence of pollution.

Haifa’s BreezoMeter, the world leader in location-based, real-time air quality data, addresses air pollution in a way that can help billions of people worldwide improve their health.  Combining data from governmental sensors, satellites, weather, transportation and other sources, the BreezoMeter APIs give businesses the tools to increase user engagement and sales, and positively impact lives with accurate, relevant, and intuitive data, which easily integrates into products relating to smart homes, fitness and lifestyle, cosmetics, automotive and health technologies.  (BreezoMeter 13.09)

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2.6  EU Fund Invests $20 Million in Israeli High-Tech

The European Investment Fund (EIF) today announced a $20 million investment in Israel, the European Union’s (EU) first in Israeli high tech, is part of the InnoFin program in the framework of the European Horizon 2020 R&D program.  EIF is joining a group of investors recruited by the ICV fund; EIF will be an anchor investor.  ICV is raising its third fund, ICV III, which is likely to reach $75 million.  ICV focuses on investments in startups at the early stages, and has already begun considering new investments.  ICV III will invest in seed stage and early stage companies in software, hardware, infrastructure, and innovation.  The fund is focusing on increasing its efficient use of resources and on the transition to industrial innovation.

Israel is a partner in the framework European program through a €1.1 billion investment by the Israel Innovation Authority by means of the Israel-Europe Directorate for Research & Innovation (ISERD).  One of the important advantages of Israel’s participation in this program is the entry and involvement of European financial institutions in Israel.  This involvement includes investments in venture capital funds and the use of financial tools for realizing the innovation vision, such as guarantees for local banks giving Israeli companies the opportunity to develop and grow.

EIF is part of the European Investment Bank (EIB) group. It supports small and medium-sized businesses in Europe through assistance in financing. EIF develops venture capital and growth funds, guarantees, and other tools focused on these market segments.  (Globes 13.09)

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2.7  TAP Air Portugal to Launch Tel Aviv – Lisbon Flights

Portuguese national carrier TAP Air Portugal is to launch daily Tel Aviv – Lisbon flights starting 1 April 2019.  El Al Israel Airlines unit Sun D’Or currently operates two weekly flights between Tel Aviv and Portugal and Arkia Airlines and Israir Airlines and Tourism operate on the route on a seasonal basis.  TAP is represented by Open Sky in Israel.  The new route is part of TAP’s worldwide expansion including new routes from Lisbon to Dublin and Basel.

TAP will operate Airbus A321 168-seat aircraft on the new Tel Aviv – Lisbon route.  The daily flights will take off from Tel Aviv at 5.25am and arrive in Lisbon at 9.00am local time.  Lisbon flights will leave at 14:20 and land in Tel Aviv at 21:30.  Return ticket fares currently being advertised on TAP’s website start from €236 for Tel Aviv – Lisbon – Tel Aviv (hand luggage only).  (Various 12.09)

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2.8  Newsight Imaging Named a Cool Vendor in Novel Sensors by Gartner

Newsight Imaging has been named a Cool Vendor by leading analyst firm Gartner. Newsight Imaging was selected in the 5 September 2018 report entitled, “Cool Vendors in Novel Sensors.”  Newsight believes this recognition is due to its innovative approach and Time-of-Flight solution (enhanced-Time-of-Flight), delivering range and accuracy to applications.  Gartner points out that the report recognizes “three sensors with recent technology breakthroughs and design innovations, providing technology product managers with a new perspective about using sensors to advance future products and services.”  Every year, Gartner issues an annual report that recognizes innovative vendors, their products and technology.

Ness Ziona’s Newsight Imaging develops advanced CMOS image sensor chips, providing 3D solutions for high volume markets.  The chip’s sensor is manufactured using CMOS technology with ultra-high sensitivity pixels, replacing more expensive CCD sensors and other camera modules in LiDAR applications for robotics, automotive (ADAS and Car safety), drones and in markets as mobile depth cameras, AR/VR, Industry 4.0 and barcode scanners.  (Newsight Imaging 14.09)

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2.9  Ituran Closes Acquisition of Road Track Holdings

Ituran Location and Control has closed its previously announced acquisition of the majority of the shares of Road Track Holding S.L (Road Track), a telematics’ company operating primarily in the Latin American region.  Ituran will consolidate 81.3% of Road Track’s financial results into its own.  The combined business has approximately 1.8 million subscribers with a revenue run-rate approaching $400 million.

Azor’s Ituran is a leader in the emerging mobility technology field, providing value-added location-based services, including a full suite of services for the connected-car.  Ituran offers Stolen Vehicle Recovery, fleet management as well as mobile asset location, management & control services for vehicles, cargo and personal security.  Ituran is also the largest OEM telematics provider in Latin America. Its products and applications are used by customers in over 20 countries.  Established in 1995, Ituran has over 3,400 employees worldwide, with offices globally, including Israel, Brazil, Argentina, Ecuador, Colombia, Mexico and the US.  (Ituran 14.09)

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2.10  DarioHealth Closes on $10.345 Million Through Private Placement Offering

DarioHealth Corp. has closed on a private placement offering with institutional and private investors for the sale of shares of the Company’s common stock and shares of the Company’s newly designated Series D convertible preferred stock.  As a part of this private placement, which raised $10,345,000 in the aggregate before expenses and placement agent fees, the Company issued 4,266,800 shares of common stock at a price per share of $0.90 and 1,806,923 shares of Series D convertible preferred stock at a price per share of $3.60, plus warrants to purchase up to an aggregate of 9,195,604 shares of common stock at an exercise price of $1.25 per share.

The private placement was managed by the Company with the assistance of A.G.P./Alliance Global Partners, which acted as the placement agent for a portion of the offering.

Caesarea’s DarioHealth Corp. is a leading global digital health company serving its users with dynamic mobile health solutions.  In today’s day and age, knowledge of health and treatment is being democratized, and people deserve to know everything about their own health and have the best tools to manage their condition.  DarioHealth employs a revolutionary approach whereby harnessing big data and a novel method for chronic disease data management, empowering people to analyze and personalize self-diabetes management in a totally new way without having the disease slow them down.  (DarioHealth 14.09)

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2.11  Setoo Closes €8 Million Series A Funding Round with AXA

Setoo has closed an €8 million (±$9.3 million) Series A funding round, bringing the total amount raised to date to €10.3 million (±$12 million).  The main investor in this and the seed round is Kamet, AXA’s Insurtech startup studio.  Setoo is by empowering e-businesses, which understand their consumer best, to quickly and easily build and integrate tailor-made, simple insurance products that are automatically embedded into the customer journey.  E-businesses benefit from one-click underwriting directly on their digital assets and providing personalized protection with automatic compensation for their consumers.  By using these super targeted products, e-businesses such as e-commerce sites and online travel agents (OTAs) are able to meet their specific business goals, whether they are looking to delight their customers, generate new revenue streams, or differentiate within their crowded markets.

The highly scalable platform covers risks that relate to exogenous events that could ruin the customer journey.  For example, an OTA selling connecting flights from multiple airlines can provide insurance to cover for missed flight connections if preceding flights are delayed or cancelled.  In these situations, Setoo sends an automated SMS to the consumer on behalf of the OTA, explaining that a full refund has been provided and offering alternative flight suggestions.  In another scenario, a tour operator selling ski holidays could insure against lack of snow, fully automating payment and removing the hassle of the claims process for the customer.  To provide this service, Setoo opted to use the Managing General Agent (MGA) model, so the company is licensed by the FCA to distribute products on behalf of insurers in the EU. Insurance companies that partner with Setoo benefit from working with the brands employing some of the best marketers in the world, who design and distribute new protections that are highly consumer-centric and innovative.

Tel Aviv’s Insurance and protection-as-a-service platform Setoo turns insurance into a powerful business accelerator.  Drawing on Setoo’s strong insurance expertise, e-businesses are supported to deliver personalized insurance solutions, which generate new revenue streams by transforming the customer experience.  Setoo has headquarters in London and a research and development center in Tel Aviv.  (Setoo 18.09)

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3.1  MenaITech First in Region to Implement Virtual Sign Language Avatar

Jordan’s largest provider of human capital information systems – MenaITech along with Mind Rockets, a Jordan-based startup creating assistive technologies, developed a solution for deaf and hard of hearing employees.  Through this collaboration, MenaITech users can have access to a virtual sign-language interpreter that translates on-screen content to sign language.

The system translates text on MenaITech’s website and MenaME platform – the employee and manager self-service gateway, to sign language for users who are deaf or hard of hearing, which allows users to access HR services such as leave and vacation requests, attendance and departure records, salary-slips and can easily manage their HR functions from anywhere in the world.  MenaITech is the first HCIS company in the region to provide this feature to its clients and the general public.

Mind Rockets system has been implemented on MenaITech’s MenaME, which allows users to access HR services such as leave and vacation requests, attendance and departure records, salary-slips and other core HR functions.  With Mind Rockets services, employees who are deaf or hard of hearing can easily manage their HR functions from anywhere in the world.  (MenalTech 10.09)

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3.2  Andersen Global Continues Expansion in Middle East with Zalloum & Laswi Law Firm

Zalloum & Laswi, a prominent law firm with a presence in Amman, Jordan, has signed a Collaboration Agreement with Andersen Global, an international association of tax and law firms.  Initially established in 1993 as a law office, Zalloum & Laswi later became a full-fledged law firm and now has more than 20 professionals.  The collaboration broadens Andersen Global’s presence internationally and is a significant development for the practice in the Middle East.

Zalloum & Laswi provides in-depth knowledge on a wide range of legal issues to a variety of clients, but typically mid to large sized Jordanian corporations or foreign corporations that require representation in Jordan.  The firm’s practice areas include banking and finance, civil law, contracts, foreign investment, intellectual property rights, international trade and cross-border issues, corporate and commercial law, criminal law, litigation and dispute resolution, mergers & acquisitions, and real estate.  Andersen Global is an international association of legally separate, independent member firms comprised of tax and legal professionals around the world.  (Andersen Global 12.09)

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3.3  Excite Medical Installs DRX9000 and DRX9000C Back Pain Treatment Units in Third Major City in Iraq

Tampa, Florida’s Excite Medical installed a DRX9000 and a DRX9000C in Baghdad, which becomes the third city in Iraq to offer its technology.  The American Private Medical Centers, which made the latest purchase have locations in Sulaimanyia (North Iraq), Baghdad and the Babylon.  The DRX9000 installation in Iraq is the third country in recent years that Excite Medical has accomplished in the Middle East. The Middle East has been a fast growing market for Excite Medical with DRX9000 systems in the Palestinian Authority, Jordan, Iraq, Kuwait, Cyprus, Turkey, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

Excite Medical has built a solid reputation in the international market by delivering 100% of the time and providing complete support to its clients regardless of their location.  The DRX9000, Excite Medical’s flagship product, currently has over a million fans on Facebook and has become the most popular non-surgical, drug free treatment for back pain.  (Excite Medical 17.09)

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3.4  Gulftainer Signs 50 Year, $600 Million Concession Agreement with Delaware’s Port of Wilmington

Gulftainer, the world’s largest privately-owned independent port operator and logistics company based in the United Arab Emirates, finalized a 50 year concession agreement with the state of Delaware to operate and develop the Port of Wilmington, significantly expanding the company’s global footprint and reach.  The agreement, signed by Gulftainer’s subsidiary GT USA, will see an expected investment of up to $600 million in the port to upgrade and expand the terminal and to turn it into one of the largest facilities of its kind on the Eastern Seaboard.  The port deal represents the largest operation ever run by a UAE company in the United States, as well as the largest investment ever by a private UAE company in the country.

The 50-year concession follows a year of negotiations and a thorough evaluation of Gulftainer’s capabilities globally, including in the United States, where it operates the Canaveral Cargo Terminal in Port Canaveral, Fla., and provides services to the U.S. Armed Forces as well as the U.S. space industry.  The Delaware concession agreement completes a preliminary agreement between Gulftainer and the state of Delaware, as well as the completion of a formal review by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), granting Gulftainer exclusive rights to manage the port.

Gulftainer plans to invest up to $600 million in the port, including $400 million on a new 1.2 million TEU (twenty-foot equivalent units) container facility at DuPont’s former Edgemoor site, which was acquired by the Diamond State Port Corporation in 2016.  (Gulftainer 19.09)

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3.5  Russia’s Kalashnikov Eyes UAE Market for Electric Bikes & Cars

Russia’s Kalashnikov Concern will start supplying electric motorcycles and cars to the UAE under an agreement with Mawarid Holding.  Kalashnikov stated that the deliveries are scheduled this year and in 2019.  In particular, these are electric motorcycle UM-1 and electric car UV-4.”

It was reported earlier that Kalashnikov had inked a memorandum of cooperation with Mawarid Holding, the manufacturing and investment company based in the UAE.  Kalashnikov Concern is Russia’s largest manufacturer of a wide range of small arms. Civilian products include hunting guns, sport rifles, tools.  The corporation exports its arms to more than 20 countries, TASS reported.  (AB 07.09)

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3.6  The UAE Weight Loss Market – $1.12 Billion Outlook to 2023

The “UAE Weight Loss Market: Industry Trends, Share, Size, Growth, Opportunity and Forecast 2018-2023” report by was worth $ 718 Million in 2017.  The researchers expect this market to exceed $ 1,124 Million by 2023, exhibiting a CAGR of around 7.8% during 2017-2023.

The prevalence of overweight and obesity have been increasing rapidly in the UAE and are currently one of the highest in the world.  Rising incomes and urbanization in the UAE has resulted in a lifestyle which is very modern, fast paced and technology driven resulting in reduced physical activity and an increasing consumption of unhealthy food.

Dietary habits in the region have changed over the past few decades as a result of a strong proliferation of fast food joints, restaurants, online food delivery options, cafes, takeaways, etc. making processed foods, snacks and high sugar products easily available for consumers.

The temperature in the region is also extremely high for most of the year, resulting in limited outdoor activities such as sports, cycling, jogging, etc.  Consumers generally stay indoors and use cars to travel even short distances.  Moreover, the traditional dress in the region which involves wearing of loose, flowing garments such as the dish-dash or abayas also represents a driving factor, as unlike western dresses such as jeans or t-shirts, the excess weight gained goes comparatively unnoticed.

The weight loss market has been segmented on the basis of diet which mainly includes supplements, meals and beverages.  Supplements currently represent the largest segment.  Based on the equipment, the market has been segregated into fitness equipment and surgical equipment.  Fitness equipment currently account for the larger share.  (R&M 08.09)

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3.7  Northwestern Memorial Hospital Signs Agreement with the UAE

Chicago’s Northwestern Memorial Hospital has been selected as a preferred provider of exceptional medical care for patients from the United Arab Emirates (UAE).  Northwestern Medicine joins a select network of leading US hospitals, including Mayo Clinic, Johns Hopkins Medicine, and Cleveland Clinic, that will provide specialized care to citizens of the UAE.   As a preferred provider, Northwestern Medicine will provide advanced medical care to Emirati patients while also collaborating with their personal physicians to ensure continuity of care when the patients return to the UAE.  Northwestern Medicine will also consult with counterparts in the UAE and share knowledge to strengthen the country’s hospital and healthcare system.

Northwestern Medicine has long been a destination for patients from the UAE, as well as from other locations around the globe.  To support global patients, Northwestern Medicine established its international health program.  Northwestern Medicine International Health coordinates exceptional and compassionate healthcare while providing patients and their traveling companions with culturally sensitive and comprehensive services from the initial consultation through treatment and recovery.  The program also arranges communication between the patient’s personal physician and Northwestern Medicine specialists, as well assisting with travel arrangements, appointment coordination, translation, worship, dietary needs and more.  (NMH 06.09)

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3.8  Middle East’s First Nutella Cafe Opens in Dubai

Global confectionary company Ferrero has opened the Middle East’s first Nutella Café at Dubai International Airport (DXB).  Passengers at the airport will now be able to enjoy the celebrated hazelnut spread as part of an array of grab-and-go desserts, including mini pancakes, sharable muffins, crepes, waffles and choux.  Travelers visiting the café can also customize a Nutella jar featuring their names.

