KSA’s green card plan for expats welcomed

Updated 24 April 2016

KSA’s green card plan for expats welcomed

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s plan to issue permanent residence or “green cards” to foreign workers has been warmly welcomed by the expatriate community.

In an interview with Bloomberg, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman disclosed plans for issuing such cards similar to the US green card system that allows hiring more foreign workers for a fee.
The plan will abolish the existing sponsorship system for holders, who will be required to pay zakat and value-added taxes, if any, besides premiums on insurance, etc. They can own property and undertake commercial, industrial and related activities.
“The plan is very welcome for those living here for over 40 years. I would also suggest that naturalization be given to those who have at least one child willing to serve in the armed forces in any capacity,” said Amir Qayyum, a business development executive from India.
“This is actually in recognition of the universal human rights of residency. We are glad to see the host government extending such a privilege to deserving expats,” said John Monterona, convener of the new OFW Forces Worldwide.
A senior systems engineer at Tawuniya, Saleh Ampaso Bucay, who has been working here since 1992, described the move as a dream come true.
“I am just like many other expatriates who have spent more than half of their lives in this country. All my children were born here. So it is really a great honor if this privilege of either permanent residence or a green card is granted to us,” Bucay observed.
He added that as a Muslim, it will also be a great opportunity to work hand in hand with the citizens in developing the country and protecting it from the enemies of Islam. “I love this country and would like to die and be buried here,” he said.
Gilbert G. Alarcon, senior ISO system auditor at Dar Arriyadh Consultants, said it is a good development as expats already consider Saudi Arabia their second home. “The feeling of acceptance in retrospect gives more meaning to an already fruitful partnership and cooperation between the citizens and expats.”
Rey Eduard Quiblat Umel, an architect and a project engineer, termed King Salman’s wisdom and vision “very exemplary.” The Saudi-Philippine partnership will increase by leaps and bounds, boosting the development of their peoples, he said.
“This will also help the Kingdom’s economy and increase its revenues. It will bolster their manpower without relying on oil,” said Jehad Zacaria Pangcoga, from the Philippines.


Saudi Arabia loses 120,000 hectares of trees every year

Awareness campaigns highlight the importance of trees. (Shutterstock)
Updated 21 February 2020

Saudi Arabia loses 120,000 hectares of trees every year

  • The fine for cutting down a tree can reach SR5,000 ($1,333) while the fine for transporting logs is SR10,000

MAKKAH: Saudi Arabia loses 120,000 hectares of trees every year through destruction and tree logging.
Trees help stop desertification because they are a stabilizer of soil. In the Arabian Peninsula, land threatened by desertification ranges from 70 to 90 percent. A national afforestation campaign was launched in Saudi Arabia last October, and there is a national plan set to run until this April.
The Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture said that although natural vegetation across the country had suffered in the past four decades, modern technologies such as satellites and drones could be used to track down individuals or businesses harming the Kingdom’s vegetation.
“Harsh penalties should be imposed on violators such as the seizure or confiscation of transport and hefty fines,” Dr. Abdulrahman Al-Sugair, chairman of the Environmental Green Horizons Society, told Arab News.
These were long-term solutions and they needed coordination with authorities to ensure warehouses and markets did not stock logs or firewood, he said. Another solution was sourcing an alternative product from overseas that was of high quality and at a reasonable price. A third was to provide support to firewood and coal suppliers.
“The general public needs to be more aware of the importance of trees and should have a strong sense of responsibility toward these trees,” Al-Sugair added.
“They should also stop buying firewood in the market. We can also encourage investment in wood production through agricultural holdings as well as implement huge afforestation projects and irrigate them from treated sewage water.”
The fine for cutting down a tree can reach SR5,000 ($1,333) while the fine for transporting logs is SR10,000. These fines could not be implemented as they should be because there were no available staff to monitor and catch violators and, to make matters worse said Al-Sugair, there was a weak level of coordination between authorities.
Most of the Kingdom’s regions have suffered in some way from tree felling, and some places no longer have trees. These violations are rampant in the south and Madinah regions, as well as in Hail and Al-Nafud Desert.
Riyadh is the most active and the largest market for firewood. Many people in Al-Qassim use firewood as do restaurants in some parts of Saudi Arabia.
Omar Al-Nefaee, a microbiology professor at the Ministry of Education in Taif, said the reason behind the widescale destruction of the environment could be attributed to a supply shortage of imported firewood.
“Tree logging causes an environmental disequilibrium,” he told Arab News. “The Ministry of Environment, Agriculture and Water has launched an initiative raising public awareness on the issue and is asking people not to use local firewood. Several awareness campaigns have been launched for the same purpose to educate people about the importance of using imported wood instead of the local wood in order to protect the Kingdom’s vegetation.”
Official reports warn that the Kingdom has lost 80 percent of its vegetation and that the drop will have a detrimental effect on its biodiversity, as well as causing great damage to the environment.
The general public should use other heating options during the winter and stop using firewood, Al-Nefaee said.
Some local studies have called for farms that can produce wood from plants that do not consume too much water and do not affect vegetation, while at the same time reducing the pressure on other regions in the Kingdom that are rich in animal resources.
Falih Aljuhani, who runs a business that imports wood from Georgia, encouraged Saudi firms to import wood from the Balkans because it was a competitive market and the trees had low carbon percentages.