Cabinet OKs hike in gasoline, electricity and water prices

Cabinet OKs hike in gasoline, electricity and water prices
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Cabinet OKs hike in gasoline, electricity and water prices
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Cabinet OKs hike in gasoline, electricity and water prices
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Updated 29 December 2015

Cabinet OKs hike in gasoline, electricity and water prices

Cabinet OKs hike in gasoline, electricity and water prices

RIYADH: The Cabinet on Monday approved increases in the pump prices of gasoline as well as electricity and water rates, the first of a series of “comprehensive economic, fiscal, and structural reforms” recommended by the Ministry of Finance.
Gasoline price hikes are to take effect after 12 midnight Monday, while the adjustments in electricity and water rates will start on the first day of Rabiul Thani in the Islamic calendar, equivalent to January 11, 2016 in the Gregorian calendar.
Octane 91 will now cost 75 from the current 45 halalas. Octane 95 will increase to 90 halalas from the current 60 halalas, a Cabinet announcement carried by the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) said.
With the directive, Saudi Aramco has ordered that all gasoline stations across the kingdom be closed by nightfall to allow the adjustment of prices in their pumping machines.
Other Gulf states such as the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait have earlier raised their pump prices amid a decline in oil prices worldwide, resulting in reduced revenues.
The new rates were approved during a Cabinet session on Monday, during which Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman also announced a national budget plan of SR840 billion for 2016, with a view to reducing the deficit and a drive to raise revenues from sources other than oil.
In a press statement released earlier in the day, the MOF revealed plans to review government subsidies for fuel, electricity and water as the government announced cuts in the 2016 budget.
The ministry said it is considering “revisions in energy, water, and electricity prices gradually over the next five years, in order to achieve efficiency in energy use, conserve natural resources, stop waste and irrational use, and minimize negative effects on low and mid-income citizens and the competitiveness of the business sector.”
Another measure mentioned by the Finance Ministry is a review of current levels of fees and fines, introduction of new fees, and completion the necessary arrangements for the application of the value added tax (VAT) approved by the Supreme Council of the Arab Gulf States Cooperation Council at its 36th session held in Riyadh last month.
The ministry also called for the “application of additional fees on harmful goods such as tobacco, soft drinks and the like.”
Among the other measures outlined by the MOF are more on structural reforms, including:
• Reducing the growth of recurring expenditures, especially wages, salaries, allowances and the like, which amounted to SR 450 billion, exceeding 50 percent of the approved budget expenses.
• Optimizing operating expenditures, including the rationalization of government agencies’ expenses, the utilization of technology (IT) for the delivery of government services, and the development and strengthening control and governance mechanisms.
• Completing the revision of the government’s competitiveness and procurement law, in accordance with world-class practices.
• Establishing a unit in the Ministry of Finance for public debt management. The new unit will be responsible for developing and overseeing the public debt and financing strategy and strengthening the Kingdom's ability to borrow both domestically and internationally; thus contributing to the market for sukuk and local bonds.


Saudis ready to enjoy Eid Al-Fitr with health precautions in mind

Saudis ready to enjoy Eid Al-Fitr with health precautions in mind
Prior to the pandemic, Eid celebrations were marked by family gatherings where people used to enjoy traditional cuisines. However, now people have limited their visits and avoid large gatherings due to health concerns. (File photo)
Updated 1 min 9 sec ago

Saudis ready to enjoy Eid Al-Fitr with health precautions in mind

Saudis ready to enjoy Eid Al-Fitr with health precautions in mind
  • COVID-19 pandemic may have muted celebrations but fails to dampen people’s spirit

RIYADH: As many Muslims around the world eagerly await Eid Al-Fitr to celebrate with family and loved ones, Saudis have shared their annual routines on the festive occasion, which for many, are the best part of the whole celebration.