While the café is Nutella’s first ever standalone brand, Italian restaurant and store Eataly at the Dubai Mall also features a Nutella Bar.  It serves crepes, cookies and breads boastings the spread.  The mall also has a separate Nutella-themed food truck, also serving desserts revolving around the hazelnut spread.  In June this year, Ferrero also announced it will open a Nutella Café at near Union Square by the end of 2018.  It will feature Nutella-inspired desserts and specialty espresso beverages.  The first Nutella Café opened in May last year in Chicago.  (AB 16.09)

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3.9  Hampton by Hilton Expands International Presence with First Property in Middle East

Hilton’s Hampton by Hilton, the global hotel, made its Middle East debut with the opening of Hampton by Hilton Dubai Airport, marking the largest property in Hampton’s global portfolio.  The contemporary 420 room hotel is located near the Dubai International Airport and the Dubai Airport Freezone Authority (DAFZA).  Hampton by Hilton Dubai Airport also features a state-of-the-art rooftop gym with panoramic views of the Dubai skyline, a large infinity pool and a fully licensed bar.

Globally recognized for its unmatched approach to hospitality and friendly, caring service culture known as ‘Hamptonality’, Hampton aims to serve the region’s growing demand for mid-market hotels – particularly among millennial travelers, who are increasingly prioritizing value in their search for accommodation.  A recent survey of just over 1,000 respondents conducted by Hilton in partnership with YouGov found that when choosing between two destinations, almost half (44%) of UAE travelers were likely to base their decision on overall travel cost.  (Hilton 05.09)

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3.10  Dubai’s Coffee Planet Signs Deal to Expand Into Oman

Coffee Planet has signed a franchise agreement with Royal Management that will see 11 outlets of the brand open across Oman.  The Dubai-based concept, known for its specialty Arabica coffee, already has stores in both the UAE and Pakistan, with branches also planned in Saudi Arabia.  Royal Management is a newly-formed F&B trading entity based in Oman.  The outlet designs will be based on Coffee Planet’s new branding which launched last year which merges modern Dubai with traditional Arabia.  (AB 13.09)

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3.11  Perma-Pipe International Holdings Announces Major Contract Award in Saudi Arabia

Niles, Illinois’ Perma-Pipe International Holdings announced its subsidiary Perma-Pipe Saudi Arabia has been awarded a significant contract in excess of $15 million by Italy’s Saipem for the provision of a thermal insulation system, field joints and a leak detection system for two 55 kms (110 kms in total), 30 inch diameter, low sulfur fuel oil lines for Kuwait Oil Company’s (KOC) New Refinery Project in Kuwait.  The project will utilize Perma-Pipe’s Xtru-Therm insulation system, a spray-applied polyurethane foam jacketed with a high-density polyethylene casing.  Perma-Pipe will also be involved with the field joint systems, as well as being responsible for the supply, installation, and commissioning of a leak detection system for the insulated pipelines.  The project will begin execution in Perma-Pipe’s facilities in Q4/18 and will be completed in mid-2019.  Perma-Pipe International Holdings is a global leader in pre-insulated piping and leak detection systems for oil and gas gathering, district heating and cooling, and other applications.  (Perma-Pipe 10.09)

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4.1  Dubai’s RTA Starts Driverless Vehicle Trial in Sustainable City

Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) announced it has recently embarked on phase 4 of the Driverless Vehicles Project on a track extending 1,250 meters.  The step is a part of RTA’s efforts to boost the Dubai Government strategy to raise the share of autonomous transport to as much as 25% of public transport means by 2030.  The smart vehicle, which was manufactured by EasyMile Company, can accommodate eight riders.  It travels on short distances on pre-programmed routes under multi-user environments. It moves on virtual tracks that can be configured easily to make abrupt changes to meet demand.  The latest trial run is part of an agreement signed recently with Diamond Developers Company, the developer of the Sustainable City project.

The vehicle has electric powered batteries that can operate for eight hours and can travel at a speed of 20km/h.  It can detect any object within 40 meters, and slow down automatically when an object appears within two meters. The vehicle comes to a complete stop when the object approaches less than two meters.  (AB 05.09)

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4.2  Egypt Signs Deal With Spain’s TSK to Build Solar Park in Kom Ombo, Aswan

Egypt’s New and Renewable Energy Authority and the Spanish energy giant TSK Grupo signed a contract to set up a 26 MW photovoltaic plant, also known as a solar park, in Kom Ombo in Aswan, Upper Egypt, valued at a total of €20 million.  The plant will be built over an area of 500,000 square meters.  It is expected to produce 53,000 MW annually [equivalent to 12,000 tonnes of fuel].  Utilizing solar power will prevent the emission of about 30,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide.  It should be completed by mid-2019.

The project will be funded by the French Agency for Development through a soft loan of €40 million, with the rest of the loan to be channeled into financing other energy projects in Egypt.  The agreement is part of a strategy by Egypt’s New & Renewable Energy Authority and Electricity Ministry to diversify energy sources, increase renewable energy use, and reduce the consumption of traditional energy.  The move is also part of Egypt’s renewable energy plan to produce 20% of all energy production through renewable sources by 2022, and 37% by 2035.  (MENA 13.09)

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4.3  Greece to Increase Its Wind Energy Capacity By 50%

According to the findings of “Wind Energy in Europe: Outlook to 2022″ report, Greece is about to see an increase of 1,300 MW in the period between 2018 and 2022, an increase of 50% compared to the country’s capacity at the end of last year.  The president of the Hellenic Wind Energy Scientific Association (ELETAEN) released an announcement, following the publication of the report, saying that “Greece needs to multiply its efforts and to exceed significantly the current estimate for new wind power installations in the near future, if the country wants to remain on the road of green energy.”  The report said that 2019 is expected to be a record year for new wind energy installations, with Germany remaining the leading country regarding the production of energy generated by wind.  (GR 17.09)

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5.1  Lebanon’s Trade Deficit Widens to $10.14 Billion by July 2018

Lebanon’s trade deficit widened by 8.54% to $10.14B by July 2018 as a result of a 8.19% increase in imports to $11.90B, which outweighed the 6.23% rise in exports to $1.76B.  In terms of imports, the mineral products with a weight of (21.75%) saw an increase of 19.86% year-on-year (Y-O-Y) to stand at $2.59B by July 2018.  Moreover, products of the chemical industries (11.18%) and machinery and electrical instruments (10.47%) rose by 8.49% and 9.68% to reach $1.33B and $1.25B, by July 2018.  Lebanon imported products from China with 10% and Italy and the US with a similar 8%. In terms of exports, Pearls, precious stones and metals (24.37%) also increased by 18.65% to reach $428M.  The Base metals and articles of base metals (14.18%) rose by 34.36% y-o-y to $249M.  On the contrary, prepared foodstuffs like beverage and tobacco (13.65%) saw a decrease by 11.94% to stand at $240M by July 2018.  Lebanon’s top export destinations are UAE and South Africa with 13% and 9%, respectively of total exports value.  (MoT 17.09)

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5.2  Lebanon’s Industrial Exports Grew by 4.43% y-o-y to $1.26 Billion in First Half of 2018

According to the Lebanese Ministry of Industry, the total value of industrial exports increased by an annual 4.43% to reach $1.26B in H1/18.  In term of imports, the total value of imports of industrial machinery and equipment during the first half of the year 2018 amounted $150.9M, recording a year-on-year (y-o-y) increase of 31% during the same period in 2017.  Imports of industrial machinery and equipment climbed by a yearly 6.76%, to settle at $23.7M in June 2018.  Imports of machines used in packaging (26.16% of total imports), ranked first with a total value of $6.2M, where Lebanon imported 72.58% from Germany alone.  In turn, imports of machines for food industry took the second place, amounting to $2.6M, with 34.62% imported from Italy.

In June 2018, total industrial exports registered a yearly 6.38% decline, to stand at $186.3M.  The main exported products were base metals and articles of base metal (constituting 17.07% of total exports) with a total of $31.79M, of which 19.5% were imported by Turkey.  In fact, this category showed a 26.7% annual increase in June 2018.  Exports of base metals and articles of base metal exported to Spain went from $616M in June 2017 to $4.24M in June 2018 and as metal exports to Greece rose from $1.21M to $3.04M over the same period.  Machinery and electrical equipment (16.10% of total exports) came second, totaling $29.98M, of which 9.67% were imported by Egypt.  However, it is worth mentioning that exports of machinery and electrical equipment witnessed a significant 38.6% y-o-y decrease in June 2018.  The decrease came about as Lebanon’s exports of machinery and electrical equipment to Iraq and Kuwait dropped from $9.26M and $3.15M to $2.66M and $1.81M, respectively.  Products of the chemical industries (15.05% of total exports) came in the third place recording an increase of 8.40% to stand at $28.03M, with United Arab Emirates importing 17.84% of this category.  Prepared foodstuffs and tobacco (14.64% of total exports) followed, with a total value of $27.27M and dropped by 28.3%. Overall, the primary importers of Lebanese industrial products in June 2018 were: the UAE, KSA, and Syria with each grasping a stake of 13.7%, 7.41%, and 7.40% of total exports, respectively.  (MoI 13.09)

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5.3  Lebanon’s Balance of Payments Registered a $757.2 Million Deficit in July 2018

According to the Central Bank of Lebanon, Lebanon’s Balance of Payments (BoP) witnessed a deficit of $757.2m in July 2018 compared to $1.01b deficit recorded during the same period in 2017.  The Net Foreign Assets (NFA) of BDL rose by $2.46b while those of commercial banks slipped by $3.22b by June 2018  Moreover, the BoP recorded a monthly deficit of $548.9m in July 2018 alone, compared to a surplus of $100.2m in July 2018.  In fact, the NFAs of BDL recorded an increase of $258.5m, while the commercial banks’ NFAs declined by $807.3m in July 2018.  ((CBL 09.09)

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5.4  Amman Publishes New Draft Income Tax Law Legislation

The government on 11 September released the draft law amending the 2018 Income Tax Law on the Legislation and Opinion Bureau’s website, where it will remain published for the following 10 days to receive comments and complete the dialogue on it.  The cabinet will also take suggestions and comments about the draft law into consideration, before endorsing it and refer it to the Lower House of Parliament in accordance with the constitution.  (Petra  11.09)

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5.5  Jordanian Exports Increase by 3.1% & Imports Decrease by 2.5% During H1/18

The statistical data issued by the Department of Statistics indicate that the value of total exports reached JD.2549.7 million during the first half 2018, marking an increase of 2% compared with the same period of 2017.  Meanwhile, the national exports value reached JD.2142.0 million during the first half of 2018, or an increase of 3.1% compared with the same period of 2017.  The value of re-exports reached JD 407.7 million during the first half of 2018 which indicates a decrease by (3.3%) as compared with the same period of 2017.  The imports value reached JD.6851.9 million during the first half of 2018, thus decreasing by (2.5%) compared with the same period of 2017.

The deficit in the trade balance reached JD.4302.2 million therefore; the deficit has decreased during the first half of 2018 by 5% compared with the same period of 2017.  The imports coverage by total exports has become 37.2% during the first half of 2018 while it was 35.5% for the same period of 2017, which means an increase by 1.7%.  (DoS 29.09)

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5.6  Jordan Sees 18.7% Unemployment Rate During Q2/18

Jordan’s Department of Statistics issued its quarterly report on the Unemployment Rate for the second quarter of 2018.  The results show that the unemployment rate has reached (18.7%) during the second quarter of 2018, representing an increase by 0.7% over Q2/17.  The Unemployment Rate for men has reached 16.6% during the second quarter of 2018 against 26.8% for women.  It becomes clear that the unemployment rate has increased for males by 3.2% and decreased for females by 7.1% compared with Q2/17.  (DoS 04.09)

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5.7  Jordan Issued 16,000 Flexible Construction Work Permits for Syrian Refugees in 2017

Over 16,000 flexible working permits for Syrian refugees employed in the construction sector have been issued over the past year, Jordan’s Ministry of Labour announced during a workshop organized by the International Labour Organisation (ILO).  The newly issued permits come as the result of an agreement signed by the Labour Ministry, the General Federation of Trade Unions (GFTU) and the ILO in late August 2017, which aimed at organizing the work of Syrian refugees in the construction sector in Jordan through the issuance of work permits that allow employees to move from one employer to another.

Having applied the system successfully within the agriculture and construction fields, the Labour Ministry is now looking forward to including sectors such as manufacturing and hospitality under the same approach.  However, the contractual mechanisms within such sectors are different, and work is still underway in order to further facilitate the access of Syrian refugee workers to other fields.  There is a need to maintain the balance between refugee, migrant and Jordanian workers in the target sectors.

The ILO highlighted that obtaining a work permit is the first step for a refugee to obtain decent working conditions, as most Syrian refugees working within the informal sector cannot complain about delayed wages, long working hours or any other violations.  (JT 16.09)

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5.8  Amman Abolishes Sales Tax on Some Fresh Foods

On 12 September, the Jordanian cabinet decided to abolish a 10% sales tax on fresh foods (vegetables and fruits) and reduce it on some other agricultural products to 4%.  The government said the decision was part of a comprehensive review of the tax system and aims to protect the poor and limited-income classes.  In its weekly session, the Cabinet also gave the go-ahead for the incorporation of a private firm to support the Kingdom’s exports.  The non-profit company will be owned by the government and the private sector, represented by the chambers of industry and trade, investment banks and other investment entities, which will finance the working capital of the company.  (AMMONNEWS 12.09)

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5.9  Germany to Provide Jordan with $133.4 Million in Funds for Vital Projects

Jordan on 10 September announced signing three agreements with Germany worth $133.4 million to fund projects in water and education fields in the kingdom.  As part of Germany’s pledges to aid Jordan in 2018, the agreements consist of $23.2 million as grant for the kingdom, while the other amount of $110.2 million will be easy loans.  The agreements were signed by Jordan’s Minister of Planning and International Cooperation Kawar and officials from the German Construction Bank.

According to official Jordanian statistics, Germany is the second largest donor for the kingdom.  Last year, Germany announced providing financial aid of up to $696.1 million for Jordan.  The aid included funding vital projects and humanitarian aid for Syrian refugees in the kingdom.  (AMMONNEWS 10.09)

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5.10  Low Priced and Damaged Imported Cars Pose Risks to Drivers in Iraq

Thousands of bad quality, overturned or water-damaged US cars have been imported to the Kurdistan Region over the past two years due to the facilitations made by the KRG to car traders in a bid to increase revenues at customs points.  According to statistics produced by the Ministry of Trade & Industry, 451,337 cars have been imported to the Kurdistan Region over the past five-and-a-half years.

Car importations fell dramatically after 2013 due to the financial crisis.  For example, 126,000 cars were imported to the Kurdistan Region in 2013, but only 35,000 in 2016.  But this trade in the first half of this year increased by 30% compared to the first half of last year.  According to the Trade Ministry, 75% of cars imported to the Kurdistan Region will eventually be re-exported to Iraqi cities.  Some car dealerships only import cars to Iraqi cities.

US insurance companies won’t cover water-damaged cars or cars that have their airbags blown up in car accidents there, where car insurance is required.  Many then sold as scraped cars.  But the KRG has dismissed claims it has been facilitating the importation of sunken or other bad quality cars.  These cars are first transported to the United Arab Emirates, but the Emirates’ government doesn’t allow these cars to be used there due to their condition.  (IBN 31.08)

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5.11  Finland to Reopen Embassy in Baghdad

Finland is preparing to reopen its embassy in Baghdad.  Finland has not had diplomatic personnel in Baghdad since 1991.  Since 2006, Finland’s official representative for Iraq has been a Roving Ambassador based in Helsinki.  According to a statement from the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs, the reopening of the embassy will promote the development of broad bilateral relations and commercial cooperation. At present, 14 EU member states are permanently represented in Baghdad at an ambassadorial level.  (Finnish Foreign Ministry 04.09)

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►►Arabian Gulf

5.12  Gulf States’ Defense Spending to Hit Record High Amid Ongoing Regional Conflict

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member states are forecast to spend over $100 billion on their defense capabilities for the first time next year, with increasing budgets in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) driving growth between 2018 and 2027.  Across the Gulf states comprising the GCC (Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman), defense budgets are expected to reach record highs next year, with increases in spending primary focused on modernizing and expanding military force structure and improving readiness in response to continuing regional instability.

