DAVOS: Saudi Arabia is a “bright spot” for a global economy facing slowdown this year, a panel of finance experts and Saudi ministers said at the World Economic Forum in Davos on Wednesday.
Finance Minister Mohammed Al-Jadaan said the Kingdom had predicted the trend of global inflation before other countries, meaning it was able to take measures to insulate itself.
“Because of the stimulus packages that the world has put in the global economy, by July 2021 we saw the signs, and we realized we needed to take steps to protect the Saudi economy, and we have done that successfully,” he said.
He added that freezing local energy prices was among the mitigation measures.
While global inflation is above 8 percent, Saudi Arabia’s average is 2.6 percent. Forecasts show that inflation in the Kingdom “will not be as high” in 2023, the minister said, adding: “There is a lot of work being done to insulate the Saudi economy but also help the global economy.”
He said that the Kingdom is changing the way it provides assistance to allies. “We used to give direct grants and deposits without strings attached, and we are changing that.”
Panelists pointed to the long-term approach of Vision 2030 as a contributing factor in the resilience of the Kingdom’s economy.
The vision, they said, helped Saudi Arabia adapt when dealing with global challenges including COVID-19, the Ukraine-Russia war, rising inflation and food and energy insecurity.
Kristalina Georgieva, the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, said that Vision 2030 had made Saudi Arabia a “bright spot for the world economy and in its own region in a particularly difficult time for the world.”
The Kingdom, she said, would provide the economic growth that the world needed as a global slowdown was expected to persist in 2023 due to the Russia-Ukraine war and China’s latest COVID-19 emergency.
She said Saudi Arabia had an effective fiscal policy, had tackled energy and food insecurity and was striving for a more diversified economy.
“I don’t know how many countries during this difficult time had the courage to increase their debt-to-income ratio from 6 to 15 percent. Saudi Arabia did,” she added.
“Saudi Arabia takes its good fortunes to heart to play an important role in energy and food security and in addressing the incredible challenge of debt.”
Finance Minister Al-Jadaan said the Kingdom aimed to “bridge the divide” and encourage communication with the US and Europe for the “benefit of the world” and find collective solutions for food and energy insecurity and the transition to green energy.
China was “very important” for the Kingdom and its largest trade partner, “but also the US is a very important and strategic partner.”
“Our aim is really to bridge the divide, our aim is to be a force of communication and we are encouraging communication, whether it is China, the US or others. We are playing our part globally and you can count on Saudi Arabia to continue.”
Princess Reema Bandar Al-Saud, the Saudi ambassador to the US, said maintaining the long-standing strategic partnership between Riyadh and Washington was “beyond critically necessary” for global stability.
“Yes, there was a moment of conflict and disagreement, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that we are both strategic allies and we are friends, and this relationship is critical for the world,” said Al-Saud.
IMF’s Georgieva said increased female participation in work was a key driver of the economy, and Saudi Arabia had already exceeded by seven percentage points its own 2030 target of making 30 percent of the country’s workforce female.
Abdullah Al-Swaha, Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Communications and IT, said Saudi Arabia jumped from 7 percent female participation in technology to 32 percent, which is higher than the EU, G20 and Silicon Valley averages. “It is the most audacious and bold reform story in the 21st century,” he said.
Ambassador Al-Saud said female empowerment was at the baseline of the design of the Saudi Vision 2030.
“Today, women have equal pay in the Kingdom. Today, they have equal opportunities,” said Al-Saud.
Society had changed, she said: Women occupied senior roles in Saudi Arabia, female participation in sports had risen and five female diplomats were representing the Kingdom across the world.
“Women weren’t an afterthought in the design of what we were doing now,” adding that “we can’t have a sustainable economy if 50 percent of our society is not included.”
RIYADH: Diplomats in Riyadh gathered to share greetings and messages filled with understanding as part of cultural diplomacy during Ramadan, which began on March 23.
Dean of the Diplomatic Corps and Djibouti’s Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Dya-Eddine Said Bamakhrama, said: “I send best wishes for the blessed month of Ramadan.
“Let it be a time to reflect and count our blessings. May the light of Ramadan shine in your homes, bringing happiness and peace. Wishing you blessings, prosperity throughout the year.”
