What G20 summits have solved

What G20 summits have solved
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman greets French President Emmanuel Macron at the G20 opening. (AFP)
Updated 01 December 2018

What G20 summits have solved

What G20 summits have solved
  • Think the meeting of world leaders' is just a meaningless photo op, where nothing substantive happens? Think again
  • The group has a credible track record in its 10 years of existence, during a tumultuous time, of actually sorting a lot out

BUENOS AIRES: The G20 divides opinion, that is for sure. Not only among those attending the gathering — US President Donald Trump versus Chinese leader Xi Jinping is an obvious example — or in the protests against the summit that will take place in Buenos Aires, but also among the economists and thought leaders who analyze these things.
Some, such as the London-based consulting group Capital Economics (CapEcon), seem to believe the G20 is a waste of time. “The wider agenda for the summit, and the G20 itself, now looks irrelevant to global economic prospects,” the think tank said.
No less a body than the International Monetary Fund seems to agree. In its “surveillance note” on the G20, the admonishing tones of Christine Lagarde, IMF managing director, rang through: “Success here depends on us acting swiftly — and acting together,” she wrote.
In the Argentine capital, that was seen as a veiled attack on the G20 and its confrontational mix of politics, economics, finance and personality.
Lagarde and CapEcon are singing from the same book. Their theme is that the G20 is a distraction from the real business of getting on with managing the global economy.
The IMF leader forecast a confluence of difficult economic conditions in the global economy. “Significant risks are materializing and darker clouds are looming,” she said, with the implicit criticism that showboat gatherings such as the G20 are not the best way to address these vital issues.
All big global meetings are vulnerable to the same criticism, to a greater or lesser degree. Davos, the regular gathering of the “masters of the universe” in the rarefied atmosphere of the Swiss Alps, has often been dismissed as “hot air in a cold climate.”
But as the elder statesman of the global scene, Henry Kissinger, former US secretary of state, recently told another global gathering of thought leaders in the more tropical atmosphere of Singapore: “It is good to talk. If they are talking, they are not fighting.”
Most of the attendees at the G20 in Buenos Aires agree that exchanging views is better than exchanging tariffs, or missiles, even if they disagree over subtleties of talking style.
And they can point to a credible track record of the G20 in its 10 years of existence — probably the most tumultuous 10 years in the geo-financial scene since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1990 — as proof of the benign effects of talk and evidence that the gathering is far from irrelevant.
In 2008, when the first G20 gathering took place in Washington, the world was on the brink of financial collapse as the global crisis threatened to overwhelm even the biggest national economies.
Although the crisis had its origins in the US property market and the esoteric financial instruments bankers had devised to finance it, the “toxic assets” had infected the banking system from Baltimore to Beijing. What was required was urgent and coordinated action to head off the contagion.
The three biggest economies in the world, the US, China and the EU, put in place the first measures to buy the world some time. What became known as “quantitative easing” or QE — the issuing of sovereign debt by central bankers to inject much-needed liquidity into the global banking system — was born.
The G20 reassembled in London the following spring, and in Pittsburgh later in 2009, to hammer out the details of the QE program, and set in place the global economic stimulus program that prevented a short-lived recession deteriorating into a full-blown, 1930s-style depression.
President Barack Obama, Hu Jintao of China, and Gordon Brown, the UK prime minister, developed a relationship at both meetings, which were regarded as successes.
The G20, as an annual fixture on the geopolitical stage, was born. To mark its significance, it was proposed the forum become an annual event, rather than haphazard twice-yearly meetings, and after 2010 the current yearly format was adopted. Countries competed to stage the summit, as a mark of prestige in the world pecking order.
The next two G20s struggled with the crisis in the euro zone financial system, which had grown out of the global financial crisis but for a while threatened the whole continent. In 2010 in Toronto, and the next year in Cannes, leaders tried to deal with a problem that in some ways was more intractable than the global crisis.
These meetings threw up some of the challenges of dealing with global issues in a large multinational forum, with different national agendas in competition with each other. The US wanted Europe to adopt the fiscal stimulus techniques it had learned during the financial crisis; most of the big European powers favored austerity measures that, some believed, exacerbated the problems in Greece, Italy and Spain.
By 2014 the global economy had mostly recovered from the ravages of the 2009 crisis, and the G20 in Brisbane, Australia, put the world back on a growth path with the pledge to lift the gross domestic product of the G20 members by 2 percent above forecast levels. Individual governments published lists of economic targets and measures to meet them, just as the global economy went back into growth mode.
The following year, in Antalya, Turkey, the G20 was overshadowed by terrorist attacks in Paris and Turkey a short time ahead of the gathering. But it focused the minds of the international community, which agreed to a joint communique opposing terrorism. Some analysts believe this was when the US and its allies began to take seriously the threat from Daesh in the Middle East, and implemented measures to tackle the terrorist organization in Iraq and Syria.
But not every G20 can be labelled a 100 percent success. In Los Cabos, Mexico, in 2012, the final communique was criticized as being too vague, with general commitments to “structural reform.”
In St. Petersburg the following year, the emphasis was on infrastructure investment, and tackling corruption and tax evasion, problems that have plagued the global financial system ever since.
The Hangzhou summit in China in 2016 took place after Britain had voted to leave the EU, and in the course of what would become Trump’s successful presidential campaign. The final communique pledged its support for open markets and globalization just as both concepts were to come under attack from the new US leader, who used the next G20, in Hamburg, to launch his campaign against the established order in trade and international relations.
The success or otherwise of a G20 summit is usually measured by the tone and content of the final communique, issued on the second and final day of the gathering, and intended to show the unity of the group around concrete action.
Getting the right wording for the document, which will have to appeal to often sharply opposing interests and personalities, is the main job of the “sherpas,” the government officials whose job it is to lead the leaders through these potential minefields toward a consensus.
That task is never easy, but in Buenos Aires this year, the tensions and conflicts are perhaps greater than ever. The behind-the-scenes bargaining process on the communique is said to be “very, very difficult.”


