Saudi Arabia is ‘accelerating reforms’ amid global standstill: Investment minister

Saudi Investment Minister Khalid Al-Falih speaks ahead of the 15th annual G20 Summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on November 21, 2020. (AN Photo/Basheer Saleh)
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Updated 21 November 2020

Saudi Arabia is ‘accelerating reforms’ amid global standstill: Investment minister

  • We’ve built resilience into our financial systems, into our financial reserves, and into our monetary policy: Al-Falih
  • The minister said there was also a huge emphasis on protecting the global economy from the adverse impact of the pandemic

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia has been accelerating reforms and remained focused on the goals of Vision 2030 despite a global pandemic, Minister of Investment Khalid Al-Falih said on Saturday.
“We were not distracted from our strategy and our Vision 2030. In fact, we doubled down on it. We accelerated our reforms. We continued to diversify our economy, and commit our resources to make sure that Vision 2030 is not derailed by (the coronavirus disease) COVID-19,” he said.
His comments come as the Kingdom’s leadership of the G20 concludes over the weekend in Riyadh.
Saudi Arabia has shown resilience amid the global threats of COVID-19, Al-Falih said, acknowledging the distinctiveness of its presidency of the G20.
The minister said the annual summit was called on to do something which had never been done.
“The G20 and its presidency has been called on to save the world, and to mitigate the effects of the crises,” he added.
Al-Falih said the Kingdom stepped up to the challenge, guided by its belief in multilateralism — that “global problems require global solutions.”
Building local resilience
In order to perform its role, Al-Falih said Saudi Arabia had to build resilience locally.
“Resilience at home, on all fronts, was an essential element for us to do what we have to internationally and multilaterally,” he explained.
Saudi Arabia has taken “dramatic steps” to deal with the pandemic, Al-Falih said, adding there was no room for any distraction from its “transformation” as a country.
He pointed out the Kingdom’s “effective and competent governance” from the early days of the pandemic, and its “balanced approach” in making important decisions.
Saudi Arabia has also made sure to buffer the pandemic’s blow to its economy.
“We’ve built resilience into our financial systems, into our financial reserves, and into our monetary policy,” the investment minister said, adding foreign investments had not been significantly affected by the global crisis.
“I’m glad to say that foreign direct investment (FDI), in the first half, has increased by 12 percent compared to last year. We are seeing a year-on-year increase over the last two years. Our FDI performance is improving,” he added.
Policy reform
This increase, he said, could be associated to ongoing policy reforms in the Kingdom, including changes related to intellectual property, as well as tourism, mining, and other local industries.
He discussed the Kingdom’s push to diversify its economy, which has been one of its main lines of defense against the impact of the pandemic. 
The minister also hailed the rest of the G20 members “for rising to the challenge,” alluding to the pandemic he described as “a human crisis as people were pushed back into poverty, fear, psychological and social tensions, overlaid by an unprecedented economic slowdown.”
He said $21 billion had been earmarked to support healthcare initiatives against the virus, including for the development of vaccines, and the improvement of diagnostic and treatment tools.
There have also been mechanisms to help poor countries deal with the pandemic, including debt relief programs that have already helped dozens of nations.
Global economy
On top of healthcare initiatives, Al-Falih said there was also a huge emphasis on protecting the global economy from the adverse impact of the pandemic.
“Thanks to the collective efforts of the G20 members, we see that the global economy is contracting less than anticipated earlier in the year,” the minister said.
Global trade has also been adjusted due to the pandemic, with countries relaxing trade barriers to allow the easy movement of critical goods among nations.
Al-Falih said the G20 would not be complacent as the crisis continues, and will continue to work to navigate through the unique challenges of the pandemic.


Saudi vegan bodybuilder slams diet myths

Nutrition is the most important part when it comes to bodybuilding, then comes type of exercise, and good rest. (AFP)
Updated 29 November 2020

Saudi vegan bodybuilder slams diet myths

  • Ali Al-Salam, who stopped consuming animal products in 2017, says certain steps must be completed to have an athletic body

JEDDAH: The vegan diet has risen in popularity in Saudi Arabia in recent years and has been a constant topic of debate among Saudis, attracting the interest of many, including athletes.