Welcoming the holy month, Bamakhrama also hosted the heads of diplomatic missions in Riyadh and their families to iftar at the Cultural Palace in the Diplomatic Quarter.
Patrick Simonnet, EU ambassador to Saudi Arabia, said: “I am delighted to extend my sincerest congratulations to the Saudi people and Muslims in the Kingdom on the occasion of the holy month of Ramadan. I look forward to further cooperation between the EU and the Kingdom. Blessed Ramadan.”
The US Embassy tweeted: “All employees of the US Embassy in Riyadh wish all our friends and followers in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia #RamadanKareem.”
Kazakhstan Ambassador Berik Aryn told Arab News: “I extend my sincere greetings and best wishes to the people of Saudi Arabia and all Muslims. May Allah accept our good deeds and bestow his blessings during the holy month.”
Denmark’s Ambassador, Liselotte Plesner, said: “Ramadan Kareem from the Royal Danish Embassy. We wish you a blessed month.”
Nigeria’s Ambassador, Yahaya Lawal, said: “Ramadan Mubarak and may the blessings of this holy season bring durable peace, progress and prosperity to our troubled world.”
Alexis Konstantopoulos, ambassador of Greece, said: “On behalf of all your Greek friends, I would like to wish our Saudi friends a Ramadan Mubarak. May this holy month bring peace and blessings throughout the world.”
Sri Lanka’s Ambassador, Pakeer Mohideen Amza, said: “I wish to extend my best wishes and greetings. May Allah protect you all, provide good health, accept our prayers, fasting and good deeds during this holy month of Ramadan.”
Saudi Fashion Commission to host third Swap Shop event in Riyadh
Updated 29 March 2023
DUBAI: In their bid to promote sustainability and ethical fashion, the Saudi Fashion Commission is set to host the third edition of Swap Shop in Riyadh.
Set to take place in Square 1’s ‘A Fashion House’ in Riyadh Boulevard City, the event, held in collaboration with Sela and Cenomi Retail, will take place from April 1-5 and is open to the general public from 9 p.m. to 1.30 a.m.
Guests will be able to swap pre-loved clothing and accessories for other used pieces, or exchange for new items provided by Cenomi Retail.
The Saudi Fashion Commission hopes that Swap Shop will play a key role in educating consumers to support its mission to create a sustainable Saudi fashion scene.
“As we work towards a sustainable future for the industry, we want to involve consumers in this journey and share with them the importance of circulating pre-loved clothing,” said Burak Cakmak, CEO of the Saudi Fashion Commission, in a statement.
“Thank you in advance to everyone taking part in this initiative – I look forward to hearing about the best finds and one-of-a-kind pieces from the Swap Shop treasure trove,” he added.
The second edition of Swap Shop at Fashion Futures 2022 had more than 1,300 visitors, with almost 1,000 people swapping clothes and 5,500 items brought to the Swap Shop.
Saudi Arabia’s AlUla Design Award extends submissions deadline until April 12
Updated 29 March 2023
DUBAI: The AlUla Design Award — which recognizes design inspired by the heritage, landscapes and artistic legacies of AlUla — is returning for a second edition this year and on Wednesday extended its deadline for submissions until April 12.
The award invites established and emerging designers to conceptualize and propose design items in the categories of jewelry, footwear, clothing, home accessories, leather goods and more.
“Being so steep in history and culture, and with the mesmerizing natural wonders it holds, AlUla is the perfect muse for any creative wishing to push their boundaries,” AlDabal said, according to a released statement. “AlUla Design Award is the intersection between heritage and contemporary creative culture, providing local and international talents with the opportunity to interact with AlUla and translate it to their designs.”
Submissions will be evaluated by a jury from the design world, and the shortlisted design concepts will progress to a prototyping round. The winning proposals will be commissioned, supported in their production and promoted within AlUla.
In partnership with Paris Design Week (PDW), the shortlisted designers will have the opportunity to showcase their prototypes in an exhibition in September 2023 where the winners will be announced.
The first edition of the AlUla Design Award welcomed more than 700 applicants, with 262 shortlisted, 18 finalists and six winners. The six winners of the first edition were Reem Bashawri, Nour Shourbagy, Tarek El-Kassouf, Mohamad Baalbaki with AlJoharah AlRasheed, Rukun with Harry Dobbs and Niko Kapa.
