US should participate in carbon pricing rather than oppose it: IMF director

US should participate in carbon pricing rather than oppose it: IMF director
According to IMF Director Kristalina Georgieva revenues generated from carbon pricing can be strategically directed to compensate the most vulnerable parts of the global population. AN Photo
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Updated 02 December 2023
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US should participate in carbon pricing rather than oppose it: IMF director

US should participate in carbon pricing rather than oppose it: IMF director

DUBAI: The US should participate, rather than being a “loud opponent,” in carbon pricing, urged the director of the International Monetary Fund.
Addressing the Business and Philanthropy Climate Forum alongside the UN Climate Conference, Kristalina Georgieva affirmed that the US must not hinder the world from “moving in the right direction.” Instead, the country should explore the standards and regulatory fees it needs to implement carbon pricing into its economic model. 

The director deemed carbon pricing a “wonderful instrument” due to its dual role in revenue generation and addressing inequality. The principle is straightforward: the more emissions one creates, the more one consumes, resulting in a proportional payment.
According to Georgieva, revenues generated from carbon pricing can be strategically directed to compensate the most vulnerable parts of the global population. Assessments by the IMF indicate that allocating 20 percent of these revenues significantly support the 30 percent most vulnerable areas, providing them with the “much-needed” backing. 

The IMF chief emphasized that “carbon price is a very strong incentive, much stronger than anything else we can invent.”  

Addressing concerns about the political feasibility of carbon prices in various places, she expressed disagreement, asserting that carbon pricing can be implemented in diverse ways.
She added: “It can be a tax, and when it is a tax, it is the most efficient and impactful way.”  

Georgieva pointed out that in countries where carbon tax was gradually introduced, emissions saw a significant reduction of 30 to 40 percent. Furthermore, she highlighted European trading mechanisms that have successfully generated $190 billion in revenue.
Despite the current average carbon price standing at $20 per ton in areas covered by carbon pricing, when amalgamating this figure with 75 percent of the world without carbon pricing, the average carbon price would fall to $5, she noted. 
According to the IMF, a package of measures, including carbon pricing, the elimination of harmful subsidies, and policy support, would significantly accelerate decarbonization. The director instilled the idea that adopting such measures could empower the global population to “make this decade one that we take pride in.” 

Fossil fuel direct subsidies soared to a record $1.3 trillion in the last year, driven by support measures in response to the cost-of-living crisis, as stated by Georgieva. When factoring in indirect subsidies, such as those arising from the absence of carbon pricing addressing environmental and health damage, the total surges to $7.1 trillion. 

“We need to go from $900 million where we are now to $5 trillion to make decarbonization a reality. The question is, is $5 trillion, a lot of money? Well, it’s obviously not a little but put $5 trillion next to $7.1 trillion in direct and indirect subsidies, or next to the size of the world economy, which is over $100 trillion,” the director outlined. 

She added: “I think we should be brave and say yes, it can be done, except it will be only done if we get the private sector to move faster and especially move faster in the developing world where emissions are growing. I’m an optimist; I have seen gradually moving on blended finance in a meaningful way.”

Emphasizing the significance of climate finance, the IMF chief affirmed that when considering all nationally determined contributions for this decade, they would result in only an 11 percent reduction in emissions. 

To uphold the commitment to limiting the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius, it would instead require contributions ranging between 25 and 50 percent, as highlighted by Georgieva.
Meanwhile, private funds currently contribute 40 percent to climate finance. To meet emission targets, this figure must escalate to 80 or 90 percent.
Despite climate risks being “macro-critical” and impacting economies, communities, and households, ultimately leading to financial instability, the director highlighted that transitioning to the new climate economy presents  “unique opportunities” for green growth and job creation. 

While the world economy has demonstrated resilience during challenges such as the pandemic and global conflicts, Georgieva, however, acknowledged that the IMF recognizes the current growth rate as “slow.” 

The organization is forecasting a modest 3 percent year-on-year growth rate for the next five years, nearly a full percentage point below the average of 3.8 percent observed in the preceding decade. 

The director expressed concerns that geopolitical tensions might exacerbate economic fragmentation amid a global climate crisis. This situation has left the entity “very concerned” about the growing inequality both within and across countries.