Saudi air defenses intercept drone launched by Yemen’s Houthi militia toward Jazan

Saudi air defenses intercept drone launched by Yemen’s Houthi militia toward Jazan
Updated 23 June 2021

Saudi air defenses intercept drone launched by Yemen’s Houthi militia toward Jazan

Saudi air defenses intercept drone launched by Yemen’s Houthi militia toward Jazan
  • Arab coalition says taking operational measures to protect civilians and deal with the imminent threat

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s air defenses on Wednesday intercepted and destroyed an explosive-laden drone launched by Yemen’s Houthis toward the Kingdom’s southern region, state TV reported.
The Arab coalition said the drone was targeting the province of Jazan, adding that the Iran-backed militia continues its attempts to deliberately target civilians and civilian objects in Saudi Arabia.
“We are taking operational measures to protect civilians and deal with the imminent threat,” the coalition added.
On Tuesday, Saudi air defenses intercepted a booby-trapped drone launched by the Houthis toward the southern city of Khamis Mushait.
And on Saturday, the coalition said the Kingdom’s air force had intercepted and destroyed 17 explosive-laden drones launched by the Houthi militia toward Saudi Arabia’s southern region within 24 hours.
“The interception was successfully carried out in Yemeni airspace, and the hostile attempt was repelled,” Saudi Press Agency reported on Sunday, citing the coalition.
The Houthis have stepped up cross-border attacks on southern Saudi Arabia since the start of the year with drones and missiles, and sometimes major cities like Riyadh and Jeddah, in what the coalition has said are “deliberate and systematic hostile attempts” which constitute war crimes.


Saudi Arabia approves mixing COVID-19 vaccine doses as 12 more deaths recorded

Saudi Arabia approves mixing COVID-19 vaccine doses as 12 more deaths recorded
Updated 23 June 2021

Saudi Arabia approves mixing COVID-19 vaccine doses as 12 more deaths recorded

Saudi Arabia approves mixing COVID-19 vaccine doses as 12 more deaths recorded
  • The Kingdom said 1,253 new cases reported and 920 patients recovered in past 24 hours
  • Najran police arrest four for violating quarantine rules after testing positive for coronavirus

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s National Committee for Infectious Diseases on Wednesday approved the possibility of mixing different COVID-19 vaccines for the first and second doses.
The Ministry of Health said the decision was taken according to international scientific studies that showed it was possible to give two doses of two different vaccines safely, while getting the effectiveness of which the second dose aims to be achieved.
The ministry added more than 16.9 million doses of the vaccine have been administered across the Kingdom through 587 centers so far.
Meanwhile, the Kingdom recorded 13 new COVID-19 related deaths on Wednesday, raising the total number of fatalities to 7,716.
The Ministry of Health reported 1,253 new confirmed cases reported in the Kingdom in the previous 24 hours, meaning 478,135 people have now contracted the disease. 
Of the total number of cases, 11,328 remain active and 1,472 in critical condition.
According to the ministry, the highest number of cases were recorded in Makkah with 363, followed by the Eastern Province with 263, the capital Riyadh with 165, Asir recorded 159, and Jazan confirmed 105 cases.
The health ministry also announced that 1,043 patients had recovered from COVID-19, bringing the total number of recoveries in the Kingdom to 459,091.

