National Transformation Program 2020 to spur growth

National Transformation Program 2020 to spur growth
Updated 08 June 2016

National Transformation Program 2020 to spur growth

National Transformation Program 2020 to spur growth

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia has announced a plan for the next five years to triple revenue from non-oil sources, tax expatriates and goods, reduce water and electricity subsidies, cut public sector salaries and ensure a greater involvement of the private sector in the economy, as part of a long-term initiative to reduce the country’s dependence on oil.

The details of the SR268 billion National Transformation Program (NTP), contained in a 112-page document, were approved late Monday by the Cabinet, chaired by Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman. The NTP is part of Vision 2030, being spearheaded by the Council of Economic and Development Affairs chaired by Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
The NTP aims to boost non-oil revenue to SR530 billion by 2020, creating some 450,000 non-government jobs, according to comments by ministers, documents given to the media at a press conference in Jeddah on Monday, and reports from the Saudi Press Agency and other sources.
The plan aims to “enhance the level and quality of services” provided by government and “achieve a prosperous future and sustainable development,” it said. The NTP, which includes over 500 projects and initiatives as well as performance indicators for ministries and other government agencies, will cost around SR270 billion to implement, the document stated.
Minister of State Mohammed Al-Asheikh said the cost would have no impact on Saudi budget spending, and added that a further SR300 billion was expected to be contributed to NTP initiatives by the private sector.
The plan aims to increase the percentage of government debt to gross domestic product from 7.7 percent to 30 percent. Under Vision 2030, new non-oil revenue is expected to come from the introduction of a value-added tax, “sin taxes” on sweet drinks and tobacco, and fees imposed on the private sector.
Al-Asheikh said there were no plans to introduce income tax for citizens. However, the NTP document showed that the government will spend SR150 million to prepare income tax for expatriates, which refers to a tax on remittances recently mooted by the Shoura Council’s finance committee of 6 percent in the first year, reducing to 2 percent permanently from the fifth year of service.
The core goals of the plan is to create more than 450,000 jobs outside the government sector by 2020, have the private sector fund 40 percent of projects during the period, reducing financial pressure on the state, and with more than SR270 billion in goods and services produced locally instead of abroad, reducing imports and creating job opportunities.

The ministers present at the press conference outlined their priorities, including Minister of Civil Service Khalid Al-Araj, Minister of Environment, Water and Agriculture Abdul Rahman Al-Fadli, Minister of Energy, Industry and Mineral Resources Khalid Al-Falih and Minister of Haj and Umrah Mohammed bin Saleh Bentin.
The Justice Ministry is planning to reduce the time taken to resolve commercial cases from 575 days to 395 days, and improve the enforcement of contracts. The aim is to reduce the number of lawsuits handled by the courts and ensure each judge’s caseload is reduced from 455 to 299 by 2020.
The Finance Ministry plans to introduce various tax measures but no details of this was provided in the document; apply fees on the registration of real estate and on profits from real estate; and raise non-oil state revenues from SR163.5 billion in 2015 to SR530 billion by 2020.
In addition, the ministry would cut public salaries and wages as a proportion of the state budget from 45 percent to 40 percent; balance the budget by 2020; raise government debt from 7.7 percent to 30 percent of gross domestic product; raise Saudi Arabia’s credit rating from A1 to Aa2; and increase state assets from SR3 trillion to SR5 trillion.
The Economy and Planning Ministry plans to reduce the percentage of delayed state projects from 70 percent to 40 percent, cut electricity and water subsidies by SR200 billion, and reduce non-oil subsidies by 20 percent, the document stated.
The Energy, Industry and Mineral Resources Ministry is responsible for boosting annual non-oil commodity exports from SR185 billion to SR330 billion; lift the percentage of power plant electricity generation through “strategic partners” from 27 percent to 100 percent; and boost dry gas production capacity from 12 billion standard cubic feet per day to 17.8 billion.
The Health Ministry will spend SR4.7 billion to reform and restructure primary health care; the Communications Ministry will privatize the Saudi Postal Corporation; and the Ministry of Labour and Social Development will increase housing units to very needy families from 10,400 to 101,700.
The Housing Ministry will spend SR2.8 billion on a loan guarantee program and take other steps to promote home ownership; the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage will raise the number of direct jobs in tourism from 830,000 to 1.2 million; and the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority will raise direct foreign investment from SR30 billion to SR70 billion.
At the press conference on Monday, Al-Falih said that the ministry was working with King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology, King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy and Royal Commission for Jubail and Yanbu on developing the energy sector.
He said there were more than 130 initiatives to be financed mostly by the private sector at an estimated cost of more than SR103 billion until 2020. Aramco has signed several agreements with international companies for the completion of the World Marine Industries and Services Complex, which will directly and indirectly create 80,000 jobs in the medium term, and reduce the need for billions in imports.
Al-Fadli said the ministry is seeking to achieve 16 strategic objectives, which includes ensuring food security in the Kingdom, through the development of an effective program for strategic storage, agricultural investment abroad, and a national program to reduce waste based on international experiences and standards. Bentin said the Kingdom was spending a great deal to improve services for Haj and Umrah pilgrims.


