A day at the races: Stylish guests wow at the Saudi Cup

29/02/20

Entrepreneur and influencer Pierette Yammine showed off a regal, ice blue number by Dubai-based label Baruni Fashion. (Huda Bashatah/Arab News)

RIYADH: All eyes were on Saudi Arabia as the world’s most valuable horse race kicked off over the weekend — and there was something for everyone, including fashion fans.

Style-lovers descended on the Saudi Cup in Riyadh wearing their race day best, with women giving Audrey Hepburn’s character in Hollywood classic “My Fair Lady” a run for her money with their chic abayas and colorful dresses.

Stylish racing gear was on full display in the form of an array of creative headpieces flaunted by some women in the Red Sea Pavilion.

Arab News caught up with Evelyn McDermott, founder of the Evelyn McDermott Millinery, which was the exclusive milliner for the Saudi Cup and had a dedicated booth for those who wanted to pick up a last-minute headpiece.

Milliner Evelyn McDermott (right) boasted a dark green jumpsuit with a signature headpiece. (Huda Bashatah/Arab News)

“My brand is a Dubai-born brand and I’ve been making the hats for about seven to eight years now, she said, before adding, “it’s been the most phenomenal thing ever to be invited here to Saudi Arabia (and) to be the exclusive milliner to the Saudi Cup has just been so wonderful. I mean the first ever Saudi Cup makes it an experience that can never be repeated so it’s been fantastic.”

For her part, McDermott capitalized on one of the style trends of the day — wearing green.

The designer donned a jade green jumpsuit with dramatic tulip sleeves in translucent chiffon and finished off her out-there outfit with a matching head wrap — a fresh take on typical race day headpieces and the feathered looks preferred by many other women at the event.

For her part, McDermott capitalized on one of the style trends of the day — wearing green. (Arab News)

Green seemed to be a popular color, with many style conscious race goers donning various shades of the hue.

Michele Fischer, who flew into the Kingdom from the US, showed off an embroidered blue abaya, complete with tribal designs in white threadwork. Underneath, she boasted a fern green cocktail dress by Ralph Lauren and topped off the look with an ash-and-ebony feathered headpiece by Australian milliner Sonlia Fashion.

Michele Fischer showed off a fern green number. (Huda Bashatah/Arab News)

Fischer told Arab News she handpicked the dark green dress in order to pay tribute to Saudi Arabia.

Meanwhile, entrepreneur and influencer Pierette Yammine showed off a regal, ice blue number by Dubai-based label Baruni Fashion, which is helmed by former petroleum engineer-turned-designer Fadwa Baruni.

Entrepreneur Pierette Yammine showed off a regal, ice blue number by Dubai-based label Baruni Fashion. (Huda Bashatah/Arab News)

Yammine accessorized the floor-grazing gown, with it’s textured cuffed sleeves and sash at the waist, with a demure white Longines watch and an attention-grabbing caramel-colored floral headpiece with wispy filaments that played in the breeze.

Attendee Liz Price followed suit and opted for a gorgeous, crinkled headpiece that resembled piled up gardenias atop her sleek hairdo. The cream-colored piece was designed by London-based milliner Rachel Trevor Morgan, whose hats are favored by Queen Elizabeth II.

Liz Price’s The cream-colored piece was designed by London-based milliner Rachel Trevor Morgan. (Arab News)

This article was first published in Arab News

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Saudi Crown Prince orders road development project in Riyadh

24/02/20

Cars drive past the King Abdullah Financial District in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia December 18, 2018. (Reuters)

The project aims to transform Riyadh to be a major hub in providing sustainable transportation services
The program will work on developing junctions between Riyadh’s ring roads and main routes
RIYADH: Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has ordered the development of main roads in the heart of Riyadh in order to upgrade the city’s transportation system.

The project aims to transform Riyadh to be a major hub in providing sustainable transportation services as well as logistics services in the Middle East, the Saudi Press Agency said.
The program will work on developing junctions between Riyadh’s ring roads and main routes. It will develop 400 kilometers of road network, by adding new roads and upgrading existing junctions.

