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Paying Back, Refreshing Friendship and Punishment for Stealing Money

Congratulations

Saudi media reported that King Salman congratulated the US President-elect Donald Trump on his win and emphasised the strong relations between the two countries.

Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the US also welcomed the election results, saying that he “prefers action” over speeches from a new administration in Washington. Prince Abdullah bin Faisal bin Turki said that he sees the “extensive relationship” between the two countries continuing.

Saudi veteran journalist, Abdulrahman Al Rasheed, in an editorial in Al Riyadh newspaper warned against prejudging Trump. Trump’s election is the democratic choice of the American people. Those who voted for him saw in him the difference they felt is needed. But it is important to be patient and see what his days in office will bring. We may not know how to judge his presidency at the moment but we know that there are mutual interests that guide US policies.

Let’s hope for the best.

Paying Back Debts

On Monday, a committee headed by Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said that Saudi Arabia will pay by next month the money it owes private companies. Sinking oil prices and state spending cuts caused a slowdown in the Saudi economy since early 2016 and hit companies – construction especially – hard.

“The council came up with a package of solutions and procedures to settle the dues that met the requirements of spending,” SPA reported after a meeting of the Council of Economic and Development Affairs. “The council set the necessary procedures to pay the amounts owed to the private sector from the public treasury.” Solutions “will be implemented immediately and completed before December 2016.”

Hit hardest was the construction industry as government building contracts disappeared and bank financing dried up. Since the drop of oil prices construction contracts shrank by 65% according to Jeddah-based National Commercial Bank.

SPA added that priorities were rearranged according “to impact and efficiency,” but there had been “obstacles to implement the procedures.”

The arrears have left foreign workers, chiefly in the construction sector, struggling for months while they await back wages, AFP reported.

The majority of banks in Saudi Arabia are exposed to Saudi Oger and Saudi Binladin Group, the two largest construction companies for finance.

Saudi Binladin Group announced that the government had transferred some payments in the previous two weeks, allowing it to cover some back wages to its remaining staff. The group, whose total workforce is around 200,000, had fired a quarter of its staff due to inability to pay wages.

Also struggling is Saudi Oger, who, as Reuters reports, has asked banks to freeze payments on $3.5 billion of debt. The construction company, which is owned by the family of former Lebanese Premier Rafiq Hariri has been – like many – unable to pay salaries and billions in loan repayments to banks. The government payments will allow Saudi Oger meet debt obligations and to work on a restructuring deal – maybe one of the biggest ever in Saudi Arabia. Also, since last week Oger started working on selling stakes in several subsidiaries such as Jordan’s Arab Bank and Dubai’s Oger Telecom.

Saudi Qatari Ties

Saudi-Qatari ties were given a huge boost this week. After periods of tension over Muslim Brotherhood, Iran and Al Jazeera TV channel, Qatar sent a clear signal this year when its sided with Saudi Arabia against its unofficial ally Iran over the Yemen crisis.

A Saudi-Qatari Forum, organized by the Qatar Chamber and the Council of Saudi Chambers, was held on the side-lines of the “Made in Qatar Exhibition 2016”. At the opening in Riyadh on Sunday, Energy, Industry and Mineral Resources Minister Khalid Al-Falih said that the GCC countries should create an attractive environment to draw foreign investment. This forum goes along with the orientation of the two countries and the Gulf Cooperation Council.

Al-Falih said Qatar is one of the world’s fastest growing economies, and its GDP jumped from $8 billion in 1995 to $166 billion in 2015. Like in Saudi Arabia, Qatari officials count “on the private sector to play a leading role in this regard.”

All opinions coming from the Gulf have a strong consensus that oil will not be the future driving force of the Gulf economies. Qatari Minister of Energy and Industry Mohammed bin Saleh Al-Sada said in his speech that diversification is key as “Gulf economies need to rely on a variety of resources in the future, and added that without productive foreign investments, these economies will not achieve sustainable development.” Al-Sada said the GCC had the potential to be a gateway for regional and international investments, and added that the volume of GCC global investments, excluding sovereign funds, amounted to $248 billion in 2015.

