Saudi Arabia climbs to 16th place in World Competitiveness Index

Saudi Arabia climbs to 16th place in World Competitiveness Index
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Updated 18 June 2024
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Saudi Arabia climbs to 16th place in World Competitiveness Index

Saudi Arabia climbs to 16th place in World Competitiveness Index

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s ongoing economic diversification efforts have propelled the country to the 16th spot in the World Competitiveness Index 2024, up one place from the previous year.

According to a report from the Switzerland-based International Institute for Management Development, the Kingdom was ranked 24th in 2022 and 32nd in 2021.

The ascent, supported by Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 program, is attributed to significant progress in economic performance, government efficiency, and a business-friendly environment.

The report also highlighted that Saudi Arabia ranked higher than several of its G20 peers, including India, the UK, and Japan, as well as other countries like Italy, Argentina, Indonesia, and Brazil and Turkiye.

Majid bin Abdullah Al-Qasabi, Saudi Arabia’s minister of commerce, said that the nation’s growth in the ranking is a testament to the Kingdom’s ongoing economic transformation process, which is being implemented in accordance with the directives of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, according to a press statement. 

Saudi Arabia leading several subindicators in the ranking 

The Kingdom also grabbed top spots in several subindicators in the ranking, garnering the first position in cybersecurity and long-term employment growth. 

Saudi Arabia was also ranked first in other subindicators, including long-term labor market growth and the number of internet users per thousand people. 

The report revealed that the Kingdom was ranked 12th in business efficiency globally, while it secured second place in stock market capitalization and digital transformation implemented in companies. 

Saudi Arabia was also ranked second in indicators such as the availability of venture capital, the development and application of technology, and the availability of financing in technical development. 

Similarly, the nation was ranked third in total early-stage entrepreneurial activity and unemployment legislation. 

The Kingdom also grabbed the 34th spot in the list for infrastructure growth, unchanged from the previous two years. In 2020 and 2021, the country’s ranking in this subsection was 36. 

However, in terms of economic performance, Saudi Arabia slipped to the 15th spot, down from the sixth position in the previous year but much higher than the 31st and 48th place it procured in 2022 and 2021, respectively. 

When it comes to challenges facing the Kingdom, the report flagged up the need to continue efforts to promote renewable energy and reduce carbon emissions.

It also highlighted how Saudi Arabia must keep enhancing its business environment to increase the private sector’s economic participation, as well as continuing to invest in human capital development across all sectors.

Singapore leads the list

Singapore secured first place in the World Competitiveness Index 2024, climbing three spots from the previous year. 

“The data shows a particularly robust performance for the island nation (Singapore) across the areas of government efficiency and business efficiency,” said the report. 

It added: “In the case of Singapore, potential headwinds to maintaining its position include seizing opportunities and managing disruptions from new technologies, such as AI, by supporting workers in reskilling and businesses in transformation.” 

The release further pointed out that Singapore’s small size and maritime setting have also helped it to top the list. 

Arturo Bris, director of the IMD World Competitiveness Center, said that the ranking, which is published annually, will help nations achieve their economic goals and ensure sustainability. 

“It serves as a benchmark for these countries to measure their progress and identify areas for improvement, offering a clear path toward their economic development but also supporting global goals such as the social development goals,” said Bris. 

He added: “The best-performing economies balance productivity and prosperity, meaning they can generate elevated levels of income and quality of life for their citizens while preserving the environment and social cohesion.” 

Singapore was followed by Switzerland and Denmark in the second and third spots, respectively. 

Ireland was ranked fourth on the list, while Hong Kong and Sweden grabbed the fifth and sixth spots, respectively. 

Climbing three positions compared to 2023, the UAE came in seventh place, followed by Taiwan and the Netherlands in eighth and ninth, respectively. 

On the other hand, Norway climbed four spots from the previous year to 10th place, while Qatar improved its ranking from 12th to 11th this year. 

The US, however, slipped by three positions from 2023 to secure the13th rank, followed by Australia, China, and Finland in the next three spots. 

