Saudi economy records sharpest rise in new work in four years

The Saudi economy is rebounding from a sharp slowdown that was triggered by the collapse of oil prices in 2014. (AFP)
Updated 03 December 2019

Saudi economy records sharpest rise in new work in four years

  • Headline seasonally adjusted Purchasing Managers’ Index posted 58.3 in November, up from 57.8 in October
  • Saudi economy is rebounding from a sharp slowdown that was triggered by the collapse of oil prices in 2014

LONDON: The Saudi economy recorded its biggest increase in new work in more than four years in November according to a report from IHS Markit.

The headline seasonally adjusted Purchasing Managers’ Index – a composite gauge designed to give a snapshot of operating conditions in the non-oil private sector economy – posted 58.3 in November, up from 57.8 in October.

“A bright spot was a quickening of overall new order growth, which reached its fastest pace since April 2015,” said IHS MArkit economist Amritpal Virdee.

The Saudi economy is rebounding from a sharp slowdown that was triggered by the collapse of oil prices in 2014 that led to many projects being shelved or delayed. The stabilization of oil prices, helped by the ongoing production cuts orchestrated by OPEC and Russia, has boosted spending while at the same time ongoing reforms is making it easier for foreign companies to do business in the Kingdom.

Employment among non-oil private sector companies rose in November, but the rate of job creation was marginal and subdued by historical standards. and the highest in over four years, IHS Markit said.

Firms across the non-oil private sector scaled up their purchasing activity to support increased output requirements according to reports from surveyed businesses. However, growth in buying levels eased.

Some evidence emerged of rising prices with the latest data showing the third increase in charges for goods and services in the past four months.

However, the rise in selling prices was marginal.

Overall input prices continued to increase in November, but the rate of inflation eased for the second month running and was subdued by historical standards. Finally, November’s survey indicated longer lead times on purchased items for the first time since July 2011, which anecdotal evidence attributed to insufficient stocks among suppliers

“Overall, the private sector economy is well-placed as we look forward to 2020, with the survey’s forward-looking gauge, the Future Output Index rising to a nine-month high on the pace of new product initiatives and more positive forecasts for underlying demand,” added Virdee.


A Jordan startup delivers eco-friendly alternative to dry cleaning

Updated 05 December 2019

A Jordan startup delivers eco-friendly alternative to dry cleaning

  • Products used by WashyWash are non-carcinogenic and environmentally neutral
  • Amman-based laundry service aims to relocate to a larger facility in mid-2020

AMMAN: A persistent sinus problem prompted a Jordanian entrepreneur to launch an eco-friendly dry-cleaning service that could help end the widespread use of a dangerous chemical.

“Dry cleaning” is somewhat of a misnomer because it is not really dry. It is true that no water is involved in the process, but the main cleaning agent is perchloroethylene (PERC), a chemical that experts consider likely to cause cancer, as well as brain and nervous system damage.

Kamel Almani, 33, knew little of these dangers when he began suffering from sinus irritation while working as regional sales director at Eon Aligner, a medical equipment startup he co-founded.

The problem would disappear when he went on vacation, so he assumed it was stress related.

However, when Mazen Darwish, a chemical engineer, revealed he wanted to start an eco-laundry and warned about toxic chemicals used in conventional dry cleaning, Almani had an epiphany.

“He began to tell me how PERC affects the respiratory system, and I suddenly realized that it was the suits I wore for work — and which I would get dry cleaned — that were the cause of my sinus problems,” said Almani, co-founder of Amman-based WashyWash.

“That was the eureka moment. We immediately wanted to launch the business.”

WashyWash began operations in early 2018 with five staff, including the three co-founders: Almani, Darwish and Kayed Qunibi. The business now has 19 employees and became cash flow-positive in July this year.

“We’re very happy to achieve that in under two years,” Almani said.

The service uses EcoClean products that are certified as toxin-free, are biodegradable and cause no air, water or soil pollution.

Customers place orders through an app built in-house by the company’s technology team.

WashyWash collects customers’ dirty clothes, and cleans, irons and returns them. Services range from the standard wash-and-fold to specialized dry cleaning for garments and cleaning of carpets, curtains, duvets and leather goods.

“For wet cleaning, we use environmentally friendly detergents that are biodegradable, so the wastewater doesn’t contain any toxic chemicals,” Almani said.

For dry cleaning, WashyWash uses a modified hydrocarbon manufactured by Germany’s Seitz, whose product is non-carcinogenic and environmentally neutral.

A specialized company collects the waste and disposes of it safely.

The company has big ambitions, planning to expand its domestic operations and go international. Its Amman site can process about 1,000 items daily, but WashyWash will relocate to larger premises in mid-2020, which should treble its capacity.

“We’ve built a front-end app, a back-end system and a driver app along with a full facility management system. We plan to franchise that and have received interest from many countries,” Almani said.

“People visiting Amman used our service, loved it, and wanted an opportunity to launch in their countries.”

WashyWash has received financial backing from angel investors and is targeting major European cities initially.

“An eco-friendly, on-demand dry-cleaning app isn’t available worldwide, so good markets might be London, Paris or Frankfurt,” Almani said.


• The Middle East Exchange is one of the Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum Global Initiatives that was launched to reflect the vision of the UAE prime minister and ruler of Dubai in the field of humanitarian
and global development, to explore the possibility of changing the status of the Arab region. The initiative offers the press a series of articles on issues affecting Arab societies.