FII: Forum on ‘Investing in Humanity’ opens in Riyadh

FII: Forum on ‘Investing in Humanity’ opens in Riyadh
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FII: Forum on ‘Investing in Humanity’ opens in Riyadh
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Updated 26 October 2021

FII: Forum on ‘Investing in Humanity’ opens in Riyadh

FII: Forum on ‘Investing in Humanity’ opens in Riyadh

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia’s Future Investment Initiative kicked off in Riyadh, with the three-day forum themed “Invest in Humanity” which will include talks on artificial intelligence, robotics, education, healthcare and sustainability.

Watch the opening events at FII:

With more than 250 expert speakers from the economic, business, education and corporate worlds, discussions at the platform dubbed the Davos in the Desert will center on investments that aim to create the greatest benefits for humanity, as the global community charts a new course post-COVID-19 pandemic.

The conference opened with a chilling video presentation of natural disasters and the impact of climate change, followed by a performance by Gloria Gaynor’s with her classic ‘I Will Survive.’

Watch Gloria Gaynor’s number at FII:

The American singer was the first recipient of the FII Award for Humanity.

Here are the highlights as they happened (all Riyadh time):

7.00pm: And that concludes day one of the fifth edition of FII. Tune in again tomorrow for coverage of day two...

6.40pm: Nadhmi Al-Nasr, CEO of NEOM, tells the summit that the Saudi giga-project project looks like growing and reaching its goals faster than originally anticipated.

6.17pm: Greece wants to work with Saudi Arabia to help keep the lights on in Europe — that's the message from Greek PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis to the Forum. Mitsotakis met with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman after his address to delegates.

5.30pm: Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman held talks with Greece's prime minster Kyriakos Mitsotakis on the sidelines of the event, before the Greek premier held a short briefing on the main stage. His session was attended by the crown prince.

4.44pm: European countries are reassessing supply chains after the damage caused by the pandemic and the energy price increases. French trade minister Franck Riester believes the European Union should be working closer with GCC countries as it seeks to diversify where it gets its resources from. 

3.57pm: More bad news for crypto-currencies. After leading investors said they preferred dollars and gold, the Saudi central bank govenor claims criminal activity is too close to crypto-assets and his country shouldn't be getting involved with them.

3.01pm: Head's of some of the region's big retailers got together to talk about how pandemic has changed their businesses and the challenges to come. Speed is of the essence, apparently. 

1:29pm: There's been a lot of talk about "unicorns" in the past few days...here's PIF advisor Andrew Liveris calling for them to flock to Saudi Arabia.

12:40pm: It can't just be down to oil companies in the Middle East to fund renewable energy schemes, Saudi Arabia's minister of investment has warned

11.41am: Bitcoin may be hitting record-highs, but leading investors seemingly still trust dollars and gold more when it comes to where to put their money.

11.11am: The global response to Covid-19 shows governments and the private sector can work together to tackle global issues, Khaldoon Khalifa Al Mubarak, CEO and managing director of the Mubadala Investment Company said.

10.50am: "We don't have long-term planning by most governments to effectuate these long-term problems," according to BlackRock CEO Larry Fink, as he called on governments across the world to do more to tackle climate change.

10.37am: Blackstone Group chief Stephen A. Schwarzman talked up how much money has been invested in sustainability-linked projects over the past two years, pointing out a cool $11 billion has been ploughed into such schemes.


Saudi Arabia and Greece sign cooperation agreement on maritime transport

Saudi Minister of Transport and Logistics Services Saleh Al-Jasser and Greek Minister of Maritime Affairs and Insular Policy Giannis Plakiotakis sign an agreement. (SPA)
Saudi Minister of Transport and Logistics Services Saleh Al-Jasser and Greek Minister of Maritime Affairs and Insular Policy Giannis Plakiotakis sign an agreement. (SPA)
Updated 10 sec ago

Saudi Arabia and Greece sign cooperation agreement on maritime transport

Saudi Minister of Transport and Logistics Services Saleh Al-Jasser and Greek Minister of Maritime Affairs and Insular Policy Giannis Plakiotakis sign an agreement. (SPA)
  • The deal includes developing commercial maritime navigation, increasing traffic of commercial ships
  • It also aims to provide facilities to maritime transport companies

