UAE Implements Ministerial Adjustments in Preparation for Next Stage


Dubai – The UAE has reshuffled ministries by introducing four new ministerial posts, merging some functions and sectors into a single ministry and implementing structural adjustments.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, announced on Thursday the new government after consultation with Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces.

New ministerial posts were established to cope with latest scientific and technological developments, in addition to some structural changes, which fall within the framework of government’s plan to meet the requirements of the next stage.

Three new ministries were created, including the Minister of Artificial Intelligence, the Minister of State for Advanced Sciences and the Minister of State for Food Security.

Other ministries have seen structural changes, including the Ministry of State for Happiness, to which the Quality of Life file has been added, the Ministry of State for Higher Education, which now comprises the Advanced Skills, and the Ministry of Energy, which now includes the Industry sector.

Sheikh Mohammed appointed Oman bin Sultan Al Olama, 27, as the first Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence. The appointment comes just two days after the announcement of the UAE Strategy for Artificial Intelligence, a major initiative in the UAE Centennial 2071 objectives.

As for the new post of Minister of State for Food Security, it has been given to Maryam Al Muhairi.

“Food security is a future national issue, its foundation will be research and scientific projects … we have great confidence in our youth,” Sheikh Mohammed said.

As for advanced sciences, Sara Al Amiri, 30, was appointed to lead her new ministry into research, development and manufacture of “scientific competencies”, according to Sheikh Mohammed.

The Ministry of State for Higher Education has been expanded to include Advanced Skills “to ensure lifelong learning among the country’s young people.”

Facebook Looking forward to Working with Saudi Arabia


Dubai – Jonathan Labin, Managing Director of Facebook Middle East, North Africa & Pakistan, said that the social media platform is looking forward to collaborating with the government in Saudi Arabia.

Labin told Asharq Al-Awsat that Facebook will be investing all that is within its ability to back the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 for transformation. He also expressed personal admiration towards what he called a “strategic” roadmap, saying that Facebook can play a role in making the vision come true.

Saudi Vision 2030 shows many common factors with Facebook’s overall strategy, only making it all the more possible for the collaboration to translate those points into physical reality, stated Labin.

When asked about content screening, he stressed that “terror-linked content has no room on Facebook,” and the platform does not allow for exploitation in whatsoever way there is.

According to Labin, Facebook “constantly invests” in both technology and regular human revision to monitor content and remove any suspicious material.

During the last decade, the world has seen a surge in people connecting in both big and small ways using technology. Messaging platforms have a big role to play in our modern-day world.

But nowhere else has the adoption of platforms such as Facebook and Instagram been as rapid as the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.

Powered by mobile, which has leapfrogged over other technologies, people here recognize the possibilities available at the tap of a screen. This is what will shape 2016, and Facebook is investing in MENA to help partners discover their entrepreneurial dreams and reach their customers. Supplementing the growth of mobile will be creative, shareable and engaging in content.

Facebook recently introduced “Watch” in the United States, a new platform for shows on Facebook.

Watch will be available on mobile, on desktop and laptop, and in our TV apps. Shows are made up of episodes — live or recorded — and follow a theme or storyline. To help a user keep up with the shows they follow, Watch has a Watchlist so they never miss out on the latest episodes.

Labin said that when thinking about video, a shift from text messages to video and images is clear in social communication mediums. Video consumption already hit an unprecedented peak.

Saudi Arabia is an example of Middle Eastern countries with the highest video consumption rates worldwide, added Labin.

STC CEO: Redesigning our Strategy, Shifting Away from Traditional Areas

Dubai — Saudi Telecom Company (STC) has depended on a new strategy that focuses on growth via new areas and not the traditional telecommunications areas, said STC CEO Dr. Khalid al-Bayari, adding that this strategy includes the digital content, digital financial services, and the information technology in addition to the limited geography.

Bayari stated that new investments will be centered in the region. “The whole point is that our investments meet with new services,” he said, clarifying that any company that doesn’t adopt the new conditions will face troubles.

On the sidelines of STC participation in GITEX, Bayari told Asharq Al-Awsat that “Our strategy is inspired by the Saudi Vision 2030.” He added that STC works on restructuring skills in which it intends to launch an academy that focuses on building new digital capabilities for the youths. “I think this will have a direct impact on the Saudi Vision 2030,” he noted.