Jane’s Defence Budgets data says that despite predicted fluctuations in the growth rate, defense spending will continue to increase over the next five years, reaching around $117 billion by 2023.  In total, the states of the GCC are expected to spend around $86 billion on defense equipment over the next five years.  GCC defense budgets have risen as a percentage of GDP over recent years, but even more significantly are also rising as a share of government spending; highlighting the importance placed on enhancing military capabilities.

A major driving factor in defense procurement plans has been the increase in operational activity by GCC militaries in places such as Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen.  Such actions have led to an increase in spending on the development of expeditionary and intelligence gathering capabilities, as well as the bolstering of combat aircraft fleets.

Despite accounting for just 5% of global defense spending, the GCC is responsible for almost a quarter of all imports of defense equipment – importing assets worth approximately $56 billion between 2014 and 2018.  North America and Europe provide about 95% of all equipment acquired by Gulf states.  The US alone has accounted for about half of all exports to the GCC in the last five years.  However, despite the prevalence of equipment from these sources, other suppliers – ranging from Australia to China and Turkey – are increasing their market presence.  The downturn in oil prices in 2014 and 2015 made cost an important factor, while export controls from some key suppliers have prevented the transfer of desired equipment.

Both the UAE and Saudi Arabia aim to improve their own defense industrial bases to improve self-sufficiency and ensure the security of supply for their own militaries.  They also intend to leverage this capability to boost exports of locally made defense equipment, with the UAE already exporting its Nimr protected vehicle to countries including Algeria and Turkmenistan.  (Jane’s Defence Budgets 06.09)

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5.13  Bahrain Said to Raise $500 Million as it Awaits Support from Arabian Gulf Allies

Bahrain has raised $500 million from a private placement of bonds with five regional banks, giving the island kingdom much needed relief as it negotiates crucial financial support with its Arabian Gulf allies.  The bonds were placed with Bank ABC, Emirates NBD, Kuwait Finance House, Noor Bank and Sharjah Islamic Bank.

A sell-off in emerging-market assets is prompting some countries to avoid the scrutiny of international bond investors, with cash-strapped Ukraine raising $725 million in Eurobonds from a private placement last month.  For Bahrain, the funds also give officials time to agree on the details of the aid package with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait.

Bahrain’s economy, the smallest in the Gulf Cooperation Council, has been hit hard by the slump in oil prices in 2014.  With rising public debt and low foreign-exchange reserves, investors say the kingdom needs support to avert a currency devaluation that could reverberate across the region.  The talks are making progress on a multi-year program that would involve spending cuts and measures to increase non-oil revenue.  The kingdom scrapped plans to tap the international bond market in March, opting instead to raise $1 billion in Islamic debt.  The privately-placed notes were priced at 330 basis points above three-year midswaps.  (AB 05.09)

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5.14  UAE to Introduce Retirement Visa for Expats & Takes Other Steps As Well

The UAE is to introduce a new five-year visa for expat retirees aged over 55 years, one of four significant decisions announced by the government on 17 September.

Retired expats aged over 55 can avail of the new visa once they fulfil one of three criteria: own a real estate investment of AED2 million, or has financial savings of not less than AED1 million, or has proof of income above AED20,000 per month.  Chaired by Sheikh Mohammed, UAE prime minister, the cabinet adopted the plan to introduce the new visa from next year.

There was also good news for industries with a 29% reduction in electricity charges announced for large factories, with a 10% to 22% reduction on electricity charges for small and medium-sized factories.  In addition, the council announced that there would be a waiving of the service connection fees for new factories.  A new reduced tariff for electricity consumption for the industrial sector will be introduced in Q4/18.  The cabinet also approved the launch of the ‘one-day court’ system to contribute to speeding up of rulings in minor criminal offences.

The cabinet also adopted the unified national standards for public and private hospitals, which provide guidelines for health care professionals and hospital design, as well as other standards for medicines, patients’ rights, and patients’ families.  (AB 16.09)

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5.15  Saudi Private Sector Growth ‘Weakest On Record’ So Far in 2018

Growth in Saudi Arabia’ non-oil private sector has slowed to its lowest rate on record so far in 2018, according to the latest Emirates NBD Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI).  While the growth of the private sector rose in the last three months compared to the first five months of 2018, it is the slowest on record for the first eight months of any year since the survey started.  The survey, which is sponsored by Emirates NBD and produced by IHS Markit, contains data collected from a monthly survey of business conditions in the country’s private sector.

The kingdom’s headline PMI rose to 55.1 in August from 54.9 in July on stronger output and new orders, but the rate of growth for January through August this year is weaker when compared to the same period in 2017.  Employment growth in Saudi Arabia was also the slowest in three months, with average selling prices falling for the second month in a row as companies offered promotions to stimulate demand.  Export orders increased only marginally in August, with some companies noting that domestic demand was supported largely by promotional activity.  This is further reflected in the output price index, which revealed a drop in average selling prices for the second month in a row in August, despite higher input costs.  While 17% of firms surveyed were optimistic about their future output, expecting it to rise in 2019, the percentage is slightly lower than in July.  (AB 05.09)

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►►North Africa

5.16  Egypt’s Headline and Core Inflation Rise in August

Egypt’s annual urban consumer inflation, or headline inflation, rose to 14.2% in August from 13.5% in July, statistics agency CAPMAS said on 10 September, as subsidy cuts continued to take a toll on the economy.  Headline inflation had jumped in June to reach 14.4% due in part to price hikes to energy and transport, before dropping back in July.  Egypt’s core inflation edged up to 8.83% year-on-year in August from 8.54% in July, the Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) said.  This is the second month in a row that the core inflation stands at single digits since the economic reform was initiated.

The slight rebound in August was due to the direct or indirect impact of subsidy cuts and was broadly in line with expectations.  It reinforced expectations that the Central Bank of Egypt would keep interest rates steady.

Egypt’s inflation surged in 2017 on the back of economic reforms tied to a $12 billion International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan program signed in 2016, though prices eased earlier this year.  The reform program that Egypt signed with the IMF includes deep cuts to energy subsidies and tax hikes.  Prices had also been lifted by the import-dependent country floating its pound currency in November 2016, with inflation hitting a high of 33% in July 2017.

The major difference between headline and core inflation is that the latter excludes components in the headline inflation that exhibit high volatility from month to month such as food and energy products whose prices can be easily affected by external factors outside the economy.  (Ahram Online 10.09)

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5.17  Al-Sisi Approves Changes to Egypt’s Customs Laws

On 11 September, President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi approved changes to customs duties on a variety of items.  The new changes included setting a 20% tariff on all imports by hotels and tourism businesses, in addition to tariff increases between 5 to 40% on several other items, while import duties rose to 60% from 20%.  Some of the most prominent changes where the 35% reduction in customs on natural gas vehicles, in addition to the reduction on Hybrid vehicles, using both electric and gasoline engines, down to 30% to encourage the use of gasoline as an alternative, while fully electric vehicles are to be exempted.  Moreover, the amendments included imposing a 10% duty on all items that were sent abroad for maintenance and repairs and were re-imported back into Egypt.

Additionally, 2% customs is to be applied on the raw materials and accessories required for the production of infant formula.  Furthermore, clothes, electronics, pet foods, and some other food items are also getting increasingly more expensive as tariffs on them rose to 40%.

On the other hand, there is to be a 110% reduction in the inbound tax for products that contain 30 to 40% with domestic components, while the discount rate will be 115% for products with 40 to 60% with domestic content, and 120% for over 60% local parts between of 30 to 40%, and the tax rate will be reduced by 115% if the rate of domestic manufacturing is more than 40% and over 60%.  (EN 11.09)

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5.18  US to Release $1.2 Billion in Military Aid to Egypt

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has authorized the release of $1.2 billion in U.S. military assistance to Egypt.  On 7 September, the State Department said it is notifying Congress that Pompeo has signed national security waivers allowing the money known as foreign military financing, or FMF, to be spent.  Congress has 15 days to weigh in on the waivers, which were signed on 21 August.

The money includes $1 billion for the current 2018 budget year and $195 million appropriated for 2017 that would have had to have been returned to the Treasury had it not been spent by 30 September.  (AP 08.09)

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5.19  Egypt & US Sign $65 Million Grant for Infrastructure in Rural Areas

Egypt and the United States signed a $65 million grant to support infrastructure in the country.  Egyptian Minister Nasr signed the agreement for the grant with Sherry Carlin, the USAID Mission Director in Egypt.  Nasr said the agreement affirms the strategic relationship between Egypt and the US, as well as economic cooperation between the two countries.

She mentioned that the deal comes following orders by Egyptian President El-Sisi on meeting the needs of citizens through infrastructure development, where 1.1 million people in the most vulnerable part of Upper Egypt’s rural areas would benefit.  The Upper Egypt governorates include Assiut, Sohag, Qena, Luxor, Aswan, Beni Suef, and Minya.  The infrastructure upgrade will include water treatment, as well as adding sanitation lines in rural areas.

The USAID-funded Workforce Improvement and Skills Enhancement (WISE) is cooperating with the Ministry of Education and Technical Cooperation to launch a portal for technical education schools to facilitate people joining the labor market in various governorates.  WISE is currently working in five governorates in collaboration with the private sector to determine the workforce needs, while preparing students to join the workforce, and connecting them with potential employers.

Since 2016, the USAID’s project to improve the skills and job-readiness of technical students has secured employment for nearly 7,000 and internships for over 5,350 students.  More than 24,000 students have benefited from career guidance sessions and over 21,000 students received training in entrepreneurship.  This project is part of the $30 billion that the America has invested in Egypt through USAID since 1978.  (USAID 10.09)

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5.20  Egypt to Establish Seven Technology Innovation Hubs at Universities

Egypt’s Ministry of Communications and Information Technology it would establish seven technology innovation hubs at Egyptian universities in cooperation with the country’s Higher Education and Scientific Research Ministry.  Minister of Communications and Information Technology Talaat stressed his ministry’s keenness on sponsoring talented youth and converting innovative ideas to products and services.  This move comes within the framework of the ministry’s efforts to expand its development programs nationwide and promote innovation within Egyptian universities.  (Ahram Online 08.09)

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5.21  Egypt’s Natural Gas Output Reaches 6.6 bcf/d

Egypt has boosted its natural gas output to record 6.6 billion cubic feet per day (bcf/d) upon the news that Eni had succeeded in boosting Zohr’s production to 2 bcf/d.  Minister of Petroleum Tarek El Molla said that the increase was thanks to the efforts of all oil and gas employees and government workers.  Zohr’s total natural gas in place is estimated at around 850 billion cubic meters, which may double the country’s total gas reserves.

Eni, which started production at the Zohr field in December 2017, announced that the field’s output is set to plateau at 2.7 bcf/d in 2019.  Zohr’s production increased due to starting the fifth production unit (T4), which is supported by the eight gas producers as well as a new 218-km subsea pipeline.  (Reuters 09.09)

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5.22  Egypt Invests EGP 77 Billion in Transportation Sector

Egyptian Minister of Planning Hala El-Saeed announced that the total investments directed to the transportation sector in the sustainable development plan amounted to EGP 77 billion in 2018-2019 fiscal year, compared to EGP 65.7 billion in the previous fiscal year which ended on 30 June 2018.  The increase in investments directed toward this sector is due to its importance as a key player and main catalyst in the economic and social development of the country.  Transportation networks such as railways, land routes and navigational channels are the lifelines of current economic and social activity that promote prosperity.  The output of the transportation sector represents an important input in the production of many sectors, such as trade, manufacturing and extractive industries.

The plan aims to increase the growth rate of the transportation sector to 4.1% for fiscal year 2018-2019, compared to a growth rate of 3.2% in FY 2017-2018, and it is expected to increase to 7.5% by FY 2021-2022, as outlined in the statement.  In addition, the plan targets the transportation sector to contribute to the economic growth by 3.6% in fiscal year 2018-2019 to 4.4% in 2020.  The cost of implementing development measures for the sector in the Ministry of Transport and its affiliates amounts to about EGP 40.7 billion for fiscal year 2018-2019, with investments accounting for 58% of the cost.  Reforms targeting the railway network constitute 33% of the total cost of the program, followed by the expansion of the underground metro which makes up 21% of the budget.  (Ahram Online 06.09)

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5.23  Morocco Ranks 123rd in World Human Development Index

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) published its 2018 update on 14 September, presenting HDI values for 189 countries around the world, including 20 Arab countries, classified in four human development tiers.  The UNDP’s statistics, which are based on 2017 data, showed that 59 countries ranked “very high” in human development, 53 “high,” 39 in “medium,” and 38 in “low.”

Morocco ranked “medium” in human development group with an HDI of 0.667 out of 1 (0.598 for women and 0.713 for men) after Egypt (ranked 115), the PA (ranked 119) and Iraq (ranked 120).  Algeria ranked 85th with “high” levels of human development with an HDI of 0.754. Lebanon (80); Tunisia (95); Jordan (95); and, despite its conflict, Libya (105) also ranked “high.”  However, Morocco’s HDI increased from 0.458 in 1990 to 0.667 in 2017, with an average annual HDI growth of 1.13% between 2010 and 2017—a rate much higher than the average in Arab states (0.51).

Morocco’s life expectancy at birth was 76.1 years (77.2 for women and 74.9 for men), higher than the average index in Arab states (71.5) and in Europe and Central Asia (73.4).  Life expectancy at birth in countries with “very high” human development was 79.5 years.  The average number of years of schooling held by people aged 25 and older in Morocco was 5.5 years (4.5 for women and 6.5 for men).  The number was less than the average in Arab countries (7 years) and slightly more than the average country with “low” human development (4.7).

Gross national income (GNI) per capita, which also impacted the HDI in Morocco, was $7,340 per year. Women’s GNI per capita in Morocco is very low at $3,197 per year compared to men’s at $11,561. Morocco’s GNI per capita is lower than the average in Egypt ($10,355), Tunisia ($10,275) and Libya ($11,100).  (UNDP 17.09)

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6.1  Turkey’s Budget Sees $11.4 Billion Deficit in First Eight Months of 2018

Turkey’s central government budget balance posted a deficit of TL 50.8 billion ($11.4 billion) from January to August, the Treasury and Finance Ministry announced.  This was a 102% year-on-year increase in budget gap.   The country’s budget revenues totaled TL 485.7 billion ($109 billion) in the first eight months of this year, up nearly 19% year-on-year, data showed.  During the same period, budget expenditures rose 23.7% to TL 536.5 billion ($120.6 billion) – marking a TL 50.8 billion ($11.4 billion) deficit.

The budget balance, excluding interest payments, saw a deficit of TL 559.4 million ($125.7 million) from January to August.  Official figures showed that tax revenues rose 19.4% to reach TL 410.1 billion ($92.2 billion), while interest payments were TL 50.2 billion ($11.3 billion) over the same period.

