Morocco Most Competitive Country in North Africa WEF Report

Rabat – Morocco is the most competitive country in North Africa, according to a report released on Thursday at the World Economic Forum (WEF). Morocco moved up five places to the 72nd in the World Economic Forum’s 2014-2015 Global Competitiveness Report, making it the fourth most competitive country in the African continent behind Mauritius (39th), South Africa (56th) and Rwanda (62nd).According to the WEF report, a reduced budget deficit (between 2012 and 2013) and improvements in the primary education and innovation support the country’s rise in the rankings. “Some aspects of [Morocco’s] institutions have improved as well, reflecting the country’s relative social and political stability and efforts made over recent years to modernize its business environment, particularly its administrative aspects,” says the report.The report recommends that Morocco should continue its successful efforts to address key competitiveness challenges.Necessary measures, the report suggests, include boosting education (104th) in terms of both quality and access, and reforming its labor market (111th).In their responses to the report, Moroccan business executives point out that revising curricula so that skills taught better match the needs of businesses should be a priority.“Boosting the use of ICTs among businesses and individuals (84th) would also greatly benefit the country’s competitiveness,” the report added.This year’s report provides an overview of the competitiveness performance of 144 economies.The United Arab Emirates takes the lead on the Middle East and North Africa region, moving up to 12th position this year.According to the report, the country’s successful bid for Expo 2020 and its strong drive toward reforms have anchored many initiatives to enhance competitiveness.Morocco World News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, rewritten or redistributed without permission read more

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MINURSO Staff Accused of DoubleDipping into Accommodations Funds

Rabat – Earlier this week, the UN-based news outlet Inner City Press (ICP), cited a “well-placed” source saying the U.N. personnel who worked at the now-evicted MINURSO peacekeeping mission in the Western Sahara were “double-dipping” into their accommodations benefits during their time in Morocco.According to the source, the U.N. workers had their accommodations paid for by the Moroccan government via a $3 million grant. But the staff of over 73 members also benefitted from the international organization’s Mission Sustenance Allowance (MSA) funds “as if they were paying their own hotel costs.”The U.N.’s official website says MSA benefits are meant to help staffers pay for living expenses incurred by their work on a temporary project or special mission. The protocol for receiving the assistance stipulates that the amount of the benefits be cut by 50 percent when accommodations are provided by the U.N. The ICP source suggests that the benefits were not reduced as required.Morocco cancelled its grant to MINURSO last month before expelling the mission from key offices in Laayoune and Dakhla as part of a political reaction to remarks made by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon referring to the North African country’s presence in the Western Sahara as an “occupation.”Ki-moon made the comments following a tour of the Tindouf refugee camps housing Sahrawis in Algeria. The use of this controversial term sparked protests domestically and in the Moroccan diaspora worldwide in the weeks that followed.In a statement released on March 28th, the U.N. said Ki-moon “regretted misunderstandings” caused by his remarks, but Moroccans immediately rejected the attempt to de-escalate tensions by condemning the statement as a “non-apology.”On March 21st, a U.N. spokesperson reported that 33 of the expelled staff members have continued their work from a remote base in Las Palmas, while others either left their position with the U.N. or began leave in their respective home countries.ICP also released an article last month that included an email from a former U.N. volunteer with MINURSO who claimed his employers treated him “cheaply” when they refrained from calling the mission’s eviction a “security evacuation” in order to avoid paying the benefits due to U.N. volunteers according to their employment handbook. read more

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Morocco Spent MAD 391 Billion in 2016 in Laayoune Region

Rabat – 134 projects totaling MAD 39.1 billion were launched in the year 2016. All of the projects were undertaken as part of the new development model for the southern provinces, worth MAD 77 billion.The model was inaugurated by King Mohammed VI on the 40th anniversary of the Green March. Results for the year 2016 were announced by the interior minister on Wednesday in Laayoune.During a meeting, which was meant to examine the progress of the new development model for southern provinces a year after its launch, the interior minister stated that the rate of the launch of works related to economic projects is currently at 99%. This stands against 82% for infrastructure and territory development projects and 52% for social projects. The meeting was also attended by the delegate for the interior minister and the minister delegate for water. The official underlined the importance given to the Laâyoune-Sakiat El Hamra region within the framework of the new development model. The area received a budget of 41.6 billion dirhams. In 2016 the building works for 50 projects totaling MAD 23 billion were launched.The projects include a motorway, the “Phosboucraa” industrial development program, the Foum El Oued science and technology park project., as well as two solar energy units in Laâyoune and Boujdour.  In addition to these undertakings, according to the interior minister, a number of social projects in the fields of education, culture, employment, and handicraft are slated for 2017.The new development model for the southern provinces was launched to encourage entrepreneurship and investment in the region with long-term sustainable development in mind. A comprehensive strategy is being employed to combat the region’s historically high unemployment rates by courting economic growth, supported by a social structure designed to enforce legal standards and uphold basic human rights.Considerable planning has also gone into strategies for maximizing the region’s resources without compromising their safety and ecological integrity. In a nutshell, the plan aims to turn the region into a critical economic hub for Morocco. In addition, it will also serve as a vital link between the Kingdom and the African continent. read more

