Saudi Shoura delegation visits UK for first time in years to boost relations and investment

A Saudi Shoura Council delegation participated in an event hosted by the Arab British Chamber of Commerce in London. (AN Photo/Hasenin Fadhel)
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A Saudi Shoura Council delegation participated in an event hosted by the Arab British Chamber of Commerce in London. (AN Photo/Hasenin Fadhel)
A Saudi Shoura Council delegation participated in an event hosted by the Arab British Chamber of Commerce in London. (AN Photo/Hasenin Fadhel)
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A Saudi Shoura Council delegation participated in an event hosted by the Arab British Chamber of Commerce in London. (AN Photo/Hasenin Fadhel)
A Saudi Shoura Council delegation participated in an event hosted by the Arab British Chamber of Commerce in London. (AN Photo/Hasenin Fadhel)
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A Saudi Shoura Council delegation participated in an event hosted by the Arab British Chamber of Commerce in London. (AN Photo/Hasenin Fadhel)
A Saudi Shoura Council delegation participated in an event hosted by the Arab British Chamber of Commerce in London. (AN Photo/Hasenin Fadhel)
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A Saudi Shoura Council delegation participated in an event hosted by the Arab British Chamber of Commerce in London. (AN Photo/Hasenin Fadhel)
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Updated 20 May 2022

Saudi Shoura delegation visits UK for first time in years to boost relations and investment

A Saudi Shoura Council delegation participated in an event hosted by the Arab British Chamber of Commerce in London. (AN Photo/H
  • The visit aims ‘to highlight the huge changes taking place in the Kingdom as part of Vision 2030, and the opportunities they bring,” said Ghazi Binzagr, who heads the delegation
  • During the week-long visit, Saudi delegates have met government ministers, representatives of the British Defense Committee, MPs and members of political subcommittees and business organizations

LONDON: A high-level delegation from Saudi Arabia’s Shoura Council is visiting the UK for the first time in years, to share the Kingdom’s latest development and investment plans, enhance relations and exchange expertise.

“Our visit (aims) to highlight the huge changes taking place in the Kingdom as part of Vision 2030, and the opportunities they bring, and also to underscore the importance and the significance of the umbrella strategic agreement between Saudi Arabia and the United Kingdom, with all the various areas that it intends to build,” Ghazi Binzagr, a member of the Shoura Council, told Arab News.

Binzagr, who is heading the delegation and is the chairman of the Shoura Council’s Saudi-British Parliamentary Friendship Committee, said an objective of the visit is to deepen and widen the bilateral relationship, specifically in the fields of investment and commerce, to provide more opportunities for British companies and organizations to participate in Vision 2030 initiatives.

“We are underscoring the importance of the Vision in bringing new directions to areas that are going to be important to both countries, things such as health, financial services, tourism, energy, culture, sports,” he said. “These are all new opportunities that we believe will be important for joint ventures to emerge (and) joint investments.”

He added that they also hope to gain from the “benefit of the many years of knowledge and expertise that British society has had in many of these areas, some of which are now new to the Kingdom.”

The members of the Saudi delegation, who arrived in the UK on Sunday, have held meetings with Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Kwasi Kwarteng and members of the British Defense Committee, along with MPs and members of various subcommittees during their week-long visit.

“In the area of defense, we explored the strong relationship that has always been there between Saudi Arabia and the UK, and dialogue over issues of mutual concern with the shared commitment to a stable region, and the importance of that for stable trade, investment and prosperity, not just for the region, but the globe at large,” Binzagr said.

He added that the “response has been great” and both sides agree on the need to increase the frequency of mutual visits because they recognize that such face-to-face meetings and engagement creates a form of bilateral friendship that is very difficult to develop without in-person exchanges. They are now discussing dates for a British parliamentary delegation to visit the Kingdom after the summer recess in the UK, with more to follow.

“We were able to learn more deeply about how the British Parliament works, and there is a keenness and eagerness from the British side to also learn about how the Shoura Council works and to see how both bodies can help enable and support the efforts of both governments, which are quite strong in strengthening their relationship with each other,” said Binzagr.

The visit has also included tours of the House of Commons and the House of Lords, in which the delegation observed parliamentary sessions. It also met former sports ministers Lord Moynihan and Tracey Crouch to learn about the sports ecosystem overseen by the UK parliament and how its best practices might be applied to the expanding sports sector in the Kingdom, Binzagr said.

On Tuesday delegates took part in a roundtable discussion, organized by the Arab British Chamber of Commerce, with British executives and investors during which they talked about the transformation of the Kingdom’s commercial environment and introduced the Invest in Saudi initiative launched by the Ministry of Investment.

“We both believe that these visits are vital, not just for our own individual understandings, but we both play a role in the oversight of the performance of the government, we can both … better follow the development of the components of the strategic agreement between both countries,” Binzagr said.

Another important development highlighted by the visit is the recent easing of visa requirements for travel between the two countries, which authorities say will contribute to the strengthening of the bilateral relationship.

Alia Aldahlawi, a member of the Shoura Council and the friendship committee, said it was important for the members of the Saudi delegation to learn about the nature of legislation within the British Parliament and that they had benefited from the meetings that have taken place. A common topic that was raised, she added, was the role of women in the Kingdom.

