Follow Me

Close

The 25th session of the Joint Council and Ministerial Meeting of the European Union (EU) and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) took place yesterday evening in Brussels. Following the fruitful exchange between the ministers, Saudi Minister of Foreign Affairs H.E. Adel Al-Jubeir and the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini expressed “a firm determination to expand and strengthen bilateral political, economic, cultural and social cooperation and relations” between the two blocs at a joint press conference.

In a statement published by the EU-GCC co-chairs, both parties agreed that cooperation serves as ”a solid and effective foundation for sustainable regional and international stability and security,” and pledged to “further enhance their political dialogue and cooperation.”

On the conflict in Yemen, all parties welcomed the resumption of the UN-mediated Yemen peace talks in Kuwait on 16 July and reiterated their support to the UN Special Envoy for Yemen in facilitating a comprehensive and lasting settlement between Yemeni parties to restore peace and resume the transition in Yemen.

Federica Mogherini stressed the need “to work together to help the parties find common ground. There one area where convergence was complete between us and among the respective parties. We agreed there is only a political solution to the conflicts in Yemen and we’re trying to join forces to facilitate this process.” Mirroring these sentiments, Mr, Al-Jubeir added that “a political settlement in Yemen has to be based on three basic principles: the GCC initiative, the outcome of the Yemeni national dialogue and the UN Security Council resolution 2216.”

Al-Jubeir, speaking as the head of the rotating GCC presidency, said Saudi Arabia and its partners are working “to encourage the parties [in Yemen] to sign agreements and implement measures so that we can move Yemen from a state of war to a state of development, reconstruction and prosperity.”

During the meeting, ministers also reaffirmed their determination to counter terrorism and terrorism financing, and to defeat Da’esh and other terrorist organizations. They stressed the need to reach a solution to the Syrian crisis. They called for immediate country-wide humanitarian access allowing the delivery of aid to all besieged areas, emphasizing the importance of full and strict adherence to the cessation of hostilities arrangements.

EU and GCC Ministers also reviewed progress in the EU-GCC strategic relationship and “expressed their willingness to address together common political, social, economic, and security challenges, as well as macroeconomic stability and support for diversification strategies,” such as Saudi Arabia’s National Transformation Plan, Vision 2030, noting that two-way trade between the blocs represented more than €155 billion in 2015, an increase of 55% since 2010.

 

Recently appointed Saudi Minister of Energy, and Chairman of the world’s largest oil company Saudi Aramco, Khalid Al-Falih gives his first interview to a European newspaper. Speaking openly with Klaus Stratmann and Mathias Brüggmann for German business broadsheet Handelsblatt, Mr. Al-Falih addresses key developments of global interest ranging from oil prices to the new compelling plans to revitalize the Saudi economy and society.

On the price of oil…

“It’s always dangerous to predict the price of oil, no matter who you are. The price is formed in the market and is influenced by many factors. Ultimately, market fundamentals, or supply and demand, are the primary determinant of the oil price, and at the moment we see healthy demand for oil.  That said, there are economic headwinds in some important markets and we hope this does not trigger a slowdown in global demand. On the supply side, the recent decrease in prices has led to reduced investment and a considerable drop of oil supplies from unconventional sources.”

“Oil prices at their current levels lead to insufficient revenues being generated by the oil industry, and consequently result in limited investment in future production. This means that in the future, higher levels of demand cannot be satisfied. As a result, we need a price higher than $50 to achieve a balance in oil markets in the long term.”

“Just as $50 is too low to sustain investment, prices in excess of $100 are too much. The optimum lies somewhere in between. We have to manage this issue ourselves. And that is one of the drivers of Saudi Vision 2030: a decoupling of our state budget from the oil market.”

On Saudi Aramco and economic transformation…

“The strong dependence of the Saudi Arabian state budget on Saudi Aramco has long given me worry. It is right that the government wants to gradually disengage from this dependence.”

