No more camping, barbecue at Al Qudra Lake in Dubai

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Filed on December 11, 2017 | Last updated on December 11, 2017 at 12.03 am

Violators subject to warnings and Dh500 fine.

Who doesn’t like to barbecue or sit by a bonfire in the UAE desert during winter? Of the multitude of camping destinations, one just got knocked off the list —  Al Qudra Lake.

Visitors to Al Qudra Lake will not longer be able to camp, barbecue or light a bonfire in the area as Dubai Municipality recently added signboards banning these outdoor activities.

About 35 warning signboards with illustrations of banned activities have been added in the Al Qudra Lake premises, which serves as a major winter desert camping attraction and weekend barbecue picnic spot.

Violators will face warnings and a Dh500 fine that will be tagged on the car number plate. The amount of fine will be doubled in case of a repeat offence.

Dubai resident Srijita Sreenivasan said the municipality issued her a Dh500 fine last week for building a campfire with a group of friends.

“We were fined for making a bonfire ‘directly from the ground’. We hadn’t seen the signboard as it features several illustrations that are hard to see from a moving vehicle at night,” said Sreenivasan, a regular visitor to the lake.

“We made sure we didn’t litter because we read several of those signs on the way to Al Qudra. If we had seen the signboard (which bans setting up bonfires) as well, we wouldn’t have done it.”

Sreenivasan added that when she posted the warning on her social media pages, she received ‘thank you’ messages from visitors. “People aren’t aware that these rules exist.”

Another regular to the area is Mursalin Haidar, who noticed the boards during his visit over the past two weekends. “People were setting their bonfires regardless of the signboards, as they weren’t aware. I was only wary of them because a friend had warned me after being fined earlier,” said Haidar.

Kirk Fernandez, who visits the conservation reserve up to four times a month during winter, said that the area was packed with camps and barbecues during the National Day week despite the signboards that had been set up in the area.

“It makes sense that it is banned because people end up littering the area and distorting its beauty,” said Fernandez. “I usually see bags lined around camps and glasses scattered on the ground despite the presence of garbage cans in the area. People leave charcoal and wood behind after finishing their bonfire.”

Dubai Municipality has been intensifying its efforts to crack down on litterbugs after witnessing recognizable amounts of waste being dumped around the lake located mid of Seih Al Salam desert and Bab Al Shams. Officials said up to 2,000 bags of trash would be collected on weekends.

After adding more 200 trashcans, warning signboards and hiring over 20 cleaners, Eng. Abdulmajeed Sifaie, director of waste management department at Dubai Municipality, told Khaleej Times the department will start slapping offenders with a fine of Dh500.

“We tried to avoid fining people as much as possible, but we noticed the condition continued getting worse as the place continues to attract more visitors,” Sifaie had previously noted.

Nestled in the middle of the desert, Al Qudra Lake has been serving as a unique spot for barbecue picnics and wildlife spotting, offering activities including cycling tracks and desert camping spots accessible to owners of non-four-wheel-drive vehicles.

The lake is home to 175 species of birds, the highest number recorded from the lake and its environs that extends up to a 3km radius while including several man-made oases and small plots of natural reserves.


Things not to do in Al Qudra Lake areas:

– Bonfire
– Camping
– Barbecuing/cooking
– Littering
– Dog walking
– Swimming
– Fishing
– Animal feeding
– Hunting/killing wildlife
– Entry of motorcycle and vehicles
– Cutting/removing plants


Source  :  The Khaleej Times

Dh56.6 billion Dubai budget focuses on Expo 2020

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Team KT/Dubai
Filed on December 11, 2017 | Last updated on December 11, 2017 at 12.02 am
The budget’s overall spending saw a 19.5 per cent increase over 2017.- Alamy Image

The budget for the fiscal 2018 comes in line with Dubai Strategic Plan 2021’s targets and future commitments.

Dubai on Sunday unveiled a Dh56.6 billion budget for 2018 with a focus on infrastructure projects led by Expo 2020 and social development programmes to create more than 3,100 jobs next year.

The finance document, the largest-ever in Dubai’s history with 19.5 per cent year-on-year increase in overall spending, expects 12 per cent rise in public revenues at Dh50.4 billion. Non-tax revenues (fees) represent 71 per cent of the budget and tax revenues contribute 21 per cent, in addition to 6 per cent by oil and 2 per cent by government investments.

His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, approved Dubai’s 2018 General Budget Law No. (21) for the year 2017, according to the new budget classification.

