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Tuesday, January 8, 2013
Excerpts: Obamas choice for Defense Secretary. Egypts wheat storage problem. Egypts economy. P.A. name change not on ID cards and passports January 08, 2013

Excerpts: Obama's choice for Defense Secretary.Egypt's wheat storage
problem. Egypt's economy.P.A. name change not on ID cards and passports
January 08, 2013

+++SOURCE: The Telegraph via Egypt Daily News 8 Jan.’13:”Obama is about to
show us how he might deal with Iran”,by David Blair
NOTE: “David Blair became Chief Foreign Correspondent of the Daily Telegraph
in November 2011. He previously worked for the paper as Diplomatic Editor,
Africa Correspondent and Middle East Correspondent”.
SUBJECT:Obamas choice for Defense Secretary

QUOTE: “Chuck Hagel, an opponent of going to war with Iran and a critic of
Israeli influence in Washington”

If a president’s key appointments show the direction of his thinking, then
Barack Obama’s latest nomination sends an important message. Chuck Hagel, an
opponent of going to war with Iran and a critic of Israeli influence in
Washington, has emerged as Obama’s choice for defence secretary.

First things first: the president decides US policy, not the man who runs
the Pentagon, whoever he might be. Moreover, Hagel’s appointment is likely
to encounter significant opposition in the Senate; his confirmation is far
from certain.

But the fact that Obama has made this choice could be an early sign of his
likely approach towards two looming decisions. The first will be whether to
have another go at reviving the Middle East peace process. Obama’s allies in
Europe and the Middle East, notably Britain and Jordan, are urging him to
try again. Meanwhile, Israel holds an election on January 22: Benjamin
Netanyahu will probably win, perhaps as the head of an even more Right-wing
coalition. That will complicate Obama’s choice.

We can be fairly sure that Hagel would be in favour of giving the peace
process another try, even if this sets up a confrontation with Israel’s new
government. The allies who favour this course would be quietly cheered by
his appointment.

The second issue concerns Iran. Last year, America joined a big diplomatic
effort to break the impasse over Iran’s nuclear ambitions. The five
permanent members of the Security Council plus Germany (the “P5 plus 1”)
held three meetings with Iran in Istanbul, Baghdad and Moscow. But that
process ran into the sand and, in any case, Netanyahu made clear that he
believed America and her allies were prepared to concede far too much.

Obama will have to decide whether to have another go at diplomacy with Iran
in 2013. If an agreement looks possible, he will also have to choose how
many concessions he is prepared to make. Hagel’s influence seems likely to
point in the direction of more diplomacy and a more pragmatic US position.
If so, Obama’s policy would be broadly in line with the European consensus.
Perhaps Netanyahu’s suspicions about Obama are about to be confirmed

+++SOURCE: Egyptian Gazette 8 Jan.’13:”Unfit wheat silos”,By Samar Ali Ezzat

SUBJECT: Egypt’s wheat storage problem

QUOTE:” 360 …substandard storage silos . . .should be replaced . . . these
silos are indespensible at present”

FULL TEXT:The storage of locally produced wheat has proved to be a stumbling
stone in the way of improving the quality of subsidised baladi bread.

Better wheat, worse silos: Local wheat is praised for a better quality than
imported wheat, but the problem is reportedly with the storage silos.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The ad-hoc presidential committee assigned to follow up this file has
objected to the so-called ‘dust silos’ affiliated to the Agricultural
Development Bank, where around two million tonnes are annually stored in 360
silos throughout the country. The problem with these silos is that local
wheat, which experts say is far better than imported brands in terms of
gelatin and protein percentage, gets mixed with dust and grit.

Professor Ahmed Essa, head of the committee, believes that these substandard
silos should be dispensed with and replaced by macadamised storing
facilities. In the meantime, according to government sources, these silos
are indispensable at present because of the large quantities of wheat stored
since last year.

The situation will therefore remain unchanged for at least this season,
given the inability of grinding mills to deal with the large amounts stored
at a time, when the production of baladi (subsidised local pita style) bread
relies on a blend of local and imported wheat brands.

New policies in the future will tend to apply a subsidy system that starts
with the stage of bread production rather than subsidise the purchase of
wheat from farmers. “For this reason, the government is required to set up
silos with standard specifications, since mill owners would never accept
having wheat mixed with impurities, when they purchase it at free market
prices”, Reda Agag member of the committee told Al-Messa Arabic evening
daily.

He further explained that, under this system, bakeries get flour at cost
price, and the state purchases the bread, then sells it to consumers at the
current subsidised price of five piastres.