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Qatar Airways Offers Business Travelers Loaner Laptops on Board

By Safaa KasraouiRabat – Following the US government’s electronics ban imposed on flights from several Middle Eastern and African countries, Qatar Airways will provide business class travelers loaner laptops on US-bound flights, starting next week.The action comes as a result of an initiative by Qatar Airways to deal with the US electronic devices ban, imposed on March 21, as well as to provide its business class passengers with the opportunity to complete their work during their flight. According to a statement issued by Qatar Airways’ CEO, Akbar Al Baker, business class passengers will have to download their work from their own laptops onto a USB device at the boarding gate, adding that the company will offer its business customers one hour free access to internet and a full onboard Wi-Fi package for $5.One of the airlines affected by the US-electronic ban, Qatar has made this decision n an effort to prevent losing a large number of its usual business passengers.“As an award-winning and global airline, we truly appreciate the importance of being able to work on board our aircraft and that is why I have insisted on offering only the best possible solution for our customers,” said Al Baker.The US-imposed ban has affected 10 different airports and nine companies, including Royal Air Maroc, Egyptair, Etihad, Emirates, Kuwait Airways, Royal Jordanian, Saudia and Turkish Airlines. read more

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African Development Bank Loans Morocco USD 200 Million to Boost Industrial

Rabat – The African Development Bank (AfDB) just approved on July 14, a USD 200 million loan for Morocco to finance the first phase of the Support Program for the Acceleration of Industrialization in Morocco (PAAIM I). The AfDB also validated a USD 50 million risk-sharing agreement for the Central Popular Bank (BCP).The PAAIM I, which aims to promote the industrial acceleration of Morocco and consolidate the foundations for sustainable and shared growth, is aligned with two of the AfDB’s five strategic priorities, namely “Industrializing Africa” and “Improving the quality of life of populations in Africa.”This program is expected to increase the share of industry in Morocco’s GDP by 14 to 23 points and create half a million jobs by 2020. The AfDB’s Board of Directors has also approved a risk-sharing agreement (APA) amounting to USD  50 million for the benefit of the Central Popular Bank (BCP). In a statement published by the AFD, the bank stated that the program will be able to “hedge a portfolio of transactions of up to USD 100 million, supporting the equivalent of USD 700 million (cumulative value) of intra-African business operations over a three-year period.”According to the AfDB, the APA will meet the growing demand of African markets for trade finance in vital economic sectors such as agri-food, health, services, and industry. In addition, it will promote regional integration and financial sector development and help generate additional tax revenues for several African States. This agreement will support in particular Moroccan exporters as well as banks and SMEs on the continent.To date, 32 transactions amounting to USD 2.3 billion in commitments are registered under the partnership between Morocco and the African Development Bank Group. The projects concern the transport, energy, water, and sanitation and agricultural sectors.This partnership between the AfDP and the BCP takes place in a context where the majority of African banks have a small capitalization, limiting their ability to obtain lines from international banks. read more

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El Malkis Announcement of Qatar Visa Removal Embarrassed Morocco Official

Rabat – Habib El Malki, president of the House of Representative, sparked the ire of the government after he announced in an official communique the removal of visa requirements for Moroccans willing to enter Qatar. Malki’s announcement was based on unsubstantiated statements made by Qatari minister of interior Sheikh Abdallah Bin Nasser Bin Khalifa Al Thani.According to an unnamed government official cited by news website Hespress, El Malki has allegedly “overstepped his executive privileges” by announcing such news, especially that soon after, the Qatari ministries of interior and tourism refuted such allegations, “which put the Moroccan government in an embarrassing position.” “Such news cannot be announced unless they are official,” explained the source to Hespress, adding that “Maliki has put himself and the Kingdom of Morocco in an embarrassing position.”During the official inauguration ceremony of Hamad Port held on September 5, in Qatar, it was alleged that Qatari official informed El Malki and Moulay Hafid Elalamy, Minister of Industry that Qatar had decided to remove the visa requirement for Moroccans desiring to visit the Gulf country.However, the Qatari ministries refuted the news on September 10. Instead, Doha announced new measures for Moroccans and Algerians to facilitate procedures for visitors from both countries to come to Qatar.The Qatari Ministry of Interior and the Tourism Authority (QTA) explained in a statement that Moroccans and Algerians wishing to visit the country “will be issued visa-on-arrival” in Qatar on the condition they hold valid residence permits.The other option national of both countries will be granted visas is to have visas from the United Kingdom, the United States of America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the Schengen countries or the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).The new measure is due to take effected on September 15, 2017. Eligible visitors from both North African countries will have to fill an online application on www.qatarvisaservice.com 48 hours before travelling to Qatar in order to obtain Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA). read more