Among the main projects will be:

*Improving the First Ring Road with an additional length of 80 kilometers and continued work on the Second Ring Road.
*Developing the main junctions of the King Fahd Road to increase its capacity.
*Increasing the capacity of the Imam Saud bin Faisal Road from King Khalid Road until its junction with the second eastern ring road, with a length of 23 kilometers.
*Improving the Prince Turki bin Abdulaziz I road and its extension to the south until its meeting point with the second southern ring road, with a length of 45 kilometers.

*Developing the extension of the Abu Bakr Al-Siddiq Road to the south from Makkah Al-Mukarramah Road to the Eastern Ring Road, and its extension south to the Dhahran Street to the Southern Ring Road with a length of 17 kilometers.
*Developing the Othman Bin Affan Road from King Salman Road to Al-Urouba Road, and from Makkah Al-Mukarramah Road to the the Southern Ring Road with a length of 16 kilometers.

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Gem of history, Diriyah is ‘gateway’ to future of Saudi Arabia

22/02/20

Behind the scenes: The ladies taking a commemorative photo in Diriyah. Diriyah Gate Development Authority’s employees feel a sense of pride, nurturing their county and showcasing its history. (AN photo)

  • Danielle Atkins: ‘If you want to see Vision 2030 in 2020 just come to my office. DGDA really does embody Vision 2030 in 2020’

One of Saudi Arabia’s giga-projects and most beloved sites is the home of the founding fathers, Diriyah.

In one year, it has played host to Russian President Vladimir Putin, numerous delegates and was the prime location for Formula E, but behind all the glitz and glamour, a team of Saudis are working hard to make it a major tourist destination.

Diriyah Gate Development Authority (DGDA), is going local with its employees — 278 out of 355 are Saudi, with 45 from Diriyah. The employees feel a sense of pride, nurturing their county and showcasing its history.

Established in July 2017, the DGDA aims to preserve the culture of Diriyah, celebrate its community, and make it a landmark that celebrates Saudi Arabia.

Considered one of the Kingdom’s most important historical sites and the capital of the first Saudi state, Diriyah is home to the UNESCO World Heritage site of At-Turaif, a mud-brick city that stands as the birthplace of the first Saudi state.

“Diriyah has a special place in my heart because it’s the home of my forefathers. It’s an honor for me to add to their legacy and to improve upon this cartel of history that is so full of meaning,” said Princess Al-Johara Al-Saud, the DGDA’s branded content and collaboration officer, to Arab News. “I am privileged to be part of a team that’s sole focus is to give Diriyah its proper place as the jewel of the Kingdom.”

FASTFACTS

  • Diriyah Gate Development Authority was established in July 2017 to preserve Diriyah’s culture, celebrate its community and make Diriyah known globally as a landmark that celebrates Saudi culture and history.
  • Diriyah highlights the architectural, diplomatic and artistic legacy of Saudi Arabia.
  • Diriyah is home to the UNESCO World Heritage site of At-Turaif, a mud-brick city that stands as the birthplace of the first Saudi state.

Merging past, present, and future, “Diriyah is the gateway of the future of Saudi Arabia,” said Danielle Atkins, chief of marketing and communications officer at the DGDA. She said that the team were all young and Saudi, and “if you want to see vision 2030 in 2020 just come to my office. The DGDA really does embody Vision 2030 in 2020.”

Al-Johara was one of Atkins’ first hires. “I feel empowered and supported, working alongside so many prominent women in the marketing team,” she said. “We all feel so proud to be contributing to the preservation and promotion of Diriyah, under the umbrella of Vision 2030 and the leadership of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. His mission to enable women in Saudi Arabia has driven us to push forward and to play an instrumental role in making the vision a reality in 2020.”

The marketing team at DGDA, headed by Atkins, is composed of 31 employees, 18 of whom are women. Atkins’ goal is to empower Saudi women and to have them as confident leaders taking the reins.

One of the DGDA’s initiatives is its graduate program. Launched in November 2019, 19 people enrolled, 79 percent of whom were females. The students are expected to complete the program by November 2020, with the possibility of joining the DGDA as full-time team members.

Haifa Al-Ruwaished is currently in the graduate program, and being from Diriyah, she says it was an honor to be able to work alongside passionate and enthusiastic members serving both her county and country.

