Saudi finance minister leads Kingdom’s delegation to key G20 meeting

Saudi finance minister leads Kingdom’s delegation to key G20 meeting
Saudi Finance Minister Mohammed Al-Jadaan is heading the Kingdom’s delegation to the third meeting of G20 finance ministers and central bank governors held in India from July 17-18. (File)
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Updated 16 July 2023
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Saudi finance minister leads Kingdom’s delegation to key G20 meeting

Saudi finance minister leads Kingdom’s delegation to key G20 meeting

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia is participating in a key discussion in the third G20 meeting of finance ministers and central bank governors held in Gandhinagar from July 17-18 under the Indian presidency, covering crucial topics and supporting growth and safeguarding against downside risks. 

Saudi Finance Minister Mohammed Al-Jadaan is heading the Kingdom’s delegation. He is accompanied by Saudi Central Bank Gov. Ayman Al-Sayari and other key officials from the ministry. 

The G20 meetings cover the global economy and health, sustainable financing and infrastructure, international financial framework and global taxes in the financial sector. 

The meet is expected to generate the same attention as the Saudi delegation to the G20 Young Entrepreneurs Alliance Summit in New Delhi, which concluded on July 15. The summit invited young innovators to expand their business into the Kingdom and join its flagship projects. 

Prince Fahad bin Mansour, head of the Saudi G20 Young Entrepreneurs Alliance and chairman of Saudi Arabia’s Entrepreneurship Vision, led the delegation from the Kingdom. 

He invited business owners worldwide to relocate, grow, or launch new ventures in Saudi Arabia through the summit’s strategic partner, the Kingdom’s investment brand Invest Saudi. 

These partnerships will be key to the growth of the Kingdom, which is fast emerging as a sought-after economic destination.

According to the Switzerland-based International Institute for Management Development, Saudi Arabia ranked 17 globally out of 64 countries, becoming one of the top 20 countries for the first time in the World Competitiveness Yearbook 2023. 

The annual report is regarded as a benchmark for a nation’s level of competitiveness. It evaluates and ranks countries according to how well they can control their competencies and produce long-term value. 

“Navigating today’s unpredictable environment requires agility and adaptability. Countries that excel are building resilient economies, such as Ireland, Iceland and Bahrain,” said Christos Cabolis, chief economist at the IIMD’s World Competitiveness Center. 

“The UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Singapore are also key examples of this,” added Cabolis. 

Supported by Vision 2030, Saudi Arabia’s ascent was driven by significant progress in economic performance, government efficiency and business environment.

The progress helped the Kingdom surpass its G20 peers, including South Korea, France and India. 


Saudi banks’ money supply surges 10% to reach $726bn in January

Saudi banks’ money supply surges 10% to reach $726bn in January
Updated 03 March 2024
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Saudi banks’ money supply surges 10% to reach $726bn in January

Saudi banks’ money supply surges 10% to reach $726bn in January

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s money supply surged 10 percent in January to reach SR2.72 trillion ($726 billion), the central bank data showed.

The growth was primarily driven by a substantial rise in banks’ term and savings accounts, which recorded a rise of 31 percent to reach SR864.32 billion. The overall figure, however, also includes currency outside banks, demand deposits, and other quasi-money deposits.

Since the Saudi riyal is pegged to the US dollar, the rise in interest rates is also seen as a source of motivation for depositors who want to pursue more profitable avenues particularly term deposits known for their higher-yielding nature.

Fitch Ratings also noted that the liquidity boost in Saudi Arabia could be linked to a significant rise in funds from government-related entities.

According to the agency, the rise in these GRE accounts suggests that these entities chose to invest their surplus liquidity in higher income-generating deposits with commercial banks, rather than with the Saudi Central Bank, also known as SAMA.

It highlighted that these deposits serve as an expensive source of funding for banks, which has significantly increased the average cost of funding due to heightened competition in the financial market.

Reflecting on the changes, demand deposits, which constituted a 53 percent share of the money supply a year ago, now stand at 48.42 percent, with a growth rate of only 1 percent during this period.

Despite the elevated cost of funding for Saudi banks, the increase in interest rates also bolstered profits on their asset side, as higher borrowing rates resulted in greater income.

Based on data from Bloomberg compiled by Arab News, the net income of listed Saudi banks surged by 12 percent annually in 2023, reaching SR69.96 billion.

Among these, the Saudi National Bank held the largest share at 29 percent, equivalent to SR20 billion. Notably, the most significant growth in net income was observed in Saudi Awwal Bank, with profits soaring by 45 percent to reach SR7 billion.

During 2022, SAMA increased key policy rates seven times followed by an additional four times in 2023. In its July 2023 meeting, the central bank last raised its repo rate by 25 basis points to 6 percent, reaching its highest level since 2001. This move was in line with the measures taken by the US Federal Reserve as part of its efforts to combat inflation.

Saudi Arabia has nevertheless demonstrated exceptional resilience and stability in managing inflation. This success can be attributed to the steadfast implementation of robust government policies designed to safeguard the economy.

