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.”


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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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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.