Eid Mubarak

July:28:2014 - 07:18 | Comments & Trackbacks (0) | Permalink

According to the 2014 UN Development Program (UNDP) report, Saudi Arabia now stands 34th out of 187 countries in terms of human development. While incomes have dipped since the oil-price highs of 1980, other indicators such as education and lifespan have risen. Saudi Gazette carries this story…


Saudi Arabia rated ‘very high’ in Human Development Index

JEDDAH – Saudi Arabia ranked 34th in the Human Development Index (HDI) of 2014 out of a total of 187 countries and territories.

Saudi Arabia’s HDI value for 2013 is 0.836— which is in the very high human development category—positioning the country at 34 out of 187 countries and territories. Between 1980 and 2013, Saudi Arabia’s HDI value increased from 0.583 to 0.836, an increase of 43.3 percent or an average annual increase of about 1.10 percent.

Between 1980 and 2013, Saudi Arabia’s life expectancy at birth increased by 12.5 years, mean years of schooling increased by 4.5 years and expected years of schooling increased by 9.6 years. Saudi Arabia’s GNI per capita decreased by about 22.9 percent between 1980 and 2013. The current figure is considered very high within the global indicator.

According to the 2014 Human Development Report released by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) office in Riyadh on Thursday, human development is improving in Arab states, with some countries showing very high development.

July:27:2014 - 05:46 | Comments & Trackbacks (0) | Permalink

According to Debka, the Israel-oriented news source of dubious reliability, Saudi Arabia, Israel, and Egypt have colluded to create the current situation in Gaza. The Debka piece, behind a paywall at its own site, has been picked up by several other media, here the UK-based Middle East Monitor

Saudi, Egypt and Israel work together in Gaza attack

The war on Gaza is planned and orchestrated by Israel, Saudi and Egypt, a report by DEBKA-Net-Weekly said yesterday.

“Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah, Egyptian President Fatah Al-Sisi and Netanyahu… [are] in constant communication on the war’s progress and confers on its next steps. Our sources reveal daily conferences, and sometimes more, between King Abdullah and President Sisi over a secure phone line,” the newsletter said.

DEBKA, thought to have close ties with Israeli intelligence agencies, said the world leaders go to great lengths to ensure their alliance remains undiscovered “given the political and religious sensitivities of their relationship”. Fearful of having even their secure lines intercepted, they prefer to send secret missions to visit each other and discuss the ongoing conflict.

“Israel keeps a special plane parked at Cairo’s military airport ready to lift off whenever top-secret messages between Sisi and Netanyahu need to be delivered by hand. The distance between Cairo and Tel Aviv is covered in less than an hour and a half,” DEBKA explained.

The report, which was also used in some British reporting, drew a prompt denial from the Saudi Ambassador in London, according to Saudi Gazette:

Kingdom: Reports on Israeli ties ‘baseless lies’

July:27:2014 - 05:28 | Comments & Trackbacks (0) | Permalink

According to a report in the UAE’s Gulf News, the number of Saudi women employed in the private sector has doubled over the past year to reach 400K. This is explosive growth compared to the 48K figure that pertained in 2009 and a ten-fold increase since 2004.

Various measures have led to this result including increased salaries for teachers and the banning of male employees in lingerie shops. There’s still a lot of work to be done to increase the number of Saudis in jobs, both male and female, but this is an impressive mark.

Number of Saudi women employed in private sector doubles
Habib Toumi – Bureau Chief

Manama: The number of Saudi women employed in the private sector almost doubled in one year to reach 400,000 last year, an official report has indicated.

The meteoric rise from 48,406 women in 2009 to 100,000 in 2011 and 200,000 in 2012 is a clear indication of the success of the ambitious drive by the authorities to find employment opportunities for women in the conservative society that has strongly resisted allowing women to take up jobs in the private sector.

According to the report prepared by the labour ministry, the opening up of opportunities for women to work in the industrial and commercial sectors, as well in shops, has contributed massively to the high employment figures, local daily Al Eqtisadiya reported on Monday.

July:26:2014 - 07:17 | Comments & Trackbacks (0) | Permalink

Back before the last round of Municipal Elections in 2011, Saudi women were told that they would be able to take part in the elections. Then it was discovered that it would not be possible to set up women-safe voting environments in time, so the women were told, “Sorry!”

Now, with the next round of elections coming in 2015, the government is once again assuring women that they’ll be taking part. The government and municipalities have certainly had time to address the issues that preventing participation. We need only wait to see if some other reason pops up at the last minute that will again thwart women’s playing their political role.

Given that women are now sitting on the Shoura Council and that women’s roles in Saudi life have been expanding, I think there’s every reason to believe that their voting will happen. We’ll have to wait a while to see. Arab News reports…

Women to take part in municipal polls

The Council of Ministers has approved legislation that would allow Saudi women to vote and stand as candidates in upcoming municipal council elections.