Bahrain was ranked 21st on the list from the Middle East region, while Kuwait secured the 37th spot. 

The promises and challenges offered by artificial intelligence 

According to the report, the widespread adoption of AI seems like a honey pot to economies seeking productivity boosts. 

“At the micro level, the recent surge in AI-based technologies could boost efficiency and productivity significantly,” said World Competitiveness Center Senior Economist Jose Caballero.

He further noted that the rise of AI is also posing significant challenges, with several companies seeming less proficient in implementing this advanced technology. 

“One of the key challenges for companies is how to implement AI systems that improve efficiency without disrupting business activities. Another is ensuring a chosen AI system’s accuracy; inaccurate systems lead to inefficiencies and reduced productivity,” said Caballero. 

He added: “Furthermore, there is a cost-related challenge given that initial investments in AI technology can be substantial while the ongoing costs of maintenance and upgrades to the systems can be significant.” 

The study further pointed out that AI is the top concern for executives from Western Europe, Western Asia and Africa, and Central Asia, as well as, Southern Asia and the Pacific, North America, and South America.

On the other hand, executives from Eastern Asia and Eastern Europe are most concerned about a global recession, while most participants across the board deprioritize environmental risks. 

“With executives under pressure to balance short-term and long-term priorities, environmental risks are being pushed to the back of the queue,” said the report. 


Saudi Arabia’s tourist expenditure hits $40bn in H1 2024, says minister

Saudi Arabia’s tourist expenditure hits $40bn in H1 2024, says minister
Updated 17 July 2024
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Saudi Arabia’s tourist expenditure hits $40bn in H1 2024, says minister

Saudi Arabia’s tourist expenditure hits $40bn in H1 2024, says minister

RIYADH: Tourist spending in Saudi Arabia reached approximately SR150 billion ($40 billion) in the first half of 2024, reflecting a 10 percent increase in both traveler numbers and expenditure compared to the same period the previous year, as revealed by a top minister. 

At a conference convened to review the 2024 summer tourism program, the Kingdom’s Minister of Tourism Ahmed Al-Khateeb reiterated that his country will launch a tourist visa next month to attract more international visitors and bolster the sector’s growth.

This comes as Saudi Arabia has set an ambitious target to host 150 million tourists annually by 2030, underscoring its commitment to transforming the Kingdom into a premier global tourism destination. 

The country’s passenger air traffic surged by 17 percent in the first half of 2024, reaching 62 million compared to 53 million in the same period last year, according to statistics released by the General Authority of Civil Aviation.  

This growth was supported by a 12 percent increase in flights, with 446,000 recorded compared to 399,000 in the first half of 2023. 

Al-Khateeb shared statistics from the first half of the year, stating: “We achieved 60 million visits and approximately SR150 billion in tourist spending.” 

The minister added that this reflects a 10 percent rise in both visitor numbers and expenditure compared to the same period last year.

He described the country as a “continent,” highlighting its vast natural beauty and varied landscapes, including mountains, resorts, Red Sea beaches, and vibrant cities.  

This diversity, he noted, positions Saudi Arabia uniquely to offer a wide array of tourism products to global travelers. 

Outlining initiatives aimed at enhancing opportunities and training for Saudis, he said: “We’ve raised salaries and conducted over 100,000 training courses annually.” 

This underscores the ministry’s proactive stance in encouraging private-sector investment in Saudi human capital.

Al-Khateeb noted the crucial role of the private sector in shaping the tourism landscape. “The tourism and travel sector worldwide is primarily managed by the private sector, and we recognize its pivotal role in our sector’s development,” he affirmed. 

Al-Khateeb also pointed out the substantial impact of the Tourism Development Fund on building the country’s infrastructure.

Launched in June 2020, the fund has already financed over 100 projects totaling SR35 billion, encompassing a mix of small to medium-sized ventures and larger-scale initiatives. 

