Saudi Arabia to restart work on $26.6bn Grand Mosque expansion

Construction cranes are seen outside the Grand Mosque in Makkah. (Reuters file photo)
Updated 18 August 2017

Saudi Arabia to restart work on $26.6bn Grand Mosque expansion

DUBAI: Saudi Binladin Group will restart work next month on the $26.6 billion expansion of the Grand Mosque in Makkah, nearly two years after work stopped in the wake of a crane collapse at the site that killed 107 people, sources told Reuters on Thursday.
Work will resume after the annual Hajj pilgrimage, and Saudi Binladin will pay outstanding salaries owed to staff involved in the project beginning on Aug. 20, according to a notice that the company sent to banks and which was seen by Reuters.
Banking and construction industry sources confirmed the plan. Saudi Binladin, one of the country’s top construction conglomerates, and the Ministry of Finance were not immediately available to comment.
Development of the Grand Mosque and its surrounding area to accommodate more worshippers was halted after the fatal construction accident in September 2015, and then remained on hold as government finances were squeezed by low oil prices.
The government is now enjoying a moderate recovery in oil income, and it is keen to resume work on big religious tourism and infrastructure schemes as part of a drive to diversify the economy beyond oil exports.
Its plan to restart construction at the Grand Mosque is a fresh sign of the rehabilitation of Saudi Binladin, which was temporarily banned from winning new state contracts after the crane collapse and has been damaged financially by a deep slump in the construction sector.
The Ministry of Finance has allocated a portion of this year’s budget to key projects and has been in talks with Saudi Binladin in recent weeks about restarting several big schemes, the sources said. The ministry pledged to make payments that would enable Binladin to pay its staff, they said.
Another stalled government project in which Saudi Binladin is involved, the $3.5 billion construction of the Abraj Kudai hotel complex in Makkah, will restart in coming months, sources told Reuters earlier this week.

The company also restarted work earlier this year on the new King Abdul Aziz International Airport in Jeddah.


Saudi King praises role of women at W20 summit

Updated 22 October 2020

Saudi King praises role of women at W20 summit

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s King Salman has praised the exceptional role played by women during the coronavirus pandemic.
In a speech delivered at the end of the W20, the G20 women’s engagement group, on Wednesday, King Salman said: “I would like to express my gratitude to the Women 20 Engagement Group for their remarkable efforts and commitment to deliver their agenda during these unprecedented times caused by the COVID -19 pandemic.”
The Saudi king described women as the source of evolution for any society and said that without empowered women it is difficult to reform societies. 
“Women are the main source of development for any society. Hence, without empowered women, it is almost impossible to implement any societal reforms given that women form half of the societies and they are the ones who raise up generations. Women has proven through history their remarkable role in leading change and in decision making.”
The king noted that Saudi Arabia’s presidency of the G20 has dedicated special attention to discussing policies related to women across different ministerial and working group meetings.