“Over the coming years, the Dubai government actively seeks to improve public budget performance continuously, in order to achieve financial sustainability, fulfil the emirate’s commitments, and realise the strategic objectives of Dubai 2021 Plan,” said Abdulrahman Saleh Al Saleh, Director-General, Dubai Government’s Department of Finance.

Further, he said this aims to make the upcoming mega international event – Expo 2020 Dubai – one of the best in the history of Expo exhibitions.

The budget for the fiscal 2018 comes in line with Dubai Strategic Plan 2021’s targets and future commitments, especially Expo 2020. The budget features a rise in infrastructure spending, which makes up 21 per cent of the total government expenditure. This reflects the directives of Sheikh Mohammed to raise infrastructure efficiency in Dubai in order for the emirate to become the preferred destination for living, tourism, and businesses across all sectors.

“The Expo presents challenges that require us to focus on availing construction expenses needed for the mega infrastructure projects related to Expo 2020. Such projects will only benefit the success of the huge international Expo upon launching in three years, but is also expected to serve the emirate for decades to come, especially in light of Dubai’s noticeable urban expansion towards the Expo project area,” Al Saleh said.

“Dubai’s commitment to Expo excellence, and to UAE’s leading status on the international scene has led to approving a budget with a Dh6.2 billion deficit, representing 1.55 per cent of the total GDP in Dubai. This is the result of a 46.5 per cent rise in the infrastructural spending over the fiscal year 2017, and including over Dh5 billion dedicated to Expo projects,” he added.

The budget has also shown the importance that the government gives to social services, including healthcare, education, culture and housing, which have contributed to the high rating of the UAE in global competitiveness indices, and its top regional ranking in the happiness index.

The budget’s overall spending saw a 19.5 per cent increase over 2017. The increase was due to the focus on meeting the needs of Expo 2020, whose investment value is estimated at Dh25 billion, as well as the expansion of the Dubai Metro’s Route 2020, estimated at around Dh10.6 billion. In this context, the Department of Finance has reached the final stage of the Dh5.5 billion financing agreement based on the export credit guarantee system.

In continuation of the government’s endeavours to provide job opportunities, the budget offered more than 3,100 jobs, with salaries and wages amounting to 30 per cent of the total government spending in 2018. Moreover, salaries and wages saw a 10 per cent increase over 2017.

General, administrative, grants and support spending recorded 42 per cent of the total spending, a 11.5 per cent growth over 2017, which reflects the effort to offer the best social, health, and education services to the community, enhance the standard of public services and support innovation and creativity policies.

Infrastructure allocation increased by 46.5 per cent over the fiscal year 2017, making up 21 per cent of total government expenditure. This reflects the emirate’s keen efforts to implement the Expo 2020 projects according to a well-studied schedule that includes the main expo building, and the supporting service projects, such as roads, bridges, sewage, transport and metro lines, as well as work to prepare the entire area for post-expo events.

Additionally, Dubai managed to achieve financial sustainability by achieving an operating surplus of Dh2.5 billion, illustrating Dubai’s ability to finance all operating expenditures and achieve a surplus from the collected operating revenues.

The fiscal year 2018 highlights the priority that the government has placed on human resources, which is seen by Sheikh Mohammed as “the true wealth of the nation”. The expenditure on social development fields of health, education, housing, community development and innovation represents 33 per cent of the total spending.

Also, the government allocated 16 per cent of total spending to the security, justice and safety sector.

Dubai has been focusing attention on economy, infrastructure, and transport sectors as an integrated sector that it seeks to develop continuously. This played a major role in the UAE occupying a leading global position in several international indices. Expo 2020 was a major driver of accelerated growth in this sector, which makes up 43 per cent of the 2018 total spending. Allocating over Dh5 billion to Expo 2020 projects alone shows how serious Dubai is in addressing future commitments.

Dubai has also given its support to the Government Excellence, Innovation and Creativity Sector by allocating 8 per cent of total government expenditure to develop performance and embed a culture of excellence, innovation and creativity.


Source  :  The Khaleej Times

One in three companies pays no tax, here´s why…

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A few years ago, I accepted an invitation to speak on a lunchtime panel discussion about corporate tax transparency in Australia.

Hosted by one of the big four accountancy firms in its glittering CBD tower, the room was jam-packed with clients of the firm wanting to know how the media – ie. me – would respond if the then Labor government made good on a proposal to publicly release the details of the actual tax their companies paid.

Simple, I said.

We’ll get the spreadsheet, divide each company’s tax paid by their taxable income and see who is close to paying the 30 per cent corporate tax rate and who is not.

Cue generalised outrage.

