Saudi projects big deficit in 2015 after oil price drop

RIYADH (AFP): Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest crude exporter, on Thursday announced a 2015 budget with a huge $38.6 billion deficit due to the sharp decline in oil prices but still raised spending. A statement read on state-run television after a cabinet session said spending for 2015 is projected at 860 billion riyals ($229.3 billion) and revenues at 715 billion riyals ($190.7 billion). Projected spending is slightly higher than the 855 billion riyals planned for this year, but revenues are 140 billion riyals lower than estimates for 2014. The budget shortfall is the first deficit projected by the OPEC kingpin since 2011 and the largest ever for the kingdom.

The price of oil, which makes up more than 90 percent of public income in Saudi Arabia, has lost about half of its value since June due to a production glut, weak global demand and a stronger dollar.

Saudi Finance Minister Ibrahim al-Assaf said this month that Riyadh will continue massive public spending despite the sharp decline in oil prices.

Assaf said the budget comes during “challenging” global economic conditions but reserves built over many years have given Saudi Arabia “depth and a line of defence that come in handy in times of need”.

Expats eyeing the exits after Russian ruble plunges

MOSCOW (AFP): The plunge of the ruble hasn’t left only Russians shell shocked — foreign workers from traders to maids are considering bailing out as Moscow turns from an El Dorado into a financial black hole. The phenomenon is not quantifiable nor is there anything to indicate an exodus of expatriates is under way, but many admit to considering whether it is time to leave Russia after the ruble shed a quarter of its value in a couple of days last week. While the ruble has recovered somewhat, it is still down some 40 percent against the dollar and euro this year, leaving many in a precarious financial position.

Dollar gives back some gains

from US GDP bounce

NEW YORK (AFP): The dollar gave back some of its gains from the prior day’s advance following a strong US economic report. The dollar dipped against the euro, the Japanese yen and other major leading currencies in light trade ahead of Thursday’s Christmas holiday. “With most of the world’s trading centers winding down now for the week, volumes are light, and activity is largely subdued,” said Omer Esiner, chief market analyst. There is always the risk of choppy and erratic market moves.” Even with Wednesday’s drop, the dollar is near a nine-year trade-weighted high due to expectations that the US Federal Reserve will raise interest rates more quickly than other central banks.

 after data Tuesday put US gross domestic product growth at five percent in the third quarter, Esiner said.

Joy left her three young children in Manila earlier this year to cash in on the high wages offered by well-to-do Muscovites to clean their apartments.

“When I arrived in April, I was paid 1,500 rubles, or 42 dollars (30 euros), for four hours of housecleaning,” said the 28-year-old. “Today, for the same work, it comes out to just 20 dollars (16 euros).”

She had been lured here from the Philippines by friends who had been working in Moscow.

“They told me the ruble was very stable and there wasn’t as much competition as in other cities,” said Joy.

She had been sending home up to two-thirds of her earnings to support her family in one of Southeast Asia’s poorest countries.

CAA IT Dept launches software on flight info, revenue management

karachi (app): The Information Technology Department of CAA has developed and launched its software on Flight Information & Revenue Management System (FIRMS) for maintaining the record and billing of all flights using Pakistani airspace. The launching ceremony of the software was held here at CAA Headquarters. Director General, CAA, Air Marshal (r) M Yousuf was the chief guest of the ceremony. He praised the efforts of CAA’s IT Department for developing and launching the software. With the launching of FIRMS software, the billing of all flights using Pakistani airspace has been converted to a fully automated system, which has also been linked with the Air Transport & Management System.

At the launching ceremony, DG CAA said that the IT & Communications Department of CAA is regarded as one of the best in the current aviation industry, working on the same guidelines outlined by the International Aviation Authority.

DG CAA said that the development of aviation automated systems like “FIRMS” and “AMS” by CAA’s own IT Department “independently” proves our team’s capabilities and the fact that CAA employees are completely motivated with a strong ambition to move forward.

Italy cabinet okays first planks

of Renzi’s labour reform

ROME (Reuters): Italy’s government on Wednesday began drawing up the details of a reform that Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said will “revolutionise” the country’s labour market when it takes effect some time next year. The cabinet approved key parts of the so-called Jobs Act to ease firing restrictions, extend the duration of jobless benefits and introduce a new contract type offering compensation in case of dismissal that gradually increases with seniority. At the end of a three-hour Cabinet meeting, Renzi told reporters the measures were a “Copernican revolution” and said the rules making firing easier meant there were now “no alibis” to keep potential investors away from Italy.

However the Jobs Act, one of several reforms that Renzi hopes can revive a stagnant economy and cut record unemployment, is still months away from becoming law. The cabinet will have to approve other parts of the package in subsequent meetings and it must then be scrutinised by parliamentary committees.

A key change approved on Wednesday is that firms with more than 15 employees will be able to fire workers for business reasons without the risk of having to reinstate them even if the dismissal is ruled unlawful.

Unjustified dismissal will require payment of compensation but the worker will not be able to get his job back as is the case at present. The change will not affect the public sector or people already in work—only new hires in the private sector.

The current rules allowing for reinstatement do not affect companies with less than 16 employees, which account for close to half of Italy’s workers.

Italy’s unions have already held strikes against the reform plan and vowed more protests to try to stop it becoming law. Maurizio Landini, head of the main metal workers union, FIOM, said it meant “fewer rights for everyone” and ensured workers had “nothing to celebrate at Christmas”.

Among other steps approved by the cabinet on Wednesday was a decree to save troubled steelmaker Ilva, which was placed under special administration last year after being accused of failing to contain toxic emissions.

Renzi said the state would invest more than a billion euros in the Taranto plant, which is Europe’s biggest by output capacity and a major employer in the impoverished south of the country. He said the state’s intervention in the unlisted company would last between 18 months and three years.