“I wait eagerly for Eid, and I always try a month before to go to the public and popular markets with my sons and daughters before the crowds to prepare for the occasion,” Husain Al-Anazi, a human resources operations supervisor, told Arab News. He buys whatever his family needs such as clothes, supplies and sweets.
On the Eid day, Al-Anazi goes to the mosque, where he performs the Eid prayer, and then returns home “I return to the parents, brothers and children. I greet my mother, sisters and children. Then I go to greet the elderly in their homes, especially my uncles, aunts and some of the elderly relatives,” he added.
After completing the morning tour, he returns home at noon to take a nap until the afternoon to catch up on sleep, since he is used to staying up late during Ramadan. He then goes to the majlis (sitting room for guests) in the afternoon and prepares tea and coffee for visitors.
In the evening, Al-Anazi goes to the meeting place of his relatives, where a special dinner for the family is held in either the house of the eldest relative or a separate rented location. Once the dinner wraps up, he goes to his friends on a break to greet them and play cards.
In the following days, he travels with friends to any place they decide to visit.

My favorite food during Eid is mansaf, a traditional Arab dish made of lamb cooked in a sauce of fermented dried yogurt, and served with rice.

Asmhan Al-Fuhaiqi

As for Bandar Al-Ghayeb, a security worker at the Saudi Electricity Co., he rarely spends the whole Eid period with his family and relatives, as he works on a shift basis at the company.
He instead visits friends in the neighborhood, who prepare Eid meals (mostly grilled foods). “We don’t eat too much. We eat in a symbolic way, as if we are tasting food.”
Al-Ghayeb said that he also visits some relatives and other friends on the same day after taking a nap. Although he is usually physically exhausted, he feels psychologically comfortable, as it is a day where he is able to meet many people, including friends who he has not seen for years.
Al-Ghayeb is also keen to preserve the habit of “eidiya” every year, where children are gifted money by older members of the family.
The best moments of Eid for Saudi housewife Asmhan Al-Fuhaiqi are the morning of the first day, especially when she starts to put on new clothes.
“Performing Eid prayers has a special feeling. Then we meet together as family members at my father’s house, where we start distributing sweets to the guests,” she told Arab News.
Al-Fuhaiqi added the spirit of Eid shines through when groups begin to light fireworks in celebration.
“During Eid, I would be busy buying supplies, including clothes and accessories, and since I live in the town of Tayma, I cannot get everything I need, so I go with my family to the city of Tabuk (110 km away), which is the closest city to us” she said.

I go to greet the elderly in their homes, especially my uncles, aunts and some of the elderly relatives.

Husain Al-Anazi

She added that one of the most difficult things to buy during Eid is clothing, as she has to ensure that the size fits so that she does not go all the way back to Tabuk.
On the night before Eid, she makes sweets and puts them in the reception room before dawn, and perfumes the house with incense and oud.
In the past, Al-Fuhaiqi was keen to go to the prayer hall next to the city, which feels “beautifully different,” however, the situation changed after the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, and she instead visits the nearby mosque.
The family then begins to receive guests in their home, distributing gifts to the children and supervising the fireworks. “Although it is risky, I feel that fireworks give a wonderful atmosphere for Eid, so I make sure that I am the one who lights the fireworks myself, not the children.”

I will be very happy during Eid, because we visit many people, and many also visit us in a short period of time.
Ruaa Rashid

She said that her favorite food during Eid is mansaf, a traditional Arab dish made of lamb cooked in a sauce of fermented dried yogurt, and served with rice or bulgur.
Saudi child Ruaa Radhi told Arab News that her mother bought her a dress and beautiful shoes a few days ago for Eid, and bought enough fireworks from the market for her and her brothers.
“On the first day of Eid Al-Fitr, we will meet with my grandmother at her house in the presence of my aunts who live in other cities, where we will have dinner together, which is a cooked lamb that my mother and aunts cook,” she said.
Radhi’s maternal uncles usually gift her toys and sweets for Eid every year. “They usually give us light footballs and balloons. Indeed, I will be very happy during Eid, because we visit many people, and many also visit us in a short period of time.”
Nayef Al-Moaini, a Saudi engineer at Ma’aden, said that, for him, the celebration of Eid starts the night before, when preparing the house is one of the most important parts of the annual celebration.
“Celebration of Eid Al-Fitr often includes holding banquets for several days to celebrate the visitors, including our relatives coming from outside the city,” he added.
The second day of Eid is a fixed day for Al-Moaini’s family feast, which includes his uncles, their children and his neighbors.


