Saudi Arabia ranks 7th globally in internet speed, 5G: Communications minister

Saudi Arabia ranks 7th globally in internet speed, 5G: Communications minister
Abdullah Alswaha, Minister of Communications and Information Technology, says there should be more innovative digitalized investments. (Supplied)
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Updated 28 January 2021

Saudi Arabia ranks 7th globally in internet speed, 5G: Communications minister

Saudi Arabia ranks 7th globally in internet speed, 5G: Communications minister
  • ‘We should have more innovative digitalized investments’

Saudi Arabia is ranked seventh globally in terms of 5G technology and internet speed, said Abdullah Alswaha, Minister of Communications and Information Technology, on the sidelines of the fourth edition of the Future Investment Initiative (FII).

“We should have more innovative digitalized investments, in the light of the challenges and the unclarity that will come ahead of us in the future," Alswaha added.

Saudi Aramco has more than $270 million (SR1 billion) in technology investments with Google – the largest in the MENA region, thanks to resilience, execution and speed.

The recently-announced “The Line” project in NEOM is a revolutionary idea of a 170-kilometer belt of hyper-connected artificial intelligence-enabled future communities, without cars and roads and built around nature.

It is a renewable energy, and pollution-free model that would cut costs, the minister said.


India merchants take flight from Iran as its rupee reserves fall

India merchants take flight from Iran as its rupee reserves fall
Updated 2 min 52 sec ago

India merchants take flight from Iran as its rupee reserves fall

India merchants take flight from Iran as its rupee reserves fall
* Traders wary because of Iran’s dwindling store of rupees
* Payments are delayed for months, says dealer
* Exports of commodities like rice, sugar, tea affected
* Payment issues will be solved soon, Iran official says


Indian merchants have almost entirely stopped signing new export contracts with Iranian buyers for commodities such as rice, sugar and tea, due to caution about Tehran’s dwindling rupee reserves with Indian banks, six industry officials told Reuters.
“Exporters are avoiding dealing with Iran since payments are getting delayed for months,” said a Mumbai-based dealer with a global trading house.
Iran’s rupee reserves in India’s UCO and IDBI Bank , the two lenders authorized to facilitate rupee trade, have depleted significantly and exporters are not sure whether they would be paid on time for new shipments, the dealer said.
Under US sanctions, Tehran is unable to use US dollars to transact oil sales.
Iran previously had a deal to sell oil to India in exchange for rupees, which it used to import critical goods, including agricultural commodities, but New Delhi stopped buying Tehran’s oil in May 2019 after a US sanctions waiver expired.
Tehran continued using its rupees to buy goods from India, but after 22 months of no crude sales, Iran’s rupee reserves have fallen, said the sources, who asked not to be named, citing business privacy.
Iran’s reserves have reduced significantly and “will be over soon probably because trade has stopped,” said a senior official with IDBI Bank.
The Islamic Republic was buying mainly basmati rice, tea, sugar, soymeal and medicines from India.
“Rice exporters are concerned about the current payment mechanism,” said Vijay Setia, a rice exporter and former president of the All India Rice Exporters’ Association (AIREA).
“There was too much of delay in payments from last year’s shipments. Exporters received payments six months after shipments,” Setia said.
In the first quarter of 2020 Iran imported nearly 700,000 tons of basmati rice from India, but in the same period this year shipments would be “very negligible,” Setia said.
Last year, Iran was the biggest buyer of India’s basmati rice and sugar. Iran fulfils more than one-third of its sugar and rice demand through imports, traders estimate.
Iran’s trade ministry and Central Bank of Iran declined to comment on the matter.
“We are in talks with Indian government and Indian traders to resolve these payment issues and I believe it will be resolved soon,” said a senior Iranian official, who asked not to be named due to the sensitivity of the matter.
“The delay in payments are due to US sanctions on Iran’s financial system that has made such payments very difficult,” he said.
As rupee reserves have depleted and dollar trade is not allowed, sugar exporters are exploring options to conduct trade in euros, Rahil Shaikh, managing director of MEIR Commodities India, said.
Sugar exporters are focusing on other destinations like Indonesia and Sri Lanka, as Iran is unlikely to buy significant quantities this year, said Shaikh.
India’s overall exports to Tehran fell 42 percent in 2020 from a year ago to $2.2 billion, the lowest in over a decade, said an official with India’s Ministry of Commerce and Industry.
The fall is continuing in 2021 and in January this year exports more than halved from a year ago to $100.20 million, the official said.
India’s ministry of commerce and industry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Trading houses and exporters were hoping new US President Joe Biden could reverse sanctions imposed by his predecessor Donald Trump on the oil-rich country.
“Exports would rebound even if Biden administration provides a few concessions to Iran like allowing oil trade in rupees,” said a Mumbai-based dealer with a global trading firm.

