Kingdom aims to create 35,000 new Saudi jobs with $18.7bn Riyadh strategy

Twenty-four international companies on Wednesday officially signed agreements to establish their regional offices in Riyadh, following on from an announcement on Thursday by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to double Riyadh’s population and transform it into one of the 10 richest cities in the world. (Shutterstock/File Photo)
Twenty-four international companies on Wednesday officially signed agreements to establish their regional offices in Riyadh, following on from an announcement on Thursday by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to double Riyadh’s population and transform it into one of the 10 richest cities in the world. (Shutterstock/File Photo)
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Updated 03 February 2021

Kingdom aims to create 35,000 new Saudi jobs with $18.7bn Riyadh strategy

Twenty-four international companies on Wednesday officially signed agreements to establish their regional offices in Riyadh, following on from an announcement on Thursday by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to double Riyadh’s population and transform it into one of the 10 richest cities in the world. (Shutterstock/File Photo)
  • Already 24 international companies have signed up to establish their regional HQs in the Saudi capital

DUBAI: Twenty-four international companies on Wednesday officially signed agreements to establish their regional offices in Riyadh, part of the government’s wider plan to create 35,000 new jobs for Saudi nationals and boost the national economy by up to SR70 billion ($18.67 billion) by 2030.

The signing ceremony was in the presence of Minister of Investment Eng. Khalid bin Abdulaziz Al-Falih and Chief Executive Officer of the Royal Commission for Riyadh City Fahd bin Abdulmohsen Al-Rasheed, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The international brands who signed on the dotted line included, among others, PepsiCo, Schlumberger, Deloitte, PWC, Tim Hortons, Bechtel, Bosch, Boston Scientific,

The official ceremony followed an announcement on Thursday by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to double Riyadh’s population and transform it into one of the 10 richest cities in the world.

READ MORE: Saudi crown prince unveils plan to make Riyadh one of world's 10 richest cities

“All of Riyadh’s features set the groundwork for job creation, economic growth, investment, and many more opportunities,’’ the Crown Prince said at the Future Investment Initiative (FII) gathering in the Saudi capital.

“We are therefore aiming to make Riyadh one of the 10 largest city economies in the world. Today it stands at number 40, the fortieth largest city economy worldwide. We also aim to increase its residents from 7.5 million today to around 15-20 million in 2030,’’ he added.

Riyadh represents about 50 percent of the non-oil economy in Saudi Arabia and enjoys cost advantages over other urban centers. The cost of creating jobs in the city is 30 percent less than in other cities in the Kingdom, the Crown Prince said.

“The cost of developing infrastructure and real estate is also 29 percent less than the other cities, while the infrastructure in Riyadh is already very well (established) because of the sound management and planning performed by His Highness King Salman over a period of 55 years and more,’’ he added.

The new strategy to attract international companies to establish their main regional hubs in Riyadh is forecast to create more than 35,000 jobs for young Saudi men and women and add up to SR70 billion to the Saudi national by 2030, through salaries, operating and capital expenditures by these new companies, according to the Royal Commission for Riyadh City.

Fahd Al-Rasheed, president of the Royal Commission for Riyadh City, told the FII on Thursday: “A key focus is to make it easier for global businesses to operate in the Kingdom. Creating the King Abdullah Financial District special economic zone opens the door for multinational companies to relocate to Riyadh. Now they can maximize first-mover advantage and take total control at the heart of their largest regional market.”

Khalid Al-Falih, minister for investment, added that a number of key reforms relating to the establishment and governance of special economic zones, labour and education laws would be ratified in the first half of this year.

Companies operating in the zones will enjoy a range of tax exemptions, incentives, labor law improvements and relevant labor law exemptions for ten years, as well as fast and simple commercial licensing.

Al-Rasheed said that some $220 billion had already been spent or earmarked as government investment for projects in and around Riyadh, but that most of the rest of the required investment would come from the private sector.

“The government is working with the private sector as partners, it will not crowd out the private sector,” he said.

READ MORE: FII: Saudi Arabia eyes 20 free economic zones, six in Riyadh

Full detailed plans for the expansion of the city would be ready by the second quarter, Al-Rasheed added, when more details of financing would also be available.

Eugene Willemsen, PepsiCo’s chief executive officer for Africa, Middle East, South Asia, said: “We’ve been active in Saudi Arabia for around 60 years and are one of the largest food and beverage companies in the Kingdom. We very much look forward to continuing to be part of the future of Saudi Arabia and support the realization of the ambition of the Vision. We’re proud to sign the commitment today and be one of the early-adopters of the vision for Riyadh.”

Chief executive of Deloitte in the Middle East, Mutasem Dajani said: “Riyadh is undergoing a remarkable transformation to reinforce its position as one of the world’s major global centres for business, tourism and quality of life.  Deloitte is honoured to be a strategic partner for the city on its journey to achieve its ambition under Vision 2030.”

Riyadh Al Najjar, KSA country leader, PwC, said: “We are proud of our longstanding relationships in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and continue to support the Kingdom’s remarkable transformation from our regional consulting headquarters in Riyadh. With a large number of mega cross-sector projects Riyadh is quickly becoming a global destination.”