Saudi ‘edupreneur’ explores opportunities in Pakistan’s education sector

Saudi ‘edupreneur’ explores opportunities in Pakistan’s education sector
Omar Farooqui, Founder of Coded Minds. (Supplied)
Updated 10 min 16 sec ago

Saudi ‘edupreneur’ explores opportunities in Pakistan’s education sector

Saudi ‘edupreneur’ explores opportunities in Pakistan’s education sector
  • The current visit of the Pakistani premier to Saudi Arabia has opened many new opportunities between the two countries

JEDDAH: A Saudi educationist has hailed growing public-private partnership ties in education between Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.
“Saudi Arabia and Pakistan have historically been like family to one another and education can be the common thread to stitch them closer,” said Omar Farooqui, founder of Coded Minds, a global ed-tech company.
He added: “Both countries have immense knowledge pools and research-driven institutions. Sharing of knowledge and formation of cross-border public-private partnerships can help implement modernization across both
nations in terms of bringing 21st-century quantum leaps in their respective ways of being.”
Farooqui, a Saudi national from Jeddah, has become the first-ever educationist in the Kingdom to invest in the private education system in Pakistan. His company, Coded Minds Pakistan, is set to provide STEM education to about 6 million students across the country.
The current visit of the Pakistani premier to Saudi Arabia has opened many new opportunities between the two countries. According to several sources, more than 30 public and private Saudi companies are keen to invest in Pakistan, including Saudi giants like Aramco, SABIC and ACWA Power.
However, Farooqui’s Coded Minds appears to be the only Saudi private venture investing in the Pakistani education sector.
So why Pakistan? Farooqui said that by directing a Saudi-owned global company, he has a first mover’s advantage in the Pakistani education sector.
“Pakistan has huge potential in all aspects of its business sector, but it remains an untapped market. It needs a first mover to take a chance on it, and education is one such sector, that through policy influence, can become a catalyst of change for a nation.”

Pakistan’s human capital and Saudi Arabia’s black gold might be combined and can have far-reaching consequences.

Omar Farooqui, Founder of Coded Minds

Farooqui added that he is among the “most fortunate” people that are living examples of the strong bonds between the two countries. “That’s why, I truly believe that education should always have been beyond boundaries by design, and it is something we practice every day on our platform.”
While noting the “new avatar of the Kingdom” and its growing relations with Pakistan — the second most populous Muslim country and fifth largest country in the world — Farooqui said that the world has “no choice but to take notice of the remarkable changes.”
He added: “The Kingdom has a young, hungry population that is by nature entrepreneurial and needs a platform to speak. Pakistan is the fifth largest country in the world and by natural selection relies on its human capital and large diaspora spread across the world that are willing and able to come back.
“Both in a way are intertwined in a revolution of sorts. Pakistani-Saudi brotherhood is a strategic wall that is crucial to the future of world trade.
“Pakistan’s human capital and Saudi Arabia’s black gold might be combined and can have far-reaching consequences. Pakistan can be a testing ground for significant breakthroughs in new-age technology as it becomes a marketplace of talent to tap into.”


Qatar’s emir arrives in Saudi Arabia on official visit

Qatar’s emir arrives in Saudi Arabia on official visit
Updated 23 min 19 sec ago

Qatar’s emir arrives in Saudi Arabia on official visit

Qatar’s emir arrives in Saudi Arabia on official visit

JEDDAH: Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad arrived at King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah on Monday, where he was received by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Press Agency reported.
The emir received an invitation from King Salman to visit the Kingdom end of last month, which was hand delivered by Foreign Minster Prince Faisal bin Farhan.

Developing...


Saudi Arabia’s King Salman receives call from Kuwait emir for Eid Al-Fitr

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman receives call from Kuwait emir for Eid Al-Fitr
Updated 56 min 44 sec ago

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman receives call from Kuwait emir for Eid Al-Fitr

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman receives call from Kuwait emir for Eid Al-Fitr

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s King Salman received a phone call on Monday from Kuwait’s Emir Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmed Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, to extend greetings on the advent of the Muslim Eid Al-Fitr holiday.
The king reciprocated the sentiments, Saudi Press Agency reported.
Eid Al-Fitr, or Festival of Breaking the Fast, is celebrated by Muslims all over the world following the fasting month of Ramadan.


