India In-Focus — India’s Russian coal buying peaks; EU resumes talk for free trade agreement 

India In-Focus — India’s Russian coal buying peaks; EU resumes talk for free trade agreement 
Indian refiners have snapped up cheap Russian oil shunned by Western countries. (Shutterstock)
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Updated 19 June 2022

India In-Focus — India’s Russian coal buying peaks; EU resumes talk for free trade agreement 

India In-Focus — India’s Russian coal buying peaks; EU resumes talk for free trade agreement 

MUMBAI: India’s purchases of Russian coal have spiked in recent weeks despite global sanctions on Moscow, as traders offer discounts of up to 30 percent, according to two trade sources and data reviewed by Reuters.

India bought an average of $16.55 million of Russian coal a day in the three weeks through Wednesday, more than double the $7.71 million it bought in the three months after Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion, according to Reuters calculations.

Indian refiners similarly have snapped up cheap Russian oil shunned by Western countries. The value of India’s oil trade with Russia in the 20 days through Wednesday jumped more than 31-fold to $2.22 billion, the data showed.

Oil purchases averaged $110.86 million a day in the 20-day period, more than triple the $31.16 million it spent in the three months ended May 26.

India’s trade ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Saturday.

“The Russian traders have been liberal with payment routes and are accepting payments in Indian rupee and the UAE dirham,” one source said. “The discounts are attractive, and this trend of higher Russian coal purchases will continue.” 

EU, India relaunch talks for free trade agreement

The EU and India on Friday relaunched negotiations to forge a free trade agreement, with the aim of completing talks by the end of 2023.

“This partnership will become a defining moment for world trade in the 21st century,” Indian Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal told a news conference.

The two sides previously launched talks in 2007, but they were frozen in 2013 due to a lack of progress. EU and Indian leaders agreed in May 2021 to resume negotiations.

EU Trade Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis said the free trade agreement would cover “essentially all trade,” in line with World Trade Organization standards, including sectors such as automotive and spirits.

“For the European Union, the partnership with India is one of the most important relationships for the upcoming decade,” Dombrovskis said.

The next round of negotiations is scheduled to take place in New Delhi from June 27 to July 1. 

(With input from Reuters)


Travel sector emissions nearly 3% lower than reported: WTTC research

Travel sector emissions nearly 3% lower than reported: WTTC research
Updated 18 sec ago

Travel sector emissions nearly 3% lower than reported: WTTC research

Travel sector emissions nearly 3% lower than reported: WTTC research

Riyadh: Greenhouse gas emissions from the tourism sector were lower than previously thought in the run up to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to new data published by the World Travel and Tourism Council.

The research shows that in 2019 the sector’s greenhouse gas emissions totaled 8.1 percent globally — below an earlier estimate of 11 percent.

The findings mean that while between 2010 and 2019 the sector’s gross domestic product grew on average 4.3 percent annually, its environmental footprint only increased by 2.4 percent.

The WTTC’s research, the first of its kind, covers 185 countries and will be updated annually.

Julia Simpson, president and CEO of the WTTC, said: “8.1 percent is the stake in the ground. The key is to become more efficient and decoupling the rate at which we grow from the amount of energy we consume. From today, every decision, every change, will lead to a better and brighter future for all.”

The broader Environmental and Social Research will include measures of the sector’s impact against a range of indicators, including pollutants, energy sources, water use, as well as social data, including age, wage and gender profiles of travel and tourism related employment, the statement said.

WTTC will continue to release data on how the sector fares against these indicators throughout 2023.

The data comes in the same week as the World Travel and Tourism Global Summit in Riyadh.

Simpson used her speech at the event to allude to the research, stating that it was the largest such project ever undertaken by the Council.

“Until now we did not have a sector-wide way to accurately measure our climate footprint. This data will give governments the detailed information they need to make progress against the Paris Agreement and the UN Sustainable Development Goals," she said.

“Travel and tourism is making huge strides to decarbonize, but governments must set the framework. We need a steely focus on increasing the production of sustainable aviation fuels with government incentives,” Simpson went on, adding: “The technology exists. We also need greater use of renewable energy in our national grids – so when we turn on a light in a hotel room, it is using a sustainable energy source.”

Saudi Minister of Tourism Ahmed Al-Khateeb welcomed the research, and said: “We are proud to be a partner to the WTTC in this important research that will monitor impact for the future. Saudi Arabia recognizes that travelers and investors want policies that promote sustainability in the industry and we have embarked on a journey that will make the Kingdom a pioneer in sustainable tourism."

“Under the Saudi Green Initiative, we launched more than 60 initiatives in the past year to do just that. The first wave of initiatives represent more than $186 billion of investment in the green economy.”


