Saudi landlords exempt tenants from paying rent

Time: 27 May, 2020

The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak has brought all economic activities to a standstill around the globe. In such a situation, it is necessary to support each other to pass through the crisis. (Reuters/File)
  • Each and every tenant is viewed as a partner to whom “we offer our full support during the pandemic.”

RIYADH: A large number of Saudi landlords have shown their support by exempting tenants from paying rent to mitigate the impact of the losses incurred by many tenants.

Most of the landlords gave few months free for tenants. However, tenants say the exemption should be commensurate with the losses which the tenant has incurred.  Some tenants said their business sales have dropped significantly and have not sold a single product for days.

Ismail Darwish, CEO of the Al-Tas’heelat Holding Group, said, “Wafi Energy, which is one of our subsidiaries, is a fuel station company that rents, operates, invests in and runs fuel stations through long-term investment contracts. Wafi Energy sublets the facilities of the fuel station to different business activities including grocery stores, oil change shops, cafés, restaurants and ATMs.”

The revenues of a fuel station and the facilities on the premises  depend on the flow of vehicle movement, so if a crisis, let alone a pandemic, occurs, the business will be definitely impacted, explained Aldarwish, who has been working for 15 years in the sector.

The initiative is a response to the crisis and aims to mitigate the impact of the pandemic and protect as well as help the tenants, especially in the light of the fact that the negative impact is not limited to the tenants, but it also reaches the property owners and the investors.

“One of the solutions available to us as investors and tenants of the land is to get discount on the rent from the property owner in order to mitigate the impact of the crisis and provide the owners of other activities with more flexible solutions and exemptions,” he pointed out.

At the outset, Aldarwish considered giving all the tenants a three-month rent free but he decided it would not be fair to everyone, so he decided to implement this idea based on the site and the business activity.

“We assessed the impact on each business activity based on the geographic location of the business. For example, the tenants at a fuel station that is located on the outskirts of the city have sustained more impact than their counterparts within the city. Also, the extent of the impact on an oil change shop is not similar to the one on a grocery store, he added.

“We worked hard to mitigate the impact on the tenants and the lessors. No doubt that the government has borne the brunt of the impact of this crisis and has given more than it has taken, setting a great example to others in terms of unity in the face of pandemics,” he stressed.

Ahmed Alrajhi, the director of the real estate department at TAPA Real Estate Company, said the Landlord Initiative was inspired by an initiative launched by the Chamber of Commerce in the Eastern Province. The Chamber called upon the landlords to exempt investors from paying the rent to alleviate the suffering their businesses have gone through because of the crisis.

“We showed our full support for the initiative and gave two months free to all current tenants and three months free to all prospective tenants. We also allowed the Saudi Red Crescent personnel in the Eastern Province to use one of our buildings for three months and we distributed 7,500 food baskets to impoverished families at different regions Kingdom-wide. We have put our real estate properties at the disposal of the Ministry of Health during the quarantine period as part of our national duty and to show our true appreciation and gratitude for those who have put their lives on line for us,” Alrajhi said.

Each and every tenant is viewed as a partner to whom “we offer our full support during the pandemic.” Alrajhi pointed out that the company is eager to maintain a strong relationship with the tenants even after the end of the crisis. All the tenants, he noted, are happy because of the offer proposed by the company.

Marzoog A. Albalawy, who owns a real estate company in Al-Khafji Governorate, exempted the tenants from paying two months’ rent starting March 25th as a way to support them.

“Many of the tenants have incurred losses because of the COVID-19. We wanted them to help as part of our national duty and to pay back to community,” noted Albalawy, who chairs the Eastern Province Business Council in Al-Khafji.

The initiative covered leased apartments and villas and the discount varied depending on how bad the impact was on the tenant, be it a Saudi or a non-Saudi; the exemptions covered citizens and residents. He noted that Al-Khafji was the first to have seen a large number of COVID-19 cases.

“We view tenants as our partners, which means their success is ours. We feel great pain when we see some landlord do not try to help the tenants whose businesses have suffered immensely. The losses of a business might lead to catastrophic results to many families whose breadwinners work in such businesses,” he explained.

Zaki Alagl, who owns accessory stores east Riyadh, hopes the landlord will deduct three months’ rent in the first half of the year and three months’ in the second half of the year because his businesses has suffered huge losses.

“Sales at our stores have dropped significantly following COVID-19 and people are no more interested in buying accessories because they sit at home all the time and rarely would they go shopping. Most of our customers are women. It is difficult for them to get out during the daytime because the weather is hot,” he said.