“We addressed the woman issue in several meetings, especially the empowerment of women and how women now have become engaged in the political decision making and in higher positions in Saudi Arabia, and also the increased participation of women in the labor market, because it’s one of the major objectives of Vision 2030,” Aldahlawi said.

The government and private sectors have been working to increase female participation in the labor force, she added, and already have not only achieved but surpassed the percentage targets set for 2030.

For example, 30 members of the 150-person Shoura Council — 20 percent — are women, she said, which is a larger proportion than in many other regional and international parliaments.

The empowerment of women in Saudi Arabia is a clear and obvious goal, Aldahlawi said, and the Kingdom has always offered equal opportunities in terms of education and scholarships to men and women. She herself obtained a doctorate from King’s College London many years ago, she added.

“We (women) are qualified to engage in our economy, we are human capital that is educated and have full experience,” she said.

“So this empowerment (leads to more) females in the labor market, in higher positions, and a lot of diverse types of job opportunities.”


US officials led by antisemitism envoy briefed on Saudi efforts to promote tolerance

US officials led by antisemitism envoy briefed on Saudi efforts to promote tolerance
Updated 01 July 2022

US officials led by antisemitism envoy briefed on Saudi efforts to promote tolerance

US officials led by antisemitism envoy briefed on Saudi efforts to promote tolerance
  • They were visiting the King Abdulaziz Center for National Dialogue, the leader of which stressed the importance of communication and dialogue in building bridges between cultures

RIYADH: A visiting US delegation led by Ambassador Deborah Lipstadt, Washington’s special envoy for monitoring and combating antisemitism, was briefed this week on the work of Saudi Arabia’s King Abdulaziz Center for National Dialogue.

After being welcomed to the center by its secretary-general, Abdullah Al-Fawzan, and other senior representatives, the delegates were given a brief presentation about its activities designed to promote and encourage greater tolerance among peoples.

They were also briefed on the results of the first study of its kind in the region on tolerance, carried out by the center to the highest scientific standards, which found that Saudi society is tolerant of other cultures and civilizations.

In greeting the visitors on Tuesday, Al-Fawzan stressed the importance of encouraging communication and dialogue between peoples, to help build bridges of understanding among cultures, as part of the efforts being made by the Kingdom, through its Saudi Vision 2030 development plan, to support tolerance and promote peaceful coexistence based on the principles of moderate Islam.

He said that Saudi society accepts and coexists with people from other societies and cultures, as evidenced by the large number of expatriates who live and work in the Kingdom. This shows that the values of tolerance, peaceful coexistence and unity are not new concepts in the country, he added.

Since its inception, the center has placed great importance in promoting the values of citizenship among among all sections of society, making it a mainstay of its work, Al-Fawzan said.

The members of the US delegation were also given a tour of the center’s Interactive Dialogue Exhibition so that they could learn more about the Kingdom’s efforts to support communications between cultures and civilizations. They also heard about local projects developed by the center to help strengthen the nation’s social fabric, and its regional and global initiatives designed to help build and enhance cultural diversity and human commonalities.


Shoura council speaker heads delegation to Non-Aligned Movement Parliamentary Network conference

Shoura council speaker heads delegation to Non-Aligned Movement Parliamentary Network conference
Updated 30 June 2022

Shoura council speaker heads delegation to Non-Aligned Movement Parliamentary Network conference

Shoura council speaker heads delegation to Non-Aligned Movement Parliamentary Network conference

RIYADH: Speaker of the Saudi Shoura Council Sheikh Dr. Abdullah Al-Sheikh is heading the Kingdom’s delegation to the first conference of the Non-Aligned Movement Parliamentary Network, which began on Thursday in Baku, Azerbaijan, with the participation of several parliament speakers from NAM member states.

Al-Sheikh said in a press statement that the council’s participation in the conference is an affirmation of Saudi Arabia’s keenness to achieve security, peace and sustainable development globally.

Speaker of the Saudi Shoura Council Sheikh Dr. Abdullah Al Al-Sheikh is heading the Kingdom’s delegation to the first conference of the Parliamentary Network of Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), which began on Thursday in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Supplied)

The Kingdom’s participation also highlights its constructive partnership with other countries, the solutions it aims to provide to international crises and the humanitarian work it carries out, Al-Sheikh pointed out.

He stressed that international parliamentary conferences are essential in facing global challenges and achieving cooperation across borders.

The NAM Parliamentary Network was established on the sidelines of the 143rd General Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, held in Madrid. It aims to provide a framework for cooperation between the parliaments of NAM member states, with the participation of several other international organizations.


Local businesses looking forward to lucrative Hajj season post-pandemic

Local businesses looking forward to lucrative Hajj season post-pandemic
Updated 30 June 2022

Local businesses looking forward to lucrative Hajj season post-pandemic

Local businesses looking forward to lucrative Hajj season post-pandemic
  • The pandemic put a halt to the Hajj for two years, leading to huge losses for some families who solely depended on the pilgrimage season to reap its financial rewards

MAKKAH: Residents of Makkah benefit financially during the Hajj as millions of people from all over the world converge on the holy city to perform the annual pilgrimage.  

