Saudi encounters sandstorms, UAE to experience the same

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Web Report
Filed on March 31, 2018 | Last updated on March 31, 2018 at 05.42 pm

The Holy City of Makkah also suffered as a result of the adverse weather.

Authorities in Saudi Arabia have issued alerts and warnings regarding the adverse weather conditions that are expected to prevail in some areas of the country.

Cities in the Kingdom had been hit by sandstorms on Thursday which had led to the disruption of road and air transport across the country and several accidents in the city of Jeddah. The maritime traffic coming in and going out of the Jeddah port was also affected due to the poor visibility.

According to an Arab News report, a weather forecast from the General Authority of Meteorology and Environmental Protection has issued a cautionary warning about some of the Riyadh governorates such as Al Majma’ah, Al Kharj, Shaqra expected to experience dusty weather accompanied by strong winds. The General Directorate of Civil Defense in Riyadh called for people to exercise caution as the weather is to induce low visibility in the region.

An earlier warning of the prevalence of unstable weather in the kingdom on Thursday and Friday had been issued by the early warning centre of the National Saudi Meteorology and Protection of the Environment agency.

The Holy City of Makkah also suffered as a result of the adverse weather.

All of the asthma patients as well as the ones suffering from breathing problems or other respiratory heath concerns have been advised to abide by their respective medical instructions. They have also been warned against travelling on the roads and areas affected by the sandstorms urged by Major Mohammed Al Hammadi, the media spokesman for Civil Defense in Riyadh.

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According to the National Center of Meteorology in UAE, sand and dust has hit the Al Dhafra area in Abu Dhabi with visibility of up to 700m.

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The NCM had also forecast the chances of dust storm hitting the western areas of the UAE, with the visibility dropping to less than 1500m from 6:00am in the morning till6:00pm in the evening on Saturday.


Source :  The Khaleej Times

UAE nationals can claim VAT refund on home construction

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Rohma Sadaqat/Dubai
Filed on March 31, 2018 | Last updated on March 31, 2018 at 06.23 pm
UAE nationals can claim the refund against a newly constructed building to be used solely as residence.- Alamy Image

The Federal Tax Authority has issued a guide with details for home owners on how to claim the refund.

Emirati house owners have the right to a five per cent value added tax (VAT) refund when constructing their homes, the Federal Tax Authority (FTA) has stated.

The Authority has issued a guide with details for home owners on how to claim the refund. It clarifies that only UAE citizens have the right to ask for the refund. They need no new account on the Authority’s website, and only need to download and fill a form and submit it back so the Authority

Anurag Chaturvedi, senior director at Crowe Horwath, told Khaleej Times that UAE nationals can claim the VAT refund against the construction expenses for a residential building, if they construct it for themselves or their family members.

“UAE nationals can claim the refund against a newly constructed building to be used solely as residence, under Article (66) of Cabinet Decision No. (52) of 2017 on the Executive Regulations, of the Federal Decree-Law No (8) of 2017 on Value Added Tax,” he revealed.

Furthermore, the VAT refund is not allowed in relation to a building that will not be used solely as a residence by the person or the person’s family. “For example, it is not to be used as a hotel, guest house, hospital, or if the property is to be used for rental purposes or for any other purpose not consistent with it being used as a residence,” Chaturvedi said.

Nirav Shah, director at Fame Advisory DMCC, also stressed that the refund is only valid if the building is going to be used by the owner and his family. He also noted that the refund can only be claimed by Emirati nationals.

According to the guide issued by the FTA, an Emirati owner has the right to ask for the VAT refund if he bought a piece of land and allowed an authorised person or company to establish a housing unit on it. The guide says that the VAT refund only includes the money spent on establishing the unit, adding that it includes the amounts paid as building materials, except for electricity products of furniture or green areas.

On the other hand, the refund also includes VAT paid for doors, fire alarms systems, floors, kitchens, health units, bathrooms, windows, and electricity cables. A third entity is going to review the housing units to approve the refund and its amount after the Emirati owner submits the form. Moreover, the owner needs documents that prove his ownership for the unit, show the date of issuing the certification of establishment, prove the ownership of the land and show the value of VAT paid during the process.

