Top Ten Most Populous Cities – Then, Now, and the Future

Top Ten Most Populous Cities – Then, Now, and the Future

By Luming Zhao

Human civilization has been defined by the rise of cities. In fact, the word derives from the Latin term civitas, or “city.”

 

Throughout history, the great cities of the world have driven economic, political, cultural, and social change. Simply put, our world would not be the same without the rise of cities.

 

Today, cities account for about 80% of global GDP, and account for some 55% of the world’s population. By the year 2050, according to the UN, more than two-thirds of the world will live in cities.

 

Cities, like nations, can benefit from population size. When leveraged well, sizable cities can become centers of trade and  innovation. On the flip side, populous cities pose immense challenges to governments to provide infrastructure, healthcare, education and other needs.

 

These Three Top Ten lists of the world’s most populous cities from three different eras (2020, 2035 forecast, and 1950) offer a snapshot of the changing dynamics of our world.

 

The Top Ten Most Populous Cities – 2020

 

    1. Tokyo, Japan                    37.4 Million
    2. Delhi, India                       29.3 Million
    3. Shanghai, China              26.3 Million
    4. Sao Paulo, Brazil             21.8 Million
    5. Mexico City, Mexico         21.6 Million
    6. Cairo, Egypt                     20.4 Million
    7. Dhaka, Bangladesh         20.2 Million
    8. Mumbai, India                  20.1 Million
    9. Beijing, China                  20 Million
    10. Osaka, Japan                  19.2 Million

 

The Top Ten Most Populous Cities – 2035 (Forecast)

 

    1. Jakarta, Indonesia              38 Million
    2. Tokyo, Japan                      37.8 Million
    3. Chongqing, China              32.2 Million
    4. Dhaka, Bangladesh            31.2 Million
    5. Shanghai, China                 25.3 Million
    6. Karachi, Pakistan               24.8 Million
    7. Kinshasa, DRC                   24.7 Million
    8. Lagos, Nigeria                    24.2 Million
    9. Mexico City, Mexico           23.5 Million
    10. Mumbai, India                    23.1 Million

 

The Top Ten Most Populous Cities – 1950

 

    1. New York, USA                   12.3 Million
    2. Tokyo, Japan                      11.2 Million
    3. London, UK                        8.3 Million
    4. Osaka, Japan                     7 Million
    5. Paris, France                      6.2 Million
    6. Moscow, SU                       5.3 Million
    7. Buenos Aires, Argentina    5.1 Million
    8. Chicago, USA                     4.9 Million
    9. Kolkata, India –                   4.6 Million
    10. Shanghai, China –              4.2 Million

Sources: United Nations, Oxford Economics.

China’s Undiplomacy: Why the ‘Wolf Warriors’ Fail to Convince

China’s Undiplomacy: Why the ‘Wolf Warriors’ Fail to Convince

Guest Comment – By Oliver Stelling

 

In September, China’s Foreign Minister embarked on a goodwill tour of Europe. Expectations were high that he would manage to repair strained ties with the bloc. It wasn’t meant to be. His charm offensive fell flat.

Wang made no concessions on Hong Kong or Xinjiang. In Oslo, he cast new doubt on the virus’ origin in China and challenged Norway not to allow the Nobel Committee to award Hong Kong’s protesters. And while in Germany, he warned the Czech Republic that there was a ‘heavy price to pay’ for dispatching a delegation to Taiwan. That ‘heavy price to pay’ has become a common line by Chinese diplomats, never failing to invoke public anger in their host countries and beyond.

Wang’s choice of words was a deliberate show of forcefulness aimed at his domestic audience. As long as China was a rising but still developing economy, such internal messaging bore little consequence for international relations. Now the bar is set higher. China has emerged as a knowledge economy, an incubator for scientific discoveries and technological advances that shape the modern world.

Not since the Cultural Revolution has China’s international image been lower across Europe, Canada, Australia and parts of Asia. Relations with the U.S. have seen the most dramatic decline due to President Trump’s erratic policies, the trade war and hostile rhetoric. However, Beijing’s latest geopolitical moves would have escalated tensions with any U.S. administration.

It remains unclear how all this could fall within the range of acceptable diplomatic outcomes. Even so, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) keeps picking fights and lashes out against ‘the West’ when faced with pushback. Never mind that most flashpoints are right at China’s doorstep.

