Saudi Arabia is set to witness major developments in nuclear sector: IAEA chief

IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi expressed his delight and admiration for Saudi Arabia’s nuclear capabilities and high professionalism within the sector. 
IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi expressed his delight and admiration for Saudi Arabia’s nuclear capabilities and high professionalism within the sector. 
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Updated 13 December 2023
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Saudi Arabia is set to witness major developments in nuclear sector: IAEA chief

Saudi Arabia is set to witness major developments in nuclear sector: IAEA chief

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia is poised to witness significant developments in its nuclear sector, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency.

In his first visit to the Kingdom, IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi expressed his delight and admiration for Saudi Arabia’s nuclear capabilities and high professionalism within the sector. 

Grossi also acknowledged Saudi Arabia’s imminent entry into nuclear operations, starting with a research reactor and paving the way for more extensive facilities in the future, expressing confidence in the preparedness of the Saudi workforce to embrace this new chapter in the Kingdom’s development.

“Saudi Arabia is on the doorsteps of nuclear operation starting with this research reactor, and later with bigger facilities. So I think the workforce here, the professionals, the women and men that work in the Saudi nuclear sector, are perfectly prepared to look into this new chapter in the life of the Kingdom,” Grossi told Al Ekhbariya.

The IAEA chief commended the collaborative efforts of various institutions, including the Ministry of Energy, and emphasized the positive impact of the IAEA’s presence in advising and accompanying the Kingdom in its nuclear endeavors.

He said: “I am really delighted. I’m very impressed by the degree of professionalism I see in the Saudi nuclear sector, the nuclear regulator here, the Ministry of Energy.”

Grossi emphasized the importance of planning, scientific skill development, and the upcoming commissioning of a low-power research reactor as significant milestones for Saudi Arabia’s nuclear operations.

The top official said: “When we talk about the nuclear regulator, it is the institution that must make sure that all these activities will not have any negative impact on the country, that will be a perfect protection of the population.”

According to Al Ekhbariya, Grossi toured the regulatory laboratories during his visit, accompanied by Khalid Al-Issa, CEO of the Saudi Nuclear and Radiological Regulatory Commission. 

Grossi was briefed on the advanced technologies and procedures employed in the nuclear and radiation energy sector, underscoring the Kingdom’s commitment to utilizing the latest innovations and ensuring the highest safety standards.

He familiarized himself with the national capabilities in nuclear emergency operations, environmental radiation monitoring, and early warning systems.

The director general’s visit reaffirms the IAEA’s commitment to supporting Saudi Arabia’s nuclear ambitions and signifies a positive collaboration between international and national institutions.


March data reveals slight dip in Dubai’s inflation

March data reveals slight dip in Dubai’s inflation
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March data reveals slight dip in Dubai’s inflation

March data reveals slight dip in Dubai’s inflation

RIYADH: Dubai’s inflation witnessed a slight decrease in March, dropping to 3.34 percent compared to 3.36 percent in February, according to official data.

The decline in inflation is attributed to lower prices of specific goods and services, notably in the food and transportation sectors.

Dubai’s Consumer Price Index rose to 110.77 points in March, compared to 110.50 points in the previous month, due to the rise in prices of key expenditure groups and services, including insurance and financial services by 8.67 percent, housing, water, electricity, gas, and fuel by 6.34 percent, and education by 3.62 percent.

However, despite the overall decrease in annual inflation, some sectors experienced price hikes. These areas included transportation, which witnessed a 1.75 percent increase, and housing, water, electricity, gas, and fuel, which saw a 0.58 percent increase.

Speaking to Arab News, economist and policy adviser Mahmoud Khairy highlighted that inflation affects sectors differently based on various factors such as economic structure and market dynamics.

“The most prominent and immediate effect of inflation is on consumption, potentially reducing consumers’ purchasing power and altering spending patterns,” he said.

Khairy also emphasized the sensitivity of the housing and real estate markets to inflationary changes in the Gulf Cooperation Council region. 

“Construction costs and property values may increase which will put extra burden on financing needs,” he added.

In addition to the decrease in inflation, food and beverage prices in Dubai in March decreased by 0.36 percent, along with drops in furniture prices by 0.06 percent and information and communication by 0.02 percent. 

The cost of restaurants and hotels also decreased by 2.15 percent, while prices of insurance and financial services lowered by only 0.08 percent.

In neighboring Saudi Arabia, inflation also fell in March, registering a rate of 1.6 percent compared to 1.8 percent the previous month. 

Shifts in the food and beverage sector primarily drove the decline.

