SR70bn pilgrimage bonanza forecast

Updated 25 September 2014

SR70bn pilgrimage bonanza forecast

Economists predict more than SR70 billion in revenues from this year’s Haj and Umrah seasons, according to experts.
Abdullah Al-Marzoouq, a professor of Haj economy at Umm Al-Qura University in Makkah, told Arab News there are positive indicators for enhanced Haj profits.
“This is thanks to the 9 million pilgrims who will have performed Haj and Umrah this year,” he said.
Al-Marzoouq called for greater efforts to create more job opportunities for Saudis during the Haj and Umrah seasons.
Abdulkhaleq Al-Kashef, director of the Haj Research Center, said that Haj service companies will undoubtedly take advantage of the upcoming Haj season.
“The large Haj and Umrah market will increase the sale of Saudi products, which includes gift items,” said Khaled Ramadan, the manager of a Haj and Umrah service company.
Ramadan told Arab News that Saudi-made gift items are facing big competition from Chinese products.
He stressed the need for strengthening the capabilities of young Saudi men and women in making innovative gift items with a Makkah and Madinah touch for sale among pilgrims and other visitors.
Ramadan believes that Saudi products could make a revenue of SR500 million to SR800 million annually if properly marketed.
Saleh Al-Rasheed, the owner of a shop selling souvenirs and gifts, urged Saudi youth to start small and medium-sized enterprises to produce gift items to market among pilgrims.
“This is a potential goldmine for young Saudis,” he said.
“It can also create more seasonal jobs for Saudis during the Haj season,” he added.
The Ministry of Haj, meanwhile, has implemented a plan to crack down on fake Haj operators who fleece customers by collecting money for Haj in advance and then vanish without a trace. Bogus operators often shut down their offices and keep their mobiles switched off, leaving their victims in the lurch.
The ministry is also monitoring the service category of Haj operators, since many claim to offer “VIP” services in order to con their victims into paying higher amounts.
Authorities have advised residents to be cautious while dealing with Haj operators.
“The Haj Ministry will closely monitor the marketing and advertisement campaigns of local Haj operators to prevent fraud,” said Haj Minister Bandar Hajjar.

‘The stock market, stupid’ — Trump’s claim is looking hollow 

Updated 29 October 2020

‘The stock market, stupid’ — Trump’s claim is looking hollow 

  • The timing of the Wall Street downturn is the worst possible for the incumbent, who has declared every new peak in the S&P as a personal victory throughout his presidency
  • The likes of Apple, Amazon, Alphabet and Facebook are due to declare their earnings for the third quarter, and how those numbers are received could give the indices a boost

Before the US election of 1992, candidate Bill Clinton summed up what he saw as the reason he would become president: “It’s the economy, stupid.” He was proved right as voters disowned the economic policies of President George H.W. Bush in their droves to elect Clinton. 

Until the COVID-19 pandemic began to ravage the US economy in March, President Donald Trump would have been able to make the same claim. For the four years of his presidency, the US economy had continued the progress initiated by his predecessor to recover from the 2009 global financial crisis.

By most measures — growth, employment, inflation — the Trump years had been good, and those on the top of the pile had even more reason to be grateful thanks to the big tax cuts he had made a flagship policy.

The pandemic changed all that in the space of a few weeks as lockdown measures shocked the economy. Jobless claims soared to all-time records, bankruptcies and closures affected large swathes of American business, and gross domestic product collapsed. The International Monetary Fund forecasts that the American economy will shrink by 4.3 percent this year.

But Trump could still claim instead that “it’s the stock market, stupid” as a reason he could be re-elected. Mainly because of the trillions of dollars injected into the economy in the form of fiscal stimulus, US share indices had swum against the economic tide.

The S&P 500 index hit an all-time high in September, allowing Trump to boast that under his administration, investors and the millions of people whose livelihoods depended on the financial industry had never had it so good.

Now, it looks as though even that final claim is looking more fragile. For the past couple of days, US and European stock markets have gone into reverse as investors took fright at the rising number of COVID-19 cases and the re-imposition of economic lockdowns in many countries.

Trump might argue, with a little justification, that Wall Street is worried about the prospect of Joe Biden being elected president by the end of next week. Certainly the contender, by definition, is something of an unknown quantity in terms of economic policy.

He is also known to favor some policies — such as tighter regulation on environmental sectors, more spending on health care, and higher taxes for federal services and projects — that have traditionally been regarded as contrary to the philosophy of “free market” America.

In particular, the energy industry is worried about possible restrictions on shale oil and gas production that Biden and his “green” team are believed to favor. However, it should be pointed out that the Democratic candidate has specifically said he will not ban shale fracking, as some environmentalists want.

In any interesting side-story, the state of Texas — one of the biggest in terms of electoral college votes — would seem to have more to lose than any other if the energy scare stories about Biden were true. Yet the contest there between Democrats and Republicans is the closest it has been for decades, according to opinion polls.

The timing of the Wall Street downturn is the worst possible for the incumbent, who has declared every new peak in the S&P as a personal victory throughout his presidency and a sign of his deal-doing prowess. If even this claim is denied to him in the final week of campaigning, it would make the uphill battle against the polls even more difficult.

There is a chance that Big Tech might offer some relief. The likes of Apple, Amazon, Alphabet and Facebook are due to declare their earnings for the third quarter, and how those numbers are received could give the indices a boost, given that they were the ones largely responsible for the big market gains earlier in the year.

But for Trump, any such respite might be too little, too late. It looks as though Wall Street and Main Street are finally catching up in their gloom, and there is nothing the president can do about it.