“We have a venture investment fund that is the greatest venture fund in the region and it emphasizes on the new economy, especially that in our region we have a problem in funding the youths who present ideas and projects. I think the fund will fill a gap in this regard and help us find other resources and an additional income for the company” he added.

Further, the company is holding serious discussions to provide financial services through the mobiles.

Back to the strategy, Bayari said: “We deal with the challenges facing the traditional telecommunications sector but STC focused on a growth strategy, which is part of an acquisition of companies operating in specific fields.”

Lockheed Martin Says ‘Looks Forward’ to Defense Industry Localization in Saudi Arabia

Lockheed Martin Saudi Arabia’s Chief Executive Alan Chinoda

Dubai- Lockheed Martin Saudi Arabia’s Chief Executive Alan Chinoda said that the arms deal brokered during the US President’s visit last May encompasses the settings of a Saudi-US partnership and encourages the exchange of intelligence.

Lockheed Martin has partnered with King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST) to provide on-the-job training in advanced manufacturing.

Chinoda added that modern defense contracts go beyond the traditional arms-oriented deals.

The defense industry is wide-ranging, involving everything from launchpads, advanced software, specialized technologies, complex supply chain management, all the way to many other defense partnership aspects, said Chinoda.

The US State Department has approved the possible sale of 44 Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile launchers to Saudi Arabia, worth up to $15 billion.

The sale is part of the $110 billion mega arms deal with Saudi Arabia that President Trump announced during his trip in May. Lockheed Martin’s share of this partnership is estimated at $28 billion covering air and missile defense systems, warships, tactical aircraft, and Rotary.

The THAAD sale would further enhance US national security and foreign policy interests and support the long-term security of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf region in the face of Iranian and other regional threats.

Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, Chinoda said that the Kingdom’s next approach is based on the efforts of localization in the context of Vision 2030, which seeks to cover 50 percent of the country’s defense investments by 2030.

Chinoda described the move as ‘intelligent,’ saying that the Saudi leadership approach is positive in terms of developing a more mature defense industry, with specialized and highly skilled jobs.

One of the key elements of the May 20 deal is to localize products and develop skills. Companies looking to work in Saudi Arabia are encouraged to incorporate knowledge transfer into their operations.

Commenting on the US-Saudi arms deal pledging to assemble 150 Lockheed Martin Blackhawk helicopters in Saudi Arabia, Chinoda said that the group was working to deliver on that deal.

Initially, parts of the helicopters will be transferred mostly from the United States and delivered to Saudi military forces, while the final assembly will take place within the joint venture in Saudi Arabia.

The $6 billion deal for Blackhawks is expected to result in about 450 jobs in Saudi Arabia, the statement said.

A number of experienced employees from Lockheed Martin will provide practical training to Saudis so that they can eventually build a successful aviation and defense industry in the Kingdom.

He reiterated that Lockheed Martin looks forward to continuing its historical relationship with Saudi Arabia, a relationship that dates back more than half a century when in 1965 the company delivered the first C-130 Hercules military air transport to the kingdom.

UAE: $250 Million Fund to Invest in Emerging Tech

Dubai- Emirati businessman Mohammad Alabbar urged Arab investors to invest in what he called “e-economy” in the Arab region due to its low percentage in the GDP especially amid pursuits by Arab governments, namely Saudi Arabia, UAE and Egypt, to adopt modern policies.

Alabbar’s statement was made on the sidelines of Middle East Venture Partners (MEVP) launching of a venture capital fund with a target size of $250 million. The fund will invest in innovative early-stage and growth-stage tech companies in the MENA region and Turkey. 

The launch of the new fund follows the announcement in May 2017 that Alabbar and MEVP have entered a strategic partnership to create one of the leading venture capital investment platforms in the region.

Alabbar said: “A new generation of tech-savvy young digital entrepreneurs is driving the growth of this region’s digital ecosystem. Their innovative ideas can bring transformational changes to the local economies. MEVP’s new fund will support emerging local tech companies with dedicated capital, specialized expertise, and operational support enabling them to reach their next level of growth.”

According to reports, venture capital investments in MENA was less than 0.03 percent of the GDP in 2016, significantly lower than 0.20 percent in India and 0.40 percent in the US. This lack in venture capital funding is in stark contrast to the tech savvy of consumers and businesses in MENA and Turkey and their growing demand for advanced and competitive technology products and services.

