Saudi Arabia 4IR strategy targets AI, Internet of things, heavy drones, WEF leader says

Saudi Arabia 4IR strategy targets AI, Internet of things, heavy drones, WEF leader says
The SKYF heavy lift drone from Russian company ARDN technology can carry a 400lb payload for eight hours. (Supplied)
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Updated 08 August 2021

Saudi Arabia 4IR strategy targets AI, Internet of things, heavy drones, WEF leader says

Saudi Arabia 4IR strategy targets AI, Internet of things, heavy drones, WEF leader says
  • Saudi Arabia could become a global center for new drone technology
  • Heavy lift drone technology had been prioritized by the Kingdom as one of its 4IR projects

RIYADH/DUBAI: A World Economic Forum (WEF) Committee leader announced the intention to finalize and launch projects across six different thematic areas in Saudi Arabia under the Kingdom’s fourth industrial revolution (4IR) strategy, including heavy lift drones, artificial intelligence, the Internet of things, and SMEs.

“The heavy lift drones is a collaboration with a dialogue with the ministry of transport and logistics services and then of course the general authority of civil aviation,” Sheila Warren, deputy head of the Center for the Fourth Industrial Revolution (C4IR) committee of WEF, told Arab News.

Saudi Arabia could become a global center for new drone technology under plans being advanced by the Center for the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) recently inaugurated in Riyadh in partnership with the WEF.

Warren highlighted the experience of Rwanda, which has become a world leader in drone use, experimentation and regulation.

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Saudi Arabia is learning from Rwanda’s experiences in thinking through how to develop a regulatory framework, which informs the work of the center in Saudi Arabia with the Saudi Ministry of Transport and the General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA), she said.

Heavy lift drone technology had been prioritized by the Kingdom as one of its 4IR projects, Mansour Alsaleh, director of the center, told Arab News. “Saudi Arabia can be a leading country in developing the regulatory framework for heavy-lift drones. It can be ahead of the world.”

Heavy lift drone technology has advanced to a stage where it requires a more sophisticated regulatory framework, he said, not just in the Kingdom but globally, and these are being developed in partnership with the Saudi General Authority of Civil Aviation, the Ministry of Transport and Saudi Aramco. “The applications are endless,” Alsaleh said.

Everything started with Vision 2030.

Sheila Warren, deputy head of the Center for the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Heavy lift drones could facilitate the opening up of parts of the Lingdom to housing and development in a way that “you couldn’t really do without that particular engagement,” Warren said.

In a sign of Saudi intention to improve its digital economy, the WEF leader told Arab News that few “fellows” from Aramco visited the C4IR San Francisco office on the blockchain team, on the AI team, and IOT.

The Aramco team is back in the Kingdom bringing all the learning achieved from C4IR teams, not only to Aramco but also to the Saudi center, she said.

Everything started with Vision 2030, Warren said.

“The vision itself talks about backlog with roads and the transport infrastructure, and the idea being that we want people to be able to live healthy, happy, productive lives across the entire Kingdom, which can be challenging with infrastructure,” she said.


Barclays, RBS, HSBC, Credit Suisse fined $390m for forex cartel

Barclays, RBS, HSBC, Credit Suisse fined $390m for forex cartel
European Flags in front of the European Commission Headquarters building in Brussels. Shutterstock
Updated 35 min 2 sec ago

Barclays, RBS, HSBC, Credit Suisse fined $390m for forex cartel

Barclays, RBS, HSBC, Credit Suisse fined $390m for forex cartel
  • HSBC’s fine was the largest at 174.3 million euros

European Union antitrust regulators fined Barclays, Credit Suisse, HSBC and RBS a total of 344 million euros ($390 million) on Thursday for rigging the foreign exchange spot trading market.


UBS avoided a 94 million euro fine as it had alerted the European Commission about the cartel. The EU competition regulator said the cartel had focused on forex spot trading of G10 currencies.


HSBC’s fine was the largest at 174.3 million euros, followed by Credit Suisse at 83.3 million euros, Barclays at 54.3 million and RBS at 32.5 million.