Jerry Inzerillo, CEO of the DGDA, said: “This is such an inspiring time for Saudi youth, especially women, and we are proud to play our part. We are passionate about giving back to the communities of Diriyah and knew that we needed to start with the talent of tomorrow. The graduates from Diriyah that have become part of the DGDA are already stars and I’m confident they will take important roles in shaping the future of the Kingdom. We are especially proud that a majority of the graduates who have joined are women.”

This article was first published in Arab News

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Adidas’ latest campaign shot in Saudi Arabia

Time: 17 February, 2020

Adidas Originals decided to shoot its latest “Change is a Team Sport” campaign in Saudi Arabia. (Supplied)

DUBAI: In celebration of the 50th anniversary of its iconic superstar sneakers, Adidas Originals decided to shoot its latest “Change is a Team Sport” campaign in Saudi Arabia.

Featuring four talented women hailing from the Kingdom, the campaign images were photographed against the striking backdrop of the AlUla heritage site.

It is the first time a major brand has shot a campaign at the UNESCO heritage site. (Supplied)

For the campaign, the athletic giant tapped designer Alaa Balkhy, rapper Aseel Saraj, fashion blogger Jory Al Maiman and skateboarder and actress Sarah Taibah to showcase the sportswear brand’s iconic sneakers.

It is the first time a major brand has shot a campaign at the UNESCO heritage site.

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Saudi Arabia’s AlUla to be developed into world’s largest living museum

Time: 14 February, 2020

Saudi Arabia has unveiled plans to develop AlUla into the world’s largest living museum and a major heritage, cultural, arts and adventure tourism destination. (File/AFP)
  • Kingdom wants 2m visitors to county by 2035
  • The development plans were announced during the 10th UN World Urban Forum in Abu Dhab

ABU DHABI: Saudi Arabia has unveiled plans to develop AlUla into the world’s largest living museum and a major heritage, cultural, arts and adventure tourism destination.
AlUla is known for its natural beauty and archaeological diversity. It has hosted major cultural events, including a site-responsive outdoor art installation featuring the work of Saudi and international artists.
The development plans were announced during the 10th UN World Urban Forum in Abu Dhabi.
“The balanced development strategy places people first as part of a broader commitment to become an open living museum for the world and a global center for culture, heritage, arts and eco-tourism projects,” the CEO of the Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU), Amr Al-Madani, said. “We chose the World Urban Forum as a credible global platform to engage with the world’s leading developers and sustainability experts and share our plans for the long-term, responsible development of AlUla as the world’s largest living museum. By combining heritage with nature, we are transforming the cultural landscape of AlUla and establishing the county as a global tourism destination with a thriving economy and local community.”
Saudi Arabia aims to host two million visitors a year in AlUla by 2035. The RCU, the authority responsible for protecting and promoting the area, estimates the project will create more than 67,000 new jobs, almost half of them in the tourism sector.
“We invite experts from around the world to join us on our journey which means we learn and innovate together. We see a clear road ahead as we attract investment and continue to protect, preserve, share and celebrate our heritage and nature with the world. Not only have we opened our doors to travelers benefiting from Saudi Arabia’s new tourist visas, we’ve also delivered the infrastructure that is central to growth,” Al-Madani added.
He said that a new airport had been launched and that it had the potential to become a transport and logistics hub for northwest Saudi Arabia. There was also a distinctive concert hall with a 500-seat capacity, he added.
The RCU’s Francesca Arici, who is responsible for coordinating development of the masterplans, briefed organizations and agencies at the forum about the commission’s future strategy.
“This is a unique and once-in-a-lifetime development program that requires drawing together international best practice in numerous and diverse fields and sectors,” she said. “We must balance light-touch tourism with sensitive development designed to benefit the local community while still protecting rare ecosystems and archaeology. We are moving at pace but ensuring we embrace the needs and demands of the local community as we work together for a common goal.  A number of major infrastructure plans have already been realized and it is anticipated that we will introduce new building permits and design guidelines to AlUla in March, boosting local economic growth and prosperity.”
Around 80 percent of AlUla county will be protected, including cultural and natural heritage sites.

