G20 thinkers consider options for boosting global investment in infrastructure

G20 thinkers consider options for boosting global investment in infrastructure
Speakers at T20 webinar on infrastructure investment. (Supplied)
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Updated 30 September 2020

G20 thinkers consider options for boosting global investment in infrastructure

G20 thinkers consider options for boosting global investment in infrastructure
  • Think 20 engagement group discusses sustainable ways to bridge infrastructure gap between advanced and emerging economies

RIYADH: The G20’s Think20 (T20) engagement group met on Tuesday to discuss the challenges nations face in developing infrastructure, and ways in which investment in the sector can be encouraged.

The aim of “Infrastructure Investment and Financing,” the latest in a series of T20 webinars, was to highlight the barriers to, and opportunities for, improving public and private investment in infrastructure, and identify changes to public policy that are necessary to attract more investors.

Participants explored the essential role of the private sector in providing long-term finance, and considered innovative frameworks that could help bridge infrastructure-investment gaps within and among countries. They also attempted to identify and evaluate infrastructure needs and opportunities for investment, based on efficiency, sustainability and economic development.

In his opening remarks, Raja Al-Marzoqi, the lead co-chair of the event and a faculty member at the Institute of Diplomatic Studies, said that public and private investment in infrastructure is necessary to meet increasing global demand for infrastructure, and to reduce the infrastructure gap between advanced and emerging economies.

Pakistani economist Shamshad Akhtar, the webinar co-chair and a former UN undersecretary, said a number of countries need better access to basic services, and global connectivity needs to be improved.

Instead of talking about “infrastructure investment,” she said there is a need to focus on sustainable infrastructure investment. Financing such projects and promoting climate-resilient and sustainable infrastructure investment remain key challenges, she added.

Akhtar welcomed the G20’s debt-relief initiative for poorer countries as they wage an economic battle against the effects of pandemic but stressed the need to do more to overcome the challenges they face, including high levels of debt.

“There is a need to prioritize innovative frameworks to bridge the infrastructure-investment gap, promoting infrastructure investments that are resilient, sustainable and can adjust to climate effects, technology innovation for smart cities, and challenges of rapid urbanization,” she added.

Tetsushi Sonobe, the dean and CEO of the Asian Development Bank Institute, said that to help achieve infrastructure objectives there is a need to enhance financial support to micro, small and medium-sized enterprises. To attract private investment, however, the rate of return on such financing must be increased, he added, and research and international cooperation would help mitigate the challenges.

John Mathis, the president of TCAS Inc. and editor of the Journal of Private Equity, noted that the pandemic has affected infrastructure investment. He highlighted the importance of the G20 emergency reserve fund and the growing role it will play in infrastructure investment and financing.

“We recommend that the G20 infrastructure working group includes a systematic and multiscale review of nature-based solutions through the infrastructure cooperation platform, with a focus on designated post COVID-19 recovery initiatives,” said Nicolas Buchoud, president of the Grand Paris Alliance think tank and a fellow of the Global Solutions initiative, a collaborative enterprise that suggests policy responses to global problems.

At the end of the webinar, Saudi artist Abdul Aziz Al-Najim presented the group with a work he created based on the themes of infrastructure, investment and financing.

The T20 also welcomed the recent endorsement by G20 energy ministers of the circular carbon economy (CCE) framework for more-sustainable energy systems. The CCE concept, which was proposed to the G20 by Saudi Arabia, is a holistic, integrated, inclusive and pragmatic approach to managing emissions.

It offers a new way of addressing climate change mitigation goals that values all options and encourages all efforts to reduce the accumulation of carbon in the atmosphere through the “4Rs:” reduce the amount of carbon, reuse it to create valuable feedstocks and fuels; recycle it through the natural carbon cycle; and remove excess amounts from the atmosphere.

Hydrocarbons still account for 82 percent of G20 energy supplies, a figure that has remained relatively stable since 1990. G20 member countries must solve the problem of carbon accumulation in the atmosphere if the world is to stay below the Paris Agreement’s warming thresholds.

The T20 said that achieving the accord’s target of limiting the average global temperature rise to less than 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels — let alone its aspirational target of a 1.5 degree increase — will require the participation of hard-to-abate industries in efforts to mitigate greenhouse gases. Climate change mitigation targets cannot be achieved without first reaching emissions neutrality, which will require a significantly ramped-up effort to deploy and use negative emissions, the group said. It is essential that these industries are included in mitigation policies that address the transition to cleaner energy systems in an effort to achieve carbon neutrality in the second half of the century.

Coordinated G20 efforts are vital to the pursuit of this goal, and post-pandemic economic-recovery stimulus packages, especially hydrocarbon bailouts, must be built around a circular carbon economy framework, the T20 said.

The group called for a renewed commitment to addressing climate change by embracing all mitigation-technology options in an effort to progress toward sustainability. Specifically, it called on G20 governments to “build back better” after the pandemic through green and sustainable economic-stimulus packages. Stimulus priorities must not derail clean-energy targets and climate goals but must support innovations in carbon-management technologies, including negative-emission technologies such as direct air capture.

