Crown prince salutes ‘unprecedented’ Saudi achievements

Crown prince salutes ‘unprecedented’ Saudi achievements
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Updated 13 November 2020

Crown prince salutes ‘unprecedented’ Saudi achievements

Crown prince salutes ‘unprecedented’ Saudi achievements
  • The prince said the government has undertaken extensive restructuring to boost non-oil revenues and is working hard to diversify the economy
  • Prince Mohammed: The Kingdom is one of the best 10 countries globally in terms of dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia has been able to achieve unprecedented economic and social advances in a short period of time, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said on Thursday.

Commenting on King Salman’s address to the Shoura Council, the crown prince said that the Kingdom has experienced exponential economic growth in the past three years and he is optimistic that this will accelerate after the coronavirus pandemic ends.

Non-oil revenues contributed an estimated SR 1.8 billion ($480 million) to the economy in 2016, he said. Plans were made to increase this contribution, resulting in rapid growth over the past three years, he added.

The crown prince said that authorities in the Kingdom are also working to reduce the unemployment rate as a matter of priority. He said that women account for 64 percent of the total unemployment rate, but a number of reforms have created opportunities that led to an increase in the participation of women in the workforce, from 17 percent to 31 percent in the past year alone.

Prince Mohammed said that although corruption was once rife in the country and had spread like “cancer,” a campaign to tackle this has been very successful, resulting in settlements amounting to SR 247 billion riyals in three years.

After investing more than SR 55 million in digital infrastructure in the past three years, the nation now ranks first among G20 member states in terms of digital competitiveness, and has climbed 40 places on the Digital Infrastructure Index.

During his speech, the prince praised the Public Investment Fund (PIF) for becoming one of the main engines of growth for the Saudi economy.

“We managed to double the size of the PIF from SR 560 billion to more than SR 1.3 trillion,” he said. “We have investments with returns that exceeded 70 percent, and others that exceeded 140 percent.”

He added that the PIF has created more than 190,000 jobs over the past four years.

Turning to the issues of terrorism and extremism, the crown prince said that Saudi Arabia rejects any attempt to associate Islam with terrorism and asserted that intellectual freedom is a means of respect and tolerance.

Speaking a day after a cemetery was attacked in Jeddah, and hours after a shooting at the Saudi embassy in the Netherlands, he vowed that the Kingdom will continue to strike back with an “iron fist” against those who threaten its security and stability. He also reiterated his promise to eradicate any and all forms of extremism in Saudi Arabia.

“In 2017, I pledged to eradicate extremism immediately, and we have actually launched a serious campaign to address its causes and deal with the phenomena,” he said. “Within a year, we eliminated an ideology that took 40 years to create.

“Islam criminalizes these terrorist operations, prohibits bloodshed, and forbids the deception and killing of peaceful people. We promise a deterrent, painful and very severe punishment for anyone who might wish to carry out a terrorist act and employ hate speech.

“We hope that the world will rid itself of contempt for religions and stop attacking religious and national symbols under the pretext of freedom of expression, as this will create fertile grounds for extremism and terrorism.”

Regarding the environment, he said, the amount of conservation land in the Kingdom has been increased from 4 percent to more than 14 percent, the crown prince said, and the Special Forces for Environmental Security was established.

The Ministry of Culture has established 11 organizations to develop the country’s cultural sectors, he said, which has created jobs, contributed to an increasingly thriving economy and improved the overall quality of life.

The Saudi economy is one of the largest and most important in the world, the prince said, and the government has implemented a number of reforms to improve the quality of the labor market for citizens and residents.

“With regard to the rights of expatriates, we have taken numerous measures to restructure the contractual relationship so as to preserve their rights and contribute to increasing maturity in the labor market,” he added.

“Work is underway, in line with the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, to reform the labor market and provide more jobs for citizens. One of the Vision’s goals is to reach an unemployment rate of 7 percent by the year 2030.

“The unemployment rate nearly reached 13 percent in 2018. We were able to witness a continuous decrease to 11.8 percent at the beginning of 2020, by increasing the efficiency of government agencies, the investments of the PIF and other government programs and initiatives.”

He added: “Our next goal will be improving citizens’ income.”

The government has also carried out wide-ranging restructuring processes in a number of sectors, in accordance with the goals of Vision 2030, designed to further enhance non-oil revenues.

“If we had not raised non-oil revenues to nearly SR 360 billion this year, but had maintained the same revenue as was earned in 2015 which was estimated at nearly SR100 billion, we would have been forced to reduce the salaries of public-sector employees by more than 30 percent,” the crown prince said.

“Despite cutting the cost-of-living allowance, we have succeeded in preserving citizens’ salaries, as well as most of their allowances and bonuses, maintaining a capital expenditure of SR 137 billion, increasing spending on operations and maintenance, and bearing the high costs of health care due to the pandemic, which have amounted to SR 188 billion.