Barclays, HSBC and RBS admitted wrongdoing in return for a cut in the penalty. RBS is now known as NatWest following a rebranding last year.


The fines are the latest to hit banks, which have received billions of euros in penalties worldwide over more than a decade for the rigging of benchmarks used in many day-to-day financial transactions.


“Today we complete our sixth cartel investigation in the financial sector since 2013 and conclude the third leg of our investigation into the foreign exchange spot trading market,” EU antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager said in a statement.


World food prices climb in November, stay at 10-year peak: FAO

World food prices climb in November, stay at 10-year peak: FAO
Image: Shutterstock
Updated 02 December 2021

World food prices climb in November, stay at 10-year peak: FAO

World food prices climb in November, stay at 10-year peak: FAO
  • Agricultural commodity prices have risen steeply in the past year

World food prices rose for a fourth straight month in November to remain at 10-year highs, led by strong demand for wheat and dairy products, the UN food agency said on Thursday.


The Food and Agriculture Organization’s food price index, which tracks international prices of the most globally traded food commodities, averaged 134.4 points last month compared with a revised 132.8 for October.


The October figure was previously given as 133.2.


The November reading was the highest for the index since June 2011. On a year-on-year basis, the index was up 27.3 percent last month.


Agricultural commodity prices have risen steeply in the past year, driven by harvest setbacks and strong demand.


The FAO’s cereal price index rose by 3.1 percent in November from the previous month and was 23.2 percent higher than its year-ago level, with wheat prices hitting their highest level since May 2011.


FAO said wheat prices were supported by concerns about unseasonable rains in Australia and uncertainty over potential changes to export measures in Russia.


The dairy price index posted the largest monthly rise, up 3.4 percent from the previous month.

“Strong global import demand persisted for butter and milk powders as buyers sought to secure spot supplies in anticipating of tightening markets,” FAO said.


Global sugar prices rose 1.4 percent on the month and was up nearly 40 percent year-on-year. “The increase was primarily driven by higher ethanol prices,” FAO said.


The meat price index posted its fourth consecutive monthly decline, shedding 0.9 percent on the month, while world vegetable oil prices fell 0.3 percent on October levels, but international palm oil prices remained firm, FAO said.


Rome-based FAO cut its projection of global cereal production in 2021 to 2.791 billion tons from 2.793 billion estimated a month ago, according to its cereal supply and demand outlook 


However, the expected world cereal output would still represent a record, FAO said.


“The month-to-month downgrade is primarily the result of an anticipated marginally smaller global coarse grains outturn, reflecting reduced forecasts for barley and sorghum production,” FAO said.


World cereal utilization in 2021/22 was forecast to rise by 1.7 percent above the 2020/21 level, hitting 2.810 billion tons.

FAO’s forecast for world cereal stocks by the close of seasons in 2022 stood at 822 million tons, up 2.9 million tons since November but still down 0.7 percent from opening levels. 


GCC economies to witness an aggregate growth rate of 2.6% in 2021, says World Bank

GCC economies to witness an aggregate growth rate of 2.6% in 2021, says World Bank
Updated 02 December 2021

GCC economies to witness an aggregate growth rate of 2.6% in 2021, says World Bank

GCC economies to witness an aggregate growth rate of 2.6% in 2021, says World Bank

RIYADH: Gulf Cooperation Council economies are likely to achieve an aggregate growth rate of 2.6 percent in 2021, according to the World Bank Gulf Economic Update issued on Thursday.

The report, titled “Seizing the Opportunity for a Sustainable Recovery”, attributed the rebound to stronger oil prices and the growth of non-oil sectors. 

It predicted the trend is likely to continue into 2022 as “OPEC+ mandated oil production cuts are phased out and higher oil prices improve business sentiment and attract additional investment.”

It added that the outlook in the medium term is subject to risks from slower global recovery, renewed coronavirus outbreaks, and oil sector volatility.

The report also identified large wage bills as a threat to the GCC economies. “With high population growth and limited options in the private sector, the wage bill has become unsustainable in some GCC countries, as it is a large part of government spending and of the economy overall,” said Issam Abousleiman, World Bank’s regional director for the GCC.

