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.

 


Inside the corridors of Mawhiba, Saudi Arabia’s foundation for creativity

Inside the corridors of Mawhiba, Saudi Arabia’s foundation for creativity
Updated 18 June 2021

Inside the corridors of Mawhiba, Saudi Arabia’s foundation for creativity

Inside the corridors of Mawhiba, Saudi Arabia’s foundation for creativity
  • Innovative Saudi youngsters take home top prizes at international science and engineering fair

JEDDAH: Despite all the challenges the world has been facing over the past year, King Abdul Aziz and his Companions Foundation for Giftedness and Creativity (Mawhiba) has managed to embrace 30 outstanding Saudi students to represent the Kingdom in the world’s largest science competition, Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) 2021.

ISEF was held virtually in the US in May, and more than 1,800 students from 70 countries participated.

The science fair targeted innovative high school senior students, who were called on to create science projects based on their research.

The winners of this year were announced on May 20-21. The Kingdom was lucky to take home grand prizes for the first top four winners, who came in second, third and fourth places. The prizes varied, with some winners receiving cash and top university scholarships, while others had their projects adopted by major international and local companies.

SPEEDREAD

Regeneron ISEF 2021 was held virtually in the US.

The Kingdom competed with 30 scientific projects by 30 students from various educational departments, representing the Saudi national team.

The Saudi national team won second, third and fourth place.

All the winning projects contribute to the Kingdom Vision 2030.

Since 2007, Mawhiba has helped the Kingdom achieve 83 ISEF awards.

Winners were announced by the US jury, who based their decisions on elements including creativity, presentation skills, ability to answer deep questions related to the projects, and confidence.

Arab News spoke with the winners to learn more about their projects, inspirations, dreams and more.

 

Saudi Arabia’s winners:

Mansour Al-Marzouqi, second-place winner

Mansour Al-Marzouqi won the second-place grand international prize in the field of Energy: Materials and Sustainable Design for his project “Advanced Synthesis of Potent Photocapacitor Based on Novel 3D-Hierarchical BiVO4 and Self-Synthesized Carbon” — in other words: “Designing a Super-Capacitor that Charges Itself with Light.”

Using locally abundant elements including carbon from date palm leaves and semiconductors such as bismuth and vanadium, Al-Marzouqi’s project was inspired by renewable energy and was endorsed by his professor from King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals.

“I fabricated an energy storage device, known as a super-capacitor, that could charge itself under light exposure only. Yet, I greatly increased the electrochemical performance of the device, which allowed it to function as a battery, a capacitor and a solar cell all at once,” he told Arab News.

He added: “Winning in such a competition has been a dream of mine. I felt a huge surge of happiness, gratitude, pride, accomplishment and honor. Winning in Regeneron ISEF is a very tough benchmark, especially due to the extremely high competition.”

Al-Marzouqi hopes that his invention will serve as a “virtue to society,” advancing knowledge and limiting the demand on energy.

“The application of such projects is broad. Supplying enough energy to people is a difficult task, and my project is a great way to address this issue,” the student added.

He is looking forward to proposing the idea to distinguished institutions such as Saudi Aramco, the Ministry of Energy, NEOM, and the Saudi Electricity Company.

“I feel it is my duty to apply impactful projects like this one here in my country,” he said.

 

Rasha Al-Qahtani, third-place winner

Rasha Al-Qahtani from Riyadh is the third place winner in the field of social and behavioral sciences for her project “An innovative video game feature for the psychological diagnosis of generalized anxiety disorder in adolescence.”

“I created a novel feature that can be applied to video games to help diagnose generalized anxiety disorder in adolescence by displaying decisions for the player to choose from while playing,” she told Arab News. “This approach is the first of its kind.”

Al-Qahtani praised Mawhiba and her parents for their support throughout her nine-year educational journey and expressed how honored she was with this accomplishment.

“I feel  honored to have received this appreciation for my research at one of the most challenging science fairs,” she added. “I am proud to represent my beloved country and prove that we symbolize Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s quote when he said: ‘Our ambition is sky-high.’”

 

Arwa Niazi , fourth-place winner

Arwa Niazi from Dhahran, in the Eastern Province, has been part of Mawhiba since she was in the sixth grade. She received the fourth-place award in the field of material science for her project, “Fabrication of self-charging super-capacitor using laser-assisted self-synthesized carbon quantum dots,” or more simply, “Manufacturing a super-capacitor that responds to the sun using quantum carbon dots.”

