Saudi Finance Minister: Significant Progress in Implementing Economic Reforms

Riyadh- In a speech at the Saudi Investment Forum hosted by J.P. Morgan in New York on Tuesday, Minister of Finance Mohammed al-Jadaan lauded the Kingdom’s economic policy and its pivotal role in achieving the Saudi Vision 2030 in the light of the remarkable transformation witnessed by the Kingdom. He drew attention to the comprehensive reforms in various sectors in the Kingdom, including modernization and diversification of the economy in order to reduce dependence on oil.

Jadaan said the Vision represents a very clear roadmap for the Kingdom’s destination.

The finance minister stated that the business community in the Kingdom has begun to reap the fruits of these reforms through a more stable working environment and greater confidence for investors.

This is evidenced by the successful issuance of international and local debt securities in the Kingdom, he said, adding that the initial offering of international sukuk (Islamic bond) in April attracted great attention from international investors with an over-subscription reaching more than $33 billion against the actual issuance of $9 billion, which is the largest offering for sukuk in the world.

He stated that there has been significant progress achieved by the Vision 2030 and the National Transformation Program of 2020 towards the Kingdom’s stated goal – a balanced budget through financial reform.

“The steps being taken by the Kingdom are not merely an austerity, but rather a focus on raising the efficiency of expenditure and supporting the purchasing power of low and middle income segment of the Saudi society through the ‘Citizen’s Account’ in order to assist them in addressing correction initiatives of energy price, in addition to supporting the private sector,” he added.

Jadaan unveiled plans to further deepen and expand Saudi capital markets. “We will move ahead with the privatization program and will continue to encourage the growth of private businesses so as to achieve ambitious goals,” the minister concluded.

Saudi Finance Ministry Inaugurates E-Portal to Empower Government Bodies

Riyadh- Saudi Finance Minister Mohammed al-Jadaan has inaugurated, in his headquarters in Riyadh, Itimad portal for governmental e-services, under the framework of Saudi Vision 2030, to empower government bodies to implement their Saudi Vision 2030 projects, starting from National Transformation Program 2020.

Itimad e-portal services are available for 79 governmental parties, 18 offices (responsible for achieving the vision), rationalizing office and the administrations of following up transactions and budget in the Ministry of Finance.

Jadaan lauded the significance of Itimad since it falls under the digital transformation of all government transactions and reinforces the fruitful and effective communication among ministries and bodies concerned in executing the projects of Saudi Vision 2030 and National Transformation Program 2020.

Further, the portal offers e-services that contribute to effective spending, saving time and reducing administrative and procedural effort between the Ministry of Finance and beneficiaries – thus leading to quicker procedures and better results.

Ahmad al-Souyan, the ministry’s deputy for technical and development affairs, said that “Itimad is a digital platform to provide several financial electronic services.” He added that the ministry is seeking to expand digital services and issue new licenses to empower government bodies and the private sector within the goals of Saudi Vision 2030.

Saudi Vision 2030, Itimad, Mohammed al-Jadaan, National Transformation Program 2020, Ahmad al-Souyan

Itimad

Riyadh – Saudi Finance Minister Mohammed al-Jadaan inaugurated the Itimad portal for governmental e-services, under the framework of Saudi Vision 2030, to empower governmental bodies to implement their Vision projects, starting from National Transformation Program 2020.

Itimad e-portal services are available for 79 governmental parties, 18 offices (responsible for achieving the vision) and the administrations of following up transactions and budget in the Ministry of Finance.

Jadaan lauded the significance of Itimad since it falls under the digital transformation of all governmental transactions and reinforces fruitful and effective communication among ministries and bodies concerned in executing the projects of Saudi Vision 2030 and National Transformation Program 2020.

Furthermore, the e-services of this portal contribute in effective spending. They also help save time and reduce administrative and procedural effort between the Ministry of Finance and beneficiaries, which would make speed up procedures and yield better results.

Ahmad al-Souyan, the ministry’s deputy for technical and development affairs, said: “Itimad is a digital platform to provide several financial electronic services.”

He added that the ministry is on a mission to expand digital services and issue new licenses to empower governmental bodies and the private sector towards reaching the goals of Saudi Vision 2030.

Saudi Electricity Secures $1.75bn Loan

saudi

London- Minutes after signing the greatest joint international funding agreement in the history of Saudi Electricity Company (SEC), Ziyad Mohammed Al-Shiha, president and chief executive officer of SEC, described the deal as an international expression of trust in the company’s performance and the kingdom’s economy in general.

Saudi Arabia’s national electricity company on Wednesday announced it had secured USD1.75 billion (SAR6.56 billion) in international loans to finance future plans. The banks that took part in the funding are: HSBC, Standard Chartered, NATIXIS, Citibank, First Abu Dhabi Bank, the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi, Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation and Mizuho Bank.