So far, the contribution of the industrial sector in the Gulf GDP lies at 10%, which is an ow rate compared to the developed countries. The majority of these investments are energy-intensive industries like petrochemicals and fertilizers, which are government-owned. In order to reach stronger much needed economic goals there is a huge need for coordination among the GCC countries in the field of manufacturing industries, especially in the SMEs, through private sector initiatives to find a place on the map of production and export. Not to speak of the political consent that is missing as well.

VAT, More GCC Efforts

A report by Bloomberg said that introducing VAT in the GCC will add 5% to the GDP of its member countries. It is planned to be implemented in 2018. VAT will be on products and services to improve the economic situation with the current low oil prices.

VAT was discussed and planned for in 2010 but got delayed due to the Arab Spring. In the following years, there was no necessity as oil prices were high. It is obvious that the GCC is moving closer to unite against the current economic challenges, whether willingly or not remains a different question. Disputes have been accompanying various attempts by GCC members to find guidelines and agreements for united policies.

Maybe one step that could be the start was the meeting of the Commission of Economic and Developmental Affairs that took place in Riyadh on Thursday. It came on the heels of the 16th Consultative GCC Summit in Jeddah which approved the formation of the higher-level Commission of Economic and Developmental Affairs.

Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said the GCC united has the potential to become the sixth largest economy in the world if it acts on the opportunities available, no doubt. But can the GCC members agree to agree?

The aim of the meeting was to achieve growth and prosperity. Its roles include monitoring policies, recommendations and projects that aim to develop cooperation and coordination among member states in economic and developmental affairs.

There has been some success for GCC policies under the pressure of the economic slowdown. Yet, there are more opportunities that be grasped in order to ensure further economic growth. Key words would be cooperation and agreement.

High ranking officials from all GCC countries attended the meeting, but it is obvious from the final reports that no clear steps are being taken yet. It was about discussing what we all know needs to be done.

Vision 2030 for Dummies

In case you have not yet understood what Vision 2030 is in detail, read the new report just produced by the global publishing, research and consultancy firm Oxford Business Group (OBG) “The Report: Saudi Arabia 2016”. It provides in-depth analysis of the Kingdom’s ambitious plans to boost non-hydrocarbons growth, modernize the public sector and attract higher levels of foreign investment.

The report explains that the targets of Vision 2030 which include raising non-oil government revenue from $43.5 billion to $266.6 billion by 2030, reducing unemployment from 11.6% to 7% and improving the education system with private sector input. OBG’s publication maps out these and the many other goals laid out in Vision 2030, while looking in detail at the government’s strategies for reaching them.

The report also explores Saudi Arabia’s plans to boost the contribution made by value-added industry to GDP, which include rolling out several new industrial cities and increasing support provided by public funds and private banks to SMEs.

Government efforts to develop a full chain of upstream and downstream projects using the country’s raw material wealth including petrochemicals, metals and phosphates is a key focus of OBG’s analysis. In addition, the report will include a first-time media chapter analysing the government’s effort to develop a media ecosystem around the $166.4 million Media City free zone project.

The report also shines a spotlight on the raft of new opportunities emerging in energy innovation and supply diversification. In addition, OBG’s publication includes special coverage of the latest developments under way across Saudi Arabia’s regions, shining a spotlight on Makkah and Madinah, and the port of Jeddah.

Amazon will definitely be part of Vision 2030. Deputy Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman received Jeff Bezos, the founder, chairman and chief executive officer of Amazon company on Wednesday. They discussed fields of cooperation and investment opportunities available in accordance with the Vision 2030.

Oil, Egypt

The Saudi-Egyptian crisis is still at the same stage of last week, with clearer announcements this week.

On Monday, Egypt said that Saudi Arabia has halted fuel shipments indefinitely. Finally, a clear announcement. And denial of reports that its energy minister is on a soon visit to Iran. The Iranian Foreign Ministry also denied the visit.

This move by Saudi Aramco increases pressure on Egypt as it implements austerity measures in the hope of securing billions of dollars in loans to stabilize its ailing economy. Egyptian Oil Ministry spokesman Hamdi Abdel-Aziz said that Aramco stopped sending the fuel shipments to Egypt “without giving a specific timetable or reasons.”