But, I was asked repeatedly, and in somewhat pleading tones, would not the media – and the Australian public more generally – appreciate that many Australian firms pay much less than the 30 per cent statutory rate each year, and that they do so for a range of legal reasons?

 Sure, I replied.

There are any number of reasons why Australian companies may be entitled to pay less than the statutory rate, including claiming previous years’ losses, depreciation, dividend imputation, various tax offsets or money spent on research and development.

But that’s no reason why Australians shouldn’t get to see who is paying what.

And given the intense debate swirling about whether the company tax rate should be reduced from 30 per cent to 25 per cent, it would be interesting to know exactly how much they are paying

Hint: it’s much less than 30 per cent.

Legislation was eventually passed to increase corporate tax transparency, and we now have access to three years of data on individual company tax paid.

This year’s spreadsheet was released, somewhat suspiciously, last week on the same historic day that same-sex marriage passed Parliament.

Perhaps you missed it? No matter, I can get you up to speed.

This year’s spreadsheet details the taxes paid in 2015-16 by 2043 of Australia’s biggest companies, comprising 1693 Australian public and foreign-owned companies that generated an income of $100 million or more, plus another 350 Australian-owned and resident private companies with an income of $200 million or more.

Together, these companies chipped in $38.2 billion to government coffers through company income tax – about 60 per cent of the $62.9 billion of total company income tax paid that year.

They did so off the back of $172 billion in taxable income, giving an average corporate income tax rate of 17 per cent.

I warned you it was much lower than you might think.

Australia’s big banks emerge as our four biggest corporate taxpayers, with the Commonwealth Bank topping the list at $3.3 billion (a tax rate of 29 per cent), followed by Westpac at $3 billion (28 per cent), NAB $2.4 billion (21 per cent) and ANZ $2 billion (24 per cent).

Rounding out the top 10 corporate taxpayers’ list were Telstra $1.7 billion (29 per cent), BHP Billiton $1.3 billion (25 per cent), Rio Tinto $1 billion (23 per cent), Wesfarmers $931 million (29 per cent), AMP $681 million (11 per cent) and Woolworths $497 million (27 per cent).

Together these 10 companies paid more than a quarter of all company tax collected that year.

And BHP chipped in another $488 million in petroleum resource rent tax.

So far, so good.

Turns out, a total of 762 companies – just over a third paid within 1 decimal point of the statutory rate. And this includes a number of large multinational corporations, including Aldi, Ikea, Citigroup, Audi, BMW and Volkswagen.

But a further third – 732 in total – paid absolutely no corporate income tax.

Nada. Zip. Zilch.

They include: Bluescope, Alcoa, CSL, Elders, Healthscope, IBM, Lendlease, Mirvac, Origin Energy, Qantas, Pratt Consolidated Holdings, Pfizer, Shell, Seven, Transurban, Energy Australia, Chevron, Exxon Mobil, Glencore, Santos, Stocklands, Sydney Airport and Toll Holdings.

Now, as explained, there are many reasons why these companies might be able to legitimately pay no tax.

The most simple of which – as surprising as it might seem – being that Australia’s biggest companies are not beyond turning a loss.

According to a Tax Office analysis, around 20 to 30 per cent of ASX500 firms report a net loss to their shareholders in any given year.

“Importantly, this shows that even extremely large companies will sometimes make a loss in a particular year.”

The nation’s biggest airline carrier, Qantas, for example has recently returned to profitability, but only after several years of substantial losses.

The 2015-16 tax year was a particularly tough one for energy and resource companies, which faced falling prices, and were the main reason for disappointing company tax collections that year.

Appearing before a parliamentary inquiry into corporate tax transparency in 2015, Treasury’s then head of revenue, Rob Heferen​, observed that it was a deliberate choice of governments to allow companies to reduce their tax paid through various concessions: “So an observation that a company has an effective tax rate of less than 30 per cent is merely that – an observation of fact. It gives no insight as to whether the tax paid is appropriate or not.”

Ultimately, there are benefits to taxing companies at a low rate – like promoting investment and jobs creation.

But the downside is that revenue has to come from somewhere to pay for all the nice things society likes, like schools and hospitals. And if it doesn’t come from company incomes, it must come from wages or other sources.

Paying less than 30 per cent in corporate tax may be totally legal. Only the public can determine if what is presently legal also meets society’s definition of what is fair.


Source  :  The Canberra Times

Chaos at Perth boat ramp as mercury soars to 38C

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Tim Carrier

There were scenes of mayhem at a Perth boat ramp this morning as a perfect storm of hot weather and ideal fishing conditions saw people flock to the ocean.