But the pandemic put a halt to the Hajj for two years, leading to huge losses for some families who solely depended on the pilgrimage season to reap its financial rewards.  

Elaf Al-Mashaer, a local five-star hotel, is all set to welcome over 20,000 pilgrims this year, and the team has prepared the place to be as comfortable as possible to ensure a smooth stay for guests.

“We must know the number of guests who will stay in the hotel and their nationalities so that we can provide them with what they need,” hotel owner Abdulaziz Al-Sharbeeni told Arab News.

The 304-room establishment has several restaurants to cater to guests’ palates. “Each nationality has its own culture or a certain way of eating. We have Indian, Pakistani, East Asian, and Arabic restaurants.”

(Supplied)

It has also made modifications and preparations to make the rooms and suites accessible to people with disabilities.

“Some pilgrims come alone, so we give them a room on request, while others come with their families, so we give them a suite,” Al-Sharbeeni said. “There is a target we must achieve during the Hajj season as a facility, and the most important seasons in the year to achieve these financial goals are the Ramadan and Hajj seasons.”

The Hajj season attracts a large and diverse crowd, and everyone who visits Makkah enjoys shopping for gifts. They also use taxis, hospitals, restaurants, and other services and amenities, providing locals with many economic opportunities.

“I sell gold in the local market, and Hajj season is considered our opportunity to reach the target. So I’m more than happy that Hajj is back because we miss the pilgrims and we love interacting with them and welcoming them,” said Ahmed Al-Suliman.

Al-Suliman said there were more opportunities for work during the Hajj as significant manpower was required to serve, manage, and help with the influx of pilgrims.

“The people of Makkah, in particular, want to take advantage of the Hajj season. Young and old are working this season, and even if someone sells a bottle of water for SR1 ($0.27), he will earn a lot of money. You can apply for seasonal field jobs through the website of the Ministry of Hajj and the official platforms.”


Program launched to measure pilgrims’ satisfaction during Hajj

Program launched to measure pilgrims’ satisfaction during Hajj
Updated 30 June 2022

Program launched to measure pilgrims’ satisfaction during Hajj

Program launched to measure pilgrims’ satisfaction during Hajj
  • Guests will be assigned incognito to help evaluate Hajj services according to a pre-studied scientific methodology

JEDDAH: The Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah has launched a performance initiative aimed at measuring pilgrims’ satisfaction at service provision during this year’s Hajj season.

Assistant deputy minister of Hajj and Umrah, Hesham Saeed, signed a joint cooperation agreement with acting secretary-general of the coordination council, Dr. Abdullah Al-Muwaihi, in relation to the program.

Al-Muwaihi said the monitoring scheme would involve measuring quality-of-service performance and beneficiary satisfaction, while also including an incognito guest program, all designed to improve and enrich worshippers’ spiritual experience.

Under the incognito initiative, Saeed said a designated guest would, “serve as a pilgrim under mission, who lives the full experience of Hajj, starting from the country of the pilgrim, passing through the holy sites, and performing the rituals until they return to their country.

“The assigned incognito guest will be living all the details, seeing what contact points they pass through, and will give an evaluation according to a pre-studied scientific methodology regarding the measurement criteria,” he added.

 

 

 


A million Muslims from around the world to perform Hajj in 2022

A million Muslims from around the world to perform Hajj in 2022
Updated 30 June 2022

A million Muslims from around the world to perform Hajj in 2022

A million Muslims from around the world to perform Hajj in 2022
  • Pilgrims from outside the Kingdom must submit a negative PCR test result within 72 hours of their departure

JEDDAH: A million Muslims from around the world will perform the Hajj this year, in line with the quotas allocated to each country and following recommendations from the Saudi Ministry of Health.

The Hajj was limited to 60,000 vaccinated citizens and residents from the Kingdom in 2021 to contain the spread of COVID-19 and ensure the safety of pilgrims and others.

But, following Saudi Arabia's successful implementation of precautionary measures for Hajj and Umrah seasons during the pandemic, pilgrim capacity has been raised to 1 million.

This year's Hajj is for people aged 65 and under who must comply with the requirement to complete a COVID-19 vaccination program.

The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah tweeted that pilgrims from outside the Kingdom must submit a negative PCR test result within 72 hours of their departure for Saudi Arabia.

It said the shots required for pilgrims in Saudi Arabia included one for meningitis for people who had not been vaccinated in the past five years. They are also required to get the flu vaccine. Local pilgrims must take these vaccinations at least 10 days before going to the Hajj.

Figures from the General Authority of Statistics showed that, during the pandemic's peak in 2020, the number of pilgrims plummeted to just 1,000. The decision to restrict capacity was based on risk assessment and public health and safety concerns.  

There were almost 2.5 million pilgrims at the Hajj in 2019, and 1.9 million were from overseas.

The highest number of local and foreign Hajj pilgrims in the past decade was in 2012 when nearly 3.2 million people performed the annual pilgrimage. The lowest was 1.9 million in 2016.