In August, the budget balance also saw a deficit of TL 5.8 billion ($976 million).  Last month Turkey’s budget revenues totaled to TL 70.3 billion ($11.8 billion), up 23.3% on a yearly basis, according to official data.  Budget expenditures in August were TL 76.1 billion ($12.8 billion), a rise of around 32% annually.  Excluding interest payments, the central government budget balance saw a surplus of TL 2.5 billion ($412 million) last month.  The average U.S. dollar/Turkish Lira exchange rate in August was 5.94, while one dollar was trading for TL 4.46 on average in the first eight months of this year.  (AA 17.09)

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6.2  Egypt & Cyprus Sign Agreement to Construct Gas Pipeline Worth $800 Million

Egypt and Cyprus signed an agreement on 19 September to construct a direct marine pipeline to transfer natural gas from the Cypriot Aphrodite field to Egypt and then to be re-exported to different markets, statement by the Egyptian petroleum ministry read.  In May, it was estimated that the planned pipeline connecting Cyprus’ Aphrodite gas field to Egypt’s liquefied natural gas (LNG) facilities will cost around $800 million.  Egypt considers this agreement to be among the main foundations in supporting the economic relations between the two countries and is an important step in maximizing the benefit of the discoveries of the Cypriot gas fields.  The new deal will encourage further research exploration activities in the region and will contribute to further support joint cooperation in the field of gas and oil between the two countries.  (Various 19.09)

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6.3  Cyprus Inflation Reaches 2.5% in August 2018

Inflation is on the rise in Cyprus amid hikes in fuel prices with the annual rate reaching 2.5% last month, almost 1% compared to last year until August.  According to government figures, inflation from January to August in 2018 rose 0.9% compared to the same period in the previous year.  In August 2018, the Consumer Price Index went up by 0.66 to reach 100.98 units, compared to 100.32 in the previous month.

Authorities have being on the receiving end of criticism for failing to act in shifting energy solutions towards clean energy.  Last month’s biggest fluctuations compared to August 2017 were recorded in Electricity and Petroleum products with increases of 13.1% and 12.9% respectively.  Both domains have drawn interest in the media recently, with authorities being on the receiving end of criticism for failing to act in shifting energy solutions towards clean energy.

Cyprus had the highest increase in household electricity prices in national currency between the first half of 2016 and the first half of 2017.  Agricultural products also registered a 6.6% price increase compared to July 2018.  (CyStat 06.09)

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6.4  Cyprus’ Economy Expands by 3.9% in Second Quarter

The economy expanded in the second quarter of this year 3.9% compared to the same period of 2017, Cystat said on 10 September.  Compared to the first quarter, economic output rose in April to June 0.8% in real terms.  The seasonally adjusted growth rate in the second quarter was also 3.9%.  The increased economic output resulted from a better performance of the hospitality sector, retail and wholesale trade, construction, manufacturing, professional, scientific and technical activities and administrative and support service activities.  The impact of the financial and insurance service sector on growth was negative.  (Cystat 10.09)

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6.5  Cyprus’ Trade Deficit Shrinks by 6.5% in First Seven Months on Export Surge

Cyprus’s trade deficit shrank by 6.5% in the first seven months, to €2.4b, mainly on a strong increase in exports which outstripped imports, the statistical service Cystat said.  Total exports rose 54%, to €2.8b, year compared with the respective period last year.  Total imports rose 18%, to €5.2b.  The value of exports and imports excluding ships and aircraft was €1.7b and €3b respectively in the first seven months of 2018, compared to €1.3b and €3.6b the previous year.  Exports to and imports from other European Union members rose in January to July an annual 7.4% and 8.6% to €715.4m and €3.1b respectively.  Those from third countries rose 81%, to €916.8m, and €552.8m.  (CyStat 12.09)

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6.6  Cypriot Tourism Revenue Up During First Six Months of 2018

The Cyprus Tourism Organisation (CTO) announced revenue from tourism in Cyprus was up by 4% or €38.5 million on an annual basis in the first half of this year compared with the first six months of 2017, despite a drop in the per capita expenditure of tourists, while in June alone revenue was up by 3%.  CTO also stressed the need to “decisively deal” with challenges which have an impact in the experience offered to tourists in Cyprus such as noise pollution, lack of taste in presentation, illegal alterations in facades of buildings, tasteless signs, touting problems, profiteering, and matters pertaining to cleanliness and orderliness.

On the basis of the findings of the Passenger Survey, revenue from tourism in June 2018 was €357.7 million compared to €347.2 million in June last year recording an increase of 3%.  For the period of January – June 2018 revenue from tourism is estimated to be €1,034.9 million compared to €996.4 million at the same period of last year, recording an increase of 3.9%.  The per capita expenditure of tourists in June 2018 came to €699.88 compared to €734.89 in June 2017, recording a drop of 4.8%.

The per capita expenditure of tourists in the first six months of 2018 reached €629.04 compared to €680.95 at the same period of last year, recording a drop of 7.6%.  The per capita / per day expenditure of tourists for the first half of this year recorded a drop of 4.4% down from €75.66 in the first six months of last year to €72.30.  According to the CTO the accommodation and catering services index has also recorded an increase of 10.5% in the first half of 2018 compared with the same period of 2017.  (CAN 07.09)

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6.7  Cyprus the 7th Most Visited Country Per Capita 

With three visitors per inhabitant, Cyprus is among the most visited countries in the world, a new study by online magazine TravelMag has found.  Numbers for visitor arrivals used for the survey were taken from a report released by the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO).  With 6,600 visitors per 1,000 residents arriving in Iceland each year, that country emerged on top. Malta was in second place with 5,300 visitors, while the Bahamas completed the top three spots with 3,800 visitors.  Cyprus is number seven, with 3,000 tourists for every 1,000 residents.  It is higher ranked than Greece which had 2,400 and is in 11th place.

In absolute numbers, France was the top destination worldwide, with 86.9 million visitors, followed by Spain (81.8 million).  The UK has seen a big increase in tourism thanks to the pound sterling’s drop in value after Brexit, but still only sees 569 visitors per 1,000 inhabitants.  At the other end of the spectrum Somalia, Yemen and Libya are the least visited counties, with less than one visitor per 1,000 residents.  China is the top spender, followed by the USA and Germany.  (CM 19.09)

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7.1  Israel’s Population More Than 8.9 Million on Eve of Jewish New Year 5779

The Central Bureau of Statistics announced on the eve of Jewish New Year 5779 that Israel’s population has passed 8.9 million people.  In addition, there are an estimated 166,000 foreign non-residents living in Israel.  The population has grown by 1.9% or 162,000 over the past year to 8,907,000.  Over the year, 175,000 babies were born, 29,000 people immigrated to Israel and 43,000 people died.

The Central Bureau of Statistics projects that Israel’s population will reach 10 million by 2024, 15 million by 2048 and 20 million by 2065.  Some 6,625,000 Israelis are Jewish (74.4%), 1,864,000 are Arabs (20.9%), while 418,000 (4.7%) belong other religions and communities.  (CBS 06.09)

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7.2  Sukkot Holiday Celebrated

 The Jewish festival of Sukkot begins at sunset on Sunday, 23 September until nightfall on 30 September (in Israel).  The festival ends on day later outside of Israel.  The holiday begins on the Hebrew date of 15 Tishrei, the fifth day after Yom Kippur.  The word “Sukkot” means “booths” and refers to the temporary dwellings that Jews are commanded to live in during this holiday.  The commandment to “dwell” in a sukkah can be fulfilled by simply eating all of one’s meals there or by actually living in the sukkah as much as possible, including sleeping in it.  The holiday commemorates the forty-year period during which the children of Israel were wandering in the desert, living in temporary shelters.  There are intermediate days during the week, which begins and ends with a holiday, referred to as Chol Ha-Mo’ed.

Another observance related to Sukkot involves what are known as the Four Species (arba minim in Hebrew) or the lulav and etrog.  Jews are commanded to take these four plants and use them to “rejoice before the L-rd.”  The four species in question are an etrog (a citrus fruit native to Israel), a palm branch (in Hebrew, lulav), two willow branches (arava) and three myrtle branches (hadas).  The six branches are bound together and referred to collectively as the lulav.  The etrog is held separately.  With these four species in hand, one recites a blessing and waves the species in all six directions (east, south, west, north, up and down, symbolizing the fact that G-d is everywhere).

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7.3  Shemini Atzeret/ Simchat Torah Celebrated

 On 30 September 1 October, or 22 Tishri, the day after the seventh day of Sukkot, is the holiday Shemini Atzeret.  In Israel, Shemini Atzeret is also the holiday of Simchat Torah.  Outside of Israel, where extra days of holidays are held, only the second day of Shemini Atzeret is Simchat Torah.

These two holidays are commonly thought of as part of Sukkot, but that is technically incorrect; Shemini Atzeret is a holiday in its own right and does not involve some of the special observances of Sukkot.  Shemini Atzeret literally means “the assembly of the eighth (day).”  Rabbinic literature explains the holiday this way: our Creator is like a host, who invites us as visitors for a limited time, but when the time comes for us to leave, He has enjoyed himself so much that He asks us to stay another day.  Another related explanation: Sukkot is a holiday intended for all of mankind, but when Sukkot is over, the Creator invites the Jewish people to stay for an extra day, for a more intimate celebration.

Simchat Torah means “Rejoicing in the Torah.”  This holiday marks the completion of the annual cycle of weekly Torah readings.  Each week in synagogue we publicly read a few chapters from the Torah, starting with Genesis Ch. 1 and working around to Deuteronomy 34.  On Simchat Torah, the last Torah portion is read, then proceeds immediately to the first chapter of Genesis, reminding us that the Torah is a circle, and never ends.

This completion of the readings is a time of great celebration.  There are processions around the synagogue carrying Torah scrolls and plenty of high-spirited singing and dancing in the synagogue with the torahs.  As many people as possible are given the honor of an aliyah (reciting a blessing over the Torah reading); in fact, even children are called for an aliyah blessing on Simchat Torah.  In addition, as many people as possible are given the honor of carrying a Torah scroll in these processions.  Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah are holidays on which work is not permitted.

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7.4  World Bank Report: Lebanon Education Public Expenditure Review 2017

According to the World Bank’s Lebanon Education Public Expenditure Review 2017, Lebanon enjoys high literacy rates (98%) and enrollment with minimal to no gender discrimination.  Moreover, the net enrollment rate (NER) for primary education has been constant throughout 2006-13; however, NER for secondary education is of serious concern.  Since 2006, the primary NERs have also gone up from 88.4% to 93.2% in 2012.  The NER in secondary education, however, is a concern because it declined from 68.7% in 2007 to 67.5% in 2012.  (WB 09.09)

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7.5  Illiteracy Rate in Jordan Stood at 5.2% in 2017

Illiteracy rate in Jordan stood at 5.2% in 2017, Education Minister Azmi Mahafzah said on 8 September, citing official figures from the Department of Statistics.  Mahafzah noted that the ministry opened 139 centers for the eradication of illiteracy in 2017, of which 119 were for women and 20 for men.  He added that these centers attracted 1,517 women and 306 men.  The ministry, in cooperation with UNICEF, implements a cognitive program for the children aged 9 to 12 who did not have the opportunity to join regular education, noting that the program was launched in 2017 through 110 centers and attracted 3,538 students.  (JT 08.09)

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7.6  UAE Judo Contest Back on After it Lifts Ban on Israeli Flag

A judo competition set to be held in the United Arab Emirates was reinstated recently after the Gulf country agreed to allow the Israeli judo team to display its flag and for its competitors to sing the national anthem.  Set to take place between 25 – 27 October, the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam was suspended in July after the International Judo Federation (IJF) announced that both the UAE and Tunisia would be barred from hosting international tournaments if they could not guarantee equal treatment for Israeli competitors.  During last year’s competition in Abu Dhabi, Israeli athletes were not allowed to display Israeli symbols, and competed under the IJF flag.  Gulf countries have long refused to recognize Israel, but in recent years there have been signs of quiet rapprochement, particularly since President Trump took office.  (Various 06.09)

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7.7  English Language to be Taught in Egyptian Kindergartens for the First Time

Minister of Education Tarek Shawky recently stated that the English language will be taught in kindergarten for the first time in Egypt.  The English language will be taught as a separate subject from other subjects like science and mathematics, as kindergarten in all of Egypt’s public schools use Arabic as the primary language in teaching.  Shawky said that the aim of the new education system is to ensure that the students master the Arabic language well and to acquire the basics of the English language before studying science and mathematics in English in the first year of elementary school.  A third language will also be introduced beginning from the first year of elementary education.

The new curriculums are based on four standards: teaching the child who they are, learning about the world around them and how the world works along with developing methods of communication and respect for others.  The Ministry of Education has already completed developing the new curriculum for kindergarten and the updated books, which are completely owned by the ministry, are ready to be distributed.

Since the new education system also incorporates technology, the Ministry of Education cooperated with the Ministry of Communications to deliver internet access to 2180 schools out of a target of 2382 schools.  The Ministry of Education is also preparing to receive over one million tablets from Samsung for the new academic year to replace the old system with new digital devices.  (Various 11.09)

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7.8  Morocco Introduces Law to Combat Violence Against Women

A law to combat violence against women in Morocco entered into force 12 September, following years of heated debate and after thousands called for action in a recent gang-rape case.  For the first time women in Morocco have legal protection from “acts considered forms of harassment, aggression, sexual exploitation or ill treatment”.  The new law also paves the way for victims of violence to be offered support.  The law drafted five years ago, was adopted by parliament this February, following lengthy debate.  But the law has been deemed inadequate by some, with the former women’s minister Nouzha Skalli arguing it fails to take into account “international definitions” of violence against women.  She has highlighted the example of marital rape, which is not criminalized under the new legislation.

Activists criticized the new law as it fails to protect women from forced marriages, according to the advocacy group Girls Not Brides, 16% of girls are married before the age of 18 in Morocco, where they are allowed to wed with judicial consent.  Morocco only overhauled a law that let rapists escape punishment if they married their victims in 2017.  The change followed the suicide of a 16-year-old girl who was forced to marry her rapist.

In Morocco, media and rights groups regularly raise the alarm about endemic violence against women.  More than 40% of women said they had been “victims of an act of violence at least once”, abuse came in form of physical, psychological, sexual or economic, in a survey carried out by Morocco’s High Commission for Planning which surveyed those living in towns and aged between 18 and 64.  (AFP 13.09)

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8.1  Leviticus Cardio Successfully Completes Third Chronic Animal Study

Leviticus Cardio, inventors of the versatile transcutaneous Coplanar Energy Transfer (CET) system for use with implanted left ventricular assist devices (LVADs), announces the successful completion of a 90-day preclinical chronic animal study to evaluate its CET technology in combination with a commercial heart pump.  The trial was conducted at a renowned animal facility operated by the Catholic University of Leuven, in Belgium.  This study marked the third successful trial of the Leviticus CET used in conjunction with a commercial heart pump.  This important achievement paves the way for first in human (FIH), expected in a matter of months.

The successful completion of this third long-term chronic trial utilizing the Jarvik 2000 LVAD pump coupled with the Leviticus wireless CET system, demonstrates the desired versatility that addresses an increasing patient population suffering from advanced heart failure.  Besides the stability of the system, the excellent outcomes on chronic animal tissue interactions are particularly notable.

Founded in 2008, Petah Tikva’s Leviticus Cardio is a medical device company dedicated to improving the clinical outcome for patients with an implanted left ventricular assist device (LVAD) for the treatment of impaired cardiac function.  The Company has received funding from The Trendlines Group, Israel’s foremost seed- and early-stage investment group, a consortium of acclaimed cardiovascular physicians, private investors and Israel’s Innovation Authority (previously, the Office of the Chief Scientist of the Ministry of Economy).  (Leviticus Cardio 06.09)

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8.2  Nucleix’ Positive Clinical Results for Lung EpiCheck in Lung Cancer Early Detection

Nucleix announced positive results from a clinical study designed to evaluate its innovative Lung EpiCheck, a blood test for early detection of lung cancer.  The results will be presented at the IASLC 19th World Conference on Lung Cancer in Toronto, Ontario.