There exists a striking contrast between economies with a robust capacity to cope and low-income countries, where many have become “way more vulnerable” to climate devastation while grappling with adaptation challenges.  

In response to this disparity, the director emphasized the urgent need for cooperation. She called on companies and global bodies to emulate the proactive approach of the IMF, recognizing the importance of collective efforts in addressing the vulnerabilities and challenges posed by climate change. 

The director said, “There is nothing we can do each one of us alone, but we can make a difference working together.”  

She highlighted the IMF’s transformative shift in its approach over the last few years, integrating climate considerations into policy engagement. The focus involves mitigation strategies for countries facing high water levels, adaptation support for vulnerable nations, and transition plans for those heavily reliant on hydrocarbon sectors. 

“As a financial institution, the IMF has to put our money where our mouth is,” asserted Georgieva. This commitment materialized in the establishment of the $40 billion Resilience and Sustainability Trust.

Concluding her statement, the director expressed gratitude to the UAE for its recent contribution, with 11 countries having already accessed the fund. The UAE, as the newest contributor, provided 200 million dirhams ($54.46 million) as of Dec. 1.


Egypt begins process for privatization of airports

Egypt begins process for privatization of airports
Updated 04 March 2024
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Egypt begins process for privatization of airports

Egypt begins process for privatization of airports
  • Egypt is due to set an international tender for operating Egyptian airports, which include Cairo International Airport

RIYADH: Egypt began the executive process for offering the management and operation of Egyptian airports to the private sector, a Cabinet statement said on Monday.

Egypt is due to set an international tender for operating Egyptian airports, which include Cairo International Airport, the country’s Civil Aviation Minister Mohamed Abbas Helmy has said.

Egypt is set to transition the management and operations of critical logistics and transportation entities to the private sector, starting with the aviation industry. 

In November 2023, Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly declared that seaports, dry ports and airports would be offered to private sector management in the near future. 

Madbouly highlighted a strong commitment to fostering partnerships with private entities in the stewardship and operational aspects of mass transit systems.

An integrated strategy has been formulated by the Egyptian Transport Ministry, in collaboration with global corporations, to begin localization of the industry. 

In July 2023, Egypt’s efforts to bolster its private sector and empower small and medium enterprises received $533.7 million in support from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development as it undertakes massive privatization and restructuring measures for the public sector.  

Under the umbrella of Egypt 2022-2027 strategy, launched by the Minister of International Cooperation Rania Al-Mashat in March 2022, the EBRD approved development financing worth $400 million for the National Bank of Egypt to support SMEs, focusing on regional companies led or owned by young entrepreneurs.  

The bank also approved funding worth $100 million for Banque Misr to improve financing for SMEs in a way that promotes inclusive and sustainable growth. In addition, it aims to increase funding to SMEs in areas with limited access to financial services.

The EBRD also approved another funding for the Mediterrania Capital IV Fund at a value of €30.2 million ($33.7 million).


NHC signs deals to revolutionize Saudi real estate sector with innovative technologies

NHC signs deals to revolutionize Saudi real estate sector with innovative technologies
Updated 04 March 2024
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NHC signs deals to revolutionize Saudi real estate sector with innovative technologies

NHC signs deals to revolutionize Saudi real estate sector with innovative technologies

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s National Housing Co. signed two agreements at LEAP 2024, aiming to support real estate activities in the Kingdom by crafting unique business intelligence solutions.

The deal were signed with data science company Quant and Paseetah Tech Solutions to empower technologies in the real estate market to enhance services provided to customers interested in making investments, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The chief of solutions sector, Rayan Al-Aql, represented the National Housing Co. in signing the agreement, while Quant CEO Ahmed Bukhamseen and Omar Al-Omar, CEO of Paseetah Tech Solutions, represented their respective companies.

The agreements aim to enable modern technologies in the real estate sector by leveraging information owned by the NHC to contribute to creating unique solutions serving the market.

This includes generating more accurate real estate analytics, supporting innovation in data analysis, and creating real estate indicators that enhance the market’s reliance on data in property decisions. This facilitates informed decision-making for investors and buyers, the SPA reported.