How the Saudi Green Initiative has moved from ambition to action, two years on
Two-year anniversary of SGI’s launch seen as a milestone on the path to a sustainable future
The anniversary is being celebrated as a whole-of-society effort to usher in a greener future
Updated 29 March 2023
JEDDAH: When one thinks of Saudi Arabia, one imagines scenes of rolling sand dunes as far as the eye can see — a vision not far from the truth in some of the more remote corners of the peninsula.
Looking closer at this vast landscape and its sprawling urban areas, however, many would be surprised by the vast green spaces now changing the face of the Kingdom, from dense forests to lush city parks.
Two years ago, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman launched one of the world’s most significant climate initiatives, which set out to enhance the quality of life while integrating environmental protection, energy transition and sustainability programs.
Celebrating its second anniversary, the Saudi Green Initiative, an ambitious multi-entity collaboration, has already reached several important milestones since its launch.
It has made a significant dent in its target of planting 10 billion trees across Saudi Arabia, chalking up 18 million to date.
Of the 40 million hectares of degraded land it aims to rehabilitate, 60,000 hectares have been restored, while more than 60 sites have been set aside for the sustainable planting of trees across the Kingdom.
2 Years since Saudi Green Initiative was launched.
10 billion Target number of trees to be planted.
18 million Trees planted in Saudi Arabia in 2022.
60,000 Hectares of land rehabilitated in 2022.
250,000 Cultivated shrubs in AlUla nurseries.
62 Sites approved for tree planting.
150,000 Homes powered by renewable energy.
1,200 Endangered animals rewilded.
Historically, most resources for conservation efforts have been invested in areas considered wild and, therefore, less populated. Preserving these “untouched” places is critical for many reasons.
However, due to a noticeable increase in annual heat waves and extreme weather patterns, scientists and urban planners have turned their focus on urban areas to develop new strategies for resilient built environments.
For decades, rapid urbanization across the Kingdom and the lack of sustainable development on the ground led to polluted air, soaring temperatures, severe dust storms, and other harmful byproducts.
Saudi Green Initiative: An overview
There is a mechanism for defining specific places for afforestation and selecting suitable species for cultivation. Experts and specialists supervise the selection of planting sites before implementing, where available space and assured protection of the sites are mandatory to ensure the preservation and maintenance of trees. This is in addition to the suitability of the trees planted in these sites, whose types are chosen to make them compatible with the type of the soil in which they are planted. The National Center for Vegetation Coverage Development and Desertification Control has selected about 26 sites in various regions of the Kingdom to serve as alternative sites if the partner agencies do not have sites to implement afforestation campaigns. These sites meet all the requirements, including for protection and care.
The Environmental Awareness Initiative is one of the many efforts of the National Transformation Program to enhance and raise societal awareness of environmental issues and establish a sense of individual and collective responsibility for preserving natural resources in the Kingdom. The initiative aims to contribute to reducing pollution of all kinds and achieving environmental sustainability. This is being achieved through afforestation campaigns and directing the efforts of agencies, institutions and individuals toward afforestation. Afforestation campaigns are being launched with the private sector or environmental associations in coordination with the National Center for Plant Cover Development and Combating Desertification. The “Let’s Make It Green” campaign aims to increase the green area in the Kingdom and combat desertification, in addition to rehabilitating degraded vegetation sites and raising awareness of the importance of reducing harmful vegetation practices. The objective is to improve the quality of life in Saudi Arabia per the goals of Vision 2030.
Saleh Bindakhil, spokesman for Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture.
This led to the rise of the urban heat island effect — a phenomenon that occurs when cities replace land with dense concentrations of buildings, pavement, and other surfaces that absorb and retain heat.
Scientists at Nanjing and Yale Universities analyzed satellite data from across 2,000 cities around the world from 2002 to 2021. They found that cities are warming by a rate of 0.56 degrees Celsius per decade during the day and 0.43 C per decade at night.
The study compared the rise in temperatures to that of rural areas and found that urban areas are warming 29 percent faster on average.
This data should ring alarm bells for any nation with growing ambitions and growing cities.
In recent years, an international team of climate scientists, economists, and energy systems modelers have built a range of new “pathways” that examine how global society, demographics, and economics might change over the next century.