In the study, blood was prospectively collected from 20 centers and 3 biobanks in Europe and Israel.  The samples were used for detection of lung cancer with the Lung EpiCheck blood test.  Lung EpiCheck was validated on this independent test set comprising 181 lung cancer cases and 141 current or former smoker controls. Results show specificity of 91% and a sensitivity of 74% with an Area Under the Curve (AUC) of 89%.  These results demonstrated similar performance to the preceding training set results from 102 lung cancer cases and 265 current or former smoker controls.

In particular, in the non-small-cell lung carcinoma group (n=162), the most prevalent type of lung cancer affecting about 85% of lung cancer patients, Lung EpiCheck was able to identify correctly approximately 70% of patients.  With a correct identification of 59% of stage I patients, 77% of stage II, 76% of stage III and 83% of stage IV patients.  In the small cell lung cancer group (n=13), Lung EpiCheck was able to identify correctly 92% of the patients, with a sensitivity of 100% in the limited stage, and 86% at the extensive stage.

Rehovot’s Nucleix develops, manufactures and markets innovative, non-invasive, molecular cancer diagnostic tests.  Its highly sensitive and specific tests are based on identification of subtle changes in methylation patterns.  Nucleix’s technology is based on a combination of a new biochemical assay in conjunction with sophisticated algorithms.  (Nucleix 06.09)

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8.3  Carevature Medical’s Dreal Decompression System is Safer for Patients

 According to a recent article in the International Journal of Spine Surgery, advanced decompression innovator Carevature’s Dreal device yields significantly better results in incidental dural tears, with 87% improvement compared to high-speed drills and Kerrison Rongeurs (0.4% vs. 2.91%; p<0.01); and 80% improvement compared to ultrasonic bone cutters (0.4% vs. 1.95%; p<0.01).  This data demonstrates the Dreal’s marked advantages in reducing natural risk of neural element injury.  The results are attributed to the device’s unique curved and shielded tip design, which requires only a very limited number of passes to remove the target pathology.

Rehovot’s Carevature Medical, a privately-held medical device company, is dedicated to developing advanced orthopedic surgery solutions.  Carevature is currently marketing its flagship line of products for spinal indications, Dreal: the first and only curved device powerful enough to efficiently cut bone, and small enough for use in all sections of the spine.  Over 800 patients worldwide have been treated with the Dreal, with outstanding safety and recovery results.  (Carevature 05.09)

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8.4  Cannabics Pharmaceuticals Granted Patent in Israel for Its Core Technology

Cannabics Pharmaceuticals has been granted its patent for its core technology by the Israeli Patent Office.  This patent encompasses the systems and methods required to produce data on the interaction between different cannabinoids and cancer cells.  This technology enables screening the effects of a multitude of compounds derived from the cannabis plant on cancer cell lines and biopsies.  This technology will facilitate the development of more accurate cannabinoid compounds designated for specific cancers and specific genetic profile of patients, at the same time serving as supportive data for cannabinoid-based treatments.

The company has recently upgraded its R&D lab to further develop the technology imbedded in this patent and to pave the way for a better understanding of the biological relations between cannabinoids and cancer, and has created a vast library of cannabinoid compounds which constitutes thousands of samples, all being tested as treatments on dozens of types of cancers in an automated fashion.

Cannabics Pharmaceuticals is a United States public company that has developed a platform which leverages novel drug-screening tools and artificial intelligence to develop cannabinoid-based therapies for cancer that are more precise to a patient’s genetic profile.  By developing tools to assess effectiveness on a personalized basis, Cannabics is helping to move medical cannabinoids into the future of cancer therapy.  The company’s R&D is based in Tel Aviv, where it is licensed by the Ministry of Health to conduct scientific and clinical research on cannabinoid formulations and Cancer.  (Cannabics Pharmaceuticals 05.09)

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8.5  Hebrew University Research Team Paves Way to Cure for Acute Leukemia

Acute myeloid leukemia is one of the most aggressive cancers.  While other cancers have benefitted from new treatments, there has been no encouraging news for most leukemia patients for the past 40 years.  Until now.  A research team at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (HU)’s Faculty of Medicine have developed a new biological drug with a cure rate of 50% for lab mice with acute leukemia.

To date, most of the biological cancer drugs used to treat leukemia target only individual leukemic cell proteins.  However, during “targeted therapy” treatments, leukemic cells quickly activate their other proteins to block the drug.  The result is drug-resistant leukemic cells which quickly regrow and renew the disease.  However, the new drug developed by the team functions like a cluster bomb.  It attacks several leukemic proteins at once, making it difficult for the leukemia cells to activate other proteins that can evade the therapy.  Further, this single molecule drug accomplishes the work of three or four separate drugs, reducing cancer patients need to be exposed to several therapies and to deal with their often unbearable side-effects.  Additionally promising, is the new drug’s ability to eradicate leukemia stem cells.  This has long been the big challenge in cancer therapy and one of the main reasons that scientists have been unable to cure acute leukemia.

BioTheryX recently bought the rights to this promising drug from HU’s technology transfer company Yissum.  Together with the research team, they are now applying for FDA approval for phase I clinical studies.  (MFA 24.08)

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8.6  Alpha Tau Medical Raises $29 Million for Cancer Therapy

 Alpha Tau Medical has secured $29 million in private financing.  The funding round was led by Shavit Capital, an Israeli private equity firm that specializes in funding late-stage investments, with participation from leading global equity crowdfunding platform OurCrowd, and Medison Ventures, the venture capital arm of Medison Pharma.  Additional private investors included Sir Ronald Cohen and Alan Patricof, the founders of Apax Partners.

The company is engaged in a number of clinical trials worldwide to determine whether the treatment would be effective for different cancers including pancreatic cancer, breast cancer, and prostate cancer.  The new round of funding will be invaluable to explore the full potential of the Alpha DaRT as a cancer treatment for clinical trials worldwide, as well as establish global production facilities for the radioactive DaRT seeds to meet local distribution demand.

Founded in 2016, Tel Aviv’s Alpha Tau Medical is focusing on R&D and commercialization of its breakthrough cancer treatment, Alpha DaRT.  Originally invented in 2003 at Tel Aviv University, the company collaborates with key cancer physicians and researchers worldwide to investigate the Alpha DaRT as a treatment for various indications.  (Alpha Tau Medical 05.09)

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8.7  XACT Robotics Receives CE Mark for Its Robotics Navigation System

XACT Robotics announced that it has received CE Mark approval for its robotics navigation and steering system for image-guided percutaneous procedures, such as ablations and biopsies.  The Company also announced that it has raised $5 million in round C investment.  The funds will mainly be used for the launch and operation of seven Centers of Excellence in the US, Europe and Israel, where the Company expects that hundreds of clinical procedures will be conducted within the next 12 months with the XACT robotic navigation and steering system.  The first Center of Excellence has already been launched earlier this year at the Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem, Israel, where the first cases were successfully completed as part of a clinical trial in a study using XACT’s novel system to target lesions.

The XACT robotics system is currently approved and being used for CT-guided percutaneous procedures in the abdomen.  Later this year, the system’s application is expected to be expanded for use in additional clinical centers and with other imaging modalities, such as Cone-Beam CT and Fluoroscopy, and for additional indications, including spinal and lung procedures.

Founded in 2013, Caesarea’s XACT Robotics is a pioneer in robotic navigation and steering solutions for percutaneous image-guided procedures.  The XACT image guided robotic navigation and steering system accurately and systematically accesses any target anywhere in the body, in any clinical setting, and with all imaging modalities.  (XACT Robotics 13.09)

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8.8  Sheba Medical Bolsters Patient Safety Practices with MedAware’s Medication Safety Platform

MedAware announced the results of the implementation of its flagship medication safety platform at Sheba Medical Center.  In stark contrast to traditional rules-based approaches, MedAware leverages big data analytics and machine learning algorithms to flag potential dangerous medication outliers to the learned profiles of the patient, physician, or institution, with high accuracy and low alert fatigue.

On average, MedAware flags one warning, per department, per day, for a total of approximately 50 unique interventions at the hospital daily.  Due to the low alert burden and high accuracy of these clinical interventions, Sheba’s providers always pay attention to MedAware’s warnings, and as a result, typically choose to revise their prescriptions when they are notified of such risks.  This has resulted in unprecedentedly high physician acceptance rates, safer patient care, and improved clinical outcomes.

MedAware’s systematic and data-driven approach protects physicians and their patients both at the point of order entry and throughout the duration of treatment.  In Sheba’s initial results with MedAware, 39% of potentially dangerous medications were flagged by the software during the medication ordering process, while 61% were generated later, following a change in the patient’s clinical status that rendered one of the active medications as unsafe. In the majority of these cases, physicians adjusted the prescription as a result of MedAware’s warning.

Ra’anana’s MedAware is transforming patient safety through AI-empowered clinical decision support solutions.  By continuously mining data gathered from electronic health records and prescription drug claims, MedAware’s flagship solution accurately detects potentially dangerous medications that are in conflict with the profiles of the patient, physician or institution.  The company’s unique, real-time approach warns providers against point of order entry errors and evolving adverse drug events, identifies patient specific risk factors, such as opioid dependency and highlights gaps in care.  MedAware’s system improves patient safety and significantly reduces avoidable risks and costs each day.  (MedAware 12.09)

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8.9  Teva Announces U.S. Approval of AJOVYTM Injection for Anti-CGRP Treatment

Teva Pharmaceutical Industries announced that the U.S. FDA has approved AJOVYTM (fremanezumab-vfrm) injection for the preventive treatment of migraine in adults.  AJOVY, a humanized monoclonal antibody that binds to calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) ligand and blocks its binding to the receptor, is the first and only anti-CGRP treatment for the prevention of migraine with quarterly (675 mg) and monthly (225 mg) dosing options.  AJOVY was evaluated in two Phase III, placebo-controlled clinical trials that enrolled patients with disabling migraine and was studied as both a stand-alone preventive treatment and in combination with oral preventive treatments.  In these trials, patients experienced a reduction in monthly migraine days during a 12-week period.  The most common adverse reactions were injection site reactions.

AJOVY is indicated for the preventive treatment of migraine in adults. AJOVY is available as a 225 mg/1.5mL single dose injection in a prefilled syringe with two dosing options – 225 mg monthly administered as one subcutaneous injection, or 675 mg every three months (quarterly), administered as three subcutaneous injections. AJOVY can be administered in office by a healthcare professional or at home by a patient or caregiver. No starting dose is required to begin treatment.

Headquartered in Israel, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries is a global leader in generic medicines, with innovative treatments in select areas, including CNS, pain and respiratory.  Teva delivers high-quality generic products and medicines in nearly every therapeutic area to address unmet patient needs.  Teva has an established presence in generics, specialty, OTC and API, building on more than a century-old legacy, with a fully integrated R&D function, strong operational base and global infrastructure and scale.  (Teva 15.09)

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8.10  Cannabics Receives Positive Results in Cannabinoid-anticancer Drug Development

Cannabics Pharmaceuticals has received encouraging results in its preclinical study showing one of its proprietary cannabinoid compounds causing higher rate of cancer cell death compared to traditional chemotherapy.  Cannabics is rapidly expanding its database of cancer and cannabinoids and established a library of cannabinoid compounds to explore the biological versatility and entourage effect.  Recently the company has been granted a patent in Israel on its core technology of screening the effectiveness of cannabis compounds on human biopsies.  The research and development center, in Israel, has leveraged its capabilities and accomplished the implementation of the patented technology.  Cannabics is focusing on natural cannabinoids and its R&D open its doors for collaboration in the discovery of new anticancer compounds.

Cannabics Pharmaceuticals is a U.S public company that has developed a platform which leverages novel drug-screening tools and artificial intelligence to develop cannabinoid-based therapies for cancer that are more precise to a patient’s genetic profile.  By developing tools to assess effectiveness on a personalized basis, Cannabics is helping to move cannabinoids into the future of cancer therapy.  The company’s R&D is based in Israel, where it is licensed by the Ministry of Health to conduct scientific and clinical research on cannabinoid formulations and Cancer.  (Cannabics Pharmaceuticals 14.09)

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8.11  Anlit’s Technology Ensures Long-life Probiotics in a Flavorful Chewy Supplement

Anlit launched ProBites LLP, a long-life probiotic chew supplement line in a variety of flavors.  Anlit will present the new supplement alongside other functional gummies and chews at the Convention on Pharmaceutical Ingredients (CPhI) in October in Madrid.

The inherent sensitivity of probiotics raises two key challenges of maintaining stability and extending shelf life in the development of an effective supplement.  Until recently, solutions have been limited.  Anlit developed an innovative technology it calls ‘ProBites LLP, Long-Life Probiotic’ – that allows for the high stability of live bacteria in ambient conditions, to be incorporated into a flavorful format for the whole family and is easy to enjoy whether at home or on-the-go.  Anlit’s R&D team characterized all the factors that could negatively impact the stability of live bacteria in a food matrix, including moisture, and others.  The team isolated each potential barrier and crafted a specific solution to overcome them.  The result addresses these issues with the comprehensive solution of the new ProBites LLP, while maintaining great flavor and optimum functionality of the probiotic.  The new technology is an excellent carrier of a variety of probiotic strains.

Granot’s Anlit, a subsidiary of Maabarot Products, Israel – a public company traded on the TASE — is an innovative developer and manufacturer of a broad range of dietary supplements for children and adults.  Anlit products are gluten-free and nut-free. All products are GMP, FSSC, ISO 9001:2000 and HACCP compliant, as well as kosher and halal certified.  (Anlit 17.09)

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9.1  Fleetonomy Launches AI-Based Next Generation Fleet Management Platform

Fleetonomy has secured $3 million led by Vertex Ventures, followed by Kardan Ventures and VectoIQ in seed funding to expand their technology development.  Fleetonomy’s platform is already deployed with top-tier automakers, car rental companies and other fleet operators, helping them reduce operational costs, optimize fleet operations, and create new revenue streams through its automated, end-to-end fleet management solution.

Fleetonomy’s Fleet Management platform blends machine learning, advanced algorithms and AI to analyze key data and provide implementable insights that assist fleet operators with making strategic decisions to maximize inventory management, maintenance, and customer preferences.  Fleetonomy is currently deployed in the US, UK and Germany, and is planning to expand to additional markets in the coming year.

Tel Aviv’s Fleetonomy provides a cloud-based, end-to-end fleet management solution for automakers, car rental companies, and smart mobility operators designed to maximize fleet operation efficiency, reduce operational costs, and create new revenue streams based on new smart mobility services. Combining AI, machine learning, and big data algorithms, Fleetonomy’s platform provides actionable insights that help fleet owners make better day-to-day decisions regarding inventory management, meeting customer preferences, maintenance and more. The Fleetonomy platform serves as the bridge to manage a variety of fleets including both autonomous and non-autonomous vehicles.  (Fleetonomy 05.09)

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9.2  SecBI Partners With Intelligent Wave to Bring Autonomous Investigation Technology to Japan

SecBI announced a partnership with Tokyo-based reseller Intelligent Wave Inc. (IWI) to offer SecBI’s Autonomous Investigation technology to organizations and enterprises throughout Japan.  The collaboration answers the need for enterprises to uncover malicious communications within minutes, even for the most sophisticated and stealthy attacks.  SecBI’s Autonomous Investigation technology is based on unsupervised machine learning that analyzes network traffic to automate the detection and investigation of complex and stealthy cybersecurity threats without the need to deploy additional sensors.  Its ability to instantly discover and map out the full scope of an attack accelerates and optimizes response and mitigation.  Security analysts are presented with complete attack narratives including actionable information, giving them visibility of all users, devices and infection points involved in an attack, with a clear path for remediation.

