Netherlands celebrate age-old ties with KSA as they celebrate national day 

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Netherlands Ambassador Joost Reintjes (right) with the honorary consul of Netherlands in Jeddah, Nashwa Taher, and her husband, businessman Mahmoud Al-Maeena.(AN photo by Huda Bashatah)
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Diplomats from different nations pose for a group picture during the national day celebration of the Netherlands at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Jeddah on Sunday.(AN photo by Huda Bashatah)
Updated 15 May 2018

Netherlands celebrate age-old ties with KSA as they celebrate national day 

  • Dutch Ambassador Joost Reintjes notes that the oldest airline flying to Saudi Arabia is KLM and the first bank is Dutch.
  • Saudi Arabia's Vision 2030 gives everyone a wider scope of doing business in different sectors, says Netherlands' honorary consul Nashwa Taher.

JEDDAH: The national day celebration of the Netherlands took place at the crystal ballroom of the Crowne Plaza Hotel on Sunday.

The celebration gathered a number of diplomatic figures from different nations under one roof to express their diplomatic ties with the Netherlands. 

“I very much welcome the choice of the Netherlands, that they have appointed a woman as the honorary consul in Jeddah. It is only the second female honorary consul that we have here, and as you know, bringing women into power and into the workforce is one of the strong movements of Vision 2030,” German Consul General in Jeddah Holger Ziegler told Arab News.

“The Netherlands and the United States are NATO allies. We have a very strong relationship. A lot of our cities were originally founded by people from the Netherlands and now share a lot of common values. I want to congratulate them on their national day,” US Consul General in Jeddah Mathias Mitman told Arab News.

The celebration took off with the national anthems of the two kingdoms, followed by a speech from the Dutch Ambassador Joost Reintjes and the Honorary Consul of the Netherlands in Jeddah Nashwa Taher, both expressing the ties of the two kingdoms.

Reintjes explained that the ties between the two countries are age-old. 

“The oldest airline flying to Saudi Arabia is KLM. The first bank is Dutch. There are many links between the two countries. And after a few years of not having a consulate in Jeddah, we thought we should open it again and we found a very good consul. We did the same in Dammam,” he told Arab News.

He explained the economic aspects of the ties between the two countries, highlighting locations of prominent Saudi companies in Holland, such as the Saudi Basic Industries Corporation (SABIC) and Saudi Aramco.

“The regional headquarters for SABIC is in Holland, and the regional headquarters for Saudi Aramco is also in Holland. Holland is the biggest European investor in Saudi Arabia,” he said.

Taher explained that the opening of the new consulate in Jeddah will hopefully further strengthen the ties between the two nations.

“The Dutch and the Saudis had strong ties for a long time, but it faded," she said. "I think that opening a consulate here in Jeddah and in Dammam will make things much easier and stronger. Of course, the most important aim for the consulate here in Jeddah is to take care of the pilgrimages and to be responsible for the Dutch citizens. 

“I would love to start the commercial site and make the ties much stronger and take advantage of this relation by benefiting from the know-how of the Dutch in certain activities and certain sectors.” 

Honorary Consul Nashwa Taher highlighted the new business opportunities in the light of Saudi Vision 2030.

“This is an era where we must expand our horizons, take advantage of the opportunity and strengthen the ties, especially now that Vision 2030 is giving us a wider scope of doing business in different sectors that we haven’t done before such as agriculture, transportation and port development,” she told Arab News.

