Taxation dominates G20 gathering in Riyadh

SAMA governor Ahmed Alkholifey at the G20 meeting. (Reuters)
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Updated 22 February 2020

Taxation dominates G20 gathering in Riyadh

  • Officials express optimism on the tackling of tax evasion and the continued strength of the financial sector globally

RIYADH: The two-day G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors meeting kicked off in Riyadh on Saturday with taxation dominating the agenda.

Saudi Finance Minister Mohammed Al-Jadaan said this year would represent a key test for tax transparency worldwide.

“It gives us the opportunity to assess what we have achieved collectively in the area of tax transparency and discuss possible ways to encourage further progress, and provides a platform to discuss the way forward to address the tax challenges arising from the digitization of the economy,” he said. 

The minister said that G20 states and the OECD had already achieved major successes in tackling tax evasion. “Today, members of the G20/OECD Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes work together to implement the internationally agreed standards on tax transparency,” said Al-Jadaan. “These standards balance the need to access information for tax purposes and the need to protect taxpayers’ confidentiality.”

He said that more than 6,100 bilateral exchange agreements had been signed and that tax-authorities worldwide were now collecting tax revenues utilizing the automatic exchange of information mechanism.

“Information on 50 million financial accounts was exchanged by the end of 2019 for a total value of about €5 trillion ($5,4 trillion), and almost €100 billion in additional tax revenues have been identified, thanks to voluntary compliance mechanisms and investigations,” he said.

Dr. Ahmed Alkholifey, Governor of the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority (SAMA) said that the global economy had faced headwinds caused by geopolitical uncertainties and social unrest in some parts of the world.

But he said the good news was that the financial sector, and notably the banking sector, has continued to strengthen in both advanced and emerging economies.

The governor also said he expected to see an improvement in the Saudi economy this year.

“As an open economy, Saudi Arabia, just as other countries in the region, is under the influence of these global developments. What I can say, in a nutshell, is that GDP growth in Saudi Arabia is projected to see an upturn in 2020.”

Ministers and central bank governors from the G20 countries and guest nations, as well as heads of international and regional organizations are attending the gathering in Saudi Arabia, the first Arab nation to hold the G20 presidency.


Indonesia turns focus to energy security and renewables amid pandemic

Updated 24 November 2020

Indonesia turns focus to energy security and renewables amid pandemic

  • Govt. aims to use of opportunity presented by COVID-19 outbreak to make transition

JAKARTA: The fallout from the coronavirus pandemic has presented Indonesia with the opportunity to work toward energy security and switch from conventional to renewable sources, officials have said.

“Indonesia has made various breakthroughs such as making use of biodiesel B30,” Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said during an online press conference on Sunday, quoting President Joko Widodo’s address during the G20 Summit.

“(We) will be conducting tests on green diesel D100 from palm oil – which will absorb 1 million tons of palm oil produced by farmers – and also install rooftop solar power plants in hundreds of thousands of households,” he added.

Widodo also made a reference to data from the World Economic Forum on the massive potential of the green economy, which could generate up to $10.1 trillion and create 395 million new jobs by 2030.

Earlier this month on Nov. 4, energy and mineral resources minister Arifin Tasrif said that the current difficulties posed by the pandemic had spurred Indonesia to accelerate the energy transition, by developing renewable energy, ensure efficiency and work toward maintaining energy security for lasting energy independence.

Energy security and its steady supply were some of the top concerns voiced by Tasrif during the G20 energy ministers’ meeting in September.

“COVID-19 has created an economic crisis and shrunk energy demands. All G20 members must work together to ensure that the energy market is stabilized and maintain supply affordability. These are a top priority for Indonesia,” Tasrif said at the meeting.

He also lauded Saudi Arabia, the summit host, for pushing ahead with the 4Rs issue – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Remove – in the circular carbon economy (CCE) concept, which was endorsed by the energy ministers after their meetings.

Tasrif said the issue was an “important part of reintroducing the role of biofuel and hydrogen in the CCE platform,” and in line with Indonesia’s adoption of the mandatory use of biodiesel – containing 30 percent palm oil and known as B30 – from January this year, specifically in the transport, power plant, industrial and commercial sectors.

Indonesia, the world’s largest palm oil producer, has set a target to use 23 percent of renewable energy by 2025 and 50 percent by 2050, as part of its national energy mix plan.

The government has listed provisions for renewable energy and its conservation among its seven priority programs for next year and allocated 16.7 billion rupiahs ($1.2 million) for environmental preservation efforts in the 2021 budget.

“Our state budget is very much pro-green ... The government is already on the right track with the implementation of energy transition policy,” Arif Budimanta, a special presidential staff on economic affairs, said during an online discussion recently.

He added that President Joko Widodo had been very “hands-on” with the implementation of the energy transition policy and was directly supervising the progress of the policy.

Government officials claimed that the adoption of B30’s mandatory use – the first in the world – has been successful.

However, its target this year had reduced from the initial 9.5 million kilolitres to 8.3 million kilolitres, with 6 million kilolitres realized so far.

Mandatory use is expected to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 16.9 million tons.

“The switch to a biodiesel program, which has been in place since 2015, has been able to replace almost 25 million liters of imported fossil fuel by June this year, and we have been able to save foreign exchange spending by roughly equivalent of 127 trillion rupiahs,” Eddy Abdurrachman, head of the Palm Oil Plantation Fund Management Agency said during a recent webinar.

Static tests on diesel engines for 1,000 hours of use of the biodiesel blend are underway at the Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry’s research and development lab.

The head of the research and development agency, Dadan Kusdiana, said on Aug. 26 that scientists had managed to conduct studies on the lab’s engine test bench after the COVID-19 outbreak restricted them from testing on the roads.

“We expect to wrap up the tests by the end of the year,” Kusdiana said.