“In Asir (region) alone, the Tourism Development Fund has allocated SR1 billion to 10 projects, reflecting a significant focus on enhancing hospitality offerings in the region,” stated Al-Khateeb, showcasing the Kingdom’s commitment to regional development through strategic investment. 

To enhance transparency and support stakeholders, the minister announced the launch of comprehensive tourism statistics on the ministry’s website. “An annual report will provide valuable insights for the media and investors, detailing every statistic and figure relevant to Saudi Arabia’s tourism sector,” he added.

According to the latest data released by the ministry, the total number of tourists reached 109.3 million in 2023, with 81.9 million being local tourists and 27.4 million international visitors. 

In terms of economic impact, expenditure by international tourists totaled SR141.2 billion last year, while local tourists spent SR114.4 billion, bringing the total tourism expenditure to SR255.6 billion in 2023.

“We achieved 153 percent growth in tourism compared to 2019. Asir received 8 million tourists last year, who spent around $3 billion,” the minister said.


Egypt achieves record primary surplus of $18.14bn in fiscal year 2023/24

Egypt achieves record primary surplus of $18.14bn in fiscal year 2023/24
Updated 17 July 2024
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Egypt achieves record primary surplus of $18.14bn in fiscal year 2023/24

Egypt achieves record primary surplus of $18.14bn in fiscal year 2023/24

RIYADH: Egypt’s budget recorded a preliminary surplus of 875 billion Egyptian pounds ($18.14 billion) for the fiscal year 2023/2024, compared to 164 billion during the previous period, a top official revealed.

During a Cabinet meeting chaired by Egypt’s Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly, Minister of Finance Ahmed Kouchouk highlighted that this improvement came despite economic activity shocks.

The North African country’s economy has witnessed blows over the last year due to the ongoing crisis in Gaza, which has slowed tourism growth and cut into Suez Canal revenue, two of Egypt’s biggest sources of foreign currency.

To help alleviate the inflationary effects that have been burdening the Egyptian public, the government in April increased the amount of funding required in its 2024/2025 budget by over 2.8 trillion pounds ($59 billion).

Kouchouk stated that revenues represented an annual growth of about 59.3 percent during the fiscal year 2023/2024.

The budget also achieved a total deficit that was about 706 billion pounds lower than what was listed in the revised budget.

Kouchouk noted the reduction in the overall deficit in the general budget during 2023/2024, which amounted to about 505 billion Egyptian pounds, compared to a deficit of about 610 billion pounds in the previous fiscal year – a decrease of 17 percent.

Despite the deficit shrinking, there were sectors that exceeded their allocated budgets. 

Education required around 256 billion pounds in funding, compared to around 230 billion pounds in the original budget.

Health sector needs totaled about 180 billion pounds, against an initial allocation of about 148 billion pounds.

The public treasury paid the Insurance and Pensions Fund’s dues, which amounted to 185 billion pounds, and settled all fees related to food subsidy support, amounting to 133 billion pounds, compared to about 128 billion pounds in the original budget.

He noted that this, alongside increasing wages and salaries of government employees and providing adequate allocations for various support items and social protection programs, contributed to an annual expenditure growth rate of 37.4 percent.

Kouchouk emphasized the continued efforts to improve the expenditure structure, which was generally achieved for all budget chapters, pointing out that the debt service bill remains high, and efforts are underway to reduce it.

The Minister of Finance reviewed the rates and developments regarding allocations for subsidies, grants, and social benefits, especially those related to supporting industrial production, export incentives, as well as social protection programs, and the health and education sectors.

Kouchouk also discussed the future budget estimates for the fiscal year 2024/2025, explaining that the Ministry of Finance aims to reduce the budget’s debt and place it on a downward trajectory.

Despite the difficulties the public treasury faced in the fiscal year 2023/2024 as a result of regional geopolitical unrest, high rates of inflation, and social programs put in place to protect citizens and pensioners, Kouchouk reiterated that the ministry was able to achieve strong financial performance by taking the required steps to mobilize revenues and control public finances.