The crayfish season’s annual ‘white run is well underway and this year’s fishing is tipped to be some of the best in a decade which is one of the reasons Perth residents couldn’t wait to get out on the water.

The ‘white run’ is when the crayfish population moves from shallow waters off the coast to the deeps of the continental shelf, moulting their shell to reveal a new layer of pinkish white along the way.

The other catalyst for the mass migration to the sea was the warm morning temperatures, with the mercury soaring past 30C before 9am on Sunday.

It reached 31.2C at Perth weather station by 9am and the Bureau of Meteorology predicted temperatures of up to 36C later in the day.

The eventual maximum temperature reached 37.7C at 1.29pm.

This combination of events meant the relocation of the city’s fishing enthusiasts from their houses to the ocean was all but inevitable.

Some people arrived at the boat ramp as early as 3.30am to ensure they were able to get their craft out on the water ahead of the rush.

But fishers who arrived after 7.30am to the Ocean Reef boat ramp would have received a massive shock with a large backlog of traffic.

And, while they waited, people soon took to social media to share their thoughts on the slow start to their morning.

“Cray, cray at the boat ramp,” was the first humorous post.

While another person took to Facebook to post a similar photo just over an hour later.

“Far out, have fun launching and parking today, queue goes up the hill too.”

Recfishwest says there are at least 55,000 West Australians plying the waters for crays this year.

“Good catches usually continue until about Christmas time and the white run is when potters do best,” a spokesperson said.

“Crays can travel many kilometres a day, so don’t be afraid to spread your pots out to get an idea of where good numbers of crays are each day.

“Crays love fresh bait, so don’t let your bait get rotten in the basket … change it every few days at the very least.”

More crays for sale in Perth

With an abundance of fishers capitalising on the season’s annual ‘white run’, the news is just as good for cray lovers.

Fisheries WA has confirmed an extra 12,500 western rock lobsters will be allocated to local seafood markets over the Christmas period.

WA looks set for a bumper crayfish season.WA looks set for a bumper crayfish season. Photo: Recfishwest

The vast majority of the state’s commercial crayfish catch is usually exported to China for premium prices, leaving the coolroom back home virtually bare.

But in 2016, the state government trialled a scheme that allowed commercial fishers to catch and tag up to 50 extra lobsters above their quotas to sell direct to local seafood markets.

While the government has changed since then, demand hasn’t, so the scheme will this year allow an extra 12,500 western rock lobsters to be sold in WA.

“The national-first Local Lobster Program, which was launched last year in partnership with the Western Rock Lobster Council, is designed to put more local lobsters in WA restaurants and on plates,” Fisheries WA said.

“Some commercial fishers will sell their tagged catch direct to the public while others will find their way to plates through local restaurants and fish retailers.

“This way, more locals and tourists will get a chance to try the state’s iconic ‘wild caught’ western rock lobster, fresh from the waters of the Indian Ocean.”

For more information on the WA season, click here.

Cook up a seafood storm this Christmas

With an abundance of crayfish and other shellfish on the menu this Christmas, Western Australians will be looking to serve up a seafood feast during the festive season.

Craft a tasty crayfish laksa with your catch.Craft a tasty crayfish laksa with your catch. Photo: Marina Oliphant.

Fairfax’s Good Food team has put together a collection of some of the best seafood recipes to get the creative juices flowing – from luxurious lobster and crayfish to oysters on ice and prawns on the barbie.

Check it out here.

Source  : WA Today

FIFA World Cup 2018: Socceroos’ opponents Peru lose captain Paolo Guerrero to drug ban

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DECEMBER 10 2017 – 9:11PM

Dominic Bossi

The Socceroos’ chances of progressing to the second round of the 2018 World Cup in Russia have received a major boost after the captain of one of their group-stage opponents was banned from the tournament.

After guiding Peru to their first World Cup in 36 years, talismanic striker Paolo Guerrero will not travel to Russia after receiving a 12-month ban from all competitive games for testing positive to cocaine. The 33-year-old former Bayern Munich striker tested positive for the illegal drug after the October 5 World Cup qualifying draw away to Argentina and his year-long ban was provisionally ratified by FIFA on Saturday evening.Out: Paolo Guerrero on the ball during the World Cup qualifier against Argentina in Buenos Aires, after which he tested ...

It means Peru’s all-time leading goal scorer will be absent for his country’s crucial final World Cup group match against Australia in Sochi on June 26 that will likely determine which nations progress to the knockout stages. Guerrero is regarded as one of Peru’s greatest players and was their joint top goal scorer during the qualifications for the 2018 World Cup, netting five goals to help seal qualification.

