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Diversification Improves, Children Driving and Divorce by Snapshot

Secret to be Lifted

Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih, told the Financial Times that Saudi Arabia will reveal the size of its oil reserves. “This is going to be the most transparent national oil company listing of all time.”

The size of Saudi Arabia’s reserves is one of the most closely guarded secrets in the oil industry. No information has revealed the exact extent of its proven oil reserves since it completed the nationalisation of the formerly US-controlled Saudi Aramco in the 1980s.

“Everything that Saudi Aramco has, that will be shared and will be verified by independent third parties,” Al Falih told the newspaper, adding this would include financial statements, “reserves … costs [and] profitability indicators”.

Saudi Arabia’s reserves are not expected to be part of Saudi Aramco’s share sale, which is expected to take place in 2018 on Saudi Stock Exchange and a yet undecided on international bourse. The government will have sovereign rights over the management of reserves, but they do factor into the company’s valuation, which Riyadh believes could be as high as $2 trillion.

If the government data proved accurate, it would mean that Saudi Arabia has managed to replace each barrel it has produced with oil from new discoveries or higher estimates of the amount of oil it can recover from existing fields. The information is likely to affect oil markets as it can potentially indicate how long Saudi Arabia can keep on pumping crude.

The country’s sovereign bond prospectus last month said reserves could last for approximately 70 years but stipulated that the estimate had not been reviewed by a third party.

Al-Falih said Saudi Aramco has the potential to become an industrial conglomerate rivalling the USA’s General Electric.

As an alternative to oil and diversification of economy attempts, Saudi Arabia is also close to finalising a tender for a sharp increase in the amount of renewable power it uses domestically, according to the minister. The country has mainly relied on natural gas and oil for its energy, but aims to install nearly 10 GW of solar, wind and other types of clean power by 2023, which Al-Falih said would amount to about 10% of peak demand.

Saudi Arabia hopes that as much as 30% of the electricity could come from a mix of renewables and nuclear power, though, there are no “imminent” plans to build a nuclear plant.

Oil in Oversupply

Official data published on Thursday reported that Saudi Arabia’s crude oil exports rose to 7.812 million barrels per day in September as the world’s top oil exporter increased shipments by 507,000 bpd over August.

These exports figures signal that Saudi Arabia doesn’t intend to give up the production card ahead of the November OPEC negotiations on whether to freeze or reduce OPEC production, before an agreement is reached with other OPEC members

Currently, OPEC is in talks with major non-OPEC producers in a bid to gain support for a global deal agreed on September to limit supply and help to balance the market. Riyadh has maintained high output levels since mid-2014 aiming to defend market share against rival producers. Other countries followed.

Statements from some OPEC oil ministers emphasise the importance of reaching a census, therefore anticipation is high for next week’s meeting.

Cooling temperatures in September reduced demand for air conditioning, resulting in Saudi Arabia’s own crude oil use falling to 490,000 bpd from 739,000 bpd in August. That was down from 744,000 bpd a year earlier, reflecting the Kingdom’s efforts to boost energy efficiency and gas use. “Although, the Kingdom’s production was steady, domestic use for power generation and desalination went down and exports went up,” Al-Husseini said.

Yet, the World Energy Outlook report published by the International Energy Agency shows that the Middle East’s share of global oil production remains high, and actually the highest in 40 years. It added that a barrel should cost about $80 to ensure a matching of supply and demand. The solution to cut spending will result in a global supply shortfall by 2020.

In 2015, the volume of conventional crude oil resources development fell to its lowest level since the 1950s and data for 2016 shows no sign of a pickup.

This loss can be measured as about the equivalent of Iraq’s current annual oil output.

According to the IEA, $44 trillion need to be invested in global energy supply – 60% of it to oil, gas and coal extraction and supply and 20% to renewable energies, in addition of $23 trillion for energy efficiency.

Spending cuts drove investments in upstream oil and gas production to almost $200 billion and is expected to decline further to $140 billion by the end of 2016.

No matter how positively oil prices develop, the future is in solar energy. The investment firm, Wermuth Asset Management (WAM) said that, regardless of whether oil prices rise due to potential OPEC production-capping news, there is no long-term future for the hydrocarbon sector.