Tel Aviv’s SecBI has developed a revolutionary approach to network traffic analysis (NTA) to deliver automated threat detection and investigation for security operations centers (SOCs) and managed security service providers (MSSPs).  Their value is best understood in contrast to solutions that generate sporadic alerts and anomalies requiring manual correlation and investigation.  Their Autonomous Investigation technology incorporates machine learning to uncover the full scope on every suspicious incident, including all affected entities within minutes.  Without the need to deploy special appliances or agents, the solution can be deployed on premise or in the cloud, and is currently used by financial institutions, telecoms, retailers, and manufacturing enterprises worldwide.  (SecBI 05.09)

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9.3  PureSec Debuts Free Serverless Protection Library to Help Harden Serverless Security

PureSec has released a free serverless security protection library for AWS Lambda functions that enables developers to harden the behavior of serverless runtimes and immunize functions against unwanted and potentially malicious behavior.  The security library, dubbed “FunctionShield”, is easily installed as a code dependency and provides developers with the ability to define simple yet extremely powerful protections in code.

There have been numerous cases in recent years where malicious actors created bogus packages that look authentic, or infected existing open source packages with code that leaks sensitive data such as credentials or environment variables.  “FunctionShield” equips developers with the ability to easily define strict security controls on serverless functions by addressing 3 common use-cases.

As the global leader in serverless architectures security, Tel Aviv’s PureSec enables its customers to build and maintain secure and reliable serverless applications.  The company’s end-to-end serverless security solution is the industry’s first and most comprehensive Serverless Security Runtime Environment (SSRE).  (PureSec 05.09)

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9.4  Altair & Ethertronics Announce High-Performance Small Antenna Technology

Altair Semiconductor and San Diego’s Ethertronics (a subsidiary of AVX), a leader in high performance antenna system solutions, announced a new small antenna technology, which will be demonstrated within a new cellular IoT wearable concept at Mobile World Congress Americas.  The technology is a significant breakthrough that combines Ethertronics’ ultra-small antenna with Altair’s ALT1250 dual-mode Cat-M1/NB-IoT chipset algorithms to reduce the size of cellular wearable devices without sacrificing performance.

The ALT1250 is the market’s most highly integrated dual-mode Cat-M1/NB-IoT chipset, with lowest power consumption and enabling longest battery life. It includes GNSS location positioning, a RF front-end supporting all commercial LTE bands within a single hardware design, a hardware-based security framework and an internal application subsystem.

Hod HaSharon’s Altair Semiconductor, a subsidiary of Sony Semiconductor Solutions Corporation, is a leading provider of LTE chipsets.  Altair’s portfolio covers the complete spectrum of cellular 4G market needs, from supercharged video-centric applications all the way to ultra-low power, low cost IoT and M2M. Altair has shipped millions of LTE chipsets to date, commercially deployed on the world’s most advanced LTE networks including Verizon Wireless, AT&T, Softbank and KT (Korea Telecom).  (Altair Semiconductor 05.09)

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9.5  Nova’s Materials Metrology Solution Selected for 5nm Technology Node

Nova announced that a major foundry recently placed an order for its VeraFlex advanced X-Ray metrology solution for 5nm technology node.  Nova’s solution utilizes X-ray Photoelectron Spectroscopy (XPS) to simultaneously measure composition and thickness of complex film stacks through the fabrication process.  The integration of these film stacks is significantly more complicated than previous nodes both in terms of the materials used and their multi-layer composition, requiring sophisticated process control to minimize device variation.  The VeraFlex product portfolio provides the requisite sensitivity and precision needed for these challenging measurements.  As a result of this selection, Nova expects more than $12 million in aggregate business from this customer across 2018 and 2019.

Rehovot’s Nova is a leading innovator and key provider of metrology solutions for advanced process control used in semiconductor manufacturing. Nova delivers continuous innovation by providing state-of-the-art high-performance metrology solutions for effective process control throughout the semiconductor fabrication lifecycle.  Nova’s product portfolio, which combines high-precision hardware and cutting-edge software, provides its customers with deep insight into the development and production of the most advanced semiconductor devices.  (Nova 05.09)

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9.6  D-ID Officially Launches Product for Protection Against Face Recognition

Tel Aviv’s D-ID has officially announced its initial product launch onstage at TechCrunch Disrupt San Francisco 2018.  The company has developed a solution that protects photos and videos of organizations from face recognition, while keeping them similar to the human eye.  D-ID’s technology is being sold as both a SaaS and On-Premise solution.  The company serves organizations that store photos and videos of employees, customers or citizens.  Almost all organizations store this data. The initial verticals for D-ID include cloud storage providers, social networks, financial institutions, health management organizations and governments that want to protect their biometric databases.

Data privacy regulations like the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which became enforceable in May 2018 address face images as personal sensitive information and require companies to protects this data or risk heavy fines and lawsuits.  D-ID enables companies to comply with regulations, prevent crippling fines, strengthen their consumers’ trust and most important, to guarantee privacy and data protection.  The company’s approach to digitally manipulating images renders images unreadable by the machine learning tools that are used to identify an individual, but are imperceptible to the human eye.  (D-ID 11.09)

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9.7  NanoLock Security Selected to Prestigious Thales CYBER@Station F Program

NanoLock Security announced its selection into the prestigious CYBER@Station F program by Thales.  Through a rigorous selection process, Thales chose NanoLock based on the company’s ironclad, CPU-agnostic, lightweight edge and IoT device protection, embedded to cloud security and management, strong intellectual property and extensive partner relationships in the U.S. and Japan.  Thales is a global leader in digital security and with its integration with Gemalto is driving enterprise security, including encryption, cloud security services as well as securing and connecting IoT devices.

NanoLock’s CPU and OS agnostic approach ensures all connected and IoT devices are protected as well as the cloud managing those devices, regardless of available processor power, energy consumption and even if the CPU is inevitably hacked.  The NanoLock platform guarantees device-to-cloud integrity and mutual protection during regular operations and firmware-over-the-air (FOTA) updates, from the production line and through and after the device’s end of life.

Nitzanei Oz’s NanoLock Security was founded in 2016 by seasoned industry executives and formed around the founders’ and senior management’s deep understanding of how to manage and secure the new generation of connected and IoT devices.  The company provides the industry’s only lightweight, unbreakable, low-cost security and management solution for connected and IoT devices.  Using virtually zero computing or power resources, NanoLock Security protects firmware and sensitive information stored on connected and IoT devices, preventing attacks ranging from ransomware to malicious manipulation of stored code.  (NanoLock 13.09)

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9.8  Cyber Security Startup Pcysys Unveils PenTera 2.0, Delivering the Power of 1,000 Ethical Hackers

Pcysys has unveiled its flagship platform, PenTera 2.0, to address the increasing need for a threat-oriented, cybersecurity validation solution.  Focused on the “inside” threat, PenTera changes the rules of the game by addressing the many pitfalls of manual pen-testing – namely, that it is labor and time-intensive, inconsistent, and represents a point-in-time snapshot.  The platform enables businesses to continuously validate their security defenses against the latest Advanced Persistent Threats (APT) and consistently enforce security policies across the organization.

PenTera’s features include Business disruption alerts: When a sequence of vulnerabilities and human errors could lead to a business application exploitation, the company is alerted with prioritized remedies to defend against this “game over” scenario.

Petah Tikva’s Pcysys delivers an automated Penetration-Testing platform that assesses and reduces corporate cybersecurity risks.  By applying the hacker’s perspective, our software identifies, analyzes and remediates cyber defense vulnerabilities.  Security officers and service providers around the world use Pcysys to perform continuous machine-based penetration tests and improve their immunity against cyber attacks across their organizational networks.  (Pcysys 13.09)

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9.9  eyeSight’s Computer Vision Capabilities Are Now Available in NTT DOCOMO’s dtab Compact

eyeSight Technologies announced that it has collaborated with NTT DOCOMO, INC., Japan’s leading mobile operator with over 76 million subscriptions in Japan.  The collaboration brings eyeSight’s market-leading sensing capabilities to NTT DOCOMO’s dtab™ Compact d-02K tablet, augmenting the existing interface with natural touch-free interaction capabilities.  eyeSight’s technology allows dtab Compact users to enjoy a new level of natural communication with their device in a way that is responsive to their actions.  With simple hand movements, users can control different app functions with greater comfort and simplicity.  eyeSight’s sensing technology utilizes the existing built-in camera of the dtab Compact d-02K tablet to enrich the user experience.  NTT DOCOMO’s dtab Compact d-02K tablet features eyeSight’s technology in various supported apps and is currently commercially available throughout Japan.

Herzliya’s eyeSight is the leading provider of embedded Computer Vision and AI solutions, bringing user awareness and gesture recognition technologies to a variety of devices and industries. The company’s technology improves daily life experiences in the home, the car, and with other consumer electronics using intelligent interactions that are responsive to the presence of users and their actions. With eyeSight’s technology devices now “see” and “understand” their users, unlocking a world of enhanced user experiences.  (eyeSight 13.09)

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9.10  WhiteSource Now Available on Amazon AWS Marketplace

WhiteSource announced it has expanded its collaboration with Amazon Web Services (AWS) and is now available on AWS Marketplace.  This allows AWS customers to easily discover and subscribe to WhiteSource through AWS marketplace which features a select group of companies that are members of the AWS Partner Network (APN).  This partnership joins a string of collaborations between WhiteSource and Amazon, including recent integrations with Amazon’s new build service, AWS CodeBuild and Amazon Elastic Container Registry (ECR), Amazon’s Docker container registry.

WhiteSource helps businesses to better secure and manage the open source components in their software. It automates the entire process of open source components selection, approval and tracking, including detection and remediation of vulnerable open source components in real-time.

Bnei Brak’s WhiteSource is the leader in continuous open source security and license compliance management. Its vision is to empower businesses to develop better software by harnessing the power of open source.  Industry leaders like Microsoft, IBM, and hundreds more trust WhiteSource to secure and manage the open source components in their software.  (WhiteSource 13.09)

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9.11  Karamba Security Selected as an Auto-ISAC Strategic Partner

Karamba Security has been selected by the Automotive-Information Sharing and Analysis Center (Auto-ISAC) to join the organization’s Strategic Partnership Program.  As a strategic partner, Karamba Security will provide the Auto-ISAC and its members research analysis on attack activity and forensics data of such attacks against electronic control units (ECUs) to keep autonomous and connected vehicles secure.  Karamba will regularly share findings from threat analysis tools in an aggregated and anonymized way with the Auto-ISAC.  These shareable insights will help vehicle OEMs and Tier-1 suppliers secure ECUs from hackers.  Automotive cyberattacks occur when hackers compromise externally connected ECUs and send commands to safety ECUs, compromising driver, passenger and cargo safety.  Keeping the community updated on vulnerabilities in vehicle connected ECUs (telematics control units (TCUs), gateway, infotainment, ADAS, CAN bus external connectivity, etc.) provides actionable mitigation steps to reduce risk.

Hod HaSharon’s Karamba Security provides industry-leading automotive cybersecurity solutions for autonomous and connected cars.  Its Autonomous Security software products, including Carwall and SafeCAN, provide end-to-end in-vehicle cybersecurity for the endpoints and the internal messaging bus.  Karamba Security’s award-winning solutions prevent cyberattacks with zero false positives and secure communications, including OTA updates, with negligible performance impact.  Karamba is engaged with 17 OEM and tier-1 customers and received numerous industry awards.  (Karamba Security 17.09)

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9.12  Habana Labs Announces World’s Highest Performance AI Inference Processor

Habana Labs announced it is officially out of stealth mode and is sampling its first AI processor to select customers.  A PCIe card based on its Goya HL-1000 processor delivers 15,000 images/second throughput on the ResNet-50 inference benchmark, with 1.3 milliseconds latency, while consuming only 100 watts of power.  Habana Labs’ AI processors offer one to three orders of magnitude better performance than solutions commonly deployed in data centers today.  Designed to process various AI inferencing workloads such as image recognition, neural machine translation, sentiment analysis, recommender systems and many other applications, Habana Labs’ Goya platform has been designed from the ground up for deep learning inference.  It incorporates a fully programmable Tensor Processing Core (TPC) along with development tools, libraries and a compiler, which collectively deliver a comprehensive, high performance and power efficient platform.

Habana Labs’ SynapseAI software stack analyzes the trained model input and optimizes it for inferencing efficiently on the Goya processor.  The software includes a rich kernel library and its toolchain is open for adding proprietary kernels by customers, as it interfaces seamlessly with popular deep learning neural-network frameworks such as TensorFlow and ONNX.

A fabless semiconductor company located in Tel Aviv, Habana Labs was founded in 2016 to unlock the true potential of AI by providing an order of magnitude improvements in processing performance, cost and power consumption.  The company set out to develop AI processors from the ground up, optimized for the specific needs of training deep neural networks and for inference deployment in production environments.  (Habana Labs 17.09)

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10.1  Israel’s Inflation Rate Rises by Only 0.1% in August

The Central Bureau of Statistics announced that Israel’s Consumer Price Index (CPI) for August rose by only 0.1%, below the 0.2-0.3% predicted by economists.  This means prices have risen by 1.2% over the past 12 months.  Prices of entertainment and culture rose 2.1% in August, home rentals rose 0.2% and housing costs rose 0.4%.  Prices of fresh fruit and vegetables fell 2.5% in August, clothing and footwear fell 1.7% and communications fell 1.2%.

However, the Home Price Index rose 0.3% in July after rising 0.9% in May-June.  This will be a disappointment to the Ministry of Finance, which has pledged to halt the rise in home prices over the past decade, which has made it difficult for young people to afford their own home. However, the Ministry of Finance will be able to take comfort from the fact that home prices have fallen 0.5% over the past 12 months.  Housing prices in July rose 0.5% in Tel Aviv, 0.4% in Jerusalem, 2.0% in the north, 0.1% in central Israel but fell 0.1% in the south and 0.6% in Haifa.  (CBS 14.09)

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10.2  Israeli Exports Expected to Reach $54.5 Billion by Year’s End

Israeli exports are expected to reach $54.5 billion in 2018, representing a 2.3% growth from last year, a report by the Economy and Industry Ministry said.  The report noted that Europe was Israel’s largest export market with a 37% share. North America is the country’s second-largest export market, making up 28% of all exports, with the Asian market third, with 26%.  Smaller export markets include Africa, Latin America and other nations.  According to the report, exports to Asia have grown by 18% since 2017.

Exports to China, in particular, have soared, reaching $2.8 billion in the first half of 2018 – up 73% from the same period last year.  Exports to India between January and June have grown by 7.1% compared to 2017, reaching $1.15 billion.  Japan also proved to be a growing market for Israeli products this year, with exports so far reaching $640 million – a 58.7% rise from the same period last year.  China, India and Japan have all be defined by the government as priority export markets.

Exports to Latin America grew by 13.8% in the first six months of 2018, with Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay – countries with which Israel signed free trade zone agreements in recent years – leading the trend.  The government has set a goal of crossing the $120 billion-mark in exports by 2020, after crossing the $100 billion mark in 2017.  (MoEI 17.09)

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10.3  Foreign Exchange Reserves at the Bank of Israel at $116 Billion

Israel’s foreign exchange reserves at the end of August 2018 stood at $116 billion, an increase of $223 million from their level at the end of the previous month.  The reserves represent 31.6% of GDP.  The increase was the result of foreign exchange purchases by the Bank of Israel totaling $173 million, all of which were part of the purchase program intended to offset the effects of natural gas production on the exchange rate.  Also contributing was a revaluation that increased the reserves by approximately $262 million and private sector transfers of approximately $61 million.  In contrast, the increase was offset by government transfers to abroad totaling about $273 million.  (BoI 06.09)

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10.4  Record Year for Tourism in Israel

Over 4 million tourists arrived in Israel over the last 12 months, of whom 3.9 million stayed at least one night.  The figure represents a 20% increase over the previous year.  The Hebrew month of Iyar set a new record with 429,300 tourists.  Revenues from tourism increased to about $5.7 billion.  Surprisingly, tourism from Poland rose by 115% over the previous year.  The steady increase in the number of tourists arriving in Israel continues with 22 consecutive months of unprecedented numbers of tourists visiting Israel – an all-time high.  The tourism industry continues to establish itself as a major growth engine for Israel’s economy.  (MoT 07.09)

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10.5  Israel’s Fiscal Deficit Reaches 2.5% of GDP

According to the Ministry of Finance, Israel’s fiscal deficit over the past twelve months has risen to 2.5% of GDP.   Last month, the cumulative deficit amounted to 1.7% of GDP, but the Ministry of Finance warned that it expected the deficit to grow.  The Ministry of Finance said that the trend of growth in the deficit figure would continue in the coming months because of exceptionally high tax revenues in September-October last year.  The deficit target in the state budget is 2.9%, but the deficit is forecast to reach 3.2% or more by November, and to be at the target level or higher at the end of the year.