Chaturvedi also noted that the VAT refund will be claimed after completion of the new building which is ready to use. The owner must file a VAT refund application after getting registration with the FTA within six months from the date of completion of the newly built residence. Processing can take up to 20 days.

“A newly built residence is considered complete at the date the residence becomes occupied, or the date when it is certified as completed by a competent authority in the state, or as may otherwise be stipulated by the Authority,” he said. “Where the Authority has repaid tax and following the receipt of such repayment, if the person used the building for rental or any other commercial purpose, then he will be required to repay the amount of the tax that was claimed by him. The UAE national can claim VAT against construction related expenses excluding furniture or electrical appliances.”


Source :  The Khaleej Times

Ex-cyclone brings strong winds to Queensland

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By Stuart Layt & Evan Schwarten

Residents in coastal areas of Queensland have been given a reprieve from drenching rain on Saturday, but authorities are warning of worse weather to finish the Easter weekend.

Ex-tropical cyclone Iris is continuing to approach the coast, producing hazardous surf conditions across the Fraser and south-east Queensland coasts during Saturday, after closing a number of Gold Coast beaches on Friday.

Ex-tropical cyclone Iris is producing hazardous surf conditions across Queensland's coasts during Saturday as it approaches.

Ex-tropical cyclone Iris is producing hazardous surf conditions across Queensland’s coasts during Saturday as it approaches.

Photo: Bureau of Meterology

However the rain has held off, with the largest falls recorded just 13 millimetres in the Clarke Range north-east of Mackay.

Weather bureau forecaster Laura Pattie said that was due to change by Sunday, with heavier falls predicted as the low pressure system finally crosses the coast.

“Particularly in the evening Sunday night into Monday we’re expecting rainfall to really pick up,” she said.

“Coastal parts particularly north of Bundaberg can expect to see some of that significant rainfall.”

Initial falls in excess of 60 millimetres are possible wherever the system crosses the coast, with some areas potentially getting up to 500 millimetres over three days.

Forecasters still unable to say with certainty where the system will cross the coast, only narrowing it down to north of Bundaberg and south of Townsville.

That does mean rain-drenched parts of the state north of Townsville will get a reprieve after being inundated by ex-tropical cyclone Nora last week.

Emergency services in the far north are taking no chances, sandbagging around low-lying areas in case the ex-cyclone changes course and heads towards the region.

Authorities have also urged those going away over the Easter weekend to prepare for the heavy falls and avoid travelling if possible.

“There’s a clear message for everyone that’s travelling over the weekend, from Sunday night to next Wednesday, there’ll be heavy rain everywhere,” State Disaster Co-ordinator and Deputy Police Commissioner Bob Gee said.



Source :  The Brisbane Times

Questions raised over Dora deal after Brisbane business lost $20,000 during Thor filming

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By Toby Crockford

Questions have been raised over the deal to bring Dora the Explorer to Queensland, after a Brisbane small business owner claims he lost $20,000 in takings because of street closures put in place during the filming of Thor: Ragnarok two years ago.

The state opposition, which has questioned the use of taxpayer funds in the Dora deal, said small business owners should not be left out of pocket as a result of Hollywood productions and called upon the Palaszczuk government to treat them with more respect.

The Queensland government was forced to fund extra incentives to get the Dora deal across the line after the federal government refused to come up with the cash.

The Queensland government was forced to fund extra incentives to get the Dora deal across the line after the federal government refused to come up with the cash.

Photo: Supplied

Mark Prickett, owner of Bike Obsession in Mary Street, claims he was never offered any compensation and only discovered the street would be fenced off after seeing a “small” sign the day before the barriers were installed.

Mr Prickett said the street was closed to traffic at both ends and while it was still open to pedestrians, many were deterred by the large barriers.

He said the barriers were in place for two working weeks and believes his business lost an average of $10,000 per week in takings.

Mr Prickett said he was not able to send any staff on leave during the two weeks because he only found out about the closures the day before.

To make matters worse, the small business owner was battling prostate cancer at the time, but has since gone into remission.

“We (small business owners) are people with bills, kids and a mortgage to pay and houses on the line every day,” Mr Prickett said.

