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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Great Game was the rivalry that played out between the British Empire and the Russian Empire in the 19th and early 20th C. for supremacy in Central Asia. Today, there’s a new “Great Game” being played out in iraq, says Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).
The rise of ISIS/ISIL and the declaration of a new “Islamic State” have brought into high relief the problems sectarian violence in the region. The direct causes are many, but the effects are a multiple of that, affecting all states in the region, including Saudi Arabia.
Cordesman’s piece is meant as possible guidance for US policy-makers. It’s an interesting analysis.
The U.S. has good reason to try to prevent the creation of a violent, extremist Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, to reverse the gains of ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria)/ ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham), and to help move Iraq back towards a more stable and unified form of government. The chances, however, are that the U.S. can at best have only partial success. The U.S. faces years in which Iraq is divided by sectarian and ethnic power struggles, the Syrian civil war continues, facilitating some form of radical Sunni threat crossing the border between Syria and Iraq.
ISIS/ISIL did not suddenly materialize in Iraq in December 2013. For years, the group exploited growing Sunni and Shi’ite sectarian divisions and steady drift towards civil war. For at least the last three years, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki’s actions of building his own power structure around a Shi’ite dominated state with close ties to Iran alienated Sunnis and exacerbated tensions.
The U.S. cannot simply intervene in Iraq by attacking ISIS/ISIL. It is a major movement in Syria as well as Iraq. The U.S. must also find some way to limit and roll back ISIS/ISIL -– without taking sides in Iraq’s broader civil war. At the same time, creating anything approaching a stable Iraq means creating new and lasting political bridges across Iraq’s increasingly polarized and divided factions as well as helping to create a more effective and truly national government in Iraq, as well as rebuild Iraqi forces that serve the nation, rather than an increasingly authoritarian Shi’ite leader.
It is far from clear that the U.S. can do this, and Syria and Iraq are only the most visible challenges taking place in the strategic game board that shapes the Middle East. The U.S. must also deal with a much broader set of new strategic forces that go far beyond Iraq’s borders. The U.S. must change the structure of its de facto alliances with key Arab states in the region, and it must deal with new forms of competition -– or “Great Game” with Russia — and possibly China, as well.
Dang nab modern technology! A popular Saudi preacher is finding it difficult to convince people he didn’t say what he said when he said it on video. Videos that have been broadcast by international satellite channels and on YouTube at that.
Al Arabiya TV reports that Sheikh al-Arifi is being ridiculed for his attempts to rewrite his history of making fatuous fatwas. I’m sure the Sheikh is concerned that his behavior is quite contrary to Saudi law and could see him jailed and/or fined. Even if Europe thinks (equally fatuously) that the Internet can be scrubbed of historic embarrassments, that’s now how the world works. The Sheikh will have to see how merciful the government is toward him.
A popular Saudi preacher who previously called for jihad in Syria has recently appeared on television bluntly denying his famous statement, drawing scorn from fans and followers on social media.
During an interview with Rotana Khalijia, Sheikh Mohammad al-Arifi denied his famous statement to Al-Jazeera in which he called for jihad in Syria and supported al-Qaeda.
Sheikh Arifi threw a bombshell in February 2013 when he told the Qatar-based channel that al-Qaeda “does not tolerate bloodshed.”
He said some people attribute to al-Qaeda many opinions and thoughts which the group does not hold.
Saudi Gazette and other Saudi media are reporting that the US is currently producing more oil than any other country, including Saudi Arabia. Much of the increase in production is due to oil shale production. The reports says that the US became the biggest producer of natural gas in 2010.
JEDDAH – US has turned the world’s biggest oil producer this year as extraction of oil from shale rocks reached a high, a Bank of America report said.
US production of crude oil, along with liquids separated from natural gas, surpassed the production of both Saudi Arabia and Russia this year with daily output exceeding 11 million barrels in the first half of this year. This output is expected to increase to a peak of 13.1 million barrels a day in 2019 and will remain at the same level for at least a decade.
US production of crude oil, along with liquids separated from natural gas, surpassed all other countries this year with daily output exceeding 11 million barrels in the first quarter, the bank said in a report today. The country became the world’s largest natural gas producer in 2010. The International Energy Agency said in June that the US was the biggest producer of oil and natural gas liquids.
“The US increase in supply is a very meaningful chunk of oil,” Francisco Blanch, the bank’s head of commodities research, said by phone from New York. “The shale boom is playing a key role in the US recovery. If the US didn’t have this energy supply, prices at the pump would be completely unaffordable.”
Arab News reports that Saudi Arabia is wasting a massive amount of food daily and that the wastage increases during Ramadan.
According to its story, Saudis waste 4,500 tons of food daily. The amount goes up during Ramadan as people prepare daily feasts with far more food than families and guests can eat. By one estimate, 30% of the food prepared for the meals following the daily fast ends up being thrown away.
Massive wastage ‘unacceptable’
JEDDAH: IRFAN MOHAMMED
The problem of food wastage in Ramadan has again surfaced with Makkah municipality having to gather 5,000 tons in the first three days of Ramadan.
According to one report, Saudis spend SR20 billion on Ramadan shopping, compared to SR6 billion they spend in other months.
Osama Al-Zaituny of the municipality told Arab News on Thursday that this was in addition to the collection of 28,000 sheep carcasses in two days.
He said the municipality has installed 45 waste compressors in central Makkah close to the Grand Mosque, and deployed 8,000 cleaners for the month.