This deficit report reflects a trend seen since the beginning of this year: a halt in growth in state revenues and rapidly rising expenditure.  By August, spending by government ministries had grown by 7.1%, which compares with planned growth of just 4%.  Spending by civilian ministries grew by 7.5% (compared with a planned 5.3%), while defense and security spending grew by 5.6%, instead of shrinking by 0.5% as planned.  The main reason for the growth in spending is that government ministries are working according to a two-year budget, and budget performance is more than 100%.

Tax collection has grown by only 1.7% so far this year, although if one-time revenue items are excluded from the figures for August 2017, revenue growth is higher, and close to the average of the past few years.  (MoF 06.09)

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10.6  Bank of Israel Report on Prices of Common Banking Services for Households

The Supervisor of Banks at the Bank of Israel submitted the Semiannual Report on Prices of Common Banking Services for Households to the Knesset’s Economic Affairs Committee.  The report is based on banks’ and credit card companies’ reports of actual income from fees charged during the full year of 2017.

The average monthly cost for managing a current account and maintaining a credit card for an individual customer account, in the full year of 2017, was approximately NIS 24.6, a slight decline of approximately 1% compared with NIS 24.8 in 2016.

During the past seven years (2011–2017) there was a decline of approximately 16% in the average total monthly cost for a household and private banking account.  This cost is made up of the cost of a current account, which declined by about 35%, and the cost of credit cards, which increased by about 27%, an increase that derives mainly from the trend of growth in the number of cards held by customers in a single account.

In 2017, several guidelines went into effect, resulting in an additional reduction in fees in respect of banking services.  Within this framework, beginning from 1 November 2017, the fees for all services provided by direct channels were reduced vis-à-vis the fees charged for teller-executed transactions.  The Banking Supervision Department’s goal with this requirement is to ensure that banking corporations’ savings from increased efficiency are rolled over to consumers and to encourage the public to switch to using advanced digital tools.  (BoI 12.0)

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10.7  Israeli Housing Starts Increase for First Time in 18 months

There were 11,228 building starts for apartments in Israel in the second quarter of 2018, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics.  This represents a rise of 12.9% from the 9,945 homes started in the first quarter of 2018 and the first time in 18 months that housing starts have risen in consecutive quarters.  However, the number of housing starts in the second quarter of 2018 was 12.2% below the number of housing starts in the corresponding quarter of 2017.  (CBS 17.09)

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11.1  ISRAEL:  Israeli Gas Is Almost Ashore, But Challenges Remain

Simon Henderson posted in The Washington Institute for Near East Policy on 7 September that environmental concerns, uncertainty over export routes and future security risks overshadow the latest progress in bringing the Leviathan field online.

Watched over by a small group of environmental protestors camped on the beach at Dor, engineers are putting the final touches on a pipeline for Israel’s Leviathan offshore natural gas reservoir.  Located between Tel Aviv and Haifa, the line will connect to a network that already transports gas from the smaller Tamar field to power stations and industrial plants across Israel.  Thirty miles to the east, other engineers are working on a line that will cross into Jordan, with Leviathan gas predicted to generate most of the kingdom’s electricity from 2020.

Various other alternatives for Israeli gas have been discussed, including a possible undersea line to Cyprus, Greece and Italy, but the imminent Leviathan routes are the most promising options for the foreseeable future.  Smaller fields in Israel’s offshore exclusive economic zone may be developed as well, but they are far below Leviathan’s scale, while exploration to the north is limited by the lack of a recognized maritime border with Lebanon.  Now that full exploitation of Leviathan finally seems like a reality, what export options does it present, and what obstacles may yet arise to thwart them?

Leviathan’s Current Status

Although Israel’s gas reserves are small in global terms, the numbers associated with Leviathan could be a game changer in the Levant.  Noble Energy, the U.S. company that discovered the field in 2010, described it earlier this week as an “amazing reservoir.”  It is estimated to contain more than 22 trillion cubic feet of gas.  To put this figure in perspective, the Tamar field contains only 10 tcf yet still manages to provide around 60% of Israel’s electricity and will do so for many years.

Thus, when Leviathan comes online, it will enable Israel to become a gas exporter.  Pipelines from Leviathan, which lies nearly eighty miles offshore and 6,000 feet deep, have already been laid, awaiting connection to a production platform currently being completed in Texas.  The platform’s framework is due to be towed across the Atlantic soon, leaving at the end of November and arriving early next year.  Once in position around six miles offshore, it will be mounted with processing units to clean and dry the gas before it reaches shore.


Despite its prospects of providing energy security, the development of Israel’s gas reserves has been marked by lively political and public debate.  Originally, Leviathan was planned to come on-stream in 2017.  Initial concerns about Noble’s dominance in the gas sector were alleviated when the company sold off some of its interests in other fields and reduced its stake in the Tamar field.  Its Israeli partners, including Delek, have also raised political controversy, with opponents alleging that the consortium was negotiating too high a price for the gas.

Meanwhile, green campaigners – including the campers at Dor and another couple thousand protestors who reportedly gathered in central Tel Aviv on 1 September 1 – claim that placing a gas platform so close to shore is dangerous because condensate extracted in the cleaning process could spill into local waters.  Instead, they advocate a floating facility located directly above Leviathan.  Yet their arguments are seemingly outweighed by a combination of engineering and security considerations: some believe the condensate risk is exaggerated and will be minimized by safety measures; the planned platform is much more practical than a floating installation and needs to be close to shore before the seabed drops steeply; and a near-shore platform can be better defended from missiles and seaborne threats.  For example, Hamas rockets landed near Dor during the 2014 Gaza war and Hezbollah’s huge arsenal of missiles in Lebanon is even closer.

Another concern is that the platform will be visible from shore, particularly for some people living in the upscale coastal hill town of Zichron Yaakov.  But residents have lived there for decades with a similarly close view of the coal-fired Hadera power station and its four giant chimneys.  That station is expected to shut down in four years; a more representative view of Israel’s energy future is the gas-fired Hagit power station, which can also be seen from Zichron Yaakov but nestles unobtrusively in the hills to the east.

Reworking Old Pipelines

Since developing Leviathan only makes economic sense if Israel can export much of its gas, securing routes to Jordan and Egypt is vital.  Using existing pipelines avoids the expense of laying new ones or building a liquefied natural gas export plant on the coast, which would prompt environmental concerns of its own.  The portion of the line extending to Jordan will be new, but it will use the right of way already established by the old line from Kirkuk to Haifa, which exported Iraqi oil between 1935 and 1948 – the reason why a refinery, now Israel’s biggest, was built in Haifa.

Once in Jordan, the flow from Leviathan will connect with the old Arab Gas Pipeline, which carried supplies from Egypt to Jordan, Syria and Lebanon until 2013, when political chaos in Cairo disrupted exports.  The plan now seems to hinge on sending Leviathan gas to Egypt via this circuitous route, down to the Gulf of Aqaba and up through the Sinai Peninsula.  Reversing the pumps and rehabilitating the pipe is far cheaper than building a new one.

Another potential twist is the proposal to send Israeli gas from Tamar (and, later, Leviathan) to Egypt along the old East Mediterranean Gas Pipeline, which was used to send supplies from al-Arish to Ashkelon up until 2013.  On 30 August, Delek chief executive Asaf Bartfeld stated that “negotiations on the purchase of the EMG pipeline continue.”  On 5 September, Noble chairman David Stover stated that “work is going on solidifying the access into Egypt,” and that “updates and news” would be available on that effort “shortly.”

Future Challenges

The disruption of Egypt’s gas flows to Israel and Jordan after the Mubarak regime’s ouster is a reminder that emerging energy arrangements in the region are always subject to political risks.  Israel has since become one of Jordan’s most reliable suppliers, and according to Noble, Egypt’s recent offshore discoveries have not dented its seemingly inexhaustible domestic demand for gas.  Yet public opinion in both countries remains very negative toward Israel, and gas cooperation is a frequent target of this resentment.

Egypt’s current government seems quite willing to buy Israeli gas, but the presumed route for such supplies – northern Sinai – is still a security concern.  The Sinai portion of the pipeline was plagued by jihadist attacks five years ago, and while Cairo claims to have renewed counterterrorism efforts there, it needs to show long-term success.

Israel’s ongoing tensions with Hamas and Hezbollah could likewise erupt in a fresh round of hostilities at any time. Israeli missile defenses have been able to stave off major infrastructure damage in previous rounds, but they could be overwhelmed in future conflicts by more (or more-accurate) projectiles.

Nevertheless, the Leviathan project at last seems to be coming together.  From the U.S. perspective, an additional cause for celebration is that it combines American business and technology with Washington’s quiet diplomatic efforts to help regional partners work together.

Simon Henderson is the Baker Fellow and director of the Bernstein Program on Gulf and Energy Policy at The Washington Institute.  (TWI 07.09)

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11.2  LEBANON: Small Lebanese Craft Brewers Introduce Big New Tastes in Beer

Sam Brennan posted in Al-Monitor on 17 September that micro and craft breweries are paving the way for locally made Lebanese beer by working around the lack of traditional ingredients and doing what they can to avoid contributing to the Lebanon’s persistent environmental problems.  Lebanese brewmasters are introducing new takes on an old drink.

After being dormant for thousands of years, beer culture is returning to Lebanon. Lebanese brewers, pursuing their passion of carving out a space for the ancient drink in their homeland, have overcome the lack of traditional ingredients, including hops and malt, by incorporating locally grown fruits and spices.  They are also embracing an environmentally friendly ethos in combating a deficiency in such basic materials as glass bottles.

Lebanon’s new take on an old drink was on display at the Beirut International Beer Event, BIBE 2018, held in mid-September at an open-air hippodrome near the trendy Badaro neighborhood in the nation’s capital.  The young festival, in its second iteration this year, brought together beer lovers and beer makers from around the world.  It also showcased some of the best craft breweries and microbreweries Lebanon has to offer.

Saying that beer has a long history in Lebanon and the Middle East would be a gross understatement. Archaeologists recently discovered the remains of a 13,000-year-old brewery belonging to the nomadic Natufian people, who lived in the high mountains of Lebanon and the Anti-Lebanon.  The site is today in northern Israel.

Despite such auspicious origins, beer experienced a 10,000-year “slump” in Lebanon, with wine becoming the drink of choice for many locals.  In 2006, there were more than 30 wineries in the country and only one local brewery.  Over the last decade, however, Lebanese brewers have sought to revive the fortunes of the long-lost beverage.  “Beer was invented in the Middle East, [but] this knowledge was lost to time and history,” Kamal Fayad, the managing partner at 961 Beer, one of Lebanon’s largest craft breweries, said at his stall at BIBE. “[Brewers] have come back to do something new, again.”

Fayad’s 961 was the forerunner on Lebanon’s craft brewery scene.  Launched in 2006, it was little more than a labor of love, with enthusiasts creating beers in a garage to sell at their neighborhood bars.  That passion turned into a trend, and by 2011, 961 was exporting beer from its brewery in the seaside city of Jdeideh to places around the world. It also now contributes to 15% of Lebanon’s beer consumption.

Paul Choueiry, a craft beer designer with Barley N’ Hops, an Ireland-based importer selling its wares at BIBE in anticipation of opening a microbrewery in Lebanon, has also experimented with local ingredients.  Setting up shop in his birthplace, Zahle, in the Beqaa Valley, Choueiry had planned to homebrew a milk stout, but after scouring myriad stores, he could not find lactose, the ingredient that puts the “milk” in milk stout.  Refusing to admit defeat, Choueiry noticed that a lot of dark beers have an aroma of carob, the pea-shaped Mediterranean fruit often made into a sweet powder.  Lacking traditional ingredients, Choueiry used what he had, and a rich chocolaty carob stout was born.

The ingenuity displayed by Lebanon’s brewers uniquely reflects the problems with beer production in the country. “It is still very difficult to do beer in Lebanon, not because of a lack of knowledge, but because the raw material is not available,” Fayad said.  He noted that quality malt, one of the four key ingredients in beer, doesn’t exist in the country.  The lack of materials also extends to subsidiary items, like glass bottles.  With no glass factories in Lebanon producing beer bottles, microbreweries have to import them.  Not only does this increase costs, but it also creates a tremendous amount of waste, which irks the environmentally aware entrepreneurs.

Sam Brennan is a Beirut-based freelance journalist who writes on culture, technology and politics.  (Al-Monitor 17.09)

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11.3  EGYPT:  Egypt Announces Massive Budget to Develop Sinai

Menna A. Farouk posted on 6 September in Al-Monitor that the Egyptian government announced a plan to develop the Sinai Peninsula, with the aim to eliminate terrorism that is widespread in this volatile area.

The Egyptian government announced on 28 August a massive budget worth EGP 275 billion ($15.4 billion) to carry out developmental projects in the Sinai Peninsula until 2022, as part of efforts aimed at fighting an Islamist insurgency in that unstable part of the country and improving living standards for its residents.

In the government announcement, Minister of Planning Hala el-Saeed said that the Egyptian government is planning to establish fish farms spanning an area of 15,590 feddans (16,179 acres) in the Suez Canal area, construct a natural lake and an industrial zone in Port Said, and build about 10 roads at a total length of 1,339 kilometers (8332 miles) in the Sinai Peninsula.

The planned projects also include the building of a number of residential units, 15 hospitals and health units, and the establishment and upgrading of 53 schools, a university and an educational institute in Sinai, according to the planning minister.

Saeed said a total of 54 water supply projects would be carried out in the North Sinai governorate, adding that al-Arish and Sharm el-Sheikh airports, in addition to the industrial zone for glass and marble in central Sinai, would be developed and upgraded.  A total of 400,000 feddans of land would also be reclaimed in the North Sinai governorate, and electricity networks along the roads in the governorate’s towns would be installed, he added.  Economists and security experts widely praised the plan, saying it would enable the state to create an integrated urban community in that turbulent area — a matter that would greatly help eliminate terrorism.

Hassan el-Haywan, an economist and a professor of economics at Ain Shams University, said such an enormous plan has a very significant security dimension.  “Securing Sinai would only be achieved through comprehensive development.  If you want to end terrorism, you create job opportunities and achieve development.  That is the only way out,” he told Al-Monitor.

Haywan also said the government is planning to attract people to the province by establishing proper infrastructure and offering necessary services.  The move aims to increase the population of the Sinai Peninsula to stand at 3 million residents by 2022 and 8 million residents by 2052, instead of the existing half a million.  “Having more people in the Sinai Peninsula would for sure help move ahead with the development process,” he added.

Ahmed el-Shami, an economist and a professor of feasibility studies at Cairo University, also lauded the plan, saying it would not only help put an end to terrorism in the Sinai Peninsula but would also result in huge revenues for the government because that region is full of natural resources.  “Sinai is rich with natural resources and raw materials, which make it a very attractive destination for investors and for carrying out projects in various economic sectors, including tourism, agriculture and industry,” Shami told Al-Monitor.  He referred to the great potentials of the marble and cement industries as well as quarries and the agriculture sector in Sinai.

Shami said most of the allocated budget would be directed to infrastructure, which is the basis for the launch of any developmental projects.  He added that the geographical location of Sinai links it with the Suez Canal developmental projects.  “That is why moving ahead with developmental projects in the Suez Canal would positively affect development in Sinai, as it will create job opportunities for its people as well as encourage more people to live there,” he added.  However, Shami added that the budget allocated to development in Sinai is still not enough, highlighting that the state has to allocate about EGP 600 billion ($33.7 billion) to achieve development there.

