SR70bn pilgrimage bonanza forecast

Updated 25 September 2014
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SR70bn pilgrimage bonanza forecast

Economists predict more than SR70 billion in revenues from this year’s Haj and Umrah seasons, according to experts.
Abdullah Al-Marzoouq, a professor of Haj economy at Umm Al-Qura University in Makkah, told Arab News there are positive indicators for enhanced Haj profits.
“This is thanks to the 9 million pilgrims who will have performed Haj and Umrah this year,” he said.
Al-Marzoouq called for greater efforts to create more job opportunities for Saudis during the Haj and Umrah seasons.
Abdulkhaleq Al-Kashef, director of the Haj Research Center, said that Haj service companies will undoubtedly take advantage of the upcoming Haj season.
“The large Haj and Umrah market will increase the sale of Saudi products, which includes gift items,” said Khaled Ramadan, the manager of a Haj and Umrah service company.
Ramadan told Arab News that Saudi-made gift items are facing big competition from Chinese products.
He stressed the need for strengthening the capabilities of young Saudi men and women in making innovative gift items with a Makkah and Madinah touch for sale among pilgrims and other visitors.
Ramadan believes that Saudi products could make a revenue of SR500 million to SR800 million annually if properly marketed.
Saleh Al-Rasheed, the owner of a shop selling souvenirs and gifts, urged Saudi youth to start small and medium-sized enterprises to produce gift items to market among pilgrims.
“This is a potential goldmine for young Saudis,” he said.
“It can also create more seasonal jobs for Saudis during the Haj season,” he added.
The Ministry of Haj, meanwhile, has implemented a plan to crack down on fake Haj operators who fleece customers by collecting money for Haj in advance and then vanish without a trace. Bogus operators often shut down their offices and keep their mobiles switched off, leaving their victims in the lurch.
The ministry is also monitoring the service category of Haj operators, since many claim to offer “VIP” services in order to con their victims into paying higher amounts.
Authorities have advised residents to be cautious while dealing with Haj operators.
“The Haj Ministry will closely monitor the marketing and advertisement campaigns of local Haj operators to prevent fraud,” said Haj Minister Bandar Hajjar.


South Korea downgrades Japan trade status as dispute deepens

Updated 18 September 2019

South Korea downgrades Japan trade status as dispute deepens

  • The change comes a week after South Korea initiated a complaint to the World Trade Organization
  • The new measures in effect mean it might take up to 15 days for South Korean companies to gain approvals to export sensitive materials to Japan

SEOUL, South Korea: South Korea on Wednesday dropped Japan from a list of countries receiving fast-track approvals in trade, a reaction to Tokyo’s decision to downgrade Seoul’s trade status amid a tense diplomatic dispute.
South Korea’ trade ministry said Japan’s removal from a 29-member “white list” of nations enjoying minimum trade restrictions went into effect as Seoul rearranged its export control system covering hundreds of sensitive materials that can be used for both civilian and military purposes.
The change comes a week after South Korea initiated a complaint to the World Trade Organization over a separate Japanese move to tighten export controls on key chemicals South Korean companies use to manufacture semiconductors and displays.
Seoul has accused Tokyo of weaponizing trade to retaliate against South Korean court rulings ordering Japanese companies to offer reparations to South Koreans forced into labor during World War II. Tokyo’s measures struck a nerve in South Korea, where many still resent Japan’s brutal colonial rule from 1910 to 1945.
According to South Korean trade ministry, the new measures in effect mean it might take up to 15 days for South Korean companies to gain approvals to export sensitive materials to Japan, compared to the five days or less it took under a simpler inspection process provided for favored trade partners.
Lee Ho-hyeon, a South Korean trade ministry official, said the change would affect about 100 local firms that export items such as telecommunications security equipment, semiconductor materials and chemical products to Japan. He said Seoul will work to minimize disruption to South Korean companies.
Japan for decades has enjoyed a huge trade surplus with South Korea, an economy that’s much more dependent on exports. Many major manufacturers heavily rely on parts and materials imported from Japan.
But the dispute is taking a toll. Exports to South Korea from Japan fell 9.4% last month, Japan’s Finance Ministry reported Wednesday.
The trade dispute between the neighbors erupted in July, when Japan imposed tighter export controls on three chemicals South Korean companies use to produce semiconductors and displays for smartphones and TVs, major export items for South Korea. It cited unspecified security concerns over Seoul’s export controls.
A few weeks later, Japan dropped South Korea from its own trade “white list,” triggered a full-blown diplomatic dispute that took relations between the US allies to their worst in decades.
The dispute has spilled over to security issues, with Seoul declaring it plans to terminate a bilateral military intelligence-sharing pact with Japan that symbolized the countries’ three-way security cooperation with the United States in the face of North Korea’s nuclear threat and China’s growing influence.
Following an angry reaction from Washington, Seoul later said it could reconsider its decision to end the military agreement, which remains in effect until November, if Japan relists South Korea as a favored trade partner.
Seoul announced its plans to downgrade Tokyo’s trade status in August before holding a 20-day period to gather opinions on the decision, during which the Japanese government voiced opposition to the move it described as “arbitrary and retaliatory,” Lee said.
He said Seoul needs to strengthen controls on shipments to a country that’s “hard to cooperate with” and fails to uphold “basic international principles” while managing export controls on sensitive materials.
South Korea previously divided its trade partners into two groups in managing export controls on sensitive materials. Following Wednesday’s change, South Korea now has an in-between bracket where it placed only Japan, which would mostly receive the same treatment in trade as the non-favored nations in what had been the second group.