The contrast of Beijing’s successful containment of the coronavirus vis-à-vis America’s abject failure in dealing with Covid and multiple other domestic crises gives China an open goal and a great story to tell. It was a triumph that should have dominated the news for months. Instead Beijing’s diplomats chose to parade Trump’s debacles as proof of the waning authority of the West at large.

In some ironic way, the wolf warrior idioms resemble Trumpian projection – the claim of victimhood. Nothing suggests that they are readying to adopt a different style, one that outtrumps Trump and aligns diplomacy with the principles of the Asian Century China helped to create. The tone has become ever more assertive and messaging across internal and external communications remains incoherent.

Chances to convince foreign audiences are slim as the wolf warriors seem unable or unwilling to employ a foreign-targeted language. This has not gone unnoticed by Chinese thinkers. Efforts are underway to craft a more audience-centric, positive and cohesive narrative.

The stated objective of China’s Belt and Road Initiative’s (BRI) is to create a ‘Community of Shared Destiny’. While the BRI’s short term prospects are somewhat uncertain, its primary goal, first expressed by former CCP general secretary Hu Jintao, has become a staple of CCP messaging. It sounds visionary, benign and perfectly in line with China’s advocacy of multilateralism. It certainly has more appeal than Trump’s ‘America First’. All it needs now is content, validation and a clear roadmap.

The Institute for a Community with Shared Future at Communication University of China is working to fill that vacuum. If it manages to develop a cohesive narrative supported by policies that are acceptable to the world, a path to more global collaboration has been staked. What it must not become is a tool to more efficiently spread state propaganda.

There is no issue with China aiming to become the custodian and driver behind that shared future. But it does not own the future. Not even if one buys into Chinese exceptionalism. The often repeated line ‘China’s got five thousand years of history’ captures how China views the past and future in terms of centuries, not decades. The real-life implication is that China deserves special consideration, patience and extra respect.

“Somehow we are supposed to believe that China has more history than other places”, writes John Ross in a post for Camphorpress. His core point is that civilizations in other parts of the world precede China and that writing systems in Egypt and Mesopotamia predate Chinese writing by a thousand years. “The world’s first city, Uruk, in modern-day Iraq, dates back seven thousand years. China was first unified in 221 BC, a century after Alexander the Great had created the Hellenistic Empire, and just a few centuries before the zenith of the Roman Empire.”

Chinese history is without doubt long and fascinating. There’s no need to spin it unless the point is to disqualify critics for their alleged lack of knowledge about China. China has a rich history and culture and there is always more to learn, but that works both ways. In any case, this tactic inflicts less self-damage than outright discrediting entire countries.

When Hu Xijin, editor of China’s Global Times compared Australia to ‘gum stuck to the bottom of China’s shoe’, the global backlash was intense. Analysts, academics and global media including The Guardian, New York Times, Asia Times and the BBC concluded that China was denying other countries the respect it demands for itself.

While internal hawks appear to be winning, the wolf warriors seem to overlook that being discredited by Chinese propaganda outlets often serves to bump up one’s credibility. The same applies to China’s ‘Twitter diplomacy’.

 A few years ago Beijing began to encourage diplomats, academics and media elites to use Twitter to engage a broader global audience and retell the China Story. A risky move that exposed many new users’ struggle to master an uncensored platform created to foster dialogue and open debate.

China’s embassy in Sri Lanka underscored that when complaining on Twitter, after its account was temporarily blocked, that it had been denied “freedom of expression”. And just recently, China’s Ambassador to the U.K. tweeted: “If you choose to be not our friend or partner you will have to bear the consequences.”

The list of undiplomatic tweets is long, including one diplomat’s retweets of a Texas woman’s random shower thoughts about the origin of Covid19, and conspiracy theories propagated by globalresearch.ca. – a fringe site that also claims that Osama Bin Laden was not killed by a US Navy SEAL team in 2011 but died in 2001.

The wolf warriors do not always seem to know whose voices matter and which ones are discredited. And if they do but don’t care, the signal this sends is the same: truth, reputation and trustworthiness of sources don’t matter.