Closing Bell: Saudi main index closes in green at 12,157

Closing Bell: Saudi main index closes in green at 12,157
Updated 17 July 2024
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Closing Bell: Saudi main index closes in green at 12,157

Closing Bell: Saudi main index closes in green at 12,157

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Tadawul All Share Index rose on Wednesday, gaining 77.24 points, or 0.64 percent, to close at 12,157.61. 

The total trading turnover of the benchmark index was SR7.37 billion ($1.96 billion) as 157 of the listed stocks advanced, while 64 retreated.    

The MSCI Tadawul Index increased by 6.82 points, or 0.45 percent, to close at 1,520.39. 

The Kingdom’s parallel market Nomu decreased by 31.22 points, or 0.12 percent, to close at 25,887.91. This comes as 36 of the listed stocks advanced, while as many as 32 retreated. 

The best-performing stock of the day was AYYAN Investment Co., with its share price surging by 9.97 percent to SR19.42. 

Other top performers include the Miahona Co. and Al Sagr Cooperative Insurance Co., whose share prices soared by 9.88 percent and 9.41 percent, to stand at SR42.25 and SR24.88, respectively. 

National Gas and Industrialization Co. and Al-Baha Investment and Development Co. were also amongst the top gainers.  

The worst performer was the Mediterranean and Gulf Insurance and Reinsurance Co. whose share price dropped by 2.46 percent to SR31.70. 

Other underperformers included Baazeem Trading Co. and Arabian Pipes Co., with their share prices declining by 1.53 percent to SR64.30 and 1.20 percent to SR131.40, respectively.

Saudi Public Transport Co. and Red Sea International Co. also experienced declines in their stock prices.

Value Capital Co., serving as the financial advisor and lead manager, announced that Tharwah Co. intends to offer 705,735 ordinary shares, representing 15 percent of its total shares post-offering. The company’s shares will be listed on Nomu. 

Tharwah Co.’s application for listing on the parallel market. was approved by the Saudi Exchange on May 19, and the Capital Market Authority approved the offering on June 3. The price per share for subscribers will be determined after the book-building period. The one-week offering period is scheduled to commence on Aug. 4. 

Alkhabeer Capital, a Shariah-compliant investment and financial services firm, has announced the listing and commencement of trading for the Alkhabeer Diversified Income Fund 2030 on the Saudi Exchange. 

In an official statement, the fund reported successful participation from a diverse group of investors, including individuals and institutions, during its initial public offering.  

The IPO concluded on June 13, attracting 144,132 subscribers and raising a total of SR305.4 million. 


Saudi Cabinet approves establishment of national minerals program

Saudi Cabinet approves establishment of national minerals program
Updated 17 July 2024
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Saudi Cabinet approves establishment of national minerals program

Saudi Cabinet approves establishment of national minerals program
  • Program aims to develop Kingdom’s infrastructure and support local supply chains
  • Saudi Arabia’s mineral wealth is valued at an estimated $2.5 trillion