Neeraj Teckchandani, director at Tim Hortons Middle East, said: “We are very excited about the transformation and innovation that we have seen in the Kingdom and we are honoured and privileged for the opportunity that you have given us to be part of this journey. We have big plans and ambitions for our growth in the Kingdom and the wider Middle East.”


Saudi unemployment rate drops in Q4 2020

Saudi unemployment rate drops in Q4 2020
Updated 4 min 48 sec ago

Saudi unemployment rate drops in Q4 2020

Saudi unemployment rate drops in Q4 2020
  • Unemployment among young people decreased from 34.2 percent in Q3 2020 to 28 percent in Q4

JEDDAH: The unemployment rate in Saudi Arabia decreased to 12.6 percent in the fourth quarter (Q4) of 2020, down from 14.9 percent the previous quarter, according to the latest data from the General Authority for Statistics (GaStat).

According to a report by Riyadh-based investment management advisory Jadwa Investment, the decrease in joblessness was due to more women and young people joining the Saudi labor force at the end of 2020.

“The recovery in the labor market has proceeded quicker than we anticipated (with Saudi unemployment at 12.6 percent at the end of 2020, versus our forecast of 14 percent). At the same time, however, the swift recovery reinforces our view that Saudi unemployment will decline to 12.1 percent by the end of 2021,” the Jadwa report said.

Unemployment among young people decreased from 34.2 percent in Q3 2020 to 28 percent in Q4. Among men it declined from 7.9 percent to 7.1, while for women it was down from 30.1 percent to 24.4 percent, across the same period. 

According to GaStat’s numbers, 200,000 new private sector expatriate work visas were issued in Q4, compared to 46,000 in Q3. The sharp increase was largely due to a big increase in female expat visas, which increased by 181,000 in Q4 compared to just 4,000 in Q3.

Across the various sectors, public administration and accommodation and food services recorded the largest increase in employment among Saudi nationals and expat workers.

“That said, with the ongoing roll-out of vaccines in the Kingdom, we are expecting a more vigorous economic recovery in the second half of 2021, which, along with ongoing localization efforts (such as the recent
Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development decision to raise the level of Saudization in shopping malls, supermarkets, restaurants and coffee shops), will help create more employment opportunities for citizens,” Jadwa said in its report.


PIF’s Noon launches Ramadan drive to help poor families

PIF’s Noon launches Ramadan drive to help poor families
Updated 8 min 35 sec ago

PIF’s Noon launches Ramadan drive to help poor families

PIF’s Noon launches Ramadan drive to help poor families
  • The project runs until May 12

RIYADH: Noon, an online platform backed by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) and Dubai businessman Mohamed Alabbar, have teamed up with a charity to let online shoppers donate food to needy families during Ramadan.

Noon Daily, which is Noon.com’s grocery website, will partner with Bunyan Women’s Charitable Association for the initiative. 

The project runs until May 12.

Kaushik Mukherjee, senior vice president of customer experience and seller operations at Noon, said: “We’re proud to work with Bunyan to help our customers and team more easily contribute to people in need. Noon Daily will pack and ship Ramadan donation bundles purchased by customers and our own employees to Bunyan throughout the holy month. Thousands of families and frontline workers across the country will benefit from the food parcels distributed by the charity, and we couldn’t be happier to provide a service that helps bridge the donation process between customers and the community.”

Bunyan Women’s Charitable Association was established in 2011 with the aim of improving the physical and social conditions of poor families by assisting them through significant charity initiatives.

Noon was launched in the UAE and Saudi Arabia in Dec. 2017, and in Egypt in Feb. 2019. 

With an initial investment of $1 billion and working from headquarters in Riyadh, Noon said in 2016 that it aimed to expand online sales in the region from 2 percent of the total retail market ($3 billion) to 15 percent ($70 billion) within a decade.


Chalhoub Group organizes Ramadan initiatives

Chalhoub Group organizes Ramadan initiatives
Updated 12 min 40 sec ago

Chalhoub Group organizes Ramadan initiatives

Chalhoub Group organizes Ramadan initiatives
  • Employees from the group will also be able to participate in the “mychalhoub” Eid initiative for orphans

JEDDAH: Luxury retailer the Chalhoub Group has launched a number of initiatives for Ramadan.

The company launched the Chalhoub Impact program before Ramadan, in which about 200 food packages were distributed to the poor through the office of the mayor in Old Jeddah District.

Employees from the group will also be able to participate in the “mychalhoub” Eid initiative for orphans. 

Level Shoes, the group’s designer footwear and accessories operation, will run a social media campaign to donate Ramadan meals. MUSE, the group’s loyalty program, in collaboration with the Al-Ahyaa Centers Association, will donate 1,000 iftar meals to those in need.

“The holy month of Ramadan is the season for giving and an important opportunity to make a difference to the community,” Bachar Sabbagh, managing director, KSA, at Chalhoub Group, said in a press statement.


Egypt’s non-oil exports rise to $7.4bn in Q1 2021

Egypt’s non-oil exports rise to $7.4bn in Q1 2021
Updated 19 min 44 sec ago

Egypt’s non-oil exports rise to $7.4bn in Q1 2021

Egypt’s non-oil exports rise to $7.4bn in Q1 2021
  • Trade deficit also decreased by 1 percent to $9.5 billion in the same period

CAIRO: Egypt’s non-oil exports rose 7.2 percent in the first quarter of 2021 compared to the same period last year, reaching $7.4 billion, said Trade and Industry Minister Nevin Jameh.

“This tangible increase came despite the current circumstances related to the coronavirus crisis that the whole world is suffering from, thanks to the efforts made by the government to support the production and export sectors during the crisis,” she added.

Egyptian imports saw a slight increase in the first quarter of 2021 to $16.9 billion, compared to $16.67 billion in the same period last year.

Jameh said these positive indicators contributed to achieving a 1 percent decrease in the trade balance deficit to $9.5 billion, compared to $9.6 billion in the same period last year.

Ismail Jaber, head of the General Organization for Export and Import Control, said the chemical products and fertilizer sectors dominated Egypt’s export list in the first quarter of 2021.

Exports of chemical products and fertilizers amounted to $1.5 billion, building materials $1.3 billion, food industries $965 million, and engineering and electronic goods $739 million.

FASTFACTS

• Chemical products and fertilizer sectors dominated Egypt’s export list in the first quarter of 2021.

• Egypt’s top export destinations were China ($3.1 billion), the US ($1.49 billion), Germany ($970 million), Russia ($855 million) and Italy ($689 million).

• These five countries accounted for 42.1 percent of Egyptian imports.

Jaber said Egypt’s top export destinations were China ($3.1 billion), the US ($1.49 billion), Germany ($970 million), Russia ($855 million) and Italy ($689 million). These five countries, he added, accounted for 42.1 percent of Egyptian imports.

Egypt is expecting economic growth of 5.4 percent in the next fiscal year 2021/2022, up from 3.3 percent expected in 2020/2021.

The country recently approved its budget, which aims to reduce the country’s deficit and focuses on pushing social protection efforts, improving citizens’ standard of living, increasing wage allocations and rewards for workers, and financing grant incentives and transportation allowances for workers transferred to the New Administrative Capital.

The proceeds of budget revenues are likely to reach about EGP1.3 trillion  ($80 billion), according to estimates for the next fiscal year 2020/2021, compared to expected revenues of EGP1.117 trillion during the current fiscal year.

The estimates reflect an annual growth in revenues of 16.4 percent, achieved by expanding the tax base, activating electronic payments, expanding the use of modern methods of risk management, collecting government revenues and working to increase linking the proceeds to economic activity.


From lizards to water, eco-bumps snag Tesla Berlin plant

From lizards to water, eco-bumps snag Tesla Berlin plant
Updated 27 min 55 sec ago

From lizards to water, eco-bumps snag Tesla Berlin plant

From lizards to water, eco-bumps snag Tesla Berlin plant
  • The extra demand could place a huge burden on a region already affected by water shortages

BERLIN: In the green forest outside Berlin, a battle is playing out between electric carmaker Tesla and environmental campaigners who want to stop its planned “gigafactory.”

“When I saw on TV that the Tesla factory was going to be built here, I could not believe it,” said Steffen Schorch.

The 60-year-old from Erkner village in the Berlin commuter belt has become one of the faces of the fight against the US auto giant’s first European factory, due to open in the Brandenburg region near Berlin in July. “Tesla needs far too much water, and the region does not have this water,” said the environmental activist, a local representative of the Nabu ecologist campaign group.

Announced in November 2019, Tesla’s gigafactory project was warmly welcomed as an endorsement of the “Made in Germany” quality mark — but was immediately met with opposition from local residents.

Demonstrations, legal action, open letters — residents have done everything in their power to delay the project, supported by powerful environmental campaign groups Nabu and Gruene Liga.

Tesla was forced to temporarily suspend forest clearing last year after campaigners won an injunction over threats to the habitats of resident lizards and snakes during their winter slumber.

And now they have focused their attention on water consumption — which could reach up to 3.6 million cubic meters a year, or around 30 percent of the region’s available supply, according to the ZDF public broadcaster.

The extra demand could place a huge burden on a region already affected by water shortages and hit by summer droughts for the past three years.

Local residents and environmentalists are also concerned about the impact on the wetlands, an important source of biodiversity in the region. “The water situation is bad, and will get worse,” Heiko Baschin, a spokesman for the neighborhood association IG Freienbrink, told AFP.

Brandenburg’s Environment Minister Axel Vogel sought to play down the issue, saying in March that “capacity has not been exceeded for now.”

But the authorities admit that “the impact of droughts is significant” and have set up a working group to examine the issue in the long term.

The gigafactory is set to sprawl over 300 hectares — equivalent to approximately 560 football fields — southwest of the German capital.

Tesla is aiming to produce 500,000 electric vehicles a year at the plant, which will also be home to “the largest battery factory in the world,” according to group boss Elon Musk.