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia and Greece on Wednesday signed a joint cooperation agreement in the field of maritime transport, Saudi Press Agency reported.
The deal was signed by Saudi Minister of Transport and Logistics Services and Chairman of the Public Transport Authority Saleh Al-Jasser and Greek Minister of Maritime Affairs and Insular Policy Giannis Plakiotakis in the British capital, London.
The agreement aims to strengthen relations between the Kingdom and Greece at the strategic level and open new horizons for cooperation in various fields, especially maritime transport.
It includes developing commercial maritime navigation, increasing traffic of commercial ships to transport passengers and goods, as well as supporting and encouraging trade exchange and facilitating the requirements and procedures for accessing the ports of both countries.
The agreement also aims to enhance the exchange of expertise and technologies between companies, institutions and maritime organizations in this field.
The deal also included a mechanism for the treatment of ships of both countries when accessing their ports, stay and departure, and in cases of emergency and maritime accidents in their territorial waters.
Al-Jasser said the agreement aims to provide facilities to maritime transport companies, their ships and crews, and will mutual recognize the documents of ships and seafarers of both countries.
He said it will held develop joint investment opportunities in the field of maritime transport and logistics services to achieve strategic goals and diversify the sources of income for the total output of both countries’ economic sectors.


Biden order to make US government carbon neutral by 2050

Biden order to make US government carbon neutral by 2050
Updated 08 December 2021

Biden order to make US government carbon neutral by 2050

Biden order to make US government carbon neutral by 2050

WASHINGTON: President Joe Biden on Wednesday signed an executive order to make the federal government carbon-neutral by 2050, aiming for a 65 percent reduction in planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and an all-electric fleet of car and trucks five years later.

The White House said the order shows how the government will “leverage its scale and procurement power to lead by example in tackling the climate crisis.” The order will reduce emissions across federal operations, as part of a governmentwide effort to confront climate change.

The order directs that government buildings use 100 percent carbon pollution-free electricity by 2030; that the US fleet of cars and trucks become all-electric by 2035; and that federal contracts for goods and services be carbon-free by 2050.

Government buildings should be carbon-free by 2045, including a 50 percent emissions cut by 2032, Biden said.

The executive action is a part of Biden’s commitment to support the growth of clean energy and clean technology industries, while accelerating US progress toward achieving a carbon pollution-free electricity sector by 2035, the White House said.

“The United States government will lead by example to provide a strong foundation for American businesses to compete and win globally in the clean energy economy while creating well-paying, union jobs at home,” the White House said in a statement.


US businesses advertised near-record 11 million open jobs

US businesses advertised near-record 11 million open jobs
Updated 08 December 2021

US businesses advertised near-record 11 million open jobs

US businesses advertised near-record 11 million open jobs

WASHINGTON: US employers posted 11 million open jobs in October, nearly matching a record high reached in July and a sign that companies were confident enough in the economy to expand.

The government report Wednesday also showed that the number of people quitting their jobs dropped slightly in October to 4.2 million, from 4.4 million in September, though that is still the third-highest number of monthly resignations on records dating back to 2000.

The figures from the Labor Department’s Job Openings and Labor Turnover survey, or JOLTS, show that with so many companies chasing relatively few unemployed people, job-seekers have the most bargaining power they have had in at least two decades. Wages are rising at a healthy pace, particularly for lower-paid employees, though much of that bump in pay is being eroded by higher inflation.

There were just 7.4 million people counted as unemployed in October, equal to just two-thirds of the 11 million open jobs. In the two decades that the government has issued the JOLTS report, there has usually been unemployed people than available workers.


Oil steadies as investors assess omicron’s impact

Oil steadies as investors assess omicron’s impact
Updated 08 December 2021

Oil steadies as investors assess omicron’s impact

Oil steadies as investors assess omicron’s impact
  • US output up, crude stocks fall modestly

NEW YORK: Oil prices edged lower in choppy trade on Wednesday, taking a breather after gains earlier this week, as investors assessed the impact of the omicron coronavirus variant on the global economy.

The market had a muted reaction to US weekly inventory figures, which showed a smaller-than-anticipated decline in crude stocks and another bump up in overall production, giving credence to expectations that supply will increase in coming months.

Brent crude futures were down 15 cents, or 0.2 percent, to $75.29 a barrel at 10:52 a.m. EDT (1552 GMT). US West Texas Intermediate crude was at $71.94 a barrel, down 16 cents or 0.3 percent.

Brent crude prices have rebounded by over 9 percent since Dec. 1 on signs omicron has had only a limited impact on oil demand, after a 16 percent drop since Nov. 25.

“Around two-thirds of the previous price slide (has) been corrected," Commerzbank said in a note.

"There has been no noticeable slowing effect on oil demand as yet. Even aviation, the sector that should have been hit first, has seen only a marginal decrease in seating capacity.”

