Deals worth more than $50bn signed at KSA Future Investment Initiative

Saudi Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih signed several of the deals announced at the FII. (Ziyad Alarfaj / AN)
Updated 23 October 2018
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Deals worth more than $50bn signed at KSA Future Investment Initiative

RIYADH: At least 25 deals worth more than $50 billion have been signed at Future Investment Initiative (FII) in Riyadh.
The contracts struck on the first day of the event included what were described as 12 “mega deals.”

Among the projects announced on Tuesday in front of an audience of international bankers, investors and thought leaders, was the second phase of Haramain high-speed railway. 
The deals were struck across the energy and transportation sectors despite the boycott of the event by several company chiefs following the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi embassy in Turkey earlier this month.
A number of major public transport projects, including the development of the Saudi Land Bridge project, a rail line connecting the Red Sea coast with Riyadh, were among the raft of deals signed.

Such large-scale infrastructure projects form a key part of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 blueprint for economic and social diversifcation. It aims to reduce the country’s historical reliance on oil and gas revenues by investing in new industries that will also provide employment for the Kingdom’s youthful population.
Other deals were struck on Tuesday with Trafigura, Total, Hyundai, Norinco, Schlumberger, Halliburton and Baker Hughes.
Oil giant Saudi Aramco signed 15 initial agreements worth $34 billion.

Total CEO Patrick Pouyanné, told the gathering that the French oil and gas producer would announce a retail network in the Kingdom with Saudi Aramco.
The $10 billion Russian Direct Investment Fund also had a large presence at the event, led by Kirill Dmitriev.
Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), the main backer of the event, is driving the Kingdom’s economic reform agenda.
Managing director Yasir Al-Rumayyan said that the fund had invested in 50 or 60 firms via SoftBank Group’s Vision Fund and would bring most of those businesses to the Kingdom. PIF has committed to invest $45 billion in the Vision Fund.
The FII event, which debuted in the Kingdom last year, concludes on Thursday.

Saudi Arabia's Minister of Communications and IT Abdullah Al-Sawahah praised the speed at which Saudi Arabia is progressing in the digital worl, and said: "We are moving at light speed in becoming the tech hub of the region."

Meanwhile, Emirati businessman Mohamed Alabbar said: "There is so much room for technology growth and innovation in the Middle East, especially in Saudi Arabia, the UAE and the whole region." 


Palestinians in financial crisis after Israel, US moves

Updated 22 March 2019
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Palestinians in financial crisis after Israel, US moves

  • A Ramallah-based economics professor said the Palestinian economy more generally, remain totally controlled by and reliant on Israel
  • Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts have been at a standstill since 2014

RAMALLAH, Palestinian Territories: The Palestinian Authority faces a suffocating financial crisis after deep US aid cuts and an Israeli move to withhold tax transfers, sparking fears for the stability of the West Bank.
The authority, headed by President Mahmud Abbas, announced a package of emergency measures on March 10, including halving the salaries of many civil servants.
The United States has cut more than $500 million in Palestinian aid in the last year, though only a fraction of that went directly to the PA.
The PA has decided to refuse what little US aid remains on offer for fear of civil suits under new legislation passed by Congress.
Israel has also announced it intends to deduct around $10 million a month in taxes it collects for the PA in a dispute over payments to the families of prisoners in Israeli jails.
In response, Abbas has refused to receive any funds at all, labelling the Israeli reductions theft.
That will leave his government with a monthly shortfall of around $190 million for the length of the crisis.
The money makes up more than 50 percent of the PA’s monthly revenues, with other funds coming from local taxes and foreign aid.

While the impact of the cuts is still being assessed, analysts fear it could affect the stability of the occupied West Bank.
“If the economic situation remains so difficult and the PA is unable to pay salaries and provide services, in addition to continuing (Israeli) settlement expansion it will lead to an explosion,” political analyst Jihad Harb said.
Abbas cut off relations with the US administration after President Donald Trump declared the disputed city of Jerusalem Israel’s capital in December 2017.
The right-wing Israeli government, strongly backed by the US, has since sought to squeeze Abbas.
After a deadly anti-Israeli attack last month, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he would withhold $138 million (123 million euros) in Palestinian revenues over the course of a year.
Israel collects around $190 million a month in customs duties levied on goods destined for Palestinian markets that transit through its ports, and then transfers the money to the PA.
Israel said the amount it intended to withhold was equal to what is paid by the PA to the families of prisoners, or prisoners themselves, jailed for attacks on Israelis last year.
Many Palestinians view prisoners and those killed while carrying out attacks as heroes of the fight against Israeli occupation.
Israel says the payments encourage further violence.
Abbas recently accused Netanyahu’s government of causing a “crippling economic crisis in the Palestinian Authority.”
The PA also said in January it would refuse all further US government aid for fear of lawsuits under new US legislation targeting alleged support for “terrorism.”

Finance Minister Shukri Bishara announced earlier this month he had been forced to “adopt an emergency budget that includes restricted austerity measures.”
Government employees paid over 2,000 shekels ($555) will receive only half their salaries until further notice.
Prisoner payments would continue in full, Bishara added.
Nasser Abdel Karim, a Ramallah-based economics professor, told AFP the PA, and the Palestinian economy more generally, remain totally controlled by and reliant on Israel.
The PA undertook similar financial measures in 2012 when Israel withheld taxes over Palestinian efforts to gain international recognition at the United Nations.
Abdel Karim said such crises are “repeated and disappear according to the development of the relationship between the Palestinian Authority and Israel or the countries that support (the PA).”
Israel occupied the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including now annexed east Jerusalem in the Six-Day War of 1967 and Abbas’s government has only limited autonomy in West Bank towns and cities.
“The problem is the lack of cash,” economic journalist Jafar Sadaqa told AFP.
He said that while the PA had faced financial crises before, “this time is different because it comes as a cumulative result of political decisions taken by the United States.”
Abbas appointed longtime ally Mohammad Shtayyeh as prime minister on March 10 to head a new government to oversee the crisis.
Abdel Karim believes the crisis could worsen after an Israeli general election next month “if a more right-wing Israeli government wins.”
Netanyahu’s outgoing government is already regarded as the most right-wing in Israel’s history but on April 9 parties even further to the right have a realistic chance of winning seats in parliament for the first time.
Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts have been at a standstill since 2014, when a drive for a deal by the administration of President Barack Obama collapsed in the face of persistent Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank.