Saudi Arabia on course to achieve aims of Vision 2030

Chairs of the Kingdom's Vision 2030 Realization Program Committee hold a dialogue session entitled
Chairs of the Kingdom's Vision 2030 Realization Program Committee hold a dialogue session entitled "Vision 2030 Creates Future Opportunities" in Riyadh. (File/SPA)
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Updated 02 May 2021

Saudi Arabia on course to achieve aims of Vision 2030

Saudi Arabia on course to achieve aims of Vision 2030

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia is on course to meet the aims laid out in Vision 2030 following five years of success so far, senior representatives were told.

The chairs of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 Realization Program Committee – including the Ministers of Health, Tourism, Finance, Economy and Planning — met in Riyadh on Saturday.

Health minister Tawfiq Al-Rabiah said there had been a marked improvement in the health sector since the start of Vision 2030, which later saw the introduction of the Mawid and Sehhaty apps.

“In 2015, People used to struggle to book an appointment, but now any citizen can book an appointment via Mawid and Sehhaty applications,” he explained.

“Then the citizen can go to the appointment within three or four days. We launched this service two and a half years ago; more than 76 million appointments have been booked so far, with nearly 150,000 daily appointments.”

Other services include the call center, 937, which now receives more than 140,000 calls a day, as well as remote medical consultations where patients can receive prescriptions remotely.

Thirty new heart centers have been created, as well as cardiac catheter centers, the health minister added.

Ahmed bin Aqeel Al-Khatib, chairman of the Quality of Life Program, has a budget of $16 billion to make the Kingdom’s cities among the best to live in globally.

The program is working alongside 13 government entities to measure quality of life based on local services.

There have been 11 cultural committees established under the Ministry of Culture, as well as a growth fund.

There have been 100,000 jobs created through the implementation of more than 10,000 activities in the entertainment sector.

And more than 1000 small and medium companies were created in the sector.

Al-Khatib said the Tourist Visa Program, which launched before the COVID-19 pandemic, had issued 450,000 visas.

He added the Green Riyadh Project aimed to improve quality of life and cultural diversity.

More than $107 billion was saved over four years through spending efficiencies, Mohammed bin Abdullah Al-Jadaan, chairman of the Financial Sector Development Program said.

The Kingdom also joined global financial indicators, which contributed to $40 billion in foreign investment, while the banking sector witnessed huge leaps, including the introduction of financial technology, he added.

He said the Public Investment Fund (PIF) will be an essential reserve to reduce the need for additional resources after 2030.

Al-Jadaan said public debt levels were not a concern as they sit in the range of 30 to 33 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) — a reasonable level, he said, compared to other G20 countries and the region.

Al-Jadaan stated the more important policies are focused on reducing unemployment, increasing citizens’ purchasing power, and providing an environment that supports small and medium enterprises.

He emphasized that the main focus of Vision 2030 is on citizens, through direct or indirect initiatives.

Mohammed Al-Tuwaijri, chairman of the National Transformation Program Committee, said judicial services were part of the national transformation system.

“Today 82 percent of the judicial services are automated,” Al-Tuwaijri said.

He said the Kingdom’s internet speed had increased significantly — adding that 5G was one of the biggest achievements, as coverage reached 60 percent in major cities and 45 percent in all other cities.

Women’s empowerment has improved with participation in society through work and policy making has reached 33 percent, Al-Tuwaijri said, beating the program’s previous goal of 27.5 percent in 2020.

Traffic incidents decreased by 51 percent, as part of the national transformation in the traffic system.


Saudi air force joins UAE combat maneuvers

Saudi air force joins UAE combat maneuvers
Updated 18 October 2021

Saudi air force joins UAE combat maneuvers

Saudi air force joins UAE combat maneuvers
  • The exercise also included air forces from other friendly countries

ABU DHABI: The Saudi Royal Air Force took part in the Missile Air War Center 2021 maneuvers on Sunday in Al-Dhafra Airbase in the UAE.

The exercise also included air forces from other friendly countries.

The exercise commander, Col. Pilot Ayedh Bin Saeed Al-Qahtani, said that the exercises kicked off with the highest levels of professionalism and safety measures.

The Saudi armed forces took advantage of previous experiences in similar exercises, he said, adding that the exercise included several stages and was preceded by the formation of working groups and preparatory meetings.

Al-Qahtani added that the drill aimed to raise the combat readiness level of the Saudi Royal Air Force, as well as enhance the operational ties between the SRAF and the participating counterparts.

He added that the drill included activities ranging from targeting enemy air defenses to tactical air operations, striking hostile targets, detecting and destroying enemy radar sites, intercepting enemy aircraft, and conducting strategic attack operations and air support operations for ground forces.

He noted that the participation of air forces from multiple countries in the drill helped develop scenarios that mimic what can happen on the ground, as it enables the participants to communicate and enhance their practical experiences.