While embracing a markedly different tone and style, their narrative is shaped by tropes and clichés from a bygone era. Beijing may think little of ‘intangibles’ such as perceptions. Who needs soft power when you have already proven to possess the vision and ambition to become a global leader in science, technology and more? But that seems out of touch with the shared destiny.

This cannot be in China’s interest and certainly not in the world’s either. If Beijing feels misunderstood and wrongly accused, it must ask itself: ‘Why do they mistrust us so much?’

According to Pew Research’s latest survey, a median of 34% across the 13 countries surveyed believe the U.S. is the world’s leading economic power, while 48% say the same of China. That shows that economically China is on the right trajectory. What remains is the building of trust which depends on a more audience-centric language.

There is a precedent for successfully engaging the world on ‘their terms’ and reaping the benefits – the run up to the 2008 Beijing Olympics. China’s image had never been better. A course correction today would send just the right message ahead of the Communist Party’s upcoming centennial.

The writer is a senior communications specialist, with a particular focus on emerging markets across Asia and the Middle East.

Has the Alibaba Train Left the Station?

Has the Alibaba Train Left the Station?

Is it time to buy Alibaba?

That’s the question posed by the popular investment newsletter, the Motley Fool, published in Yahoo Finance. The author of the piece, Anders Bylund, notes that the NYSE-listed Chinese e-commerce giant “is on a roll” and “the company is crushing Wall Street’s expectations in the COVID-19 lockdown era,” with share prices roaring 64% higher over the last 52 weeks.

So, Bylund asks: Is it too late to jump aboard Alibaba’s skyrocketing bandwagon or is the stock still a buy?”

A few choice cuts from the piece below:

Alibaba’s sales rose 30% year over year to $21.8 billion in August’s first-quarter report. Earnings increased by 15% to $2.10 per share. The results breezed by Wall Street’s consensus estimates, which had pointed to earnings near $1.98 per share on approximately $21.3 billion in top-line revenue.

On the earnings call, CEO Daniel Zhang noted that the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated Alibaba’s business in many ways. Consumers are doing more shopping online and enterprises rely on cloud computing resources like the Alibaba Cloud platform to an unprecedented degree…

Alibaba is expanding its operations outside Chinese borders, including a deep interest in starting direct e-commerce operations in the United States. Political tension between Washington and Beijing is making that ambition difficult to pursue right now but investors should keep this expansionist agenda in mind for the long haul.

In the meantime, there’s a real risk that the Trump administration might take action to obstruct Alibaba’s business on American soil. According to a recent report in the Chinese newspaper Global Times, Chinese analysts worry that the U.S. government might block Alibaba’s semiconductor development efforts and cloud computing services ahead of the election in November…

Buying Alibaba shares is a direct bet on the Chinese economy, in the long run, magnified through the lens of booming e-commerce and cloud computing operations. The stock is also fairly affordable, trading at just 30 times trailing earnings and 25 times forward estimates. That adds up to a solid buy. Some investors might prefer Pinduoduo or JD, but Alibaba offers the best balance between risk and long-term rewards, in my opinion.

For the full piece, go here

The Top Ten Largest Chinese Companies

The Top Ten Largest Chinese Companies

The Fortune magazine Global 500 annual list of the world’s largest companies by revenue has always been a high-profile, headline-grabbing snapshot of global business. This year, however, it’s also a snapshot of our emerging geo-economic order.

For the first time in the three decade history of the list, US companies do not comprise the largest number on the list. That distinction goes to China.

Clifton Leaf, Editor-in-Chief, of Fortune magazine put that into perspective when he wrote, “there were precisely zero Global 500 companies based in mainland China in 1990 when we began our survey. Today there are more giant for-profit enterprises there than anywhere else on earth.” Three of the top five largest companies in the world are Chinese — Sinopec Group, State Grid, and China National Petroleum.

The Fortune 500 Global list includes state-owned enterprises and ranks companies by total revenue. Thus, those tech-heavy companies that top market capitalization lists are not as prominent in the Global 500. In compiling the list, the editors included Hong Kong as part of the mainland China list, but did not include Taiwan.

At final tally, China held 124 spots in the Global 500, while the U.S held 121 spots. In the year 2002, there were 197 U.S-based companies on the list. In 2003, there were only 11 China-based companies in the Fortune Global 500.

