Arabian Business Weekly Update July 10, 2005

Time will tell if the success of Live 8 will be reflected in the decisions of the G8. WHAT a week. I’m talking, of course, about the Live 8 concerts’ success in thrusting the world’s most urgent problems onto the global agenda; and the G8 summit in the UK in their aftermath. Rarely has the world seen a high-profile and well-organised event score such a tactical victory by placing the world’s most powerful leaders into a corner. Seeing politics mixing with celebrity might not be to everyone’s taste, but few could deny that it has been in a good cause.

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By  Richard Agnew Published  July 10, 2005

Don’t hold your breath over G8|~||~||~|Time will tell if the success of Live 8 will be reflected in the decisions of the G8. WHAT a week. I’m talking, of course, about the Live 8 concerts’ success in thrusting the world’s most urgent problems onto the global agenda; and the G8 summit in the UK in their aftermath. Rarely has the world seen a high-profile and well-organised event score such a tactical victory by placing the world’s most powerful leaders into a corner. Seeing politics mixing with celebrity might not be to everyone’s taste, but few could deny that it has been in a good cause. Whether what comes out of the G8 summit is as positive as what went before it is another matter, especially as the PR drive focuses on a continent where 40% of people live on less than US$1 per day, where AIDS kills more than 2 million people a year and where 186 coups d’etat and 26 major conflicts have taken place in the past half century. Africa’s problems are severe and cannot be solved solely by headline-grabbing initiatives like the doubling of US aid to the continent or debt relief for the poorest countries. American aid is still well below what’s necessary, and many deserving countries still haven’t qualified for relief. The continent certainly could do with a ‘Marshall Plan’ to increase aid inflows, but a substantial portion will get pocketed by corrupt leaders or find its way back to G8 countries. Without structural changes to Africa’s trading relationships with the West, there won’t be a multiplier effect and economic growth will still be constrained. This has been one of the most contentious G8 summits of recent times, and the organisers of Live 8 deserve a lot of credit for that. But the millions who watched the concerts shouldn’t hold their breath if they want to see their expectations fulfilled. ||**||Etisalat clarification needed|~||~||~|THE UAE has certainly been in no rush to introduce competition into its telecoms sector. And now that it has, its decision to limit private sector involvement has not been welcomed by many in the industry or the Emirates’ consumers. Having two state-owned operators instead of one, they say, will not make much of a difference. Some groups of customers will definitely benefit. Expats are one who should see cheaper international calls. And the move has prompted incumbent operator Etisalat to plough more investment into making broadband more widely available. There are aspects of the move that need to be sorted out, though, if lower income earners aren’t to lose out, such as funding to finance the subsidies Etisalat currently provides on basic services such as local fixed line calls. The operator admits this is a “major issue,” and people who can ill-afford to lose that service will certainly agree. ||**||Better late than never|~||~||~|THE UAE last week also passed a law tightening a ban on children taking part in camel racing. And about time too. Anti-slavery groups have been urging the country to take action for years and I’m delighted to see that the Emirates has finally reacted. The freshly signed government decree says that under-18s are not to take part in camel racing “in any form”. Using children has officially been banned in the UAE since 1980. Earlier this year it tightened the rules, banning under-16s and those lighter than 45kg from racing. Both the UAE and Qatar are planning to replace child jockeys with mechanical ones in the near future. The UAE’s press will predictably laud the government’s move. However, Arabian Business believes action should have been taken many years ago. Better late than never. ||**||

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