“Revenue diversification is important and vital for the Kingdom’s sustainability. We are seriously working on this issue through the investments of the PIF, and by supporting new sectors such as tourism, sports, manufacturing, agriculture, transportation, space, mining and much more, in addition to working with the private sector.”
 


Saudia airline getting ready to operate on May 17

Saudia airline getting ready to operate on May 17
Saudi Arabia’s flagship carrier is getting ready to fly on May 17. (SPA)
Updated 12 April 2021

Saudia airline getting ready to operate on May 17

Saudia airline getting ready to operate on May 17
  • Saudia was ranked among the top 10 airlines worldwide for its health and safety measures and received the highest certification by APEX Health Safety in January

JEDDAH: The Kingdom’s flagship carrier is preparing for full-capacity operations ahead of the lift of the travel ban next month, with Saudis eager to safely return to traveling during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
Saudi Minister of Transport Saleh Al-Jasser chaired a meeting with the Saudia airline board of directors to discuss preparations for the return of international flights on May 17.
The date will mark the end of the suspension of international travel for Saudi citizens by land, air, and sea.
The minister expressed his thanks for the efforts made to safely continue domestic flights by limiting the spread of COVID-19.
Saudia was ranked among the top 10 airlines worldwide for its health and safety measures and received the highest certification by APEX Health Safety in January.
Saudis are feeling more comfortable with the idea of traveling abroad again.
Ismail Ayoub, 30, said he will travel as soon as the opportunity strikes, with Dubai being his first choice due to their high safety standards. “Safety is one factor, another reason is I have good contacts in Dubai and in the region, so this is an opportunity to reconnect with them,” Ayoub told Arab News.
“The closeness of Dubai to the Kingdom makes it very convenient as well,” he added.
Ayoub said he will travel to countries where tourism offerings follow the strict COVID-19 safety guidelines. “I would avoid countries with unmanaged crowds. I want to enjoy my trip while staying safe.”

Saudis are feeling more comfortable with the idea of traveling abroad again. (SPA)

Software engineer Alia Al-Sadat, 27, said she is glad to have the option to travel but would rather postpone her international flight plans until the global cases drop.
“I feel very safe in the Kingdom. I’m happy to simply travel between Jeddah and Riyadh, or even go and explore AlUla,” Al-Sadat told Arab News.
She highlighted that the travel restrictions were a good opportunity to explore the Kingdom.
“Many people do not know it, but Saudi Arabia has some spectacular destinations. This year made me want to explore places like Abha, Taif and of course Umluj,” she added.


Saudi authorities urge public to follow precautions to ensure safe Ramadan

Saudi authorities urge public to follow precautions to ensure safe Ramadan
Dr. Mohammed Al-Abd Al-Aly. (SPA)
Updated 12 April 2021

Saudi authorities urge public to follow precautions to ensure safe Ramadan

Saudi authorities urge public to follow precautions to ensure safe Ramadan
  • There are 8,360 active cases, 915 of them are critical

JEDDAH: With a few days to go before the start of Ramadan, Saudi health authorities are warning the Kingdom’s residents to remain vigilant and stick to safety precautions put in place to reduce the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
During a press conference on Sunday, Ministry of Health (MoH) spokesman Dr. Mohammed Al-Abd Al-Aly reminded residents of the importance of following the precautions.
“Last year’s Ramadan was unlike any other Ramadan that we have experienced,” he said, adding that visitors to mosques would need to follow set guidelines, such as bringing their own prayer mats, attending prayer on time, socially distancing and staying clear of overcrowding.
He also highlighted the importance of following precautions during family gatherings. “We are used to family gatherings during Ramadan — they are special and bring the family together — but we must limit the number of visitors in gatherings.”
On Saturday, the MoH announced it would be postponing second doses of COVID-19 vaccines in order to ensure more people receive their first dose.
“The challenges are a race against time. We want to ensure that the most vulnerable are prioritized and receive their first vaccine to gain immunity,” Al-Abd Al-Aly said, adding that cancelled slots would be rearranged automatically.
“The second dose acts as a booster to the immunity one develops after the first dose,” he said.

INNUMBERS

398,435 Total cases

383,321 Recoveries

6,754 Deaths

8,360 Active cases

A total of 799 new cases of COVID-19 were recorded in the Kingdom on Sunday, meaning 398,435 people in Saudi Arabia have now contracted the disease.
There are 8,360 active cases, 915 of them are critical.
In addition, 548 new recovered cases were announced, taking the total number of recoveries to 383,321. The Kingdom’s recovery rate is holding steady at 96.2 percent.
Seven new COVID-19 related deaths were reported, raising the death toll to 6,754.
Saudi Arabia has administered more than 6.25 million COVID-19 vaccine doses so far. A total of 58,897 PCR tests were conducted in the past 24 hours, raising the total number of tests conducted in the Kingdom to 15,797,442.
Elsewhere, 30,054 violations of precautionary and preventive measures were reported over the past week. The highest numbers of violations were in Riyadh (11,162), Makkah (5,883), and the Eastern Province (4,183). Jazan (155) and Najran (132) had the lowest number of reported violations.
The Ministry of Interior stressed that citizens and residents must continue to adhere to the preventive measures and instructions issued by the authorities for their own safety and the safety of fellow citizens and residents.