Guerrero did not play in Peru’s World Cup play-off against New Zealand due to the positive test for cocaine, with his 12-month ban backdated from November 3.

“The player tested positive for cocaine metabolite benzoylecgonine, a substance included in Wada’s 2017 Prohibited List under the class ‘S6. Stimulants’, following a doping control test conducted after the match,” a FIFA statement read.

“By testing positive for a prohibited substance, the player has violated article 6 of the Fifa Anti-Doping Regulations and, as such, contravened article 63 of the Fifa Disciplinary Code.”

However, Guerrero maintains his innocence and appears to be weighing up a possible legal challenge to his suspension. Pedro Fida, Guerrero’s lawyer, told Peruvian media they will contest the decision through an appeals process.

“The evidence is clear, and when added to the low concentration of the substance typical of coca leaves there can be no justification under any circumstances for this decision,” Fida said.

The Peruvian football federation, FPF, suggested they would support an appeal on behalf of Guerrero and have provided their assistance to the player.

“Today we were visited by Paolo’s family and spoke to him with the certainty that football and Peruvians united can overcome adversity,” FPF said in a statement.

Guerrero has scored 32 goals in 86 appearances for his country and plays his club football in Brazil with Flamengo. He is most known in the German Bundesliga where he spent two years with Bayern before spending six seasons with Hamburg.

Alongside Peru, Australia was drawn with France and Denmark in Group C in the 2018 FIFA World Cup.


Source  :  The Canberra Times

Famous Saudi singer Abubakr Salim Balfaqih dies at age 78

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Okaz/Saudi Gazette

JEDDAH — Famous Saudi singer Abubakr Salim Balfaqih died on Sunday at the age of 78 after protracted illness.
He received treatment in several hospitals in the Kingdom, Germany and a number of other European countries.
Balfaqih was a towering artist who enriched Saudi music. Most prominent among them was “Ya biladi wassili” (My country forge ahead). This was the last song the late Balfaqih sang. It was during the Saudi National Day celebrations in September in Jeddah.
Abubakr Salim Balfaqih, the singer, lyricist and poet became famous in the 70s.
Balfaqih was awarded many medals, prizes and honors. They included the “Golden Cassette” from one of the German distribution companies. He won the UNESCO Prize as the second best voice in the world and the cultural medal in 2003. He won the Prize for Sanaa as the Arab Cultural Capital in 2004. The University of Hadhramout awarded him an honorary doctorate degree in 2003. The General Authority for Sports recently honored him during a ceremony held in the indoor section of the King Abdullah Stadium, Jeddah, in the presence of great Saudi artists.
Balfaqih was also honored in several Gulf countries including the United Arab Emirates (UAE). He was awarded the first class medal in arts and literature. The late Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al-Nahayan honored him in the Emirates on many occasions.


Source  :  Saudi Gazette

Prepaid salary cards for domestic workers

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Saudi Gazette report

RIYADH — Domestic workers (housemaids, drivers etc.) will now get prepaid payroll or salary cards to protect their wages and ensure that they get their salaries on time.

The Ministry of Labor and Social Development (MLSD) started this scheme from Saturday. It has given a six-month deadline to all employers to issue these cards to domestic workers under their sponsorship.

These prepaid cards, which facilitate the monthly salary transfer for domestic workers electronically, ensure timely payment if wages, ministry’s spokesman Khaled Aba Al-Khail was quoted as saying by Al-Eqtisadiah Arabic newspaper.

He said employers should provide prepaid salary cards to domestic workers the moment they arrive in the Kingdom.

Many banks are already offering prepaid card services to their customers.

“Household Payroll Card allows sponsors to process the payment of salaries and incentives to their household workers electronically with ease, safety, and comfort,” the Saudi Investment Bank website says.

The household salary card product supports the required banking services in an easy and efficient way which will protect sponsors domestic workers in their cash transactions and guarantee an easy channel for their payments, says the Saudi British Bank.

The debit-card like option empowers household workers to handle their cash in a safe and secure manner with multiple access options and peace of mind.

Prepaid payroll cards give domestic workers the flexibility to conveniently withdraw monthly salary through ATMs and pay for all their shopping at POS with ease through the Mada network.

The card is acceptable within the Kingdom only and it accepts deposits only from the sponsor.

There is no fee for transferring salary from the sponsor account to the Mada household payroll card.

To get a prepaid payroll card, the sponsor must have an account with a bank, fill up a form, sign an agreement with the bank, and show the original ID of the worker to the bank.

Source  :  Saudi GAZETTE