Saudi Aramco did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In April, Saudi Arabia agreed to provide Egypt with 700,000 tons of fuel monthly for five years on easy repayment terms, but Egypt said last month that October’s shipments had been halted. Neither Egypt nor Saudi Arabia seem to want to remember the real reason: Last month Egypt decided to vote for the Russian resolution for Syria at the UN which opposes the Saudi one.

No oil, what to do now? So, after fuel shipments were halted, Egypt signed a memorandum of understanding to import oil from Iraq, a close ally of Iran.

The Egyptian pound was devalued this week. Egypt tried to draw a line under a deep economic crisis by allowing its currency to float freely. The move saw the Egyptian pound crash 48% against the US dollar, but this helps the country to access a huge bailout from the International Monetary Fund.

Fearful are Saudi investors with investments in Egypt. Some big investments will suffer huge loses such as Savola; other investors have kept their activities on hold before the crisis started rolling a year ago, such as the Al Tayar Group, and others are watching the developments as they happen.

Many demanded that the Egyptian government allow them to transfer their money outside the country, but one Saudi investor said that the Egyptian pound’s situation does not affect investments in the long run.

OPEC chief Mohammad Barkindo emphasised again ahead of the OPEC forum in Abu Dhabi that coordination between members of oil-exporting OPEC and non-member producers is “vital” to rebalance the market. “We believe it is vital that both OPEC and non-OPEC countries come together and take coordinated … action to rebalance this market for the common good of all.”

Non-Oil Exports

A report issued by the Customs Department pointed out that chemical products, plastics and rubber constitute 74% of the total Saudi non-oil exports, with a value of SAR 118 billion. The plastics and petrochemical sector plays a vital role in achieving sustainable development and diversifying sources of income. It is the backbone of the industrial sector in Saudi Arabia which is witnessing major development and growth.

Saudi Arabia holds a substantial global market share of 6% of global petrochemical production. This share is subject to significant increase if we its consider capacity, oil wealth, and the diversification of petrochemicals derivatives to strengthen the local downstream industry and increase opportunities.

According to a recent report issued by the Gulf Petrochemicals & Chemicals Association (GAPCA), Saudi Arabia will witness an increase in the production capacity of plastics sector by 3.2% annually until 2020. Good news.

In tandem came the words of the Labour and Social Development Minister Dr Mufrej Al-Haqbani, who stressed the importance of developing the performance of the Saudi non-profit sector to activate the sustainable socio-economic development, its resources and developing its resources.

In the aftermath of the new appointments of last week, Ali Al Hazmi has been appointed new governor of the Saline Water Conversion Corporation (SWCC). He has been working with Saudi Aramco and associated companies for over 20 years. Al-Hazmi succeeds Abdulrahman al-Ibrahim as governor of SWCC since 2011. In a recent interview with MEED, the previous governor revealed that SWCC is working on plans to unbundle and privatise the company. A roadmap for privatising the company is due to be ready in 2017.

SWCC also faces a race to meet the rapidly growing demand for water in Saudi Arabia, with estimates showing Saudi Arabia will need to increase its installed desalination capacity by 2.2 million cubic metres a day (cm/d) by 2020.

Finally, Real Estate Regulations, Livestock Drop

At the conference “Reality and Future of Real Estate Evaluation” Housing, Minister Majed Al Hagqel said that without real estate evaluation the current real estate system will not have any effectivity, and prices for so-called White Land will be set by the ministry, without giving any time frame. Evaluation with correct tools, implementation measures, effective framework and healthy investment environment will help to attract local and international investors. SAMA’s decision to raise prepayment for land by 30% is because there was no clarity in the market and correct evaluation.

Real estate financing reached SAR 108 billion, compared to other GCC countries where it reached SAR 2 trillion. Having a clear system will bring trust to finance sources, investors and buyers. It will also stop individual actions that harm the Saudi market.

According to a report in Al-Eqtisadiah, livestock markets witnessed a significant recession in the sale and purchase business, causing a decline in prices between 20% to 30%. This is due to low demand by consumers and abundant supply of domestic and imported products. Hamid Al-Jadani, a livestock dealer, said: “The demand has fallen sharply, with live market recession that began after the end of the pilgrimage season, where demand was low compared to last year.”