NHC is showcasing its services and technological achievements at the LEAP conference currently underway in Riyadh. 

These achievements have benefited over 10 million people across eight government digital platforms. 

The company has also documented more than 9 million residential and commercial lease contracts, achieved over 6.5 million downloads for the “Sakani” application, operated and developed the “Balady” platform under the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs and Housing, among other technological accomplishments associated with the digital platforms operated and developed by the NHC.

Earlier in February, the National Housing Co. announced that it would build a total of 3,800 homes after forging six partnership agreements worth SR2 billion ($533 million). 

These deals, which were signed with several real estate developers, aim to build residential units in the Riyadh southwestern community of Al-Asalah, with prices starting from SR475,000, according to the Saudi Press Agency. 

SPA added that this initiative is part of a comprehensive program of urban development spearheaded by the NHC aiming to revolutionize the housing landscape by introducing innovative concepts and integrated services, ultimately enhancing the quality of life across all sectors of society.


Saudi Arabia named ‘most improved country overall’ in US Chamber of Commerce IP Index

Saudi Arabia named ‘most improved country overall’ in US Chamber of Commerce IP Index
Updated 04 March 2024
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Saudi Arabia named ‘most improved country overall’ in US Chamber of Commerce IP Index

Saudi Arabia named ‘most improved country overall’ in US Chamber of Commerce IP Index

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has received recognition as “the most improved country overall” in the 12th edition of the US Chamber of Commerce International Intellectual Property Index. 

Released on March 2, the report emphasizes the several achievements of the Kingdom, with Vice President of Middle East Affairs at the US Chamber of Commerce Steve Lutes telling Arab News that Saudi Arabia has made significant strides in the technology sector over the past year.

“Specifically, I think this year the Kingdom did sign on to some important international treaties and they’ve made some other progress on both the enforcement side and some other of the indicators,” Lutes said on the sidelines of the LEAP 2024 conference.

“The Kingdom moving up in ranking gives more confidence to investors,” he added. 

Lutes went on to say that the body aims to encourage partnerships with the business community, government, and academia in Saudi Arabia to drive the establishment of a diversified, knowledge-based economy aligned with Vision 2030.

The US Chamber of Commerce considers over 50 indices when ranking countries, Lutes added. 

“Some of this looks very marginal. But really, when you think about it from an economic perspective, these are very important drivers because these are the sorts of things that companies look at. Is my IP going to be safe? Is it going to be protected? Are rules going to be enforced? And that’s where you get the investment in value and innovation,” said the vice-president.

The Kingdom allocates a total of $2 million across all funding rounds dedicated to artificial intelligence companies and over $3 billion proportional to gross domestic product with a ranking position of 31 in the Global AI index.

“We’ve been looking at this as governments around the globe start to grapple with the regulatory frameworks for artificial intelligence. The Chamber commissioned a report that was largely targeted toward a domestic audience and had some policy recommendations in that,” said Lutes.

A report by the European Centre for International Political Economy and the US Chamber of Commerce, titled “The Opportunity of Artificial Intelligence: Boosting Productivity and Growth in Saudi Arabia,” will be released in March.

The study will include a breakdown covering the benefits of AI for the Kingdom, endowments and digital industry structures, and AI policies going forward. 

“It has some sector-by-sector analysis where we think it can be the most impactful. In my mind, though, the biggest message is for policymakers,” Lutes said, adding: “One of those is investing, for example, in human capital. You have to have the workforce that’s ready to take on these technologies and bring it to government processes, to business processes and see it diffuse. So, when it comes to the sectors, I think, you know, healthcare and education are two that are highlighted in particular as having the most upside.”

Lutes added this is his first time attending LEAP, which is now in its third edition, and the Chamber has been collaborating with the Ministry of Communications and the Saudi Authority for Data and Artificial Intelligence. 

“We are at the LEAP Conference and IP is so fundamental to that. So, kudos to the Kingdom this year. And I guess our message is let’s not rest on our laurels. Let’s continue to work together to see if we can continue to see the Kingdom climb in that index as well,” he concluded. 