The target fund size of $250 million makes it one of the few independent regional venture capital funds capable of committing large investments to meet the growth requirements of tech companies in MENA and Turkey. The fund will offer long-term investors looking for tech exposure in the MENA and Turkey a diversified investment drive led by MEVP’s strong management team that has a proven track record.

Walid Hanna, MEVP Founder and CEO, said: “We have a current investment portfolio in over 40 ventures, which has created more than 1,100 quality tech jobs for the region’s youth.”

SAGIA in Discussions with Local Companies on Renewable Energy Projects Implementation

Riyadh- The Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA) plans to hold discussions with local companies that are capable of implementing renewable energy projects to figure out their needs and requirements, with the aim of attracting more investments to the sector.

Discussions come within the framework of the ambitious program of Saudi Arabia aimed at achieving number objectives to enhance the contribution of renewable energy to the energy mix.

The total value of two projects scheduled for discussion was not estimated, but was described as “hundreds of millions of dollars” – the first phase of the renewable energy project to reach 9.5 gigawatts by 2023.

Such projects will contribute to nationalizing the components of renewable energy, Mohammed Abdullah, energy and water investments manager at SAGIA said.

Investors will be able to benefit from the Kingdom’s central and strategic position to serve the renewable energy sector in the region, he added.

Saudi Arabia has launched the King Salman Renewable Energy Initiative, under which 10 percent of power will be generated from renewable energy sources.

The first stage of the initiative aims to produce 700 megawatts (MW) mainly from solar and wind energy, in addition to waste recycling technologies and green gas energy, which provides the Kingdom with the world’s cleanest energy portfolio.

Renewable energy is increasingly becoming a new sector in the Kingdom and is expected to expand until the new renewable energy program can reach its target by 2023. Saudi Arabia’s renewable program involves investment ranging between $30 billion and $50 billion by 2023.

Saudi Arabia has invited investors to submit requests to qualify for the first round.

The Kingdom Renewable Energy Summit 2017 will bring over 200 experts and representatives from government, private sector, international development agencies, nongovernmental organizations, think tanks, and academia, to discuss the current green energy policy framework for Saudi Arabia and create a vision for the future of the sector that is rooted to a strong economic growth.

UAE’s First Nuclear Reactor to Operate in 2018

Abu Dhabi- The United Arab Emirates’ first nuclear reactor will definitely be operational next year with the operating company getting a license in 2018, the UAE’s energy minister Suhail al-Mazroui said on Monday. The world’s largest single nuclear project, the Barakah plant will have capacity of 5,600 megawatts (MW) of electricity, with four 1400 MW reactors.

During a press conference held on Monday morning in Abu Dhabi, Mazroui said that UAE Vision 2021 aims at putting the UAE among the international states, and this has pushed it to adopt a policy to diversify energy resources in a way that reduces consumption of fuel and natural gas.

He added that UAE Energy Plan 2050 gives the priority to nuclear energy and aims at reinforcing use of environment friendly energy resources and reducing dependence on other fuel resources in the upcoming three years.

The first reactor, which is 96 percent complete, is located in the Barakah plant – the world’s largest single nuclear project. All four reactors will have the capacity of 5,600 megawatts of electricity. The first reactor is 96 percent complete, while the second is 86 percent complete, the third 76 percent complete and the fourth is 54 percent complete.

He pointed out the International Ministerial Nuclear Conference on Nuclear Power in the 21st Century is set to kick off in Abu Dhabi next month, which signifies UAE’s immense efforts and strategies for its peaceful and clean nuclear programme. The conference begins on October 30 and ends on November 1.

Mazroui clarified that the conference is an idol platform that gathers experts and people interested in the energy sector on a world-scope to carry out constructive dialogues on the approaches of the energy markets.

British Government Spokesman: Houthis are not Cooperating, We don’t Support Kurdistan’s Referendum

Dubai – British Government’s spokesman in the Middle East and North Africa, Edwin Samuel, said his country was targeted by organizations such as ISIS, but that would not deter the British people from promoting a pluralistic and diverse lifestyle to overcome terrorism.

In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper, Samuel said: “The British government is strongly facing the extremist ideology, by supporting voices of moderation, especially in our religious communities and civil society, as well as obstructing extremists and chasing advocates of radicalism, and by seeking to build more cohesive societies.”

