Saudi jobs boom unmatched anywhere in the world, Budget Forum told

Saudi jobs boom unmatched anywhere in the world, Budget Forum told
A special press conference was held to mark the announcement of Saudi Arabia’s 2024 budget.
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Updated 07 December 2023
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Saudi jobs boom unmatched anywhere in the world, Budget Forum told

Saudi jobs boom unmatched anywhere in the world, Budget Forum told

RIYADH: Some 1.1 million new jobs have been created in Saudi Arabia in the past year as the Kingdom’s economic diversification policies continue to bear fruit, according to a government minister.

At a special forum organized in Riyadh to mark the announcement of Saudi Arabia’s 2024 budget, Minister of Human Resources Ahmad Al-Rajhi said no other nation in the world had seen such an increase over the period.

He also said that initiatives by the government to support the private sector have led to 361,000 new workers in the job market. 

The press conference came a day after Saudi Arabia approved the state budget for 2024, with revenues projected at SR1.17 trillion ($312.48 billion) and expenditure at SR1.25 trillion, leading to a deficit of SR79 billion. 

In its announcement, the Finance Ministry projected the Kingdom’s gross domestic product growth at 4.4 percent in 2024 an increase from the estimated 0.03 percent in 2023. 

It predicted the Kingdom’s public debt for the next fiscal year to stand at SR1.10 trillion, or 25.9 percent of GDP. This represents a 7.71 percent increase from the re-estimated 2023 figures of SR1.02 trillion, constituting 24.8 percent of the GDP.

Fiscal reserves

Speaking at the forum, Finance Minister Mohammed Al-Jadaan emphasized Saudi Arabia’s need for adequate fiscal reserves at the Saudi Central Bank, also known as SAMA, to absorb external shocks.

The minister underscored the need to avoid competing with the private sector for funding. He also highlighted all sectoral and regional strategies and projects to optimize funding and execution for maximum economic return.

He said that spending efficiency means optimal resource use for the highest return, not just reducing expenditure.

Al-Jadaan told the forum that the Efficiency of Expenditure Authority, along with government authorities, saved nearly SR225 billion.

Conducive environment

Minister of Economy and Planning Faisal Al-Ibrahim said Vision 2030 has created a conducive environment and pushing the Kingdom toward its goal of economic diversification. 

National capabilities have now become a long-term priority, he added.

The minister said the Kingdom is dedicated to achieving optimal economic diversification. He told the forum that the Saudi trade balance had improved due to increased service exports rising from SR65 billion in 2016 to SR135 billion today.

Highlighting the non-oil economic growth of the Kingdom since 2016, Al-Ibrahim said the contribution of non-oil revenues to covering costs increased from 19 percent to 35 percent.

The minister said the reliance of government spending on the oil sector has now decreased to 50 percent. 

The government’s investments in sectors, including electric vehicles and others, present great opportunities for the private sector, he added.

Moreover, unemployment rates are consistently declining, with a notable participation of women in the labor market, currently ranging between 35 percent and 36 percent.

Housing sector
Minister of Municipal and Rural Affairs and Housing Majid Al-Hogail said that the ministry has been working to increase the homeownership rate by 1 percent annually since 2020, by adding more than 100,000 residential units every year.

He said this is being done in partnership with the private sector players.

The minister said more than 105,000 housing units will be offered with the help from local developers, especially in areas witnessing high prices, such as Riyadh and Jeddah, through multiple suburbs.

Furthermore, the ministry aims to have developers from outside the Kingdom to diversify and focus on residential suburbs more than housing, said Al-Hogail.

He highlighted that the housing targets, as per Vision 2030, were planned to go through three stages, while ensuring that there is a sustainable program that does not depend solely on government spending.

The ministry focused this year on raising the quality of services in cities.

It also aims to privatize 70 percent of the municipal sector in coordination with the National Center for Privatization & PPP. The ministry privatized 19 percent of this sector in 2023 and aims to privatize 30 percent of services next year.

Logistics

Saudi Arabia added 27 new shipping lines in 2023, leading to faster arrival of goods, higher revenues, and improved shipping rates, Minister of Transport and Logistics Saleh Al-Jasser told the forum.

He said there are eight new logistics zones in Jeddah Port with investments of global major shipping lines, operators of container terminals, and major international companies specialized in the field of logistics services.

Of these, three zones are open, and five are under construction. 

Education
More than 90 educational service projects became operational in 2023, while 707 schools Kingdom-wide were rehabilitated in cooperation with the Ministry of Finance, Education Minister Yousef Al-Benyan said.

Mining sector

Minister of Industry and Mineral Resources Bandar Alkhorayef emphasized his ministry’s focus on increasing the discovery of natural resources. 

He highlighted the positive impact of these efforts, stating: “We are beginning to see that this system is already considered one of the best investment regulations globally.”

Water security

Minister of Environment, Water and Agriculture Abdulrahman Al-Fadley outlined the Kingdom’s plans for water demand until 2050. He said: “We produce 11 million cubic meters of desalinated water, and within two years, this number will jump to 14 million cubic meters, reaching 18 million cubic meters by 2030.”

Al-Fadley also highlighted environmental initiatives at the forum. “We’ve initiated 65 projects in the environmental sector, with a planned investment of SR55 billion, ensuring they yield financial returns.”

He highlighted the ambitious goal of elevating waste recycling from 4 percent to an impressive 95 percent, contributing about SR120 billion to Saudi Arabia’s GDP.

Healthcare

Health Minister Fahd Al-Jalajel provided insights into the sector's transformation, stating: “In the past, we were the ministry of sickness, not the ministry of health. Today, we have switched our focus to the patient.” 

Al-Jalajel emphasized the success of the salt reduction policy in lowering the mortality rate from chronic diseases.


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.