“I’m sure there are some people that win with these Hollywood films, but in my experience, it tends to be big business.

“I needed a few months’ notice to plan and get a fighting fund put away.

“It would have been nice if they said upfront ‘it’s going to hurt you, but here’s a compensation package and we’ll talk more afterwards’.

“I’m sure a small compensation package would be a drop in the ocean compared to what the deal was worth.”

Mark Prickett fears other small business owners could be forced to endure a similar experience to his, if streets are shut down during the filming of the Dora the Explorer movie.

Mark Prickett fears other small business owners could be forced to endure a similar experience to his, if streets are shut down during the filming of the Dora the Explorer movie.

Photo: Facebook

LNP deputy leader Tim Mander criticised the Dora deal, describing it as “a taxpayer-funded distraction”.

“Queensland small business owners shouldn’t be left out of pocket while Hollywood billionaires enjoy taxpayer-funded subsidies,” he said.

“Annastacia Palaszczuk needs to accept responsibility for this business’ losses. She is quick to claim the credit but not any criticism.

“Instead of getting a selfie with Chris Hemsworth, she should be talking to small business owners.

“Small businesses are the backbone of the Queensland economy and the Labor government need to treat them with more respect.”

Questions were sent to the Premier’s office asking whether small businesses were taken into consideration during talks with Hollywood productions and whether support would be available to them if streets were closed to film the Dora the Explorer movie but they did not issue a response.

A Brisbane City Council spokeswoman said the onus was on the production company to liaise with affected businesses and minimise the impact of filming.

As a New World City, Brisbane is well-set to capitalise on being a film destination and has experienced a doubling of film production over the past five years,” the spokeswoman said.

“As well as raising Brisbane’s international profile, Thor: Ragnarok injected more than $100 million into the city’s economy with CBD businesses receiving a direct boost in turnover.

“Council has not received a filming application for the Dora production at this time.

“It is a requirement of filming-related road closures that the production company liaises with affected businesses to minimise impacts on their operations.”


Source :  The Brisbane Times

Residents need more information about Brisbane Metro: Lord mayor

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By Ruth McCosker

Talking points

The Brisbane Metro is a 21-kilometre dedicated route servicing 18 stations

The Brisbane Metro project would involve upgrades to 17 existing stations

There would be interchange opportunities at 11 locations

Brisbane Metro should be operating by 2023

Brisbane lord mayor Graham Quirk has admitted residents still needed to be informed about what the $944 million largely ratepayer-funded Brisbane Metro was.

On the back of Tuesday’s announcement that the metro had been listed as one of the six “high-priority” projects by Infrastructure Australia, Cr Quirk said the project was well placed and would hopefully receive an additional $300 million in the federal budget.

The Brisbane Metro has been listed as a high priority project in Infrastructure Australia's latest report.

The Brisbane Metro has been listed as a high priority project in Infrastructure Australia’s latest report.

Photo: Brisbane City Council

The almost $1 billion Brisbane Metro project is a high-frequency public transport system that would link Eight Mile Plains to Roma Street and Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital to the University of Queensland.

The 60 metro vehicles, each with a capacity of 150 people, would run across 21 kilometres of existing busway infrastructure at a frequency of every three minutes in peak periods.

Brisbane Times reader poll from February revealed 51 per cent of residents supported the Brisbane Metro project, while a further 30 per cent didn’t know if they supported it and 19 per cent said they did not support the project.

When Cr Quirk was asked on Tuesday if he believed residents truly understood what the project was he said an education process was still required for residents.

“But, the important thing is that they do understand it will mean a significant improvement in travel time on public transport along those corridors,” he said.

“All cities start with a position around a single metro from there they can develop and that’s what I’m saying about Brisbane, this is the start of a significant public transport journey.”

It has been more than two years since Cr Quirk first announced the council’s Brisbane Metro plan.

In that time the project has evolved from a $1.54 billion single route subway system to a $944,000 bi-articulated bus fleet that would service two-routes by way of existing infrastructure.

The ever-changing project was the only Queensland project on the top-tier Infrastructure Australia list.

Infrastructure Australia chief executive Philip Davies said the Brisbane Metro was a “transformative project”.

