Cabinet gives go-ahead for businesses to open 24/7 in Saudi Arabia

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Under a new law, shops in Saudi Arabia can now have the option to remain open 24 hours a day. (Reuters)
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Under a new law, shops in Saudi Arabia can now have the option to remain open 24 hours a day. (AN file photo)
Updated 19 July 2019

Cabinet gives go-ahead for businesses to open 24/7 in Saudi Arabia

  • Regulations and procedures will be developed and put in place to govern 24-hour opening
  • It is expected that a fee will be payable by businesses that wish to take advantage of the opportunity

RIYADH: The Saudi Cabinet on Tuesday announced that businesses in Saudi Arabia are to be given the option to remain open 24 hours a day.

Minister of Commerce and Investment Dr. Majid Al-Qassabi thanked King Salman and the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for the decision, which he said would improve the quality of life in the Kingdom by raising levels of satisfaction among residents and creating new opportunities for the business sector.

He added that it has been shown that 24-hour trading can have a positive effect on the macroeconomy of a country by increasing demand for goods and services, stimulating consumer spending and attracting capital investment. In addition, he said, it can help boost sectors such as leisure, tourism, transport and communications, and it is expected to create new job opportunities.

The decision reflects moves being made by the Kingdom to support the private sector and entrepreneurs by providing the best possible environment in which to operate through the amendment of regulations and legislation, and the continuing process of economic reforms.

Saudi Arabia is also committed to reducing the unemployment rate from 11.6 percent to 7 percent by providing more job opportunities for young people in particular, supporting entrepreneurs, establishing large enterprises, and increasing the role of the private sector and creating partnerships with it.

Talat Zaki Hafiz, secretary-general of the committee on  information and banking awareness,  believes the decision to allow 24-hour opening is a positive move for the country.

“I think this is a smart move that will benefit the economy and reduce the unemployment rate, which is considered now to be high at 11.6 percent, but also to serve the needs of the public who are living in the country, tourists and people who are visiting for Hajj and Umrah,” he said.

Iyad Ghulam of NCB Capital, an investment banking and asset management firm, also welcomed the announcement.

“We believe it will have a positive impact on the economy by creating employment, increasing disposable income, and boosting small and medium enterprises and the private sector’s contribution to the gross domestic product. For listed companies, we expect restaurants to be the key beneficiaries.

“In line with Vision 2030 targets, we expect the relaxing of regulations governing business hours to have a positive impact on the overall economy by supporting GDP growth, reducing unemployment, potentially increasing consumer spending, and meeting the needs of a larger consumer base.”

Regulations and procedures will be developed and put in place to govern 24-hour opening, and it is expected that a fee will be payable by businesses that wish to take advantage of the opportunity. The decision of whether or not to open all hours will remain with individual business owners.

Khalid Abdulrahman, the owner of a large coffee shop in Riyadh, said that the decision could benefit certain businesses, including his, but a lot will depend on the yet to be revealed details of how the process will operate.

“It might affect us positively to open 24 hours during the weekend only, because most of the Saudi people stay up all night,” he said. “This depends on whether we get to choose the days to open around the clock.”

Ahmed Mushtaq who runs Sohoby, a business-technology provider in Jeddah, said that it could give his employees more flexibility in choosing preferable working hours.

“As all of them are hard workers, some do prefer working during night hours as they can be focused and achieve more,” he said. “With this decision, employees’ working hours will be more flexible, especially for those who wish to work during late hours and spend more time with their families during the day.”

The Cabinet said that its decision takes into account the security and social needs of the community, particularly at night, and also weather requirements, especially those designed to cope with high temperatures during the summer.

Photo exhibition recalls 90 years of Saudi-Lebanon ties

Updated 19 August 2019

Photo exhibition recalls 90 years of Saudi-Lebanon ties

  • Thousands of photos on display
  • Ties ‘rooted’ in history, says Kingdom’s ambassador

BEIRUT: Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to Lebanon Walid Bukhari and Lebanon’s Minister of Information Minister of Information Jamal Jarrah on Monday inaugurated a photography exhibition celebrating 90 years of bilateral relations.

The King Abdul Aziz Foundation for Research and Archives and the Abdulaziz Saud Al-Babtain Cultural Foundation provided the embassy in Lebanon with historical documents and photos for the exhibition, which was launched on World Photography Day. Some of the material dates back more than 90 years.

Bukhari said the exhibition’s content proved that the countries’ relations were rooted in history and recalled the words of King Abdul Aziz bin Abdulrahman, who said: “Lebanon is part of us. I protect its independence myself and will not allow anything to harm it.”

Jarrah, who was representing Prime Minister Saad Hariri, said: “We need this Arab embrace in light of the attacks targeting the Arab region and we still need the Kingdom’s support for Lebanon’s stability, because Lebanon is truly the center from which Arabism originated.”

The exhibition starts with a document appointing Mohammed Eid Al-Rawaf as the Kingdom’s consul in Syria and Lebanon. It was signed by King Abdul Aziz bin Abdulrahman Al-Faisal Al-Saud in 1930 and states that the consul’s residence is in Damascus and that his mission is to “promote Saudi merchants, care for their affairs and assist them with their legal and commercial interests.”

Black and white pictures summarize milestones in the development of bilateral relations, while others depict key visits and meetings between leaders and dignitaries.

“The exhibition demanded great efforts because the pieces were not found at one single location,” former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora told Arab News. “Circulating this activity in the Kingdom’s embassies in numerous countries is a great step and has pushed the Lebanese Ministry of Information to benefit from this archive. The Lebanese people remember the important positions the Kingdom has taken over the year to support their independence and sovereignty and in hard times.”

Lebanon, particularly Beirut, is a hit with Saudi travelers although the Kingdom had been advising citizens since 2011 to avoid the country, citing Hezbollah’s influence and instability from the war in neighboring Syria. 

But the easing of restrictions since February has led to a surge in Saudis heading to Lebanon.

Riyadh earlier this year released $1 billion in funding and pledged to boost Lebanon’s struggling economy. Another sign of warming ties was an anniversary event marking the 2005 assassination of Hariri’s father that featured Saudi Royal Court adviser Nizar Al-Aloula as a keynote speaker.

“The exhibition highlights the unique model of Lebanese-Arab relations that should be taught in diplomatic institutes, starting with the Lebanese Foreign Ministry,” former minister Marwan Hamadeh told Arab News. “Over the course of 90 years, we have had brotherly ties and political support for independence, freedom, growth, economy and culture and then the Taif Accord (which ended the Lebanese Civil War). Even after that, when Lebanon engaged in military adventures, the Kingdom was there to help with reconstruction and we are proud of these relations.”

Highlights include a recording of King Faisal telling President Charles Helou about the need to strengthen “brotherhood in the face of the aggression targeting our countries without respecting the sanctity of holy sites and international, human and moral norms to extend its influence not only in the region but across the world.”

There are also photos from a recent meeting that brought together King Salman, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Lebanese officials. 

An old broadcast recording can be heard saying that the “tragedy of the Lebanese civil war can only be ended by affirming the Lebanese legitimacy and preserving its independence and territorial integrity.”

The exhibition is on at Beit Beirut, which is located on what used to be the frontline that divided the city during the civil war.