More than 89k families benefit from Sakani program

More than 89k families benefit from Sakani program
A view shows newly constructed residential buildings in Riyadh. (Reuters/File)
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Updated 15 May 2021

More than 89k families benefit from Sakani program

More than 89k families benefit from Sakani program
  • Various projects are underway in parts of the Kingdom in partnership with real estate developers

RIYADH: A total of 89,493 families benefited from the various housing solutions offered by the Saudi Housing Ministry’s Sakani program since the beginning of 2021 until April 30, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

A total of 66,651 families have already moved into their new homes, according to official data.

The Ministry of Housing and the Real Estate Development Fund formed Sakani in 2017 with the aim of facilitating home ownership in the Kingdom through the creation of new housing stock, allocating plots and homes to nationals and financing their purchase. It has a goal of reaching 70 percent home ownership by 2030.

In April alone, 19,373 families benefited from the different housing options offered by Sakani.

The program recently launched new e-services to serve people effectively.

The app, which allows users to access four new services, can be downloaded at: qrco.de/bc5N3L.

HIGHLIGHTS

● A total of 89,493 families benefited from the various housing solutions.

● In April alone, 19,373 families benefited from the Sakani program.

● The program recently launched new e-services to serve people.

The services include electronic financing, ready-made units, approved contractor, and interactive maps.

The services had been added to ensure Sakani becomes “the go-to destination for housing services and solutions, in order to make it easier for Saudi families to own their first home.”

Various projects are underway in parts of the Kingdom in partnership with real estate developers.

About 178 infrastructure projects covering 244 million square meters have been developed at a cost of more than SR8 billion ($2.13 billion), said National Housing Company CEO Mohammed bin Saleh Al-Bati.

“In 2017, housing options under construction were limited, but now developers are racing to obtain licenses,” said General Supervisor of Real Estate Development Deputyship at the Ministry of Housing, Sultan Al-Sheikh. 

“Reservation of residential units on new developments is often complete within a few days and in some cases hours.”


Kuwait pension fund reports record annual performance

Kuwait pension fund reports record annual performance
Updated 1 min 13 sec ago

Kuwait pension fund reports record annual performance

Kuwait pension fund reports record annual performance
  • PIFSS saw annual return of 16.5 percent through March 31
  • Fund had $133.7 billion AUM at end of period

RIYADH: Kuwait’s Public Institution for Social Security (PIFSS) achieved its best annual performance ever with a 16.5 percent rate of return in the year to March 31.

The pension fund ended the fiscal year with $133.7 billion in assets, an increase of 20.9 percent on the year earlier period, it said in a statement on Wednesday. Cash now accounts for 4 percent of its investments, down from about 11.5 percent a year ago.

The performance reflects the fund’s “robust” investment policy and the record performance of capital markets, said Director General Meshal Al-Othman. “The management follows a conservative investment strategy well positioned to absorb and overcome expected fluctuations in international markets in the medium-term,” he said.

PIFSS owns 25 percent of Oak Hill Advisers and 10 percent of TowerBrook Capital Partners LP.


Turks defend nature against Erdogan’s development push

Turks defend nature against Erdogan’s development push
Updated 16 min 58 sec ago

Turks defend nature against Erdogan’s development push

Turks defend nature against Erdogan’s development push
  • Up to four million trees were chopped during the construction of Istanbul’s third major bridge, activists say
  • Critics argue that Turkey is sacrificing the environment as it develops