“The size and complexity of an initial public offering of Saudi Aramco will require a great deal of internal preparation. The actual IPO (Initial Public Offering) timeframe will also be subject to a number of external factors including equity market conditions, oil price outlook, and domestic capital market readiness.”

“Western corporations do play a key part in this economic transformation.  There are a number of capable Saudi corporations. But we are convinced that we can achieve our goals much faster and at a lower cost if we partner with foreign corporations and leverage their technologies, expertise and global networks.  Saudi Aramco is an excellent proof point in this area, as it has become the most valuable corporation in the world, in large part because we have worked together with partners. World-class partners allow us to undertake large-scale complex projects and enhance our operations.”

“Siemens is a good example of mutually beneficial partnership with a leading German firm. They have just invested in the manufacturing of gas turbines in Saudi Arabia and we have an interest in repeating commitments like this.”

On the Public Investment Fund…

“The Public Investment Fund (PIF) is currently located at the Ministry of Finance and will be made into an autonomous fund. It will be the biggest sovereign wealth fund in the world.”

“We are targeting a size of 2 trillion dollars, but it could become even more. PIF will target new strategic investments, in order to realize Vision 2030, and will also be active in investments abroad with the aim of generating income and diversification. The introduction of taxes and duties also serves the goal of diversifying government revenue.”

On Saudi Arabia’s key energy goals…

“We have committed ourselves to ambitious carbon reductions during the Paris climate conference late last year. We are convinced that we can achieve these goals and will strive for further progressive reductions when we do.”

“Saudi Arabia is fully on board. The impression that Saudi Arabia is isolating itself from the climate protection goals is completely wrong. We are happy that a flexible agreement was achieved, that allows every country to contribute with its own program. We fully participate in this and have integrated our climate protection goals into our state reform plan, Vision 2030.”

We will replace oil with natural gas, while simultaneously increasing the share of renewables in our energy supply. Wind and solar power are a priority in the first step, though in the medium term we may also rely on nuclear power.”

The government’s Saudi Energy Efficiency Program has already implemented new energy efficiency standards to curb inefficient consumption of energy in the utilities and transportation sectors as well as in electrical appliances. Such standards will preserve precious resources for future generations and help us meet our commitments for carbon emissions reduction.”

On Vision 2030 and rebuilding Saudi society…

“Our society is very young. My generation is in the minority. Young people rely on knowledge and technology and are skeptical toward the ways of the past. They dream of a future where one will not have to look at the daily movement of the oil price. They want innovation, they want to become entrepreneurs, and they want a better future with an engaging career instead of a job as bureaucrat in the public sector. They want to be in control of their own destiny. Vision 2030 makes this possible and enjoys popularity especially among young people.”

“Vision 2030 is mainly about macro-economics, some of which involves the construction of railways, ports and industrial cities. All of this is important and necessary, particularly for private sector growth, enhanced productivity and economic diversification. But essentially it is about developing Saudi Arabia into a country worth living in for the young people and improving the quality of life.”

“We want talented young Saudis and young people from all over the world to live in the Kingdom, to enjoy a high quality of living, and to build bright futures for themselves and their families.”

 

The full original German interview appeared in Handelsblatt on 12th July 2016

Saudi officials have recently announced plans to establish the Prince Mohammed bin Salman College of Business and Entrepreneurship under the auspices of the King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC).

The Mohammed bin Salman Foundation (MISK) has signed a cooperative agreement with Babson College and Lockheed Martin to develop the first undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in entrepreneurship in Saudi Arabia.

Following Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s visit to the US in June 2016, MISK Secretary-General Bader Al-Asaker signed the memorandum of understanding alongside Babson President Dr. Kerry Healey and KAEC Managing Director Fahd Al-Rasheed.

The college will offer students the opportunity to engage in hands-on research and business development ventures, providing valuable experience that will lead to a career in entrepreneurship after graduation.

“The partnership between MISK and KAEC is an important contributor to the development of the business sector, thanks to its role in supporting and recruiting major institutions that help young Saudis hone their professional skills,” said Al-Rasheed, following the signing of the agreement.

