UK finance minister’s future questioned

British Finance Minister Philip Hammond tries to find his place to stand on the stage for the G-20 finance ministers group photo at the IMF headquarters in Washington last week. He now finds himselfat the center of a fraught debate over Brexit. (AFP)
Updated 18 October 2017
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UK finance minister’s future questioned

LONDON: Britain’s Finance Minister Philip Hammond on Sunday faced mounting questions over his future weeks ahead of a budget announcement, finding himself at the center of an increasingly fraught debate over Britain’s departure from the European Union.
The EU last week declared a “disturbing deadlock” in talks with Prime Minister Theresa May’s government on arrangements to leave the bloc, raising the chances of Britain quitting without a negotiated deal and increasing criticism of the government’s handling of Brexit.
On Sunday an unnamed source from the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) said May must warn Hammond he faces the sack unless he changes his approach to Brexit, the Sunday Telegraph reported. The DUP is a small Northern Irish political party which is keeping May’s minority government in power.
“We are very concerned about Philip Hammond’s behavior,” the senior parliamentary DUP source told the newspaper.
“It is evident to us that he is winding people up and causing unnecessary division within the Conservative Party at a crucial time in the Brexit negotiations.”
A DUP spokesman later said the party did not recognize the “inaccurate” comments.
Hammond, 61, who is seen by many as May’s most pro-EU minister, has become a focal point of criticism for Brexiteers, who say he is overly pessimistic about the impact of leaving the bloc and is damaging Britain’s negotiating stance.
Last week Hammond warned Brexit was causing a “cloud of uncertainty” over the British economy that needed to be cleared as quick as possible. He has previously angered euroskeptics by calling for a lengthy transition out of the EU, during which there will be little change to rules on issues like immigration.
In a botched attempt on Friday to calm speculation over his future and play down the party’s divisions Hammond described the EU as the “enemy” in negotiations. He later said he regretted his choice of words.
He had been expected to lose his job if May had won an increased majority at a June snap election, but the vote instead saw the Conservatives lose their majority and Hammond retain his position as May fought to maintain unity between pro-EU and pro-Brexit factions.
The June election also transformed the DUP, which only has 10 lawmakers in the 650-seat parliament, into an influential voice. May struck a deal with the party and is reliant on their support to pass legislation.
— Reuters


GITEX Tech showcases Saudi Arabia’s regional innovation drive

Updated 16 October 2018
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GITEX Tech showcases Saudi Arabia’s regional innovation drive

DUBAI: Dubai’s GITEX Technology week showcased the region’s ability to take the lead in innovation technology, with Saudi Arabia on its way to take the driver’s seat, according to consulting firm Accenture’s country managing director in Saudi Arabia.
“Saudi Arabia will be a leader in supporting innovation and the development of new technology in the region,” Khaled Al-Dhaher told Arab News.
“I think we (Arab countries) can always complement each other in the region to make sure we have the best innovation that is relevant for us and focused on the needs of our markets,” he added.
Among the main drivers behind the Kingdom’s surge into innovation and incubation is the Center of Initiatives at Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdul Aziz Foundation (Misk), which is an exclusive partner at GITEX Future Stars 2018.
Misk Innovation showcased 20 Saudi-based start-ups and incubators, ranging from 3D printing technology (SHAKL) to e-commerce (Zid) to online grocery shopping (ZADFresh).
Another prominent player from the Kingdom was the Badir Program, which helps to sustain and develop pioneering environments within the Kingdom and stays in line with following the crown prince’s Vision 2030 plan.
The plan, unveiled in 2016, is a comprehensive blueprint for the future, laying out a strategy and clear targets to diversify Saudi Arabia’s economy, and develop public service sectors such as health, education, infrastructure, recreation and tourism.
“We see a big support toward start-ups in terms of seed funding, arranging funding rounds, investment funding rounds, which actually is very important to accelerate the growth of these start-ups,” Badir Program’s CEO Nawaf Al-Sahhaf told Arab News, adding: “They (start-ups) created more than 2,000 jobs in the last two years.”
The 38th annual exhibition, which kicked off on Sunday, centered around the rise of smart cities. Dubai’s government featured high-tech stands promoting the emirate’s ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid’s vision of a totally smart Dubai.
While Dubai is ahead of Saudi Arabia in this respect, the latter is not far behind.
“Saudi Arabia is building new cities now, and one of them is NEOM. Smart cities needs smart solutions and smart products, so Saudi Arabia is a big supporter of entrepreneurs and the private sector in order to come up with these smart solutions,” Al-Sahhaf said.
“Saudi Arabia is moving in this [Smart] direction and we are in good hands,” he added.
The Saudi Technology Development and Investment Company, Taqania, was also featured at the exhibition. Owned by the Kingdom’s Public Investment Fund, Taqania is one of Saudi Arabia’s main proponents in a non-oil dependent Kingdom aligned with Vision 2030, and invests in technology that contributes to the country’s economic diversification.
The exhibition is split among several categories including Gulf Comms & Mobility, Global Solution Providers, Smart Workplace & Smart Homes, Value-Added Distributors, Printing & Automation, Consumer Tech, Enterprise Software, Network & Security, Future Tech and IOT Big Cloud Data.
GITEX Technology week runs from Oct. 14 to 18, with GITEX Future Stars taking place from Oct. 14 to 17.