Saudi Arabia to issue executive regulations on labor reform initiative soon: ministry official

Saudi Arabia to issue executive regulations on labor reform initiative soon: ministry official
The Saudi labor initiative allows expatriate workers mobility and amends existing exit protocols. (AFP file photo)
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Updated 03 December 2020

Saudi Arabia to issue executive regulations on labor reform initiative soon: ministry official

Saudi Arabia to issue executive regulations on labor reform initiative soon: ministry official
  • Initiative allows expatriate workers mobility and amends existing exit protocols

The Minister of Human Resources and Social Development will issue soon the executive regulations of the Labor Reform Initiative (LRI), Sattam Alharbi, Deputy Minister for Inspection and development of work environment, was cited by Saudi Press Agency as saying.

The initiative, which falls under the Kingdom’s National Transformation Program, was launched by the ministry last month. It targets organizing the contractual relationship between employers and expatriate workers in the labor market, according to Argaam data.

The initiative allows expatriate workers mobility and amends existing exit protocols. It aims to develop the work environment and complements the Kingdom’s similar initiatives.

It also allows expatriate workers to transfer their sponsorship from one employer to another, request exit/re-entry visas, and secure a final exit visa.

Earlier in November, the ministry launched the LRI to organize the contractual relationship between employers and expatriate workers in the labor market, Argaam reported.

The initiative will come into effect on March 14, 2021.

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The Saudi Green Initiative: a technology-driven revolution

The Saudi Green Initiative: a technology-driven revolution
Updated 5 sec ago

The Saudi Green Initiative: a technology-driven revolution

The Saudi Green Initiative: a technology-driven revolution
RIYADH: The forthcoming Saudi Green Initiative (SGI) Forum, to be held in Riyadh on 23-24 October, is set to be a milestone in the historic effort to transform the oil-based economy of Saudi Arabia into a cleaner and more sustainable one.
In addition to planting 10 billion trees (covering 30 percent of total land area), the SGI aims to create vast protected zones, conserve marine life around the coasts and encourage alternative forms of agriculture. One key aspect of this sea change will be the contribution of technology to the greening of Saudi Arabia.
A leader in the realm of agritech is Dr. Nahid Sidki, chief technology officer with Research Products Development Company (RPDC), a PIF-owned not-for-profit resource for the commercialization of Saudi-based research and breakthrough technology.
With a 30-year background in Silicon Valley, where he was executive director at the Stanford Research Institute, Dr. Sidki is an authority on robotics and artificial intelligence (AI).
“The SGI is a great initiative that can produce a clean future, reduce carbon emissions and impact climate change,” Dr. Sidki told Arab News. “AI and robotics can play a major role in this, not only here in Saudi Arabia but across the Gulf region.”
But how exactly does hi-tech have anything to do with planting trees and growing crops? The answer lies partly in the sheer volume of what the SGI envisions.
“To plant 10 billion trees in a country like Saudi Arabia, one has to ask how they will be monitored and how their health will be sustained for decades to come. We cannot rely on just hoping for the best. We need to look to the ultimate goal and then work backwards in terms of the development and implementation of technology. It’s like a closed-loop ecosystem: planting, monitoring, irrigating and harvesting the trees.”
A primary consideration of the SGI is the use (and misuse) of water, a precious resource in the desert kingdom. Conventional irrigation methods often lead to significant wastage.
Smart dust
“AI can play a crucial role here via smart, efficient irrigation systems that utilize sensors and data analytics to monitor climate conditions and soil moisture,” Dr. Sidki said. “If every tree and every plant had sensors to monitor the condition of the soil surrounding the roots, this could determine exactly when it requires water and exactly what amount.”
Such AI-based solutions are already being put into practice, for example in the form of “smart dust,” nanoparticles that communicate with each other, enabling complex data collection and efficient decision-making in all aspects of agriculture.
“Land health monitoring is also very important,” said Dr. Sidki. “Throughout the life cycle of crops, drones can enable precision spraying and maximize seed pollination, and the same kind of sensor technology can be used for livestock monitoring, crop spraying and smart harvesting.”
These technologies, combined with local and global advances in genetic engineering, could soon turn the parched landscape of Saudi Arabia into an agricultural powerhouse with many verdant oases. Having said that, the greening of Saudi Arabia will require not just the conservation but also the production of potable water.
Some 60 percent of the Kingdom’s fresh water is currently supplied by energy-intensive seawater desalination plants reliant on polluting fossil fuels, an unsustainable solution in view of the SGI. But new desalination and water filtration techniques are emerging quickly, positioning the KSA as a hub for proprietary green technology.
In one RPDC-assisted project called the Red Sea Farm, a group of KAUST researchers have successfully grown tomatoes using a mix of 75 percent seawater and 25 percent freshwater, a scalable method that was recognized and lauded by the United Nations General Assembly in September.
“The idea is to develop smart technology to reduce the cost of desalination,” said Dr. Sidki. “Imagine if we could utilize solar energy for desalination. We would have unlimited fresh water from the ocean, which we are surrounded by in the KSA.”
The SGI represents one aspect of Saudi Arabia’s broader 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR), the fusion of AI, robotics, Internet of Things (IoT), genetic engineering and quantum computing, blurring the boundaries between the physical, digital and biological worlds. This is a highly collaborative movement involving numerous government bodies, PIF-owned companies (both commercial and not-for-profit), academic institutions, corporations, startups and SMEs.
“Robotics and AI will be playing a major role in every sector of society,” said Dr. Sidki. “And here in Saudi Arabia we have huge public and private funds to build capabilities.”
Innovation largely comes down to talent and education, and Dr. Sidki is again optimistic in this regard. “Saudi Arabia has a population of about 35 million, 70 percent of which is 25 or younger. And the percentage of those with a higher degree is very high compared to most other countries. In terms of PhD-holders the KSA probably ranks the highest in the region.”
Saudi Arabia is on the cusp of a major transformation that will involve a great deal of hard work and a lot of imagination.
“There’s an endless list of ways that new forms of technology can improve the quality of our daily life,” Dr. Sidki said. “People need to be very passionate about what they’re doing, and to be aware of the contributions they can make to their society, in order to have a huge impact. I think the combination of education and passion, and that impact, are the ingredients for a society to successfully achieve whatever it wants to do.”