In statements to Asharq Al-Awsat, Shiha said that SEC earning of such a huge loan in a record period of time – less than two months – is an international voting in favor of the company’s achievements, the kingdom’s economy, Saudi Vision 2030 and the National Transformation Program 2020.

He added that the loan aims at funding the basic programs and that “we invest every year between 30 to 40 billion riyals within capital expenses to fulfill the kingdom’s demand. This loan will help us fund expenses related to electricity generating, transporting and distributing.”

Commenting on dividing SEC into four firms, Shiha pointed that the plan is being studied by competent governmental authorities.

SEC is considered the biggest electric service facility in the MENA and the one of the greatest services’ facilities in the world – it also has a large assets base that reached 441.2 billion riyals (usd117.6 billion) at the end of June.

Kingdom Adopts Saudizing Tourist Sector Occupations

Woman takes a selfie during during celebrations for naming Abha as 'Capital of Arab Tourism'

Riyadh- Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH) announced that “only Saudis” are permitted to work in establishments that provide services of obtaining tourist visas – a step that would reinforce job opportunities for Saudis in the tourism sector.

SCTH decided to stop dealing with those unlicensed from the commission – it also launched the Arabic version of the website besides samples of Arabic applications.

On Wednesday, the National Center for Tourism Human Resources Development (Takamul) organized a workshop to chart out plans for monitoring the Saudization of tourism sector jobs in Saudi Arabia.

During the workshop, an introductory summary of the control plan was provided for Saudization of occupations in tourism activities like tourist accommodation and travel agency sectors. The workshop reviewed the supervisory procedures and the mechanism for monitoring settlement and related irregularities.

The workshop is part of the Takamul’s effort to Saudiaze tourist occupations and raise their proportions in tourist facilities in cooperation with the Department of Licensing, SCTH branches across the Kingdom and the Ministry of Labor and Social Development.

The ministry also participated through its legislation and regulations, and supported the control plan by activating its decisions on the professions reserved for Saudis only.

Takamul aims to achieve the rising Saudization rates in the tourism sector jobs in order to achieve the National Transformation Program 2020 index and ensure sustainability of Suadization in the tourism sector jobs, besides enhancing cooperation with the Ministry of Labor and Social Development in the field of monitoring of professions that are restricted to Saudis in the tourism and national heritage sectors.

The control plan is aimed at several tourism activities, like tourist accommodation, travel and tourism agencies, accommodation marketing facilities, tour operators, tourist guides, timeshare, tourism real estate units, and finally the convention and exhibition sector.

The workshop concluded with an agreement on an integrated mechanism, detailing the tasks required of the branch inspectors, the work machinery and the methods of controlling Saudiztion-related irregularities.

Saudi Arabia Expands Scope of Wage Protection System

Riyadh- Saudi Arabia is carrying out effective steps towards expanding scope of the wage protection system in the country – this system guarantees disbursing salaries on time, determining wages’ level in all professions and reducing problems that might show up in the vocational field of the private sector, prompting citizens to work in this vital sector.

Starting Aug. 1, the Ministry of Labor and Social Development will begin enforcing the mandatory wage protection system on private establishments with up to 60-79 employees. This phase of the program will cover more than 7,000 establishments and a total of more than 481,000 employees.

Disbursement of salaries is supervised by the wage protection system through an updated database that guarantees establishments’ timely and full payment of agreed-upon wages.

In this context, the Ministry’s spokesman Aba Al-Khail confirmed the ministry will apply the wage protection system on all private sector employers to ensure employee salaries are paid in a timely manner.

He added that penalties against violators also include suspending all services to establishments that are late in submitting information about the wages of employees for three months, and permitting employees of these establishments to transfer to other employers without requiring approval.

These updates coincide with the ministry holding a series of meetings with businessmen to introduce them to the wage protection system, its implementation and timeline.

Further, the program is expected to succeed in reducing number of illusive jobs in the kingdom.

Saudi Arabia is taking steady steps towards increasing recruitment opportunities in the country through promoting economy, nationalizing jobs and supporting long-distance job opportunities through a specialized initiative launched by the ministry within initiatives of National Transformation Program 2020.

World Bank Official: Saudi Reforms to Raise Growth by More than 2%

Riyadh – A World Bank official revealed that the settlement of the economic growth rate in Saudi Arabia in 2017 at 0.6% has ensued from cutting oil product. He stated to Asharq Al-Awsat that reforms related to the National Transformation Program 2020 (NTP) and the resumption of oil production would raise the growth rate to more than two percent in 2018-2019.

The World Bank expects growth rate to re-balance in the GCC countries from 1.3% in 2017 to 2.6% in 2019, adding that although the overall growth rate continues to be affected by the cut of oil output but the growth of non-oil sector has started to enhance after reaching its lowest levels.

Spending and confidence are forecast to rise in the non-oil sector thanks to settling of oil prices, easing of fiscal austerity measures and ongoing reforms, the World Bank said in its report issued on Thursday.

