WEF22: Saudi Arabia rises on several key performance indicators

WEF22: Saudi Arabia rises on several key performance indicators
Saudi Arabia will continue to diversify its economy, ministers from the Kingdom told the WEF. (AN Photo)
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Updated 25 May 2022

WEF22: Saudi Arabia rises on several key performance indicators

WEF22: Saudi Arabia rises on several key performance indicators
  • Princess Haifa bin Mohammed, assistant minister of the Tourism Ministry, said that the Kingdom’s industry “didn’t just recover, but actually increased”
  • Khalid Al-Falih, Saudi minister of investment, said that the Saudi technology and tourism industries have been a driving force in attracting investors from around the world

DAVOS: Saudi Arabia will continue to invest in new sectors and diversify its economy to achieve sustainable growth, ministers from the Kingdom told the World Economic Forum (WEF) on Wednesday.

In the latest WEF Travel and Tourism Development Index (TTDI) published on Tuesday, Saudi Arabia ranked 34 among more than 100 countries for development, sustainability and resiliency in industry — a 10-mark jump from pre-pandemic levels.

Speaking at the Saudi Arabia Outlook session in Davos, Princess Haifa bin Mohammed, assistant minister of the Tourism Ministry, said that the Kingdom’s industry “didn’t just recover, but actually increased.”

She added: “We managed to amend the regulations and policies. We are now among the top 10 countries in the environment of business, travel and tourism.”

The Kingdom’s TTDI score improved in three main sections since 2019: The business environment with an 11 percent rise, tourism demand pressure and impact with an 8 percent rise, and the human resource and labor market with a 7.3 percent rise.

Princess Haifa attributed the growth to the government placing travel and tourism at the center of its recovery plans. Support was quickly provided to ensure that the industry’s development stayed on track, she said.

“The prioritization of the travel and tourism industry from the government perspective is why we managed to do so well during the pandemic and recover. We quickly gave support to accommodations, we protected the jobs in that sector and we focused on training as well. We managed to train 110,000 people last year alone, which is all contributing to the way we are moving forward,” she added.

Minister of Economy and Planning Faisal Al-Ibrahim said that the Kingdom will continue to “make access to talent easy in this upward journey of our economic and social growth.”

Bridging the digital divide and harnessing local talent has been at the core Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 reform plan, Minister of Communications and Information Technology Abdullah Al-Swaha told the WEF session.

In line with the reform plan — put forth by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman — the Kingdom has made significant strides in its goal of diversifying the economy. In 2019, the Kingdom announced that it would open its doors to tourists, and has since introduced protocols to ease travel regulations.

“This has been the thesis for Vision 2030: How we can leverage talent and technology to improve inclusion, sustainability and growth. And on inclusion, we want to make sure that we close down the digital divide and make sure that there is equity in everything that we do,” Al-Swaha said.

As the Kingdom opened its doors to international travelers, it was also quick to reform laws on women’s empowerment and gender parity.

“We are very proud that we have jumped from 7 percent women’s empowerment in tech to more than 29 percent, which is higher than the EU average, the G20 average and even the US average. I just came back from Silicon Valley, where they said that they are at 27 percent.”

However, despite media reports that Saudi Arabia would allow NEOM to operate under its own set of laws and thus allow alcohol, the Kingdom has stayed adamant about changing its regulations to attract foreign tourists.

Princess Haifa said: “We are going to continue with our current laws. We have been doing very well and we have actually been outperforming globally when it comes to tourism with what we currently have to offer today. There is a lot to go around without introducing anything new.”

Khalid Al-Falih, Saudi minister of investment, said that the Saudi technology and tourism industries have been a driving force in attracting investors from around the world.

With the Saudi National Investment Strategy in effect, Al-Falih said that the plan is “leading us to diversify the economy by unlocking some of the new, exciting sectors that have so much potential and so much competitiveness.”

The strategy aims to boost net foreign direct investment flows to $103.46 billion annually by 2030, positioning the Kingdom as the 15th largest economy in the world.

According to the ministers, the progress in Saudi Arabia will also act as an accelerator for regional growth and inspire healthy competition — making the Kingdom and neighboring countries a hub for investment and travel.

Al-Falih said: “I believe that the Kingdom’s rise in its economic and competitive performance actually helps the competitiveness (of neighboring countries). It allows companies and enterprises, and the governments of those countries to integrate with a larger global economy in Saudi Arabia.”