Hajj Ministry announce Ramadan guidelines for Umrah and prayers

Hajj Ministry announce Ramadan guidelines for Umrah and prayers
The ministry reminded people for the need to follow the preventive measures to ensure the safety, health and security of those visiting the two holy mosques. (SPA)
Updated 12 April 2021

Hajj Ministry announce Ramadan guidelines for Umrah and prayers

Hajj Ministry announce Ramadan guidelines for Umrah and prayers
  • Taraweeh, Qiyam prayers should not exceed 30 minutes in all mosques

JEDDAH: The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah has set guidelines and protocols for issuing Umrah and prayer permits for the month of Ramadan. 
Vaccinations are at the top of the priority list as no worshippers are allowed into either Makkah’s Grand Mosque or Madinah’s Prophet’s Mosque without having received at least one dose of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine.
Permits will only be allowed through the Tawakkalna and Eatmarna apps, and will not be provided for unvaccinated individuals, as the latest Tawkkalna update has designated each category with a color code and barcode specific to their health status.
Unauthorized vehicles will not be allowed in the central region around Makkah, and visitors must arrive on time or risk losing their time slot.
Children will not be allowed to enter either mosques, nor the courtyards around the mosques.

HIGHLIGHT

Permits will only be allowed through the Tawakkalna and Eatmarna apps, and will not be provided for unvaccinated individuals, as the latest Tawkkalna update has designated each category with a color code and barcode specific to their health status.

The Ministry of Interior issued a warning that a SR10,000 ($26,671) fine will be issued to pilgrims wishing to perform Umrah without permits, and a SR1,000 fine for worshippers trying to enter the mosques without one.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Dawah and Guidance issued a statement saying that Taraweeh and Qiyam prayers should not exceed 30 minutes in all mosques in the Kingdom. This comes after King Salman issued a decision to permit Taraweeh prayers in the two holy mosques and reduce them to five tasleemat.
The ministry reminded people for the need to follow the preventive measures to ensure the safety, health and security of those visiting the two holy mosques.


Saudi rights body to support sexual harassment victims

Saudi rights body to support sexual harassment victims
Dr. Awwad bin Saleh Al-Awwad. (SPA)
Updated 11 April 2021

Saudi rights body to support sexual harassment victims

Saudi rights body to support sexual harassment victims
  • Psychological, educational, and legal consultations are provided to the beneficiaries in cooperation with a number of specialists at the HRC

JEDDAH: Dr. Awwad bin Saleh Al-Awwad, president of the Saudi Human Rights Commission (HRC), has launched a specialized group to support victims of sexual harassment and their families with psychological counseling and educational, social, and legal guidance with strict confidentiality.
The group will enhance protection for victims of harassment and raise awareness about its impact on individuals and society.
Al-Awwad said the launch is part of the measures and regulations that the Kingdom has adopted to protect and support victims of harassment, including the anti-harassment law, child protection system, and law on protection from abuse.
The group will address these effects to help victims overcome trauma, to ensure it does not occur again, and to inform families and the relevant authorities in the event of a new exposure to harassment.
The group is supervised by HRC board member Dr. Sarah bint Omar Al-Abdulkarim, in cooperation with consultant psychiatrist Dr. Meshal Al-Aqeel and Dr. Amal Bannunah, a professional adviser in protection and sex education expert. Psychological, educational, and legal consultations are provided to the beneficiaries in cooperation with a number of specialists at the HRC. 


Saudi Supreme Court: No evidence of Ramadan moon sighting

Saudi Supreme Court: No evidence of Ramadan moon sighting
Updated 12 April 2021

Saudi Supreme Court: No evidence of Ramadan moon sighting

Saudi Supreme Court: No evidence of Ramadan moon sighting
  • Supreme Court says it will hold another session on Monday evening

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s moon sighting committee said on Sunday that the crescent for the month of Ramadan could not be seen from the Tamir and Hawtat observatories in Sudair, due to the weather conditions. 
Following a meeting on Sunday, corresponding to Shaban 29, according to the Umm Al-Qura lunar calendar, the Supreme Court said that it had not received any evidence of the crescent sighting in the evening.
The Supreme Court said it would hold another session on Monday evening, and issue a decision on the start of Muslim fasting month.