WEF president lauds Saudi reforms, ‘strong delegation’ attending Davos

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Updated 30 May 2022

WEF president lauds Saudi reforms, ‘strong delegation’ attending Davos

WEF president lauds Saudi reforms, ‘strong delegation’ attending Davos
  • Borge Brende says forum working with Kingdom on gender equality, skill acceleration and increasing competitiveness
  • KSA can improve on issues related to tax system and red tape, says the former Norwegian FM

DAVOS, SWITZERLAND: The president of the World Economic Forum has welcomed the “strong” Saudi delegation to its annual meeting in Davos and lauded the reforms taking place in the Kingdom. Borge Brende also disclosed that the Geneva-based organization is considering taking the Middle East and North Africa regional summit, if it returns, to Riyadh.

“We really appreciate the strong delegation we have from Saudi Arabia in Davos. We have seven key ministers, including the foreign minister and the finance minister, with us in Davos,” he told Katie Jensen, the host of Arab News’ “Frankly Speaking,” the video show which features interviews with leading policymakers and business leaders.

As a regular visitor to the Kingdom, Brende, a former foreign minister of Norway, outlined the major changes he has witnessed over the course of his visits.

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“Compared to when I visited the Kingdom for the first time decades ago, the situation for women now in Saudi Arabia is very different,” he told Arab News.

“You see them driving. When you come to hotels or restaurants, you see women being a natural part of society. And we know that also at the universities, more than 60 percent of the students are women. This is very important, and I think this shows the new leadership.”

Among other momentous changes underway in Saudi Arabia, Brende described the “investments in diversifying the economy, the new technologies, and education and skills” as important.

“I do see willingness to be very serious in investing the additional resources and revenues coming from the energy sector in diversifying the economy, and also building a very solid sovereign wealth fund,” he said.

He sees parallels between what is happening in the Kingdom and the experience of his home country, Norway, which has used its sovereign wealth fund to invest in education and better conditions for industries.

“This will give a very solid foundation for the years to come when oil and gas revenues will peak. That money should be invested in diversification, education, skills, infrastructure and in the green transition that we will see happening in Saudi Arabia,” he said, adding that “the huge investment now in renewables and solar is unparalleled.”

As for the role the Kingdom could play in the context of the economic changes underway in the region, Brende said: “Saudi Arabia needs to produce higher up in the value chain in the years to come, where also you inject more technology into the production.”

He added: “There are areas still where Saudi Arabia can improve … the tax system and red tape. I know that the finance minister is very serious on this, and that collaboration is something that we would like even to take further.”


ALSO READ: Frankly Speaking: WEF sending strong message by not inviting Russia to Davos, says forum’s Borge Brende


Recalling his visit to the World Economic Center in Riyadh a year ago when the WEF opened its Center for the Fourth Industrial Revolution in Saudi Arabia, he said: “I am seeing so much progress when it comes to technologies.”

He added: “We have initiatives related to accelerating gender equality, which should be one of the next steps. We also have a skills accelerator where we have a playbook on how to also reskill and upskill people that are currently not in the educational system. We also have work on enhancing the competitiveness of a country.”

Brende appeared on “Frankly Speaking” on the eve of the first in-person WEF annual meeting since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is the first time that the event is being held in Davos in May.

Shortly before the pandemic hit, the WEF announced in January 2020 that its MENA regional summit would take place in the Kingdom that year. Asked if such an event was still on the table, Brende said that the WEF had not been able to take up any of its original meetings because of “unpredictability related to the pandemic.”

Going forward, he said: “It’s about time also that we go to the Kingdom. If we resume the regional meetings as we had them in the past, that’s to be seen. We are very much looking forward to coming back to Riyadh.”