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Marrakech Police Arrest 126 in Tourism Safety Campaign

Rabat – Marrakech’s touristic police made 126 arrests in a 10-day security operation in October, intended to fight against criminality in the city.The 10-day security operation was conducted on the first 10 days of October.During the security campaign, the city’s police arrested a suspect wanted nationally for his involvement in an unidentified crime, while 15 other suspects involved in drug and alcohol cases were arrested during the same operations, according to a statement issued by Marrakech’s prefecture of police. Sixty-five other defendants were arrested for public offenses and five were jailed for public indecency, reported Maghreb Arab Press (MAP). Eleven other suspects were arrested for robbery, while 22 were arrested for violence and knives possessions in suspicious conditions. Three other suspects were arrested for fraud and four others were arrested for possession of “dubious items.”The city’s security authorities also managed to transfer 36 individuals suffering from mental disorders to the hospital.The police have also conducted a series of operations in order to monitor the regulation of the profession of tourist guides. The police arrested 214 unauthorized tourist guides in the city.These operations form part the security measures seeking to protect Moroccan cities and make them a safe place for domestic and international tourists.In April, Moroccan police arrested 746 unauthorized tourist guides in the city of Fez. The city’s police launched a campaign in January in order to protect tourists. read more

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Melilla Residents Pay More for Moroccan Operators

Rabat- Thousands of residents living in the Spanish enclave of Melilla are complaining about the lack of mobile signal coverage provided by Spanish network operators, leading many to grudgingly accept the expensive cost of Moroccan operators. The Spanish daily Melillahoy reported earlier today, that thousands of residents living in different areas of Melilla such as la constitución, Mayorazgo, and La Quinta, are left without mobile coverage, which prevents them from making toll-free phone calls and connecting to the internet. Alternatively, many people purchase plans from operators in Morocco, which they say provide the city with stronger signals than those in Spain.“We do not understand how the Moroccan operators forcefully reach all parts of Melilla, while the city has several Spanish antennas. There are areas where coverage is very low or non-existent,” one resident of the enclave said. Despite better connections, many complained about the expensive costs of Moroccan operators. One resident explained that the calls through Moroccan operators are billed as if they were abroad. For this matter, Melillians voiced their concern to the media and urged the Spanish authorities to take effective action. The main mobile network operators in Spain are Yoigo, Vodafone, Movistar, and Orange. As in most of Europe, voice and data coverage are generally good in urban areas while connections are hardly accessible in rural and remote areas. read more

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Moroccan Chef Receives Michelin Star in Germany

Rabat – Moroccan Chef Faycal Bettioui has received the world’s most coveted award that every chef aspires to receive, a Michelin Star.Bettioui received the award at the 2019 Michelin Star Ceremony held in Berlin on Tuesday 26th.The 36-year-old Moroccan studied computer sciences in the U.S before opting for dentistry. While preparing for his bachelor in Biology at Florida International University in Miami, Bettioui then switched his direction again to pursue his passion for cuisine. The Moroccan chef earned the award after a long journey of 20 years of practicing his passion by taking the command of two restaurants in Miami, and one in Germany, Zur Krone- one of the most ancient food houses in the city of Neupotz.Bettioui has been the chef and owner of Zur Krone restaurant since 2015. read more

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Whats at stake in Ukraines presidential election