“We need to propose a way of life that respects tradition and religion, but also offers an opportunity so that young people are not exploited by a false doctrine. We can learn a lot about this from our allies, especially Saudi Arabia,” he added.

Asked about provocative speeches that are made under the concept of freedom of opinion, especially in Europe, Samuel said that his country was closely monitoring those who “spread the ideas of violent extremism.”

“If they break the law, they are prosecuted. If they don’t, we campaign against them openly and challenge their ideas,” he noted.

Samuel went on to say: “As Prime Minister Theresa May said, the defeat of extremist ideology is one of the greatest challenges of our time, but it cannot be defeated by military intervention alone, or by defensive operations to combat terrorism.”

In this regard, he stressed the importance of turning people’s minds away from violence and “make them understand that our values, the values of British pluralism, are superior to anything advocated by the promoters of hate and their supporters.”

The British government’s spokesman also touched on the situation in the region and the crisis between the Gulf States and Qatar, voicing UK’s concern over the ongoing rift between Doha and its neighbors.

“The United Kingdom is very concerned about the ongoing tensions in the Gulf because the GCC is our strategic partner, and we are in constant contact with our Gulf friends to encourage de-escalation, and we strongly support the Kuwaiti mediation efforts,” Samuel stated.

As for the UK position on Yemen, the British official reiterated the Kingdom’s support to the Saudi-led military intervention in the country, noting that Houthi rebels have failed so far to show goodwill and to cooperate effectively to reach a solution to the crisis.

“Houthis are not cooperating in the way they negotiate and they need to understand that the restoration of the legitimate government in Yemen is inevitable… They need to show goodwill by negotiating in good faith,” the British official said.

He stressed that the United Kingdom’s main concern was to stop the cholera epidemic and to get aid to the Yemenis.

“There is no military solution. Yemen has always suffered from a developmental and humanitarian problem; if we fix the fundamental problem, those, who might want to create problems from outside like Iran, will not find fertile ground,” Samuel said.

Underlining the British support to the Saudi-led military intervention in Yemen, the official said that his country was assuming a leading role in diplomatic efforts, including bringing together key international actors in an attempt to find a peaceful solution.

“The United Kingdom also plays a key role in humanitarian response as the third largest humanitarian donor to Yemen (after the United States and the European Union),” he added.

On Syria, Samuel said the situation there would remain complicated in the absence of a political solution.

“From the beginning, we were saying: The Syrian crisis needs a political solution that leads to a comprehensive transitional government that encompasses all the Syrians, excluding all those involved in shedding Syrian blood,” he stated.

“I lived in Syria when I studied Arabic in 2007 and 2008, and I knew it was a happy and varied life where all Syrians coexisted, regardless of their background. It is worse and more complicated now because of multilateral actors and the interference of foreigners, including Iran, Russia, and foreign extremists,” Samuel recounted.

“[President Bashar] Assad must leave,” he stressed, “and the Russians must help manage the transition away from Assad. We need to defeat ISIS to move to a national unity government.”

Asked about UK’s stance towards the independence referendum in Kurdistan, which is to be held on Monday, the British government’s spokesman said: “Britain’s position is clear. We do not support the aspirations of the Kurdistan Regional Government to hold a referendum on September 25; the referendum threatens to increase instability in the region at a time when the focus should be on defeating ISIS.”

He noted in this regard that the United Kingdom has proposed the resumption of a new round of talks between the governments in Baghdad and Erbil, which would address all points of disagreements between the two sides.

He also said that such talks should be held without preconditions with the support of the international community.

Russia: ‘Syrian Opposition Should Act Realistically, We Support Riyadh’s Efforts’


Abu Dhabi- The UAE and Russia on Tuesday reiterated their firm stance towards a political solution to the crisis in Syria, throwing full weight behind efforts by Saudi Arabia and Egypt in this regard.

“We hope that efforts of Russia, Saudi Arabia and Egypt will make Syria peace talks in Astana with the Syrian government and representatives of Syrian opposition groups a success in the next few days and weeks,” Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, told a joint news conference along with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov.

Sheikh Abdullah said undoubtedly the Riyadh meetings on Syria were extremely important, praising the role played by Russia and Egypt to persuade parties to attend and be constructive. However, he said that “coordination of stances needs more time.”