Watch the full Frankly Speaking episode below:

 

 

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Dhu Al-Hijjah crescent sighted, Eid Al-Adha begins on July 9

Dhu Al-Hijjah crescent sighted, Eid Al-Adha begins on July 9
Updated 14 sec ago

Dhu Al-Hijjah crescent sighted, Eid Al-Adha begins on July 9

Dhu Al-Hijjah crescent sighted, Eid Al-Adha begins on July 9

RIYADH: The crescent moon of the month of Dhu Al-Hijjah was sighted on Wednesday evening, hence the Eid Al-Adha celebration will begin on July 9.

The five-day Eid Al-Adha celebration starts on the 10th of Dhu Al-Hijjah.

Eid Al-Adha is celebrated to commemorate Prophet Ibrahim’s devotion to Allah, who was willing to sacrifice his son, Ismail.

At the point of sacrifice, Allah replaced Ismail with a ram, which was to be sacrificed in place of his son.

The original command from Allah was a test of Prophet Ibrahim’s commitment to obey his Lord’s command, without question.

Therefore, Eid Al-Adha means the festival of sacrifice.

Dhu Al-Hijjah, which this year begins on June 30, is the month during which the Hajj pilgrimage takes place and is the last month of the Islamic calendar.

Hajj will start on Dhu Al-Hijjah 7 (July 6) and end on Dhu Al-Hijjah 11 (July 10). The day of Arafat will fall on Dul Hijjah 9, July 8.

Pilgrims’ tents at Arafat, as well as facilities in Mina and other areas where pilgrims will stay in Muzdalifah have all been inspected and fully prepared to receive the guests of God for this year's Hajj.

Earlier on June 4, Saudi Arabia welcomed foreign Hajj pilgrims to Islam’s second holiest city, the first since the COVID-19 pandemic hit the country.

The pilgrims, who arrived at Prince Mohammed bin Abdulaziz International Airport in Madinah from Indonesia, were presented flowers, dates and Zamzam water bottles upon arrival.


‘Exciting time’ for renewable energy collaboration between UK and Saudi Arabia, experts tell London forum

‘Exciting time’ for renewable energy collaboration between UK and Saudi Arabia, experts tell London forum
Updated 32 min 22 sec ago

‘Exciting time’ for renewable energy collaboration between UK and Saudi Arabia, experts tell London forum

‘Exciting time’ for renewable energy collaboration between UK and Saudi Arabia, experts tell London forum
  • UK-Saudi Renewable Energy Forum on June 28, organized by Saudi British Joint Business Council, brought together Saudi and UK investors and business leaders

LONDON: It is an “exciting time” to be working with Saudi Arabia and “exploring collaboration” in renewable energy, experts said at a joint UK-Saudi panel on Tuesday.

The UK-Saudi Renewable Energy Forum on June 28, organized by the Saudi British Joint Business Council, brought together Saudi and UK investors and business leaders to discuss clean energy programs in both countries and the finance available to support decarbonization and the energy transition.

Attended by a high-level Saudi official delegation, as well as a private sector delegation, the event built on the success of SBJBC’s Sustainable Investment Forum in July last year.

The event followed the recent launch of the Saudi Green and Middle East Green initiatives and the ongoing commitment from both the Saudi and British governments to invest in carbon capture, hydrogen and clean fuels in order to address climate change and meet net-zero emission targets.

“There’s been a strong regulatory evolution [in this field] across the GCC, so I think it’s a really exciting time to be getting involved in Saudi Arabia,” managing partner at Ashurst Middle East David Charlier said.

Orral Nadjari, founder and CEO at Britishvolt, agreed now was the time to be working closely with the Kingdom in the sector.

“We need to localize manufacturing and reinvent outdated supply chains, so we’re very interested in exploring collaboration with Saudi Arabia,” he said.

UK Minister for Investment Lord Grimstone was a key speaker at the event, and he said the global political will to enact change has been visible in recent years.

“We need to see more partnership between our countries. There’s a real desire for change,” he said.

“From hosting COP26 in Glasgow to welcoming key investors to the Global Investment Summit in London, the UK is deeply committed to tackling climate change at all levels.