According to the same sources, this policy will not be effected until the
harvested yield of the new season is handed over and, accordingly, the dust
silos would still be in service at least until next June.

Experts say that the wheat blend used is the ratio of 60:40, locally
produced to imported, which means that some 350,000 tonnes are withdrawn
monthly from ‘dust silos’.

Meanwhile, quantities of imported wheat already available in silos at
seaports and Ministry of Supply companies amount to some 750,000 tonnes.
Additional contracted quantities, expected to reach local seaports within
two months, are estimated at two million tonnes. The quality of baladi bread
on the market has always been the highlight of ministry of supply
discussions in the past few years, given recurring consumer complaints.

As professor Essa says keeping dust silos in service presents a case of
squandering public money if not a crime of g

+++SOURCE: Saudi Gazette 8 Jan.’13:”Egypt mired in economic woes as IMF
talks begin”, Agence France Presse

SUBJECT: Egypt’s economy

QUOTE:”40 percent of the population lives on $2 or less per day”

FULL TEXT:CAIRO – A rising budget deficit, falling foreign exchange reserves
and a sliding currency are adding to the woes of Egypt’s fragile government
even as it battles a raft of political and social problems.

It is against this background that Cairo resumed talks Monday with the
International Monetary Fund for a $4.8 billion loan, which many see as a
prerequisite for the country’s recovery.

The talks began anew Monday[7 Jan.] in Cairo with Massod Ahmed, IMF
representative for the Middle East and Central Asia.

Discussions will focus on “the most recent economic developments, their
policy plans for addressing Egypt’s economic and financial challenges, and
possible IMF support for Egypt in facing these challenges,” the Fund said
Sunday[6 Jan.].

Finance Minister Al-Morsi Al-Sayyed Hegazi, an academic specializing in
Islamic finance, said during his inauguration that he is "ready to finalize
consultations with the IMF to conclude such a loan."

The IMF package is expected to unlock other international funding and
support for undertaking difficult reforms in Egypt.

But the IMF program is expected to come with austerity measures, especially
a revision of costly state subsidies for fuel and/or several low priced food
items.

President Mohamed Morsi has set a tough task for his government, headed by
Prime Minister Hisham Qandil, which he fine-tuned in a Sunday[6 Jan.]
reshuffle that saw the appointment of 10 new ministers including that of
finance.

The government must “accelerate efforts to revive the economy and growth,
attract investment, strengthen exports, promote tourism, create new jobs and
improve public services,” Morsi said last month.

Egypt’s economic indicators however paint an “alarming picture”, said
economist Ahmed El-Naggar of the Al-Ahram Centre for Studies.

“Previously tourism brought $13 billion every year, now it is around $8.8
billion.”

Egypt’s unemployment has grown to 12 percent in two years, he said, adding
that official estimates are far less than the actual figures in a country
where 40 percent of the population lives on $2 or less per day.

And the latest sign of concern is the fall in Egyptian pound which has
dropped to around 6.4 pounds to the dollar, a record low.

The central bank has acknowledged that its foreign exchange reserves have
reached a “critical minimum” level. The reserves fell to $15 billion from
$36 billion in two years and are enough to cover only three months of
imports.

Egypt is reported to have extensively used its reserves to support the pound
and to secure vital imports such as wheat and fuel.

Planning Minister Ashraf Abdel Fattah Al-Arabi has declared in the media
that the budget deficit could rise to 50 percent – 200 billion pounds ($31
billion) – in the fiscal year 2012-2013 “if strict economic measures are not
implemented”.

Given the bleak economic scenario, securing the $4.8 billion IMF loan is now
considered by many as essential to fuel a recovery. — AF

+++SOURCE: Jordan Times 8 Jan.’13:”Abbas avoids clash with Israel over state
symbols”,:Associated Press
SUBJECT: P,A, name change not on ID cards and passports
QUOTE:”(PA)not rush to issue new passports and ID cards …’State of Palestine’

FULL TEXT:RAMALLAH, West Bank — Palestinian officials say they will not rush
to issue new passports and ID cards with the emblem “State of Palestine” to
avoid confrontation with Israel.

Last week, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas decreed that in official
documents “State of Palestine” must replace “Palestinian Authority”, the
name of his self-rule government. His decision came after the UN General
Assembly recognised a state of Palestine in the West Bank, Gaza and East
Jerusalem in late November, overriding Israeli objections.

Israel says such a state can only be the result of negotiations.

On Monday, Palestinian officials said documents that need to be presented to
Israel, such as passports, will not be changed now.

Abbas aide Saeb Erekat says there’s fear of travel problems because Israel
is unlikely to recognise passports with a new emblem.

==========
Sue Lerner - Associate, IMRA

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