They are collectively known as the Shared Socioeconomic Pathways, which analyze how the world might evolve in the absence of climate policy and how different levels of climate change mitigation could be achieved in five different ways.
According to the G20 Climate Risk Atlas, Saudi Arabia will experience severe climate impacts if it follows a high-emissions pathway. Without urgent action, the Kingdom will see an 88 percent increase in the frequency of agricultural drought by 2050.
Heatwaves will last longer, and the combination of sea level rise, coastal erosion, and more extreme weather events will cause chaos for Saudi Arabia’s economy, which stands to lose around 12.2 percent of its gross domestic product by 2050 if it fails to act.
Data analysis from the Climate Change Knowledge Portal’s simulations shows that a rise in temperatures in the Kingdom is evident in the coming decades.
However, research has also shown that large variations in afforestation-related climate cooling can modify local surface temperatures and reduce them.
Saudi Arabia is committed to making a sizable impact on rising temperatures through collaborations between government entities, the private sector, and local communities.
2016 King Salman launches renewable energy initiative.
2017 National Renewable Energy Program announced.
2018 Launch of the National Environment Strategy.
2019 Creation of the Special Forces for Environmental Security.
2020 “Let’s Make it Green” campaign launched to halt desertification.
2021 Inaugural Saudi Green Initiative Forum and Middle East Green Summit.
2030 Target to plant +600 million trees, protect 30 percent of land and sea, cut CO2 emissions by 278 million tons per annum.
2060 Target to achieve net-zero carbon emissions.
To increase vegetation in urban areas and mitigate the effects of climate change, 77 initiatives and programs were activated under the broader SGI umbrella.
The Green Saudi Cities initiative, launched by the Municipal, Rural Affairs, and Housing Ministry, aims to plant up to 32 million trees in public parks and gardens across the capital city, Riyadh.
The scheme will be conducted over three phases and will undertake new greening projects in Riyadh, equivalent to an area of 437.5 sq. km. The project is set to be completed by 2031.
The capital is also undergoing a massive overhaul as the Green Riyadh project sets out to increase the proportion of green space to 9 percent and to plant 7.5 million trees by 2030.
At the heart of it all, work is underway to establish the King Salman Park, the largest urban park project in the world, in which 11 sq. km of its planned 16.6 sq. km park will be covered in green spaces and more than a million trees.
Similarly, the “Green Qibla” initiative aims to plant 15 million trees in the holy city of Makkah. The project, led by the Royal Commission for Makkah City and Holy Sites, is projected to finish by 2036.
Other viable paths to increase sustainability and mirror the projected positive effects of urban greening projects and afforestation initiatives are renewable energy and the use of electric vehicles.
Efforts within cities to transform high-emissions human activities such as transportation, energy production, and waste generation are increasing as 150,000 homes are now powered by renewable energy sources.
Last month, the Kingdom’s first electric public transport bus began operating in the western city of Jeddah. Studies have shown that electric public transport, powered through renewable energy, could cut 250 million tons of carbon emissions by 2030, improve public health, and reduce noise and air pollution.
“We are working on using other alternatives for taxis and public transport, and we have various tests to use alternatives that reduce carbon emissions, as a target for the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, until we reach a 45 percent reduction in carbon emissions in transportation, leading to clean energy,” Rumaih Al-Rumaih, acting chairman of the Public Transport Authority, told Arab News.
In 2018, a European Environment Agency report titled “Electric vehicles from life cycle and circular economy perspectives,” confirmed that the greenhouse gas emissions of EVs are approximately 17-30 percent lower than the emissions of petrol and diesel cars.
Although the study referred to EVs using the EU energy mix (petroleum products including crude oil, natural gas, renewable energy, nuclear energy, and solid fossil fuels), the report also stated that EVs emit zero exhaust emissions at the street level, improving local air quality.
Using such alternatives will not bring back the lakes and grassland that once spilled across the Arabian Peninsula centuries ago. However, tree planting is widely touted as one of the most effective tools to combat the climate crisis and restore biodiversity.
Government agencies, businesses, and communities across the Kingdom have all pledged to drive forward the large-scale tree planting initiative, not only to make the Kingdom greener but to create healthy ecosystems and improve the overall quality of life.