“Solar power is now available at $3 cent/kWh, which is equivalent to oil at $5/barrel,” a report published by the firm stated. The report indicated that OPEC expects demand growth to slow from 1.3% this year to 1.2% next year.

Saudi Arabia is working on developing other sources for power generation than oil. At the UN climate talks in Morocco, Al-Falih told delegates that Saudi Arabia “is committed to doubling production of natural gas and at the same time rely less heavily on oil in producing electricity.”

He also said the country is committed to using nuclear and renewable energy.

For that greater investment in reducing the environmental impact of fossil fuel production and consumption is essential to meeting agreed-upon climate targets. Saudi Arabia remains committed to meeting the world’s energy needs via the gradual transition towards a more environmentally sustainable future — keeping in mind that the path of the transition itself must remain both economically viable and environmentally sustainable.

Saudi Arabia has the world’s fifth largest natural gas reserves at 291 trillion cubic feet, according to the US Energy Information Administration.

Jochen Wermuth, founding partner of WAM, said ahead of OPEC’s November meeting: “In the Middle East, Dubai has been the most innovative on solar power. The other Emirates may soon follow, along with other GCC countries that benefit from a lot of sun. Without efforts to diversify, we expect to see countries such as Russia and Saudi Arabia struggle in future years.”

Wermuth concluded: “At the macro level the GCC remains heavily reliant on oil. This is having a profound impact on its economies.”

Makkah-Madinah Rail Link in 2018

The delayed high-speed railway linking Makkah and Madinah will open in March 2018, the Spanish consortium building the project said Friday.

The railway was initially scheduled to open at the end of 2016 before the date was moved to the end of 2017.

According to a spokesman for the Al-Shoula consortium, “full operations will start in March 2018.” Partial operations will begin a few months earlier.

The aim is improving transport between the two cities during the annual Haj pilgrimage.

In 2011, Saudi Arabia awarded the contract worth 6.7 billion euros ($7.1 billion) to the consortium of 12 Spanish companies and two Saudi firms.

The project faced challenges which added to its costs, leading to disagreements among members of the consortium.

Saudi authorities agreed to pay an extra SAR 600 million ($160 million) to compensate additional costs of the project.

The contract — one of the biggest which Spanish firms have ever undertaken abroad — is for the laying of the 444 km of track between Makkah and Madinah, providing 35 trains and maintaining the line for 12 years. It will transport 166,000 passengers a day.

The rail line crosses the Arabian Desert, where sandstorms are frequent and large dunes can suddenly form, which has added to the difficulties in completing the project.

The Many Solutions

Saudi Arabia doesn’t have industries to build on but ones that can be developed. One of the key factors is the young Saudi population. The government is enhancing its efforts to make them ready for the market. The government is aware that talented Saudi nationals are essential to reaching goals, and is therefore is aligning with global university as partners to train thousands of students for Saudi Arabia’s specific requirements.

The 4th annual Saudi Trade Finance (STF) Summit, “Shaping the Kingdom’s Economy: A bright future unfolds” taking place in Jeddah this week brought government regulatory authorities and finance and technology solution providers together to discuss current trade trends and challenges faced by organizations in creating a thriving Saudi economy.

“Saudi Arabia is a member of Group of 20 economies but highly dependent on oil,” Makarem Batterjee, vice chairman of Saudi German Hospitals Group, said.

“Foreign investors will come to Saudi Arabia. They will see the changes that are happening through the Vision 2030. The government has to do more marketing to attract more foreign investment.”

Batterjee added: “The Government should focus on education. If you fix education, it will take care of everything.”

An economist at the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA), Hatem Samman, said that the current economic model, which depends on oil for exports and government spending, is unlikely to support diversification. Rather, Vision 2030 will institutionalize government effectiveness and facilitate stakeholder coordination.

SAGIA has had listed eight sectors over the last decade that can contribute 60% of the overall growth needed to double Saudi Arabia’s GDP by 2030, among them tourism, hospitality, retail and wholesale trade, construction, petrochemicals and health care.

Religious tourism, Haj, Umrah and archaeological sites remain underdeveloped sources of income for Saudi Arabia.

