Saudi-Lanka ties set to reach greater heights

Updated 04 February 2015
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Saudi-Lanka ties set to reach greater heights

With the dawn of 2015, Sri Lanka ushered into a new leadership under the umbrella of President Maithripala Sirisena and now country is celebrating its 67th anniversary of its independence day a month later.
The island’s Ambassador Mohamed Hussein Mohammed, who was the former mayor of Colombo, hoped the new reign under President Sirisena will give a fresh impetus to the people and their government for the progress and prosperity of the nation.
The envoy said that he feels that he is blessed to serve his countrymen from this holy land, which not only serves the Muslims but also it provides a pleasant home to people of many faiths from several countries around the globe.
Hussein Mohammed was talking to Arab News on the eve of his country’s 67th anniversary of the independence day.
Spelling out the bilateral relations between the Sri Lanka and the Kingdom, the envoy said it is deeply rooted with a perpetual commitment to take the ties between the island and the Kingdom to greater heights .
“Ever since we established diplomatic relations with the Kingdom in July 1974, the two countries have been maintaining excellent relations in social, cultural, political and economic fields,” the diplomat said, adding that the relationship with Saudi Arabia is significant not only because it is home to nearly 550,000 Sri Lankans but also it is a holy land for the Muslims, who make up around seven percent of the country’s 24 million population.
A large number of Sri Lankan Muslims regularly come for the annual Haj and for Umrah throughout the year.
“We are ever thankful to the Saudi leadership for the special care given to the Muslims from all parts of the world including Sri Lanka,” he said.
“We sincerely trust and hope, with the new leadership of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosque King Salman and President Sirisena back home, the relations between the two countries could forge ahead,” the envoy noted.
Several government and non-governmental organizations in the Kingdom have been cooperating with their counterparts in Sri Lanka to develop various infrastructure and socio-economic projects in the island, he said, pointing out the contributions made by organizations such as the Islamic Development Bank,(IDB) Muslim World League, (MWL) World Assembly of Muslim Youth (Wamy), Saudi Fund For Development (SFD) and the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC).
The Saudi Fund for Development (SFD) has been instrumental in financing several projects in the island. It has helped the island to build a National Trauma Center and an Epilepsy Hospital in Colombo.
With SFD’s assistance, Sri Lanka built a bridge which links the Eastern town of Trincomalee with Kinniya, a Muslim village whose 100,000 population was facing a huge transport problem to cross the lagoon between the two points. Earlier, they were using ferry as their mode of transport to come to Trincomalee, the north-eastern capital of the island. The Trincomalee- Batticaloa highway was also widened with the same funds allocated under the agreement .
In the early 1980s, the Kingdom gave financial assistance to Sri Lanka for various projects.
In 1981, SR99.9 million in credit was extended by the Kingdom for the second stage of the water supply and sewage project and another SR48.1 million for the Mahaweli Ganga Development project system B. In 1984 the Kingdom provided SR85 million for the Mahaweli Ganga Development Project system B left bank.
The IDB has been giving scholarships for outstanding Sri Lankan students, who are selected for universities to follow courses in engineering, medicine and information technology.
Recently, it donated $200 million for an extension project to Zahira College Colombo.A polyclinic is to be set up in the heart of Colombo to help the less fortunates to get their medical treatment funded by IDB.
With 22 percent stake from the IDB, Amanah Bank,the first Islamic bank in the island, was set up two years ago.
The Sri Lankan Embassy in the Kingdom was established in Jeddah in late 1981, which was reciprocated by the Kingdom with a Saudi mission in Colombo 1994 with Ali Al-Zahrani as its charge d’ affaires. Subsequently, the Saudi mission was elevated to ambassadorial status with the appointment of Mohamed Mahmud Al-Ali as its first ambassador in 2001.
This year, he said Sri Lanka and Saudi Arabia will sign an agreement on “domestic worker recruitment” to streamline the process of recruitment and to protect the rights of both the employer and the domestic workers.