Saudi Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai welcomes 23,000 visitors in one day

Saudi Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai welcomes 23,000 visitors in one day
Updated 18 October 2021

Saudi Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai welcomes 23,000 visitors in one day

Saudi Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai welcomes 23,000 visitors in one day
  • Dr. Khaled bin Hussein Al-Biyari, assistant minister of defense for executive affairs, visited the Saudi and UAE pavilions

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia’s Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai has received 23,000 visitors in one day, bringing the total number of visits to over 200,000, state news agency SPA reported.

The Commissioner-General of the Saudi Pavilion, Eng. Hussein Hanbaza, said the pavilion has attracted the attention of visitors through its sections and activities that reflect the humanitarian wealth and civil and development components of the Kingdom.

The pavilion has provided visitors with diversified content based on four main pillars: nature, heritage, bio-community, and the economic opportunities that the country offers to the world.

Popular folklore shows also took place at the second biggest pavilion on the expo site.

Meanwhile, Dr. Khaled bin Hussein Al-Biyari, assistant minister of defense for executive affairs, visited the Saudi and UAE pavilions. 

He was received by the Saudi Ambassador to the UAE Turki bin Abdullah Al-Dakhil and the Saudi pavilion chief Eng. Hanbaza.


Saudi Food and Drug Authority wins UN award

Saudi Food and Drug Authority wins UN award
Updated 18 October 2021

Saudi Food and Drug Authority wins UN award

Saudi Food and Drug Authority wins UN award
  • The 2021 award recognized the SFDA’s commitment to realizing its vision of becoming “a leading international science-based regulator to protect and promote public health”

JEDDAH: The Saudi Food and Drug Authority has won a UN award for the prevention and control of noncommunicable diseases.

It was honored for its efforts to prevent and control these diseases through nutrition-related legislation.

In line with the Vision 2030 Quality of Life Program, the authority set out in 2018 to improve public health and enable consumers to find a variety of healthier food options.

The UN Inter-Agency Task Force Award on the Prevention and Control of Non-communicable Diseases aims to encourage cooperation between UN bodies and global governments to support efforts in combating noncommunicable diseases associated with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

The 2021 award recognized the SFDA’s commitment to realizing its vision of becoming “a leading international science-based regulator to protect and promote public health.” 

The authority seeks to protect and ensure community safety through regulations and adequate controls of food, drugs, medical devices, cosmetics, and pesticides.

Since its launch, the SFDA has worked on several pieces of legislation related to food products and food establishments.

The legislation was introduced to improve the nutritional value of food products in local markets by limiting the consumption of sugar, salt, and fat, and obligating food establishments with menu labeling for calories and allergens.

It also launched several initiatives and awareness campaigns on proper nutrition and the healthy choices available in food and beverages.

The initiatives include the Food Labeling Nutrition Calculator and the revival of the International Year of Fruits and Vegetables in food establishments and the workplace.


War of words as print defies e-book rivals

War of words as print defies e-book rivals
Updated 18 October 2021

War of words as print defies e-book rivals

War of words as print defies e-book rivals
  • Tradition is trumping tech in Saudi Arabia, with readers and publishers on the same page

MAKKAH: The march of technology might be gathering pace in all areas of Arab life, but when it comes to reading and enjoying books, old habits die hard, it seems.

Despite warnings in recent years of print’s imminent demise, traditional books are still holding their own against their electronic rivals, as Saudis continue to enjoy the sensation of turning over a new page.

Many publishing houses in the Middle East have acknowledged the power of the printed word, with books maintaining their superiority, especially at book fairs. Buyers still prefer the elegance and feel of a printed masterpiece.

However, publishers acted early to counter the threat posed by electronic books, adopting careful strategies to protect their publications and also fight the growing problem of content piracy. 

Rania Al-Moallem, a commissioning editor at Dar Al-Saqi, told Arab News that there is still a relatively low demand for e-books, mainly due to the limited availability of digital devices, which are still considered a luxury item by many people.

“Buying e-books online is not available to everyone, and there is also an emotional bond between readers and print books. Even readers who are able to buy e-books still prefer print, which is understandable,” she said.

An e-book is a protected electronic copy of a book, making piracy and illegal publication difficult. The copy protects the material rights of the writer, primarily, but also the publisher compared with fake electronic copies found online in PDF, Word or other forms.

“Dar Al-Saqi’s publications have been characterized by their format and high-quality content over the years. It is mainly concerned with acting in the reader’s interest and satisfying their tastes as we give great attention to the subject, style and language,” Al-Moallem said.

“We also focus on the final form of the book in terms of presentation, page layout, font and letter size, paper type, cover design and size. All such considerations are subject to the changes and developments experienced with the advancement of the publishing world,” she added.