It has been a remarkable rise for Chinese enterprises. Here are the Top Ten China-based companies in the Global 500, with their China ranking on the left, total revenues following and their global ranking in parentheses.

Company/China Ranking Revenues in $ (Global Rank)
1.     Sinopec Group $407 Billion (2)
2.     State Grid $384 Billion (3)
3.     China National Petroleum Corp $379 Billion (4)
4.     China State Construction Engineering $206 Billion (18)
5.     Ping An Insurance $184 Billion (21)
6.     Industrial & Commercial Bank $177 Billion (24)
7.     China Construction Bank $159 Billion (30)
8.     Agricultural Bank of China $147 Billion (35)
9.     Bank of China $135 Billion (43)
10.  China Life Insurance $131 Billion (45)

Some other interesting findings from the Fortune Global 500

  • The world’s 500 largest companies generated $33.3 trillion in revenues and $2.1 trillion in profits in 2019. This year’s Fortune Global 500 companies employ 69.9 million people worldwide and are represented by 32 countries.
  • WalMart topped the global list again, with $524 billion in revenues
  • Five Chinese companies entered the Global 500 for the first time – Shanghai Construction Group, Shenzhen Investment Holdings,  Shenghong Holding Group, Shandong Iron and Steel Group, and Shanghai Pharmaceuticals Holding

To explore the Fortune 500 Global list, complete with some excellent interactive maps, go here

US Stocks Roar to New Highs Despite Pandemic

US Stocks Roar to New Highs Despite Pandemic

What Pandemic?

While global economies, most businesses, and entire industries are reeling from the multiple blows delivered by the Covid-19 pandemic, the U.S stock market continues roaring to new heights.The S&P 500, the bellwether index that measures the performance of 500 companies listed on U.S exchanges, continues to shatter records. Consider this:

  • The S&P 500 hit a new record of 3,508 on Friday
  • The index has seen its best August returns in 36 years
  • The index is up for five straight months and has hit a record 7 times
  • The index is up nearly 60% from its March Covid-19 induced low, and is up nearly 9% on the year
  • The tech-heavy Nasdaq index of stocks is up more than 36% on the year

One prominent analyst even suggests that the S&P could hit 3,900 soon, another new record.

So, what gives?

In a sense, the Federal Reserve gives.

Naeem Aslam, a contributor at Forbes, has a good take on why the Federal Reserve should be our first destination in analyzing today’s U.S market.

The answer has been out front all along—the Fed is supporting this stock market rally. If anyone forgot the famous saying, “Do not fight the Fed,” then yesterday was another clear reminder.

 

The Fed has changed its monetary policy framework, and now it is going to target an average of 2% inflation instead of a peak of 2%. This means that interest rates will stay lower for longer and that the Fed is comfortable in allowing the economy to run a little hotter—meaning both inflation and employment could overshoot their targets.

 

The Fed has been considering altering its monetary policy for a while, but the coronavirus pandemic triggered this initiative.

In many ways, we are witnessing a new Federal Reserve, one that ha taken on a much more active role in the U.S economy, and not just monetary policy. Axios had a good piece a couple of weeks ago on where the Fed is going. “The Federal Reserve is undergoing an overhaul. Conceived to keep inflation in check and oversee the country’s money supply, the central bank is now essentially directing the economy and moving away from worries about rising prices,” the piece notes.

Axios went on to write that ‘the move to act less quickly and forcefully to tamp down on inflation has been in the works for years, but some economists fear that the Fed is moving too far from its original mandate.” For a look at what this all means, take a look at the Axios piece here and we will continue to watch this space because of its enormous implications for not only the U.S, but the global economy.

 

TikTok, Chinese apps banned in India

TikTok, Chinese apps banned in India

As Chinese and Indian troops were clashing in the Himalayas on June 16 in a brutal brawl leading to the deaths of 20 Indian soldiers, hundreds of millions of people across India were enjoying or downloading Chinese-based apps like TikTok and WeChat. No longer.

In response to the border clashes, India recently banned the use of dozens of Chinese apps. This piece below from Tech Crunch gives a good overview of how deep Chinese apps had penetrated the Indian market.

India bans TikTok, dozens of other Chinese apps

As Coronavirus Captures Headlines, South China Sea Tensions Rising

As Coronavirus Captures Headlines, South China Sea Tensions Rising

While global headlines focus on the recent clash between Indian and Chinese military forces in a Himalayan border region, China has also flexed its muscles recently in the South China Sea and the Taiwan Strait.