It is designed to enhance cooperation on domestic worker recruitment in a manner that realizes the strategic interests of both countries. Recruitment will be done through mega recruiting companies in the Kingdom, he said.
“The signing of the General Agreement on Economic, Trade, Investment, Scientific, Technical, Cultural, Youth and Sports Cooperation between the two countries was a landmark event in the bilateral relations between the two countries,” the envoy said, adding that it paved the way for new areas of cooperation in various fields.
As a result, he said Saudi investors have begun to show more interests in the island since it safeguards the interests of investors from both countries.
Sri Lankan exports to the Kingdom are tea, garments, coir, fiber, fruits and vegetables, cut-flowers, leather goods and porcelain products.
The two countries also enjoy a contract to incorporate the rights and privileges of employees as well as the employers.
“It has cut down several labor problems and has increased the number of Sri Lankans coming into the Kingdom,” the ambassador said pointing out that it has also eliminated the corruption of the middlemen in the recruitment process.
To open new trading opportunities for businessmen in all parts of the globe, including Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka has also opened an online trading platform.
Sri Lanka’s Export Development Board (EDB) which is at the forefront of developing the island’s products and services has a website, srilankabusiness.com is the portal for leveraging the Internet for showcasing the country’s products and services in the world market. It has drawn up a five year plan from 2015 to 2020 to promote the country’s products in other parts of the world.
The Board of Investment (BOI) headquartered in Colombo offers a wide range of incentives for foreign investors.
He said plans are underway to set up the Saudi-Lanka joint Business Council which would open up new areas of cooperation between the two countries.
From the earliest times, the isle, dubbed as pearl of the Indian Ocean, has been a land of endless attractions for visitors from all parts of the world. UNESCO has designated five sites in Sri Lanka as World Heritage Sites.
“The tourists traffic from the Kingdom to Colombo has considerably increased and most of the Saudis are going either on business or leisure with their families.
“I am happy to note that the increased number of direct flights connecting Colombo and Riyadh, Dammam and Jeddah is also promoting trade, tourism, and people-to-people contact. Last year, over 76,000 Saudis visited Sri Lanka. Since tourism is the primary area facilitating people to people contact, this Embassy has streamlined its procedure of issuing visas through the ETA system.
Two community schools in Riyadh and Jeddah cater to the educational needs of Sri Lankans staying in the Kingdom .
Describing his country as an ideal tourist destination for a family holiday, he pointed out that the Saudi tourists are heavy spenders and they look for South Asian destinations for their holidays.
“We have many attractions to offer for Saudi tourists and we are making every effort to attract tourists from this part of the world,” he added.
He said that Saudi families who had visited Sri Lanka had always opted to repeat the visit because of the island’s natural scenic beauty and unique hospitality of its people.
“Muslim visitors will feel home in the city of Colombo since they could see mosques in the vicinity of every shopping center,” he said. In fact, he added that women in Hijab is a common sight in the city. ” A good number of Saudis are currently visiting Sri Lanka for their leisure and honeymoon.”
The island has some 20,000 quality rooms and it is studded with quality hotels such as Cinnamon Group of hotels such as Cinnamon Grand, Lake, Bay and Red, Taj Exotica, Light House, and Heritance Hotels, Kingsbury and Galadari for the comfort of luxury tourists.
Sri Lanka is home to eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites, several Buddhist andHindu temples, and other ancient monuments that serve as attractions for travelers. Adam’s Peak, a mountain in the Central Province with the shape of a footprint on its peak, is considered sacred in a number of religions.
The eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Sri Lanka include the central highlands area comprising of the Hortons Plains National Park and Knuckles Conservation Forest, the Sinharaja Forest Reserve, the Dutch Fort in Galle, the Golden Temple of Dambulla, the Temple of Tooth in Kandy, and the ancient cities of Polonnaruwa, Anuradhapura, and Sigiriya.


