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…

UNDPtrends

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 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

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

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

I note that I’ve been writing Crossroads Arabia for ten years now. I actually started in May, 2004, but by July had settled into this format and platform.

A lot has gone on over these ten years. A new King in Saudi Arabia, increased attacks on Saudi Arabia by Al-Qaeda and Al-Qaeda related groups as well as the effective Saudi counter-offensive. Reforms in social policies, in the legal system, and in lightening the hand that seeks to control women have all taken place. Saudi women have taken part in the international Olympics. New laws and regulations have been adopted that have bettered the working conditions of foreign workers while others have served to chase many of those workers out of the Kingdom to be replaced by Saudi workers.

Saudi Arabia remains a work in progress and I look forward to recording that progress over the coming years.


July:11:2014 - 08:23 | Comments & Trackbacks (3) | Permalink

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.

Saudi preacher denies supporting jihad in Syria

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.


July:10:2014 - 09:23 | Comments Off | Permalink

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.


July:04:2014 - 08:23 | Comments Off | Permalink

While the timing may not be the best, a young Saudi entrepreneur is trying out his stuff in the US by marketing camel milk, Arab News reports. It somehow seems apt that his milk suppliers — and the camel owners — are from the Amish community near Santa Monica. But who knows? Given that this is taking place in California, the launch pad for numerous innovations in technology and social behaviors, he might just succeed.

Saudi establishes camel milk firm in California

A young Saudi has established a company selling camel’s milk in the United States, despite the animals reportedly being the source of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) coronavirus.

According to a report in a Los Angeles newspaper, Walid Abdulwahab, 23, set up the company as part of his class project at the University of Southern California.

The lighthearted slogan of his company, Desert Farms, is “Make every day a humpday.”

Supplied by seven small camel farms, most of them owned by Amish, the Santa Monica-based company recently sold camel milk of $100,000, as it spreads its claims of nutritional and health benefits, the report stated.

“What we know about the camel milk is that, in terms of health, it outperforms every other dairy beverage,” Abdulwahab reportedly said.


July:02:2014 - 06:08 | Comments Off | Permalink

Arab News reports that Asharq Alawsat has a new editor-in-chief, Salman al-Dossary. Al-Dossary replaces Adel Al-Turaifi who moves on to Al Arabiya TV as deputy director general.

Al-Dossary named editor in chief of Asharq Al-Awsat

Salman Al-Dossary has been appointed editor in chief of Asharq Al-Awsat international Arabic daily. Abdullah Salim Bahamdan, chairman of the Saudi Research & Marketing Group, made the appointment following the approval of the company’s board of directors and endorsement of the Saudi Research & Publishing Company’s board of trustees. Al-Dossary will take charge on July 1.

Al-Dossary’s appointment came after the resignation of Dr. Adel Al-Turaifi as editor in chief of Asharq Al-Awsat following his appointment as deputy director general of Al-Arabiya Channel.

A management and economics graduate, Al-Dossary began his career with SRMG in 1998 as a freelance journalist with Al-Eqtisadiah before moving to Asharq Al-Awsat as its reporter in Bahrain in 2004. He was appointed editor in charge in the UAE in 2006. Three years later he became assistant editor in chief of Asharq Al-Awsat in its headquarters in London. In October 2011, he was appointed editor in chief of Al-Eqtisadiah business daily.


July:02:2014 - 06:02 | Comments & Trackbacks (2) | Permalink
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