The emergence of the variant combined with the US decision to release inventories from its strategic reserve to knock the market back on expectations that supply would outweigh demand by the early months of 2022.

Ultimately, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies including Russia, known as OPEC+, chose to maintain its schedule of boosting supply by 400,000 barrels per day every month — despite fears that the new coronavirus variant would sap demand.

US output, meanwhile, rose to 11.7 million barrels per day in the most recent week, though weekly output figures are volatile. The US Energy Department also said gasoline and distillate inventories rose more than anticipated, while crude stocks fell by a mere 240,000 barrels, less than expected.

“The headline numbers are bearish and the market is not reacting aggressively in either direction,” said Tony Headrick, energy market analyst at CHS Hedging.

The market was also focused on the resumption of talks between Washington and Tehran over Iran’s nuclear program. Western officials have voiced dismay at sweeping Iranian demands. If US sanctions were eased, it could lead to higher exports of Iranian oil, which could add downward pressure on oil prices.

Tensions between Western powers and Russia over Ukraine also remained high after President Joe Biden warned Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday that the West would impose “strong economic and other measures” on Russia if it invades Ukraine, while Putin demanded guarantees that NATO would not expand farther eastward.


Sudan cut off from $650 million of international funding after coup

Sudan cut off from $650 million of international funding after coup
Updated 08 December 2021

Sudan cut off from $650 million of international funding after coup

Sudan cut off from $650 million of international funding after coup
  • Foreign funding was seen as crucial in helping Sudan emerge from decades of isolation
  • The US has put on hold $700 million in economic assistance since the coup

KHARTOUM: Sudan was unable to access $650 million in international funding in November when assistance was paused after a coup, the finance minister of the dissolved government said — a freeze that puts in doubt basic import payments and the fate of economic reforms.
The financing included $500 million in budget support from the World Bank and $150 million in special drawing rights from the International Monetary Fund, said Jibril Ibrahim, who was appointed to a civilian transitional government in February.
Foreign funding was seen as crucial in helping Sudan emerge from decades of isolation and supporting a transition toward democracy that began with the 2019 overthrow of Omar Al-Bashir.
The Oct. 25 coup upended that transition. The United States has put on hold $700 million in economic assistance since the coup and the World Bank, which had promised $2 billion in grants, has paused disbursements.
After mass protests, the military on Nov. 21 announced a deal to reinstate Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok. He is tasked with forming a government of technocrats but faces political opposition to the deal.
“Sudan had tremendous international support. Now donors will be much more cautious,” said one former official from the dissolved government.
The onus will now be on the military and the government to show they are not returning to the very Bashir-era model that was being restructured and reformed, the former official said.
The US Treasury declined to comment. The IMF, which approved a $2.5 billion, 39-month loan program in June that is subject to periodic review, said it continued to “closely monitor developments.”
Before the coup the inflation rate, one of the highest in the world, had begun to fall, and the exchange rate had stabilized following a sharp devaluation in February.
Western diplomats and bankers say those reforms are now at risk and it is unclear how Sudan can fund imports without printing banknotes, a policy that fueled a long-running economic crisis but stopped during the transition.
Around the time of the coup, Sudan had enough reserves to cover just two months of strategic imports, a second former official said.
Ibrahim, a former rebel leader who secured his ministerial role through a peace deal and expects to retain it, said he hoped international support would return gradually over the next three to six months and that meanwhile bills could be paid and reforms would continue.
“Basically we depend on tax, customs and gold revenues and on different (state) companies working in various fields,” Ibrahim said in an interview at the Finance Ministry in Khartoum. For imported basic goods, such as flour, fuel and medicine, “we cannot cover it completely, but the majority of the strategic commodities we can cover with our exports,” he said.
The government had begun to reduce its trade deficit through tax and customs reforms, but those revenues were interrupted by a blockade by a tribal group at Port Sudan before the coup. A further blockade has been threatened.
Ibrahim said the main impact of the freeze in international support would be on development projects covering areas including water supply, electricity, agriculture, health and transport. An internationally funded basic income program to lessen the impact of subsidy reform has also been frozen.
Sudan’s 2022 budget was being planned with no allowance for international assistance, Ibrahim said, but with a target of sticking to a 1.5 percent deficit limit defined under an IMF financing program. Projected growth for 2022 could fall from 3 percent to 1.5-2 percent, he said.
Ibrahim said Sudan would seek investment rather than grants from wealthy Gulf Arab states that now face their own economic challenges.
“Up till now there have not been any big promises of support from any country, Arab or non-Arab, but contacts with all friendly states continue,” he said.