Beginning in mid-April, a Chinese survey ship accompanied by coast guard vessels entered Malaysia’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in the South China Sea, near an oil exploration vessel contracted by Petronas, the Malaysian state oil firm, and stayed in the region for approximately a month. The move was seen as threatening, and Malaysia deployed naval vessels to the region. The Chinese ship eventually retreated.

Around the same time, Vietnam protested the establishment of two new administrative units established by the government of China in the South China Sea. Meanwhile, Chinese jets have repeatedly entered Taiwan’s Air Identification Zone in the last week, according to a Reuters report.

As tensions heat up in the South China Sea, it’s worth remembering how vital this waterway is to global trade. To wit:

  • Some $5 trillion of world trade passes through the South China Sea, accounting for nearly 1/3 of all global seaborne trade
  • There may be some 28 billion barrels of oil in the waters, waiting to be exploited
  • Additionally, there is an estimated 190 trillion cubic feet of natural gas
  • The sea also contains 10% of the world’s fisheries

Anti Panda has a good piece in the Diplomat today, based on a CSIS survey, of how Southeast Asian elites view the growing competition in the South China Sea.

GCC States, Labor Markets and Covid-19

GCC States, Labor Markets and Covid-19

I was delighted to join colleagues Raymond Karam (AGSIW), Steffen Hertog (LSE), Eman Al-Hussein (AGSIW), and Tariq Haq (ILO), deftly moderated by Robert Mogielnecki (AGSIW), for a discussion on GCC labor markets in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic on May 20. The full video link is below

 

Middle East Business Telegraph Monitor – May 1 – May 5

Middle East Business Telegraph Monitor – May 1 – May 5

The top business/economic stories from the MENA region as reported in the regional and industry press – May 1-5

Aviation/Tim Clark – “More airlines could have collapsed or consolidated globally without government intervention amid the Covid-19 pandemic and the aviation industry will see a decline in passenger traffic as well as the number of aircraft used by carriers once the crisis subsides, Emirates president Tim Clark said. ‘It might have happened had there not been massive state intervention over the last months,’ Mr Clark said in an interview with The National. ‘You would have seen companies that would have ordinarily sought to merge, amalgamate with others to relieve themselves jointly of the financial predicament they face,'” The National reports.

Iran Currency – “Iran’s parliament has passed a bill allowing the government to slash four zeros from the rial, Iranian state media reported on Monday, after a sharp fall in the value of the currency as a result of crippling U.S. sanctions. Iran’s national currency will be changed from the rial to the Toman, which is equal to 10,000 rials, under the bill,” Reuters reports.

Egypt/Tourism – “Egypt is allowing hotels to reopen for domestic tourists on condition they operate at no more than 25% capacity until the end of May and implement a range of other health measures to guard against the new coronavirus, the cabinet said on Sunday. The virus has shut down Egypt’s tourist sector, which accounts for 12%-15% of gross domestic product, leading to losses estimated at $1 billion per month,” Asharq Al-Awsat reports.

Egypt Economy – “Egypt’s non-oil private sector activity collapsed in April, hit by a shutdown in the tourism industry, weakening demand and the imposition of a curfew as the government battled the new coronavirus pandemic, a survey showed on Tuesday. IHS Markit’s Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) for the non-oil private sector came in at 29.7 last month, down from 44.2 in March and far below the 50.0 threshold that separates growth from contraction. It was the lowest reading since the survey began nine years ago,” Reuters/Ahram Online reports.

Morocco Economy – “In light of the novel coronavirus crisis, the international rating agency Fitch Ratings has downgraded the Moroccan economy outlook from stable to negative. The new revision follows Morocco’s “severe hit” from the coronavirus pandemic, which will cause the sharpest gross domestic product (GDP) contraction in 25 years, according to the agency,” Morocco World News reports.

Ride Hailing/Careem – “Dubai ride-hailing company Careem is laying off 31 percent of its workforce to cope with the impact of Covid-19, which has led to an 80 percent drop in its overall business, according to a letter from its CEO addressing staff. Coronavirus-related restrictions have also led to a 90 percent drop in the company’s ride-hailing business and 60 percent in its delivery business across the Middle East, North Africa and Pakistan,” Arabian Business reports.

