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
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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.


Saudi businesswomen eye greater role in the economy with end to driving ban

The end of the driving ban is expected to help bring an economic windfall for Saudi women. (Shutterstock)
Updated 23 June 2018
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Saudi businesswomen eye greater role in the economy with end to driving ban

  • The historic move is a huge step forward for businesswomen in the Saudi Arabia, says businesswoman
  • A recent survey by the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce indicated that transportation was a major concern holding Saudi women back from joining the labor market

The end of the driving ban will boost women’s financial power and allow them to play a bigger role in economic and social diversification in line with Vision 2030, prominent businesswomen said on Friday.

Hind Khalid Al-Zahid was the first Saudi woman designated as an executive director — for Dammam Airport Company — and also heads the Businesswomen Center at the Eastern Province Chamber of Commerce and Industry. 

She sees the historic move as a huge step forward for businesswomen in the Kingdom.

“Women being allowed to drive is very important; of course this will help a lot in sustainable development as the lifting of the ban on women driving came as a wonderful opportunity to increase women’s participation in the workforce,” she told Arab News on Friday, ahead of the end of the ban on Sunday.

She added that women in the job market are under-represented; they make up to 22 percent of the national workforce of about six million according to official estimates. Lifting the ban will help to take women’s representation in the workforce to 30 percent by 2030, she said.

“This is not just the right thing to do for women’s emancipation, but also an essential step in economic and social development as part of the reforms,” she said.

She said that there were different obstacles in increasing women’s participation in the workforce and other productive activities, and the driving ban was one of them. It was a strategic issue that needed to be addressed on a priority basis. With the issue resolved, it would help immensely in giving Saudi women better representation as they would help to diversify the Saudi economy and society.

She said that women could contribute hugely to the workforce and labor market as half of Saudi human resources were female, and unless allowed to excel in different sectors it would not be possible to do better, mainly because of restricted mobility.

A recent survey by the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce indicated that transportation was a major concern holding Saudi women back from joining the labor market.

Nouf Ibrahim, a businesswoman in Riyadh, said: “It will surely boost female economic participation and help increase women’s representation in the workforce immensely. It will also help to reduce the overall national unemployment rate as most of the unemployed are women and many of them are eligible as university graduates.”

She echoed the opinion that the move would help to bring an economic windfall for Saudi women, making it easier for them to work and do business, and thus play a bigger and better role that would help economic and social diversification in line with Saudi Vision 2030.

“Being able to drive from Sunday onwards after the ban is lifted will be a wonderful experience. Earlier we were dependent on a male family member and house driver to take us to workplace, to the shopping center, school or other required places for some work, now we can drive and that will allow active participation in productive work,” Sulafa Hakami, a Saudi woman working as the digital communication manager with an American MNC in Riyadh, told Arab News.

“Saudi women can now share effectively the bigger and better responsibilities,” she said.