Shoura members oppose foreigners owning properties in holy cities

Updated 05 February 2014
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Shoura members oppose foreigners owning properties in holy cities

The Committee of Economic Affairs and Energy at the Shoura Council faced vehement opposition from several members when the council announced its recommendations to allow foreign investors to own properties within Makkah and Madinah’s borders.
A member of the Shoura Council said that the committee has long since prevented foreigners from buying properties within the vicinity of the Two Holy Mosques, according to local media sources.
Members of the council claim that preventing foreign investment will maintain the religious identity of the two cities.
According to Saudi Arabia’s foreign investment regulations, an expatriate licensed to engage in business activity is entitled to own a property either for residency purposes or for pursuing business objectives. Foreigners can also buy homes to accommodate employees. Expatriates, however, are not allowed to own properties in Makkah and Madinah.
Abdullah Al-Ahmari, head of the real estate appraisal committee at the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JCCI), said in a previous interview that registering an expatriate’s property under the name of a Saudi national is a clear violation of regulations in the country that could result in the confiscation of the property and a fine for all involved.
However, expatriates with high incomes mostly buy real estate out of Saudi Arabia, particularly in their home countries, because they do not know if they will continue living in the Kingdom. Their deals to buy properties abroad are estimated at more than SR8 billion, mostly in Egypt, Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
Salem Radwan, manager of a real estate company in Jeddah, said members of the Indian community in Saudi Arabia own many homes in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Many Sudanese nationals in the Kingdom own apartments in Cairo, he added.
Talal Samarqandi, head of the JCCI’s engineering office committee and former real estate committee member, said a foreigner wanting to own a property in Saudi Arabia had to meet stipulations such as having a good financial record and approval from the Ministry of Interior.
He added: “There are a lot of foreigners who were born and raised here. This segment is particularly interested in owning the place they live in instead of continuing that can become a burden on their monthly incomes.”
Chairman of JCCI’s real estate committee Muhammad Al-Amir said foreigners in Saudi Arabia can own properties only if the profession listed on their residence permit is foreign investor. Priority for owning properties is given to Saudis, he added.
Some real estate experts said there is a long way to go before expatriates will be allowed to buy properties given the supply and demand in the market.
Al-Amir said supply was not meeting the growth in population in the Kingdom. Once supply and demand are balanced locally, he added, the circumstances would be adequate for issuing laws regulating expatriates’ ownership of properties.


Saudi Arabia’s Misk partners with UN on youth empowerment

Updated 28 min 49 sec ago
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Saudi Arabia’s Misk partners with UN on youth empowerment

  • The Saudi-UN partnership aims to reach and mobilize about 50 million young people around the world in support of the sustainable development goals
  • Saudi Arabia has a big youth demographic, with 60 per cent of the country’s population under the age of 25

NEW YORK: Misk Foundation, the not-for-profit philanthropic organization set up by the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman, has joined forces with the United Nations in a ground-breaking campaign to advance the cause of young people around the world.
The agreement was signed at a ceremony at the UN’s New York headquarters a day after UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres launched his own initiative to enlist young people in its strategy for global sustainable development.
The Saudi-UN partnership aims to reach and mobilize about 50 million young people around the world in support of the sustainable development goals (SDG), via a series of meetings and forums as part of the UN’s Strategy for Youth.
The UN’s SDG program is a set of targets for future development, ranging from the elimination of hunger and poverty, through education and gender equality, to action on climate change and energy. It coincides with Saudi Arabia’s own Vision 2030 strategy in many respects.
Misk is the first non-governmental organization to join the campaign. “Misk’s mission is to discover, develop and empower young people to become active participants in the knowledge economy both in Saudi Arabia and globally, through partnerships such as this,” said a joint statement from the Saudi organization and the UN.
“Under the initiatives, young people’s leadership, creativity and innovation skills will be harnessed to bolster their ability to be agents for positive change during the run-up to the fifth anniversary of the SDGs in 2020.
“Adding to the existing Young Leaders for the SDGs initiative, a ‘Youth Gateway’ central knowledge hub on SDGs is planned, including a platform to map existing initiatives and provide opportunities for engagement, aimed at motivating more young people to take action. Tools will be developed to measure and track global indicators on youth development and well-being,” the statement added.
Bader Alsaker, chairman of the board of the Misk Initiatives Centre, said: "The Misk Foundation is committed to helping as many young people around the world realize their potential in the future economy and to encourage active global citizenship. The strategic agreement that we are signing today shows our commitment to this mission.
“Partnering with the United Nations will greatly enhance its vital work around the world to help young people from all backgrounds to realize their potential and meet the SDGs,” he added.
Jayathma Wickramanayake, the UN secretary-general’s envoy on youth, added: “This major contribution towards the UN Secretariat’s work on youth will be used to operationalize the new UN Strategy on Youth with a focus on advancing our collective efforts to support youth mobilization for the 2030 Agenda worldwide.
“It comes at crucial time, immediately after the public launch of the UN’s Youth Strategy, which shows the commitment and dedication of the Misk Foundation to supporting youth development globally,” she added.
Saudi Arabia has a big youth demographic, with 60 per cent of the country’s population under the age of 25. Many of the policies of the Vision 2030 strategy to reduce oil dependency focus on the need for more and better employment for young people.
According to a recent global poll for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, young people have a far more optimistic view of their own future, as well as that of their country, than older people. “Young people in these countries are more likely to believe they can affect the way their countries are governed and that their generation will have a more positive impact on the world than their parents' generation,” Gates found.
Sultan Al-Musallam, global ambassador of the Misk Foundation, told the UN: “The core belief held by youth, that our problems can only be solved together, in a way that is blind to race, religion or region, is also the bedrock of the UN.”