The desire for purchasing livestock differed from previous years, with demand concentrated on local livestock despite the big difference in prices. However, livestock imported from East Africa finally saw a slight increase as a result of consumer demand due to competitive pricing and quality. Usually, the purchasing power in the markets is affected by the seasons, which responds to demand. But the last pilgrimage season disappointed traders with decline in demand compared to the year before.

Retail Positive

Al-Rajhi Capital, the investment banking subsidiary of Saudi Arabia’s Al-Rajhi Bank, has published a strategy report analysing consumer spending patterns in the Kingdom, entitled “What happens to consumer spending now?”.

Economists remain positive regarding the Saudi retail sector, which benefited from market share gains in the past. This trend is likely to continue due to their better positioning in terms of economies of scale, better supplier terms and balance sheet strength.

The report analyses the past changes in the Saudi household spending patterns and, based on that, draws important conclusions as to how the future spending patterns could shape up, in the backdrop of recent austerity measures. Conclusions based on the past data analysis also disputes some of the widespread belief, as it highlights how inflation has consumed two thirds of the increase in household spending, mainly related to food and housing.

This also implies that the growth in real terms was mostly flat during this period. ARC’s analysis shows that the discretionary and non-discretionary spending patterns should be evaluated based on the level of household expenditure, whereas broader conclusions based only on the nature of segments could be misleading as the analysis shows that the line is blurred between these terms.

Workforce

The Saudi government has been slow to react to demands by citizens for improved regulation concerning domestic workers.

On Monday, the Council of Ministers approved the setting up of labour attaché offices at Saudi embassies in Egypt, India, Philippines, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Sri Lanka. This decision was taken after reviewing the recommendation of the Permanent Committee at the Council of Economic and Development Affairs.

Minister of State, Member of Cabinet and Acting Minister of Culture and Information Essam Bin Saad said that the Ministry of Labour and Social Development, in coordination with the ministries of foreign and civil service, has to fix the number of Saudi and non-Saudi employees at the offices to help labour attaches. The Cabinet also entrusted these three ministries with the task of defining the duties of the offices.

Labour experts believe there will be a great change in the Saudi workforce in the next two decades, which will lead to the demise of some jobs because of changing technology and skills requirement of the labour market.

Hassan Al-Abbadi, HR manager of an IT, said the reasons behind certain jobs in Saudi Arabia fading away will be job mergers, economic, social and cultural changes, development and changes in technology in service, changes in future skill trends, no demand for certain occupations, and limited training in other jobs. These developments, some of which are already underway, “have led the government to seek new employment-generated opportunities,” he said. Al-Abbadi said the next two decades will have many changes in the nature of skills that are under threat, which is taken into consideration by Vision 2030 which focuses on specific educational outputs.

Traditional work activist Ahmad Abu Taleb Al-Sharif in Jeddah gives other indications as to the dearth of certain occupations which would still exist in changing conditions, but only just. This is because of some associations which are still interested in preserving certain traditional crafts, such as fishermen, cobblers, bakers, goldsmiths, engravers, etc.

Spokesman for the General Organization for Technical and Vocational Training (GOTVT) Fahd Al-Ataibi said the organization seeks to plug the demand of the local labour market in technical jobs and skills by updating different new specializations and including the jobs that are in greater need from employers in the private sector and to support the Saudi market with qualified national cadre.

In a similar context, the spokesman for the Ministry of Labour and Social Development Khalid Aba Al Khail said that the posting of labour attaches to Saudi representations aims at protecting the labor market and Saudi. It will also help labour agencies, the government and private sector to overcome obstacles bringing labour into the country, reduce costs, improve conditions, and supervise training centres for labourers. The representation will help coordination with the countries of origin of the labourers to improve their quality of life.