The average GCC wage bill has surpassed the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development’s average over the past two decades, except in Qatar and the UAE, the report showed.

In the Kingdom, allowances for civil servants rose to SR148 billion ($39 billion) in 2019 from SR44 billion in 2016, forming more than a third of the Kingdom’s total wage bill.

Also, salaries and benefits allocation in Kuwait’s 2022 budget amounted to 55 percent of its total expenditure, while Oman’s wage bill has doubled in the past decade.


OPEC+ likely to stick to existing oil output pact sources say

OPEC+ likely to stick to existing oil output pact sources say
Image: Shutterstock
Updated 31 min 12 sec ago

OPEC+ likely to stick to existing oil output pact sources say

OPEC+ likely to stick to existing oil output pact sources say
  • Two OPEC+ sources said the group would discuss pausing the January increase as an option

OPEC+ is likely to stick to its existing oil output pact under which it has agreed to raise production by 400,000 barrels per day in January, two senior OPEC+ sources said on Thursday.


Other OPEC+ sources have said several options could be discussed in Thursday’s ministerial talks, including pausing the production rise.

One OPEC+ source said one idea that might be considered was to raise output by 200,000 bpd in January, not 400,000 bpd.


Brent has tumbled to about $70 a barrel, down from October’s three-year highs above $86.

Prices in November registered their biggest monthly decline since the start of the pandemic as the Omicron variant raised fears of a glut.


The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies, known as OPEC+, have resisted US requests for speedier increases in oil output to support the global economy.


Producers have said they did not want to hamper a fragile energy industry recovery with oversupply.


Under its existing pact, OPEC+ agreed to raise output by 400,000 barrels per day (bpd) each month, winding down record cuts agreed in 2020 when demand crashed because of the pandemic.


But market uncertainties leave its next move in the balance.


Russia and Saudi Arabia, the biggest OPEC+ producers, said before this week’s talks, which began with an online OPEC meeting on Wednesday, that there was no need for a knee-jerk reaction to amend policy.


OPEC+ experts said in a report seen by Reuters on Wednesday that the impact from Omicron was not yet clear, even though many countries were introducing lockdowns and other restrictions.


Even before concerns about Omicron emerged, OPEC+ had been weighing the effects of last week’s announcement by the United States and other major consumers that they would release emergency crude reserves to temper energy prices.


US President Joe Biden’s administration could adjust the timing of any release if prices dropped substantially, US Deputy Energy Secretary David Turk told Reuters on Wednesday.


OPEC+ forecast a 3 million bpd surplus in the first quarter of 2022 after the release of reserves, up from a 2.3 million bpd surplus previously forecast.


Last year, OPEC+ made record output cuts of 10 million bpd, equivalent to about 10 percent of global supply. It has scaled those back so cuts still in place now stand at about 3.8 million bpd.


However, OPEC+ has been regularly producing below its target level as some members have struggled to rebuild output, producing about 700,000 bpd less than planned in both September and October, the International Energy Agency (IEA) says.


Saudi Arabia seeks public opinion on hydrogen vehicles rules

Saudi Arabia seeks public opinion on hydrogen vehicles rules
Updated 02 December 2021

Saudi Arabia seeks public opinion on hydrogen vehicles rules

Saudi Arabia seeks public opinion on hydrogen vehicles rules

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia is asking the public to give its views on the safety standards for hydrogen vehicles in the Kingdom.

The Saudi Standards, Metrology, and Quality Organization wants the public to participate in the poll through the government’s Public Consultation Platform, Istitlaa, ending on Dec. 16, 2021.

The regulations aim to define the basic requirements for the safety of hydrogen-powered vehicles, and ensure that conformity assessment procedures are followed during the placement of these vehicles in the Kingdom’s markets.

Hydrogen-powered vehicles must also comply with the requirements of the technical regulations for electric vehicles.

Saudi Arabia has already put itself on the path to adopting EVs and the Saudi Standards, Metrology, and Quality Organization has approved importing these vehicles.