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Valentine’s Day 2020 in Saudi Arabia

Time: 13 February, 2020

Saudi Arabia now fully embraces and celebrates Valentine’s Day, two years after restrictions were lifted. (AN Photo/Huda Bashatah)

RIYADH: In 2018, a Saudi religious figure endorsed Valentine’s Day celebrations for the first time in the Kingdom, and the rest has been history. Saudi Arabia now fully embraces the day, see pictures above… (AN Photos/Huda Bashatah)

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Saudi Arabia prepares for Valentine’s Day

Time: 13 February, 2020

Hearts and flowers are everywhere as Saudi Arabia prepares to celebrate the once ‘haram’ Valentine’s Day tomorrow. (AN photo by Huda Bashatah)
  • Hearts and flowers are everywhere as the Kingdom prepares to celebrate the once ‘haram’ Valentine’s Day tomorrow
  • Saudis are buying extravagant gifts, flowers, cheesy balloons and even the cliched teddy bears for that special person

JEDDAH: Love is in the air and hearts and flowers are everywhere as the Kingdom prepares to celebrate the once “haram” Valentine’s Day tomorrow.

As recently as three years ago it would have been unthinkable — Saudi Arabia’s feared religious police saw to that.

Florists and confectioners used to hide their red roses and heart-shaped chocolate in fear of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (CPVPV). Restaurant owners even banned birthday or anniversary celebrations on Feb. 14 for fear of arrest or closure.

Hearts and flowers are everywhere as Saudi Arabia prepares to celebrate the once ‘haram’ Valentine’s Day tomorrow. (AN photo by Huda Bashatah)

A breakthrough came in 2018, when former Makkah CPVPV President Sheikh Ahmed Qasim Al-Ghamdi declared that Valentine’s Day did not contradict Islamic teaching or doctrine. Celebrating love was universal,and not limited to non-Muslims, he said.

Now Saudis are buying extravagant gifts, flowers, cheesy balloons and even the cliched teddy bears for that special person.

To help readers to get the most out of Valentine’s, Arab News has compiled an essential guide. We have advice on romantic getaways, whether you’re on a budget, or ready to splash out on a rented yacht in the Red Sea or a cultural heritage hotel in a palm oasis in the Eastern Province.

There’s also a “his and her” gift guide for every purse, and info on the best places for that romantic meal for two.

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Saudi Arabia now employing 2m people in booming retail sector, says labor minister

Time: 12 February, 2020

Minister of Labor and Social Development Ahmad Al-Rajhi speaks at Retail Leaders Circle MENA Summit in Riyadh. (Photo/ Invest Saudi Twitter page)
  • The Saudi government had given the retail sector considerable attention through numerous economic reforms aimed at supporting the sector

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia was gearing up to meet the future challenges of the booming retail sector which currently employs more than 2 million people in the Kingdom, the country’s labor minister revealed on Tuesday.

Speaking at a major international conference of top retailers, being held in Riyadh, Saudi Minister of Labor and Social Development Ahmad Al-Rajhi said the number of people working in the sector represented a quarter of the total workforce in the country’s private sector.

In his opening keynote speech on the second day of the Retail Leaders Circle (RLC) MENA Summit, the minister said: “The Kingdom currently employs more than 2 million males and females in the retail sector, and they constitute more than 25 percent of the total workforce in the private sector in Saudi Arabia.

“This number of workers has been increasing due to the country’s strong purchasing power and growing consumption rate.”

He added that the Saudi government had given the retail sector considerable attention through numerous economic reforms aimed at supporting the sector and creating an environment that appealed to investors.

Al-Rajhi told delegates that the retail sector faced many challenges in the form of rapid technological advances, digital transformation, and the trend to optimize consumption and provide convenience to customers through e-commerce and smartphone apps.

However, the challenges also presented opportunities for the creation of new jobs, he said, and it was important that the workforce was reskilled or upskilled accordingly to take advantage.

“The ministry is working to develop the necessary legislation for new business patterns and to empower employers and employees to keep pace with technological changes which will be reflected in enabling the retail sector to keep pace with its future requirements to become more effective in achieving the aspirations of the Saudi Vision 2030,” Al-Rajhi added.