Firas Aljarrah, a social entrepreneurship specialist, described the initiative as instrumental for promoting and encouraging social solidarity among all members of the public. During times of crises, everyone often gets affected and needs help; therefore, collaboration and cooperation among one another becomes crucial for pulling through the crisis with the least damage possible, he explained, urging every member of society to do whatever they can to help others.

The real challenge any financial initiative might encounter is that people who have come up with the initiative are also prone to the impact of the crisis. As a result, they might get hesitant about offering any type of support for fear of incurring more losses.

When the initiative is launched by an organization that adopts a corporate social responsibility policy, the loyalty of employees will be bolstered while the company will be more capable of attracting the right talented cadre and better market its services. The benefits on the long will vary but will definitely reassure businesses and spur them on to think creatively and outside of the box.

No doubt that the positive impact of the initiative is tremendous and will reassure businesses and help them come up with creative and innovative solutions during times of hardships and crises, something which businesses desperately need these days. There is also a positive impact on the long run – the businesses will return the favor to society.

Dr. Khalid Alharthi, the head of Mubadiroon Volunteer Team, said one of the brighter sides of a crisis is the fact that it strengthens social solidarity and ties, adding that social initiatives are essential during the time of a crisis because they can alleviate the suffering of the weak and frail.

One of the major challenges that a social initiative might encounter at the present time is the weak performance of the media targeting charity work. This type of media has not improved its tools to keep up with the latest developments in the world of conventional and digital media. Another challenge is the absence of public trust, which discourses many members of society from supporting such initiatives.

The proposer of an initiative should seize every opportunity available in any field, be it health, education, culture or development, and work to bring benefit to the entire society.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Bupa Arabia supports the underprivileged & orphans

Time: 26 May, 2020

Bupa Arabia’s free health insurance program for orphans offers a range of quality services, including regular checkups, all treatments, a designated hotline to receive calls, and health education workshops to raise awareness.

Bupa Arabia for Cooperative Insurance has partnered with the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development to distribute 3,000 food baskets among underprivileged families, which are registered with the ministry’s Social Welfare and Family Welfare Agency. The initiative comes in line with the spirit of Ramadan, a month of giving, and in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

This year, orphans who are covered under Bupa Arabia’s free health insurance program will help in preparing and distributing the baskets to inculcate a sense of giving among them.

Dr. Abdullah Al-Wahaibi, undersecretary at the Social Welfare and Family Welfare Agency, hailed Bupa Arabia’s move to involve orphans in preparing and distributing baskets under the supervision of the agency, saying: “This is a caring gesture from Bupa Arabia, and it promotes a sense of belonging among orphans while cultivating the principles of giving, communication and closeness between them and society.”

He added that the initiative supports what the company has been offering orphans for years. More than 2,600 orphans, living in more than 47 homes across the Kingdom, benefit from Bupa Arabia’s free health insurance program. The program includes divorced orphans and widows who live with their children in social care homes.

Loay Hisham Nazer, chairman of Bupa Arabia, said: “The orphans will be joining hands to assemble and distribute baskets to the families in an attempt to get a sense of the pride of giving during the holy month. We’ve also extended this to our employees, who collectively prepared 411 food baskets. We hope that we make a real and positive impact through this initiative.”

Bupa Arabia was the first company to offer free health insurance for residents of “Dar Al-Rafeef” in 2011. Three years later, in 2014, the program expanded to cover all orphans residing in shelters supervised by the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development.

“We believe that in order to play a proactive role in society, we need to provide more than just health insurance; we should aim to become the health care partner for every orphan in Saudi Arabia. Therefore, we would like them to know that we are always by their side,” Nazer said, adding that the orphans receive special treatment and the same services that are given to some VIP clients.

The free health insurance program offers a range of quality services, including a designated hotline to receive calls and provide immediate assistance. Bupa Arabia also developed an integrated program that enables doctors to visit beneficiaries periodically for checkups, and regularly organizes health education workshops to raise awareness. The program is approved by the Cooperative Health Insurance Council and covers all treatments, including plastic surgery, dermatology, and even cases that are not covered by regular health insurance.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Home alone: Saudis and expats try to beat the holiday blues

Time: 26 May, 2020

The ongoing pandemic rendered this year’s Eid Al-Fitr colorless forcing people to stay indoors and rely on different apps to connect with their loved ones in the Kingdom and abroad. (Reuters/ Social media)
  • People celebrating Eid alone or abroad find ways to stay positive

JEDDAH: For different reasons many people living in the Kingdom have found themselves alone for the holidays due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, their spirits dampened as they are forced to stay home alone, away from loved ones.