Electrified cars hit almost a fifth of EU Q3 vehicle sales

Electrified cars hit almost a fifth of EU Q3 vehicle sales
Updated 42 min 11 sec ago

Electrified cars hit almost a fifth of EU Q3 vehicle sales

Electrified cars hit almost a fifth of EU Q3 vehicle sales
LONDON: Nearly one in five vehicles sold in the European Union in the third quarter was an electrified model as sales continued to soar while fossil-fuel cars slumped, according to sales data released on Friday by a trade organization.
The European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association, or ACEA, which represents major European car, truck, van and bus makers, said that battery electric and plug-in hybrid model sales across the European Union made up just under 19 percent of all sales.
Battery electric vehicle sales jumped nearly 57 percent to more than 212,000 units, while plug-in hybrid models rose nearly 43 percent to more than 197,000 units.
This is a slower pace of growth than in 2020 when sales almost trebled from a low base.
But it compares with a 35 percent drop in sales for petrol cars — which still are the biggest sellers and account for nearly 40 percent of overall sales — and a more than 50 percent drop for diesel cars during the quarter.
Less than a decade ago, diesel cars made up more than 50 percent of sale in the EU, but accounted for under 18 percent of all cars sold in the third quarter.
As well as having to meet stringent new EU carbon emissions targets, car makers and consumers have benefited from government subsidies for electric vehicles.
The European Commission has also proposed an effective ban on fossil-fuel vehicles from 2035, aiming to speed up the switch to zero-emission electric vehicles as part of a broad package of measures to combat global warming.