India merchants almost halt exports to Iran as its rupee reserves fall

India merchants almost halt exports to Iran as its rupee reserves fall
Updated 4 min 18 sec ago

India merchants almost halt exports to Iran as its rupee reserves fall

India merchants almost halt exports to Iran as its rupee reserves fall
  • Under US sanctions, Tehran is unable to use US dollars to transact oil sales
  • The Islamic Republic was buying mainly basmati rice, tea, sugar, soymeal and medicines from India

MUMBAI/ DUBAI: Indian merchants have almost entirely stopped signing new export contracts with Iranian buyers for commodities such as rice, sugar and tea, due to caution about Tehran’s dwindling rupee reserves with Indian banks, six industry officials told Reuters.
“Exporters are avoiding dealing with Iran since payments are getting delayed for months,” said a Mumbai-based dealer with a global trading house.
Iran’s rupee reserves in India’s UCO and IDBI Bank , the two lenders authorized to facilitate rupee trade, have depleted significantly and exporters are not sure whether they would be paid on time for new shipments, the dealer said.
Under US sanctions, Tehran is unable to use US dollars to transact oil sales.
Iran previously had a deal to sell oil to India in exchange for rupees, which it used to import critical goods, including agricultural commodities, but New Delhi stopped buying Tehran’s oil in May 2019 after a US sanctions waiver expired.
Tehran continued using its rupees to buy goods from India, but after 22 months of no crude sales, Iran’s rupee reserves have fallen, said the sources, who asked not to be named, citing business privacy.
Iran’s reserves have reduced significantly and “will be over soon probably because trade has stopped,” said a senior official with IDBI Bank.
The Islamic Republic was buying mainly basmati rice, tea, sugar, soymeal and medicines from India.
“Rice exporters are concerned about the current payment mechanism,” said Vijay Setia, a rice exporter and former president of the All India Rice Exporters’ Association (AIREA).
“There was too much of delay in payments from last year’s shipments. Exporters received payments six months after shipments,” Setia said.
In the first quarter of 2020 Iran imported nearly 700,000 tons of basmati rice from India, but in the same period this year shipments would be “very negligible,” Setia said.
Last year, Iran was the biggest buyer of India’s basmati rice and sugar. Iran fulfils more than one-third of its sugar and rice demand through imports, traders estimate.
Iran’s trade ministry and Central Bank of Iran declined to comment on the matter.
“We are in talks with Indian government and Indian traders to resolve these payment issues and I believe it will be resolved soon,” said a senior Iranian official, who asked not to be named due to the sensitivity of the matter.
“The delay in payments are due to US sanctions on Iran’s financial system that has made such payments very difficult,” he said.
As rupee reserves have depleted and dollar trade is not allowed, sugar exporters are exploring options to conduct trade in euros, Rahil Shaikh, managing director of MEIR Commodities India, said.
Sugar exporters are focusing on other destinations like Indonesia and Sri Lanka, as Iran is unlikely to buy significant quantities this year, said Shaikh.
India’s overall exports to Tehran fell 42% in 2020 from a year ago to $2.2 billion, the lowest in over a decade, said an official with India’s Ministry of Commerce and Industry.
The fall is continuing in 2021 and in January this year exports more than halved from a year ago to $100.20 million, the official said.
India’s ministry of commerce and industry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Trading houses and exporters were hoping new US President Joe Biden could reverse sanctions imposed by his predecessor Donald Trump on the oil-rich country.
“Exports would rebound even if Biden administration provides a few concessions to Iran like allowing oil trade in rupees,” said a Mumbai-based dealer with a global trading firm.


Saudi Arabia pays out more than $16m in salaries to employees of distressed companies in February

Saudi Arabia pays out more than $16m in salaries to employees of distressed companies in February
Updated 30 min 32 sec ago

Saudi Arabia pays out more than $16m in salaries to employees of distressed companies in February

Saudi Arabia pays out more than $16m in salaries to employees of distressed companies in February
  • Kingdom helps to pay wages of distressed firms
  • Governments worldwide forced to help employees

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia paid the salaries of 349 workers employed by distressed companies last month, SPA reported.
Some SR60.5 million ($16.1 million) was paid according to the February wage report published by The Saudi Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development.
The pay out included late salaries and end-of-service benefits.
Saudi Arabia moved to support pandemic-hit firms last year by announcing plans to help some employers struggling to pay their staff. Governments worldwide have engaged in different ways to avert mass layoffs across their economies over the last year.