The new French ambassador in Riyadh, François Gouyette, and Prince Sultan bin Salman, president of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTNH), met on Friday and agreed to cooperate more in imparting training to Saudi youth and explore areas for Saudi-French joint teams to engage in archaeological excavations.

Earlier this year, a joint team of Saudi-French archaeologists, carrying out excavations on historical sites in Al-Kharj, discovered heritage artefacts belonging to the Stone and Bronze ages, and the Abbasid era, a major breakthrough for the promotion of heritage tourism in the Riyadh region.

Prince Sultan stressed that the tourism commission is dedicated to support investors, operators and hoteliers and provide all facilities to international hotel companies to enter the Saudi market after the SCTNH’s efforts to regulate the hotel sector.

The role of banks was also highlighted. Banks are ready to support both public and private sectors. They have a solid base and capability of developing/introducing right solutions to meet the changing demands of Saudi market and help expanding businesses.

In the non-oil sector, the first focus should be on raw materials that are readily available in Saudi Arabia. The private sector needs to embrace it and look at it as an opportunity for new businesses.

“With SR32 billion re-exports yearly, Saudi Arabia can also be a hub for re-exports.”

PPP and PIF

The Public Investment Fund (PIF), Saudi Arabia’s biggest sovereign wealth fund, denied rumours that it plans to sell its holdings in the local companies.

“Contrary to inaccurate media speculation this morning, the Public Investment Fund has no plan or intention to reduce its equity holdings in Saudi Arabia,” according to a PIF statement to media outlets.

Bloomberg cited last week unnamed sources as saying that the fund could divest some of its holdings in Saudi companies to free up cash in order to expand its international footprint. The PIF, with about $100 billion worth of shares in listed local companies, is reviewing the stakes as it seeks to diversify its assets. The fund could reduce its holdings in local companies and retain control through measures such as golden shares.

The fund is core to the country’s diversification plan announced earlier in the year. The rest of Saudi Aramco’s ownership after selling the shares will be transferred to the PIF. The move is to inflate the size of the PIF’s assets to $2 trillion, which it will leverage to invest at home and abroad and generate investment income.

The PIF was founded in 1971 to finance development projects in Saudi Arabia. It plans to increase the proportion of its foreign investments to 50% by 2020, up from 5% now.

The PIF has major investments in US transportation firm Uber, the new Middle East e-commerce site Noon, and has agreed to start a $100 billion technology fund with Japan’s Softbank Group Corporation.

Currently, it is considering increasing its stake in local power developer Acwa Power to up to 35%, and will also take ownership of the King Abdullah Financial District, in a deal currently under negotiation with the PPA.

There is much information about the start of public private partnership PPP programs, yet developers are still waiting for them to take off. The need and necessity are at their highest but numerous questions remain over how the programme will take shape.

“On a macro level Saudi Arabia definitely has to deliver on PPPs,” says Antoine Cousin, partner at the US’ White & Case. “On the back of very strong demographics (about 50 % of the population is under the age of 20), and lower oil prices, and also political pressure, the kingdom has to – and has signalled its intent to – start delivering on more social infrastructure PPPs.”

“There is already a framework for PPPs, although few people know about it,” says Cousins. “There are privatisation guidelines from the early 2000s which could provide a basic framework. This law says that if any government entity or line ministry wants to procure a PPP project, they would have to put together project documents and tendering rules, and submit them to the Supreme Economic Council for approval. The council used to be chaired by the king, so once it endorsed the project the king had effectively endorsed it.”

A few number of PPP projects have numbers realized such as Prince Muhammed bin Abdulaziz Airport (PMBAIA) in Medina.

Other PPP projects faced problems due the government’s unwillingness to take on risks, such as the General Authority for Civil Aviation’s refusal (GACA) to offer a hard guarantee or soft traffic allocation for the Taif airport PPP, resulting in low developer interest. GACA then tried to include less profitable regional airports in the deal, which is currently being restructured.

Since the Supreme Economic Council was replaced by the Council of Economic & Development affairs in 2015, it is also unclear how the existing guidelines would function.

Lawyers and consultants have been expecting a new PPP framework in Saudi Arabia since mid-2016. Cousin advocates for a simple set up.

A few small yet bankable projects could get lenders and investors comfortable with the market, despite concerns over transparency and standardisation.