China Evergrande lines up funds for interest payment to avert default — source

China Evergrande lines up funds for interest payment to avert default — source
Updated 47 min 51 sec ago

China Evergrande lines up funds for interest payment to avert default — source

China Evergrande lines up funds for interest payment to avert default — source
  • Company faced end of 30-day grace period for payment on Oct. 23
  • Next 30-day grace period expires Oct. 29 for Sept. 29 payment

HONG KONG/SHANGHAI: China Evergrande Group has supplied funds to pay interest on a US dollar bond, a person with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters on Friday, days before a deadline that would have seen the developer plunge into formal default.
The person said Evergrande remitted $83.5 million to a trustee account at Citibank on Thursday — as earlier reported on Friday by state-backed Securities Times — allowing it to pay all bondholders before the payment grace period ends on Oct. 23.
News of the remittance will likely bring relief to investors and regulators worried about a default’s wider fallout in global financial markets, adding to reassurance from Chinese officials who have said creditors’ interests would be protected.
Still, the developer, saddled with $300 billion in liabilities, will need to make payments on a string of other bonds, with the next major deadline to avoid default only a week away and little known about whether it is in a position to pay those debts.
“They seem to be avoiding short-term default and it’s a bit of a relief that they have managed to find liquidity,” said a Hong Kong-based debt restructuring lawyer representing some bondholders, who did not want to be identified.
“But still, Evergrande does need to restructure its debt. This payment might be a way for them to get some sort of buy-in with stakeholders before the heavy work needed on the restructuring.”
It was not immediately clear how cash-strapped Evergrande was able to raise funds for paying the bondholders or whether any bondholders have already received the money.
Evergrande did not respond to Reuters’ request for comment. Citibank declined to comment. The person with knowledge of the matter was not authorized to speak with media and so declined to be identified.
News of the remittance comes a day after financial information provider REDD said Evergrande had secured more time to pay a defaulted bond it guaranteed, issued by Jumbo Fortune Enterprises. “This is a positive surprise,” said James Wong, portfolio manager at GaoTeng Global Asset Management, who had expected a default.
The news would boost bondholders’ confidence, he said, as “there are many coupon payments due ahead. If Evergrande pays this time, I don’t see why it won’t pay the next time.”
Evergrande missed coupon payments totalling nearly $280 million on its dollar bonds on Sept. 23, Sept. 29 and Oct. 11, beginning 30-day grace periods for each.
Subsequent non-payment would result in formal default and trigger cross-default provisions for its other dollar bonds.
Evergrande’s next payment deadline is Oct. 29 with the expiration of the 30-day grace period on its Sept. 29 coupon.

TEMPORARY RELIEF
Evergrande’s dollar bond prices surged on Friday, with its April 2022 and 2023 notes jumping more than 10 percent, data from Duration Finance showed, though they still traded at deeply distressed levels of around a quarter of their face value.
Its shares rose as much as 7.8 percent, a day after trade resumed following a more than two-week halt pending the announcement of a stake sale in its property management unit, which was scrapped this week.
Evergrande’s woes have reverberated across the $5 trillion Chinese property sector, which accounts for a quarter of the economy by some metrics, with a string of default announcements, rating downgrades and slumping corporate bonds.
In the latest such move, Fitch Ratings on Thursday cut Sinic Holdings (Group) Co. Ltd’s long-term foreign currency issuer default rating to “restricted default” from “C” as the developer failed to repay its $250 million notes due Oct. 18.
Still, the Evergrande news helped the Hang Seng mainland properties index surge more than 4 percent versus a gain of 0.25 percent in the broader Hang Seng index.
It also helped Evergrande’s smaller peer Kaisa Group Holdings Ltd, whose dollar bonds surged in price.
Kaisa was the first Chinese developer to default back in 2015 and the Evergrande crisis has put it back in the spotlight.
In mainland markets, the CSI300 Real Estate index jumped as much as 6.5 percent, and an index tracking the broader property sector was eyeing its biggest gain in nearly two months.
When asked whether it will step in to help its rival to ease its liquidity crisis, Chairman Yu Liang of the nation’s third-biggest developer, China Vanke Co. Ltd, said developers needed to ensure their own safety first.
“Everyone feels the chill as ‘winter’ arrives for the sector... Whether we can pass this winter safely is still unknown,” Yu told a company forum on Friday.