The ministry renewed its call on the public to register to receive the vaccine, and adhere to the measures and abide by instructions.
Police in Najran said four people have been arrested in the region for violating quarantine instructions after they tested positive for coronavirus.
Saudi Arabia has imposed penalties on those who disregard regulations enforced to prevent the spread of the virus; they are either fined up to SR200,000 ($53,330), face up to two years in prison, or have both sanctions imposed. Legal measures have been taken against those arrested and they will be referred to the Public Prosecution.
The Ministry of Islamic Affairs reopened nine mosques in five regions after temporarily evacuating and sterilizing them after nine people tested positive for coronavirus, bringing the total number of mosques closed and reopened after being sterilized to 1,636 within 137 days.
The coronavirus pandemic has affected over 180 million people globally and the death toll has reached around 3.90 million.


Saudi Arabia commits to AI, industrial revolution in meet with Italian experts

Saudi Arabia commits to AI, industrial revolution in meet with Italian experts
Updated 23 June 2021

Saudi Arabia commits to AI, industrial revolution in meet with Italian experts

Saudi Arabia commits to AI, industrial revolution in meet with Italian experts
  • Saudi tech leaders tell roundtable meeting that they have big ambitions for AI industry
  • Upcoming megaprojects such as NEOM will provide testing ground for AI

ROME: Saudi Arabia has committed to become a global leader in Artificial Intelligence (AI) during a roundtable discussion with Italian technology experts.

In the discussion on Tuesday, the Kingdom committed to becoming a dominant force in the field within the next eight years, in line with the Saudi Vision 2030 reform plans, and reaffirmed its interest in cooperating with Italy.

Robotics and AI were the main themes of the virtual roundtable, which was organized by the Saudi Center for International Strategic Partnerships, the Italian Embassy in Riyadh and the ICE Agenzia (The Italian Trade Commission), in collaboration with the Association Of Italian Manufacturers of Machine Tools, Robots, Automation Systems and Ancillary Products (UCIMU), the Italian Institute of Technology, and the Polytechnic Institute of Turin.

Saudi Arabia was represented by the Supervisor of the National Center for AI at the Saudi Data and AI Authority (SDAIA), Majed Al-Tuwaijri; the CEO of the National Industrial Development & Logistic Program, Suliman Al-Mazroua; the advisor to the Deputy Ministry of Industry and Mining Resources and head of the Industry 4.0 program, Dr. Majed A. Al-Gwaiz.

The Scientific Director of the Italian Institute of Technology Prof. Giorgio Motta, the President of UCIMU-Sistemi Per Produrre Dr. Barbara Colombo, and the director of the Hub for AI at the Polytechnic Institute of Turin, Prof. Barbara Caputo, represented the Italian side.

Saudi speakers said that the Kingdom has a strong foundation for its AI ambitions, based on the country’s assets and its position as an investment powerhouse. They added that the Kingdom also boasts a young population and the desire for large-scale programs.

Upcoming Saudi megaprojects, such as NEOM and smart cities, will provide a testing ground for advanced AI.

The speakers recalled that the SDAIA and Saudi G20 Secretariat organized the Global AI Summit in 2020, which provided the world’s premier platform for dialogue to shape the future of AI.

Saudi Arabia used the occasion to reveal its National Strategy for Data and AI, which aims to attract $20 billion in foreign and local investments by 2030.

Saudi speakers stressed that in relation to Industry 4.0, Saudi Arabia intends to attract expertise and encourage partnerships and investments to achieve the digital transformation of the industrial sector.

The Saudi Embassy in Rome said in a statement that the Kingdom plans to support the industrial revolution by implementing projects through investments of $453 million and allocations of $2.5 billion for the construction of digital infrastructure in the industry, mining, logistics, healthcare and energy sectors.

The main objectives are to increase the number of facilities able to benefit from the Industry 4.0 incentives from 10 in 2021 to 43 in 2025 and the development of four specialized centers for advancing new technology.

The Kingdom will also spend $800 million to convert 100 factories, with support guaranteed by the Saudi Industrial Development Fund.


Arabic calligraphy’s fusion with Japanese Kanji captures beauty of both worlds

Arabic calligraphy’s fusion with Japanese Kanji captures beauty of both worlds
Noha Raheem says when she was younger, she discovered the three famous Japanese written scripts — including Kanji, Katakana and Hiragana — and she was awestruck. (Supplied)
Updated 23 June 2021

Arabic calligraphy’s fusion with Japanese Kanji captures beauty of both worlds

Arabic calligraphy’s fusion with Japanese Kanji captures beauty of both worlds
  • My enthusiasm for Kanji script started six years ago, says Saudi designer and calligrapher Noha Raheem

JEDDAH: Saudi artist, designer and calligrapher Noha Raheem ventured into the world of calligraphy in an unconventional way, fusing her interest in Kanji — the logographic Chinese characters used in the Japanese writing system — with Arabic calligraphy.