Saudi Arabia holds the presidency of the G20 this year and the group’s annual summit is due to be held in Riyadh in November. The T20, a network of think tanks and researchers, is one of several independent G20 engagement groups led by organizations from the host country. They focus on different sections and sectors of society and work to develop policy recommendations that are presented to G20 leaders for consideration.

 


OIC slams attempted Houthi attack on southern Saudi city

OIC slams attempted Houthi attack on southern Saudi city
Updated 06 August 2021

OIC slams attempted Houthi attack on southern Saudi city

OIC slams attempted Houthi attack on southern Saudi city

JEDDAH: The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) on Thursday condemned the Iran-backed Houthi militia’s targeting of civilians in the Saudi city of Khamis Mushayt.

The Arab coalition said on Wednesday that a drone targeted the southern city in the Kingdom.

OIC Secretary-General Dr. Yousef Al-Othaimeen praised the Saudi-backed coalition and its support for Yemen’s internationally recognized government to deal with terrorism in line with international humanitarian law.

He reiterated the OIC’s solidarity and support for Saudi Arabia in all measures it takes to preserve its security, stability and the safety of its citizens and residents. 

The UAE and Bahrain also condemned and denounced the Houthi attempts to attack civilians and infrastructure.

The UAE urged the international community to take an “immediate and decisive stance” to “stop the recurrent acts,” which target vital and civilian installations and the security and stability of the Kingdom.

Bahrain also called on the international community to condemn terrorism that threatens the region.


‘Delta plus’ variant seen in South Korea ‘is not new’: Saudi expert

‘Delta plus’ variant seen in South Korea ‘is not new’: Saudi expert
Updated 06 August 2021

‘Delta plus’ variant seen in South Korea ‘is not new’: Saudi expert

‘Delta plus’ variant seen in South Korea ‘is not new’: Saudi expert
  • 102 quarantine violators arrested in Makkah region; 986 new cases reported

JEDDAH: The COVID-19 delta plus variant, detected in two South Korean cases on Tuesday, is “not new and has been detected in India for months,” a Saudi infectious disease expert has said.

“Delta plus was previously detected in the EU since March and in India for months,” said Ahmed Al-Hakawi, who is also a hospital epidemiologist in Riyadh.

South Korea reported its first two cases of the variant earlier this week, with overall COVID-19 cases in the country rising sharply.

Al-Hakawi said that the new form of COVID-19 “differs slightly from the delta variant through the presence of the K417N mutation that was previously detected in the beta mutant.”

He added that the delta plus designation has yet to be approved by medical authorities, and that there is no evidence to suggest that is is more virulent than the original delta variant.

Meanwhile, a total of 102 people in the Makkah region have been arrested for failing to adhere to quarantine regulations after testing positive for COVID-19.

The media spokesman for local police said that preliminary legal procedures were taken against the individuals and their cases were referred to the relevant authorities.

INNUMBERS

530,981 - Total coronavirus cases in Saudi Arabia

512,373 - Total number of recoveries

8,297 - Total number of deaths from COVID-19

Those breaking the Kingdom’s COVID-19 regulations could face fines of up to SR200,000 ($53,000), a maximum of two years in prison, or both. The penalty is doubled for repeated violations.

Non-Saudis found to have breached quarantine rules run the risk of being deported and permanently banned from the country.

Saudi Arabia on Thursday reported 13 more COVID-19-related deaths, bringing the Kingdom’s death toll over the course of the pandemic to 8,297.

There were 986 new cases, meaning that 530,981 people have now contracted the disease. A total of 10,311 cases remained active, of which 1,424 were in critical condition.

Of the newly recorded cases, 189 were in the Makkah region, 177 in the Riyadh region, 162 in the Eastern Province and 55 in Madinah region.

In addition, the Saudi Ministry of Health said that 1,055 patients had recovered from the disease, increasing the total number of recoveries in the Kingdom to 512,373.

The region with the highest number of recoveries was Riyadh with 262. It was followed by the Eastern Province with 194 and Makkah with 151.

Saudi Arabia has so far conducted 25,549,087 PCR tests, with 105,537 carried out in the past 24 hours.

Testing hubs and treatment centers set up throughout the country have dealt with hundreds of thousands of people since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Among them, Taakad (make sure) centers provide COVID-19 testing for those who show no or only mild symptoms or believe they have come into contact with an infected individual, while Tetamman (rest assured) clinics offer treatment and advice to those with virus symptoms such as fever, loss of taste and smell, and breathing difficulties.

Appointments for either service can be made via the ministry’s Sehhaty app.

Meanwhile, 28,829,305 people in the Kingdom have now received a COVID-19 vaccine, including 1,501,805 elderly people. About 56.35 percent of the population have received the first dose, while 26.4 percent have completed both doses. At this rate, 70 percent of the population is expected to have completed both doses by Sept. 29 this year.


Islamic principles should form basis of tackling global post-pandemic human rights crises: OIC commission

Islamic principles should form basis of tackling global  post-pandemic human rights crises: OIC commission
Updated 06 August 2021

Islamic principles should form basis of tackling global post-pandemic human rights crises: OIC commission

Islamic principles should form basis of tackling global  post-pandemic human rights crises: OIC commission

JEDDAH: Universal Islamic principles should be used as the basis for tackling world human rights issues in the wake of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, a leading inter-governmental Muslim organization has recommended.

