Saudi central bank mulls blockchain use, says no to phasing out cash

Saudi central bank mulls blockchain use, says no to phasing out cash
SAMA is one of the first central banks in the G20 countries to experience distributed ledgers and blockchain technologies through the "Aber" digital currency project (File/Supplied)
Short Url
Updated 24 October 2021

Saudi central bank mulls blockchain use, says no to phasing out cash

Saudi central bank mulls blockchain use, says no to phasing out cash
  • SAMA is one of the first central banks in the G20 countries to experience distributed ledgers and blockchain technologies through the "Aber" digital currency project.
  • The government wants to boost e-payments to 70 percent of total transactions by 2030, the central bank said, as it has no intention of completely phasing out banknotes. 

CAIRO: The Saudi Central Bank (SAMA) is still examining some emerging technologies, including distributed ledgers and blockchain, before it makes any decision, according to a report from Al Eqtisadiah.

SAMA is one of the first central banks in the G20 countries to experience distributed ledgers and blockchain technologies through the "Aber" digital currency project.

These efforts are part of the central bank’s push to a less cash-dependent society, as outlined under the Kingdom’s Vision 2030.

The government wants to boost e-payments to 70 percent of total transactions by 2030, the central bank said, as it has no intention of completely phasing out banknotes. 

SAMA is optimistic it would achieve this goal five years earlier than the 2030 target.


Egypt to increase cotton gins capacity, says official report

Egypt to increase cotton gins capacity, says official report
Updated 04 December 2021

Egypt to increase cotton gins capacity, says official report

Egypt to increase cotton gins capacity, says official report

RIYADH: Egypt aims to increase cotton gins capacity to 4.4 million kantars annually up from 1.5 million kantars, according to a government report issued on Saturday.

A kantar is the official Egyptian weight unit for measuring cotton. It corresponds to the US hundredweight, and is roughly equal to 99.05 pounds, or 45.02 kg. It is equal to either 157 kg of seed cotton or 50 kg of lint cotton.

The Egyptian government is trying to breath a new life into the country’s textile industry, which contributes almost 3 percent to the gross domestic product, employs one-third of the industrial labor and generates exports worth $2.6 billion annually. 

According to reports, the country’s cotton production rose by 30 percent during 2021.

Egypt increased the cultivated area this year to 236,000 feddans (one feddan equals 1.038 acres or 0.42 hectare) compared to 182,000 feddans last year.

In its annual report on Egypt’s cotton on March 31, 2021, the US Department of Agriculture said that “cotton area harvested in Egypt was forecast to increase seven percent to 70,000 hectares (ha), from 65,000 ha in MY 2020/21.” It added that Egypt’s production is estimated to increase to 250,000 bales this year compared to 215,000 bales in the previous year.


Bitcoin falls by a fifth, cryptos see $1bn worth liquidated

Bitcoin falls by a fifth, cryptos see $1bn worth liquidated
Updated 04 December 2021

Bitcoin falls by a fifth, cryptos see $1bn worth liquidated

Bitcoin falls by a fifth, cryptos see $1bn worth liquidated

NEW YORK: Bitcoin shed a fifth of its value on Saturday as a combination of profit-taking and macro-economic concerns triggered nearly a billion dollars worth of selling across cryptocurrencies.

Bitcoin was 12 percent down at 0920 GMT at $47,495. It fell as low as $41,967.5 during the session, taking total losses for the day to 22 percent.

The broad selloff in cryptocurrencies also saw ether, the coin linked to the ethereum blockchain network, plunge more than 10 percent.

Based on cryptocurrency data platform Coingecko, the market capitalization of the 11,392 coins it tracks dropped nearly 15 percent to $2.34 trillion. That value had briefly crossed $3 trillion last month, when bitcoin hit a record $69,000.

The plunge follows a volatile week for financial markets. Global equities and benchmark US bond yields tumbled on Friday after data showed US job growth slowed in November and the omicron variant of the coronavirus kept investors on edge.

Justin d'Anethan, Hong Kong-based head of exchange sales at cryptocurrency exchange EQONEX, said he had been watching the increase in leverage ratios across the cryptocurrency markets as well how large holders had been moving their coins from wallets to exchanges. The latter is usually a sign of intent to sell.

“Whales in the crypto space seem to have transferred coins to trading venue, taken advantage of a bullish bias and leverage from retail traders, to then push prices down,” he said.

The selloff also comes ahead of testimony by executives from eight major cryptocurrency firms, including Coinbase Global CFO Alesia Haas and FTX Trading CEO Sam Bankman-Fried, before the US House Financial Services Committee on Dec. 8.

The hearing marks the first time major players in the crypto markets will testify before US lawmakers, as policymakers grapple with the implications of cryptocurrencies and how to best regulate them.

Last week, the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) rejected a second spot-bitcoin exchange-traded fund proposal from WisdomTree.

Data from another platform Coinglass showed nearly $1 billion worth of cryptocurrencies had been liquidated over the past 24 hours, with the bulk being on digital exchange Bitfinex.