Brisbane Metro timeline:

Original design plan for Brisbane Metro as released by Brisbane City Council.
Original design plan for Brisbane Metro as released by Brisbane City Council.

Photo: Supplied

January 2016 – Graham Quirk announced $1.54 billion high-frequency subway system which would be rubber-tyred and run on tracks and link Woolloongabba to Herston

November 2016 – The council considered a driverless Brisbane Metro

February 2017 – Council’s public transport chairman Adrian Schrinner admitted in a committee meeting the council was looking at a high-capacity bus system instead

March 2017 – The metro system was now two routes and the overall cost has reduced from $1.54 billion to less than $1 billion. Metro 1 is between Eight Mile Plains and Roma Street and Metro 2 is between the University of Queensland and Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital. It was revealed the vehicles were not limited to tracks and would run across 21 kilometres of existing busway.

March 2017 – Graham Quirk described the vehicles as not being limited to set tracks but refused to call them buses.

An early artistt's impression of the Brisbane Metro crossing the Victoria Bridge.

An early artistt’s impression of the Brisbane Metro crossing the Victoria Bridge.

Photo: Brisbane City Council

March 2017 – Council looked at two concepts as it finalised its business case – the “metro” seems more likely to be a 30-metre electric powered bus

April 2017 – Council’s public transport chairman Adrian Schrinner said metro could eventually extend to Chermside, Carindale and Springwood

May 2017 – Metro business case revealed the services would be non-stop on weekends and at least 20 hours on weekdays.

October 2017 – Council announced they would buy land in South Brisbane and Rochedale to move the Brisbane Metro project to the next step

March 2018 – Land purchases at South Brisbane and Rochedale delayed

March 2018 – The Brisbane Metro was listed as one of six “high priority” projects by Infrastructure Australia


Source :  The Brisbane Times

Edu Min plans merger of uneconomic schools

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39% public schools have less than 100 students

Saudi Gazette report

RIYADH — The Ministry of Education has said 39 percent of public schools in the Kingdom have less than 100 students and the ministry is considering the merger of some schools to make them profitable.

There are some schools that have just 10 students and the teachers in these schools have less than six classroom assignments a week, according to a report published by Al-Madina newspaper quoting statistics released by the ministry.

The report said 9,553 public schools out of a total of 24,000 schools have less than 100 students each.

Former Minister of Education Prince Khalid Al-Faisal had proposed a plan to cut down the number of schools having very small numbers of students.

According to the plan, schools that were established at least six years ago but still had an enrollment of less than 40 children were to be shut down and their students transferred to other schools within a 5-mile radius.

The ministry has said schools with very low enrollment cause an imbalance in the distribution of education resources and huge disparities in teacher-student ratio.

Some schools are overcrowded and have a shortage of teachers while others have more teachers but very few students, it said.

The ministry is working to improve the education environment with redistribution of not only teaching and non-teaching staff but also cleaning and canteen workers.


Source :  Saudi Gazette

‘Braille Box’ volunteers convert college textbooks into Braille

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Saudi Gazette report

AL-AHSA — Braille Box is a volunteer initiative to translate college textbooks into Braille to help visually impaired students continue their education, Al-Hayat newspaper reported.

Founder of the initiative Kowthar Al-Hamdi said she started the initiative a year ago and recruited 200 volunteers from all areas of the Kingdom.

“Myself being a blind person, I know the obstacles that blind people face in our society. They could be among the smartest and most motivated of students but they struggle in finding education materials that suit their needs. I am a student at King Faisal University Education College. I study sociology and hope to one day be an entrepreneur and also a published author,” said Al-Hamdi.

She said the university had been incredibly helpful and supportive of her.

“For a blind student to print out certain college material in Braille would probably cost around SR300 whereas it costs a regular student only a small fraction of it. I broached the idea of my initiative to my blind colleagues and they loved it. We started as a small team and grew to 200 volunteers,” said Al-Hamdi.

She said there was a special device called Braille Sense that reads regular word documents through a memory card and prints them out in Braille.