As for projects outside of the utilities sectors, a clear pipeline has not yet emerged in Saudi Arabia. Some progress is being made in social infrastructure, light rail and airports.

“The requirements for health, housing and education are massive, so in principle the kingdom should procure PPP in these three sectors,” says Cousin. “Moving from the traditional public procurement mindset and embracing PPPs inevitably means relinquishing some control, but I understand the political will is there.”

SAMA Report

King Salman received the 52nd annual report of the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency (SAMA) on Monday. The report was presented by Minister of Finance Mohammed Al-Jadaan and SAMA Governor Dr Ahmed Al-Khulaifi.

The annual report delivers an overview performance on insurance activities, finance markets, monetary and banking developments, balance of payments, the latest developments in public finances and oil and non-oil sectors.

Addressing a press conference, the SAMA governor said that Saudi Arabia has a “very comfortable” level of foreign reserves.

At sectors level, projections show that the oil sector real GDP would increase by 1.2%, whereas the non-oil sector GDP would increase by 2.5 percent in 2016.

It is also expected that the non-oil government sector would grow by 1.8% and the non-oil private sector by 2.8%.

Current figures project a deficit of 9.4% of GDP, and the inflation rate is expected to range between 3.8% and 4.3 percent in 2016.

Preliminary figures of the actual revenues and expenditures for fiscal year 2015 indicate that actual revenues fell by 41.0% to SR615.9 billion compared to SR1,044.4 billion in 2014. Actual expenditures went down by 11.9% to SR978.1 billion.

Current expenditure accounted for 73.0% of total expenditures, while capital expenditure accounted for the remainder. The actual deficit was SR362.2 billion compared to a deficit of SR65.5 billion in 2014. Oil revenues constituted 72.5% of the bulk of total revenues in 2015.

The actual state budget registered a deficit of S362.2 billion in 2015.

FDI

SAGIA issued 41 industrial licenses in 2015 for the value of SR1.0 billion, bringing the number of foreign investments to 8,908 (industrial, service, etc) a value of SR673.1 billion.

Labour market

The latest data of the General Authority for Statistics indicate that the unemployment rate declined from 5.7% of total labour force in 2014 to 5.6% in 2015. Unemployed Saudis accounted for 11.5% of total Saudi labour force compared to 11.7% in the previous year, while the number of working Saudi employees represents 22% of total employees in the country with monthly wages averaging SR6,833.

Unemployed Saudi male workers accounted for 5.3% of total Saudi male labour force, unemployed Saudi female workers 33.8% of total Saudi female labour force, and unemployed non-Saudis 0.5% of total non-Saudi labour force.

The latest figures issued by the Ministry of Labor and Social Development showed that the number of workers in the private sector (Saudis and non-Saudis) was 10.6 million at the end of 2015, increasing by 5.5% over the preceding year. The ratio of Saudis working in the private sector to total workers in the sector was 16.4%.

Banking system

The Saudi banking system continued to be stable despite the decreases in the consolidated balance sheet for the Saudi banking system. There was a decrease in the assets of the banking system as a whole by 5.3% (SR224.7 billion) to SR4.0 trillion in 2015 compared with an increase of 4.7 percent (SR189 billion) in 2014.

Cost of Living Index

All major Saudi cities, except Tabuk, registered an increase in the cost of living index. Jazan recorded the highest increase rate of 5.4%

Major economic activities

The manufacturing industries’ activity grew by 8%, the construction and building activity by 5.6%, electricity, gas and water activity by 5.3%, transport, storage and communications activity by 4.0%, mining and quarrying activity by 3.2%, wholesale and retail trade, restaurants and hotels activity by 3.0%, finance, insurance, real estate and business services activity by 2.9%; community, social, and personal services activity by 2.7%; the activity of the government services’ producers by 2.3 %; and agriculture, forestry and fishing activity by 1.1 percent over the previous year.

Health

The Ministry of Health admitted that the country lacks consultants and that it is in urgent need for more consultants to cover the needs of Saudi population. One solution suggested in a round-letter sent to public and private sector is allowing consultants to work in more than one institution, in order to improve health care services, because some specializations are in deficit and there are difficulties bringing doctors from abroad.