As the pandemic enters its third month in Saudi Arabia, flights have not yet resumed, strict social distancing and safety measures are still in place and curfews have been reimposed to curb the spread of the virus during the Eid holidays.

Many families are stranded in cities across the Kingdom, while Saudis studying and working abroad are either stuck or have chosen to spend summer where they are out of fear they will not be able to return and start their new semesters.

Some people were able to move in with their families and quarantine together, while others were deprived of that chance.

A number of Saudi nationals, including students, have been repatriated in the past couple of weeks while others are still waiting for their turn.

Yousef Al-Ayesh, a 21-year-old senior student at Arizona State University, has been at home since late March as a precautionary measure.

He said that Eid with his family in Jeddah was one event that everyone looked forward to all year long. Under normal circumstances the first three days of Eid would be filled with events — family dinners at night and beach excursions during the day. Although he would be sleep-deprived, he would still make the most of the little time he spent with his family due to his studies.

“With all that’s going on, it doesn’t even feel like it’s Eid,” he told Arab News.

“It most probably would have been different if I was back in Saudi Arabia but I still wouldn’t have been able to celebrate it the same way. It’s not that bad here (in the US) now since restaurants have reopened and my friends and I have the outdoors to enjoy, have a barbecue, or just hang out. I would have felt worse if I was alone. Ramadan was already odd enough, I don’t think I would have been OK if it were the case without them.”

Although his family lives 8,000 miles away he did not feel alone as his group of friends decided to celebrate together, even without the perks of new clothes and eidiyas from aunts and uncles.

It’s an exceptional year for us and one that is teaching us a lesson on various levels, but we must adapt either way.

Fareed Abdullah Fareed

Al-Ayesh hoped to be repatriated to the Kingdom soon and spend some time with his family after his mandatory quarantine.

Fareed Abdullah Fareed, a 29-year-old expat working and living in Riyadh, said this year’s Eid was tough without his family.

Although he is used to living alone because of his job, Eid was the one occasion he looked forward to the most every year because he got to travel to Cairo and be with his family.

“My family moved from Jeddah to Cairo about four or five years ago and Eid is a significant occasion in the family, Eid Al-Fitr is significantly more special than Eid Al-Adha even,” he told Arab News. “I look forward to traveling to see them every year since moving to Riyadh but wasn’t able to with the lockdown, so we all got together on FaceTime video call and spent the whole day speaking to family members.”

Like many expats, Fareed has spent the past months at home and said it was hard for him and his family but that communication had made the ordeal slightly easier.

“It’s an exceptional year for us and one that is teaching us a lesson on various levels, but we must adapt either way,” he added.

This article was first published in Arab News

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King Salman: Saudi Arabia will overcome coronavirus with ‘resolve and positivity’

25/05/20

RIYADH: King Salman said on Sunday that he “sees hope in the coming days” in a message to mark Eid Al-Fitr.

Referring to the coronavirus pandemic, he said that Saudi Arabia will overcome “all calamity” through resolve and positivity.

The king also thanked God for the blessing of Eid Al-Fitr, a celebration marking the end of the fasting month of Ramadan.

Muslims around the world on Sunday began celebrating Eid with millions under strict stay-at-home orders and many fearing renewed coronavirus outbreaks.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Saudi doctor pays heavy price as whole family gets virus

Time: 15 May, 2020

Dr. Omar Hafiz and his mother in the hospital. Photo courtesy of Twitter (@omarrhafiz)
An upbeat Dr. Omar Hafiz with his mother at the hospital. (Courtesy: @omarrhafiz)
  • Minister of Health Dr. Al-Rabiah wishes Hafiz a speedy recovery as social media users express gratitude to hero medic

RIYADH: A Saudi doctor has paid a heavy price for being on the frontlines of the Kingdom’s fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, as he and his family tested positive for the virus.

“Never did I imagine that I would harm my mother and my brothers, nor could I ever imagine that one day we would all be in the hospital because of me!” Dr. Omar Hafiz wrote on Twitter.

“I feel guilty for transmitting the virus to my mother and brothers. O Lord, I only left home to serve and help the people, bestow your mercy on us and heal us completely.”

He also shared two photos: One of himself wearing a mask giving a thumbs up and another of his mother covering her head with a headscarf and reading the Holy Qur’an.

Hafiz’s tweet was shared over 9,000 times and received 3,700 comments from people who expressed their gratitude and appreciation for his work.

Saudi Minister of Health Dr. Tawfiq Al-Rabiah wished Hafiz and his family a speedy recovery. “Society appreciates you and all the health practitioners for your sacrifices,” he tweeted.