Lebanon/IMF – “Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab and International Monetary Fund managing director Kristalina Georgieva discussed the government’s plan to rescue the economy from its worst crisis in three decades…Lebanon formally asked the IMF for a loan of at least $10 billion (Dh36.7bn) on Thursday. The economy has buckled under the weight of mounting debt that forced the country to default on eurobonds in March.Lebanon’s gross domestic product is set to contract 12 per cent this year, according to IMF projections. The country’s debt ballooned to $92 billion at the end of January, making it one of the highest debt-to-GDP ratios worldwide,” The National reports.

UAE/NMC – “More than 300 staff members at NMC Trading, the division that handles distribution of medical equipment and personal care brands, have been laid off, and with more likely to follow. These cuts could provide the first hints of what the UK High Court appointed administrators hope to do with NMC Health’s individual divisions. ‘Even before the administrators came in, NMC Trading was seen as the first candidate to be sold off and help the Group generate some funds to clear off part of the debt,’ said a senior official with the Group. ‘Now, with the administrators in control, nothing much changes on that strategy – anything that is seen as non-core will be sold,'” Gulf News reports.

Saudi Riyal – “The Saudi Arabia’s central bank on Monday affirmed its commitment to the exchange rate policy of pegging the Saudi riyal to the US dollar. The Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority (SAMA) said the currency peg was a strategic option that contributed to the growth of the Kingdom’s economy for more than 30 years,” Arab News reports.

Coronavirus.Majid Al-Futtaim – “Alain Bejjani is in no doubt about the destructive power of the ‘tsunami’ that has swept over the world with the coronavirus pandemic. The chief executive of Majid Al Futtaim (MAF), one of the biggest and best-known conglomerates in the Middle East, told Arab News: ‘This is beyond business. This will change how we live on this Earth as human beings in societies. The coming 10 years will be marked by the reverberations of this crisis,'” Arab News reports.

Iran/Coronavirus – “More than 64% respondents to an opinion poll in Tehran said they need government aid amid the coronavirus outbreak. According to the telephone survey of 1,028 residents conducted by the Iranian Students Polling Agency from April 5-8, a total of 64.4% said they need government aid due to the economic hardship inflicted by the coronavirus outbreak, 34.6% said they don’t and 1% didn’t respond,” Financial Tribune reports

Middle East Business Telegraph Monitor – April 29-30

Middle East Business Telegraph Monitor – April 29-30

The top business/economic stories from the MENA region as reported in the regional and industry press – April 29-30

Regional Aviation Plummets – “Middle East’s passenger numbers plummeted by nearly half in March, the most disastrous month so far for the aviation business, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) said Wednesday. Figures released by IATA showed that air traffic in the region, measured in total revenue passenger kilometers (RPK) plummeted 45.9 percent last month compared to the same period a year ago, reversing a 1.6 percent increase in February. Capacity also fell 33.5 percent and load factor dropped 13.7 percentage points to 59.9 percent,” Zawya reports.

Lebanon Crisis – “The Lebanese government met Thursday to approve a long-awaited plan to rescue the debt-saddled economy from its worst crisis in decades, following a fresh wave of angry streets protests. A lockdown to fight the coronavirus pandemic has added to the economic woes besetting the country, which include soaring inflation, a liquidity crunch and a plummeting currency. In March the cash-strapped government defaulted on its sovereign debt for the first time,” Arabian Business reports.

Lebanon/IMF – “Lebanon’s government signed off on a rescue plan that relies on financing from the International Monetary Fund to begin an overhaul of an economy facing its worst financial crisis in decades. President Michel Aoun described Thursday’s Cabinet session as a historic day for the country “because it’s the first time an economic, financial plan is approved” that would place Lebanon on the path of reforms.Ministers backed the proposals with slight amendments of the original draft, he said on Twitter. Some of the items in the plan will require parliamentary approval,” The National reports.

US/Saudi – “As the United States pressed Saudi Arabia to end its oil price war with Russia, President Donald Trump gave Saudi leaders an ultimatum. In an April 2 phone call, Trump told Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman that unless the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) started cutting oil production, he would be powerless to stop lawmakers from passing legislation to withdraw U.S. troops from the kingdom, four sources familiar with the matter told Reuters. The threat to upend a 75-year strategic alliance, which has not been previously reported, was central to the U.S. pressure campaign that led to a landmark global deal to slash oil supply as demand collapsed in the coronavirus pandemic – scoring a diplomatic victory for the White House,” Reuters reports.