Awash in corruption, plagued by a war with Russia-backed separatists, reliant on international institutions for billions of dollars in aid, Ukraine presents stern challenges for its next president.Sunday’s election, which will require a second round if none of the 39 candidates wins an absolute majority, comes five years after mass protests drove the pro-Russia president to flee the country. The upheaval led to Russia annexing the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine, to a separatist conflict in eastern Ukraine that has killed more than 13,000 people and to economic decline.A look at some of the issues at stake as Ukraine chooses a new president:CORRUPTIONEndemic corruption was one of the key complaints against the president ousted in 2014 and persists under his successor, Petro Poroshenko. Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index shows Ukraine at 120 among 188 countries rated for clean government — a marginal improvement from recent years but still in the neighbourhood of notably dodgy countries such as Niger and Mali.Poroshenko initiated some anti-corruption measures that were demanded by the International Monetary Fund for the release of billions of dollars in loans. But the fledgling efforts suffered a considerable blow this month when the main anti-corruption law was declared unconstitutional. State defence enterprises, meanwhile, are embroiled in a military embezzlement scandal.Top candidates have vowed various severe measures against corruption, including mandatory life in prison for cheating the military, lifetime bans on holding public office and a onetime tax amnesty for hidden assets. But corruption is so pervasive that such measures could show little effect, while rising public anger demands more visible action.All the top candidates pledge they will pursue European Union membership for Ukraine, but the bloc appears reluctant to welcome a country that can’t or won’t tackle corruption.RUSSIAThe top candidates also favour Ukraine seeking NATO membership, a move that would be anathema to Russia and that could obstruct attempts to resolve other tensions such as the war in eastern Ukraine and Russia’s seizure of 24 Ukrainian sailors last year.The prospects of any resolution of the conflict in the east are dim, though the top candidates have different approaches of how to tackle the issue.Poroshenko, who is seeking a second term, favours the so-called Normandy Format talks of Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany, although those negotiations have been all but dormant. Yulia Tymoshenko wants talks held among the signatories of the Budapest Memorandum, which calls observing the territorial integrity of former Soviet republics that gave up their nuclear weapons, even though Russia flouted that pact when it annexed Crimea.Upstart Volodymyr Zelenskiy says the matter can be solved only through direct talks with Russia. That idea has received some favourable news coverage in Russia, suggesting Moscow is looking for a way out of a conflict that has cost it heavily in international sanctions.QUALITY OF LIFEDaily life for many Ukrainians is poor and dismal — the average wage is just $350 a month. Thus, a 25-per cent hike in prices for natural gas last year was a severe blow to many households.Tymoshenko likened that to “genocide” and has vowed to cut gas prices by 50 per cent or more. But doing so would risk the disapproval of the international financial institutions giving Ukraine aid; the price hike met demands for the gas market to be rationalized.Ukraine’s medical care system, largely unchanged since the Soviet era, has been notoriously poor, especially outside major cities. Reforms are underway, but some candidates say the changes are insufficient and make access to general practitioners difficult. Tymoshenko and Zelenskiy both propose introducing medical insurance.ECONOMYUkraine’s economy is recovering from the severe decline it experienced after the 2014 upheaval, but gross domestic product is still substantially below its level in 2013. The willingness of the next president to undertake reforms — and the composition of the new parliament to be elected in September — will likely promote or discourage investors. Before the presidential vote, economists were predicting modest growth of about 2.5 per cent a year, marred by inflation expected at about 10 per cent.Poroshenko can point to the economic improvement during his tenure, including a rise in foreign direct investment. Zelenskiy calls for simplifying the tax code and for removing obstructions to new enterprises, so that “you can open a business in an hour.” Tymoshenko has promised to lower the tax on entrepreneurs by half and to redirect Ukraine’s economy from reliance on raw materials to producing finished goods.DEMOCRACYRegardless of who wins, the election will be a significant test of Ukraine’s commitment to orderly democracy, influencing both citizens’ trust in the authorities and international partners.The pre-election period has been increasingly messy. Poroshenko’s own interior minister has accused the president of using public money to try to buy votes.After Zelenskiy’s campaign found listening devices in its Kyiv building, an Interior Ministry official suggested the national security service was involved and the security service in turn opened a criminal case against the ministry on the grounds of undermining state security.Far-right groups have become increasingly unruly as the campaign period progressed.The Associated Press read more

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International Astronomy Center Morocco To Start Ramadan Monday

Rabat – The International Astronomy Center (IAC) said that Ramadan is most likely to begin on Monday, May 6, in most Arab countries, including Morocco. Officials of countries like Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Jordan, India, Egypt, Libya, Sudan, Tunisia, and others have called on their citizens to keep a close watch on the moon for the night of Sunday, May 5, while other countries like Saudi Arabia called for moon sighting on Saturday, May 4, which corresponds to Sha’baan 29 of its official calendar, Umm al Qura. Saudi Arabia also called on its citizens to keep their eyes peeled for the moon to come out on Sunday, May 5, which, according to the center, corresponds with the actual 29th day of Sha’ban. The IAC said that, according to astronomical calculations, the crescent moon would be impossible to observe on Saturday, May 4, because it will “not be in the sky after sunset.” On Saturday, they added, there will be what astronomers call “conjunction” after sunset. This means the earth, moon, and the sun will be in a straight line and that the moon sighting is obstructed.The IAC notes that the of sighting the moon is only possible through the telescope for countries like Saudi Arabia, Palestine, Egypt, and Morocco.Because it relies both on naked eye sighting as well as astronomical calculations, Morocco has not even once misjudged the start day of Ramadan from 1984 to 2007, according to the Emirati astronomer Mohammed Shawkat Awda.In Saudi Arabia, however, the margin of error regarding start day of Ramadan stands at 87%. read more