36,000 construction workers on Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea project given smart badges

36,000 construction workers on Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea project given smart badges
Updated 04 March 2021

36,000 construction workers on Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea project given smart badges

36,000 construction workers on Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea project given smart badges
  • System tracks worker and vehicle movements
  • Supports immediate security alerts to central team

RIYADH: Some 36,0000 construction workers on one of Saudi Arabia’s biggest real estate projects are to be given smart badges.
The Red Sea Development Company has awarded a contract to Machinestalk to provide smart badges and wireless tagging solutions, for its construction workforce and fleet of vehicles, according to a statement on the Saudi Press Agency.
Machinestalk will deploy a “LoRaWan” network over the project area of 3,500 square kilometers, in addition to launching an Internet of Things (IoT) platform, that will also help to track 3000 vehicles in operation on site, said CEO, John Pagano.
The smart badges will control access to areas of the sprawling site preventing unauthorized individuals and vehicles from entering.
The badges will also enable everyone to report any security or safety issues to a dedicated emergency response and security center.
The first phase of the project will see 14 luxury and hyper-luxury hotels across five islands and two inland resorts, providing more than 3,000 hotel rooms.
It will also include a new airport, a yacht marina, leisure and lifestyle facilities, as well as supporting logistics and utilities infrastructure, including 75 kilometers of new roads, according to the company’s website.
The destination is expected to be fully completed by 2030.


World food prices rise to highest level since July 2014

World food prices rise to highest level since July 2014
Updated 04 March 2021

World food prices rise to highest level since July 2014

World food prices rise to highest level since July 2014
  • UN food agency said the surge was led by jumps in sugar and vegetable oils
  • Sugar prices climbed 6.4 percent month on month amid concerns over supplies in 2020/21

ROME: World food prices rose for a ninth consecutive month in February, hitting their highest level since July 2014, led by jumps in sugar and vegetable oils, the United Nations food agency said on Thursday.
The Food and Agriculture Organization’s food price index, which measures monthly changes for a basket of cereals, oilseeds, dairy products, meat and sugar, averaged 116.0 points last month versus a slightly revised 113.2 in January.
The January figure was previously given as 113.3.
The Rome-based FAO also said in a statement that worldwide cereal harvests remained on course to hit an annual record in 2020, adding that early indications pointed to a further increase in production this year.
FAO’s cereal price index climbed 1.2 percent month on month in February. Among major coarse grains, sorghum prices increased the most, rising 17.4 percent on the month and 82.1 percent year on year, driven by strong demand from China.
Maize and rice prices edged up while wheat export prices remained largely stable, FAO said.
Sugar prices climbed 6.4 percent month on month amid concerns over supplies in 2020/21 because of production falls in major producing countries and strong demand from Asia.
The vegetable oil price index increased 6.2 percent to reach its highest level since April 2012, with palm oil prices rising for a ninth month, lifted by worries over low inventories in major exporting nations.
Dairy prices rose 1.7 percent, while the meat index posted a modest 0.6 percent gain. FAO said pig meat quotations fell, hit by reduced purchases from China amid heavy oversupply and a rise in unsold pigs in Germany due to a ban on exports to Asian markets.
FAO raised its forecast for the 2020 cereal season to 2.761 billion tons from an estimate of 2.744 billion made last month pointing to a 1.9 percent increase year on year.
That revision reflected a 7.5 million ton increase in the world wheat production estimate, driven by recently released official data from Australia, the European Union, Kazakhstan and Russia.
The forecast for global rice production was also raised by 2.6 million tons from last month on more buoyant production forecasts from India.
FAO raised its forecast for global cereal stocks ending in 2021 by 9 million tons to 811 million which would represent a 0.9 percent decline year on year.
“Looking ahead, current indications suggest a small rise in world cereal production in 2021,” FAO said.
“While most of the wheat crop in the northern hemisphere is still dormant and southern hemisphere countries are yet to plant, FAO’s preliminarily forecast for global wheat production in 2021 points to a third consecutive annual increase, to 780 million tons, a new record.”