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Minister of National Guard Prince Abdullah Bin Bandar Bin Abdelaziz was appointed chairman of a new company, Kidana, in January. Kidana is tasked with developing holy sites in the kingdom; it will be based in Mina. It is the first company owned by the Royal Commission for Makkah Al-Mukarramah and the Holy Sites (RCMC). RCMC was established by royal order in June 2018 and is chaired by Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman.

Saudi Arabia
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BP has announced the $2.59bn sale of a 20% participating interest in the major non-conventional gas producing Block 61 to Thailand’s PTT Exploration and Production Public Company (PTTEP), as the UK major restructures its global strategy and portfolio. BP will remain the block’s operator, with a reduced 40% interest. The other Block 61 equity holders are national oil company OQ (with 30%) and Malaysia’s Petronas (10%).

Oman
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Budget talks in Baghdad are going down to the wire over the thorny issue of allocations to the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). The negotiations are the latest manifestation of a long-running dispute between Iraq’s centre and its periphery that has proved stubbornly immune to resolution since the late Saddam Hussein’s Baathist regime was ousted in 2003. There is added friction in the Baghdad-Erbil standoff, with Iraqi Shia parties increasingly vexed at what they view as a resurgence of Kurdish independence hopes.

Iraq
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Sheikha Latifa Bint Mohammed Al-Maktoum, daughter of Dubai Ruler Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al-Maktoum (MBR), was the focus of renewed international media attention in mid-February, after the BBC’s investigative Panorama programme broadcast a number of video messages sent secretly to friends in which ‘the princess’ described being detained in a “jail villa” and fearing for her life.

United Arab Emirates (UAE)
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Air Force commander Lieutenant General Shihab Jahid Hama has insisted Iraqi technicians will be able to maintain its F-16 aircraft if and when international contractors finally leave the country. This followed an official US report that indicated local pilots refused to fly the jets when American technicians were absent last year. The National Iraqi News Agency quoted Hama on 13 February as saying “the Iraqi pilots and technicians working on these aircraft are at the top of professionalism… and they are doing their job right now.”

Iraq
Issue 1119 - 04 February 2021

Kuwait: Huge deficit, but no debt plan yet

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Prime minister Sheikh Sabah Khalid Al-Hamad Al-Sabah appears to have no real plan for passing a new debt law through the National Assembly, despite another large deficit forecast in the 2021/22 budget, announced on 25 January, of KD12.1bn ($40bn). This is based on an average oil price of $45/bbl. Kuwait needs around $90/bbl to balance its budget. The Central Bank of Kuwait continues to reduce the value of the dinar as a way to fix its deteriorating balance of payments issues; the currency has lost 5% of its value against the dollar since March 2020.

Kuwait
Issue 1119 - 04 February 2021

Saudi Arabia’s north-west developments

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Published in February 2021 this map illustrates Saudi Arabian developments across the North West of the country. Including, amongst others, Neom royal palaces and a cross section of transport system, The Line. The map is available as a PDF file using eps graphics, meaning that there is no loss of resolution as the file is enlarged. 

Saudi Arabia