SR1.6tr reserves lift economy

Updated 28 December 2013
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SR1.6tr reserves lift economy

Finance Minister Ibrahim Al-Assaf said on Tuesday that the Kingdom's public reserves of about SR1.6 trillion would be used wisely to support the economy.
“The amount will be invested in non-risky ventures after conducting detailed studies,” he told a Saudi channel after unveiling the 2014 budget that projected spending at SR855 billion, equal to the country's projected revenue.
Speaking about the SR206 billion surplus in 2013, he said Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah has approved an allocation of SR24 billion from the surplus to finance strategic road projects including the Jazan-Jeddah Expressway, SR20 billion for railway projects and SR10 billion to the Saudi Credit Bank. The rest would be kept in reserve, he said.
Economist Ihsan Buhulaiga told Arab News that the Kingdom's huge public reserves would enable it to balance the budget when oil revenues fall, without borrowing from others.
He said the new budget continues to focus on massive spending, which would boost the economy and create more jobs for citizens.
However, he said more effort must be made to increase GDP growth to more than five percent in the coming years. Al-Assaf also disclosed that development projects worth SR2 trillion are under construction across the Kingdom.
He downplayed the number of stalled projects but acknowledged that many projects were delayed due to a shortage of workers caused by the campaign against illegals.
He said the government had spent more than SR35 billion on the Hafiz program that provides unemployed Saudis SR1,500 to SR2,000 monthly. He said the government has reduced the number of rented school buildings from 50 to 16 percent.
Economy and Planning Minister Mohammed Al-Jasser said Saudi Arabia’s nonoil exports rose to SR200 billion this year from SR32 billion in 2001. He said more than a million Saudis found jobs in the last two years, including 750,000 in the private sector.


Uber taps into Japan with first taxi-hailing pilot

Updated 22 May 2018
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Uber taps into Japan with first taxi-hailing pilot

TOKYO: Uber announced Tuesday it would start its first taxi-hailing pilot program in Japan this summer, as it bids to break into a tough market in the world’s third largest economy.
The US firm has found it difficult to penetrate the Japanese market, where risk averse passengers prefer to stick to their high quality traditional taxi service.
Hailing a taxi rarely takes more than a few seconds in major Japanese cities and there has been a relatively sluggish uptake of services like Uber, where consumers order an unlicensed car via a smartphone app.
But Uber said in a statement Tuesday it would launch a pilot program this summer to hook up tourists and residents in the western Awaji island with available taxi drivers.
Uber said it aimed to provide local residents and tourists with “reliable and safe transportation” on the small island, which is home to just over 150,000 people.
“I’m very excited that Uber’s technology will contribute to further enhancing the transit environment of Awaji Island,” Brooks Entwistle, Uber’s Chief Business Officer, said in the statement, adding it will be “the first initiative of its kind in Japan.”
Uber is far from alone in targeting the Japanese taxi market, with Chinese ride-hailing giant Didi Chuxing and Japanese telecom firm SoftBank announcing a deal in early February to develop a taxi app in Japan.
SoftBank has heavily invested in the taxi market and recently took a 15 percent stake in Uber.
And Sony has said it is planning a joint venture to offer artificial intelligence technology to six taxi operators, which currently own a total of 10,000 vehicles in Tokyo.
The technology would use AI to predict demand for taxis and allow companies to more efficiently mobilize their resources.
Carmaker Toyota has also announced an investment of ¥7.5 billion in the JapanTaxi app, which says it is the biggest taxi-hailing app in Japan.