A plunge in bitcoin funding rates — the cost of holding bitcoin via perpetual futures which peaked at 0.06 percent in October — also showed traders had turned bearish.

The funding rate on cryptocurrency trading platform BitMEX fell to a negative 0.18 percent from levels of 0.01 percent for most of November.


Saudi, French firms discuss energy, finance, tourism cooperation as Macron visits the Kingdom

Saudi, French firms discuss energy, finance, tourism cooperation as Macron visits the Kingdom
Updated 7 min 53 sec ago

Saudi, French firms discuss energy, finance, tourism cooperation as Macron visits the Kingdom

Saudi, French firms discuss energy, finance, tourism cooperation as Macron visits the Kingdom

JEDDAH: A group of leading Saudi and French companies are holding discussions at an investment forum in Jeddah as French President Emmanuel Macron is set to meet with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman today during his official trip to the Gulf region, where he is visiting Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar between Dec. 3 and 4.

The forum is opened by Khalid Al Falih, Minister of Investment, Saudi Arabia and Franck Riester, Minister Delegate for Foreign Trade and Economic Attractiveness.

Represenatives of French companies and banks including EDF Renewables, Engie, Sanofi, and BNP Paribas are meeting with chairmen and CEOs of leading Saudi firms including ACWA Power, Banque Saudi Fransi, Riyad Bank, and Saudi Military Industries Co. Officials from the Public Investment Fund and Royal Commission of AlUla among others are also participating in the forum. 

Below is the agenda for the one-day forum where a some memorandum of understanding are expected to be signed:  


Saudi Arabia to start mandatory e-invoicing first phase on Dec. 4

Saudi Arabia to start mandatory e-invoicing first phase on Dec. 4
Updated 03 December 2021

Saudi Arabia to start mandatory e-invoicing first phase on Dec. 4

Saudi Arabia to start mandatory e-invoicing first phase on Dec. 4

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia will start implementing the mandatory application of the first phase of e-invoicing “fatoorah” on Saturday Dec. 4, Argaam reported.

An e-invoice, according to regulations, is a tax invoice that is issued electronically by each taxpayer subject to value-added tax in the Kingdom

The first phase requirements consist of ensuring that there is a technical e-invoicing solution compatible with the relevant requirements. This means no handwritten invoices or invoices written through text editors or number analysis applications on computers.

A fine of SR5,000 ($1,332) will be applied for not issuing and saving the invoices electronically.

The fine for not including the QR Code in the e-invoice and not reporting any malfunction in the issuing of the e-invoice to the authority starts with a warning. The fine for violating the deletion or modification of e-invoice starts from SR10,000.

The second phase of e-invoicing will be implemented in a phased manner, starting from January 1, 2023, to establish integration between e-systems of taxpayers and the authority’s regulations, Argaam said.


Bank of England hawk mulling pause on interest rate hike vote due to omicron: Reuters

Bank of England hawk mulling pause on interest rate hike vote due to omicron: Reuters
Updated 03 December 2021

Bank of England hawk mulling pause on interest rate hike vote due to omicron: Reuters

Bank of England hawk mulling pause on interest rate hike vote due to omicron: Reuters

LONDON: Bank of England policymaker Michael Saunders, who voted for an interest rate hike last month, said on Friday he wanted more information about the impact of the new omicron coronavirus variant before deciding how to vote this month.

Saunders said omicron might slow Britain’s economy but it could also add to inflation pressures if it led to people spending more money on goods, when supply chains are already strained, than on going out or on other services.

“At present, given the new omicron COVID variant has only been detected quite recently, there could be particular advantages in waiting to see more evidence on its possible effects on public health outcomes and hence on the economy,” Saunders said in a speech.

Sterling fell on the comments by Saunders which investors took as reducing the likelihood of the BoE raising rates from their current all-time low of 0.1 percent on Dec. 16, at the end of this month’s meeting.

Investors were pricing in only a 33 percent chance of a December rate hike after the speech, down from about 75 percent last week before news broke of the new variant.

The British central bank upended bets by investors on a rate hike on Nov. 4 when it said it wanted to wait for more data on whether the end of the government’s job protecting furlough scheme had led to a jump in unemployment.

Saunders said there did not appear to have been a big hit to the labor market and there were risks from delaying a rate hike too long because that could lead the labor market to tighten further and push up already high inflation expectations.

“This could require a more abrupt and painful policy tightening later,” Saunders said. “For me, the balance between these considerations is likely to be a key factor at the December meeting.”

He said the rates were likely to rise over the next few quarters, assuming the economy behaves as expected.

In a question-and-answer session after his speech, the former Citi economist declined to give a steer on his likely decision at this month’s meeting.

“I don’t want to use code words today to indicate either way as to what my vote at the December meeting might be. There are potential costs and benefits to waiting for more data,” he said.

Saunders and Deputy Governor Dave Ramsden were the two members of the BoE’s nine-strong Monetary Policy Committee who cast votes in early November to raise Bank Rate to 0.25 percent from its pandemic emergency, all-time low of 0.1 percent.

— Reuters