Turkish foreign minister visits Saudi Arabia in move to mend ties

Turkish foreign minister visits Saudi Arabia in move to mend ties
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu. (AFP)
Updated 55 min 50 sec ago

Turkish foreign minister visits Saudi Arabia in move to mend ties

Turkish foreign minister visits Saudi Arabia in move to mend ties
  • Turkey’s policy shift was driven by its desire for more investment and trade opportunities, its realization of the limits of unilateralism and desire to hedge against its increasingly erratic relationships with great powers

ANKARA: Turkey’s Foreign Affairs Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu began an official two-day visit to the Kingdom on Monday in a bid to improve relations seriously undermined since 2018 by the Jamal Khashoggi case.

The visit followed a recent phone call between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz on May 4.

In a Reuters interview last month, presidential spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin said that Turkey, trying to bring about a positive agenda and a change of discourse regarding the Kingdom, respects the outcome of the Saudi trial about the journalist’s killing.

During the visit, bilateral relations, trade and regional issues, including Libya, are expected to be discussed, especially during Cavusoglu’s meeting with Saudi counterpart, Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al-Saud.

“Since the fall of 2020, Turkey has been concertedly working to repair its relationships with regional powers in the Middle East,” Samuel Ramani, a Middle East expert at the University of Oxford, told Arab News.

“Turkey’s policy shift was driven by its desire for more investment and trade opportunities, its realization of the limits of unilateralism and desire to hedge against its increasingly erratic relationships with great powers, such as Russia, the United States, Europe and China,” he said.

The recent decision by Saudi Arabia to close eight out of 26 Turkish schools by the end of the 2020-2021 academic year drew anger from Ankara, which claimed that 2,256 Turkish students would face challenges in education elsewhere as they are not fluent in Arabic.

Ankara will also raise the issue of lifting the Saudi unofficial boycott of Turkish goods since 2019, which has resulted in a significant fall in Turkish exports to the Kingdom.

Experts consider this decision a signal that Saudi Arabia has some prerequisites for launching normalization with Turkey, particularly on its policies toward the Arab world — especially ties with the Muslim Brotherhood and its military presence in Libya, Somalia, Qatar, Iraq and Syria.

In the meantime, Turkish exporters have allegedly removed “Made in Turkey” tags on their products to bypass the blockade.

Turkish exports to Saudi Arabia dropped by 94 percent year-on-year and stood at about $75 million in the first three months of this year, while during the same period imports from Saudi Arabia rose from $430 million to some $600 million.

Cavusoglu will also pay a visit to Egypt after his meeting in the Kingdom to normalize ties with another regional actor after a long period of enmity.

“Turkey has reached out to Egypt, Israel, Saudi Arabia and even the UAE to de-escalate tensions. These outcomes have had mixed results, as these powers still remain on opposite sides of the Eastern Mediterranean dispute, but Turkey has succeeded in de-escalating tensions with Egypt on Libya and this is seen in Ankara as an encouraging sign that could be replicated in Saudi Arabia,” Ramani said.

According to Ramani, the main issues that Saudi Arabia and Turkey will discuss are regional ones.

“The first is the eastern Mediterranean, but Saudi Arabia won’t budge from its alignment with Greece or accept Turkey’s 2019 energy deal with Libya. The second is Israel-Palestine, where both Turkey and Saudi Arabia will likely criticize Israel’s recent conduct in Al-Aqsa,” he said.

Experts note that this latest normalization drive by Turkey with the Gulf and Middle Eastern countries may be linked to an adjustment strategy with the new Biden administration in the US.

Galip Dalay, CATS fellow at SWP and non-resident fellow at Brookings Doha, expects a partial normalization of relations between Ankara and Riyadh.

“There is no meaningful conflict of interest between the parties and they are likely to take steps to partially de-escalate the tensions in the medium term,” he told Arab News.

“During the Arab Spring, Turkey and the Kingdom had ideological divergences as they took opposing sides. But they did not have any significant conflict in geopolitical terms. Turkey even supported to a certain extent Saudi Arabia’s policy choices in Yemen. However, with the Qatar crisis and Khashoggi case, the tensions escalated,” Dalay said.

Dalay anticipates rising tension between Turkey and Iran as they clash on geopolitical interests.

“Therefore Turkey wants to mend ties with the Arab camp to consolidate its position and adjust to the new reality in the region,” he said.