Saudi air defense intercepts Houthi drone attack on Khamis Mushait

Saudi air defense intercepts Houthi drone attack on Khamis Mushait
Updated 47 min 51 sec ago

Saudi air defense intercepts Houthi drone attack on Khamis Mushait

Saudi air defense intercepts Houthi drone attack on Khamis Mushait
  • Coalition says it thwarted all hostile Houthi attempts aimed at targeting civilians and civilian objects

RIYADH: The Arab coalition said Monday that the Saudi Arabian air defense has intercepted and destroyed an explosive-laden drone launched by the terrorist Houthis militia towards Khamis Mushait, Al Arabiya TV reported. 

The coalition said it thwarted all hostile Houthi attempts aimed at targeting civilians and civilian objects.

Adding that the coalition is taking all operational measures to protect civilians from such attacks.


Saudi Arabia studies vaccinating 12-18 aged group

Saudi Arabia studies vaccinating 12-18 aged group
There were 1,017 new cases, meaning that 465,797 people in the country have now contracted the disease. (REUTERS)
Updated 14 June 2021

Saudi Arabia studies vaccinating 12-18 aged group

Saudi Arabia studies vaccinating 12-18 aged group
  • Saudi Arabia on Sunday reported 19 more COVID-19-related deaths, taking the overall toll to 7,572

JEDDAH: National COVID-19 committees in the Kingdom are studying giving vaccines to people between the ages of 12 and 18, the Ministry of Health’s official spokesman, Dr. Muhammad Al- Abd Al-Aly, said on Sunday.
The news came during a press conference held by the health spokesman with the participation of the official spokesman for the Ministry of Commerce, Abdulrahman Al-Hussein.
Al-Aly said that postponing the administration of the second dose lies in achieving the highest level of immunity among society members with the first dose. He confirmed that there had been no changes in the COVID-19 infection curve in the Kingdom, adding that demand for the vaccine and a commitment to precautionary measures contributed to achieving this.
For his part, Al-Hussein said that after 48 days on Aug. 1, those unvaccinated would not be allowed to enter commercial facilities, centers and malls.
The Ministry of Interior announced earlier that shoppers should be fully vaccinated, or have had one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, or been vaccinated after recovering from coronavirus infection — with the exception of age or health groups not obligated to take the vaccine.
He said that the commitment among society members was high during the last period, and the discipline was noticeable, contributing to the return of some activities and services that were restricted earlier such as the reopening of fitting rooms and the use of touch screens.

FASTFACTS

• Saudi Arabia reported 1,017 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday.

• The death toll has risen to 7,572 with 19 more virus-related fatalities.

The spokesman reiterated the four practices that lead to crowding inside and outside of commercial establishments, which are still prohibited: Inviting celebrities and advertisers to these places, opening ceremonies for shops and markets, commercial competitions that require attendance, and inaugural occasions for products or services.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health said that obese people were the most vulnerable to infection from the coronavirus disease and its severe complications, stressing that the vaccine should be taken for protection while implementing precautionary measures.
The ministry, through its Twitter account and awareness platform “Live Healthy,” published an infographic to outline the risks of obesity and associated ailments as a result of the disease.
Saudi Arabia on Sunday reported 19 more COVID-19-related deaths, taking the overall toll to 7,572.
There were 1,017 new cases, meaning that 465,797 people in the country have now contracted the disease. A total of 10,132 cases remain active, of which 1,575 patients are in critical condition.
Of the newly recorded cases, 344 were in Makkah, 198 in Riyadh, 155 in the Eastern Province and 68 in Madinah.
The ministry said that 1,133 patients had recovered from the disease, increasing the total number of recoveries in the Kingdom to 448,093.