“Many researchers have previously tried to create the device that I worked on, but the problem was in the toxic materials applied,” she told Arab News. “With my device, however, I worked on making it 100 percent environmentally friendly.”

She added: “During the pandemic, Mawhiba did a lot to help us participate in this competition. My school provided me with mentors, labs and all the materials I needed, and I am so happy to make my country, family and school proud.”

She expressed how thrilled she was to be among the top four winners and how winning will define her path in future studies.

“Winning feels amazing, and I’m proud that my hard work has paid off,” she said.

Niazi’s application to the University of Wisconsin-Madison has been accepted, and she is currently waiting for a scholarship to support her. She hopes to join King Abdullah University for Science and Technology’s Gifted Student Program or Saudi Aramco’s 10-month College Preparatory Program.

She is also considering being part of the first batch of female students to join King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals. In a historic announcement, the university in Dhahran announced that it would start admitting female students for the first time in the 2021/2022 academic year. The university, established in 1963 by a royal decree as the College of Petroleum and Minerals, is widely renowned for its strong science, engineering, business and management programs. It is ranked fourth in the top 100 worldwide universities granted US utility patents in 2018.


NEOM initiative aims to help Saudi craftspeople develop their businesses

NEOM initiative aims to help Saudi craftspeople develop their businesses
Updated 18 June 2021

NEOM initiative aims to help Saudi craftspeople develop their businesses

NEOM initiative aims to help Saudi craftspeople develop their businesses
  • Craft+ runs for two weeks with the aim of empowering and supporting home businesses and micro-enterprises

JEDDAH: A new initiative in NEOM and Tabuk is providing financial support and training to help people working in the local crafts sector develop their businesses.

Craft+ was launched this month by NEOM’s Social Responsibility Program and the Dulani Business Center, a key Social Development Bank program. It runs for two weeks with the aim of empowering and supporting home businesses and micro-enterprises, and providing development and training assistance to help local craftspeople improve the efficiency of their operations and contribute to the development and sustainability of business in the Kingdom. This is in line with the aims of the NEOM megacity project and Saudi Vision 2030.

Craft sectors targeted by the initiative include embroidery and fashion, jewelry making, painting and sculpture, sadu (traditional Bedouin weaving), palm industries and the manufacturing of perfume and incense.

The program concludes with a five-day bazaar in Tabuk Park Mall that will begin on June 18 and be open from 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. each day. Items made by the participants will be on show to raise awareness of the importance of local crafts, and available to buy.

The initiative is taking place under the auspices of NEOM’s Social Responsibility Program, which aims to empower local communities to unlock their potential, preserve their culture and heritage, contribute to the economic growth of NEOM, and succeed in the work environment of the future. It aims to achieve this by 2025 through transformational educational and training programs, entrepreneurial and employment initiatives, and community development efforts.

NEOM also recently launched an initiative designed to provide employment opportunities for local residents, and aims to provide training and upskilling programs to at least 7,000 people by 2025. Since 2020, NEOM has also provided training in the English language and information technology to more than 1,000 residents of the surrounding areas.

The Social Responsibility Program has also organized a series of workshops, in collaboration with the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology and Think Tech, to enhance digital literacy and increase digital awareness.

In January Saudi authorities announced that a huge zero-carbon smart city will be built at NEOM in northwestern Saudi Arabia. The project, called The Line, will be home to a million people and have no cars and or roads.


Misk, Saudi Telecom sign deal for training and development

Misk, Saudi Telecom sign deal for training and development
Updated 18 June 2021

Misk, Saudi Telecom sign deal for training and development

Misk, Saudi Telecom sign deal for training and development
  • MoU aims to enhance cooperation in several fields at the institutional level and within entities affiliated with both parties
  • Partnership will also support entrepreneurship and innovation through STC’s InspireU and ImpactU programs

RIYADH:  The Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdul Aziz Foundation (Misk) and Saudi Telecom Co. (STC) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to enhance cooperation in several fields at the institutional level and within entities affiliated with both parties.

The MoU, signed by Misk CEO Badr bin Hamoud Al-Badr and STC Group CEO Olayan Al-Wetaid, included several strategic objectives in the fields of training and development, and leadership preparation in cooperation with the STC Academy.

It also focused on supporting entrepreneurship and innovation through STC’s InspireU and ImpactU programs, in addition to social investment projects, volunteer programs, and on-the-job training initiatives for graduates of Misk programs at STC and its subsidiaries.

