Arab News closer to goal of gender-balanced newsroom

08/03/2020

Arab News launched its gender-balance initiative in April 2018 during the inaugural Arab Women Forum at King Abdullah Economic City. (AN Photo by Huda Bashatah)

  • Gender-balance initiative was launched in April 2018 at inaugural Arab Women Forum
  • Over the past year, proportion of female editorial staff has risen from 35 to 46 percent

JEDDAH: Arab News has made great strides in improving the gender balance among staff in its newsrooms, and is getting close to its goal of achieving a 50:50 split by the end of this year.
The Riyadh-based newspaper revealed that in the past year, the proportion of female editorial staff has increased from 35 percent to 46 percent.
This includes employees at its offices in Saudi Arabia, London and Dubai, along with its regular op-ed writers and foreign correspondents. An all-female team was also assembled to provide special coverage of Hajj.
Arab News launched its gender-balance initiative in April 2018 during the inaugural Arab Women Forum at King Abdullah Economic City. The efforts it has employed to achieve its goal include active recruitment, and specialist training and career guidance provided by experienced professionals at the newspaper and from other prestigious news organizations. It has been assisted by the Saudi Research and Marketing Group, the paper’s publisher.
Arab News Editor-in-Chief Faisal J. Abbas said the initiative reflects the wider reforms in Saudi Arabia in recent years, which includes a drive to encourage more women to enter the workforce.
Assembling a diverse newsroom is not simply a box-ticking exercise, he added, it is about providing equal opportunities to all skilled journalists in Saudi Arabia and beyond.
“It is also about serving the community better by doing what we do best: Quality, insightful and inclusive journalism,” Abbas said.

This article was first published in Arab News

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King Salman holds talks with US state secretary Pompeo

21/02/20

King Salman receives US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. (SPA)
  • Both sides discussed relations between the two countries, and regional and international issues
  • Pompeo also met with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman

RIYADH: King Salman received US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday, the second day of the US official’s three-day visit to Saudi Arabia.

They discussed the distinguished relations between the Kingdom and the United States. They also reviewed the position of the two countries on regional and international events.

Arab News

@arabnews

: ‘s King Salman received US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Riyadh on Thursday (@SecPompeo)https://arab.news/wb4ck 

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Pompeo then visited American troops at the Prince Sultan air base, south of Riyadh, where some 2,500 US troops are stationed in response to threats from Iran.

“Pompeo’s visit to Prince Sultan air base and a nearby US Patriot battery highlights the long-standing US-Saudi security relationship and reaffirms America’s determination to stand with Saudi Arabia in the face of Iranian malign behaviour,” the State Department said in a statement.

“In response to the attacks and at the request of Saudi Arabia, the United States deployed missile defence, and fighter jets on a defensive mission to deter and protect against any future attacks.”

Pompeo is also met with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and deputy defence minister Prince Khalid bin Salman.

Pompeo’s visit to the Kingdom comes in the wake of a US-ordered drone strike that killed Qassem Soleimani, Iran’s most powerful general, as he visited Baghdad on January 3.

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Responsible Lending: A risk mitigant of consumer lending

20/01/20

Since 1999, commercial banks operating in Saudi Arabia have expanded their consumer loans to individuals, and as consequence personals loans have risen from SR38.4 billion ($10.2 billion) in 2001 to SR324.7 billion at the end of Q3, 2019 (excluding credit cards loans extended to individuals, totaling SR18.3 billion for the same period).
The main reason for this significant rise in personal loans is the high demand on such loans from retail customers, supported by the service of the Saudi Arabian Riyal Interbank Express (SARIE) which provides direct transfer of salaries to customers’ accounts at banks, guaranteeing these loans to enable them to deduct installments from customers’ accounts on due dates electronically.
The Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority (SAMA) has chosen to control the huge expansion in personal loans by issuing “principles of responsible lending” to encourage lending that meets actual needs of consumers.
The principles aim to enhance financial inclusion by providing adequate financing for all borrowers, while taking into account a reasonable deductible percentage ratio that the consumer can afford.
In addition, the principles focus on ensuring fairness and competitiveness among creditors, making sure credit evaluation procedures and mechanisms are effective and applied to all creditors fairly.
Moreover, the principles dictate that creditors must adopt a clear method for evaluating the creditworthiness of the consumer, to ensure his/her ability to repay. These criteria and procedures must be applied to all borrowers before granting them any type of loan, and must be documented in the customer’s file held by the lending institutions.
Based on a credit study and assessment of a consumer’s financial state, the lending institutions must also identify and classify the regular basic expenses of various borrowers, such as food expenses, and housing and services expenses, which depend on whether the consumer is a homeowner or tenant. They must take into account the health, transportation, communications and insurance expenses of the consumer, which are all affected by their number of dependents.
In my opinion, SAMA has succeeded in encouraging responsible lending by issuing such principles, evidenced by the noticeable shift to asset-based financing, as mortgage lending has grown by 21 percent in the third quarter of 2019 compared to the same period of the previous year, while the personal loans offered by financial institutions to its customers have shown a drop of 1.2 percent for the same period.
I totally agree with Jonathan Westley, a financial analyst, in saying: “Responsible lending is to act in a customer’s best interests, ensuring affordability, transparency of terms and conditions and supporting a borrower if they experience repayment difficulties.”