Frankly Speaking: Saudi Arabia doubling down on Diriyah Gate project, says DGDA CEO 

In a wide-ranging interview on Frankly Speaking, CEO Jerry Inzerillo talks about DGDA's far-reaching plans to rival such global attractions as the pyramids in Egypt and the Colosseum in Rome. 
In a wide-ranging interview on Frankly Speaking, CEO Jerry Inzerillo talks about DGDA's far-reaching plans to rival such global attractions as the pyramids in Egypt and the Colosseum in Rome. 
Updated 14 June 2021

Frankly Speaking: Saudi Arabia doubling down on Diriyah Gate project, says DGDA CEO 

In a wide-ranging interview on Frankly Speaking, CEO Jerry Inzerillo talks about DGDA's far-reaching plans to rival such global attractions as the pyramids in Egypt and the Colosseum in Rome. 
  • Jerry Inzerillo made the remarks on Frankly Speaking, a series of video conversations with leading Middle East decision-makers
  • Project’s budget has been increased from $27 billion to $40 billion, and its scope increased significantly, he said

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia is doubling down on its landmark Diriyah Gate project to build a leisure and cultural zone in the historic heart of Riyadh.

Jerry Inzerillo, CEO of the authority that runs the landmark project, told Arab News that his budget has been increased from $27 billion to $40 billion, and its scope increased significantly.

“What has happened is that the master plans, (following further) research, have evolved into a broader vision to allow it to be a component (of the strategy to turn) Riyadh into one of the 10 great cities of the world,” he said.

Inzerillo, a veteran of the global tourism business who was appointed to the top job at the Diriyah Gate Development Authority (DGDA) in 2018, revealed the project’s new ambitions in an interview with “Frankly Speaking,” the series of video conversations with leading business and political leaders.

The inaugural celebration of Diriyah Gate. (Supplied)

During the interview, he also spoke of the DGDA’s prime place within the Vision 2030 giga-projects, the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Kingdom’s tourism industry, and its far-reaching plans to rival such global attractions as the pyramids in Egypt and the Colosseum in Rome.

The move to increase the project’s budget and scope was the brainchild of Saudi Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman, Inzerillo said.

“It’s not just that we were given some more money. It’s a result of a change in vision. He (the crown prince) studies plans meticulously. As the smartest guy in the room, his visual acuity is amazing,” he said.

Old structures in Diriyah, the site of the first Saudi Kingdom in the 18th century, have been preserved. (Supplied)

"So, the same way Paris was master-planned and laid out, the same way Berlin was laid out, the same way Manhattan was laid out — this is how the crown prince looks at all the cities and that’s why we’ve grown.”

Diriyah, the site of the first Saudi Kingdom in the 18th century, is regarded as the centerpiece of the Vision 2030 strategy to diversify the economy and provide more leisure and cultural facilities for Saudi citizens, as well as attracting foreign tourists.

“There’s only one Diriyah. We’re the first born, we’re the favorite son. My fellow CEOs can come on the show and say, ‘No, we’re great.’ They’re all great, we love them, but there’s only one Diriyah,” Inzerillo said.

He insisted that Diriyah Gate and the other mega-projects are on time and have not been unduly delayed by the economic effects of the pandemic.

 

 

The budgets of the other big leisure projects — such as the Red Sea Development and AlUla — have not been cut back, he said.

“We executed our exact strategy all of 2020; we didn’t cut back. He (the crown prince) was brave,” Inzerillo added. “So now as a result of it, the major giga-projects in the Kingdom are on time and on budget.”

Some of the big projects will “need another budget cycle” to determine the right mix of equity and new investment required, but he is confident that the overall investment will be met by government funds, investment from the Saudi private sector and foreign investment.

Some tourism experts have questioned the overall strategy, which seeks to attract 100 million visits by the end of the decade to a variety of new leisure and cultural attractions, but Inzerillo said the projects are not in competition. “They’re very intelligently crafted to complement each other,” he added.

The reason for the big number of new tourism projects, he said, is that Saudi Arabia is trying to compete with other recognized global travel centers — such as Singapore and European countries — within a short space of time.

 

 

Inzerillo conceded that there has been an effect on the number of people visiting Saudi Arabia because of COVID-19 travel restrictions, but he estimated that it has been proportionately less than other big tourist destinations such as France and the US. “We’re coming off a low base,” he said.

In line with the new budget, the DGDA has lifted the estimate for the number of visitors it hopes to attract. It now expects 27 million visits and 100,000 residents by 2030.

