Saudi crown prince meets Queen Elizabeth, Theresa May at start of UK visit

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Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman meeting Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace in London. (SPA)
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Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman arrives at 10 Downing Street for a meeting with UK PM Theresa May. (AFP)
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Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman arrives at 10 Downing Street for a meeting with UK PM Theresa May. (AFP)
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Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman arrived in the UK on Tuesday evening and was received by UK Foreign Minister Boris Johnson. (SPA)
Updated 08 March 2018

Saudi crown prince meets Queen Elizabeth, Theresa May at start of UK visit

LONDON: Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman met with Prime Minister Theresa May and Queen Elizabeth as he launched his landmark visit to the UK. 
Saudi Arabia and Britain will use the visit build a broader economic relationship, and improve security and defense ties. 
Prince Mohammed and his delegation met May and senior ministers at Downing Street to launch a UK-Saudi “Strategic Partnership Council.”
The initiative will encourage wide-ranging economic reforms in Saudi Arabia and foster cooperation on issues such as education and culture, as well as defense and security.
Earlier the crown prince had lunch with the Queen at Buckingham Palace, a rare gesture usually reserved for heads of state. He was scheduled to dine with Prince Charles and Prince William later in the day.
May defended Britain’s defense and security ties with Saudi Arabia in parliament, saying close cooperation had helped save the lives of hundreds of people.
“The link that we have with Saudi Arabia is historic, it is an important one, and it has saved the lives of potentially hundreds of people in this country,” the prime minister said in response to a question from opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn.
She said that the UK has had a “longstanding and historic relationship with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and that will continue.
Under the crown prince, Saudi Arabia “is reforming, is changing, is giving more rights to women,” May said, adding that the UK will “stand alongside” the Kingdom to deliver on his vision.
Foreign minister Boris Johnson led the welcoming party for Prince Mohammed on his arrival late on Tuesday.
For Britain, the visit is a chance to cement trading partnerships as it approaches Brexit and an exit from the European Union. It is also looking to play a key role exporting services to the Gulf’s largest economy as Saudi Arabia pushes through its ambitious Vision 2030 plan to diversify the economy away from oil. 
Britain is also hoping to land the stock market listing of Saudi Aramco, expected to be the world’s largest IPO.
“We would like the Aramco share option to be issued in the United Kingdom and we will continue to suggest the City would be the best place for it,” junior foreign office minister Alistair Burt told parliament.
Later this month Prince Mohammed will visit the United States, which also wants the lucrative listing.
The three-day UK visit is also expected to include a meeting with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, as well as lunch with May at the prime minister’s rural retreat, Chequers, and talks with Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson.

Three million Saudi women ‘on the roads by 2020’

The lifting of the ban on women driving marks a milestone for women in the Kingdom who have had to rely on drivers, male relatives, taxis and ride-hailing services to get to work, go shopping and simply move around. (AP)
Updated 24 June 2018

Three million Saudi women ‘on the roads by 2020’

  • Kingdom likely to save between SR9bn and SR12bn annually after phasing out foreign drivers
  • The employment landscape in Saudi Arabia will be transformed by the historic start to women’s driving, said a report released by the online recruitment firm GulfTalent.

RIYADH: Several Shoura members, diplomats and rights activists have hailed the landmark decision of the Saudi leadership allowing women to drive, which will cut reliance on foreign workers and boost job growth in the Kingdom. 

“It will empower women and also change the employment landscape of the country,” said Mohammed Al-Khunaizi, a member of the Shoura Council.

Expressing his happiness over this historic moment, Al-Khunaizi told Arab News that “the number of expatriate drivers in the country today exceeds one million.” “The Kingdom will save between SR9 billion and SR12 billion annually after phasing out foreign drivers,” said the Shoura member, while calling the day (June 24) “the biggest day in the history of the Kingdom.”

He said that “the female driving will help create more and diverse job opportunities for women, a move which is in line with the Saudi Vision 2030.” 

“In fact, a large number of Saudi women, as far as I know, have decided to drop their kids to schools, go to supermarkets and visit government offices themselves, ensuring more cohesion, security and dignity for women,” added Al-Khunaizi.  

“It is indeed a courageous step of the Saudi government and its institutions,” said the Shoura member, while referring to the support extended by Shoura Council to this decision.

Commending the decision, which is like history in the making before his own eyes, German Ambassador Dieter W. Haller said: “June 24 marks another important step on Saudi Arabia’s way to modernity. It helps the families and it will boost the Saudi economy… and we welcome it and commend the Saudi leadership for this wise decision.”

“I am very proud to witness this historic moment in the Kingdom,” said Luca Ferrari, Italian ambassador.

He said women driving is a major milestone in the implementation of “the economic and social transformation plan wisely envisaged by King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.”

The Italian envoy, while referring to the reforms in the Kingdom, said: “Women empowerment is a crucial step toward a more inclusive society and a balanced economic growth.” 

Referring to the move, Dr. Ibrahim Al-Quayid, a founding member of the National Society of Human Rights (NSHR), said women driving will boost mobility and ease pressure on family members. 

“Earlier, husbands without drivers were obliged to drive their wives if they need to go to a doctor or for shopping,” said Al-Quayid, adding that the driving by women will boost productivity.

“Most employers, at least in the public sector, accept the cultural norm, implying that driving one’s wife is a legitimate reason not to be present at work,” he added. “This makes lifting the ban on women driving an essential step by the Saudi government in order to make the Saudi economy more efficient in the long run,” he said.

In fact, the employment landscape in Saudi Arabia will be transformed by the historic start to women’s driving, said a report released by the online recruitment firm GulfTalent.

Based on the findings of a survey, the report said that “the career advancement is a major factor in empowering women, which is one of the goals of Saudi Vision 2030.” 

The survey predicts driving will lead to a wave of employed women moving to more lucrative jobs in other companies or institutions.

Many of the survey respondents admitted that they previously had to settle for jobs with lower wages because of the transport constraints. “The move now will have positive implications, especially helping the women working in health and banking sectors,” said Shahzad M. Siddiqui, a senior banker, while referring to a large number of Saudi women joining banking and health sectors. 

By 2020, an estimated 3 million women are forecast to be driving in the Kingdom, according to a report compiled by audit firm PwC.

• Download our free #SaudiWomenCanDrive mobile phone background designed by renowned artist Malika Favre: