Saudi Arabia steps into a new era with VAT

The inspection tours will be directly supervised by the joint operation room for protection of consumers. (SPA)
Updated 01 January 2018
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Saudi Arabia steps into a new era with VAT

RIYADH: It is hoped that the levying of a value-added tax (VAT) from Monday will power the Kingdom’s march toward progress and prosperity.
The tax is imposed by Saudi Arabia and the UAE within the framework of a unified agreement endorsed by the member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).
“The imposition of VAT will help to raise tax revenues of the Saudi government to be utilized for infrastructure and developmental works,” said Mohammed Al-Khunaizi, a member of the Shoura Council, here on Sunday, while calling VAT “a major move that will contribute to address challenges and sustain growth.” While referring to the compliance of Saudi businesses with VAT regulations, he pointed out that VAT or sales taxes are key revenue sources for more than 166 countries across the world today.
Al-Khunaizi also called for “punitive measures” to be adopted strictly for those who have not registered so far, or who violate the laws. The Ministry of Commerce and Investment has announced that in cooperation with the General Authority for Zakat and Tax (GAZT), it will intensify inspection tours in markets and commercial firms across the Kingdom to track down irregularities before
and during application of the VAT.
“The inspection tours will be directly supervised by the joint operation room for protection of consumers, which was approved by the Council of Ministers and composed of 18 government agencies,” said a ministry statement.
Asked about the preparedness of the retail sector in general, Shehim Mohammed, director of operations of a leading chain of supermarkets in Saudi Arabia, said that the retail outlets have “geared themselves well to comply with VAT regulations…”
Asked about the plan to educate customers at stores about VAT, he pointed out that bills will display VAT charges at their stores. Moreover, VAT will be a great revenue stream for the government, and it will streamline product flow in a positive manner, he observed. “It will tweak customer buying habits pragmatically, though it will force the market movement in the right direction.”
On the introduction of the VAT, Vikas Panchal, a business executive, said: “VAT is a significant milestone in the history of the GCC and is all set to be a major boost for the economy... We understand that the change will be challenging to begin with, more specifically for businesses.”


Height of adventure: Treading the ‘Edge of the World’ near Riyadh

Updated 19 April 2018
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Height of adventure: Treading the ‘Edge of the World’ near Riyadh

  • Cliffs in Tuwaiq were formed as a result of the movement of the Arabian plate toward the northeast because of the spread of the Red Sea rift
  • Several prominent Saudi tour companies offer daylong excursions to the site

Thrill seekers and fitness gurus all over the Kingdom will be pleased to know that their choices for weekend activities have increased. 

Several tour operators in Riyadh have started offering trips to the area known as the Edge of the World, making the location more accessible than ever.

With the country’s obesity rates on the rise and many citizens growing more concerned about their physical health and stress levels, people are seeking ways to maintain their fitness without having to restrict themselves to the monotony of a gym routine.

One such solution that has steadily increased in popularity over the past year is hiking, which many have embraced as being much more exciting and fulfilling than spending hours on the treadmill. And most popular of all for hiking and other fitness activities in a natural setting is the magnificent landmark of Jabal Fihrayn, more commonly known as the Edge of the World.

Described as a “window framed by rock,” the Edge of the World offers stunning views of the valley below, a lush grove of acacia trees teeming with wildlife and vegetation. The spot is well-known for being a favorite of visiting picnickers.

Hikers can choose from several trails of varying levels of difficulty, making their way to the top of the Tuwaiq escarpment to take in the magnificent views at the top of the trail, where the colossal cliff faces drop off to reveal the dizzying height from the valley below. In addition to the rich wildlife unique to the location, you can also find samples of fossilized coral and raw mineral deposits in certain areas of the valley.

The cliffs in the areas were formed as a result of the tectonic movement of the Arabian plate toward the northeast because of the spread of the Red Sea rift situated 1,000 km to the west of Tuwaiq.

Due to the increasing popularity of the site, the authorities have built a hardtop that leads to the gates of the sites and arrangements are in place to protect the area and its natural treasures. 

Several prominent Saudi tour companies offer daylong excursions to the site. The more intrepid explorer also has the option to go alone; though past visitors recommend that solo travelers take an all-terrain, 4x4 vehicle and extra precaution. Visitors can spend the day at the site and leave before 6 p.m. (when the gates are closed for the night) or stay behind for a night of camping to enjoy the sunset and the breathtaking celestial views of a star-studded night sky.

Nora Alfard, amateur hiking enthusiast and two-time visitor to the location, was quick to offer praise about her trip. 

“The trip out there was a bit tiring, but totally worth it,” she said. “The views are stunning, and the hiking itself is not that difficult. Most people should be able to make it to the top without too much trouble.” She said she was likely to go a third time, and encouraged others to do the same.

The Edge of the World is roughly 100km northwest of Riyadh, about 1.5 hours’ drive from the capital. Visitors should be prepared for at least 30 minutes of hiking, possibly more depending on your trail and your level of fitness and experience. Previous visitors recommend bringing water and snacks, and stress the importance of dressing appropriately — hiking shoes only!

Decoder

What is hiking?

Hiking means a long, vigorous walk, usually on trails in the countryside. Day hikers generally carry at least food, a map or a GPS navigation device.