“Braille Sense can cost between SR18,000 and SR30,000. Blind students can also use dictation applications that read out loud a written text. We are working on establishing centers for the blind inside universities. We have a couple of universities that have cooperated with us including King Saud University in Riyadh,” said Al-Hamdi.

She said the initiative aims to reach other countries in the Arab world as well.

“Our volunteers have to be computer savvy and should be able to use Microsoft Word. However, those who wish to join but do not have the essential technological knowledge can be a part of the team and learn over time. Our initiative aims to enable the blind to become authors and pursue higher education in various fields,” said Al-Hamdi.

Source :  Saudi Gazette

Saudi Crown Prince oversees agreement to localize military manufacturing

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SEATTLE — Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman, deputy premier and minister of defense, in Seattle on Friday oversaw a signing ceremony for the establishment of a joint project aimed at localizing more than 55% of Saudi Arabia’s fixed-wing aircraft and helicopter maintenance, repairs and rehabilitation.

The agreement also includes maintenance to weapon technologies and spare parts in order to achieve the goals set out in the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, which states that 50% of Saudi Arabia’s military spending will be localized.

The deal was signed by Ahmed Al-Khateeb, chairman of the board of directors of the Saudi Arabian Military Industries Company (SAMI) and Boeing CEO and chairman of board of directors Dennis Muilenburg.

The Crown Prince was also briefed on the activities of Boeing Aircraft Industries. During his tour of the company, he was accompanied by Prince Khalid Bin Salman, Saudi Ambassador to the United States, and members of the official delegation accompanying the Crown Prince.

Crown Prince Muhammad left New York arrived in Seattle on Friday from New York.

The Crown Prince is set to spend a few days in Seattle, where about 500 giant companies, including Boeing, Microsoft, Costa, Amazon and Starbucks, have their headquarters -adding to that its significant value for the US economy, technology and tourism. — Agencies


Source :  Saudi Gazeette

Woman arrested for abandoning body of newborn baby in septic tank

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Police arrested a 31-year-old woman Friday for allegedly abandoning the body apparently of a newborn baby found inside a septic tank of an apartment building in western Japan.

The female resident of the building in Hirakata, Osaka Prefecture, told the police that she gave birth to a baby and abandoned the infant.

Earlier in the day, a sewage disposal worker found the body of a child of unknown sex floating in the tank connected to toilets, the police said.

The woman appears to live with her family, including at least another child, in the two-story apartment building where the body was found, according to investigators.


Source :  Japan Today

Japan to place renewable as major energy source in long-term plan

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The Japanese government plans to say in its long-term energy strategy that renewables are a “major” energy source while continuing to support nuclear power because of its zero carbon emissions, according to a draft of the plan.

The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry presented the draft to a roundtable of experts studying Japan’s energy policy through 2050, calling renewables an “energy source whose possibility of becoming a major (source) is greatly increasing.”

Although attention has been on whether numerical percentages of the country’s future energy mix will be included, the government is set to postpone setting such targets.

The most recent targets set out in 2015 seek to have renewable sources account for 22 to 24 percent and nuclear 20 to 22 percent of electric power generation in fiscal 2030.

The government is expected to finalize the long-term energy plan in April at the earliest.

The formulation of the plan comes as Japan aims for an 80 percent cut in emissions by 2050 from 2013 levels under the Paris climate accord.

Observers say resource-poor Japan, which has focused on developing nuclear power and thermal power, has lagged behind the global trend to invest in renewables.

The government said renewable energy such as solar and wind power should be at the center of the country’s energy plan given falling costs globally and technological progress in the field.

Renewable output, which tends to be influenced by the weather, could become dependable by storing surplus energy in batteries or changing it to hydrogen, the draft said.

As for nuclear power, the government said it will not change its stance to lessen dependence on such energy as much as possible following the nuclear crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant triggered by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster.

But at the same time it noted the importance of continuing to develop safe nuclear reactors and train personnel in the industry, seeing atomic power as a clean energy source not emitting carbon dioxide.

While thermal power generation remains important, the draft said inefficient coal plants will be phased out with more focus on gas plants.

The long-term plan for Japan’s energy policy through 2050 is set to be reflected in a separate energy plan until 2030 that is due to be finalized this summer.

Source :  Japan Today
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