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia is set to launch a new national minerals program, further strengthening its position as a regional and global center for the mining and metals sector. 
The Saudi Cabinet has approved the establishment of the initiative, which is set to be linked to the Kingdom’s Ministry of Industry and Mineral Resources, according to a statement. 
The newly announced program is expected to meet the growing local, regional, and global needs for minerals, build local capabilities, and contribute to exploration operations. 
This is in line with Saudi Arabia’s ambition to transform mining into a foundational industrial pillar of the country’s economy. It also aligns with the ministry’s goal to further bolster the sector and contribute to ongoing developments under Saudi Vision 2030. 
According to a ministry statement released earlier this year, the Kingdom’s mineral wealth is valued at an estimated SR9.4 trillion ($2.5 trillion). 
The Minister of Industry and Mineral Resources Bandar Alkhorayef thanked King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for the cabinet’s approval and said the program will effectively drive growth in the minerals sector and exploit the country’s mineral wealth. 
“The Council of Ministers’ decision to establish the National Minerals Program will constitute a qualitative shift in supporting supply chains in the industrial and mining sectors and strengthen the Kingdom’s position as a regional and global center for the mining and minerals sector,” Alkhorayef said in a statement. 
“The Kingdom’s directions aim to develop mineral value chains so that the mining sector becomes the third pillar of the national industry and to benefit from the Kingdom’s geographical location, which represents one of the most important major trade intersections,” he added.
The statement further revealed that the initiative will entail important functions, including ensuring the quality and adequacy of supply chains for current and future minerals and developing and managing their strategic storage.
It will also work on quantifying and following up on securing Saudi Arabia’s mineral needs, developing plans and strategies, and providing industrial supplies of mining raw materials.
The nation’s mining sector has been expanding locally and internationally, with significant strides being made.
In March, the Kingdom’s mining sector recorded a 138 percent increase in the issuance of exploitation licenses since the new Mining Investment Law was implemented in 2021. 
The number of permits recorded rose from eight in 2021 to 19 last year as the Ministry of Industry and Mineral Resources actively works to boost mineral production and investment. 


Saudi weekly POS spending hits $3bn, driven by hotel sector surge

Saudi weekly POS spending hits $3bn, driven by hotel sector surge
Updated 17 July 2024
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Saudi weekly POS spending hits $3bn, driven by hotel sector surge

Saudi weekly POS spending hits $3bn, driven by hotel sector surge
  • Payments in restaurants and cafe held the largest share of POS transactions

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s point-of-sale spending totaled SR11.9 billion ($3.19 billion) from July 7 to 13, driven by a 3.8 percent weekly surge in hotel sector transactions, official data showed.

The latest data from the Saudi Central Bank, also known as SAMA, revealed that the hospitality industry showed the only increase during the week, with total transaction values reaching SR269.6 million. 

Point-of-sale is where transactions between merchants and customers take place, using systems like cash registers or digital terminals to manage sales and payments. 

Saudi Arabia’s apex bank releases weekly POS data to provide insights into consumer spending patterns, economic activity, and trends in various sectors such as retail, hospitality, and services. 

During the seven-day period starting July 7, POS transactions in the Kingdom declined by 9.8 percent, reversing from an increase in the previous week, to reach SR13.2 billion.  

Data from SAMA indicated that payments in restaurants and cafes decreased by 6.4 percent compared to the previous week, totaling SR1.84 billion, while still holding the largest share of POS transactions. 

Expenses on food and beverages dipped by 12.5 percent to reach SR1.79 billion, the third-largest fall compared to the previous week.  

Miscellaneous goods and services came in third place in spending size, recording an 11.2 percent dip, reaching SR1.57 billion. 

Gas stations witnessed the smallest dip this week, recording a 3.2 percent decrease, reaching SR841.4 million.  

Construction and building materials experienced the second-smallest drop in POS transaction value, diminished by 4.7 percent to SR329.7 million. Furthermore, expenses on transportation witnessed the third-smallest surge, with a 5.6 percent decrease, reaching SR733.1 million. 

According to data from SAMA, 33.37 percent of POS deals occurred in Riyadh, with the total transaction value reaching SR3.91 billion, representing an 8.3 percent decline from the previous week when it was SR4.26 billion. 

Riyadh has expanded into a major growth hub, with Spinneys recently debuting its flagship 43,520 sq. ft. outlet at La Strada Yard, marking the start of its expansion in the capital and Jeddah to meet the increasing demand for high-quality groceries in Saudi Arabia.  

In Jeddah, purchases accounted for 14.6 percent of the total, amounting to SR1.71 billion, reflecting an 8 percent weekly decrease, the third-largest decline compared to the previous week.  

Expenditures in Abha and Makkah declined by 4.8 percent and 4.2 percent, reaching SR224.2 million and SR459.5 million, respectively. 

The highest fall was spotted in Tabouk with a 12.8 percent weekly change, reaching SR216.2 million.