UAE/NMC – “NMC Health, the troubled UAE-based hospitals group, has been the victim of fraud, forgery and impersonation on a multibillion-dollar scale, according to its founder and former chairman B.R. Shetty. In a strongly worded statement, Shetty detailed what he described as ‘serious fraud and wrongdoing’ at the company and at his other major business venture, the financial services group Finablr, as well as at some of his private companies and against him personally,” Arab News reports.

UAE/TAQA – “Shareholders of the Abu Dhabi National Energy Company (TAQA) approved a deal to combine assets with Abu Dhabi Power Corporation’s (ADPower), creating one of the largest utilities companies in the GCC, UAE state news agency WAM reported Wednesday. The deal will see ADPower transfer the majority of its water and electricity, transmission, and distribution assets to TAQA, leaving the company with majority stakes in almost all power and water generation plants in the UAE. The deal is scheduled to close in the third quarter of 2020,” Al-Arabiya Business reports.

UAE/Aviation – “The UAE airlines will lose $6.8 billion (Dh25 billion) in revenues due to the impact of impact of coronavirus, putting 378,678 jobs at risk, according to the International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) latest data released on Thursday. The figures are higher than IATA’s previous forecast released three weeks ago when it predicted $5.36 billion revenue loss and 287,863 jobs at stake in the UAE,” Khaleej Times reports.

Abu Dhabi Aviation – “Wizz Air Abu Dhabi, which will be the emirate’s second low-cost airline, plans to start operations by the fourth quarter this year, foreseeing no delays on its plans. The company said its strong cash position as well as a UK government-backed loan meant the group remained in a healthy position despite challenges faced by the industry after the COVID-19 pandemic brought travel to a complete halt,” Gulf News reports.

Egypt/IMF – “A one-year bailout loan Egypt may receive from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) will not lead to a rise in the prices of commodities and services, Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly said on Wednesday. Earlier this week, Egypt said it had asked the IMF for financial assistance to deal with the economic fallout of the coronavirus,” AhramOnline reports.

Tunisia – “Tunisia will start relaxing its coronavirus lockdown next week, reopening parts of the food and construction sectors and allowing half of government employees to return to work, it said on Wednesday. Its lockdown, in place since March, has stopped 25,000 cases of the virus and 1,000 deaths, Health Minister Abdelatif el-Makki said on television. Tunisia, which has about 500 intensive care beds, has confirmed fewer than 1,000 cases in all,” Asharq Al-Awsat reports.

Saudi Budget – “Saudi Arabia revealed that government spending for Q1 2020 has increased to $60 billion with total revenue standing at $51 billion, leaving a $9 billion deficit. Saudi financial results were released amid difficult conditions faced by the international economy, as oil revenues take a nosedive with prices in the global markets tumbling under the repercussions of the coronavirus crisis, which also impacted the results of the non-oil sector. That reversed a first quarter surplus of around $7.4 billion in 2019,” Asharq Al-Awsat reports.

Kuwait/Jazeera Airways – “Kuwait’s Jazeera Airways has laid off over a third of its staff and can dip into its cash reserves to get through the coronavirus crisis, its chairman said. Several governments around the world are supporting airlines hammered by the pandemic that has virtually halted international travel. Kuwait halted all commercial flights on March 13 as the Gulf Arab state rolled out restrictions to control the spread of the virus that has now infected 3,740 people and killed 24 there,” Reuters/Zawya reports.

Turkish Airlines – “Turkish Airlines will not operate any domestic or international flights until May 28, the company announced on April 28.  Turkey’s national flag carrier said the decision to extend the suspension of operations has been taken in the public interest,” Hurriyet Daily News reports.

Geopolitics – “On Thursday, Germany has officially announced that it has designated the Iranian-backed Hezbollah as terrorist organization. In a statement, the German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said that Hezbollah criminal activities violate all international laws, adding that the organization was behind a multitude of attacks resulting in hundreds of deaths and injuries worldwide,” Baghdad Post reports.

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