Saudi Arabia is building a more transparent system

Updated 01 January 2018
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Saudi Arabia is building a more transparent system

JEDDAH: 2017 has been a remarkable year for Saudi Arabia on many levels. A major event that attracted the world’s attention and shocked the Saudi public was the crackdown on corruption in November — and in particular the arrest of ministers and some members of the royal family.
On Nov. 4, King Salman ordered key changes to the Cabinet and the formation of a supreme committee to combat corruption headed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, which comprises heads of the Anti-Corruption Commission (Nazaha), Public Security, the General Prosecutor and the Investigation Authority.
The anti-corruption committee, according to a royal decree, is granted extraordinary powers to identify offenses, crimes, persons and entities involved in cases of public corruption.
It has the power to investigate, issue arrest warrants and impose travel bans, order financial disclosures and the freezing of accounts and portfolios, track funds and assets, and prevent their remittance or transfer by persons or entities.
The first action taken by the committee was the arrest of a number of ministers, royal family members, and prominent businessmen accused of involvement in public corruption cases. This unprecedented action stunned citizens and attracted global attention.
US President Donald Trump expressed his “great confidence” in Saudi leaders for knowing “exactly what they are doing,” after the announcement of the anti-corruption committee.
Hafez Ghanem, vice president of the World Bank for the Middle East and North Africa, also welcomed the action of reforms in the Kingdom and said he believed anti-corruption actions are important to the future development of the country.
The number of arrested and detained individuals on charges of money laundering, bribery, extortion, and taking advantage of public office for personal gain reached 500.
Attorney General Saud Al-Mojeb, who is also a member of the anti-corruption committee, estimated that based on the investigations over the past three years, “at least $100 billion has been misused through systematic corruption and embezzlement over several decades.”
The new anti-money laundering law was also introduced as a proactive step; the penalty for money laundering will be between three and 15 years’ imprisonment or a fine of up to SR7 million ($1.87 million).
It emphasizes that attempting to commit any of the acts considered as money laundring according to the new law, or participating in any of the acts by agreement, providing assistance, incitement, counseling, guidance, advice, conspiring, collusion or concealment are all considered money-laundering crimes.
Corruption negatively affects any state at the political, social, economic and security levels. The recent anti-corruption campaign raised a new positive perception about Saudi Arabia among Middle East fund managers, according to a monthly Reuters poll released on Nov. 30. It estimates that 46 percent of funds are now expected to raise their allocations to the Saudi stock market in the coming months.
Fighting corruption is the main factor for development, and it is an important part of the ambitious Vision 2030 reform plan of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who promised that “No one who is involved in corruption will survive.”
King Salman, in his last meeting with the Shoura Council on Dec. 13, said that corruption undermines societies and prevents their development and growth, and Saudi Arabia is determined to confront it.
He added that the issue would be dealt with “in a fair and firm way so that our country enjoys the renaissance and development hoped for by every citizen.”


Saudi Arabia ‘racing into the future’ with Formula E

Updated 15 December 2018
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Saudi Arabia ‘racing into the future’ with Formula E

  • A first for Saudi Arabia and the region, the event’s magnitude reflects the Kingdom’s goal of hosting major events and promoting them domestically and globally
  • “This is unprecedented and fabulous,” one concert-goer said. Another said: “I can’t believe I’m in Saudi Arabia.” 

RIYADH: Formula E is one for the books. Attracting fans from all over the world, the mega event — held in the historic Saudi town of Ad Diriyah, a UNESCO World Heritage Site — is set to revolutionize motorsports by using only electric race cars. 

Officially known as the ABB FIA Formula E Championship, the race expects to draw 40,000 attendees, with access not only to the race but also to the Kingdom’s largest ever festival for music, entertainment and cultural activities.

A first for Saudi Arabia and the region, the event’s magnitude reflects the Kingdom’s goal of hosting major events and promoting them domestically and globally.

A milestone was marked as Bandar Alesayi and Ahmed bin Khanen became the first Saudi I-Pace eTrophy racers, sponsored by the General Sports Authority (GSA). 

Both drivers predict increased grassroots support in the Kingdom for youths to train in carting and race-car driving.  

At 1.76 miles long with 21 corners, the track is somewhat tricky for first-time Formula E drivers.

“The system is like Mario Bros when they get the little star and go faster,” said Formula E founder and CEO Alejandro Agag. The new electric circuit in Saudi Arabia has been hailed as one of the best Formula E tracks.

The three-day event is hosting some of the world’s top singers, including Jason Derulo, Enrique Iglesias, Amr Diab, Black Eyed Peas, David Guetta and One Republic, along with DJ EJ. 

“This is unprecedented and fabulous,” one concert-goer said. Another said: “I can’t believe I’m in Saudi Arabia.” 

Outside the venue, Al-Bujairy, one of Ad Diriyah’s historic areas, hosts high-end restaurants, cafes and local designer outlets overlooking the historic district of At-Turaif, which was once home to the Saudi royal family and has newly opened for visitors.

Another area of interest is the Family Zone, with many events and activities to entertain all age groups. Men, women and children are given different driving experiences.

In Ad Diriyah’s Formula E, only one car is allowed per driver instead of two, making pit stops more crucial in terms of timing.  

“Attack mode” gives cars a temporary power boost from 200 to 225 kilowatts, equivalent to 268-302 horsepower. Drivers need to move to a certain area on the track to activate this mode.

“Saudi Arabia is racing into the future with Formula E, as we open the Kingdom to the world in a transformation that’s being supercharged by the Vision 2030 plan, driven forward by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman,” Prince Abdul Aziz bin Turki Al-Faisal Al-Saud, vice-chair of the Saudi Arabian General Sports Authority, told Arab News.