On Wednesday, Al-Rabiah had also taken to Twitter to mark International Nurses Day. “To my colleagues in the nursing profession, I would like to extend my deep appreciation and gratitude on the #InternationalNursesDay, and every day, for your devotion and dedication,” he wrote. “You are a cornerstone of our health system, and our #HealthChampions.”

This article was first published in Arab News

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Almost 40% of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Saudi Arabia recovered

Time: 14 May, 2020

Security official enforcing the curfew to limit the spread of coronavirus check a motorist in the Baish governorate of Jazan region on Wednesday. (SPA)
  • Health Ministry reports total 26,935 active cases in KSA; death toll reaches 273

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s Health Ministry said Wednesday that nearly 40 percent of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country have recovered from the disease.

The ministry announced a total of 2,365 new recoveries, bringing the total number to 17,622. The total confirmed cases reached 44,830 with 1,905 new cases confirmed. Of these 42 percent are Saudis, 22 percent are female, and 8 percent are children.

There are currently 26,935 active COVID-19 cases receiving treatment in Saudi hospitals, 147 of which are in critical condition.

The Kingdom recorded nine new deaths, taking the death toll to 273. The latest fatalities were two Saudis and seven expatriates from Jeddah and Makkah. They were aged between 42 and 80. Most had chronic diseases.

“It is the second day in a row where recoveries outnumber the confirmed cases,” said Health Ministry spokesman Dr. Mohammed Al-Abd Al-Aly. “Recently, we have seen an intersection between the new recorded cases curve and the recovery curve, while the recovery curve is rising rapidly which is a very positive sign.”

FASTFACTS

45k – The total number of coronavirus cases in the Kingdom reached 44,830.

18,000 – The total number of coronavirus recoveries in Saudi Arabia reached 17,622.

147 – The number of patients in critical condition.

He added that the coronavirus death curve was “stable and fairly low” in the Kingdom when compared to other countries, and that the intense workload had not affected the ministry’s focus or that of other health authorities.

“Neither performance nor medical protocols at Saudi hospitals were affected by the pandemic, including ambulance fleets and Saudi Red Crescent Authority staff. Emergency departments continue to receive all types of urgent cases around the clock.”

Al-Aly repeated his warnings on the risks of social gatherings and asked people to adhere to guidelines to halt the spread of the novel coronavirus.

“Please abide by the instructions and stay away from anything that violates them, especially gatherings or leaving your homes for unnecessary purposes; abide by the recommended hygienic behavior, such as washing your hands and avoiding touching surfaces,” Al-Aly said.

Earlier, Al-Aly said fever is the most common symptom of infection as 99 percent of confirmed cases experienced fever, while 60 percent had a cough and 30 percent had difficulty breathing.

This article was first published in Arab News

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How Saudi women’s organizations have risen to the coronavirus challenge

03/05/20

Aloula CEO Dania Al-Maeena is working with Saudi volunteer groups to support distance learning and develop community awareness campaigns such as ‘Alnas Liba’ad.’ (Supplied)

This article was first published in Arab News

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Prince Alwaleed pledges $30m to fight pandemic

Time: 29 April, 2020

Prince Alwaleed bin Talal at the Elysee palace in Paris. (Reuters)
  • Prince Alwaleed bin Talal: With many developed nations struggling to cope with COVID-19, we must spare a thought for the developing countries of Africa and the less fortunate countries in the Middle East
  • The $30 million comes after the prince pledged the use of his hotels, schools and other businesses in Saudi Arabia to support the government’s measures against the pandemic

DUBAI: Alwaleed Philanthropies, the charitable organization founded by Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, has given an extra $20.6 million to fight the coronavirus pandemic in the Middle East, Africa and Asia.

The donation, in partnership with some of the world’s leading philanthropies, comes on top of the organization’s existing funding of $9.4 million, which has been reallocated to fight the pandemic. This brings the prince’s total commitment to medical and economic help to $30 million.

“In these times of unprecedented crisis it is more important now than ever that we pull our resources together in the battle against COVID-19,” he said.

“With many developed nations struggling to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic, we must spare a thought for the developing countries of Africa and the less fortunate countries in the Middle East.”

The $30 million comes after he pledged the use of his hotels, schools and other businesses in Saudi Arabia to support the government’s measures against the pandemic, and support for Lebanese students studying in virus-ravaged Europe to return home.

The funds will be spent on a variety of initiatives, including those led by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the GAVI vaccination projects, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

“The series of impact-driven initiatives will seek to tackle the health and economic implications of the pandemic, such as manufacturing rapid diagnostic tests for developing countries and reducing the long-term impact of the potential economic fallout of COVID-19,” Alwaleed Philanthropies said.