Amr Ammar — a security expert and geostrategic researcher — said that the developmental plan in Sinai cannot be accomplished in just four years, and he expects development to take years.  “When the security crises in Syria, Yemen and Libya ease, development in Sinai can move forward,” Ammar told Al-Monitor.  However, Ammar said that such a developmental plan comes as part of a wider state strategy to defend Egypt’s borders against extremists. “The state is creating a strong urban community that can act as a defensive wall against any regional threats targeting the Sinai Peninsula,” Ammar added.

Menna A. Farouk, a journalist and an editor at The Egyptian Gazette, writes about social, political and cultural issues, including press freedom, immigration and religious reforms among other topics.  (Al-Monitor 06.09)

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11.4  EGYPT:  Bumpy Road Ahead for Egypt’s First Female Coptic Governor

Menna A. Farouk posted Al-Monitor on 4 September 4 that women’s rights activists and Christian figures rejoiced as Egypt appointed its first Coptic Christian woman as governor, but not everyone in the city of Damietta was delighted with the appointment.

The appointment of Manal Awad, the first Christian woman to hold the position of governor in Egypt, reflects an unprecedented state willingness to empower Christians and appoint them in leading government posts.  Former member of Egyptian parliament Gamal Assad said the Egyptian leadership’s attitude toward Christians has dramatically changed under the reign of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

Assad added that there will have to be community support to any initiatives or decisions that are made in the interests of Christians in Egypt.  “The new Christian governor in Damietta is going to be under threat because there are still followers of the Muslim Brotherhood group out there, and they are of course opposing the appointment of any Christian in a leading post,” he told Al-Monitor.

Assad recalled demonstrations by thousands of Muslims in 2011 following the appointment of a Christian man as governor of the Upper Egyptian city of Qena.  “The demonstrations revealed how the Egyptian society was in total rejection of having a Christian in a leading post.  That is why genuine community backing is very crucial,” he added.

Awad, who has a Ph.D. in natural sciences from the University of Alexandria, is the second Egyptian woman to hold the post of governor in Egypt.  Nadia Abdu was Egypt’s first woman to assume office as governor when she was appointed to the Nile Delta governorate of Beheira.

Activists and Christian figures described Awad’s appointment as unprecedented and promising for both women and Christians in Egypt.  Randa Fakhr El Deen, executive director of the NGOs’ Union Against Harmful Practices on Women and Children, said that the appointment signals a change of attitude from the Egyptian government toward Christians.  Egyptian Christian women hold leading posts in Egypt nowadays, including current Minister of Migration Nabila Makram Ebeid.  “It is a dream coming true for many Christian women in Egypt and a very encouraging gesture that would inspire them to pursue their aspirations in holding leading posts in the country,” Deen told Al-Monitor.

Deen said that Awad would nevertheless face uphill challenges during her tenure in office due to a societal misperception that women and Christians should not lead a Muslim community.  “It is not just about the fact that she is a woman.  She is also Christian and that would put a lot of challenges before Governor Awad with the existence of extremists and religious people who think that Christians should not take over leadership posts,” she added.

Shortly after her appointment, Awad held a meeting with the heads of the governorate’s directorates to follow up on the work mechanisms at each of them.  During the meeting, she asserted the necessity to exert all-out efforts to serve, meet the needs of citizens, develop work at each directorate, and follow up with field visits on all the governorate’s conditions.

Awad was appointed deputy governor of Giza in 2015 and worked on community service and environmental development.  In that role, she was responsible for the development of informal settlements in the Giza governorate.  Awad was able to obtain a large number of grants and funding from international organizations to develop informal settlements and carry out several projects in the city.  She was also under-secretary for the Veterinary Serum and Vaccine Research Institute at the Ministry of Agriculture.

Egypt has the largest Christian community in the Middle East, representing about 10% of the Egyptian population — which currently stands at about 95 million.  The country’s Christians have long accused the government of persecution, negligence and marginalization. Christians were also targeted in several attacks by Islamist extremists.

Nevertheless, Sisi showed a very different approach toward the Christian community by visiting the Coptic Orthodox Church several times and urging the government to restore churches that were torched and destroyed during the era of ousted President Mohammed Morsi.

In 2016, the Egyptian parliament approved a law that sought to ease restrictions on building churches. In April this year, the Cabinet approved the legalization of unlicensed churches in order to make it easier for Christians to practice their religious rituals.

Menna A. Farouk, a journalist and an editor at The Egyptian Gazette, writes about social, political and cultural issues, including press freedom, immigration and religious reforms among other topics.  (Al-Monitor 04.09)

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11.5  EGYPT:  Is ‘The Wedding’ a New Beginning for LGBTQ Cinema in Egypt?

Youssra el-Sharkawy posted in Al-Monitor on 4 September that film director Sam Abbas’ “The Wedding,” which tells the story of a gay man forced into a heterosexual marriage, will be screened privately and by invitation only in the Middle East, making the already controversial movie even more controversial.

A man and a woman are together in bed in a dimly lit bedroom.  He remains motionless and distant, engrossed by something on his laptop, as she snuggles against him, trying to attract his attention.  This is the opening scene of the trailer of “The Wedding,” the forthcoming movie by the Egyptian American director Sam Abbas.  It foreshadows the marital disaster to come.

Abbas’ film features the story of Rami, a homosexual Egyptian Muslim played by Abbas, who is forced to marry Sara, played by Nikohl Boosheri.  The movie is scheduled for a November release, but the trailer, posted 23 August on various movie sites, has already caused a stir.  “The Wedding” has also made international headlines in various industry magazines as the first Egyptian queer movie, although a number of other Egyptian films have addressed homosexuality since the 1970s.

Abbas, who also wrote the screenplay, told Al-Monitor that the film is meant to lend support to homosexuals living in conservative societies, sending the message that they are not alone.  “I would really hope that people who have watched the film walk away with the understanding that life is too short to have a double life,” Abbas said.  “That’s how I felt, and that’s why I made this movie.”

“The Wedding” is the first movie produced by ArabQ, the newly established Alexandria-based film company dedicated to supporting LGBTQ rights.  Abbas and an Egyptian producer who has chosen to remain anonymous co-own the company, which they are positioning as producing feature films as well as documentaries focusing on the LGBTQ community.  It is required that all projects have a self-identified queer, gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender director or lead producer.

Locating ArabQ in Egypt is likely to pose some challenges because of the country’s conservatism and opposition to homosexuality.  A 2013 survey by the Pew Research Center showed that 95% of Egyptians believe that society should not be accepting of homosexuality.  This attitude also prevailed among overwhelming majorities in other predominantly Muslim countries, including 97% in Jordan, 94% in Tunisia and 93% in the Palestinian territories.

The Egyptian government has periodically cracked down on homosexuals as well as people advocating gay rights.  In 2017, authorities arrested seven people on charges of debauchery after they raised a rainbow flag during a performance by the Lebanese rock group Mashrou’ Leila.  Earlier this year in Alexandria, police arrested 10 other people for alleged “debauchery,” a term used to describe gay and transgender people or anyone suspected of homosexuality.

Abbas decided nonetheless to base his company in Alexandria, announcing this decision at the 2018 Berlin International Film Festival in February. “I was born in Alexandria!,”  Abbas exclaimed. “I guess we’ll see if the company will face challenges, but following the launch we received many unsolicited scripts.”

Abbas told Al-Monitor that screenings of “The Wedding” in the Middle East will be private and by invitation only.  The countries where the screenings will be held won’t be announced until after the film’s official release.  Some critics have suggested that the private screenings give the impression of confirming that the movie contravenes social norms.  Very few have seen the actual movie.

“Promoting freedom is a good idea to be adopted by a film production company, but promoting only ‘homosexual cinema’ is something weird,” the critic Tarek el-Shennawy said to Al-Monitor.  According to Shennawy, ArabQ will not only face religious, ethical and social opposition but also legal challenges.  “There is a difference between ‘discussing’ and ‘promoting’ LGTBQ cinema,” Shennawy told Al-Monitor. “Egyptian society is very conservative, and promoting [gay] cinema won’t be accepted by society.  Various Egyptian films have taken up the question of same-sex relationships, but in different ways.  I’m against closing the door and saying that society won’t accept [any discussion of] the topic.  Homosexuality exists in the entire world, and everybody knows about it.  The question is how to discuss it.”

As noted, Egyptian film directors have addressed the issue of homosexuality since the 1970s.  The post-1973 period was an era of greater ideological and artistic freedoms under President Anwar Sadat, as he wanted to open Egypt’s doors to private investment following the 1973 war with Israel.  Despite the relative permissiveness of the era, however, most filmmakers only dealt with homosexuality gingerly or briefly or presented it as a “disease” or a mental illness to be treated.  Only a few films showed homosexuals as ordinary members of society.

Among them, 1973’s “Hamam el-Malatily” (The Malatily Bathhouse), directed by Salah Abou Seif, the pioneer of realism in Egyptian cinema, is one of the few to daringly discuss homosexuality without judgment. Its sexually explicit scenes caused the film to be banned throughout the late 1970s and 1980s.  It was finally screened in cinemas with the sex scenes and nudity removed.  It is still banned from Egyptian TV.

In Samir Seif’s 1977 “Cat on Fire” — an adaptation of the Tennessee Williams play “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” — homosexuality is one of the issues contributing to the unhappy household depicted, but there are no overt scenes of the gay relationship.  In “Alexandria … Why?” (1978), Egypt’s legendary director Youssef Chahine briefly focuses on a rich Egyptian man who has an affair with a British soldier.

In the 2000s, same-sex relationships became more openly discussed in Egyptian cinema.  The 2006 “Yacoubian Building,” directed by Marawan Hamed and based on Alaa el-Aswani’s novel of the same name, features a journalist, played by Khaled el-Sawy, who is ultimately killed by his gay lover.  The movie was not only controversial, but also a box office success.

Hany Fawzi’s 2013 “Asrar A’elya” (Family Secrets) also sparked controversy.  Based on a true story, it deals with an 18 year old who was sexually abused by his older brother throughout childhood.  The main character refuses to accept his homosexuality and seeks “normalcy” throughout the film.

Youssra el-Sharkawy, an Egyptian feature writer and columnist, covers cultural issues, human rights, women’s empowerment and social problems. Her work has appeared in various local and international news outlets.  (Al-Monitor 04.09)

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11.6  TURKEY:  Surging Inflation Tightens Circle Around Turkish Economy

Al-Monitor posted on 5 September that Turkey’s soaring inflation, exacerbated by a fresh spike in August, is stoking apprehension over the country’s economic future and appears to strengthen the prospect of an intervention by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).  The August figures, released on 3 September, brought year-on-year inflation to 18% in consumer prices and 32% in producer prices.  Except for Argentina, such rates are unseen among Turkey’s emerging-economy peers, in many of which inflation is not even in double digits.

The price hikes are unlikely to abate in the coming months, with consumer inflation expected to hit at least 20% at the year-end.  The ballooning problem owes much to structural reasons, which highlights the need for sounder diagnoses and long-term remedies.  Two key factors are pushing inflation to the creeping 20% level: the rising prices of agricultural products and food, and the dramatic depreciation of the Turkish lira.

Turkey used to have a self-sufficient agricultural sector, but ill-advised policies and neglect of the sector have resulted in annual imports of $9 billion to cover the food gap at home.  The deficit in the food supply is a key reason for the surge in inflation.  In fresh vegetables and fruits, for instance, year-on-year inflation stands at a staggering 38%.

Price increases in another crucial rubric — energy products — have exceeded 21%.  Turkey is heavily reliant on foreign energy supplies, and atop the increase in global energy prices, it has seen its currency depreciate 55% this year.  With the price of the dollar rising 78% since the beginning of the year, the prices of energy products have shot up despite certain subsidies.

In durable consumer goods such as cars, domestic appliances and furniture, prices rose between 5% and 6% in August, bringing year-on-year inflation to 30%.  The domestic production of durable goods relies heavily on imported inputs; hence, production costs have soared due to the extraordinary increase in foreign-exchange prices.  In other words, the price increases in this category stem directly from the slump of the lira. In its latest inflation report, the Central Bank itself notes that “widespread price hikes in durable and other basic goods have continued as a result of foreign-exchange rate effects.”

In another important point, the bank notes, “Producer-driven cost pressures on consumer prices increased considerably in August.”  Producers hiked their prices 6.6% in August, bringing the year-on-year rate to 32%.  Obviously, this stems also from the increased prices of foreign exchange, as Turkey’s industry relies heavily on imported energy and inputs.  With their costs on the rise, producers are hiking prices, forcing retailers to follow suit.  This trend is expected to continue in the coming months, given that the gap between producer and consumer inflations is no less than 14%age points, signaling an avalanche of prospective price hikes should consumers sustain demand.

The Central Bank appears equally pessimistic, noting that the rise in energy prices is expected to continue in September.  Though the bank speaks specifically of energy prices, its projection could be taken as a general one given that foreign exchange rates show no sign of letting up.  The dollar, which traded for about 6.6 liras on 3 September as the inflation figures were released, hit up to 6.75 liras the following day.

No doubt, the mounting inflation is further upsetting income distribution.  For some 19 million Turks who are either wage earners in the private sector or public employees, inflation means a drastic decrease in real income as they stand no chance of pay hikes matching the inflation rate.  More than 10 million pensioners face the same prospect of relative impoverishment.

Yields on the Turkish lira, meanwhile, remain below the inflation rate, which not surprisingly has led Turks to keep their savings mostly in foreign exchange rather than in lira deposits.  Ankara may pretend to not understand this, but the slumping lira and the rising inflation continue to make foreign exchange a refuge for savings.  To boost the attractiveness of the local currency, yields on the lira should increase, but Ankara remains reluctant to hike interest rates, making futile efforts to curb the rise of foreign exchange through verbal interventions only.

After the release of the August inflation data, which sparked concerns of a new currency shock, the Central Bank pledged to “take the necessary actions to support price stability,” adding that “monetary stance will be adjusted at the September Monetary Policy Committee meeting in view of the latest developments.”

If the statement is to be taken as a signal of a rate hike, one cannot help but wonder why the bank opts to wait 10 days instead of acting immediately.  Hence, many have come to see such statements as a transient wave breaker against the rise of foreign exchange that serves nothing but to erode the credibility of the bank.

So, how to stop the hemorrhage of the lira?  Are Ankara’s diagnoses and treatments correct?  Hiking interest rates is the way to prop up the lira, but President Erdogan has a well-known aversion to rate hikes, which, he believes, will plunge the economy into stagnation.  Ahead of local elections in March 2019, he needs a growing and not a stagnating economy.

Yet the prevailing conditions are already bringing about stagnation and even contraction.  Domestic consumption is shrinking, investment projects are being shelved, company equities are melting against the rising foreign exchange prices, loan repayment capacities are weakening and banks are piling pressure on indebted companies.  This means a decline in production capacities and company closures that will eventually lead to contraction.

On 4 September, international credit rating agency Fitch cut its 2019 growth forecast for Turkey to 1.2%.  Pointing to “considerable uncertainty” for the Turkish economy, the agency cited risks that include “policy missteps, heightened financial stress in the private sector, geopolitical tensions and potential capital flight.”

Turkey needs to secure $230 billion — or roughly $20 million per month — in external funds to roll over its economy in the next 12 months.  Such gloomy assessments by Fitch and similar agencies indicate that securing those funds is becoming more difficult and costlier for Turkey.  The tightening circle is pushing the country in the direction of the IMF, but whether or when the Erdogan regime will acquiesce to this option remains a big question mark.

Mustafa Sonmez is a Turkish economist and writer. He has worked as an economic commentator and editor for more than 30 years and authored some 30 books on the Turkish economy, media and the Kurdish question.  (Al-Monitor 05.09)

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