Women were not allowed to participate in the 2011 elections but Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques had ordered shortly before the polls that they should be allowed to do so from the 2015 elections onwards.

The law allows councils to approve and implement municipal plans and programs approved in the budget. They would also oversee maintenance, operating, development and investment projects, the law states.

July:24:2014 - 07:56 | Comments & Trackbacks (0) | Permalink

Officials at the World Health Organization believe that Saudi Arabia has managed to gain control over the spread of the MERS virus, Asharq Alawsat reports. Recent weeks have seen a major reduction in the number of new cases. This comes as a great relief to Saudi authorities as they gear up for the annual influx of pilgrims for Haj, which starts in a few months. The Saudis and WHO were watching to see what happened during Ramadan, itself a major draw for visitors. That nothing happened is a very good thing.

As there are yet no vaccines against or specific cures for MERS, control through public health measures are the only step available at present.

Saudi Health Ministry has MERS outbreak under control

Jeddah, Asharq Al-Awsat—The Saudi Health Ministry has successfully gained control of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and has reigned in the spread of the coronavirus that causes it, a World Health Organization (WHO) official said on Wednesday.

“The Saudi Health Ministry has succeeded in a remarkable manner in controlling the spread of the coronavirus in a very short period of time. This is through two measures: the measures taken to halt the spread of the virus and by dealing with those infected in a modern, scientific manner,” the WHO’s director of the Department of Communicable Diseases for the Eastern Mediterranean Regional Office, Dr. Jaouad Mahjour, told Asharq Al-Awsat.

“These measures succeeded and secured clear results,” he added.

The latest statistics regarding show that the spread of the MERS-Cov strain of the coronavirus in the Kingdom has decreased significantly over the past month, with just 33 Saudi nationals still receiving treatment for the virus.

MERS cases recorded over the past few weeks have fallen drastically, with the last reported case being admitted to hospital on July 8, according to the WHO.

July:24:2014 - 07:42 | Comments & Trackbacks (0) | Permalink

Asharq Alawsat runs an interview with former US Ambassador Mark Hambly. Hambly, who had a reputation as one of the best “Arabists” in the State Dept., ran the Regional Media Center in London during and following the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. In the interview, he explains why the Center was established in London.

The Center, in fact, was an expansion of the program I established in 1996-97 while I was the Information Officer at the embassy. I hired the first Arab support personnel for that office because it was abundantly clear that the pan-Arab media based in London — both print and satellite broadcast — was critically important and needed full-time attention. My job was to deal with the British media, a more than full-time job itself, but I was able to convince Washington that the Arabic media needed to be addressed as well. With the Iraq war, this became even more obvious, so the new Center was created. I was in Riyadh by then.

Mark Gregory Hambley: Coverage of the Arab–Israeli conflict
is biased on both sides

London, Asharq Al-Awsat—Thanks to the presence of a number of pan-Arab newspapers and media outlets (including Asharq Al-Awsat) in London, for the last decade the US Embassy in the city has played host to one of the State Department’s Regional Media Hubs which aims to conduct ‘public diplomacy’ in the Arab World, engage with Arab and Iranian journalists, and monitor the Arab media.

Mark Gregory Hambley—a former US ambassador to Qatar and Lebanon—was appointed its first director when it was set up in 2003, after a decades-long career as a diplomat in the Middle East. Since retiring from the State Department in 2005, he has acted as an occasional advisor and consultant to the US government. Asharq Al-Awsat recently spoke to Ambassador Hambley about his time as director of the Hub and American efforts to engage with Arab media over the past ten years.

July:22:2014 - 08:45 | Comments & Trackbacks (3) | Permalink

The Saudi Arabian government currently spends SR 150 billion (US $40 billion) to provide subsidized fuel for power generation. As a result, Saudis pay the lowest cost for electricity in the world, as low as 5 halala or US $0.013 per kilowatt hour.

Arab News reports that this is going to change, according to the Saudi Electricity Authority. The country cannot continue to pay the subsidy or to use oil and natural gas so extravagantly for electric power generation.

The changes won’t be happening anytime soon, though. Before it can raise prices, the government first has to get a handle on the actual amount of electricity being used, by whom, where, and at what times. This is going to necessitate a multi-year study. Once that information is in hand, the government can start lowering its subsidies and raising the price consumers pay for energy.

Water consumption in Saudi Arabia is tightly tied to power generation, too. The bulk of drinking water — up to 80% — comes from power-hungry desalination plants. While efforts are being made to develop solar-powered plants and nuclear power generation is on the horizon, consumption and waste of this also heavily subsidized product stress the entire economic system.

Cheapest in world, power to get costlier in KSA

Saudis pay the cheapest electricity bills, according to one report, but seemingly not for long. The Saudi Electricity and Cogeneration Regulatory Authority plans to increase electricity tariffs.

The authority announced that it would revise the tariff system to reflect the real costs of the service, cover the expenses of the service provider and increase its economic returns.