He noted that the ministry had established a new state-owned firm, the Future Work Co., to support the developments and make the Kingdom a pioneer in the manufacturing of innovative, unconventional, yet sustainable future business patterns.

“We are working on enabling and developing human capital with the skills and technological advances related to the retail sector to ease their participation in the labor market and have launched apprenticeship programs to bridge the gap between business owners and job seekers.”

The ministry supported the retail sector through a range of initiatives, he said. One example was Qiwa, which had involved the automation and simplification of ministry services provided to the private sector through a unified platform, allowing Qiwa enterprises to issue instant work visas.

Addressing the summit, the minister pointed out that one of the main principles of Vision 2030 was to increase the participation of women in the labor market and qualify them for leadership positions.

The share of women in the labor market had risen to 25 percent in the third quarter of 2019, which was higher than the target of 24 percent expected to be achieved by 2020, he added.

Speaking on the disruptive role of financial technology (fintech) in today’s instant, digital world, Ahmad Alanazi, chief executive officer of STC Pay, said: “In the past, we were innovation takers and adapters, but today we are becoming innovation creators and distributors.”

Praising Vision 2030, Renuka Jagtiani, chairperson of multinational consumer conglomerate Landmark Group, said: “I think 2030 as a vision is amazing and to be a part of it is very exciting.

“As a footprint, we are really proud that we have over 7,000 Saudi co-workers in our business, and 70 percent of them are women.”

Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA) Gov. Ibrahim Al-Omar, in his closing remarks to the summit, said: “Hosting RLC MENA 2020 comes at a time of great change for Saudi Arabia. Our growing economy is unlocking remarkable potential across many sectors and creating jobs within the Kingdom.”

The sixth edition of the summit, which unites powerful industry leaders, innovators and decision-makers to share global insights and best practice, was hosted for the first time in Saudi Arabia and concluded on Tuesday.

Previously held in Dubai, this year’s conference included more than 50 speakers who highlighted ways to shape the future of the retail industry. Day two of the summit took an in-depth look at consumer behavior and explored how retailers could meet customer expectations.

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Love on Saudi Arabia’s silver screens

Time: 12 February, 2020

Mahmoud Sabbagh’s “Barakah Yoqabil Barakah”
  • The genre, previously frowned upon, is going mainstream among Saudi directors, and audiences are embracing it

JEDDAH: The love story is a relatively new concept in Saudi movies, but filmmakers and actors are finding they are increasingly able to portray this aspect of life from the Kingdom’s perspective.

“Roll’em” was one of the first such Saudi films to appear in cinemas. It centers on an aspiring filmmaker who wants to showcase his city, Jeddah, and realizes how much it means to him when he meets an underrated cinematographer living in a country without cinema.

The film is a love story between characters Lina Najjar, played by Sara Taibah and Omar Nizar, played by Khaled Yeslam.

The director of the film, Abdulelah Al-Qurashi, told Arab News that Saudi audiences were positive about the story, and the film received great reviews.

“I think it (the love story) worked out more than other scenes. There was a scene where Omar sees his ex-girlfriend by chance in the supermarket and his reaction grabs the attention of the audience. I felt that they were able to relate to this because I think this is the first time such a scene appears on screen, but is quite common in reality,” he said.


A film poster for “Roll’em,” by Abdulelah Al-Qurashi

The story of “Roll’em” is from one perspective — Omar’s. “When I’m talking about someone’s journey, how is there a journey without love? It’s a universal human trait. I felt that this was necessary to show,” Al-Qurashi said.

He previously played the father in the short film “Zaina’s Cake,” directed by Nada Al-Mojadidi.

Zaina, played by Sarah Taibah, is a young college graduate in Jeddah struggling to start a baking business without her father’s consent. She meets Ma’an, the delivery boy who helps her, and over time she realizes that her new life could force her to choose between her father and a young man.

“Zaina comes from a very strict lower-middle-class Saudi family,” Taibah said. “Her father is very strict and doesn’t want her to work in a mixed-gender environment. She falls in love with the delivery boy, and then her father finds out. It had a happy ending; he lets her pursue what she wants in the end. It was such a simple love story.”