Al-Ibrahim said: “I think competition is essential for us to push the bar upwards, but coordination is also necessary. There is a lot of coordination and collaboration that happens behind the scenes. There is a lot of camaraderie between policymakers within the region that gives us these assurances.”


Madinah to establish new charging platforms for electric cars 

Madinah to establish new charging platforms for electric cars 
Updated 15 sec ago

Madinah to establish new charging platforms for electric cars 

Madinah to establish new charging platforms for electric cars 

The municipality of Madinah has recently signed an investment contract to establish 12 charging platforms for electric cars in an effort to promote environmental sustainability in the region. The contract was signed with engineering consultancy Al-Sharif Group Holding.

This step is among a number of initiatives to establish more power supply platforms for electric car owners, enabling them to charge their cars easily, and is part of the Kingdom’s commitment to policies that reduce carbon emissions.

In line with national efforts to localize the electric car industry in the Kingdom, the new charging platforms are expected to provide advanced services as well as improve Madinah’s urban landscape.

This project is part of a series of investment opportunities that Madinah intends to offer to the private sector in order to encourage economic diversification and new activities in the local market that can positively impact residents of the region. 

The contract was signed by the region’s Mayor Eng. Fahd bin Mohammed Al-Balishi and the CEO of Sharif X Co. for Electric Vehicle Charging Solutions, one of Al-Sharif Group Holding’s companies, Dr. Ahmed Sindi.


Saudi medical team saves life of Iranian Hajj pilgrim in Makkah

Iranian pilgrim Hussain Qasmi Jalmrazy is shown recovering at the emergency room of Makkah's King Abdullah Medical City.
Iranian pilgrim Hussain Qasmi Jalmrazy is shown recovering at the emergency room of Makkah's King Abdullah Medical City.
Updated 03 July 2022

Saudi medical team saves life of Iranian Hajj pilgrim in Makkah

Iranian pilgrim Hussain Qasmi Jalmrazy is shown recovering at the emergency room of Makkah's King Abdullah Medical City.
  • The medical team offered to perform an open heart operation, but the patient refused this medical procedure

MAKKAH: A specialized team from Makkah’s King Abdullah Medical City has successfully performed an emergency cardiac catheterization procedure to save the life of an Iranian pilgrim on Saturday, the Saudi Ministry of Health said.

In a statement carried by the Saudi Press Agency early Sunday, the ministry said that the Hajj pilgrim was taken to the hospital's emergency department when he complained of severe chest pain while he was on his way to the Grand Mosque in Makkah to perform prayers.

A digital copy of the Iranian pilgrim's Hajj tag, shared on social media by Ekhbariyah TV.

The patient was identified in his Hajj tag as Hussain Qasmi Jalmrazy, from Isfahan in central Iran.

Specialists performed an urgent diagnostic catheterization after examination results "showed the presence of blockage of more than two arteries in the heart," according to the Health Ministry.

The medical team offered to perform an open heart operation, but the patient refused this medical procedure. It was then decided to insert stents instead in the damaged arteries, enabling the patient to recover and continue his pilgrimage, the statement said.

King Abdullah Medical City, with full the support from the Saudi government, offers specialized health care for all Hajj and Umrah pilgrims.

A million Muslims from around the world will perform the Hajj this year, up from only 60,000 vaccinated pilgrims in 2021 and a symbolic 1,000 pilgrims in 2020 at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. 


Thai citizens share their joy performing Hajj

The second group of Thai pilgrims arrived at Prince Mohammed bin Abdulaziz International Airport in Madinah on June 11.
The second group of Thai pilgrims arrived at Prince Mohammed bin Abdulaziz International Airport in Madinah on June 11.
Updated 03 July 2022

Thai citizens share their joy performing Hajj

The second group of Thai pilgrims arrived at Prince Mohammed bin Abdulaziz International Airport in Madinah on June 11.
  • Arabic teacher Mamu Kayah and businessman Arong Samae praise Saudi and Thai officials for smooth journey

RIYADH: Two Thai pilgrims performing Hajj for the first time have expressed their joy at arriving in Saudi Arabia after not being able to do so because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Hajj is the opportunity of a lifetime for me. I could not hold back the tears when I saw the Kaaba for the first time. If I am able to perform Hajj after this time, I intend to perform Umrah every year, God willing. Hajj means everything to me,” Arong Samae told Arab News.

Samae from Narathiwat Province, located in the south of Thailand, is a businessman who is undertaking the pilgrimage with his wife this year.