Khairy explained that inflation expectations influence consumer behavior, similar to preparing for a weather forecast.

“When people expect prices to rise, they often rush to buy things sooner to avoid paying more later,” he said.

Investors closely monitor inflation, tweaking portfolios based on their predictions. Similarly, policymakers and central banks rely on inflation expectations to steer the economy, akin to checking weather forecasts for planning. 

Earlier last week, IMF chief Kristalina Georgieva remarked on the importance of central bankers meticulously adjusting their interest rate reduction strategies in response to incoming data. 

Regarding challenges and opportunities for GCC economies, Khairy noted the reliance on oil revenues, currency pegs to the US dollar, and geopolitical tensions in the Middle East as factors influencing inflation and economic stability.

“Disruptions to global supply chains due to geopolitical tensions or trade disputes can lead to supply shortages and price increases, contributing to inflationary pressures,” he said.

The World Bank said in a report that “GCC countries are small open economies with high dependence on international trade which makes them vulnerable to global shocks in addition to domestic ones.” 

Khairy also emphasized the importance of economic diversification efforts and strategic infrastructure investments to mitigate the impact of external shocks on inflation and promote overall financial stability in the region.

He concluded that higher inflation poses challenges for government budgets and financing.

“As prices increase, governments face a higher fiscal deficit to achieve just the same level of consumption and investment. On the other hand, inflation is always associated with higher interest rates which increases the cost of financing for government debt,” he said.


Madinah airport claims top spot in Middle East regional ranking 

Madinah airport claims top spot in Middle East regional ranking 
Updated 9 min 27 sec ago
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Madinah airport claims top spot in Middle East regional ranking 

Madinah airport claims top spot in Middle East regional ranking 

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Prince Mohammad bin Abdulaziz International Airport in Madinah has been awarded the title of the best regional airbase in the Middle East for 2024. 

The recognition was announced during the Skytrax World Airport Awards, held at the Passenger Terminal EXPO in Frankfurt. 

Meanwhile, Qatar’s Hamad International Airport claimed the title of the world’s best aviation hub for the year, while Singapore Changi Airport, previously named the airport of the year in 2023 and a winner on 12 occasions in the past, secured the second position in the global ranking. 

Changi Airport also earned recognition as the top airbase in Asia and for delivering the world’s best immigration services, as per Skytrax. 

Meanwhile, Seoul Incheon Airport, advancing to third place in the global survey rankings, was awarded the title of the world’s most family-friendly terminal for 2024. 


Egypt’s foreign debt increases by $3.5bn, official figures show 

Egypt’s foreign debt increases by $3.5bn, official figures show 
Updated 48 min 38 sec ago
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Egypt’s foreign debt increases by $3.5bn, official figures show 

Egypt’s foreign debt increases by $3.5bn, official figures show 

RIYADH: Egypt’s foreign debt increased by $3.5 billion in the fourth quarter of 2023, reaching a total of $168 billion, as reported by the nation’s planning ministry.  

This marks a climb from the $164.5 billion recorded at the end of September, representing 42.4 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product. Notably, 81 percent of this debt is categorized as long-term. 

This uptick in foreign borrowing is part of a broader trend over the last decade, during which Egypt has significantly increased its external debt, investing heavily in state-driven projects.  

This financial strategy was underscored last month by an $8 billion economic support package secured from the International Monetary Fund. 

Amid these monetary maneuvers, Egypt’s Finance Minister Mohamed Maait recently projected that the country’s GDP would grow by 2.8 percent in the fiscal year ending in June 2024, with expectations of an acceleration to 4.2 percent in the following year.  

These figures are closely aligned with the IMF’s more conservative forecast of 3 percent GDP growth for the calendar year 2024, indicating optimism about Egypt’s economic trajectory despite its growing debt burden. 

Earlier in April, Maait highlighted that despite the harsh impacts of global and regional economic crises, Egypt has seen financial indicators surpass budget estimates and targets over the past nine months of the fiscal year 2023-2024.  

The minister noted that this success reflects the international recognition of the North African country’s economy for achieving better-than-expected performance metrics.   

Further emphasizing the economic strategies, Maait pointed out the significant improvements in non-tax revenues, which increased by 122.9 percent, and tax revenues, which surpassed 1 trillion Egyptian pounds ($20.6 billion), marking a growth of 41.2 percent annually.    

He noted these gains were achieved without imposing new burdens on citizens or investors, thanks to expanded mechanization intended to broaden the tax base and integrate the informal economy into the formal sector.    