Central to this stability is the Saudi Consumer Protection Association, a vigilant guardian of fair pricing practices for essential goods and services. The Kingdom’s strong regulatory framework ensures that consumers are shielded from unwarranted price escalations, fostering an environment conducive to business.

Furthermore, Saudi Arabia’s commitment to social welfare is evident in its comprehensive policies. The Kingdom has strategically invested in initiatives such as subsidies on essential goods, affordable housing schemes, quality education programs, and accessible healthcare services.

A prime example of this commitment is the Citizen Account Program, a cornerstone of support for low- and mid-income families. Through this program, the government provides crucial cash transfers, alleviating the financial strains caused by the rising cost of living.

In January, Saudi Arabia maintained stable inflation at 1.6 percent, holding steady from December 2023, as reported by the General Authority of Statistics.

The primary driver of the inflation rate was the cost of rent, given their significant weight of 21 percent in the Saudi consumer basket.

Nevertheless, according to data from Trading Economics, the Kingdom ranked the second-lowest among G20 countries in terms of inflation, following Switzerland, which recorded a rate of 1.3 percent.

Looking ahead, Fitch Ratings anticipates that the cost of funding will continue to be sensitive to shifts in the Fed rate. However, the agency expects the average net interest margin, a crucial measure of banks’ core profitability, to stay at approximately 3 percent.

Fitch also projects a 10 percent growth in deposits for 2024, driven primarily by term accounts. The proportion of demand deposits will likely decrease, falling below 50 percent of total deposits.

The agency’s predicted Saudi banking sector financing growth stood at 10 percent in 2024, well above the Gulf Cooperation Council average of 5 percent but down from an estimated 12 percent in 2023 and 14 percent in 2022.


RSG partners with Amazon Payment Services to introduce online transactions

RSG partners with Amazon Payment Services to introduce online transactions
Updated 15 min 49 sec ago
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RSG partners with Amazon Payment Services to introduce online transactions

RSG partners with Amazon Payment Services to introduce online transactions

RIYADH: Saudi tourist destinations, The Red Sea and AMAALA, will soon offer online transaction options through a recent partnership with Amazon Payment Services. 

Initiated by its developer Red Sea Global, the deal aims to provide a comprehensive suite of payment solutions tailored to meet the needs of RSG’s customers, according to a statement. 

This aligns with RSG’s vision of providing exceptional experiences for its travelers, as stated by Ahmed Ali Al-Sohaily, group head of technology at RSG. 

He said: “By collaborating with Amazon Payment Services, its best-in-class technology ensures convenient, secure, and efficient payment processes for our guests.”  

RSG said it seeks to collaborate with partners who share similar values in making a positive impact on both people and the planet. Currently, more than 90 percent of Amazon Payment Services’ electricity comes from renewables, with a goal to reach 100 percent by 2025, the release added. 

“We are excited to support Red Sea Global and its customers through this new partnership that allows us to enhance the payment experience for luxury travelers through our innovative and tailor-made payment solutions,” said Peter George, managing director at Amazon Payments Services.

“Our payment methods fully and seamlessly integrate with Red Sea Global’s infrastructure, making their offering even more accessible, reliable, and easy to use,” he added. 

Last week, in an interview with Arab News on the sidelines of the Human Capability Initiative in Riyadh, RSG Group CEO John Pagano highlighted that Red Sea has recently opened its first two resorts, including the Six Senses Southern Dunes and The St. Regis Red Sea Resort. 

By the end of this year, the group intends to launch four additional resorts, he disclosed.  

“Meanwhile, we’re busy working on 19 other resorts, 11 at Red Sea and eight at AMAALA, all of which are going to open next year,” Pagano said in that interview.   

In terms of operations, the CEO added: “We’re open for business today. The airport is running. So, we have eight flights a week in and out of the Red Sea direct.”    

The destination is currently regularly receiving guests from the local and regional markets, including Europeans as well, he added. 

“So, we’re in that capacity-building mode where people are now starting to learn about the destination,” Pagano concluded. 


Australia’s University of Wollongong joins top global institutes in Riyadh expansion 

Australia’s University of Wollongong joins top global institutes in Riyadh expansion 
Updated 03 March 2024
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Australia’s University of Wollongong joins top global institutes in Riyadh expansion 

Australia’s University of Wollongong joins top global institutes in Riyadh expansion 

RIYADH: Saudi students will gain increased access to high-quality higher education as reputable institutes, including Australia’s University of Wollongong, secure licenses for branches within the Kingdom. 

The Saudi Ministry of Education and its investment counterpart announced the issuance of an approval to the Australian public research university during the recently concluded Human Capability Initiative Conference in Riyadh, the Saudi Press Agency reported.  

This move is a part of the preparations to establish its branch in the Kingdom, in collaboration with the Digital Knowledge Co., to provide innovative, globally recognized education for international and local students across various higher schooling levels. 

The collaboration with Digital Knowledge Co., known for its high-quality expertise in schooling and training, aligns with Saudi Vision 2030, aiming to attract foreign university branches and increase private sector involvement in higher education by 2030. 

The University of Wollongong holds the 14th position among the best modern universities worldwide, ranking in the top 1 percent of institutes according to the 2024 QS World Index. 