KSA must become more resilient against cyberattacks

Updated 22 July 2018
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KSA must become more resilient against cyberattacks

  • Healthcare data is of particular interest to hackers because it can be used to blackmail people in positions of power
  • A trained security professional cannot win the battle against cybercrime with just a mere knowledge of IT security

DUBAI: Cybercrime attacks could double over the next two years and cost Saudi Arabia’s economy up to SR30 billion ($8 billion) by 2020, according to security experts who warn the Kingdom is the most targeted county in the GCC for online fraudsters.
While Saudi Arabia is stepping up the war against cybercrime, the Kingdom must invest in training its own security professionals, expand its pool of skilled workers and strengthen its cybersecurity regulation to become more resilient against emerging attacks.
“Based on our relationship with key Saudi clients, we see that cybercrime in Saudi is growing faster than in most of the countries in the world, with more than a 35 percent increase in the number of attacks during the past year,” said Simone Vernacchia, a partner in Digital, CyberSecurity, Resilience and Infrastructure for PWC Middle East.
“Based on our experience in the GCC, Saudi is being targeted more frequently, and the cost of cyberattacks is 6 to 8 percent higher than in the rest of the GCC countries. The Saudi economy provides a more appealing target for cyberattackers.”
Vernacchia said it can be difficult to measure the true direct and indirect cost on Saudi Arabia’s economy each year.
“This said, we would expect direct and indirect costs arising from cyberattacks to total $3 to $4 billion (SR11.25 billion to SR15 billion) for 2018,” said Vernacchia.
“Assuming the growth will not be affected by large-scale events, we expect the direct and indirect impact of cyberattacks to grow up to $6 to $8 billion (SR22.5 billion to SR30 billion) by 2020. Among the major external events that can affect this figure, uncertainties in the region can result in an even more aggressive surge of cyberattacks.”
Vernacchia said there was a lack of willpower in organizations to invest in security measures, and urged them to invest in the manpower and technology that will enable them to become more resilient in the face of growing attacks. While Saudi is “not completely unprepared,” most businesses in the Kingdom are investing in cybersecurity far less than the leading countries.
“We see the average investment in cybersecurity awareness and capability to be on average about 60 percent lower in Saudi Arabia than what is invested by organizations of the same size in leading countries.
“This is a result of limited regulatory requirements for private entities, as private companies are trading the immediate benefit of spending less on cybersecurity protection with the high cost of one — or more — potentially highly effective targeted cyberattacks.”
An increase in cybersecurity regulation could also strongly limit the growth of cyberattacks, Vernacchia said. “The limited amount of cybersecurity-related regulation is a key issue, as it’s having two key effects. On one hand, some businesses are underestimating their exposure, and thus not investing in cybersecurity as they should — de facto increasing their risk. Other businesses are waiting for regulation to be drafted before investing in cybersecurity, in fear that the organization, processes and solutions they would implement may not be in line with the regulatory requirements which are coming.”
Amir Kolahzadeh, CEO of cybersecurity firm ITSEC, said Saudi-based business are reluctant to invest in adequate cybersecurity measures as they fail to recognize the long-term value of the initial investment needed.
“The core issues that every business is looking at in cybersecurity is a line item expense instead of looking what the cost would be if there is a breach,” he said. “This is a worldwide epidemic at the moment. However, it is much more evident in the GCC due to lack of truly trained IT security professionals who can show the business acumen, foresight and the communication skills to demonstrate that potential losses are exponentially greater than the cost of securing the enterprise.”
David Michaux, of online security company Whispering Bell, said as Saudi Arabia forges ahead with its knowledge-based economy and becomes “more online,” the potential for attacks will grow.
With Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 of a “knowledge economy,” growth in the ICT will be fueled by digitization — including IT innovation, big data projects, smart city initiatives, and cloud-based services. In addition, Saudis are among the most active social media users in the world — and largest adopters of Twitter in the Arab region.
Mathivanan V., vice president of ManageEngine, said while Saudi Arabia has taken “significant steps” to achieve cyber-readiness, including the introduction of the National Authority of Cyber Security which aims to enhance the protection of networks, IT systems, and data through regulatory and operational tasks, he warned that sophisticated cyberthreats have evolved in the wake of digitization and urged companies to better employ sustainable IT practices and state-of-the-art cybersecurity tools.
“A trained security professional cannot win the battle against cybercrime with just a mere knowledge of IT security,” he said. “What he needs is the right weapon to master the art of cybersecurity.”
James Lyne, head of R&D at SANS Institute, which specializes in information security, said given Saudi Arabia’s visible agenda to lead the charge in smart cities, connected industry and to develop a knowledge economy, it is key that the Kingdom also has an equally ambitious cybersecurity skills strategy.
“A gap between the two will lead to substantial attacks and reputation damage for the region,” he said.
“Firstly, Saudi Arabia needs more cybersecurity practitioners overall — particularly with the ambitious development projects being undertaken as part of the Kingdom’s 2030 Vision. Secondly, existing cybersecurity practitioners also have to continue to sharpen their skills to increase the depth of their expertise.”
He urged companies not to ignore the fact that employee behavior is a weak link in cybersecurity and is becoming an increasing source of risk.
“Many of the breaches that occur still take advantage of basic cybersecurity failures and, as such, education has to be a huge part of the solution. Everyone in Saudi Arabia has a role to play in making sure that cybercriminals get fewer clicks on their nasty emails, documents and phishing links.”
He said it was difficult to truly grasp the overall financial figures associated with cybercrime.
“That said, even the tip of the iceberg that we do see is very substantial and it has already been demonstrated that Saudi Arabia is a major target. Given attackers have already had success compromising facilities, it is extremely likely other cybercriminals will follow.”