Saudi business chiefs back 2020 budget

The Saudi Budget 2020 Forum in Riyadh. (AFP)
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Updated 11 December 2019

Saudi business chiefs back 2020 budget

  • 2020 spending plan hailed as a positive driver in boosting country’s economy

RIYADH: Saudi businesses have welcomed spending plans of SR1.02 trillion ($272 billion) next year, announced by King Salman.

The Council of Saudi Chambers praised the efforts of the monarch, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and others in reaching an agreement on the 2020 budget.

The government has predicted revenues of SR833 billion and a deficit of SR187 billion for next year, considered an indicator of the success of the Kingdom’s economic policies amid a bleak global economic backdrop.

Chairman of the Council of Saudi Chambers Dr. Sami Abdullah Al-Abaidi said that the Saudi business sector was optimistic about the new spending plans.

“These figures reflect the effective impact of the economic reform measures, the economy’s restructuring and diversification of sources of income,” he added.

Al-Abaidi praised the king and the crown prince for supporting the Saudi economy through numerous projects and initiatives aimed at boosting the business sector.

He said the most notable were business performance improvement initiatives, privatization, private-sector stimulation and local promotion programs.

“This has paved the way for the Kingdom to get the best international classifications, including its first world ranking in business environment reforms, which made it a hub for investments,” Al-Abaidi added.

The business chief reiterated King Salman’s determination to continue implementing reforms, diversifying sources of income, making optimal use of resources, empowering the private sector, and improving transparency and efficiency in government spending to boost growth rates.

“These trends are one of the most important requirements for achieving the Kingdom’s Vision 2030,” he said.

The council’s vice chairman, Muneer bin Saad, said the budget for the new year focused on investing in the human element and sectors that directly affected the lives of citizens, including the development of services.

Saad added the monarch had directed to extend the disbursement of the cost of living allowance until the end of 2020.

Council member Abdullah Al-Odaim said the budget met the expectations of Saudi citizens, and strengthened the confidence of international investors, as figures showed the determination of the state to move forward in its policies to raise the efficiency of government spending.

They also showed increases in non-oil revenues, projected to grow more in light of the improvement of economic activity.

The delegated secretary-general of the Council of Saudi Chambers, Hussain Al-Abdulqader, said the Saudi business sector welcomed the budget which through
its projects and programs would help improve investment opportunities as well as the Saudi economy, ultimately strengthening the Kingdom’s global economic standing.


Habtoor joins Israeli tech firm on ‘robo-taxi’ plan 

Updated 41 min 32 sec ago

Habtoor joins Israeli tech firm on ‘robo-taxi’ plan 

  • Mobileye technology will be fitted into cars from the Habtoor dealership, which has the Dubai franchise for Mitsubishi
  • Founder of Mobileye Amnon Shashua: Dubai is classic territory to launch technologies for smart cities and a natural for deploying autonomous cars

DUBAI: In the latest sign of increased UAE-Israeli business co-operation, Al Habtoor Group, the Dubai-based hotels and motor conglomerate, has teamed up with a Jerusalem-based company on plans to put “robo-taxis” on the roads of the emirate.

Khalaf Al Habtoor, founding chairman of the group, signed a deal with Mobileye, the Israeli high-tech firm owned by Intel, that will provide the technology for the next generation of self-drive and autonomous vehicles in the UAE.

Mobileye technology will be fitted into cars from the Habtoor dealership, which has the Dubai franchise for Mitsubishi, one of the leading volume car marques in the region, as well as several luxury brands.

Amnon Shashua, the billionaire Israeli founder of Mobileye who sold the company to Intel for $15 billion in 2017, said that by early 2023 there would be a “fleet of autonomous, self-driving robo-taxi vehicles” on the streets of Dubai.

“Dubai is one of the most advanced cities in the world. It is classic territory to launch technologies for smart cities and a natural for deploying autonomous cars,” he added.

Mobileye’s tech provides data for map reading, navigation, traffic and driving conditions in a kit that can be fitted to Habtoor’s fleet, which serves government and public sector transport in Dubai, or can be bought by individual motorists as an add-on package

Al Habtoor said: “This deal will benefit both countries, the UAE and Israel, as well as neighboring countries and Europe.”

Shashua said that while Dubai was a center for growth in the Middle East, he would look to expand into other emirates and countries in the region.

Asked whether Mobileye would like to do business in Saudi Arabia, he said: “We look at things not through a political lens, but from the point of view of areas or territories where we can expand. The only reason we could not expand to Dubai before was the absence of a relationship between Israel and the UAE.

“It is true that Mobileye is owned by Intel, an American company, but still it is very difficult to start sending Israeli engineers in disguise. From a logistic perspective, it is not convenient. I believe there are many more opportunities in the Middle East and, once the ties are made formally, we could expand even further,” he added.

The first phase of the partnership will see 1,000 petrol-engine cars from the Habtoor fleet fitted with Mobileye technology, leading up to trials with a human “safety driver” in early 2022, before a fleet of “smart cars” is launched later that year or early 2023.

The business relationship between Habtoor and Mobileye began before the recent normalization of relations between the UAE and Israel. The Dubai-based company has been among the most enthusiastic advocates of closer business links with Israel, recently signaling it will open a representative office in the Israeli capital.