Maait pointed out that the country’s ongoing effort to boost its economy is evident in the Ministry of Finance’s dialogues with over 2,000 investment institutions annually.    

The ministry’s Investor Relations Unit plays a crucial role in these engagements, maintaining open dialogue throughout the year and issuing monthly performance data.  

These documents provide foreign investors with precise, up-to-date economic data, including details about debt levels, deficits, and primary surpluses, the state-owned newspaper reported.   

They also offer a simplified guide on the various incentives, including tax advantages available to investors, aiming to alleviate any concerns and accurately address potential economic risks.   

Meanwhile, data released earlier this month by Egypt’s Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics showed a slowdown in the country’s urban consumer price inflation rate to 33.1 percent in March from 36 percent in February.   

Additionally, month-on-month prices rose by 10 percent in the third month of 2024, down from an 11.4 percent increase in the previous period.  

This development follows the central bank’s announcement in early March of a 600 basis points hike in interest rates at an unscheduled meeting, along with a shift to an inflation-targeting regime, allowing the exchange rate to be determined by market forces.  


NEOM subsidiary Topian boosts Saudi food security drive with new Tadco partnership 

NEOM subsidiary Topian boosts Saudi food security drive with new Tadco partnership 
Updated 9 min 20 sec ago
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NEOM subsidiary Topian boosts Saudi food security drive with new Tadco partnership 

NEOM subsidiary Topian boosts Saudi food security drive with new Tadco partnership 

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s food security drive is set to receive a boost as NEOM subsidiary Topian has partnered with Tabuk Agricultural Development Co., also known as Tadco, to innovate fruit and vegetable production.  

A memorandum of understanding aimed at leveraging advanced agricultural technologies and practices to enhance domestic food production was signed. It includes setting up a hydroponic greenhouse facility at the company’s site in Tabuk, located in northwestern Saudi Arabia.  

Hydroponics is the method of cultivating plants without soil and utilizing minimal water resources.  

Hydroponic gardens, designed for space efficiency, can grow fruits, vegetables, and flowers in half the time of traditional agriculture, while using 90 percent less water. This will support the Kingdom’s efforts toward sustainable food production practices.  

Under the terms of the MoU, Topian will bring its expertise to the table, handling key responsibilities including the design, installation, and operation of the hydroponic greenhouse facility.   

Additionally, the NEOM subsidiary will oversee all aspects of greenhouse management, from production planning to workforce training and customer relations, as stated in a release on the Saudi Stock Exchange.  

The deal will see Tadco taking on a pivotal role in facilitating the project’s success by providing essential support and resources. 

This includes identifying and allocating suitable agricultural land for the greenhouse, establishing distribution channels for product off-take, and providing infrastructure and labor assistance to ensure seamless project execution. 

The partnership underscores Saudi Vision 2030’s aim to enhance food security through increased domestic production and sustainable agricultural practices.  

It shows the country’s commitment to greenhouse projects. In January 2021, for instance, Al-Jouf Agricultural Development Co. inaugurated the Kingdom’s largest greenhouse complex, spanning 12 hectares and employing advanced hydroponic technology. 

The Kingdom has also been promoting the adoption of water-efficient irrigation technologies to optimize water use in agriculture.  

In 2019, the Saudi Ministry of Environment, Water, and Agriculture announced plans to convert 1.2 million hectares of traditional flood irrigation to more efficient methods by 2030. 

Similarly, the National Water Strategy of Saudi Arabia focuses on improving water management practices for sustainable agricultural development. It emphasizes water conservation, recycling, and efficiency measures to address the Kingdom’s water scarcity challenges. 

Through initiatives like the hydroponic greenhouse facility outlined in the MoU, the nation is setting the pace for implementing water-efficient irrigation technologies and reducing agricultural water usage, thereby supporting the goals of the National Water Strategy. 


Saudi Arabia issues over 37k certificates of origin in March

Saudi Arabia issues over 37k certificates of origin in March
Updated 18 April 2024
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Saudi Arabia issues over 37k certificates of origin in March

Saudi Arabia issues over 37k certificates of origin in March

RIYADH: Saudi exporters were issued 37,188 certificates of origin in March by the Ministry of Industry and Mineral Resources, marking an annual increase of 0.5 percent.

The document confirms that the products are of national origin or have acquired that status. It is part of the ministry’s effort to support and facilitate the service for exporters in various sectors.

This initiative is part of the Kingdom’s goal under the Vision 2030 economic transformation plan to increase the share of non-oil exports to Saudi Arabia’s gross domestic product from 16 percent to 50 percent by the decade’s end.