“It was refreshing for most people because we’re not used to seeing ourselves in these love stories,” Al-Mojadidi explained. “We’re used to seeing them in Western films. It’s refreshing because everyone goes through their own story but you don’t get to share that story as our culture doesn’t really embrace it — it’s the same issue we have in our society, not just our cinema. It was refreshing to see people accept it. It’s such a typical Saudi story.”

“Roll’em” has a different type of love story that’s more modern and relevant nowadays — “a genuine love is seen in the film, guys and girls being friends — no one (in the audience) was attacking the idea,” Taibah said. “It’s a combination that everything is changing and that the love is very relatable and genuine. It’s not crossing the uncomfortable Saudi line.”

Taibah said Saudi audiences wanted to see such stories, as films offer a more genuine sense of emotion that many relate to on a deeper level. “People are hungry just to relate,” she said.

“As an artist, not only as a writer and actress, performer or illustrator, I always look for love, heartbreak and intimacy as themes for my work, so I make sure that comes across,” she added.

Taibah described the relationship between her character Lina in “Roll’em” and Khaled Yeslam’s character Omar as one that the audience could relate to.

“It is an open ending, we don’t know if they are still together or not. All we know is that she’s always going to be there for him. Even when the characters are going through difficult times and are kind of broken up, she shows up and helps him to make the screening of his film he’s been working on. It’s a relationship we know; we’ve either lived it or we know someone who did.”

“It’s that type of relationship that’s so doomed but always going because of the familiarization, companionship and acceptance than that flame in the beginning of a relationship,” she said. “You can sense the emotions of my characters; you see how these two were so in love, with glimpses of the good moments they had, but overall she’s exhausted, she feels like she’s becoming his mother not his lover.”

The role of cinema and any art is to touch on human nature, Al-Mojadidi said. “That’s the job of this art form. This is why it exists, it’s like a mirror that shows you everything. A mirror doesn’t show you just how good you look, it shows you how you look.”


“Zaina’s Cake,” by Nada Al-Mujadidi

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Why that can of energy drink has doubled in price

Time: 11 February, 2020

Along with the other member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council, Saudi Arabia is gradually implementing the taxation of goods deemed to have negative effects on public health and the environment.
For example, tobacco products, electronic vaping equipment and liquids, and energy drinks attract tax at a rate of 100 percent — doubling the price to the consumer. Tax on soft drinks and sweetened drinks is payable at a rate of 50 percent.
The tax is payable by importers or producers, based on the retail value of the goods, excluding Value Added Tax. Producers are required to submit a tax declaration every two months, six times in each fiscal year, and pay the estimated tax due within 15 days of submitting the declaration. Importers pay the tax for each customs declaration at the Customs Authority. At the end of each two-month period the General Authority of Zakat and Tax reviews the figures, and calculates the difference, if any, between the estimates and the reality.
If taxable goods are illegally imported or exported, or in the event of their illegal production, transfer, storage or possession, an offender may be fined up to three times the value of the tax due. Fines also apply to providing false documents and papers related to taxable goods, or conducting any related activities without a license. The fines apply in the event of any attempt to commit such an offense, even if it fails.
Anyone obstructing or preventing General Authority of Zakat and Tax staff from doing their job, or failing toinform the authority of any relevant changes, may be fined up to SR50,000 ($13,331).
Tax declarations must also be submitted on time, and failure to do so attracts a fine of 5 percent of the value of the taxable goods for a delay of up to 30 days; 10 percent for between 30 and 60 days; 15 percent for 60-90 days; 20 percent for 90-120 days; and 25 percent for more than 120 days.
There is also a fine of SR50,000 or the value of the tax due, whichever is higher, if the taxpayer fails to adhere to the criteria for maintaining the safety of taxable goods, or fails to keep proper books and records.
If any of these offenses are repeated within three years, the original fine may be doubled or the operator’s license may be suspended for up to six months.
No one likes paying tax, and no consumer likes to see the price of their purchases doubled — but taxes such as these serve a purpose in deterring unhealthy activity, and in defraying some of the expense incurred by society in treating illnesses that may be caused by the unregulated use of these goods.

Dimah Talal Alsharif is a Saudi legal counsel and a member of the International Association of Lawyers. Twitter: @dimah_alsharif

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