As well as high-quality print books, the publisher also caters to e-readers through several platforms and has launched an Al-Saqi Digital Library.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Publishers faced problems with piracy and uploading of books in PDF format online for free, and have filed complaints with Google in a bid to curb the practice, he said.

• Majid Shebr said that despite their widespread availability, e-books are frequently said to cause eye fatigue. Meanwhile, paper books maintain their dominance in Europe and the Arab world through book fairs.

“We are aware that the e-book market is yet to be properly established and the print book is still the much preferred format. However, we are also aware of the importance of engaging with e-book readers, as we believe that the relationship between them is complementary, rather than competitive,” Al-Moallem said.

Despite the tech wave, it is evident that devoted readers in the Kingdom are engaged in a constant hunt for the perfect copy, as evidenced by scenes at the Riyadh International Book Fair, where people, young and old, walked out with handfuls of books.

Majid Shebr, manager of Al-Warrak Publishing in London, said that e-books in the Gulf region are still at an embryonic stage.

Publishers faced problems with piracy and uploading of books in PDF format online for free, and have filed complaints with Google in a bid to curb the practice, he said. 

Arab states lack platforms that can target free pirated books, which directly affect publishers and pose a significant challenge.

Shebr said that despite their widespread availability, e-books are frequently said to cause eye fatigue. Meanwhile, paper books maintain their dominance in Europe and the Arab world through book fairs.

“I was in a Waterstones book store in London to look at the latest releases and saw that large numbers of people still choose paper books,” he said.

Shebr said the competition between the print and electronic formats is driven by the reader’s style and language convenience.

Egyptian writer and novelist Rasha Samir said that as an avid reader, she doubted that e-books could ever match the pleasure of reading print.

“I cannot get rid of the habit of reading paper books and I cannot read electronically at all. The feel of a book, the smell, and the written dedication of literary figures are the secret of my attachment to this type of reading,” she said.

“Paper books will always be my treasure that I keep on the shelves of my large library,” she said.

Some publishers believe that publishing electronically allows them to sell their publications faster, and that online advertisements are easier and do not cost as much compared with paper publications.

Others believe that electronic publishing will eliminate paper books, but these are the origins of the industry, and this should be combated.

Samir added: “There is no fault in finding a literary work electronically, as it gives easy access to several groups such as expatriates and Arabs who live far from Arab libraries. It has now become a means that supports publications and advertises the work of a writer; it has become a good way to shorten the distances that paper books cannot minimize sometimes.”

She said that the response to print or electronic books often depends on the reader’s age and older generations are reluctant to abandon paper, while younger people might see it as nonpractical at a time dominated by modern technology.

With the new generation, whose lives are dominated by technology and the internet, publications need to keep pace, Samir said.

“This is a generation that learns through social media and no longer uses paper books as a source of information. Google is their most trusted source, which is a problem, so we need to meet them halfway, encourage them to read and learn in their own way while we help guide them. We should also push them to understand the value of books, evaluate their content and distinguish valuable books from cheap ones.”

Even if reading on paper transitioned to reading on Kindle or any other device, as educated people, we should continue to advocate for paper books and the preservation of their place.

Adel Houshan, a Saudi poet and novelist, said that even after the demise of some print empires in the Arab world and around the globe, digital projects, including e-books and audiobooks, still suffer due to two reasons.

“The first is related to advertising, as they rely on institutions and small projects that cannot find a way to break the power of paper books and their rich history. The second reason is Arab book festivals, which are growing in popularity with the help of social media,” he said.

“Years ago, we said that paper will not last long, but old habits die hard.”


Saudi minister Al-Jubeir, Spanish envoy discuss ways to enhance Saudi-Spanish ties

Saudi minister Al-Jubeir, Spanish envoy discuss ways to enhance Saudi-Spanish ties
Updated 18 October 2021

Saudi minister Al-Jubeir, Spanish envoy discuss ways to enhance Saudi-Spanish ties

Saudi minister Al-Jubeir, Spanish envoy discuss ways to enhance Saudi-Spanish ties

RIYADH: The minister of state for foreign affairs, Adel Al-Jubeir, on Sunday received the Spanish ambassador to the Kingdom, Alvaro Iranzo, the Saudi Press Agency reported. 

During their meeting in Riyadh, they reviewed bilateral relations between the two countries and ways to support and develop them.

They also discussed regional and international developments of common interest.

The meeting was attended by the Foreign Ministry’s undersecretary for multilateral international affairs, Abdulrahman bin Ibrahim Al-Rassi.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman received a phone call last month from Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez.

They reviewed bilateral relations between the two countries and ways to enhance them in various fields.

On Oct. 12, King Salman and the crown prince sent greetings to King Felipe VI of Spain on the country’s national day.

They wished the king good health and happiness and the government and people of Spain progress and prosperity.