Minister admits land prices are high

Updated 16 January 2015
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Minister admits land prices are high

Over 119,000 citizens have failed to get home loans because of high land prices in the Kingdom, Housing Minister Shuwaish Al-Dhuwaihi revealed at a recent Shoura Council meeting, where he also had to defend the ministry against accusations of incompetence and corruption.
Al-Dhuwaihi said land prices increased tenfold recently, which resulted in citizens not qualifying for loans. “It is an issue we cannot deny,” he was quoted as saying at the meeting by a local publication.
Al-Dhuwaihi said the ministry has prepared a “detailed study” on the issue and submitted it to the Supreme Economic Council for further action. The ministry would press for fees on vacant land as part of efforts to bring down real estate prices, he said.
Several Shoura members were critical of the ministry, saying it has not been performing well including failing to deliver housing projects on time and not having qualified staff.
One member, Sultan Al-Sultan, called on the minister to resign, as he did when the Shoura discussed the ministry’s report last March. Al-Sultan said the Council of Ministers and the Shoura Council should have a joint meeting to discuss the housing issue.
Al-Sultan said the delays have been caused by unqualified subcontractors and staff who have inadequate technical knowledge. He accused the ministry of financial corruption because it had allegedly awarded a consultancy 15 percent of the value of a contract, while only 5 percent was the international norm.
Other members said the ministry was grouping citizens with low incomes in housing projects, which was creating an “unhealthy environment.” Abdullah Al-Jeghaiman, a member, said the ministry was “putting out fires” and did not have long-term solutions.
In response, Al-Dhuwaihi promised to complete the ministry’s delayed projects as soon as possible. He said the ministry would announce in the coming days several projects that would be completed on time.
He said the ministry does have qualified staff, but too few of them. The ministry was also making an effort to reduce the waiting period for loans from 16 to 10 years, with plans to cut it to five years.
He said that in some governorates citizens are only waiting for two years for loans. The ministry has already determined how many citizens would receive support, he said.
Al-Dhuwaihi said the ministry does not provide loans to individuals. Families are entitled to this support. “So if one spouse owns a house, the loan and support would go to another family,” he said.
In reaction to the corruption allegations, he said the Shoura members are free to check all the contracts awarded by the ministry, including building and design costs, which are lower than the international average.
He said the ministry would not have a shortfall of funds to carry out the projects because of the fall in oil prices because these funds have already been allocated from the budget surpluses of previous years.


Makkah Route: Health services presented to Hajjis in their home countries

Updated 21 July 2019
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Makkah Route: Health services presented to Hajjis in their home countries

  • 257,981 pilgrims benefited from the "preventive services" since the new initiative’s launch

RIYADH: One of the services provided by the Makkah Route initiative, which aims to smooth the Hajj journey of pilgrims and provide top-quality service, is to ensure that all health requirements are met.

The Communication, Relations and Health Awareness General Department of the Ministry of Health is implementing the initiative in two ways. 

The first is to ensure that the proper application of the health requirements for Hajj and Umrah is followed in targeted countries before issuing the Kingdom’s entry visa (Malaysia, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Tunisia). 

The second is to check that preventive measures are taken according to the world’s epidemiological situation, for instance in Pakistan.

“Preventive measures” mean, for example, providing polio vaccines for pilgrims. The vaccine, approved by the World Health Organization (WHO), is provided through the Pakistani health authorities at the departure area of the airport.

“The ministry is also deploying a team of five people qualified to supervise the application of health requirements and assess the vaccination procedure and the application of preventive measures,” the department added.   


HIGHLIGHTS

The Makkah Route initiative aims to ensure that the proper application of the health requirements for Hajj and Umrah is followed in targeted countries before issuing the Kingdom’s entry visa.

The initiative also ensures that preventive measures are taken according to the world’s epidemiological situation, for instance in Pakistan.

The workforce at the different land, air, and sea entry/exit points during this year’s Hajj season numbers more than 1,700 individuals.

The teams include 131 experienced doctors, general health specialists, epidemiological monitors, and other staff to provide the necessary treatment and preventive services to pilgrims.


The ministry’s procedures in the departure hall include prepping emergency clinics at the points where Makkah Route pilgrims are received. 

These clinics deal with urgent cases, prepare awareness information for pilgrims and coordinate with the General Authority of Civil Aviation regarding their distribution on the targeted airlines.

The workforce at the different land, air, and sea entry/exit points during this year’s Hajj season numbers more than 1,700 individuals, including 131 experienced doctors, general health specialists, epidemiological monitors, and other staff to provide the necessary treatment and preventive services to pilgrims.

The ministry stated that the number of health practitioners assigned to the service of pilgrims during Hajj “is more than 30,000.”

The ministry encourages volunteering during the Hajj season; it believes that it is a very important and noble service toward fellow citizens, nations and the religion, where Islam highly encourages volunteering and serving others.

The ministry is coordinating the major institutions and commissions via its Hajj volunteering link to register volunteers so that they can participate through the societal partnership program.

The missions affiliated with the pilgrim’s affairs offices provide basic treatment services and refer patients to the ministry’s health facilities, keeping an eye on the overall health situation and reporting any suspicious infectious diseases. 

The ministry monitors all the health institutions and medical missions affiliated with the pilgrim’s affairs offices to make sure the health requirements are being properly applied, to ensure pilgrims’ safety and guarantee an environment free of infectious diseases.

The Health Ministry has confirmed that so far that there has been no incidence of any epidemic diseases or quarantine cases recorded among pilgrims, who arrived and the health situation is reassuring.

Since the first of Dul Qaada, the ministry has provided preventive services, via access points, to 257,981 pilgrims, with a total rate of commitment to vaccination reached  87.4 percent for meningitis, 67.3 percent for yellow fever and 95.3 percent for polio.