During a meeting to coincide with the 10th anniversary of world Islamic Human Rights and Human Dignity Day, members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation’s (OIC) Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission (IPHRC) called upon member states to adopt the approach in joint efforts to address post-pandemic global challenges.

Commission delegates pointed out that millions of people in countries around the world continued to face indignities including foreign occupation and oppression, hunger, preventable diseases, limited socioeconomic opportunities, and lack of access to basic needs, all of which seriously undermined their fundamental human rights.

The IPHRC gathering noted that the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic had only compounded the existing global human rights situation such as by doubling the number of people facing food crises, and children losing access to basic education and health services.

HIGHLIGHT

IPHRC members recommended that all states should cooperate with their political, religious, and community leaders to promote a better understanding of universal human rights values, collectively deal with the underlying causes of racism and religious intolerance, including islamophobia, and ensure the maintenance of international peace and security.

Members highlighted a growing incidence of cases of hate speech, xenophobia, and racial and religious discrimination, issues they said were driving a wedge through multicultural societies and threatening global peace and security.

While stressing that the conceptual foundation of human rights in Islam placed a strong emphasis on the inherent dignity of human beings and their equality before the law, in harmony with universal human rights principles, the commission urged member countries to work alongside regional and international stakeholders to devise practical human rights-based, people-centered policies to help improve lives.

It also made an appeal for the international community to reinforce respect for diversity, multiculturalism, democracy, and the rule of law, which were at the core of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

IPHRC members recommended that all states should cooperate with their political, religious, and community leaders to promote a better understanding of universal human rights values, collectively deal with the underlying causes of racism and religious intolerance, including islamophobia, and ensure the maintenance of international peace and security.

Welcoming the continued and growing importance placed on human rights issues within the OIC, the commission hailed the adoption of a revised version of the organization’s Cairo Declaration on Human Rights, which it said had helped to bridge the perceptional and legal gaps between the compatibility of universal human rights and Islamic laws.

An ongoing revision of the OIC Covenant on the Rights of the Child in Islam was also applauded as a route to further strengthening the organization’s normative and institutional human rights architecture.


KSrelief sends medical aid to Jamaica in fight against COVID-19

KSrelief sends medical aid to Jamaica in fight against COVID-19
Updated 06 August 2021

KSrelief sends medical aid to Jamaica in fight against COVID-19

KSrelief sends medical aid to Jamaica in fight against COVID-19

KINGSTON, Jamaica: The King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSrelief) has delivered medical and preventive supplies to Jamaica in a bid to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

On behalf of KSrelief, the medical aid was handed over by Saudi Arabian Ambassador to Cuba Faisal bin Falah Al-Harbi.

The aid comes as an extension of the Kingdom’s humanitarian efforts through KSrelief. It also follows the directives of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Since its inception in May 2015, KSrelief has implemented 1,686 projects worth more than $5.33 billion in 69 countries around the world. The initiatives were carried out in cooperation with 144 local, regional and international partners.

According to a recent KSrelief report, the countries and territories that benefited the most from the center’s various projects were Yemen ($3.8 billion), Palestine ($365 million), Syria ($307 million) and Somalia ($206 million).


Who’s Who: Othman Gazzaz, media affairs chief at Umm Al-Qura University in Makkah

Who’s Who: Othman Gazzaz, media affairs chief at Umm Al-Qura University in Makkah
Updated 06 August 2021

Who’s Who: Othman Gazzaz, media affairs chief at Umm Al-Qura University in Makkah

Who’s Who: Othman Gazzaz, media affairs chief at Umm Al-Qura University in Makkah

Othman Gazzaz heads the research and media affairs department of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Institute for Hajj and Umrah Research at Umm Al-Qura University in Makkah.

Gazzaz holds a bachelor’s degree in media from Umm Al-Qura University. He also received a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in media from the University of Leicester in England.

He published a number of scientific journals such as “The extent of pilgrims and Umrah performers’ reliance on the mobile exhibition using hologram technology to obtain information during the performance of the rituals” in the International Journal of Customer Relationship Marketing and Management earlier this year.

In 2015, Gazzaz published two articles in the Journal of Public Relations Research Middle East titled “Exposure to digital signage and message recall: Determining the effectiveness of the billboard outside the Prophet’s (PBUH) Mosque at Madinah Al-Munawwarah” and “Pilgrim problems and their communication patterns in the Hajj 1434 (H): A study of the communicative ecology of the pilgrim community from Egypt.”

At a conference in Langkawi, Malaysia in 2014, he presented his research “Communicative ecology of sojourners from Pakistan and its implications for public service campaigns.”

The academic also tackled sensitive issues in his research “Responding to the Western satellite TV’s image of Islam and Muslims: Theory & research-based policy challenges.”

Gazzaz was a member of the Association for Social Awareness and Rehabilitation between February 2016 and 2017, and the Association of Neighborhood Centers in Makkah between February 2016 and 2019.