OIC Meeting

In his address to an emergency meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Makkah on Thursday, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Nizar bin Obaid Madani condemned last month’s attempted missile attack on Makkah on October 27 with the launch of a ballistic missile. The attack was the first of its kind since the beginning of the operations in Yemen.

The minister called on all Muslim countries to take steps against such attacks and to prevent any similar repeat attempts. He also called for an end to the “aggressive actions toward Yemeni people” by the Houthi rebels and militias loyal to ousted President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

The Arab coalition said in an earlier statement that the missile was downed 65 km from Makkah, with coalition jet fighters destroying the rocket launchers in Saada.

The Iranian delegation did not attend the OIC meeting. Maha Akeel, director of the Information Department at the OIC, confirmed the absence of the Iranian delegation, with Iran’s chair remaining empty during the meeting.

IDB

In its 315th session held in Jeddah, IDB Islamic Development Bank board of executive directors gave approval to finance $592.2 million worth of new projects.

Development projects include Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Afghanistan, Niger, Tajikistan and Egypt for different sectors such as railways, energy, education, roads and health sector.

Among these projects is the $105 million financing to support the Al-Fadhili gas processing project, a new company that will be set up soon as a joint venture between Saudi Aramco and Saudi Electricity Company. It will produce power and steam, and aims to boost Saudi gas production capacity to more than 17 billion standard cubic feet per day by 2020.

The first grant of $278,000 in the form of aid was paid as a contribution to the twenty-second session of the Conference of the Parties participating in the Kyoto Protocol (CMP 12) held in Marrakech, Morocco last week.

The second grant of $ 294,000 was offered to finance the capacity building of 15 West African countries in the field of epidemiological surveillance and control of communicable diseases.

GCC and Foreign Workers

GCC labour and social development ministers met this week once again over discussions on how to regulate rules for employees, chances in the labour market, localisation, etc. The main focus will be the annual report assessing the progress of programs meant to increase the rates of employment of national cadres in the GCC.

The Council of Labour and Social Development Ministers in the GCC countries was established at the Manama conference in 1987 because of the critical historical phase the area was passing through and social and labour challenges, which are closely related to the development and wellbeing of Gulf citizens.

The plan is to set up a Gulf team to prepare regulation for a developing labour marker, find matchmaking job opportunities for Gulf citizens in regional markets and create a vision for finding more job opportunities for GCC citizens.

Saudi Labor and Social Development Minister Mufrej Al Haqbani said that the biggest goal on the list is for GCC ministers to unify efforts for enhancing job opportunities and facilitate easier movement of GCC for work purposes.

A joint labour market will play a significant role to resolve unemployment in GCC countries as it will allow qualified workers to find places in the market. Ministers agreed that the number of expatriates – which have increased in some GCC with the increase of mega projects – will and can be reduced with number of skilled citizens over phases of replacement.

In a recent interview with Al Watan newspaper, Al Haqbani said that the current number of unemployed (12.1%) comes at the 3rd quarter, usually the period in which graduates try to find jobs. Unfortunately, with the stop of big projects this may create difficulties.

The challenge is to find solutions to tackle this big problem that is facing us and requires immediate action. If not enough projects are created, no jobs will be available. Al Haqbani said that his ministry is in cooperation with other related institutions in order to avoid spending measures to affect job creation.

The issues of unemployment and entrance of Saudis to the job market will be solved by localising jobs. A successful experiment is the Telecom sector.

The ministry advises unemployed to register on its website to find suitable jobs. There are 500,000 opportunities available and more than 80,000 job titles. The process helps to understand the needs of the unemployed, especially for those whose skills and qualifications are not met.

‘’I don’t wish for the number to increase but I am sure that the decision by the Council of Ministers will make all relevant institutions give their best efforts to reduce its reliance of foreign workers.”

The number of 12.1% has increased from 11.6% in the last quarter of 2016. The official statistics that the operation for the overall population of the age 15 years and above is 94.3% and for Saudis is 87.9. And in the age group of 25-44 is 68.3% from the total workforce while the remaining percentage on all the other age groups. The number of unemployment is the highest among 25 to 29 year-olds at 39%. The number of unemployed among holders of bachelor degrees is 57.5%.