“On the Saudi level, the economic growth rate in the kingdom is expected to remain modest in 2017 at 0.6 percent only due to the oil output cut,” said Nadir Mohammed, Country Director for the GCC Countries at the World Bank.

He added that the growth rate is forecast to inch up to more than 2 percent in 2018-2019 “as the NTP reforms continue and oil production resumes.”

Mohammed continued, “Saudi Arabia is leading the GCC with announcing ten reformatory strategic programs that include comprehensive structural reforms on the levels of economy and public finance.”

Commenting on the World Bank report, he said: “The green shoots of recovery are cropping up, helped by the recovery in global energy prices over the past year.”

“That’s good for public finances across the region, and it provides space to governments to focus on long term challenges.”

Saudi Arabia: Entrepreneurship Sector Faces Challenges

SMEs

Riyadh – Ghassan al-Sulaiman, Governor of the General Authority for SMEs, said that the entrepreneurship community is facing challenges, including public procedures, regulations, funding, growth rate and competition over qualifications and abilities.

Sulaiman’s statement was made in Riyadh on Thursday on the sidelines of the Social Development Bank’s launch of the Dulani Business Center.

He said that the Center comes in line with the national transformation of the country and is considered a significant phase for SME personnel, adding that the National Transformation Program 2020 focuses on the expansion of the private sector.

“Saudi Arabia is keen to make this sector vital for the Saudi economy because the SMEs system is the most important part of the private sector and it represents 99.7 percent of establishments – it also represents the biggest part in creating job opportunities and increasing the GDP,” he added.

Sulaiman revealed that a plan on funding solutions will soon be submitted to the Saudi cabinet.

Abdullah al-Namlah, the general manger of the Social Development Bank, narrated some of the success stories of entrepreneurs that started with loans from banks, urging others to follow this example.

Noor al-Abdulkarim who has been in business development for 14 years affirmed that the Saudi market used to suffer from the absence of guides and the scarcity of guideline programs. The Dulani Business Center now changes that and offer guides that adhere to international standards.

She added that the program is a platform for exchanging expertise and knowledge.

Riyadh Unveils 4 Industrial Oases to Support Women in Labor Market

SMEs

Riyadh – The Saudi Ministry of Energy, Industry and Mineral Resources launched on Monday an initiative to support entrepreneurship and small and medium enterprises (SMEs) within the National Transformation Program 2020.

The initiative includes the construction of four industrial oases that are suitable for women in the workforce.

This new initiative comes as part of 113 others launched by the ministry and mentioned in the Saudi Vision 2030 — it will be implemented by the Saudi Industrial Property Authority (MODON).

In a statement, Saudi Minister of Energy Industry and Mineral Resources Khaled al-Faleh said that the ministry’s interest in supporting small and medium enterprises stems from their fundamental importance in economic growth.

He added that international reports reveal that SMEs contribute to emerging economies with about 45 percent of the vocational opportunities and 33 percent of the global national product.

Faleh concluded that this initiative will aid institutions in developing economies in their quest to obtain the required funding and support that will guarantee their success and continuity.

These initiatives will also take into consideration the successful experiences, such as the establishment of the largest all-women business center by Aramco and Princess Nora bint Abdul Rahman University.

The center is targeting providing more than 20,000 job opportunities for Saudi women in various domains during the next ten years.

Five Initiatives to Develop the Judicial Sector in Saudi Arabia

Riyadh – The Saudi Justice ministry will reveal on Monday details of five initiatives within the National Transformation Program 2020 aimed at shortening litigation procedures, achieving institutional excellence, reducing flow of cases to the courts and promoting national economy.

In a statement on Sunday, the ministry said the initiatives fell within its strategic goals, which are represented in the capacity to achieve full justice, lifting the standards of judicial services, improving efficiency of legal documentation, as well as raising the classification of the Saudi judiciary globally in the Business Environment Index.

Saudi Justice Minister Walid Al-Samaani said the new initiatives were focused on promoting the efficiency of judicial services while depending on qualified national personnel, high-tech procedures and the best international practices.

According to the statement, one of the initiatives focuses on mobile notaries, which are designed for people with special needs, including senior citizens and detainees in observation centers.

The ministry said that over 500,000 people were expected to benefit from service by 2020 through 200 mobile notaries across the Kingdom.

Another initiative is to enable justice service centers to provide informative and procedural services for beneficiaries outside the courts, as well as people with special needs.

The new program also includes the privatization of some of the ministry’s services, such as the issuance or cancelation of powers of authority and the documentation of company contracts through hundreds of licensed offices in all parts of the Kingdom. Nearly 3 million people are expected to benefit from the service by 2020, according to the statement.

The Saudi justice minister said that the ministry’s goals within the National Transformation Program 2020 were focused on the achievement of seven strategic objectives, including raising the level of judicial services and institutional excellence, reducing the flow of cases to the courts, enhancing the efficiency of judicial documentation, promoting real estate security, and raising the world classification of the Saudi judiciary, as well as other national development goals.