“The university,” stated Al-Rasheed, will “play a key role in supporting and developing business sectors that encourage initiatives in education and other sectors that help young Saudis.”

Vision 2030 To Develop Entrepreneurship Opportunities For Saudi Youth

As part of the Kingdom’s sweeping Vision 2030 reforms, the government has detailed a plan to partner with the private sector in order to align higher education outcomes with job market needs.

Collaboration between MISK, Lockheed Martin, and Babson follows the Kingdom’s pledge to invest in strategic partnerships in a number of educational fields, increasing student engagement in diverse university specializations. The Saudi government is expected to expand monitoring and evaluation capabilities to ensure that all students receive an internationally-competitive education that will prepare them for employment in the public and private sectors.

Under the global economic framework of Vision 2030, the Kingdom aims to foster innovation among local entrepreneurs through the creation of the Small and Medium Enterprises Authority to facilitate international cooperation and market access for young Saudis.

The number of Saudis employed in the private sector rose in 2015 by over 10 percent compared to the previous year’s total. The annual statistics of the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency (SAMA) show that the number of Saudi workers in the private sector reached approximately 1.74 million male and female workers, almost 200,000 more than the 2014 figure.

The statistics also highlighted that the number of female employees surpassed 499,000, meaning women now account for 29 percent of the total of private sector employees.

The statistics from SAMA, based its data and information on figures from the Ministry of Labor and Social Development, revealed that male and female Saudis working in the private sector represent 16 percent of the total number of Saudi workers – a number exceeding 10.5 million.

It was Riyadh that enjoyed the majority of new recruits to the private sector, with the total of Saudi workers exceeding 671,000, representing 38 percent, while the Eastern Province occupied second place in the recruitment of Saudis in the private sector at 23 percent of the total. Makkah came in third, with 395,000 male and female Saudi workers, representing 22 percent of the Kingdom’s total.

Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud made an official visit to United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in Paris last week.  The Deputy Crown Prince and the Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, highlighted the need to support the restoration and conservation of cultural heritage damaged by conflicts, especially in Yemen.

The Deputy Crown Prince pledged support for the country’s recovery plans, notably for the restoration and conservation of cultural heritage, including three World Heritage sites on the List of World Heritage in Danger. Both also stressed the importance of renewed initiatives for citizenship education, intercultural dialogue at a time marked by extremism, intolerance and violence. The Director-General emphasized the imperative need to fight youth radicalization through quality education and invited Saudi Arabia to attend UNESCO’s second conference on the Internet and Youth Radicalization, which will take place in Quebec later this year.

The Director-General expressed appreciation of Saudi Arabia’s support to the Organization, notably the Kingdom’s contribution to strengthening the Organization’s Arabic language capacity and key UNESCO activities. She also highlighted the importance of Saudi heritage, to be promoted as a force for dialogue and mutual understanding. Saudi Arabia has four sites inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List, ten sites included on its national Tentative List and considerations are under way to provide more focus on the protection of natural heritage in view of potential nominations and future inscriptions.

Following the meeting, the Kingdom’s Ambassador and Permanent Delegate to UNESCO, Dr. Ziad Al-Driss has said the world body is committed to cooperating with the Kingdom to see it achieve the goals of its Saudi Vision 2030. Irina Bokova has reportedly praised the Saudi strategy, and affirmed that the organisation is ready to cooperate with the Kingdom in the fields pertaining to UNESCO, particularly those related to education, culture and human heritage, in order to help it realize the vision.

Under the National Transformation Plan unveiled by the Saudi Arabia this month, the Kingdom has allocated nearly $1 billion (€0.9 billion) to preserve its cultural heritage. In an ambitious bid to end reliance on oil, the Kingdom is investing in tourism, aiming to increase spending by Saudis at home instead of on holidays abroad. Encouraging visits to local places of beauty or interest is a key Vision 2030 goal. The Kingdom has several world-class sites, some in remote areas, which are all but unknown outside of the Kingdom. For instance, Watan Emosudah, with its low-covered alleyways thick with debris and highly grown thistles, is one of around 4,000 old villages in Asir, where measures will be taken to save agricultural tradition and boost the tourism sector in Saudi Arabia.