At the sidelines of the meeting, Saudi Commerce Minister Majid Al Qasabi said that his ministry is opposing the unified law of competition for the GCC. The ministry refused to disclose the reason for the rejection.

New Blood in Shoura Council

It is expected that King Salman will name two new members to the 150-member Shoura Council, Al-Madina Arabic daily reported on Wednesday.

The sixth Shoura Council’s term – 4 years – ends in December and according to the by-laws will include at least 15 women (20%). Members for the Shoura Council are citizens with knowledgeable and experienced background whose duties are to advise the government on issues concerning development, reform and regulation of Saudi Arabia.

A Shoura member is a Saudi national by descent, a person known for his or her competence and not less than 30 years old.

The new council is usually formed two months before the expiry of the existing council’s term. It is considered a principal partner of the government in the decision-making process as the Council of Ministers depends on the consultative body before issuing its resolutions.

Every Cabinet session passes at least one resolution or by-law approved or drafted by the Shoura Council.

Visa Reciprocal

Saudi Arabia’s commerce minister said on Wednesday that Saudi Arabia is seeking reciprocal treatment on visas, after critics said the introduction of higher fees risked deterring investment.

Saudi Arabia last month introduced higher work visa fees for citizens of some countries, one of many moves adopted by the government to create income sources after the falling prices.

Commerce and Investment Minister Majed Al-Qasabi said Saudi Arabia was seeking “bilateral agreements with other countries” and that higher fees would not apply “as long as we’re treated equally.”

He did not respond directly to a question about the impact on investment, but added: “The government is globally inviting investors to come here.”

The higher tariffs, which took effect last month, do not apply to citizens of the European Union or the United States.

But for other countries, a six-month business or work-visit visa allowing multiple entries now costs 3,000 riyals ($800), compared to 400 riyals (about $100) previously.

Diplomats told AFP last month that some investors were already reconsidering plans in Saudi Arabia following the fee increase, with one calling the move “incredibly short-sighted.”

With Brazil, Saudi Arabian authorities are working on a consular agreement that would grant Brazilian businessmen a five-year, multiple entry visa.

Currently, Brazilian businessmen get only a three-month visa, which is hampering business ties. Once this agreement is made, Brazil will also issue five-year visas to Saudi businessmen going to that country.

In addition, direct flights from Jeddah to Brazil are being mulled by Saudi Arabian Airlines and the General Authority for Civil Aviation (GACA).

“We were told by GACA that they are just waiting for the new terminal at King Abdulaziz Airport in Jeddah to be opened before these flights can begin. It is not certain yet, but there is a great possibility that this will happen,” said the envoy, pointing out that three other Gulf carriers already operate daily flights to Brazil.

Jobs for Women in Sport

The sports sector for women has the potential to create 250,000 jobs, according to Vice President of Women’s Affairs of the General Authority of Sports Princess Reema Bint Bandar Bin Sultan.

“It’s time to include women in sports for a healthier society and a productive economy,” she said addressing an audience on the second day of the MiSK Global Forum here Wednesday.

“We — especially women — must incorporate physical fitness in our lives,” said Princess Reema, who assumed office on Aug. 1.

“Our role is to allow this nation more opportunities for physical fitness and health and to create healthy citizens. We’re a partner of the health sector,” she said.

Sports are a large part of the economy, she added, urging members of the private sector and young entrepreneurs to reach out and invest in the sports sector.

Asked what to expect for women’s sports in the coming years, Princess Reema said, “The goal is to offer women the opportunity to engage more.”

“What exists today is an army of enthusiastic women who understand the value for this country,” she said. “We need to invest in unity and team spirit.”

“As the labour force increases, we need to diligently practice skills. I have noticed that the private sector is engaged. They’re looking for someone to provide a roadmap. Our culture is different and our needs are different,” she said.

The General Authority of Sports seeks to work with entrepreneurs and unlock many sectors in sports, including manufacturing, retail, tourism, the repair industry, sports journalism and more.

“If we want to have an elite team, we need to invest in school and post-school level children. Today we may not have the expertise. But we need to create the business that trains people,” Princess Reema said.

The rewards are not only financial, but also social. Sports help build an integrated and healthy family. “We are a family-oriented and a mobile people,” she said, adding, “Only recent history has made us sedentary.”