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Chinese companies brace for tariff hike as trade talks begin

BEIJING — Chinese exporters of all sorts of products, from power adapters and computers to vacuum cleaners, are anxiously hoping trade talks in Washington this week will yield a deal that might stave off higher U.S. tariffs on imports from China.Companies across China are bracing for a tariff hike after President Donald Trump, complaining Beijing was backtracking and the talks on a festering trade dispute were taking too long, said he would raise import duties on $200 billion of Chinese goods to 25% from 10%.Amber Chen, sales manager for a vacuum cleaner manufacturer based in southern China, says her company has $100 million in exports to the U.S. at stake.“I really hope that the two countries can reach an agreement,” Chen said in a phone interview. “We just can’t swallow the costs of a tariff increase.”The trade dispute erupted last summer with the first round of U.S. tariff increases. It deepened with Trump’s announcement via Twitter on Sunday that he plans to raise tariffs and have them cover all products imported from China, as of Friday.The tariffs have devastated many factories in Chinese coastal regions that serve the U.S. market. Industries such as electronics have seen sales to the U.S. plummet up to 40%. Overall Chinese exports to the U.S. dropped 13% in April from a year earlier.Many Chinese companies are reluctant to speak publicly about their problems, especially those linked to sensitive topics such as the ruling Communist Party’s policies on trade and technology.But sales managers of five Chinese companies that depend heavily on exports to the U.S. told The Associated Press that while they have managed to adjust to current tariff levels with minimal trouble, a jump to a 25% tariff would make doing business with the U.S. virtually impossible for most of them.“If the tariffs rise to 25 per cent, then we’re done for,” said James, a sales manager for a computer monitor manufacturer in Shenzhen, China’s southern tech hub.He declined to give his full name. He said 30 to 40% of his company’s products are exported to the U.S.Before this week, both the U.S. and China said the trade talks were making steady progress, giving the impression that the world’s two biggest economies were approaching an agreement. Trump’s unexpected threat Sunday sent global financial markets into a tailspin. On Thursday, China vowed to defend its interests and retaliate with “necessary countermeasures” if the increases take effect Friday as planned.China has kept official statements on the latest trade talks, the 11th round, low-key and restrained. That’s in contrast to more aggressive rhetoric in earlier rounds. Domestic media avoided reporting on Trump’s tweeted threat for hours after it was posted.If the tariff increase goes ahead, the impact will be deeply felt by small- and medium-sized enterprises, said Shawn Yang, sales manager for a company in Shenzhen that produces electric power adapters.“We’re on the front lines,” he said.Many of the company’s products are designed for use in the U.S., Yang said, so it would be difficult to shift sales to other markets.He said he’s confident it can weather the trade war because of the quality of their products, though some buyers are waiting for a conclusion to the trade dispute before placing new orders.Yang said he has faith the two countries will reach an agreement.“(The trade war’s) impact is too far-reaching,” he said. “It’s not possible for them to keep fighting like this.”_Associated Press researcher Yu Bing and video producer Fu Ting contributed to this report.Yanan Wang, The Associated Press read more

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Bombardier facing World Bank ban over Azerbaijan corruption allegations

MONTREAL — Bombardier Inc. is facing a possible ban from World Bank-financed projects after it received a show-cause letter related to a rail equipment deal plagued by corruption allegations.The letter is the latest development in an ongoing investigation into a roughly $340-million contract awarded to a Bombardier-led consortium in 2013 to supply signalling equipment for a 500-kilometre section of a rail corridor connecting Asia and Europe via Azerbaijan.A show-cause letter, which came from the bank’s Integrity Vice Presidency, typically requires a company or individual to make their case as to why disciplinary action should not be taken after alleged wrongdoing.Bombardier says it disagrees with the allegations in the letter, which include accusations the company engaged in delaying practices or obstructive behaviour regarding the audit. A spokesman for the Montreal-based company says the conclusions represent preliminary findings rather than formal accusations.The World Bank says it takes allegations of fraud and corruption seriously, but declined to comment on the ongoing probe.In one of the country’s biggest corruption cases to date, Sweden appealed in 2017 the acquittal of a Russian employee in Bombardier’s Swedish branch for aggravated bribery involving an Azerbaijan Railway Authority employee. The train maker says in its latest annual information form that an appeal trial is expected next year.Companies in this story: (TSX:BBD.B)The Canadian Press read more