“Investment is crucial to this, through nurturing technological developments and propelling our economy towards a cleaner, greener future.

“I’m looking forward to working with Saudi Arabia and countries the world over to commit to increasing cooperation in green technology and clean energy to work towards a more sustainable future for all,” he added.

Ahead of the forum, Lord Mayor of the City of London Vincent Keaveny said: “As we pass the halfway point between COP26 and COP27, this forum will be essential for driving progress towards global net-zero. As the world’s largest oil exporter, it’s vital that Saudi Arabia is part of the solution towards tackling climate change.”


‘Holodoctor’ service for Hajj pilgrims

‘Holodoctor’ service for Hajj pilgrims
Updated 29 June 2022

‘Holodoctor’ service for Hajj pilgrims

‘Holodoctor’ service for Hajj pilgrims
  • Consultations, diagnoses and medicine prescriptions to be done virtually
  • Health Ministry partners with Saudi telecoms firm and Seha Virtual Hospital

RIYADH: Saudi Health Minister Fahad Al-Jalajel has launched a “holodoctor” service, in partnership with the Saudi Telecommunications Co., that would allow medical practitioners to treat Hajj pilgrims virtually.

These services include “inspection, diagnosis, and disbursing medicines” through direct contact with the Kingdom’s first Seha Virtual Hospital in Riyadh, the Saudi Press Agency reported the minister as saying.

The minister thanked King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for continuing to provide the services and facilities needed by pilgrims to complete their Hajj in comfort and safety.

Al-Jalajel said the Ministry of Health has prepared meticulously for medical care at the holy sites, including several hospitals and health centers, which are equipped with ambulances under the supervision of experienced personnel.

He said Seha Virtual Hospital provides 24-hour access for x-rays, and can deal with strokes and other serious medical situations. Doctors can communicate directly with patients and check all biomarkers.

Those needing information on care can telephone the number 937, access the Sehhaty application, or check the ministry’s Twitter account.


No permit, no Hajj pilgrimage, Saudi authorities warn

No permit, no Hajj pilgrimage, Saudi authorities warn
Updated 29 June 2022

No permit, no Hajj pilgrimage, Saudi authorities warn

No permit, no Hajj pilgrimage, Saudi authorities warn
  • Hajj violators face 10,000 Saudi riyal fine

RIYADH: People attempting to perform the Hajj pilgrimage without a permit face a $2,666 fine, Saudi Arabia’s general security said in a statement on Wednesday.

The authority’s official spokesperson said pilgrims must obtain a Hajj permit from the relevant entities before attempting to perform the Muslim rituals. 

 

 

In the statement posted on Twitter, Brigadier Sami bin Mohammed Al-Shuwairkh urged pilgrims to strictly follow Hajj instructions, while stressing that security forces would “fulfill their duties” in securing routes leading to the Grand Mosque in Makkah and the rest of the holy premises to prevent any violations.

Saudi Arabia earlier said it permitted over one million pilgrims from overseas to perform Hajj this year for the first time in two years of COVID-19 restrictions, which limited the pilgrimage to residents of the Kingdom.


Makkah Health Cluster ready for Hajj with 10 hospitals and 82 health centers

Makkah Health Cluster ready for Hajj with 10 hospitals and 82 health centers
Updated 29 June 2022

Makkah Health Cluster ready for Hajj with 10 hospitals and 82 health centers

Makkah Health Cluster ready for Hajj with 10 hospitals and 82 health centers

RIYADH: The Makkah Healthcare Cluster announced its readiness for this year’s Hajj season by completing the operational plans for all hospitals and health centers affiliated to it, the Saudi Press Agency reported. 

It said 10 hospitals and 82 health centers have completed all preparations to implement operational plans prepared for the Hajj season.

Three emergency centers, as well as two more emergency hospitals will be operating inside and near the Grand mosque 24 hours a day to provide health care for pilgrims.