Ongoing debates about whether the vegan diet is sufficient for normal people, let alone bodybuilders, abound, but one Saudi is answering them physically.
Veganism is a lifestyle that excludes all animal products from diets, clothing or any other purposes.
Over the years, a number of studies have found that people who eat vegan or vegetarian diets have a lower risk of heart disease, but other studies have also placed them at a higher risk of stroke, possibly due to the lack of vitamin B12, an essential vitamin that reduces the risk of anemia and neurological diseases.
Speaking to Arab News, 33-year-old Saudi vegan bodybuilder, Ali Al-Salam, who first started his vegan diet three years ago when he was suffering from high blood pressure, highlighted that the consumption of animal products is a deep rooted idea among bodybuilders and athletes.
“We always hear that in order to build muscle, we must consume animal products. In some parts of the world, there are people who can only have a small amount of animal products yet they live their lives healthily and comfortably and are not suffering from malnutrition — on the contrary, they have a lower level of chronic illnesses.”

When I consumed meat and animal products, I suffered from high blood pressure; it was 190 over 110, and I wasn’t even 30 yet. Two weeks into the vegan diet, it went down to 150. The vegan diet did what couldn’t be done with medications for me.

Ali Al-Salam, Saudi vegan bodybuilder

He said it also opened his eyes to what goes on in the dairy and meat industry; he began researching in 2016 and decided to become vegan in 2017.
“I was just like every other athlete, I used to consume a high amounts of protein. I remember in the last days before turning vegan, I used to have 10 egg whites and a piece of steak for breakfast to fulfil my protein needs. This made me think, ‘is this the only way to consume protein?’ And from then on, I started researching and got introduced to the vegan diet at a larger scale,” he said.
“When I consumed meat and animal products, I suffered from high blood pressure; it was 190 over 110, and I wasn’t even 30 yet. Two weeks into the vegan diet, it went down to 150. The vegan diet did what couldn’t be done with medications for me.”
He explained that bodybuilding does not solely rely on protein, and that there are steps that must be completed in order to reach an athletic body. Nutrition is the most important part, then comes type of exercise, and good rest.
“When we talk about good nutrition, it does not just rely on protein. Yes, it is important, but the amount of calories in general is more important,” he said.
“Let’s say you needed 200 grams of protein, does that mean if you consumed 200 grams of it, you would gain muscle? No. You need all the basic nutrients to reach a certain amount of calories in general,” he added.
He highlighted that as soon as people register for gym memberships, they immediately look for supplements because they think they cannot reach the needed amount of protein.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Veganism is a lifestyle that excludes all animal products from diets, clothing or any other purposes.

• Over the years, a number of studies have found that people who eat vegan or vegetarian diets have a lower risk of heart disease.

• But other studies have also placed them at a higher risk of stroke, possibly due to the lack of vitamin B12, an essential vitamin that reduces the risk of anemia and neurological diseases.

• Vegan athletes have more endurance, strength and faster muscle recovery, because the vegan diet is rich in antioxidants.

• Animal products sometimes cause inflammation, that your body needs to recover from in the first place.

“I’m talking about non-vegans here too, where their protein intake is already high. Marketing plays a big role here. People link protein to animal products because our society grew up with this idea as well.
“Can a vegan build muscle? Yes, when they eat right, exercise correctly and rest well. The misconception about protein stems from amino acids. People think vegan food lacks amino acids, and only animal products are full of them and that is far from the truth,” he added.
When comparing vegan athletes to regular athletes, he said vegan athletes have more endurance, strength and faster muscle recovery, because the vegan diet is rich in antioxidants which helps greatly in recovery, and because “animal products sometimes cause inflammation, that your body needs to recover from in the first place.”