China, Germany, Brazil

Saudi Arabia agreed with China to step up cooperation on various key issues including security and counter-terrorism during talks held in Riyadh this week. The usual suspects received a delegation led by Chinese President Xi Jinping’s special envoy Meng Jianzhu. In August, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman had visited China and signed 15 preliminary agreements between Saudi Arabia and China in a wide range of fields from energy to housing. China is among Saudi Arabia’s biggest oil importers. Under the current world changes more cooperation with allies won’t harm.

The foundation of China-Saudi cooperation is energy, and with good reason: Saudi Arabia is the world’s largest oil exporter and China is the world’s largest oil importer. China is seeking to upgrade its status in the Middle East while Saudi Arabia is trying to hedge its bets in a multipolar world, especially when the United States seems less willing to act as Saudi Arabia’s security guarantee.

Germany was visited this week by a Shoura Council delegation led by Khaled bin Abdullah Al-Sabt to enhance parliamentary relations and bilateral cooperation between the two countries. “The important visit will contribute in increasing understanding between the two sides, and the German side will benefit with a better understanding of Saudi Vision 2030,” German Ambassador Haller said. Key areas for cooperation between the two countries are energy technology, the use of renewable energy for electricity generation and water desalination in Saudi Arabia.

In the last five years, there have been frequent visits by Saudi and German parliamentarians. Earlier, a Saudi-German Parliamentary Friendship Committee was set up by the two sides to discuss ways to strengthen political, parliamentary, economic and cultural ties.

Brazilian Ambassador Flavio Marega underscored on Monday that Brazil and Saudi Arabia are riding the crest of excellent bilateral ties as his country prepares for its national day celebrations on 15th November. He said that a Brazilian delegation was planning to come to Saudi Arabia for the second joint commission next year. An Al Shoura Council delegation had visited Brazil in March. Last year, the Brazilian minister of agriculture visited Saudi Arabia to sign documents involving trade. Trade volume between the two countries is $6 billion.

39.1 Million Saudis by 2030

According to recent demographic survey released by the General Authority for Statistics, the Saudi population increased 16.54% (4,506,152) to reach 31,742,308 compared to 27,236,156 in 2010. An average annual increase of 2.54%.

The male/female distribution was 57.44% to 42.56% in 2016 compared with 57% to 43% in 2010.

At least 24.8% of the total population is less than 15 years of age. The people who range between 15 to 64 years of age represent 72%. But only 3.2% are older than 65 years.

The gender ratio of the Saudi population is 104 male/100 females. It lies within the normal standards (95/105). The distribution of the non-Saudis by gender is much higher than normal at 218 males to 100 females, due to many of them being in Saudi Arabia on bachelor status.

The survey results show that the ratio of over 15-year-old unmarried female Saudis reached 33% while married women represented 58.8%, but 5.6% and 2.6% of the total number are widows and divorced women respectively. The ratio of over 15-year-old single male Saudis reached 42.1%.

These ratios dramatically vary between various Saudi age groups. For example: the percentage of the unmarried female Saudis dropped from 97% in the 15-19 age group to 12.9% in the 35-39 age group and lower than 1.2% for the age group over 55 years.

There is an age disparity in the Saudi population’s literacy. About 7% of Saudis are illiterate. This ratio increases as the person moves from one age group to another: about 0.7 % of the Saudi population in the age group 10-14. But it reaches the highest level (52.7%) for people older than 65 years, also among female Saudi population than the male Saudis hitting 10.9% and 3.2% respectively.

In 2030, the population of Saudi Arabia will reach 39.1 million, an increase of 24.1% from 2015. Saudi Arabia’s population growth is decelerating due to falling birth rates and fertility rates and increasing death rates, a trend that will continue up to 2030. Net migration will remain positive up to 2030, but will experience an overall decline.

Climate and Carbon Dioxide

The Paris Climate Change Agreement came into force on Friday less than a year after it was signed and three days before the start of the 22nd conference of the parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP22) in Morocco. On the same day, Saudi Arabia’s Permanent Representative to the UN Abdullah Al-Mouallimi signed the Paris Climate Change Agreement in New York in the presence of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

He said that Saudi Arabia is concerned about the effects of climate change and therefore will supports ways to combat it and reduce emissions that cause significant damage to the Earth.

