Mohammed bin Salman announces new 5-year strategy for Saudi Arabia’s economy

Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman gave a speech outlining the Public Investment Fund's (PIF) strategy for the next five years. (SPA)
Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman gave a speech outlining the Public Investment Fund's (PIF) strategy for the next five years. (SPA)
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Updated 28 January 2021

Mohammed bin Salman announces new 5-year strategy for Saudi Arabia’s economy

Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman gave a speech outlining the Public Investment Fund's (PIF) strategy for the next five years. (SPA)
  • Crown prince pledges 1.8 million new jobs
  • Kingdom's sovereign wealth fund to invest $40 billion a year until 2025

JEDDAH: Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Sunday launched a new five-year strategy for the Kingdom’s sovereign wealth fund as Saudi Arabia drives toward achieving its Vision 2030 goal to diversify the economy away from dependence on oil.

The Public Investment Fund (PIF) will pump at least $40 billion a year into the local economy, double its assets to $1.07 trillion, contribute $320 billion to non-oil GDP and create 1.8 million jobs by 2025, said the crown prince, the fund’s chairman.

“We’ve launched many vital sectors and investment projects in Saudi Arabia and the private sector is a strategic partner for the PIF,” he said.

“The new strategy comes to represent a major pillar in achieving the aspirations of our country and aims to achieve the concept of comprehensive development.”

The 2021-2025 strategy will focus on launching new sectors, empowering the private sector, developing the PIF’s portfolio, achieving effective long-term investments, supporting the localization of sectors and building strategic economic partnerships.

“Our goal is to make our country a pioneer for the new human civilization,” the crown prince said. The PIF would “contribute to supporting development and economic diversification efforts in the Kingdom, in addition to consolidating its position as the preferred global investment partner.”

PIF governor Yasir Al-Rumayyan said: “Over the past four years, PIF has demonstrated its important role in contributing to the Kingdom’s economy, in line with the ambitions of Vision 2030. Up to the end of 2020, we tripled assets under management to nearly $400 billion, created 10 new sectors and generated 331,000 direct and indirect jobs.

“And as part of our strategy, we will continue to drive the economic transformation of Saudi Arabia and enable the private sector. We also partner with innovative, transformative and disruptive companies around the world to consistently serve as an important catalyst for the development of the industries and opportunities of the future.

“Core to our strategy is our focus on funding new human futures by improving quality of life, driving environmental and economic sustainability, and developing new sectors and jobs.”

Meanwhile Fahad Al-Mubarak was appointed governor of the Saudi Central Bank (SAMA) on Sunday, replacing  Ahmed Al-Kholifey, who becomes an adviser at the royal court.


Forget the cost, Saudi love affair with oud makes perfect scents

Forget the cost, Saudi love affair with oud makes perfect scents
Updated 11 min 47 sec ago

Forget the cost, Saudi love affair with oud makes perfect scents

Forget the cost, Saudi love affair with oud makes perfect scents
  • Fans of traditional fragrance stay loyal despite fast-rising prices

RIYADH: The traditional scent of oud enjoys an enduring popularity among Saudis, but high prices and uncertainty about quality are making many think twice before buying it.

Oud is extracted during winter from trees aged between 70 and 150 years and growing up to 20 meters in height.

These trees generally grow in tropical areas in Asia, especially on mountains and hillsides in India, Cambodia, Vietnam, Indonesia and Malaysia.

Gulf countries are the major importers of oud.

Wood oud emits an enjoyable fragrance when burned. Made of aromatic plants, wood oud has been increasingly mixed with aromatic oils in recent years. In Saudi Arabia, people often put wood oud in an electronic incense burner to deliver the desired fragrance.

Bader Al-Mansuri, a Saudi consumer, said that oud is an important tradition in Saudi society and is used for special social occasions as well as religious events, such as the Friday prayer.

Cambodian oud is the go-to option for most Saudis when shopping for the traditional fragrance, followed by the Morki and Kalamantan.

“My favorite is Cambodian oud, which I have been using for a long time,” Al-Mansuri told Arab News. “It’s part of our family tradition and culture, and my grandparents used it and passed it down to us. Oud has a positive moral impact, and is a sign of generosity and respect when you have visitors.”

Al-Mansuri that he only buys oud from well-known brands and companies.

Hammad Al-Shouraihi, another consumer, is a regular user of oud and buys 2 kg every year at a cost ranging from SR4,500 ($1,200) to SR6,000.