This partnership is proof of STC’s role and contribution to the Kingdom's Vision 2030 through social responsibility programs and support for national initiatives in developing human capital, unleashing youth capabilities in various fields, and accelerating innovation and digital transformation.

This memorandum of understanding will also support Misk's efforts towards digital transformation by benefiting from the various innovative technical services and solutions provided by STC and its subsidiaries.


 


Hajj without smart card, permit will not be allowed

Hajj without smart card,  permit will not be allowed
Updated 18 June 2021

Hajj without smart card, permit will not be allowed

Hajj without smart card,  permit will not be allowed
  • Permit will be matched with the electronic card and the pilgrim’s ID

JEDDAH: In an effort to ensure compliance with coronavirus (COVID-19) safety measures, the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah confirmed that no one will be allowed to perform Hajj without a smart card and a documented official permit.

Dr. Abdulfattah Mashat, deputy minister of Hajj and Umrah, said that the permit will be matched with the electronic card and the pilgrim’s ID, noting that there is no platform to apply for Hajj except the official website of the ministry.

“Any company that offers service packages outside the ministry’s platform is violating the system,” he said. 

“At the first stages of the ‘Eatmarna’ application, we noticed some violations by some entities and individuals, but with the passage of time, community awareness began to increase.”

Mashat said this year’s Hajj will use permits through the “Absher” platform only. Information for those who purchased their Hajj packages on the ministry’s platform will be linked to Absher and their ID.

According to the deputy minister, more than 470,000 applications have been received as of Wednesday at 5 p.m. as all met the conditions of immunization and have never performed Hajj before.

FASTFACT

470K

More than 470,000 applications have been received as of Wednesday at 5 p.m. as all met the conditions of immunization and have never performed Hajj before.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah called on all domestic pilgrims connected with the ministry to adhere to health instructions to enable those wishing to perform Hajj.

The ministry said resident locations will apply visual and thermal screening procedures upon pilgrims’ entrance and movement.

The allocated hotels in Makkah and Madinah must conform to the requirements listed by the Ministry of Tourism, the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah, and other bodies concerned with monitoring the accommodation of pilgrims.

The hotels must take into account the application of precautionary measures to prevent crowding inside rooms. The hotels also have to provide catering services for each pilgrim in his room as open buffets are banned.

A health guide (or health leader) from the concerned authority will be available during the pilgrims’ presence in the Hajj areas and during their movements.

This step comes to ensure the preventive measures. Pilgrims must consult a doctor if they suspect COVID-19 symptoms to ensure his safety and the safety of others.

Regarding the procedures in the holy sites, the Two Holy Mosques, and the central area in Makkah and Madinah, social distancing will be enforced throughout the grouping of pilgrims in all Hajj stages. This is in accordance with health requirements in residential buildings and tents. Pilgrims’ bags and baggage carts will be disinfected periodically.

Security guards will facilitate the exit of pilgrims from holy sites according to the time allotted to them and will ensure adherence to the number of pilgrims allowed in one space (no more than 50 people). Seat numbers on buses will be assigned to each pilgrim during the entire Hajj trip and standing inside busses will not be allowed. There will be an empty seat assigned between each pilgrim and carrying personal carry-on baggage will be prohibited.

In the case that a passenger suspects COVID-19 symptoms, the bus will be stopped and disinfected.

The ministries of health and hajj announced Saturday that a total of 60,000 pilgrims will be allowed to perform the pilgrimage this year, which will begin mid-July.


Visitors to Saudi Arabia must complete COVID-19 registration before departure

Visitors to Saudi Arabia must complete COVID-19 registration before departure
Updated 18 June 2021

Visitors to Saudi Arabia must complete COVID-19 registration before departure

Visitors to Saudi Arabia must complete COVID-19 registration before departure
  • GACA said this protocol will help facilitate the entry procedures and reduce waiting periods at ports of entry
  • The circular was issued to all airlines in the Kingdom

RIYADH: All foreign travelers and their companions traveling to the Kingdom must complete registration for their coronavirus (COVID-19) immunization data before departure, according to a circular issued Thursday by Saudi Arabia’s Civil Aviation Authority.
The General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) said this protocol will help facilitate the entry procedures and reduce waiting periods at ports of entry.
The registration is applicable to all citizens from Gulf Cooperation Council countries, holders of new visas, residents, and their companions, both inoculated and non-vaccinated.
The move is “in line with efforts made by the Kingdom to limit the spread of COVID-19 while ensuring the safety of citizens and residents,” GACA said.