IZIKDERE: Lush, thick woodland and green tea fields coat the slopes of an idyllic valley, a slice of pastoral heaven near the Turkish president’s familial home that will soon be gone.
A government-friendly company plans to extract 20 million tons of stone from a quarry in the northeastern town of Ikizdere for one of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s latest development projects.
The locals are rising up in protest, challenging the government and its priorities in a region dear to the powerful Turkish leader’s heart.
Under the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), in power since 2002, Turkey has seen rapid modernization, with new airports, roads and bridges.
The AKP says robust infrastructure will help transform the nation of 84 million people — still considered an emerging market — from a regional player into a global force.
Critics argue that Turkey is sacrificing the environment as it develops, with forests among natural resources destroyed by companies close to Erdogan for profit.
Residents of Gurdere village in Rize province, the Black Sea home of Erdogan’s family, have protested against the planned quarry in Iskencedere valley since late April.
But in a country where dissent is poorly tolerated, the Rize governor issued two 15-day bans on protests in May and June, after standoffs between security forces and older women in headscarves.
Residents say their livelihoods and nature will be demolished by the quarry, which the company, Cengiz Holding, and Ankara say is needed for a new logistics port nearby.
The gushing sound of freshwater streams reverberate around the valley, a rarity in a country pushing ahead with urbanization at great speed.
Organic tea grows in abundance. Brown bears roam the forests, and villagers produce chestnut honey.
One of those picking tea was Pervin Bas, who was among several detained during the protests.
“We have honey, we have tea, we feed our animals with these forests,” Bas, 50, said after spending the morning picking tea leaves.
“I used to feed my animals there, and now they are stuck in the barn. They’ve even punished my animals,” she said.
Gungor Bas, a relative of Pervin, said he felt pained by the destruction wrought on the place where he spent his childhood.
“Dust coats our houses,” the 58-year-old said.
There are two legal cases against the quarry, lawyer Yakup Okumusoglu said.
Cengiz wants this quarry because it is conveniently close to the planned Iyidere logistics port, he said. But the company told AFP the site was chosen by the transport ministry.
“You say there’s stone below, but above there’s life, a life of so much more value. This belongs to everyone,” villager Asuman Fazlioglu, 60, said.
Transport and Infrastructure Minister Adil Karaismailoglu last month said “marginal groups” and “outsiders” sought to exploit the protests and that villagers actually backed the quarry.
Erdogan inaugurates hospitals and dams with bombastic speeches appealing to his base craving a stronger Turkey.
The opposition says the tenders given to companies are a way to keep Erdogan’s friends in construction happy rather than serving a real infrastructure need.
Cengiz Holding was among the top 10 contractors worldwide with the most public-private partnership projects between 1990 and 2018, according to the World Bank.
“This government prioritizes money over the environment,” said Ali Oztunc, a main opposition party vice chair responsible for environmental issues.
“They love the green of the dollar more than the green of the trees,” Oztunc said.
Experts say a focus on growth alone can be misguided.
“We cannot call it development when there is no value given to nature, earth, air, water,” said Chamber of Environmental Engineers (CMO) chair Ahmet Dursun Kahraman.
“Development is a yarn. We keep saying we’re developing since the Ottoman Empire. It’s 2021 and we’re still apparently going to develop,” Okumusoglu quipped.
Erdogan proudly points out that Turkey now has 56 airports, up from 26 when he came to power.
One of the airports due to open later this year is in Rize, which was built with stone from another quarry hit by protests four years ago.
Its once-green valley is now covered in black and grey.
The gaping wound is a sore point for some villagers, who say there are daily dynamite explosions while trucks kick up dust as they come and go.
“This was a green area. We had different kinds of trees. Animals lived here, birds lived here. There were gazelles, deers. They’ve all gone,” Mahir Karaca said.
The 42-year-old villager said he was not against having an airport.
“As long as it provides a service, as long as it’s good for the country, no one is against this,” he said.
But in Ikizdere, they remained defiant.
“We haven’t lost,” said Zeynep Bas, 43, who is related to Gungor and Pervin.
For environmentalists, deforestation is a major worry.
Up to four million trees were chopped during the construction of Istanbul’s third major bridge, activists say, while others claim up to 13 million were cut for Istanbul’s newest airport, which opened in 2018.
“The future of forests is now at risk,” said Foresters’ Association vice president Husrev Ozkara. “It’s not just about cutting one tree, what is actually damaged is the forest’s ecosystem.”
Cengiz promised that once the stone was extracted, it would ensure vegetation and trees would be planted to “restore the natural life.”
The CMO’s Kahraman dismissed this as “baseless.”
“It’s deception. You’re going to take rock from there, how will you then plant a tree?” Kahraman asked, adding that the quarry’s impact would be felt across generations.
“This is how we should look at such actions and projects. What are you leaving behind?“


OPEC+ has a role in containing inflation, says Saudi oil minister

OPEC+ has a role in containing inflation, says Saudi oil minister
Updated 24 June 2021

OPEC+ has a role in containing inflation, says Saudi oil minister

OPEC+ has a role in containing inflation, says Saudi oil minister
  • The minister also warned that the increase in oil prices was not clear and could be due to “real supply and demand” or due to “expectations and trajectories that are excessively optimistic”

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Energy Minister, Prince Abdul Aziz bin Salman said the OPEC+ alliance will play a role in “taming and containing” inflationary pressures, just hours after Brent crude surged back above $75 a barrel, Bloomberg reported.
“We also have a role in taming and containing inflation, by making sure that this market doesn’t get out of hand,” he said Wednesday at a conference organized by Bank of America Corp., according to a recording of his remarks obtained by Bloomberg News.
The minister also warned that the increase in oil prices was not clear and could be due to “real supply and demand” or due to “expectations and trajectories that are excessively optimistic,” he said.
He said the group should remain cautious because the oil market wasn’t out of the “doldrums” created by the coronavirus pandemic. He also warned traders against conflating caution with inaction, Bloomberg said.
“We have to be cautious. But caution doesn’t mean we don’t have to do something,” he told the conference. “It means we have to ensure that we don’t make