How ‘Absher’ app liberates Saudis from government bureaucracy

The Absher website also provides information on how to report wanted persons, or administrative or financial corruption. (Supplied)
Updated 17 February 2019

How ‘Absher’ app liberates Saudis from government bureaucracy

  • Western media mistaken in portraying app as a tool of repression, leading female journalist says

JEDDAH: Absher, the “one-click” e-services app launched by the Interior Ministry in 2015, is now regarded as the leading government platform for Saudi citizens, freeing them from bureaucratic inefficiency and endless queuing for everyday services.
However, in a recent New York Times article, the app was criticized as a “tool of repression” following claims by Democratic Senator Ron Wyden and women’s rights groups.
Apple and Google were urged to remove the application from their devices over claims that it “enables abhorrent surveillance and control of women.”
In an official statement, the ministry rejected the allegations and said the Absher platform centralized more than 160 different services for all members of society, including women, the elderly and people with special needs.
The app makes electronic government services available for beneficiaries to access directly at any time and from any place in the Kingdom, the ministry said.
Absher allows residents of the Kingdom to make appointments, renew IDs, passports, driver’s licenses, car registration and other services with one click.
Many Saudis still recall having to queue at government agencies, such as passport control offices and civil affairs departments, for a variety of official procedures. Appointments could take weeks to arrange, with people relying on their green files, or “malaf allagi” — the 1980s and 1990s paper form of Absher that was known as the citizen’s “lifeline,” both figuratively and literally.
Hours would be spent as government departments ferried files back and forth, and if a form was lost, the whole transaction process would have to start again. As complicated as it was for men, women suffered more.
Muna Abu Sulayman, an award-winning strategy adviser and media personality, told Arab News the introduction of Absher had helped strengthen women’s rights.
Sulayman said she was disappointed at comments on the e-services platform being made abroad. “There are consequences that people don’t understand. It’s a very idealistic and naive way of understanding what is going on,” she said.
“The discussion on the guardianship law is internal and ongoing — it is something that has to be decided by our society and not as a result of outside pressure. We’re making strides toward equality and Absher is a step in the right direction,” she said.
“In a Twitter survey, I asked how many women have access to their guardian’s Absher. Most answered that they control their own fate. Men who don’t believe in controlling women gave them access to their Absher and that shows an increase in the participation of women in their own decision-making.”
Absher also provides services such as e-forms, dealing with Hajj eligibility, passport control, civil affairs, public services, traffic control, and medical appointments at government hospitals.
The platform is available to all men and women, and removes much of the bureaucracy and time wasting associated with nonautomated administrative systems.
On the issue of granting women travel permits, the law requires a male guardian to grant it through the portal, as well as for men under the age of 21.
Retired King Abdullah University professor Dr. Zainab M. Zain told Arab News: “I always had issues with my passport renewal as well as my children’s as they are both non-Saudi. For years it was risky not to follow up properly at passport control — you never knew what could happen, but now I can renew their permits by paying their fees online through Absher from the comfort of my home in Abu Dhabi.”
Ehsanul Haque, a Pakistani engineer who has lived in the Kingdom for more than 30 years, said: “Absher has helped tremendously with requests, such as exit and entry visas for my family and myself. I can receive approval within an hour whereas once it would’ve taken me days,” he said.
“The platform has eased many of my troubles.”
The Absher website also provides information on how to report wanted persons, or administrative or financial corruption.
In April, 2018, the ministry launched “Absher Business,” a technical initiative to transfer its business services to an interactive digital system.
With an annual fee of SR2,000 ($533), business owners such as Marwan Bukhary, owner of Gold Sushi Club Restaurant in Jeddah, used the portal to help manage his workers’ needs in his expanding business.
“There are many features in Absher that helps both individual and establishment owners,” he said. “I took advantage of the great features it provided, and it saved me a lot of time and trouble and also my restaurant workers. It’s a dramatic change. When Absher Business was launched last year, it organized how I needed to manage my workers’ work permits.
“Through the system, I could see the status of all my employees, renew their permits, grant their exit and entry visas, and have their permits delivered to my house or my business through the post after paying the fees. It saved business owners a lot of time and energy.
“I used to have to do everything manually myself or have my courier help. I believe it’s the government’s most advanced system yet with more features being added every now and then,” Bukhary said.
“Absher has eased our burden, unlike the old days when we needed to visit government offices and it would take four weeks just to get an appointment. One click is all it takes now.”