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Visa rejections frustrate efforts to bring in more international students

OTTAWA — At a time when Canada is attracting more students from around the world, there are concerns qualified applicants from certain countries are getting turned away because of its visa process.Most students have been coming to Canada in recent years from India and China. Fazley Siddiq, a University of New Brunswick professor who served as dean of the business department, said visas have been a headache for applicants from countries like Pakistan and Nigeria.“It’s frustrating for the students, it’s frustrating for universities,” Siddiq said.“The security checks were so stringent that no one could make it. Or at least, in my experience, very few were given visas.”He added that the issue has been of particular concern in Atlantic Canada, where some universities are desperate for international students and “bend over backwards” to attract them.Siddiq said the situation has improved for applicants from Nigeria, but those from Pakistan have continued to see more refusals — in some years eight Pakistanis received acceptance letters from his department but none could get a visa.Canada wants to draw in more international students as a way to diversify classrooms and increase the economic benefits they bring, which already amount to billions of dollars each year. The economic impacts of foreign students rival Canada’s exports of auto parts, aircraft and lumber.Pakistan’s High Commission in Ottawa has urged federal government officials to address what its spokesman calls a “very high” visa rejection rate for the Asian country’s students.“Canadian universities are popular among Pakistani students, but due to visa difficulties increasing numbers of students is turning towards other countries,” Nadeem Kiani said in an email.“Consequently, Canadian universities are losing both high-quality students and revenue.”For example, Kiani pointed to numbers in government documents obtained through access-to-information law that show 2015 student permit applications from Pakistan had a success rate of about 32 per cent. The student-permit success rate for applicants from India that year was more than 68 per cent, say the data.Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen said the approval rate for visas for Pakistani nationals has gone up under the Liberal government.Hussen also said the government will soon announce an expansion to a program — known as the student direct stream — to include applicants from Pakistan. The program, which already covers applicants from China, India, the Philippines and Vietnam, is designed to speed up the processing of student visas.A spokesman for Hussen said all applications are assessed in a fair manner, based on the merits of the case and in accordance with Canadian law.“You can’t compare one country to another,” Hussen said in an interview. “Each country has its own country conditions, economic circumstances, people have different travel history.”The application decisions are made by visa officers. Therefore, a key to helping more students receive permits, Hussen said, is connecting the schools directly to visa offices and embassies to explain the government’s criteria.It’s also important for applicants to demonstrate they can support themselves financially while in Canada, he said.Denise Amyot, the head of Colleges and Institutes Canada, said it’s often difficult for students from emerging economies to show that they have financial means to pay for their stays.More collaboration between visa offices and post-secondary institutions is also important to ensure applications are complete, she said.“(The visa officers) don’t have a lot of time when they examine an application, so as soon as there’s a doubt they could reject it,” Amyot said.“That’s we need to ensure as much as possible that all the info is there and it’s clear, and that there’s integrity to whatever information is there.”—With files from Teresa WrightAndy Blatchford, The Canadian Press read more

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Atco wins 70M contract to house workers cleaning up after Paradise wildfire

Companies in this article: (TSX:ACO, TSX:BDI)The Canadian Press CALGARY — A second Canadian company is going to Paradise to help rebuild the community nearly destroyed by last November’s devastating northern California wildfires.Calgary-based Atco Ltd. says it has a nine-month, $70-million contract to provide workforce housing and camp support services for ECC Constructors while it remediates the environment and removes debris in Paradise and the surrounding Butte County.Atco’s Structures division is to provide 390 temporary modular rental structures that will serve as dormitory, kitchen, laundry and recreation facilities.Its Frontec division will provide services that include food, housekeeping, waste management and security.Last month, Calgary-based Black Diamond Group Ltd. said its U.S. business unit had won a $20-million contract to rent portable housing units with 1,584 beds, also under a nine-month contract, at Paradise.Only about 1,500 of Paradise’s 27,000 residents were able to continue living in the few surviving houses after the fire that started in the tinder dry Sierra Nevada foothills destroyed nearly 15,000 homes and killed 85 people in November.“This project represents one of the largest workforce accommodation facilities ever supplied for disaster relief efforts in the United States and is a testament to the strength and skill of our team in the region,” said Frontec president Jim Landon in a news release. read more