“I seize this opportunity to express my heartfelt thanks to the government of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques for its gigantic efforts by which Muslims can visit the city of the Prophet (Madinah) and Makkah once again, and I pray to God Almighty to grant it more prosperity and progress,” said Samae.

The Narathiwat Province native took a plane from southern Thailand to Madinah Airport directly. He arrived in Saudi Arabia on June 11 and left for Makkah on June 17.

“I have never encountered any difficulties; everything is organized and easy. The Thai Hajj Company supplies everything from start to finish, and the Thai government also provides support and facilities at all stages,” Samae said.

“The trip took approximately eight hours by chartered flight, and I did not expect these facilities, because I heard that the pilgrimage journey is tiring and long, starting with car transfers to the capital, then waiting for the flight for two or three days,” he said.

Samae was surprised to see how quick and seamless the process was: “Thank God, everything (was) easy … Less than 12 hours … and I was in Saudi Arabia, I thank God for that,” he said.

“I prayed to God that one day I would arrive in Saudi Arabia. I also thank everyone who serves the pilgrims, whether they are from Thailand or from Saudi Arabia,” he said.

He said that he wanted to perform Hajj two years ago but was unable to because of COVID-19 restrictions. The pandemic had “changed everything” they wanted to do, he said.

Thai native, 58-year-old Mamu Kayah, is performing Hajj with his wife this year. He is a high school Arabic teacher from Yala, a city in the south of the country.

“I am very pleased to have this opportunity, and I thank God day and night for that. And I am absolutely certain that every Muslim who has come to this pure land shares this feeling with me,” Kayah said.

He told Arab News that this was his third time performing Hajj.

“We are very fortunate to have a direct flight from the far south of Thailand, the state of Narathiwat, which is only a hundred kilometers away from my home,” he said.

“The Thai Hajj company and the Thai Hajj mission did their duty well; everything is organized and tidy, especially with the presence of electronic platforms that contribute greatly to facilitating the procedures from the first day until we boarded the plane to Madinah,” he said.

Kayah took a direct eight-hour flight from Narathiwat to Madinah’s Prince Mohammed bin Abdulaziz International Airport. He thanked the Kingdom and Thailand for providing these routes for pilgrims.

“I heard that organizing the chartered plane was not easy, and it can only be done with the tremendous efforts of the two countries, Thailand and Saudi Arabia,” he said.

Kayah and his wife arrived in Madinah on June 12, traveled to Makkah on June 18, and will return to their home country on July 20.

“It can be said that Hajj this year is very special and completely different from my previous experience,” he said.

“For example, from when I got off the plane at Madinah Airport to my arrival at the hotel, the process took only one hour. Every step is fast and tidy, starting with the procedures in the passports, taking the luggage, riding the bus,” Kayah added.

He added that Saudi and Thai employees were available everywhere to assist. “Above all, the reception from the competent Saudi authority was very wonderful; we felt like one of the VIPs,” he said.

It was an emotional experience for him. “Indescribable pleasure, especially for a person of my age. I always cry when I stand in front of the Prophet’s Mosque and the Holy Kaaba, crying for joy, of course, and it is all thanks to God Almighty,” he said.

“The only issue that worries me and everyone is the high prices of everything; in any case, we understand very well that this thing is not in our hands, so that not only the costs of Hajj increased but in everything and all over the world. Other than that, there are no difficulties,” he said.

Thailand has a post-pandemic quota of 5,885 pilgrims, according to the Thai Embassy in Jeddah, with 3,738 having registered to do so. Before the COVID-19 restrictions, Thailand had a quota of 13,000. In 2018 and 2019, a total of 7,851 and 8,462 pilgrims respectively performed Hajj.

As of June 20, 1,120 pilgrims had arrived in Madinah on Thai Airways charter flights. Four flights arrived in the Kingdom from June 10 to 13. The other 2,618 pilgrims will travel on eight flights from June 29 to Jeddah, five of which are through Thai airways and three are with Saudi Airlines.

As the first groups of pilgrims arrived in Makkah and Madinah on Sunday, Basri Tatif, the deputy head of the Thai Pilgrims Affairs, praised the Kingdom for its organization, and said that his fellow citizens will be able to perform their rituals safely with all the measures in place.


Jeddah Season receives 6 million visitors

The season created numerous opportunities for partnerships with the private sector. (SPA)
The season created numerous opportunities for partnerships with the private sector. (SPA)
Updated 03 July 2022

Jeddah Season receives 6 million visitors

The season created numerous opportunities for partnerships with the private sector. (SPA)
  • Jeddah Season began in May and ended on Saturday, July 2

JEDDAH: Jeddah Season set a new attendance record over its 60 days of events this year. Organizers said 6 million people had visited the season — the highest number in its short history.