Last year Saudi Arabia established its Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) to intensify its contributions and practical engagement with the issue of climate change. And just ahead of the Paris conference the Saudi Arabia hosted the Carbon Sequestration Leadership Forum (CSLF) and earlier the Global Methane Initiative. The aim is to become a global player by participation and be part of decision making on global issues.

The Middle East’ s first factory to suck carbon dioxide out of the air has begun operating in the UAE. The plant – said to be the first of its kind in the MENA region – is to capture up to 800,000 tons of CO2 a year, the carbon capture company Al Reyadah said. It will capture CO2 emissions from major steel producer Emirates Steel Industries (ESI) in Abu Dhabi, before injecting the gas into the emirate’ s oilfields to boost production there, it said.

“Once it’s ready in terms of CO2 emissions, it will be like taking 170,000 cars off the streets,” UAE Energy Minister Suhail Al-Mazrouei said. The minister said the project costs around AED 450 million dirhams ($120 million).

Scientists say carbon capture is a good solution to decrease emissions of carbon dioxide, a heat-trapping gas that contributes to climate change. Similar projects to capture CO2 are under way in other countries including in Saudi Arabia.

IT Importance

King Salman hosted the 4th Saudi International Conference on Information Technology on Sunday at King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology in Riyadh. The conference seeks to put forward the appropriate and supportive infrastructure for the initiatives and programs. The city created its initiatives within the National Transformation Program 2020, which aims to maximize the local content in the key technical sectors, including those which are IT-related.

The four-day event looked into at mega-data, analysis, design of interface and applied data platforms, technical data images, analysis of social media, in addition to Internet analysis and smart cities.

Newly arrived German Consul General Holger Ziegeler said that German experts will participate in the Internet summit in Jeddah as Germany is interested in being a partner in development of Vision 2030. The Saudi government tries to invest heavily in infrastructure and future services for the population, and German companies are ready to contribute to this economic development.

Education is the foundation of all development, and the German government is planning to open a cultural institute for language training for Saudis in order to familiarize them with the European economic and cultural giant, focusing on fostering exchanges of students, especially giving facilities to the Saudi students, so when they go to Germany they can easily adjust.

UNESCO, Art and Tourism

Working on its image as a touristic destination, the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTNH) is taking part in the World Travel Market (WTM-2016) that opened Monday in London, with Saudi Arabia having a grand pavilion highlighting its tourism destinations, services and products, besides offering investment opportunities in the travel and tourism sector to investors.

The Saudi pavilion for the worldwide travel and tourism industry is designed to express the tourism and heritage identity of the country. It features elements of national urban heritage and consists of several sections including the partners, hospitality and information and publication sections, with photos and posters to reflect the nature and culture and its tourism potential.

An American couple in their 70s had reported in Saudi Gazette about their visit to Saudi Arabia. Their son, who converted to Islam 10 years ago, married a Saudi woman and they thought of visiting him. They were surprised with the reality that differed from the picture they had of Saudi Arabia. “The heritage and culture we have discovered here are opposed to what we expected. It’s safe, people are friendly and welcoming.” Maybe they will become good ambassadors for promoting tourism in Saudi Arabia.

The Saudi Tourism and Culture Authority, World Bank and International Tourism Authority and UNESCO are working to execute a study on ‘’Measuring the economic impact of national and cultural heritage in Saudi Arabia.’’ The study will focus on me understanding the effect of investment in cultural heritage through value added and analysis the economic, cultural importance and the direct and indirect impacted the future vision for developing national cultural heritage through studying investment climate, identifying unused opportunities, propose new investment opportunities and consulate for cases to guarantee continuation of cultural investment.

Amal Al Qahtani, a Saudi artist, thought to let go of her pain by drawing. The cancer patient who has not been over treatment, had her exhibition opened this week by the director of STCA this week. She says that this was her way of dealing with the pain and drawing every detail of it.

Saudi Women

Saudi women are opting for engineering degrees. College of Architecture at Effat University, a Jeddah-based private university, is the biggest in terms of the number of students with 60% pursuing architecture. Other 500 students are pursuing electrical and computer engineering.