Inzerillo said these estimates are achievable, and he took encouragement from the number of people applying for the new tourism visa — 55,000 per week — before the COVID-19 restrictions came into effect.

Diriyah is aimed at both Saudi domestic visitors and foreign tourists, seeking to capitalize on the rich historical legacy of the region.

 

 

Inzerillo is convinced that it can take its place among the other great cultural attractions of the world.

“It is to Saudi Arabia what the Acropolis is to the Greeks, what the Colosseum is to Rome, what Machu Picchu is to Peruvians,” he said.

“So when people come to the Gulf, they’re going to want to see where it all started — the home of the House of Saud.”

Inzerillo, who trained in Las Vegas and went on to international projects in South Africa, the UAE and elsewhere, believes that the absence of alcohol in Saudi Arabia will make little difference to its attractiveness to tourists.

When global focus groups were asked about their priorities for tourism in the Kingdom, the non-availability of alcohol in the food and beverage mix was not in the top five concerns, he said.

 

 

“People were astonished by the beauty of the Kingdom, and by the warmth of the Saudi people,” he added.

Originally from Brooklyn in New York City, Inzerillo is enthusiastic about the quality of life in Saudi Arabia for him and other Western expatriates, who make up about 20 percent of the DGDA workforce.

 

 

“But the No. 1 thing that people like is civility — the fact that you’re treated warmly and kindly, and the great thing about the Kingdom right now as a society — it’s optimistic, it’s positive,” he said.

Inzerillo also gave some insight into the decision-making style of the crown prince, whom he described as a “supercharged CEO.”

Inzerillo said: “He’s very methodical, asking, ‘What’s your process? How did you study this issue? Who did you study it with? Did you study it with the world’s best? What did you learn, and what options are you bringing to me?’

“So when you leave a meeting with an approval, he doesn’t stop. One day, two days, five days later, you’ll get a call from him. ‘If you connect that with that, doesn’t it make Diriyah better?’ ‘Yes sir, we didn’t see that’.”

_________

Twitter: @frankkanedubai


Women can register for Hajj without male guardian

Women can register for Hajj without male guardian
Muslim pilgrims gather on Mount Arafat southeast of the Saudi holy city of Makkah, on Arafat Day which is the climax of the Hajj pilgrimage. (AFP file photo)
Updated 14 June 2021

Women can register for Hajj without male guardian

Women can register for Hajj without male guardian
  • Ministry approves three packages’ prices range between $3,230 and $4,426

JEDDAH: Three packages have been approved for this year’s pilgrimage, with a government ministry saying that people could register online for Hajj including women without a mahram (male guardian).

Registration for this year’s Hajj opened at 1 p.m on Sunday after the government said it would limit this year’s cohort to citizens and residents of the Kingdom.
Registration is available until 10 p.m. on June 23. There is no priority for early applicants.
Costs for the three approved packages are SR16,560.50 ($4,426), SR14,381.95, and SR12,113.95. VAT will be added to the price of each package.
According to the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah’s website, people will be bussed to the holy sites and there will be a maximum of 20 pilgrims per vehicle.
They will be supplied with three daily meals in Mina and two meals (breakfast and lunch) in Arafat. They will be given dinner in Muzdalifah. Other food and beverage services will be available, but  pilgrims are not allowed to bring food with them from outside Makkah.
Applications will go through five stages. These include a prospective pilgrim reviewing and acknowledging health information and providing personal details based on their official papers. After that, the system will verify the applicant’s eligibility for Hajj based on the data provided by the National Information Center.
Once an application is accepted, the applicant will be given a registration number for further inquiries. After ensuring an applicant’s COVID-19 status — fully immune, immune by the first dose, or immune after recovery — a text message with the payment details will be sent out.

HIGHLIGHT

Costs for the three approved packages are SR16,560.50 ($4,426), SR14,381.95, and SR12,113.95. VAT will be added to the price of each package.