The result has been a portfolio of unique and eye-catching works that capture the beauty of both worlds
“I’m fond of Arabic calligraphy and graphics in general. My enthusiasm for Kanji script started six years ago,” Raheem told Arab News.
“Any calligraphic font has its roles and system. When I was younger, I discovered the three famous Japanese written scripts — including Kanji, Katakana and Hiragana — and I was awestruck. The impressive vertical letters, the way they are formed and their meaningful symbols were like a secret code.”

FASTFACT

In Arabic calligraphy, writing proceeds from right to left and forms a horizontal line. Artists rarely confine themselves to convention, though.

In Arabic calligraphy, writing proceeds from right to left and forms a horizontal line. Artists rarely confine themselves to convention, though.
“For Kufic calligraphy and freestyle in Arabic, I was driven by passion. I was inspired by Hajji Noor Deen in my beginnings, and later on, I created Arabic calligraphy in the Kanji style to show the beauty and flexibility of this complex yet innovative mix,” Raheem said.


The self-taught calligrapher discovered the roles and philosophy behind the beauty of Kanji script. “It is said that the only rule for Japanese and Chinese calligraphy is that it is beautiful, no matter what is written. What matters is how it is written. That’s why I believe the Kanji style can be merged and fitted with our Arabic letters to create a masterpiece for both eye and mind,” she said.
She explained that Arabic letters are equally malleable. “They can be shaped in any way, and still keep their form and meaning. Today I wrote my letters in the Kanji style. Later, I might do it in Urdu just to show the world how flexible and beautiful Arabic letters are.”
Raheem’s artworks, including famous sayings and poetry in Arabic, are written freestyle — a tricky task.


She also writes Qur’anic verses in Kanji: “I love to write words that anyone can relate to, including poetry and short verses with iconic and universal messages. I can apply this art to any word, as long as it makes sense to me.”
Raheem is faithful to the cultures she draws inspiration from, using traditional Sumi ink and off-white, antique-style background colors with black script, or vice versa, to mirror the essence of the Japanese style.
She also uses Japanese calligraphy brushes, Xuan rice paper, and Kakejiku, a Japanese hanging scroll used to display and exhibit paintings and calligraphic inscriptions and designs.
Her love for and dedication to Japanese art drove her to share her knowledge and display her works at art cafes, galleries, and sushi restaurants in Saudi Arabia and Dubai.
She encourages other Arab artists to explore the beauty and flexibility of the Arabic language and preserve it through art. Raheem can be found at her Instagram account @noha_raheem.

Arabic calligraphy: Ancient craft, modern art
For the Saudi Ministry of Culture's Year of Arabic Calligraphy in 2020/21, we take an in-depth look at how the craft has developed from ancient to modern times.
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Daily virus tally hits 10-month high in Saudi Arabia

Daily virus tally hits 10-month high in Saudi Arabia
Health authorities urged the public to continue to follow all precautionary measures. (SPA)
Updated 23 June 2021

Daily virus tally hits 10-month high in Saudi Arabia

Daily virus tally hits 10-month high in Saudi Arabia
  • Authorities urge compliance with health guidelines

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia on Tuesday recorded the highest single-day total of new COVID-19 cases since Aug. 13, 2020.
Authorities in the Kingdom reported an additional 1,479 infections, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 476,882. Of these, 11,131 remain active and 1,487 patients are in critical condition.
The Health Ministry also said there have been a further 12 virus-related deaths, raising the death toll in the country to 7,703.
Makkah region has the highest number of new infections, with 431, followed by the Eastern Province with 280 and Riyadh region with 256.
The ministry said that an additional 920 patients have recovered from COVID-19, bringing the total number of recoveries in the Kingdom to 458,048. It added that about 16.8 million doses of coronavirus vaccine have been administered, an average of 94,104 a day, which is a rate of 48.2 doses per hundred people.
Health authorities urged the public to continue to follow all precautionary measures and ministry guidelines to prevent the spread of the virus. All ministries and other government bodies in the Kingdom are working together to ensure compliance with health guidelines.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Saudi Arabia reported 1,479 new cases on Tuesday.

• The Makkah region reported the highest number of infections.

• With 12 new fatalities, the death toll has risen to 7,703.

The Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development carried out 448,126 inspections of commercial establishments in the private sector throughout the country in the first five months of this year. The aim is to ensure employers are following all rules and regulations relating to pandemic-related health protocols and to Saudization legislation. The teams recorded 45,421 violations and issued 51,005 warnings.
The ministry called on employers to adhere to its decisions and legislation relating to the labor market, improve the working environment and implement localization rules, as well as precautionary measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Unannounced inspections of the private sector institutions will continue throughout the Kingdom, it added