“When the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) emerged, I bought oud off websites instead of going to incense shops,” he said, adding that it is difficult to judge the quality of oud bought online since the buyer cannot test the fragrance.

In addition to Cambodian oud, Al-Shouraihi also enjoys the Morki variety as well as other types with mixed substances.

“Vintage Cambodian oud, which is stored for longer periods, is the best. It is an ideal gift for friends or family members,” he said. “I love all perfumes that have oud fragrance or scent. The pandemic has affected oud purchases due to the way it is used and fears that it can transmit the virus.”

However, Ahmed Al-Mutairi believes the pandemic has had little impact on the oud industry.

He buys 100 gm of liquid oud and quarter a kilo of wood oud, paying about SR5,000 for his purchases every year.

“Some oud vendors on streets demand a high price, but they reduce the price to half after one bargains with them,” Al-Mutair told Arab News.

Hassan Al-Rashdi, a sales officer at Nada Oud Store, said that sales reach 5 kg  some days and 10 kg other days.

“Some people prefer different types of oud qualities,” he added, noting that a kilogram of oud can range between SR500-SR5,000, based on its quality and origin.

Al-Rashdi told Arab News that some Saudis prefer the Kalamantan variety. However, he believes Morki oud is the most popular incense for parties, official events and use in mosques.

Khalid Al-Johani, the owner of an online oud store, agrees that Morki oud is the most popular variety among his clients, followed by Kalamantan and Indian in terms of quality.

According to Al-Johani, Indian liquid oud is preferred by the elderly, though Thai oud is fast gaining in popularity.

“To judge the quality of oud, one should check the scent, weight, color and size,” he said.

“Most people buy oud based on the recommendations of others. But experts always check the quality of oud products inside out and ask about the substances inside and the structure.”

Women often prefer liquid mixtures, while men prefer wood oud, Al-Johani said.

Some people are superstitious and believe that oud can cast out devils and genies, he said. However, people say they feel “relieved” and “in good mood” after they smell incense.

Most sales take place before and during Ramadan as well as Eid Al-Adha holidays, he added.

Zaid Al-Qaoud, chairman of Oud Albaraka, said that sales of oud have plummeted in the past year due to the absence of parties and weddings.

“Sales have fallen by 80 percent compared with the previous years,” he told Arab News. “Demand has also decreased because of coronavirus and many people have turned to social media websites to buy oud.”

Most oud stores can be found in central Riyadh, which has about 400 outlets, he added.

“Indonesian oud is very popular in the Gulf region and is the main source of many types of oud in the market that come with different scents.”

He added that old oud gives a better and more beautiful smell than newer products.

It can be difficult for regular consumers to distinguish a high-quality oud from an inferior product. “People have different tastes for oud, but most of them cannot tell original oud from a false one.”

Al-Qaoud, who has been in the business for 20 years, said that many Europeans in Saudi Arabia understand the quality of oud, recalling a regular French customer who said: “I have never smelled a sweet smell like the Taif roses and oud oil.”

Ayed Al-Falih, who is interested in artefacts, said incense burners are made of a type of wood found in Hail farms, with a price ranging between SR100 and SR500.


Saudi, Somali envoys discuss OIC cooperation

Saudi, Somali envoys discuss OIC cooperation
Updated 25 min 44 sec ago

Saudi, Somali envoys discuss OIC cooperation

Saudi, Somali envoys discuss OIC cooperation
  • The envoys discussed ways to enhance their cooperation

JEDDAH: Saleh Hamad Al-Suhaibani, Saudi Arabia’s permanent representative to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), met with his Somali counterpart Dr. Abdur Razzaq Sead Abdi on Wednesday.

The envoys discussed ways to enhance their cooperation as the OIC aims to serve Islamic causes in the midst of current challenges.

The two sides also discussed areas of joint Islamic action and how to best serve the OIC and its 35 active bodies and institutions. Al-Suhaibani said cooperation and coordination among the organization's bodies are a top priority for Saudi Arabia.

Abdi stressed the importance of lasting peace, stability and development within Somalia. He also praised the Kingdom for the humanitarian support and developmental contributions it provides to the Somali people.