She invited partners to invest and help create a sports ecosystem in Saudi Arabia.

Arab leaders must treat the region’s 100 million young people as an asset, not a liability, Ahmad Al Hendawi, UN’s youth envoy told the MiSK Global Forum on Tuesday.

“This is a generation that is so willing to contribute,” but is beset by obstacles in the 22-nation region plagued by conflict since a wave of Arab uprisings demanding reform erupted after late 2010.

Releasing figures from a forthcoming study, he said the region’s average age is below 25 — but the average age of Arab world politicians is 58.

“This region has the highest rate of youth protest if you compare it to all other regions in the world,” said Al Hendawi.

He said two-thirds of Arab women are looking for jobs.

A report the United Nations labour agency in August showed that Arab states count the world’s highest youth unemployment rate, above 30%.

Overall, the region needs to create 60 million jobs by 2020, Al Hendawi said.

Al Hendawi said young people’s use of social media shows “they are interested in politics and they are interested in public life”, though not in the formal institutions of government.

A global survey issued by The World Economic Forum (WEF) named the UAE as the best emerging market in which people in the so-called ‘Millennial’ generation can advance their careers.

The survey, organized by the Global Shapers team of the WEF, quizzed some 20,000-people aged between 18 and 35 about their preferred place to work overseas. A similar survey by Asdaa’a PR company has found the same conclusion in 2015 in their annual Arab Youth survey.

Noon

UAE and Saudi investors will launch a $1 billion e-commerce company for the Middle East in January.

Noon, with its headquarter in Riyadh, is backed by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) and UAE investors, led by Emaar Properties chairman Mohamed Alabbar.

It is an e-commerce platform that will offer 20 million products covering, fashion, books, home and garden, electronics, sports and outdoor, health and beauty, etc.

The company will start operating in the UAE and Saudi Arabia, and plans to cover expand to the entire Middle East, from 2% of the total market ($3 billion) to 15% ($70 billion) within 10 years.

The service includes a 3.5 million-sq-ft logistics centre in the UAE, same-day delivery through Noon Transportation – an in-house express delivery service – and payments with a secure gateway known as NoonPay.

Becoming Reality

US Six Flags Entertainment Corporation plans to open three theme parks in Saudi Arabia, an investment of over $1.5 billion as part of its expansion plans in the region, an according to a report by Reuters.

The first park is likely to open in Riyadh over the next four to five years, its executive chairman Jim Reid-Anderson said.

The parks, which will each cost between $300 and $500 million to build, are likely to be owned by the Saudi government, he added. The other parks may come up in Jeddah and at a resort elsewhere on the Red Sea coast.

Modern Divorce, Children Driving

Saudi traffic police have launched an investigation to identify an underage driver with a younger girl as his passenger on a busy highway in Jeddah.

The car was spotted by another driver who was shocked to see a child driving and an even younger girl sitting next to him. The man who took pictures of the odd sight uploaded them on his Twitter account and mentioned the traffic police, de facto reporting the unusual sight to the authorities, Saudi news site Al Marsad reported on Wednesday. After requesting further details from the photographer on social media, the police were able to find the young driver.

Most social media users said that only stringent action would stop parents from letting their underage children drive cars on roads and highways, arguing that the lack of a sense of responsibility is a danger to everyone on the road.

Some users, however, said that there was no reason to panic and that young people should be encouraged to drive safely.

Despite efforts by the Saudi authorities to restore some order to chaotic roads, Saudis continue to flout rules and the sight of young people, sometimes no older than 10 years old, driving on busy highways is ceasing to be an anomaly.

Social media are picking up in Saudi relations as well. A Saudi woman was informed by her husband that he had divorced her over Snapchat with the Islamic order “you are divorced”. Legal experts told Okaz newspaper that a Saudi woman has filed a case in court saying that her husband has divorced her over Snapchat. In Islamic law divorce is completed if the husband announces the same order for three times in writing or verbally. Using social media is not forbidden.

The Saudi Ministry of Justice shows that divorce cases have exceed marriages by a third in 2016, with Makkah region being the highest.

(Information taken from Al Madina Newspaper, Arab News, Al Saharq Al Awsat, Al Watan, Gulf News, MEED, Okaz, Sabaq, Saudi Gazette)