“Continuing to support the Middle East and North Africa, the fund includes a significant allocation towards initiatives including allocation to UN-Habitat to improve water, sanitation and hygiene in the most vulnerable communities, and to establish shelter and rehabilitate damaged housings in order to address overcrowding and enable social / physical distancing in disadvantaged neighborhoods.”

Alwaleed Philanthropies is also working with the Islamic World Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ICESCO) to mitigate the economic fallout of the crisis in Africa while promoting hygiene in developing countries.

The amount allocated to ICESCO will strengthen local manufacturing capabilities to produce hygiene products and protective equipment, while empowering women and young entrepreneurs in the informal and local sector.

Many of the initiatives will support vital work to support communities and curb the spread of COVID-19.

Alwaleed Philanthropies will be working with Gates Philanthropy Partners to fund health projects to accelerate the development of therapeutics and delivery of diagnostics to protect vulnerable populations across Africa.

This includes an allocation to the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, which will allow for additional diagnostic laboratories and testing capabilities throughout the continent.

Additionally, Alwaleed Philanthropies is building upon its existing relationship with Splash to provide clean water and promote hand washing in rural and urban areas in South Asia and Africa.

Supporting scientific research to reduce future outbreaks, Alwaleed Philanthropies has built on its four-year relationship with GAVI, with a further amount allocated to provide accessibility and innovative solutions to reach remote areas, and an allocation to support the WHO in strengthening its existing procurement capacity to rapidly secure needed emergency products and build a global stockpile.

Separately, GAVI — backed by Saudi Arabia — on Monday made $40 million available to the UN Children’s Fund to secure personal protective equipment, diagnostic tests and other vital supplies on behalf of 58 low-income countries in response to the pandemic, bringing its total support so far in the crisis to $200 million.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Makkah Grand Mosque imam joins workers cleaning and sterilizing the Kaaba

Time: 28 April, 2020

Dr. Abdulrahman Al-Sudais helped workers clean the Kaaba. (SPA)

MAKKAH: Dr. Abdulrahman Al-Sudais, the president of the General Presidency of the Two Holy Mosques, on Monday joined workers at the Grand Mosque in Makkah as they washed and sterilized the Kaaba and Maqam Ibrahim before the call to night prayer.

In line with recommendations and instructions from the health authorities, a range of precautionary measures are in place at the mosque to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including maintaining a safe distance between worshipers.

The cleaning is one of a number of operations organized by the General Presidency, which also include the preservation of the black stone and the Kiswa cloth.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Quarantine catch-up: At home with Saudi TV star Eleen Suliman

Time: 28 April, 2020

Saudi TV presenter and influencer Eleen Suliman is trying to stay patient during self-isolation. (Instagram)

DUBAI: People across the world are staying at home in a bid to contain the spread of COVID-19. We catch up with our favorite stars who answer a quickfire round of questions about their time in self-isolation.

Saudi TV presenter and influencer Eleen Suliman is trying to stay patient during self-isolation. The style star is being productive at home and is spending more time with her family.

How has self-isolation been for you so far?

I’ve been at home. We are all bored and we can’t take it anymore, but we all hope that this crisis passes by soon without losing anyone.

What’s the biggest challenge?

My biggest challenge is to be patient. I am worried about the practices that we are now getting used to, like staying home all the time, being scared to greet people and so on. So, I am scared that after this crisis, we would actually be this way with people.

What is something positive that has happened due to self-isolation in your life?

To be honest, a while ago I said I don’t want to travel, I want to spend time with my family, I want to develop myself to become a better person and this actually happened. So, I say, it is the best period to use this time right.

What are you currently watching?

To be honest, I only watch “Money Heist” and the rest of my time I spend attending online courses and reading books.

Are you trying anything new in the kitchen or around the home?

I eat everything and everyday I go to the kitchen and learn something new. I learned how to cook shawarma, I learned how to cook spaghetti and chicken with rice. I learned a lot.

How are you keeping sane as you stay home?

I do mediation and yoga. Those are the two most important things we have to do during self-isolation, especially that we are all at home and we are trying to avoid any problem that could happen.

How are you staying “social”?

I use Zoom or video calls on Snapchat or WhatsApp. I catch up with my girls and check up on them.

Any tips for bored readers?

I recommend the books “Ask and it is Given,” “The Secret” and “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus.”

In self-isolation, are you relaxed or do you feel the need to be extra productive?

I am staying productive and I am learning new things because I am a very moody person and I get bored easily. So, I always like to change my routine.

Are you living in your PJS, or taking the time to get dressed up?

Both, I like to dress up and also wear my pajamas.

This article was first published in Arab News

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