The SPA report added that, during the same event, the two ministries also signed a memorandum of understanding with Arizona State University and Cintana Education to establish a new institute and an affiliated school in Riyadh. 

The MoU with ASU and Cintana Education outlines the framework for these institutions, emphasizing high-quality education, research, and innovative programs to contribute to economic success and influence future generations in the Kingdom. 

The tailored programs aim to meet the increasing demand for international education in Riyadh, aligning with the priorities of Saudi Vision 2030. This includes specializations in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, as well as economics, along with the training of educational staff. 

SPA added that the launch is scheduled after the completion of the required studies by the signing parties of the MoU. 

In 2005, ASU had 20 undergraduate and four graduate students from Saudi Arabia. By 2017, these numbers surged to 682 undergraduate and 103 graduate students, according to its website. 

The university emphasizes 13 areas of study, with engineering being the most popular among half of the students, while one in five are pursuing degrees in business. Other fields of study include liberal arts, global management, public service, and education. 

AUS adds that the Saudi Arabian Cultural Mission and Aramco have sent multiple delegations to the educational institution to explore how the university accommodates sponsored Saudi students. Such cultural missions have resulted in 126 Aramco-sponsored scholars currently enrolled at ASU.


WTO’s Abu Dhabi Declaration to empower least developed nations  

WTO’s Abu Dhabi Declaration to empower least developed nations  
Updated 03 March 2024
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WTO’s Abu Dhabi Declaration to empower least developed nations  

WTO’s Abu Dhabi Declaration to empower least developed nations  

RIYADH: The least developed countries are set to benefit from the Abu Dhabi Declaration at the 13th WTO Ministerial Conference, improving global supply chain access. 

Trade deals, aimed at fostering new agreements, will extend international trading system benefits to more nations, following intensive negotiations, as reported by the UAE’s official news agency, WAM. 

Members have agreed to implement Special and Preferential Treatment for Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures and Technical Barriers to Trade. This effort supports producers in the least developed countries, facilitating their global supply chain access, the WAM report stated. 

The report added that the current measures of SPS constitute a staggering 90 percent of non-tariff trade barriers, posing a significant obstacle for smaller nations and being viewed as discriminatory. 

In a significant development for developing countries, ministers approved a decision responding to a 23-year-old mandate. The aim is to revamp special and differential treatment provisions for improved precision, effectiveness, and operational functionality. 

The UAE Minister of State for Foreign Trade and MC13 Chair, Thani Al-Zeyoudi, described the declaration as a significant milestone for the UAE and global trade. 

“It has been a momentous week for Abu Dhabi, for the UAE, and for global trade. I would like to thank the delegations from every member for their diligence and dedication to the negotiation and for their ceaseless efforts in making the global trading system more robust, more efficient and, most importantly, more accessible,” he said. 

The minister added that even in areas where final agreements have not been reached, issues that previously seemed unsolvable can now be unlocked — clearing the way for further progress in the coming months.  

Substantial progress has also been achieved in dispute resolution, as there is now an agreement to fulfill the MC12 mandate by establishing a comprehensive and efficient Dispute Settlement system by the end of 2024. This entails the adoption of various reform pathways by the participating members. 

Regarding e-commerce, members have agreed to extend the moratorium on customs duties for electronic transmissions for an additional two years. This decision implies that trade involving purely digital products and services will remain tariff-free until MC14 in Cameroon. 

Ministers also adopted a ministerial decision to extend the moratorium on non-violation and situation complaints related to the agreement on Trade-related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights until MC14. 

“Delivering the Abu Dhabi Declaration of outcomes is a true testament to the value that members continue to attach to the WTO and its pivotal role in ensuring an orderly global system of trade rules,” said Al-Zeyoudi. 

“With the adopted Abu Dhabi Declaration, we have demonstrated that we can deliver to ensure the global trading system remains a vital engine of growth and development for nations around the world. We must build on these significant achievements and remain united for global trade,” he added.  

The WAM report quoted Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, director-general of the World Trade Organization, stating that the global body serves as a foundation of stability and resilience in an economic and geopolitical landscape filled with uncertainties and exogenous shocks. 

“Trade remains a vital force for improving people’s lives, and for helping businesses and countries cope with the impact of these shocks. Let us get some rest, then regroup and resume,” she said. 

MC13, hosted by the UAE’s Ministry of Economy and the Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development, took place at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Center from Feb. 26 to March 2. 


Larger declines in oil prices or extended OPEC+ cuts could weigh on Iraq’s fiscal account, IMF says 

Larger declines in oil prices or extended OPEC+ cuts could weigh on Iraq’s fiscal account, IMF says 
Updated 03 March 2024
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Larger declines in oil prices or extended OPEC+ cuts could weigh on Iraq’s fiscal account, IMF says 

Larger declines in oil prices or extended OPEC+ cuts could weigh on Iraq’s fiscal account, IMF says 

CAIRO: The International Monetary Fund said on Sunday that larger declines in oil prices or extended OPEC+ cuts could weigh on Iraq’s fiscal and external accounts. 

“Iraq needs to increase non-oil exports and government revenue, and reduce the economy’s vulnerability to oil price shocks,” they said in a concluding statement.