Princess Astrid lauds interfaith initiative of King Abdullah

Updated 20 May 2014
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Princess Astrid lauds interfaith initiative of King Abdullah

Princess Astrid of Belgium has lauded the efforts of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah in promoting dialogue between religions and civilizations.
“We hold the initiatives taken by Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah to promote dialogue between religions and civilizations in high esteem,” she said during a special reception hosted by the Belgian Embassy on Sunday night.
The princess also noted the growing relations between her country and Saudi Arabia in the fields of small and medium-sized enterprises, technology transfer, trade and investment.
“We equally value the king’s efforts in developing the country’s human potential in different fields, including social advancement and employment for women,” she said.
Saudi investment in Belgium is on the rise, she said.
“The economic mission, which was headed by my father, King Albert, and my brother, King Philip, had been welcomed here with great warmth and generosity in the past,” said the princess. “Many Belgian companies are already present in the Saudi market and are happy to be operating here.”
“I personally have retained fond memories of your rich culture and history,” she said. “To our business community, Saudi Arabia has become a trusted partner in many fields and projects.”
“It is also a privilege to be able to enjoy this dinner at the elegant residence of our ambassador to the Kingdom, which blends Belgian architecture with local architecture and traditions. This marks the perfect starting point of our economic mission to Saudi Arabia,” she said.
“This is not my first visit to Saudi Arabia. I had previously been afforded the opportunity to meet many Saudis from all walks of life,” she said. “This time, I am here in a different capacity as the head of the economic mission and I am very happy to be back.”
The delegation consists of some 170 companies and 350 business representatives who have registered to be part of the mission.
“Our delegation will move on to other cities in coming days, such as Jubail and Jeddah,” she said. “I was asked by King Philip to represent him during this mission and to be leader of this mission comprising a large group of representatives of Belgian companies, about 50 of whom are businesswomen.”
“Our big corporations were well represented, but we have also growing interest from our small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) for the Saudi market,” she said. She said the delegation represents a wide variety of sectors, ranging from energy to environment, logistics and health care to sport infrastructure, banking and services.


Saudi Arabia pushes back launch of ‘entertainment city’

Updated 31 min 33 sec ago
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Saudi Arabia pushes back launch of ‘entertainment city’

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia on Tuesday said it has delayed by three days the launch of an “entertainment city” near Riyadh, part of a series of multi-billion dollar projects as the oil-reliant Kingdom seeks to diversify.
King Salman had been scheduled on Wednesday to launch construction of the 334-square kilometer project in Qiddiya, southwest of Riyadh, touted as the Kingdom’s answer to Disneyland.
“King Salman will inaugurate next Saturday the Qiddiya project, which is the new entertainment, sports and cultural destination in the Kingdom,” the state-run Saudi Press Agency said, without explaining the delay.
Construction for the first phase of development, which would include high-end theme parks, motor sport facilities and a safari area, is expected to be completed in 2022, officials say.
The facility highlights a “relentless effort to develop giga-projects that will help achieve many direct and indirect economic returns,” project official Fahd bin Abdullah Tounsi was quoted as saying in a government statement on Monday.
Qiddiya chief executive Michael Reininger has said the project in the entertainment-starved Kingdom is expected to draw foreign investment, but gave no figures.
Saudi Arabia has dazzled investors with plans for three hi-tech “giga projects,” funded in part by its sovereign wealth fund, but skeptics question their viability.
Aside from Qiddiya, the Kingdom has unveiled blueprints to build NEOM, a mega project billed as a regional Silicon Valley, in addition to the Red Sea project, a reef-fringed resort destination — both worth hundreds of billions of dollars.
Such projects are the brainchild of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, architect of a sweeping reform program dubbed “Vision 2030.”
The reforms stem partly from a motive to boost domestic spending on entertainment as the Kingdom has been reeling from an oil slump since 2014.
Saudis currently splurge billions of dollars annually to see films and visit amusement parks in neighboring tourist hubs like Dubai and Bahrain.
In February, Saudi Arabia’s General Entertainment Authority said it would stage more than 5,000 festivals and concerts in 2018, double the number of last year, and pump $64 billion in the sector in the coming decade.