LEAP, held in Riyadh from March 4-7, is an annual premier tech event founded in 2022 by the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology. It convenes leading professionals from the sector to deliberate on the industry’s future and the innovative opportunities ahead.


Riyadh forum explores Saudi-Brazil business, trade ties

Riyadh forum explores Saudi-Brazil business, trade ties
Updated 04 March 2024
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Riyadh forum explores Saudi-Brazil business, trade ties

Riyadh forum explores Saudi-Brazil business, trade ties
  • South American country ‘an important trading partner’ for the Kingdom, says envoy
  • Joint council launched after Brazilian president’s visit late last year

LONDON: The Saudi-Brazilian Business Forum in Riyadh was attended by more than 150 investors from both countries on Monday, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The event, hosted by the Federation of Saudi Chambers and Brazil’s Lide Group, aimed to improve business and trade ties.

Dr. Faisal Ghulam, Saudi ambassador to Brazil, delivered a speech at the forum in which he praised the strong economic relations between the two countries built over 55 years.

He described Brazil as “an important trading partner” for the Kingdom. Annual trade between the two countries stands at $8 billion.

Ghulam lauded the establishment of a Saudi-Brazilian coordination council following President Lula da Silva’s visit to the Kingdom late last year.

Saudi Vision 2030 is providing Brazilian investors with significant opportunities, paving the way for improved trade ties, said Luiz Fernando Furlan, chairman of Lide’s board.

The newly established council will “work to advance the partnership, overcome challenges, and facilitate visas for the business communities from the two countries,” said its Chairman Mishal bin Hithlain.

Lide chief Joao Doria called on the Brazilian business community to explore the “great investment opportunities” available in the Kingdom through Vision 2030.

The forum covered key sectors at the heart of trade between the two countries, including aviation, energy, logistics, mining, agriculture, real estate and healthcare. It was the first event hosted by Lide after the firm opened offices in Riyadh.

The company’s Saudi representative, Malik Al-Qahtani, pledged to serve the business sectors of both countries and improve the ease of operations for Saudi and Brazilian investors.


Saudi aviation professions localization plan enters 2nd phase

Saudi aviation professions localization plan enters 2nd phase
Updated 04 March 2024
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Saudi aviation professions localization plan enters 2nd phase

Saudi aviation professions localization plan enters 2nd phase

RIYADH: The number of Saudi flight attendants and fixed-wing pilots is set to increase as the localization plan for the Kingdom’s aviation sector enters its second phase.

The Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development, in collaboration with the Ministry of Transport and Logistic Services, has announced the implementation of the second phase of localizing licensed aviation professions in private sector establishments employing five or more individuals in targeted aviation professions.

In the second phase, the HRSD has specified the professions targeted, setting a 60 percent target for flight attendants and a 70 percent ratio for fixed-wing pilots, contingent on employees in the aviation professions obtaining the professional accreditation certificate from the General Authority of Civil Aviation.

The Ministry of Transport has reiterated its commitment to overseeing the implementation of the program’s second phase. It aims to enable private sector establishments to leverage all support and employment programs offered by the Human Resources and Social Development System to aid in the recruitment and retention of national talent.

The HRSD has issued procedural guidelines explaining the details of the decision, its implementation, and the support and employment programs provided to private sector establishments.

Speaking to Arab News on the sidelines of the Saudi Airport Exhibition, held at the Riyadh International Convention and Exhibition Center in December 2023, Mervat Sultan, president of the Women in Aviation Middle East Chapter, noted a significant boom, with an increase in airports, establishment of new airlines, and a rising number of tourists. 

She added that the aviation industry in Saudi Arabia is “becoming bigger and bigger and would be leading the industry in the next 20 years.”

In 2022, Ahmed Al-Rajhi, minister of HRSD, issued a notification nationalizing a number of professions and economic activities — including licensed aviation professions, opticians, and periodic inspection activity, as well as postal service outlets and more. 

The decision to localize licensed aviation professions was announced to be implemented in two phases. The first one became effective on March 15, 2023.

In line with its Vision 2030, Saudi Arabia is undertaking an ambitious initiative to empower its citizens and boost their global competitiveness.