Women driving campaign dropped

Updated 27 October 2014

Women driving campaign dropped

Women will not take to the streets on Sunday to mark the one-year anniversary of a nationwide campaign launched on Oct. 26, 2013 calling on the Saudi government to lift the driving ban.
The statement, made by a leading advocate, comes in the wake of a recent Interior Ministry warning against women driving.
Some 2,500 women had signed the online campaign to drive cars on the Kingdom’s streets on Sunday.
“The ministry’s warning will be heeded. What happened last year was not orchestrated,” said Samia El-Moslimany, a Saudi woman and supporter of the Oct. 26 campaign.
The ministry described any such attempt by women to drive in public “an opportunity for predators to undermine social cohesion.”
El-Moslimany said: “Nothing has been planned to violate the ministry’s warning. Oct. 26 is a symbolic day. The campaign is only to create awareness on the issue.”
Campaigners had been encouraging women to drive and post pictures or clips of them driving online like they did in the run-up to last year’s protest.
Last year’s campaign gathered pace on social media, with several uploading footage of them driving on YouTube.
At least 25 women had gotten behind the wheel, of whom five were stopped by police and their male guardians were made to sign pledges not to allow their female relatives to drive again.
El-Moslimany herself was detained last year for getting behind the wheel on Oct. 26.
“The issue of women driving has nothing to do with society. It could happen through a royal decree much in the same way King Faisal introduced education for women and girls despite the consternation of conservatives,” she said.
Two vital organizations, meanwhile, have lent their support to women driving by making their very first public comments on a ban that has long since garnered protest and disdain.
Members of both the Shoura Council and the National Society of Human Rights (NSHR) have, however, called for a “gradual approach” to allowing women behind the steering wheel.
Members also called for refraining from demonstrating against the continued ban.
“The Saudi government has said all along that there is nothing official against women driving,” said Saleh Al-Kathlan, deputy chief of the NSHR, here Saturday.
“Then, along comes the recent statement made by the Ministry of Interior citing ‘government regulations’ against driving and warning that violators of such ‘regulations’ would be punished,” he added.
“In such a situation, the basis of society’s argument for allowing women to drive becomes meaningless,” said Al-Kathlan.
“This puts human rights activists advocating a gradual approach to this issue in a very awkward position,” said representatives from the NSHR.
Shoura member Hoda Al-Helaissi backed the move, saying “there is a social and economic need for women to drive.”
“However, this will not happen if society is not ready. Delving into the reasons behind why our society is not ready will not solve the problem per se,” said Al-Helaissi.
“More and more students — especially young women — are coming back from abroad after completing their scholarships, looking to make a life for themselves,” she said. “Their financial status and newly acquired thoughts will not allow for such a restriction.
She added: “That is at the one end. On the other, women in the lower financial bracket who are alone, divorced or widowed cannot afford a driver. I believe the time will come when women will have to drive because life demands cannot wait. All it is now is a waiting game to see when this will happen.”
Ziad Al-Okayyal, a Saudi businessman, said: “The debate over allowing women to drive has been heating up between the opposing and supporting camps, which use religious, social and economic reasoning to garner support for their views.”
Some say that having a male stranger to drive women around defies the purpose from a religious and social perspective.
About 47 percent of women in the Kingdom own cars, according to statistics, but need drivers to get around.

High-level investment forum aims to further boost business between Saudi Arabia and Japan

Updated 18 June 2019

High-level investment forum aims to further boost business between Saudi Arabia and Japan

  • Japan is one of Saudi Arabia’s most important economic partners

TOKYO: More than 300 government, investment and industry leaders on Monday took part in a high-level gathering aimed at further boosting business opportunities between Saudi Arabia and Japan.

The Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA) welcomed key figures from the public and private sectors to the Saudi-Japan Vision 2030 Business Forum, held in Tokyo.

Hosted in partnership with the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO), the conference focused on the creation of investment opportunities in strategic sectors of the Kingdom. Delegates also discussed key reforms currently underway to enable easier market access for foreign companies.

Speaking at the event, Saudi Economy and Planning Minister Mohammed Al-Tuwaijri, said: “Today’s forum is a testimony to the success of the strategic direction set by the Saudi-Japanese Vision 2030 two years ago, which seeks to drive private-sector involvement, both by partnering with public-sector entities.”

SAGIA Gov. Ibrahim Al-Omar said: “At SAGIA, we have been working on creating a more attractive and favorable business environment in Saudi Arabia, which is making it easier for foreign companies to access opportunities in the Kingdom.”

Japan is one of Saudi Arabia’s most important economic partners. It is the Kingdom’s second-largest source of foreign capital and third-biggest trading partner, with total trade exceeding $39 billion.

JETRO president, Yasushi Akahoshi, said: “Saudi-Japan Vision 2030 has made great progress since it was first announced. Under this strategic initiative, the number of cooperative projects between our two countries has nearly doubled, from 31 to 61, and represents a diverse range of sectors and stakeholders.”

Since 2016, the Saudi government has delivered 45 percent of more than 500 planned reforms, including the introduction of 100 percent foreign ownership rights, enhancing legal infrastructure and offering greater protection for shareholders.

As a result, the Kingdom has climbed international competitiveness and ease-of-doing-business rankings, with foreign direct investment inflows increasing by 127 percent in 2018 and the number of new companies entering Saudi Arabia rising by 70 percent on a year-on-year basis in the first quarter of 2019.