Talat Zaki Hafiz is an economist and financial analyst.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News’ point-of-view

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Saudi Arabia’s winter season welcomes tourists

18/01/20

Tourists from inside and outside the Kingdom can visit www.visitsaudi.com/ar/do/package/saudi-winters to learn about options and details. (SPA)
  • Activities range from sledding and camel rides to dune bashing and sand-boarding

RIYADH: The Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH) has teamed up with travel firms to offer packages to people visiting the Kingdom during the winter season.
The packages feature transport, accommodation and tour guides, and cover a number of destinations including Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam. Activities range from sledding and camel rides to dune bashing and sand-boarding.
Trips vary from a one-day tour to a full week, and they have been designed to take in archaeological, historical and tourist sites, as well as markets, events and meals out.
Tourists from inside and outside the Kingdom can check the Visit Saudi website to learn about options and details.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Are our better halves ready for the change?

18/01/20

If you have read my previous articles, you will have sensed I am a pure optimist at heart, and I hope I will always continue to be an optimist. I write on what I think, and at times I write based on my gut feeling on where I think we are heading in this fourth industrial revolution in terms of work and education.
As a certified leadership coach, I always make my clients write down the top 10 core values they live by. I then ask them to remember an incident that made them angry or upset and see if it touched negatively on any one of their written values and 99 percent of the time they got upset or angry because the incident touched negatively one or more of their written core values. We, humans, tend to get upset from anything that threatens our values or beliefs which pushes us to act or react in ways we can’t explain. I encourage my readers to try to use this technique every time they get upset from anything and they don’t understand why they did what they did. There is always a deeper reason for every action we do.
For me, one of my core values is respect, especially at work, as well as respecting others’ intelligence and treating them as colleagues rather than subordinates. I never force my thoughts on anyone, as we are all unique and, though we might differ, we are still professional colleagues and have respect for one another.
As an advocate of women’s empowerment I must confess that there is one thing I do not take easily and that is when women are not seen as serious contributors in the workplace and are treated as followers rather than leaders, despite the fact that they are capable of leading.
I enjoyed reading Sheryl Sandberg’s book “Lean In,” which I said in multiple international interviews and podcasts that this book should have instead been named “Squeeze In.”
Women all over the world bear the heavy burden of constantly proving themselves worthy of a position or promotion, and must squeeze in to prove themselves. In a way the burden has somewhat been self-inflicted by some women on themselves. Sometimes women are comfortable taking the back seat and not wanting to lead, which is fine if that is truly what they want and they are not forced to be followers.
In changing times, especially in Saudi Arabia where we have the Vision 2030 reform plan that calls for increasing female participation in the workforce, it is our patriotic duty as Saudi women to help in developing our national economy in any way we can.
It is time for Saudi women to get out of our comfort zone and take our place side-by-side with our better halves in driving our economy forward. But wait, what do our better halves think of this? Are they ready for women to lead the way? Are they ready to serve the country alongside women? Are they willing to give women the chance they truly deserve to become leaders in the workforce? So many questions that need answers but, in all fairness, we Saudi women have to patiently give our better halves time to grasp this change and adapt to it.
In the meantime we Saudi women need to work hard as our Western counterparts have done for so long but were only able to have a few Fortune 500 companies led by women.
2030 is just around the corner, and we need to start seeing capable women in top leadership positions in our very own top 500 companies like Saudi Aramco, SABIC, and STC to name a few. As a true optimist, I think we will see this change happening in less than five years from now. What do you think?

Dr. Taghreed Al-Saraj is a best-selling Saudi author, an international public speaker and an entrepreneurship mentor.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News’ point-of-view

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Entertainment: The future of Saudi Arabia’s non-oil economy