FREEWHEELING
Evergrande’s woes had been snowballing for months. Dwindling resources set against more than $300 billion of liabilities had wiped out 80 percent of its value.
Founded in Guangzhou in 1996, the developer epitomised a freewheeling era of borrowing and building. But that business model has been scuttled by hundreds of new rules designed to curb developers’ debt frenzy and promote affordable housing.
Analysts said any prospect of demise would raise questions over what would happen to the more than 1,300 real estate projects Evergrande has ongoing in over 280 cities, and any impact the wider property sector.
Bank exposure to developers is also extensive. A leaked 2020 document, branded a fake by Evergrande but taken seriously by analysts, showed the company’s liabilities extending to more than 128 banks and over 121 non-banking institutions.
“Given that we have little clarity on how bank financing is going for stalled real estate projects, but we know that project pre-sales are down a lot, the onshore business is unlikely to be supplying cash to Evergrande near-term,” said analyst Travis Lundy at Quiddity Advisers in Hong Kong.


Renewable energy employed up to 12 million people worldwide in 2020

Renewable energy employed up to 12 million people worldwide in 2020
Updated 55 min 10 sec ago

Renewable energy employed up to 12 million people worldwide in 2020

Renewable energy employed up to 12 million people worldwide in 2020
  • Sector created 500,000 jobs last year

RIYADH: The renewable energy industry created half a million jobs in 2020 so that 12 million people were employed in the sector at the end of the year, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and the International Labor Organization (ILO).

Solar energy jobs led the way in renewables employment, accounting for 33 percent of jobs, IRENA and the ILO said in a report titled World Energy Transitions Outlook. Liquid biofuels had a 20 percent share of jobs.

“The potential for renewable energy to generate decent work is a clear indication that we do not have to choose between environmental sustainability on the one hand, and employment creation on the other,” ILO Director-General Guy Ryder said in the report. “The two can go hand-in-hand.”

China held the bulk of renewable energy jobs, with 39 percent, followed by Brazil and India, at 10 percent and 6 percent, respectively. Other countries rapidly generating employment in the sector include Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia.

The transition to renewable energy will more than offset job losses in traditional energy, the report predicted, with 24-25 million jobs created by 2030 compared with 6-7 million roles lost by the transition.

The report also expects that 43 million people will be working in the renewable energy sector by 2050.


Trump deal delivers $420 million windfall for wondering dealmaker

Trump deal delivers $420 million windfall for wondering dealmaker
Updated 22 October 2021

Trump deal delivers $420 million windfall for wondering dealmaker

Trump deal delivers $420 million windfall for wondering dealmaker
  • Digital World shares ended trading on Wednesday up 357 percent after the deal was announced, giving the firm a market value of close to $1.5 billion

A merger with former US President Donald Trump’s new social media venture has delivered a potential windfall of $420 million for a former finance executive who has been trying for a decade to reinvent himself as a serial dealmaker.
Benessere Capital CEO Patrick Orlando’s stake in Digital World Acquisition Corp, the Miami-based blank-check acquisition firm he is leading, was worth $423 million on Thursday after his deal to merge Trump Media and Technology Group was announced, according to a regulatory filing and Reuters calculations.
Orlando invested only $3 million in Digital World, and is set to receive the windfall because the deal entitles him to additional compensation in shares as sponsor of the firm, the filing shows. Digital World shares ended trading on Wednesday up 357 percent after the deal was announced, giving the firm a market value of close to $1.5 billion.
To be sure, these gains are on paper. The terms of the SPAC do not allow Orlando to cash out until six months after the merger has been completed.
It is nonetheless a remarkable reversal of fortune for the former Deutsche Bank AG derivatives banker who worked in Peru’s biofuel industry and for a US sugar trading company before trying his hand at special purpose acquisition companies (SPACs).
He launched Benessere in 2012 to advise other companies on their deals but it was not until last year that he launched four SPACs with the help of Shanghai-based investment bank ARC Capital.
He struggled to gain traction. One of his SPACs, which was based in Wuhan, China, failed last month to complete a merger with Giga Energy Inc. that would have valued the transportation solutions provider at $7.3 billion, because it could not deliver the cash required, according to regulatory filings.
Orlando did not respond to requests for comment.
Trump Media said it would receive $293 million in cash that Digital World had in a trust if no shareholder of the acquisition firm chose to cash in their shares.
The company said it planned a trial version of its social media app next month and a full roll-out in the first quarter of 2022.