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Ban Kimoon calls for steppedup united action against HIVAIDS

21 May 2007The number of people living with HIV has risen in every region of the world despite progress towards achieving universal access to treatment, prevention, care and support, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today, calling for a more united front among to defeat the pandemic. In a speech to the General Assembly session reviewing the implementation of the Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS, reached by United Nations Member States in June 2001, Mr. Ban said he was encouraged by recent initiatives around the world to improve the care and treatment of people living with HIV.Some 90 countries have set access targets, with many aiming to double or triple the coverage of antiretroviral (ARV) treatment by 2010; several nations have set aside special health, education and welfare services to AIDS orphans; and 2 million extra people in low- and middle-income States are receiving treatment, according to his interim report on global progress in the past year towards meeting the Declaration.“And yet the epidemic is still spreading,” Mr. Ban told the meeting, noting that the number of cases has increased on every continent.Pledging that the fight against AIDS would remain a system-wide priority at the UN during his term as Secretary-General, Mr. Ban called for the scaling up of existing schemes in Africa to widen access – especially among women and girls – to prevention programmes.He added that a more comprehensive approach should be taken to tackling diseases often linked with HIV, such as tuberculosis, and called for greater investment in tools for prevention and treatment, such as vaccines and microbicides.“It means mustering the political will to address the factors that drive the epidemic – including gender inequality, stigma and discrimination,” he said.More women, including married women, live with HIV/AIDS than ever before, and nearly half of the 40 million people living with the disease are female. HIV has infected 65 million people and killed 25 million since it emerged at the start of the 1980s.Opening today’s meeting, Assembly President Sheikha Haya Rashed Al Khalifa said she hoped that the feminization of AIDS would be a major element of the session’s deliberations.Sheikha Haya noted that new infections in sub-Saharan Africa, the region worst affected by HIV/AIDS, are up to six times higher for young women than they are for young men.“We must constantly ask ourselves: what are we doing to fight this global emergency, and what more can we do?” she said. “Whether we continue to act and give the highest priority to this matter, future generations will either praise us or hold us accountable for our failure to prevent the spread of this disease.“This is a make-or-break time, but beating this disease is entirely within our reach.”Mr. Ban’s interim report stated that if current trends in scaling up care and treatment programmes continue, the number of people receiving ARV drugs in 2010 will reach about 4.5 million – or less than half of those classified as being in urgent need of treatment.During the open debate today, speakers from several dozen UN Member States urged renewed political commitment to tackling the disease and greater funding for poorer countries without access to the resources available in industrialized economies. read more

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Security concerns overtaking rights in global asylum systems says UN official

The top protection official with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) today warned that in more and more countries, the rights of individuals are being trumped by security concerns which are impacting the functioning of asylum systems.“The world of borders is particularly shadowy, with interception, turn-arounds and refoulement taking place outside the frame of any proper scrutiny,” Assistant High Commissioner for Protection Erika Feller told the annual meeting of the agency’s 72-nation Executive Committee.Citing the findings of UNHCR’s annual report on international protection, she stated that “security is driving the operation of asylum systems in an increasing number of countries, contributing to the growth of a culture of thinking where rights are becoming peripheral.”Particularly worrying is arbitrary detention, including of children, and the privatization of detention “which in some countries has turned into an industry,” she said.Ms. Feller added that in some regions, asylum is a “lottery,” with the inconsistent application of the 1951 Refugee Convention among States.“The widely divergent refugee recognition rate among States is a telling indicator, with research showing, for example, that persons from Iraq, Sri Lanka or Somalia have very different prospects of finding protection depending on where their claim is lodged,” she told the gathering.While the report contained some positive news such as 700,000 refugees being able to return home in 2006, UNHCR was concerned about the growth of a class of “untouchables” deemed undesirable for resettlement, including politically sensitive ethnic groups, elderly persons, large families or refugees with low educational levels. 3 October 2007The top protection official with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) today warned that in more and more countries, the rights of individuals are being trumped by security concerns which are impacting the functioning of asylum systems. read more

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Security Council extends counterterrorism offices mandate until end of 2010