13/01/20

The Quality of Life Program (QLP), a major component of the Saudi Vision 2030 reform plan, aims to improve people’s lifestyles by developing an ecosystem to support and create new options that boost citizens’ and residents’ participation in cultural, environmental and sports activities.
The QLP aims to create jobs, diversify economic activity, and raise the status of Saudi cities so that they rank among the best in the world. One of the program’s main objectives is to develop and diversify entertainment opportunities, including electronic games facilities, family entertainment centers, water parks, cinemas, theme parks, zoos, aquariums, botanical gardens, public parks, theaters and an opera house.
To support the QLP, the government created the General Entertainment Authority (GEA) in 2016 for the purpose of organizing and developing the entertainment sector and support its infrastructure in Saudi Arabia.
With the support and cooperation of various government sectors and private entities, the GEA has managed to improve quality of life in the Kingdom. It has also managed, in a very short time, to diversify and enrich entertainment experiences nationwide.
The great success of Riyadh Season is a good example of the GEA’s outstanding ability to enhance the entertainment industry in the Kingdom, as evidenced by the 10.3 million people who visited the festival. Riyadh Season was able to generate more than SR1 billion ($267 million) for the GEA, and indirect revenues via the Saudi payments system Mada exceeded SR4 billion during the official period of the festival (Oct. 15 to Dec.15, 2019).
Riyadh Season was not only successful in attracting visitors to the capital, but also in creating 34,700 direct jobs and 17,300 indirect (seasonal and volunteer) jobs for Saudi men and women. Riyadh Season’s success is expected to be replicated in the series of current and upcoming festivals in the Kingdom.
I believe that Saudi Arabia can easily establish a strong entertainment industry that can support and diversify the economy, especially as the government is striving to reduce dependence on oil. A strong entertainment industry in the Kingdom will be able to support the growth of the gross domestic product, improve local content, support small and medium-sized enterprises, increase foreign direct investment and create jobs.

Talat Zaki Hafiz is an economist and financial analyst.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News’ point-of-view

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Abe will see a transformed Kingdom on historic visit

11/01/20

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to Saudi Arabia this weekend comes at a time of both challenges and opportunities for the Kingdom and Japan.

The Japanese prime minister’s visit takes place against a backdrop of rising tensions in the Middle East. During Abe’s last visit, in 2013, our two countries agreed to strengthen defense and security cooperation. We welcome Japan’s commitment to supporting the freedom of navigation for commercial shipping in the region. Open and safe shipping routes are critical for both our economies. A stable and secure Middle East is a shared priority.

This year will see Saudi Arabia host the G20 for the first time. My first year as ambassador in Tokyo coincided with the Japanese presidency of the G20. As the many Saudi visitors to Japan in the last year will testify, Japan did a superb job and set a high standard for future presidencies. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has said he wants to continue Japan’s good work, in particular by promoting multilateral consensus.

For the world’s media, the main G20 leaders’ meeting in November will be the focal point of our presidency. But the G20 program goes well beyond the leaders’ meeting and the year presents chances for us to strengthen our wider relationship. The many other G20 events, which will take place across the year in all four corners of the Kingdom — such as the C20 on culture, the Y20 on youth, and the B20 on business — will give Japanese visitors the chance to experience the breadth and depth of Saudi Arabia for the first time. People-to-people connections are vital as we deepen the relationship between our two countries.

It has never been easier for a Japanese business to enter the Saudi market, or for a Japanese tourist to visit the Kingdom.

Nayef Alfahadi

I am excited that Prime Minister Abe will this weekend have the chance to see for himself a Kingdom that has transformed since his last visit. Under the stewardship of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed, Saudi Arabia is undergoing huge change, anchored in our ambitious Vision 2030 reform program. The Kingdom is becoming more economically diverse, more socially open, more culturally confident, and more welcoming to the world.

Traditionally, the relationship between Saudi Arabia and Japan has been underpinned by energy, with Saudi Arabia supplying 40 percent of Japan’s energy needs. And Japan will always be able to rely on Saudi Arabia as a responsible and reliable energy exporter. But we have much bigger ambitions for the relationship. With the changes we have made over the past three years, it has never been easier for a Japanese business to enter the Saudi market, or for a Japanese tourist to visit the Kingdom. Whether Japanese businesspeople want to set up shop in our country or Japanese tourists want to see our incredible world heritage sites, our message is: Come to Saudi Arabia and make the most of the new opportunities. Japanese visitors can be sure of a warm welcome.

It has been my great honor to represent my country in Japan over the past year. I was privileged to witness the ascension to the throne of Emperor Naruhito and the beginning of the era of “Reiwa,” or “beautiful harmony.” In the coming year, Japan will host the Olympic Games and I know they will be a spectacular success.

The year 2020 also marks the 65th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Saudi Arabia and Japan. In the years since 1955, our relationship has grown in importance for both countries and it continues to do so.

There will be much to discuss during Abe’s historic visit. On the Saudi side, we are excited at the prospect of working with the prime minister to further strengthen our friendship with one of our oldest and most trusted allies.

  • Nayef Alfahadi is Ambassador of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to Japan
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News’ point-of-view

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How Saudis view Japan

11/01/20

Cordial business, trading and cultural relations have long existed between the Arab world and Japan, one of the region’s most important economic and diplomatic partners.

A major part of Japan’s energy imports come from the GCC, and the numerous Arab countries import manufactured goods and electronic equipment from Japan.