“The call made by the United Nations Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan De Mistura, for the Syrian opposition factions to unify their ranks is part of the success of the Astana and Geneva tracks. We ask them all to advance towards this path,” he said.

Sheikh Abdullah reiterated that unifying this diverse group of Syrians who put aside differences in the interest of building a new Syria was a success made by Astana as well as Geneva peace talks.

He called for further steps in coordination with efforts to confront terror organizations including ISIS and al-Nusra Front and to draw lessons from the success of deescalation zones in Syria.

The UAE urged Iran and Turkey to end what it called their “colonial” actions in Syria, signaling unease about diminishing Gulf Arab influence in the war.

“If Iran and Turkey continue the same historical, colonial and competitive behavior and perspectives between them in Arab affairs, we will continue in this situation not just in Syria today but tomorrow in some other countries,” Sheikh Abdullah said.

The UAE Foreign Minister urged “the exit of those parties trying to reduce the sovereignty of the Syrian state, and I speak here frankly and clearly about Iran and Turkey.”

For his part, Lavrov stressed that Russia and the UAE have identical positions in fighting terrorism violently and the need to suppress extremist and terrorist ideologies.

He further informed that the UAE and Russian talks tackled of the latest developments in Syria, Libya, Yemen and Iraq in addition to finding a settlement to the Palestinian cause.

”The UAE and Russia maintain close approaches towards all these files and the two countries are keen to boost joint coordination towards all these issues,” he stressed.

Answering a question about Syria, the Russian minister noted the keenness to fully implement the UNSC Resolution 2254, which sets out a clear road map for a political settlement of the crisis along with the need to combat all terrorists who are entrenched in Syrian territories as well as those who have come to Syria from other countries.

“The Syrian opposition is required to act realistically and stay away from the rhetoric of threatening to implement the resolution,” he affirmed.

“The fate of Syria will be decided by the Syrians themselves. There should be no preconditions, and both the government and the opposition should sit on the negotiating table to discuss the future of Syria,” he said.

Moscow supports Saudi Arabia’s initiative to unite three Syrian opposition platforms, Lavrov stressed.

“When Saudi Arabia put forward the initiative to unite the High Negotiations Committee, which was once formed at a meeting in Riyadh, with the Cairo group of oppositionists and the Moscow group of oppositionists, we supported this in the most active way,” he said.

“I believe this… will contribute to the beginning of really substantial, meaningful negotiations about the future of Syria,” Lavrov told reporters.

Lavrov said he held talks with Sheikh Mohammad bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces and Sheikh Tahnoun bin Zayed, UAE National Security Adviser.

He praised the steady growth in the UAE-Russia strategic partnership, saying that more steps will be taken to boost investments in energy, industry and banks.

Sheikh Abdullah, for his part, said that UAE-Russia trade reached $2.1 billion (Dh7.7 billion) in 2016, expecting that this year will see a surge in cooperation between the two countries.

“The 350,000 Russian tourist visited the UAE last year, in addition to 16,000 Russians who work and live in the UAE,” Sheikh Abdullah said.

UAE: Selective Tax to Generate up to USD1.9 Billion Revenues Annually


Abu Dhabi – Initial estimates in the UAE expected that implementing the selective tax will generate up to AED7 billion (USD1.9 billion) revenues annually to the federal budget, while a financial official said that it will probably be applicable starting October 1.

The selective tax will be imposed on selective goods that are consumed inside the country, even if they are in a free zone or at airports, said Younis al-Khouri, undersecretary at the Ministry of Finance.

“Commodities carried away out of the country by outbound travelers shall not be impacted by the tax, while those carried into the country shall be subject to the new law,” he added.

According to the Emirates News Agency (WAM), Khouri said that the selective tax on tobacco and energy drinks will be imposed at 100 percent, while soft drinks will carry a 50 percent tax.

This tax is an indirect tax borne by the final consumer that is imposed on goods that are harmful to public health, environment or luxury goods in varying proportions and according to the executive regulations.

The decree-law stipulates that the UAE cabinet, upon the recommendation of the Minister of Finance, determines the tax value on the excise goods, along with the method of calculating the excise price, provided that the tax rates do not exceed 200 percent of the excise price.

Sheikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai, Minister of Finance and Board Director of Federal Tax Authority said that UAE is in pursuit to accelerate the building of a safe and healthy society, through reducing consumption of goods that harm people and impact the environment’s quality.