Bitcoin Fund breaks new ground in Middle East with debut on Nasdaq Dubai

Bitcoin Fund breaks new ground in Middle East with debut on Nasdaq Dubai
Updated 24 June 2021

Bitcoin Fund breaks new ground in Middle East with debut on Nasdaq Dubai

Bitcoin Fund breaks new ground in Middle East with debut on Nasdaq Dubai
  • The fund has roughly $1.5 billion in assets under management and plans to double that next year

DUBAI: The Bitcoin Fund debuted on the Nasdaq Dubai on Wednesday, becoming the Middle East’s first listed cryptocurrency fund.
The fund, which was listed by Canadian digital asset management firm 3iQ on the Toronto Stock Exchange last year, has roughly $1.5 billion in assets under management and plans to double that next year.
“With the listing of the Bitcoin Fund, it’s going to give people access in the region to this fund on the Dubai exchange in the hours that the Dubai exchange trades at,” Frederick Pye, the chief executive officer of 3iQ, told Reuters.
“If the volumes are significant, we’ll be looking to raise capital to increase the size of the Bitcoin Fund here in Dubai and we will continue to issue shares based on the demand that comes from the region,” Pye said in an interview.
The listing will help satisfy demand for investment diversification in the region, as well as environmental, social and governance (ESG) needs, such as for pension funds and family offices, Pye said.
Dalma Capital, a Dubai-based alternative investment firm, was lead arranger for the Nasdaq Dubai listing. Corporate finance adviser 01 Capital and investment firm Razlin Capital, both based in London, advised on the listing and Pinsent Masons was legal counsel for the listing process.
“Today’s secondary listing of existing units from Canada was met with very strong demand, which has validated the need for an additional offering to satisfy the demand from regional investors,” said Zachary Cefaratti, CEO of Dalma Capital, declining to say when that could be.
Pye acknowledged that China’s recent crackdown on mining cryptocurrencies has hit digital currency prices, but he said the timing of that move would help those who bought into the Dubai listing.
“We’re very excited because when we hit an all-time high, our investors and our clients and our friends will have doubled their money,” Pye added.


Backing grows for new IMF COVID and climate fund

Backing grows for new IMF COVID and climate fund
Updated 24 June 2021

Backing grows for new IMF COVID and climate fund

Backing grows for new IMF COVID and climate fund
  • The COVID crisis is expected to leave 47 of the 82 vulnerable countries with gross debt already above levels deemed sustainable.

PARIS: Plans for a new IMF “Resilience and Sustainability” fund that would expand its support to dozens more vulnerable countries gained key international backing on Thursday ahead of crucial meetings.
IMF chief Kristalina Georgieva this month proposed the new trust to allow rich countries to channel some of their new IMF reserves to poor and middle-income counterparts ravaged by COVID or climate change.
“This is something we certainly support” said Lars Jensen, a senior economist on the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the author of a new report on how the IMF’s new funding should be directed.
The UNDP estimates the IMF’s Poverty Reduction and Growth Trust (PRGT), which is also expected to play a key role in a voluntary redistribution of new ‘Special Drawing Rights’ (SDRs) money, is only open to 55 of the world’s 82 most debt-vulnerable developing economies.
The Group of Seven (G7) wealthy nations alone will receive $283 billion of the overall $650 billion SDR allocation. All “high-income” countries will get $438 billion, whereas 75 of the poorest countries will get $62 billion among them.
The COVID crisis is expected to leave 47 of the 82 vulnerable countries with gross debt already above levels deemed sustainable.
Additionally, nine of the 10 most climate-change vulnerable countries are also highly debt-vulnerable developing economies.
“As a possible development objective of an SDR channelling to vulnerable countries, it would be natural to target climate due to its global implications,” Jensen said, adding that the fund could even bulked up by leveraging it in borrowing markets.
G7 leaders have already signaled their backing to redistribute $100 billion of the new SDR money. Georgieva has said that China has expressed interest in participating and that she expected other major emerging economies to do the same.
The IMF’s executive board will meet on Friday on the next steps and finance officials from the Group of 20 major economies will discuss the SDR reallocation issue when they meet in Venice in July.
Scott Morris of the Center for Global Development said funding for the proposed new IMF trust was already earmarked in the US Treasury’s recent budget request to Congress, underscoring Washington’s support.
The US Treasury is working closely with the IMF to explore options and design mechanisms for channelling SDRs to vulnerable countries, one US Treasury official told Reuters on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.
“The IMF’s proposed Resilience and Sustainability Trust is one of the options under discussion,” the official said, without elaborating on other options.
Jensen said he hoped the new fund would also give debt-strained countries who have so far resisted restructuring their debt for fear of losing access to borrowing markets, a safety net to take that step.