20 March 2008The Security Council today unanimously voted to extend the mandate of the Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED), which is tasked with monitoring the efforts of countries to combat the global scourge of terrorism, until the end of 2010. The Security Council today unanimously voted to extend the mandate of the Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED), which is tasked with monitoring the efforts of countries to combat the global scourge of terrorism, until the end of 2010.Established as a special political mission in 2004, the CTED assists the Council’s Counter-Terrorism Committee in monitoring the implementation of resolution 1373, which was adopted in the wake of the September 2001 attacks on the United States and calls on countries to adopt a number of measures to enhance their ability to counter terrorist activities nationally, regionally and globally.In the resolution passed today, the Council reaffirmed that “terrorism in all forms and manifestations constitutes one of the most serious threats to international peace and security,” and emphasized the “central role” that the UN plays in the fight against the global scourge.CTED Executive Director Mike Smith told the Council in an open meeting yesterday that considerable progress has been made worldwide in the fight against terrorism, including the endorsement of important treaties and the sharing of information between law enforcement agencies.Although resolution 1373 is as relevant today as it was when it was adopted nearly seven years ago, “most countries in the world have now criminalized terrorism,” he said, noting that since the adoption of the landmark resolution, there have been hundreds of new ratifications of the key counter-terrorism pacts. read more

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Increasing attacks on aid workers hampering relief efforts in DR Congo says

Since the beginning of 2009, a total of 108 attacks against humanitarian workers – including murders, abductions and theft of vehicles and other assets – were recorded in the province, compared to 105 during the whole of 2008. The attacks have increased in recent weeks, with seven incidents reported during last week alone in the territories of Lubero, Masisi, Rutshuru, and Walikale. North Kivu hosts an estimated 980,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) – more than any other province in the strife-torn nation. UN agencies and over 70 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are operating in the province to deliver much-needed assistance.According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), aid workers in the area currently able to reach at least 70 per cent of those in need. “By decreasing our access to the areas concerned, those responsible are contributing to the suffering of millions of vulnerable people,” said John Holmes, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator.“Unfortunately, they are almost never brought to justice,” he added. Of the 105 attacks against humanitarian actors reported during 2008, less than ten have been formally investigated by the police, and even fewer have led to judicial action.Dieudonné Bamouni, deputy head of OCHA in the DRC, urged the authorities of North Kivu to launch thorough investigations into each and every incident, stressing that “the current impunity must end.” Numerous waves of fighting over the years have produced around 2.2 million IDPs in DRC. An estimated 1.7 million people remain displaced in the provinces of North and South Kivu, with more than 400,000 persons having fled their homes since January. 20 October 2009A sharp rise in attacks on humanitarian workers in the eastern North Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has impeded efforts to provide life-saving assistance to hundreds of thousands of people in need. read more

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Tens of thousands of refugees to benefit from new UNbacked microfinance project

13 January 2010Tens of thousands of displaced people around the world will get micro-loans to set up their own businesses and become self-sufficient thanks to a new agreement between the UN refugee agency and a microfinance services organization set up by Bangladeshi Nobel Peace laureate Muhammad Yunus. Under a memorandum of understanding signed by Mr. Yunus and UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) António Guterres, the Grameen Trust will set up micro-loan programmes for displaced civilians, mainly refugees but also including some returnees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) over three years in an initial 14 countries around the world, with a feasibility study early this year in Egypt, Tanzania and South Africa.“The Grameen Bank and its network have given millions of poor people access to microcredit,” Mr. Guterres said. “I believe the Grameen Trust can make a vital contribution towards refugee self-reliance and the promotion of sustainable livelihoods.”UNHCR and Grameen Trust staff will assess the number and profile of beneficiaries, while the project will also look at the rehabilitation or improvement of existing UNHCR microfinance activities. The Trust generally sets up programmes to provide seed or scale up funding, based on an approach pioneered by the parent Grameen Bank and imitated worldwide.Microfinance is important to UNHCR because by allowing people to run their own businesses and learn new skills it can help the displaced – especially women – become self-sufficient and also prepare them if they return home, integrate them in a host country or help them start a new life in a resettlement country.But despite the benefits it can bring, microfinance is not always considered in refugee operations. In some cases, the policies of host governments prevent refugee access to financial institutions. In others, the limited expertise of UNHCR and its partners in microfinance is a factor. It is to overcome these and other limitations, that UNHCR has established partnerships with organizations like the Grameen Trust and the UN International Labour Organization (ILO).Mr. Yunus, who won the Nobel Peace Prize with his Grameen Bank in 2006, has been dubbed “Banker to the Poor.” He started the Grameen project in the Bangladeshi village of Jobra in 1976. In 1983, the project was transformed into a formal bank to help people escape from poverty by providing small loans, or microcredit, on generous and tailored terms.The Grameen Trust was set up six years later to help poor and needy people inside and outside Bangladesh with the kinds of services pioneered by the Grameen Bank to reduce poverty, offer training and technical assistance, and help increase employment, income and management skills of the poor. The Trust has more than 140 partners in 38 countries. read more

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