World Bank highlights Saudi progress in women’s legal reforms

The Kingdom’s strong performance comes as a result of a raft of reforms implemented last year to further expand female participation in the economy. (Reuters/File Photo)
The Kingdom’s strong performance comes as a result of a raft of reforms implemented last year to further expand female participation in the economy. (Reuters/File Photo)
Updated 24 February 2021

World Bank highlights Saudi progress in women’s legal reforms

The Kingdom’s strong performance comes as a result of a raft of reforms implemented last year to further expand female participation in the economy. (Reuters/File Photo)
  • The increase in performance was notable in five indicators on which it scored at the top of the scale

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia continues to make notable progress in women’s economic inclusion and empowerment, according to a World Bank report.

The World Bank Group’s “Women, Business and the Law (WBL)” report, released on Feb. 23, showed that the Kingdom scored higher than last year on a global measure of legal reforms to boost gender equality. 

On a scale of one to 100, Saudi Arabia scored 80 in 2021, up from 70.6 in 2020. 

The increase in performance was notable in five indicators on which it scored at the top of the scale: Mobility, workplace, pay, entrepreneurship and pension.

These scores put Saudi Arabia on a par with many advanced economies with long traditions of women’s legal reforms. 

The Kingdom’s strong performance comes as a result of a raft of reforms implemented last year to further expand female participation in the economy.

Saudi Arabia equalized women’s access to the labor market, lifted restrictions on their employment in sectors previously considered unsafe, and eliminated a ban on women’s night work. 

Last year’s report ranked Saudi Arabia as the world’s top reformer in advancing women’s economic participation for 2019, a recognition of the legislative policies the country established to boost female participation in the workforce, which it aims to increase from an average of just under 20 percent to more than 40 percent as part of Vision 2030.

Commenting on the report, Majid Al-Qasabi, commerce minister and chairman of the National Competitiveness Center, said that the Kingdom’s performance reflects King Salman’s commitment to enabling Saudi women to fully participate in the social and economic development of the country. It also reflects Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s efforts to ensure an effective whole-of-government approach to implementing women’s legal reforms.

Saudi Arabia’s reforms build on changes implemented since the launch of Vision 2030 in 2016, including lifting restrictions on women’s mobility, equalizing access to public services, guaranteeing equal benefits in the labor market, and instituting protections against harassment in the workplace and in public spaces. 

The WBL, a yearly publication by the World Bank Group, assesses women’s legal reforms in 190 countries, using an index with eight indicators: Mobility, pay, parenthood, assets, workplace, marriage, entrepreneurship and pension.


Saudi and Omani foreign ministers meet in Muscat

Saudi and Omani foreign ministers meet in Muscat
Updated 24 February 2021

Saudi and Omani foreign ministers meet in Muscat

Saudi and Omani foreign ministers meet in Muscat
  • The foreign ministers reviewed ways to support trade, investment and tourism opportunities
  • Prince Faisal arrived in Muscat earlier on Wednesday and has left the sultanate

LONDON: Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister met his Omani counterpart during a visit to the Gulf state on Wednesday.
During the meeting, Prince Faisal bin Farhan and Sayyed Badr Al-Busaidi discussed the importance of joint Gulf action within the framework of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and following up on the results of the AlUla summit hosted by the Kingdom in January.
They also discussed bilateral relations and ways to strengthen cooperation in various fields that would lead to mutual benefits.
The foreign ministers reviewed ways to support trade, investment and tourism opportunities and developing scientific cooperation in the areas of energy, technology, transportation, cybersecurity, health and agriculture.
Prince Faisal arrived in Muscat earlier on Wednesday and has left the sultanate.


Saudi Arabia allows citizens married to foreigners to travel through border points

Saudi Arabia allows citizens married to foreigners to travel through border points
Updated 24 February 2021

Saudi Arabia allows citizens married to foreigners to travel through border points

Saudi Arabia allows citizens married to foreigners to travel through border points
  • Saudis married to non-Saudis will be able to travel with spouses or join spouses abroad

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has authorized citizens married to foreigners to travel through border points, a measure meant to facilitate their movements while international air travel is suspended because of the pandemic, state TV reported on Wednesday.
“The General Directorate of Passports announced the issuance of the royal decree to enable Saudi women married to non-Saudis to travel, whether accompanied by their husbands or joining their husbands abroad, upon providing proof of marriage certificate to officials at the port of departure,” a statement on Saudi Press Agency said.
The same applies for Saudi men married to non-Saudi women, whether they reside outside of the Kingdom due to work or other circumstances preventing them from coming to the country, the statement added.
The passports authority said that in the event that citizens are not able to provide documents proving their spouse is outside the Kingdom and unable to return, then they can apply for a travel permit via the Absher application.

(With Reuters)