 

Saudi Vision 2030: Taking Pride In Our Cultural Heritage

 

The Kingdom takes immense pride in the historical and cultural legacy of its Saudi, Arab and Islamic heritage. Saudi Arabian land was, and continues to be, known for its ancient civilizations and trade routes at the crossroads of global trade. This cultural heritage has given Saudi society the richness and diversity it is known for today.

 

The Kingdom recognizes the importance of preserving this sophisticated heritage in order to promote national unity and consolidate true Islamic and Arab values. Saudi Arabia will endeavour to strengthen, preserve and highlight its national identity so that it can guide the lives of future generations. It will continue to work on the restoration of national, Arab, Islamic and ancient cultural sites and strive to have them registered internationally to make them accessible to everyone and, in the process, create cultural events and build world-class museums which will attract visitors from near and far.

Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with technology giant Microsoft during the official Saudi delegation’s visit to the US last week.

 

The trip, which began in Washington and included stops in California, came as part of broader efforts to promote the Kingdom’s strategic technological and economic advancements.

 

Under this agreement, Microsoft will train emerging Saudi leaders in computing technology. In return, the Kingdom will welcome an enlarged Microsoft presence at its support centre in the Royal Court. “Microsoft will come out with technology to translate the Vision 2030 into a reality, with a focus on human capital and innovation, and we aspire to achieve it as early as possible,” Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said.

 

As part of the Kingdom’s pioneering Vision 2030 reforms, Saudi Arabia will expand scholarship and training opportunities to grow local innovation in advanced technologies. In order to increase the international competitiveness of the Kingdom’s economy, officials have stated, the nation will invest in digital and information technology as sources of job creation and knowledge-sharing.

 

In recognition of the dynamic global economy, Vision 2030 aims to improve the quality of life for all Saudis by ensuring that financial disturbances in the oil market do not affect those residing in the Kingdom. Economic diversification is a pillar of the national vision plan and basis of ongoing efforts to localize key technology endeavours.

 

Vision 2030 was promptly followed by the Saudi National Transformation Program, which strives to double information technology revenue as part of the country’s non-oil GDP and create 450,000 jobs by 2020. This unprecedented restructuring of the Saudi economy will leverage the specialized expertise that international partnerships offer.

 

The Deputy Crown Prince also signed an MoU with Cisco Systems in a campaign to develop a state-of-the-art telecommunications network in Saudi Arabia. He met with the Chairman of the California-based tech giant John T. Chambers and his executive team. Prince Muhammad was also briefed on the latest research in the telecommunications industry during the meeting.

 

The agreement with Cisco Systems will help develop the digital infrastructure in the Kingdom as part of the Vision 2030 reform plans, which set out a specific goal of improving high-speed broadband access in the Kingdom and provide housing coverage of 90 percent in densely populated cities and 66 percent in other urban zones.

  • June 28, 2016

The Council of Economic and Development Affairs (CEDA) has approved the final draft of the National Transformation Plan, part of the reforms to be adopted as part of Vision 2030. The 2030 vision is the economic roadmap spearheaded by the Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz

The Council, chaired by the Deputy Crown Prince, met in Jeddah on the evening of 5 June to discuss a number of economic and development issues, including the national transformation program, which the council decided to submit it in its final version to the Council of Ministers for consideration of approval.

Details of the plan, a program of wide-ranging economic reforms, will be disclosed in daily news conferences with government ministers starting today, Monday evening, 6 June. The wider reforms are to include subsidy cuts, tax rises, sales of state assets, a government efficiency drive and efforts to spur private sector investment. Last month the International Monetary Fund said the plans were “appropriately bold and far reaching”.