Jeddah Season began in May and ended on Saturday, July 2. The number of visitors it attracted suggests the Kingdom’s drive to boost its tourism and entertainment sectors is a success.

The season created numerous opportunities for partnerships with the private sector, as well as a wide range of employment opportunities for young Saudi men and women in stores, restaurants, cafés, markets, or other organizational or logistical services.

More than 80 percent of all employees involved in Jeddah Season were Saudis.
 

 


Restoring ecosystem for a green Hajj requires good carbon, says forum chief

Al-Mashair covers 119 square kilometers and encompasses the key Hajj sites of Arafat, Muzdalifah, and Mina. (SPA file photo)
Al-Mashair covers 119 square kilometers and encompasses the key Hajj sites of Arafat, Muzdalifah, and Mina. (SPA file photo)
Updated 03 July 2022

Restoring ecosystem for a green Hajj requires good carbon, says forum chief

Al-Mashair covers 119 square kilometers and encompasses the key Hajj sites of Arafat, Muzdalifah, and Mina. (SPA file photo)
  • “Vegetation will help reclaim its eco-capacity to revive itself and accelerate as soil carbon. This will include flora, animals, and how humans can fundamentally use it,” he told Arab News

JEDDAH: Restoring the ecosystem for a green Hajj requires good carbon, the CEO of the Saudi Green Building Forum has said.  

The SGBF, along with the UN Environment Programme, is studying the Al-Mashair area to restore land and look into its boundaries and carbon capacity.

Al-Mashair covers 119 square kilometers and encompasses the key Hajj sites of Arafat, Muzdalifah, and Mina.

SGBF CEO Faisal Al-Fadhl said that helping the environment restore itself meant increasing good carbon (soil carbon), a natural phenomenon that could be achieved through man-made initiatives.

HIGHLIGHT

The Saudi Green Building Forum, along with the UN Environment Programme, is studying the Al-Mashair area to restore land and look into its boundaries and carbon capacity. It covers 119 square kilometers and encompasses the key Hajj sites of Arafat, Muzdalifah, and Mina.

“Vegetation will help reclaim its eco-capacity to revive itself and accelerate as soil carbon. This will include flora, animals, and how humans can fundamentally use it,” he told Arab News. “Seventy million tons of soil carbon is needed to restore the area through trees.”

Areas between Al-Mashair needed restoration for a rich human experience, he explained, “not just Mina, the mountains around it too.”

Al-Fadhl said good carbon canceled out the bad carbon from heat islands, a term referring to objects, elements, and structures such as cement, buildings, and reflective glass.

“These all generate a lot of heat so we want to reduce that through increasing soil carbon. The study is accredited by the United Nations Environment Programme, and this area requires certain care scientifically, zoologically, and botanically,” said Al-Fadhl.

He said Saudi Arabia was aiming to achieve net carbon neutrality by 2060, an announcement from Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman last October, and that this move was in line with the Kingdom’s development plans.

Al-Fadhl said the forum had begun projects to provide a green Hajj since it was established and now, with more sustainability awareness, the team was stepping up its action plans.

“It is not only a ritual place from the inside, it is a human experience and we have to restore its nature. It is the biggest international host in the world, so restoring the eco-capacity is a must for the human experience to be unique.”

Al-Fadhl said vegetation cover was very poor in Al-Mashair, with less than half of one percent having greenery or any form of vegetation. But he said that vegetation coverage had increased from 122 square meters to 878 square meters between 2000 and 2010.

“That is an 800 percent increase,” he added.

Al-Fadhl referred to US architect William McDonough’s “A New Language For Carbon” in his explanation to identify three strategies for carbon management and climate change.

The first was carbon positive, converting atmospheric carbon to forms that enhanced soil nutrition or to durable forms such as polymers and solid aggregates, also recycling carbon into nutrients from organic materials, food waste, compostable polymers, and sewers.

The second strategy, carbon neutral, referred to actions that transformed or maintained carbon in durable Earth-bound forms and cycles across generations; or renewable energy such as solar, wind, and hydropower that did not release carbon.

The third strategy, carbon negative, referred to actions that polluted the land, water, and atmosphere with various forms of carbon, for example, releasing CO2 and methane into the atmosphere or plastics into the ocean.