The ministry said that registering for Hajj did not mean a final Hajj permit had been granted.
“A Hajj permit will only be issued after an application is found to meet all the mandatory health conditions and regulations,” it added. “The ministry has the right to reject a request at any time, in case it was found to be violating the organizing regulations.”
Before a Hajj permit request can be sent, all applicants must acknowledge that they have not performed Hajj in the last five years, they are not suffering from any chronic disease, and are not infected with COVID-19.
People must also acknowledge that they have not been admitted to a hospital due to chronic diseases or for dialysis treatment in the past six months.
On Saturday it was announced that 60,000 pilgrims would be allowed to perform this year’s Hajj, which begins mid-July.
Authorities also said that those wishing to perform Hajj must be free of any chronic diseases and be aged between 18 and 65.
The decision was “based on the Kingdom’s constant keenness to enable the guests and visitors at the Grand Mosque and the Prophet’s Mosque to perform the rituals of Hajj and Umrah,” the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah said. “The Kingdom puts human health and safety first.”
The “sorting” phase of the Hajj application process starts on June 25, according to an official ministry tweet, which also said that applicants should pay for their package within three hours of selecting it to avoid cancelation. Priority will be for registered applicants who have never performed Hajj, it added.


Trial run: 6,000 students get a taste of careers in medicine, engineering and science across Saudi Arabia

Trial run: 6,000 students get a taste of careers in medicine, engineering and science across Saudi Arabia
The annual summer program aims to enrich student’s knowledge, increase their efficiency, promote their readiness, and develop their practical and scientific expertise. (Supplied)
Updated 14 June 2021

Trial run: 6,000 students get a taste of careers in medicine, engineering and science across Saudi Arabia

Trial run: 6,000 students get a taste of careers in medicine, engineering and science across Saudi Arabia
  • The remote program aims to teach students the scientific curriculum of enrichment units and train them in specific skills

RIYADH: Six thousand students from the Kingdom will have the chance to become engineers, doctors and scientists in 23 different fields for 21 days as part of the Mawhiba academic enrichment program.
One of the world’s largest scientific programs, organized by the King Abdul Aziz and His Companions Foundation for Giftedness and Creativity (Mawhiba), began on June 13 across five Saudi universities, to be followed by a second phase that will be held virtually.
The advanced scientific units were developed in cooperation with the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth (CTY).
This comes within the program provided by Mawhiba for talented students discovered through the national program, held yearly by the foundation in partnership with the Education Ministry.
Students in the Kingdom can register for the program directly or via their schools. The annual summer program aims to enrich student’s knowledge, increase their efficiency, promote their readiness, develop their practical and scientific expertise, challenge their capacities and develop their skills.
“The academic enrichment program provided this summer covers the scientific and skills’ aspects, to promote student’s personal and social skills and help them acquire the skills of the 21st century,” a statement from Mawhiba said.
Mawhiba’s academic enrichment programs this year will be held in in-person and remotely. The in-person attendance program will run from June 13 to July 1 and provide students with a total of 90 hours’ experience, six hours a day.
Top academics will teach the scientific curriculum for four hours a day with two hours of skills’ development.
The remote program aims to teach students the scientific curriculum of enrichment units and train them in specific skills. Students will receive a total of 60 hours training in this program, divided into four hours a day; three hours dedicated to the scientific curriculum and one hour to skills’ development.
The second phase of the enrichment program will be held from Aug. 1-19, 2021.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Mawhiba’s academic enrichment programs this year will be held in in-person and remotely.

• The in-person attendance program will run from June 13 to July 1 and provide students with a total of 90 hours’ experience; six hours a day.

Attendance will be mandatory for students in five universities: King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah, King Saud University in Riyadh, Princess Noura University in Riyadh, Imam Abdulrahman Bin Faisal University in Dammam and the King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals (KFUPM) in Dhahran.
The annual program reflects all training and qualification aspects for students. Those selected to train the students are among the best academics who receive periodical sessions and programs according to the best technology, sciences and direct and virtual teaching techniques, to deliver the information to students and create a positive environment for innovation, learning and motivation.
“Mawhiba ensured that the training program provided to teachers includes specialized training sessions, to promote the coaches’ role in helping students acquire the skills and basics of rational thinking, empower them to deeply understand self-confidence skills, and provide them the scientific steps and techniques for problem-solving and decision-making skills,” the foundation said.
The number of students enrolled in Mawhiba’s summer enrichment programs has reached 5,887 to date, with the program able to receive up to 6,000 students. A hundred and thirteen seats are still empty, including seven seats for the attendance program and 106 for the virtual program.
The program provided for Mawhiba’s discovered talents is part of a journey in which students undergo different scientific experiences.
Over the past 10 years, talented students discovered by Mawhiba have represented the Kingdom in scientific competitions and events around the world. They have won 500 international prizes; 415 international prizes in scientific contests and 85 international prizes in International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) — the world’s most prestigious scientific competition for students.