Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and UAE approve $2.5bn aid package for Jordan at emergency Gulf summit

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Saudi King Salman (left) meeting with Jordan's King Abdullah II (center), UAE Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid (right) and Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah (back toward the camera) at the Safa Palace in Makkah early Monday. (SPA)
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Clockwise from left: Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, Saudi King Salman, Jordan's King Abdullah II and UAE Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid (back toward the camera). (SPA)
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Left to right: UAE Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, Saudi King Salman and Jordan's King Abdullah II during a meeting at the Safa Palace in Makkah early Monday. (SPA)
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Jordan's King Abdullah II, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sabah Al Khalid Al Sabah listen as King Salman speaks at the close of the Makkah Summit early Monday. (SPA)
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Aftermath of the summit. (SPA)
Updated 11 June 2018
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Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and UAE approve $2.5bn aid package for Jordan at emergency Gulf summit

  • The package will include a deposit in the Jordanian central bank, World Bank guarantees, budgetary support over five years and financing for development projects.
  • King Salman called the meeting to muster support for ally Jordan, which had been rocked by mass protests against price rises and a proposed tax hike in recent days.

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates agreed on Monday to provide an economic aid package worth $2.5 billion for Jordan, which is facing an economic crisis following anti-austerity protests.

The package, announced at a summit of the four nations in the holy city of Makkah, will include a deposit in the Jordanian central bank, World Bank guarantees, budgetary support over five years and financing for development projects, said a summit communique carried by the Saudi Press Agency.

The summit, called by Saudi King Salman, was attended by Jordan’s King Abdullah II along with UAE's Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum and Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah.

King Salman called the meeting to garner support for ally Jordan, which had been rocked by mass protests against price rises and a proposed tax hike in recent days.

The statement noted that funding for Jordan's economic crisis comes from contributory funds for development projects in the Kingdom.

Following the meeting, King Abdullah II offered his gratitude to King Salman, Kuwait and the UAE for their support. Jordan is struggling to curb its debt after securing a $723 million loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in 2016.

Austerity measures tied to the loan have seen prices of basic necessities rise across the Kingdom of Jordan — culminating in a week of angry protests over tax proposals that forced prime minister Hani Mulki to resign.

The authorities on Thursday announced they were withdrawing the unpopular legislation, but still face a mammoth task to balance popular demands with the need to reduce the public debt burden.

Jordan blames its economic woes on instability rocking the region and the burden of hosting hundreds of thousands of refugees from war-torn Syria, complaining it has not received enough international support.

The World Bank says Jordan has “weak growth prospects” this year, while 18.5 percent of the working age population is unemployed.
Saudi Arabia and the United States are two of the major donors providing vital economic assistance to Jordan.

(With AFP and Reuters)


EXCLUSIVE: Saudi singer-songwriter Tamtam releases music video ahead of historic end to driving ban

Updated 22 June 2018
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EXCLUSIVE: Saudi singer-songwriter Tamtam releases music video ahead of historic end to driving ban

  • Singer-songwriter Tamtam has released a music video to coincide with the day her fellow countrywomen make history
  • In an exclusive interview with Arab News, the LA-based musician said she hopes the song inspires women to see that with patience and perseverance anything can happen. 

JEDDAH: With the long-awaited day when Saudi women can finally drive drawing near, a Saudi singer-songwriter based in Los Angeles has written a song to mark the historic occasion.

Called simply “Drive,” Tamtam’s take on the breakthrough reform covers a range of emotions: Happiness, pride and even surprise.

Millions around the world shared the news that Saudi women would be allowed to drive when it was announced last fall, and with all the preparations taking place, the singer wanted to take part in the best way she could. So she wrote the lyrics to a song that mirrored the exciting events ahead.

Tamtam’s release focuses on the themes of freedom, equality and empowerment that she has explored in her music since the start of her career in 2012.

In an exclusive interview with Arab News, the LA-based musician said she hopes the song inspires women to see that with patience and perseverance anything can happen. 

“If I had to use one word to describe the feeling, it would be hope. Women in Saudi are ready to have a bigger voice and become more independent.

“This is a huge step forward for all of us. The country is showing us that they know we are ready, and they are here to support us and help launch us forward,” said Tamtam. 

Her song’s lyrics include the words: “We know what we want, we know it’s our time, let go of past perceptions, tomorrow is mine, we got drive” — suggesting that it’s time to look forward and stop looking back at what once was.

The verse mirrors the narrative many Saudis are sharing with the world, empowered by the dramatic changes Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is accomplishing with Vision 2030 and beyond. 

Tamtam, inspired by the late Michael Jackson, started singing aged 15. She wrote her first single, “Little Girl,” while attending high school in California after her family moved to the US from Riyadh. Her singing and songwriting have been influenced by events around her, always related to current issues with a twist of optimism. 

Whether it’s her strong vocals or hauntingly beautiful voice, Tamtam’s music transcends expectations. This young Saudi is singing and making a name for herself in the City of Angels, and her positive energy is reflected in her music.

As Saudis embrace a host of reforms, Tamtam believes many Westerners are shocked by the news. Yet people forget that Saudi is a relatively young country and more good changes will come, she said. 

“With hope comes more aspirations, dreams, new achievements and positive energy.”

The “Drive” video is uplifting, with playful, artistic imagery, and soulful and empowering vocals. The singer and her friends wear white, representing peace and femininity, and drive a yellow Ford Mustang convertible (Tamtam’s dream car). 

“Whenever I’m in a car, especially if there is traffic or it’s a long drive, I always turn on music to put me in a better mood. Driving is so much more enjoyable with music,” said Tamtam. “I hope that this song will be blasting through car speakers everywhere.” 

So the question is: Will Tamtam get her Saudi license, too?

“Yes, I can’t wait,” is the answer, obviously.