The authority declared it would adopt new measures to achieve its goal of increasing electricity prices to be reflective of the service.

This includes designing a new tariff structure, developing a public policy for tariff, preparing an integrated system to collect financial and operational data from service providers in the Kingdom and designing a comprehensive system to calculate the cost that eventually determines the tariff consumers pay.

July:21:2014 - 09:07 | Comments Off | Permalink

I’m off for a few days fishing, out of the reach of cell phones, the Internet, and this blog.

I should be back by Monday.

July:18:2014 - 11:54 | Comments Off | Permalink

Not able to find jobs — or at least jobs they want — young Saudis are tending toward opening their own businesses, a report carried by Saudi Gazette says.

Despite government efforts like the current Saudization program Nitiqat, young Saudis simply aren’t finding work after they graduate. They cite the requirement for prior experience as the main impediment to getting hired, the classic “Catch-22″ of college graduates everywhere. Some seek to put off the decision-making by seeking higher educational degrees. I assume this is in the belief that the job market will improve and that their improved certification will serve them well. I’m not sure that either of those is actually true. It’s certainly more expensive, though.

I also think the government — any government — does not want to see large numbers of disaffected, yet highly-educated youth sitting around coffee shops with nothing better to do than grouse about how the government has failed them.

Most of these entrepreneurs will not succeed, at least the first time around. That’s the case around the world for entrepreneurs. How the Saudi government and society treat failed attempts will go a long way in determining whether disaffection becomes a way of life.

82% of fresh Saudi graduates plan to open their own businesses

RIYADH – More and more Saudi graduates are opting to start their own businesses as they find it difficult to get a job of their choice, according to the findings of a survey.

The Bayt.com’s Fresh Graduates in the Middle East and North Africa survey, recently conducted by Bayt.com, the region’s number one job site, and leading market research agency, YouGov, has revealed that despite the majority of respondents in the Kingdom stating that finding a job is a challenge faced by their generation of fresh graduates, 82% are considering entrepreneurship as a viable career option.

Six in 10 graduates completed their most recent qualification in the Kingdom, with 26% having studied engineering as well as Information Technology/computer science as part of their highest degree. Some 67% were satisfied with the quality of higher education they received, considering the preparation it gave them for the workplace to be mostly ‘good’ (28%). Teaching methods, quality of infrastructure, technology usage for effective teaching, value for money paid, curriculum and qualification of teachers are also considered to be ‘good’ by Saudi graduates.

July:16:2014 - 07:51 | Comments & Trackbacks (4) | Permalink

Arab News covers a story about the incense market in Saudi Arabia. It’s a $3 billion-per-year business. That’s a lot of money that ends going up in smoke.

Both frankincense and oud are important for any type of ceremony, even family occasions. Since the products have to be imported — and because the trees they’re derived from are under significant pressure from over-production — they end up being quite expensive. There are also millions being made on fake products, the result of some laboratory wizardry that separates stingy people from their money very effectively.

There’s no getting around the fact, though, that the scents are exceptionally popular in the Gulf States, even to the point that personal scents for both men and women are made from them.

Annual investments in incense, oud exceed SR15bn

The volume of investments in the incense and oud sector is estimated at more than SR15 billion ($4 billion) annually, local media said quoting an expert.

Demand on the incense and oud sector in the holy month of Ramadan grows to nearly 80 percent, Said Al-Sihaimi told Al-Watan daily.

In this context, a specialized Gulf study said the volume of trade in the Saudi market has grown eight folds since 2010 where the figure was not more than SR1.8 billion ($500 million), the daily said.

Accordingly, the market has extensively expanded coupled with the entry of foreign companies, notably Asian, due to growing trends to purchase incense and oud products, the report said.

On the other hand, the expert warned against fraud practices in the sector, which would reach 40 percent. He said regulatory bodies in the Ministry of Commerce and Industry could not control such practices due to the absence of experts in an industry, which relies primarily on the secrecy of craft.

July:14:2014 - 00:01 | Comments Off | Permalink

Saudi Gazette reports that the Ifta Council in Saudi Arabia has banned the sale of cats and dogs in pet shops across the Kingdom. Shops found selling them will have their stock confiscated.

While clearly the ban is being undertaken for religious reasons, the article doesn’t note what those reasons are. The ban does not seem to affect the sale of birds or fish — both popular with Saudis — nor does it mention reptiles and insects.

Sale of cats, dogs banned

Municipal authorities have banned the sale of cats and dogs in shops in Saudi Arabia.

The ban came in response to a religious edict by the Ifta Council. The municipality instructed its supervisors to ask pet stores for a written commitment to stop selling cats and dogs.

In addition, the municipality has instructed its supervisors to confiscate cats and dogs that are found for sale in stores, which led some stores to continue their activities in a discreet manner.

July:13:2014 - 07:19 | Comments & Trackbacks (6) | Permalink
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