Saudi-based STGC launches awards to recognize sustainable tourism efforts  

Saudi-based STGC launches awards to recognize sustainable tourism efforts  
Updated 4 min 34 sec ago

Saudi-based STGC launches awards to recognize sustainable tourism efforts  

Saudi-based STGC launches awards to recognize sustainable tourism efforts  

RIYADH: A new award system recognizing achievements in sustainable tourism was launched during the World Travel and Tourism Council Global Summit. The Riyadh-based Sustainable Tourism Global Center used the summit as an opportunity to announce its latest stride in the battle for a more sustainable future. 

The “Sustainable Travel Awards” will recognize individuals and organizations that address climate change, protect nature and support communities. There will be 10 awards in total geared towards recognizing high-impact solutions that are already implemented and that are able to demonstrate a measurable positive impact on the environment. They will be divided into three categories — climate, nature and communities — with three accolades awarded under each category. One leading figure will be identified as a true champion of sustainability and receive an individual award.  

Gloria Guevara, chief special advisor to the Minister of Tourism and a global panel of sustainability experts has been be appointed to judge the awards. 

Guevara said: “We are enormously proud to be launching these awards to recognize the outstanding work being done all over the world in different areas of sustainability work from climate change actions to preserving nature and supporting opportunities for communities. 

“Sustainability has been a core area of debate at the WTTC Global Summit and we are confident that our awards will identify and recognize the outstanding work in this field and incentivize others to innovate and contribute to change.” 

Special guests, supermodels Elle Macpherson, Adriana Lima and Valeria Mazza were there to present the awards in the Saudi capital.  

Announced by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at the Saudi Green Initiative and the UN Climate Change conference, or COP26, in Glasgow last year, the STGC brings together governments, international organizations, academic bodies, financing institutions and industry associations. 

The STGC aims to reduce the tourism sector’s estimated 8 percent contribution to total global greenhouse gases and move toward net-zero emissions.


Egypt’s net foreign assets continue to fall as currency devaluation hurts economy

Egypt’s net foreign assets continue to fall as currency devaluation hurts economy
Updated 01 December 2022

Egypt’s net foreign assets continue to fall as currency devaluation hurts economy

Egypt’s net foreign assets continue to fall as currency devaluation hurts economy

RIYADH: Egypt’s net foreign assets fell by 109.9 billion Egyptian pounds ($4.47 billion) in October, extending a decline that began in September 2021, central bank data showed. 

The decrease works out to about $228 million after calculating for devaluations during October, Reuters reported. 

NFAs represent banking system assets that are owned by its non-residents minus liabilities, and foreign assets held by the central bank. Egypt has been relying on its NFAs to steady its devaluing currency.  

Egypt has been facing a currency crisis following Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February, prompting the North African country to begin negotiating with the International Monetary Fund for a financial assistance package. 

In October, the IMF agreed to a 46-month, $3 billion Extended Fund Facility with Egypt, welcoming a move to “durable exchange rate flexibility” and commitments to boosting social protections, according to Reuters. 

The arrangement was aimed at catalyzing a large multi-year financing package, including about $5 billion in the financial year ending in June 2023, reflecting broad international and regional support for Egypt, the IMF said in a statement. 

The Central Bank of Egypt in October had been allowing the pound to fall in increments of about 0.01 pounds per working day, but on Oct. 27 devalued it by 14.5 percent in one go as part of the $3 billion support package it concluded with the IMF last month. 

NFAs fell to a negative 551.0 billion pounds at the end of October from a negative 441.1 billion pounds a month earlier, according to the central bank data. 

NFAs stood at a positive 248 billion pounds in September 2021, before the decline began. Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February sparked further investor unease, unleashing an even bigger flood of outflows. 

Changes in the amount of NFAs represent net transactions of the banking system with the foreign sector, including those of the central bank, according to the bank. 

On Nov. 29, Saudi Arabia extended the term for a $5 billion deposit the Kingdom made to Egypt’s central bank in March after the North African country came under increasing financial pressure following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Saudi Press Agency reported. 

This came as the two countries want to enhance coordination, especially with regard to pumping numerous investments in foreign currencies into the Egyptian market in addition to Saudi deposits, SPA said. 

It is hoped that these investments will contribute to opening new funding channels with regional and international organizations, SPA added. 


Saudi Arabia launches second edition of Tawteen program to create 170,000 jobs

Saudi Arabia launches second edition of Tawteen program to create 170,000 jobs
Updated 31 min 6 sec ago

Saudi Arabia launches second edition of Tawteen program to create 170,000 jobs

Saudi Arabia launches second edition of Tawteen program to create 170,000 jobs
  • Second edition of the initiative will create 30,000 jobs in the tourism sector alone

RIYADH: More than 170,000 new jobs are set to be created in Saudi Arabia thanks to the launch of the second edition of a government scheme to boost employment in the Kingdom.