Japan’s commitment to prioritize the peace and stability of the region means that the Arab world is a destination for significant Japanese financial investments.

Against this background, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is visiting Saudi Arabia as part of a tour to explain Tokyo’s plans to send Self-Defense Forces (SDF) personnel to the region.

Preparations are also underway in Saudi Arabia for the G20 leaders’ summit, which will take place in Riyadh in November, following the highly successful event held in Osaka, Japan, in June 2019.

While there may be growing Saudi-Japanese ties at the level of politics and government, how much can Saudis be expected to be familiar with a culture that is thousands of miles away and, on the surface of things, so foreign to the culture and geography of the Middle East?

Arab News recently engaged the market-research firm YouGov to conduct a poll in across 18 countries, including Saudi Arabia, to uncover views of Arabs about Japan, its international relations and domestic politics.

The study revealed a high level of not only understanding, but also appreciation of Japan and its people.

Saudi respondents’ first impressions of the Japanese were that they were organized (51 percent,) hardworking (50 percent) and technical (42 percent). Other words used to describe the Japanese culture were punctual, respectful and creative.

The Arab News-YouGov study revealed a high level of not only understanding, but also appreciation of Japan and its people across 18 countries, including Saudi Arabia.

Faisal J. Abbas

More than half of Saudis (51 percent) polled said they view Japan as the most neutral mediator of a possible peace deal between Israel and Palestine.

An impressive 64 percent of Saudis also correctly identified Japan as belonging to the G20, while 59 percent said it is a member of the G7.

The survey found that 56 percent of Saudis know that Japan is one of the top five economies of the world, while 31 percent know that the country was in the top 10 globally.

In the survey, 10 percent of Saudi respondents said they had visited Japan, but 77 percent said they intended to travel there in the future. Mount Fuji volcano would top the list of places to visit for most Saudis.

The high-speed bullet train proved to be a popular choice among 61 percent of Saudis questioned, followed by sushi (46 percent), Japanese manga and cosplay culture (45 percent) and traditional arts such as the tea ceremony (44 percent).

The survey also suggested that Saudis were widely familiar with products made by the technologically advanced nation, with many correctly identifying Sony, Sega and Muji as Japanese brands.

Our goal at Arab News is to bring a better mutual understanding of both of our rich cultures and become a trusted communication channel where our friends in Japan can rely on us for credible information and insightful analysis.

Through Arab News Japan, we are providing a content mix that blends original reporting from both the Middle East and Japan as well as a Japanese translation of some of our most important news and views.

The pan-Arab poll marks the first step in that journey.

  • Faisal J. Abbas is the editor in chief of Arab News. Twitter: @FaisalJAbbas
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News’ point-of-view

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King Salman affirms Saudi Arabia’s solidarity with Australia over the bushfire crisis

10/01/20

RIYADH: King Salman called Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Thursday to express his solidarity with the country during its bushfire crisis.

He confirmed the Kingdom’s readiness to provide assistance so Australia could overcome the disaster.

The king also expressed his condolences to the prime minister and families of the deceased, wishing the injured a speedy recovery.

He said Saudi Arabia and its people shared the pain of Australians.

Morrison expressed his thanks and appreciation to King Salman and to the Saudi people for their empathy.

The catastrophic bushfires have killed at least 26 people and  destroyed more than 2,000 homes.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Comoros inaugurates Saudi-funded road network

27/12/19

  • The SFD has financed over seven projects in Comoros, home to around 820,000 citizens
  • The SFD is one of the largest contributors to sustainable development aid

DUBAI: A new road network, fully supported by the Saudi Fund For Development (SFD), has been inaugurated in Comoros Islands on Friday.

Azali Assoumani, President of the Union of the Comoros Islands, joined government officials and the Saudi Arabian Ambassador to the Comoros to inaugurate the new road network that will provide faster and more efficient movement of people and goods, as well as better access to markets in urban centers.

The new roads include a 23-kilometer Airport-Qalawa stretch on Grande Comore Island, as well as the 12-kilometer Dundee-Langoni road in Anjouan Island.

The SFD has financed over seven projects in Comoros, home to around 820,000 citizens, valued in total at more than $80 million. The projects have supported different sectors in the island country, including transportation, health, education and potable water sectors.

Comoros’ Assoumani praised the Kingdom’s contributions and support of the country’s development plans at the inauguration.

Ibrahim Al-Turki, an advisor to SFD said: “The SFD and the Government of Comoros have a long history of working together. Our efforts aim to improve the quality of life for the people of the Comoros, and to ensure the development of small and medium enterprises (SMEs)’s through facilitating their access to new markets.”

The SFD is one of the largest contributors to sustainable development aid, promoting stability and prosperity since 1975. The SFD has financially contributed to more than 1000 international development projects through loan and grant mechanisms.

This article was first published in Arab News

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