Saudi Arabia expands trade ties with Mauritania

Business leaders and ministers from both countries are taking part in the Saudi-Mauritanian Economic Forum. (SPA)
Updated 24 April 2019

Saudi Arabia expands trade ties with Mauritania

  • Business leaders and ministers from both countries are taking part in the Saudi-Mauritanian Economic Forum

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia is looking to expand its trade and investment links with Mauritania at a high-level forum that kicked off on Monday in the Mauritanian capital Nouakchott.

Business leaders and ministers from both countries are taking part in the Saudi-Mauritanian Economic Forum, jointly organized by the Council of Saudi Chambers and the National Employers Union of Mauritania.

Khadija Mubarak, Mauritania’s commerce, industry and tourism minister, said a series of presentations and special meetings with Mauritanian officials will allow investors to examine opportunities in the northwest African nation.

Mauritanian government policies are encouraging investment in the country, she said, enabling it to rank high in the business climate index.

Several partnership agreements have been signed with African countries and development partners in the EU, as well as free trade pacts to promote trade in the region, Mubarak said.

Dr. Sami bin Abdullah Al-Obaidi, president of the Council of Saudi Chambers, said that the forum will open new horizons for business owners by increasing trade volume and expanding the economic partnership between the two countries.

“It also aims to enable officials and business owners in both countries to exploit economic potential, natural resources, and multiple investment opportunities in the Kingdom and Mauritania,” he said.

Al-Obaidi said that the Kingdom is working to strengthen trade relations with countries that have a healthy economic outlook.

“Mauritania has a strong and diverse economy,” he said.

Mohammed Ould Cheikh Ali Ahmed, head of the National Employers Union of Mauritania, said the forum reflects the keenness of the political leadership in both countries to “consolidate the ties of brotherhood and friendship.”

“The forum comes at a time when Mauritania is witnessing investment-stimulating developments in terms of security, stability, great economic potential and promising investment opportunities, enabling it to become a preferred destination for international investments and for major international companies in the areas of energy, metals, agriculture, fishing and animal development,” he said.

Mauritanian Prime Minister Mohamed Ould Salem Ould Al-Bashir welcomed a delegation of Saudi business owners who will meet with ministers, officials and investors to discuss trade and investment partnerships between the two countries.


New Saudi rules on hookah leave businesses, consumers confused

Arab News visited different restaurants in the town and found a few serving hookahs. (AP/File)
Updated 28 min 34 sec ago

New Saudi rules on hookah leave businesses, consumers confused

  • Manal Jafar: Everywhere in our city is polluted with smoke, you can hardly find a restaurant where you can safely take your kids

RIYADH: The Saudi Ministry of Rural and Municipal Affairs has imposed new regulations on restaurants and cafes serving hookah. Although many were disappointed following the announcement to allow hookah inside cities, businesses were shocked to know about the fees imposed on them. Nonsmokers have also raised their concerns after they realized that bills will rise by 100 percent if they visit a restaurant that serves hookah.
Arab News visited different restaurants in the town and found a few serving hookahs. Some said that they will still serve it, but will not charge customers any extra fees.
Meanwhile, a trending hashtag in Saudi Arabia addressed the issue of fees on tobacco, with some customers sharing their bills online.
Michel Abou Assaly, director of operations at Shababik Restaurant in Jeddah, said that when they first found out about the new law they were surprised: “We were obliged to stop serving hookah and we had to send all our employees at the shisha department on a short leave until things became clearer.” He added they did not want their customers to pay double the price for the same product. He anticipates a 40 percent drop in sales.
“Thousands of restaurants and cafes will close down and at least 100,000 families will be affected,” Assaly said. He added that investors should ask the ministry to reconsider this law.
Halima Muthaffar, a writer, said that although she hates the smell of tobacco, she still sees this as an unfair decision. She added that it is not the right time, especially as Saudi Arabia is opening up for tourists.

FASTFACT

• The use of tobacco is expected to cost the Saudi economy SR480 billion ($128 billion) for the period 2018-2030.

• Authorities hope to reduce tobacco consumption in the Kingdom to 5 percent by 2030.

• The annual fee for the license to serve tobacco ranges from SR5,000 to SR100,000.

• Fees for licensing tobacco during events range from SR600 to SR3,000.

• 100 percent of fees are imposed on all bills of restaurants and cafes serving tobacco.

Columnist Gassan Badkook said that the authorities will reconsider the way these fees are being calculated. He said that three groups will be negatively affected: Nonsmokers, who will have to pay fees for a product they do not use, investors who might close their businesses and employees who might lose their jobs.
Manal Jafar said she agrees with the fees: “A restaurant should serve food only. Everywhere in our city is polluted with smoke, you can hardly find a restaurant where you can safely take your kids.”
Mohammad bin Hamad said he rarely goes to a restaurant with his family, but they never ask for hookah. “Why should I pay 100 percent fees on top of my bill? We should wait for a few months, many restaurants will stop offering hookah because they will lose so many customers.”