The Tawteen program, organized by the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development, will create 25,000 jobs in the industry sector, along with providing 20,000 employment opportunities in the health, transport and logistics services, and real estate and construction sectors. 

This second edition of the initiative will create 30,000 jobs in the tourism sector alone, as Saudi Arabia is pushing hard to make the Kingdom a global tourist destination by 2030. 

According to Saudi Arabia’s National Tourism Strategy, the Kingdom eyes creating one million jobs in the sector, along with attracting 100 million visitors annually by 2030. 

This edition of the Tawteen program also eyes creating 15,000 jobs in the trade sector and other 40,000 employment openings in other miscellaneous sectors. 

The Tawteen program is an initiative of the Saudi Industrial Development Fund to support and boost the direction of increasing local content spending, along with creating job opportunities for Saudis. 

Saudization, known as the Saudi nationalization scheme, or Nitaqat, is considered a crucial step toward economic success, as the Kingdom is now steadily diversifying its economy which has been dependent on oil for several decades. 

According to a recent report launched by the National Labor Observatory, Saudi Arabia was ranked first in the labor force growth rate among the Group of 20 countries during the period 2012 — 2021. 

Even though Saudization has been going on since 1985, the process was accelerated after the launch of Vision 2030 in 2016 by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. 

As Saudization progresses in the Kingdom, the job market in the nation is also evolving rapidly, as a report from the Central Department of Statistics and Information suggested that the unemployment rate in the Kingdom decreased to 5.80 percent in the second quarter of 2022 from 6 percent in the first quarter of 2022. 

Earlier in September, while speaking at the Local Content Forum, Saudi Transport Minister Saleh bin Nasser Al-Jasser said that the Kingdom is working to localize 18 professions over the next year. 

He also added that the transportation sector in Saudi Arabia is working to increase the proportion of Saudi nationals in all its services.

“The transportation system is working to increase the proportion of localization in all its services. We are close to the percentage of full localization for the profession of co-pilot, and soon the full localization of pilots will be achieved,” said Al-Jasser.


Tonga latest nation to back Saudi Arabia’s Expo 2030 bid

Tonga latest nation to back Saudi Arabia’s Expo 2030 bid
Updated 01 December 2022

Tonga latest nation to back Saudi Arabia’s Expo 2030 bid

Tonga latest nation to back Saudi Arabia’s Expo 2030 bid

RIYADH: Tonga has become the latest country to declare its support for Saudi Arabia’s bid to host the World Expo in 2030. 

The Polynesian country’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Fekitamoeloa ‘Utoikamanu made the declaration during a meeting with the Kingdom’s Tourism Minister Ahmed Al Khateeb in Riyadh.

Saudi Arabia submitted its bid for the World Expo 2030 in October last year, in a letter sent by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to the Bureau International des Expositions, the international organizing body for the global event since 1931. 

The Kingdom has already earned significant support for its bid from more than 60 countries and organizations around the world, including China, France, Turkiye, Greece, Armenia, Cuba, dozens of other African nations, and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. 

If Saudi Arabia is selected to host the event, authorities plan to turn Riyadh and the rest of the country into a world-class venue for global culture, connectivity and climate action.

The Kingdom 's capital is competing against Busan in South Korea, Rome in Italy, and Odesa in Ukraine for Expo 2030, with a ballot to be held by the BIE in November 2023, on the principle of one country, one vote.

In a statement after her meeting, ‘Utoikamanu — also Tonga’s tourism minister — acknowledged the leadership Saudi Arabia has shown over the last few years to boost its tourism industry and the ambitious plan to attract 100 million visitors by 2030. 

“During my visit it is obvious that the Saudi Government is committed to boosting sustainable tourism,” she said, adding: “The investments in smart, environmentally sound infrastructure place Saudi Arabia as a global leader in responsible development and growth.” 

Tonga and Saudi Arabia established diplomatic relations in 2020, and the Kingdom’s tourism minister was one of the first foreign dignitaries to visit the country this year, following two years of border closures. 

Al Khateeb acknowledged that even if the relations between Tonga and Saudi Arabia are recent, the reciprocal high-level visits signal the commitment by both sides to strengthen the friendly relations that have developed between the two Kingdoms. 

‘Utoikamanu used her trip to Saudi Arabia to attend the World Travel and Tourism Council Global Summit which took place in Riyadh. 

The summit welcomed 57 tourism ministers, 250 CEOs, 8,000 registered participants and 3,000 in-person participants.