At this stage of economic development quality talents are required. Pharmacies have opened up for women with 15,000 graduates. Such programs – who are developed by market search for its needs – are popular is because there is a huge demand for female engineers. Many of these graduates are involved in development projects in Jeddah and Makkah. Others are working with big institutions such as General Electric and King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST).

MiSK Foundation will host a conference in Riyadh, the “MiSK Global Forum 2016,” under the slogan “Young Leaders Together” on November 15th and 16th. This event aims to empower rising entrepreneurs in the Gulf. It will support knowledge and innovation in a variety of fields among young people. The forum will bring together officials, experts, innovators, and entrepreneurs in a variety of fields from 65 countries around the world.

About 1,500 young men and women, half of them from Saudi Arabia, will talk about their experiences and expertise in entrepreneurship and innovation, thereby contributing to the empowerment of youth and expand their role in leading development and preparing generations of young leaders in a variety of fields.

The MiSK Foundation, through launching this youth initiative, aims to create a youth international platform for the exchange of knowledge and closely review successful experiences to gain access to the findings, recommendations and initiatives. They will promote and develop youth potentials and will help equip them with the best international practices in diverse areas of life.

This will have a positive impact on youth communities in the Kingdom and raise the level of their contributions in leading the process of sustainable development. The forum includes more than 30 activities distributed among workshops and sessions. In addition to panel discussions, leaders, figures and experts will all discuss the success factors of the young leaders, such as the role of knowledge in the development of human capital, and changing technology to the horizon of knowledge exchange.

A three-day forum on “National Forum for the Prevention of Sexual Exploitation of Children Over the Internet” will open next week in Riyadh, sponsored by Crown Prince Muhammad bin Naif. The General Directorate of Public Security in cooperation with several departments of the Ministry of Interior and governmental and nongovernmental agencies are to set up the event.

Core vision is to reinforce regional and international cooperation through the promotion of values, concepts and information exchange in the field of prevention of sexual exploitation of children.

Health

The number of mental patients has risen by 10% during last Hijra year. The figure, according to a report carried by Al-Watan Arabic daily, was based on information provided by public hospitals across the country.

A psychologist at Al-Amal Hospital in Jeddah, cited four main reasons for increase in mental patients. top on the list are hereditary factors and drug abuse. “We can say roughly that 15% to 25%of mental patients are victims of drugs,” he added. He said mental patients require medicines worth SAR 300 to SAR 1,000 monthly.

The Health Ministry announced plans to improve its mental health services by establishing advanced medical centres that provide quick treatment in early stages of the condition, with new mental hospitals in Al-Kharj, Tabuk, Najran and Riyadh. “We’ll also provide mental health services through primary healthcare centres and general hospitals,” said a ministry official.

At present, there are 21 mental hospitals under the ministry. Last year, about 382,762 patients visited such hospitals while 33,989 were admitted to hospitals for prolonged treatment. A proposal by members of  Shoura Council to consider mental illness part of insurance coverage was rejected this week.

Also, the Shoura Council demanded the Ministry of Health to give Saudi Health Councils the power to follow up the implementation of health care program in Saudi Arabia, by hiring qualified Saudis and giving managerial and financial power to directors in regional health care facilities.

Terrorism

A Saudi man has been sentenced to 10 years’ prison for advocating violence in the name of religion, pledging allegiance to the Daesh, committing crimes in Saudi Arabia and funding terrorism. The defendant will remain in jail for the rest of his sentence, and will be banned from traveling for another 10 years starting from the date he gets out of prison.

In another case, the court convicted a citizen who was previously convicted of promoting extremist ideology, and supporting Daesh and its leader. The court sentenced him to seven years in prison, as well as a 7-year travel ban starting immediately after the ban handed out in his previous sentencing, as per Article 6 of the travel documents regulations.

Punishment for Fraud

My favourite news item was that Al Shoura Council members, their deputies, and employees of the 14th and 15th rank must provide “clearance” of their conscious for not committing misusing public money. Anyone who will be found of committing bribery or some sort of illegal money activity in collaboration with entities inside or outside the country will be punished and face prison of not more than 5 years and financial punishment not more than SAR 1 million. This is an order to protect public money that is the property of all Saudis.