One of Saudi Arabia’s oldest traditional forms of weaving remains a key aspect of community life

Time: 05 January 2021

Al-Sadu is a craft that requires innovative skills and a lot of effort as the weaver works hard to transform the raw material into something new. (Shutterstock)

  • The loom, made of palm trees, was carried as Bedouins roamed the deserts in search of water oases to settle

JEDDAH/RIYADH: With tightly spun red, black or white colored yarns produced on handheld wooden spindles, one of Saudi Arabia’s oldest traditional forms of weaving remains a key aspect of community life.

The art of Sadu weaving is an ancient tribal craft. Inspired by the desert environment, Bedouin women of the Arabian Peninsula have for generations made use of the desert’s conditions and raw materials such as sheep’s wool and camel hair that allowed them to produce tents, rugs, mats and more in a variety of patterns and colors.
Speaking to Arab News, Dr. Delayel Al-Qahtani, the director of studies and research department at Atharna, a social enterprise dedicated to Arabian culture and craft, said: “Al-Sadu is made by laying the wool, hair or fur yarn horizontally on the floor loom to produce different shapes and colors that fit the daily needs of Bedouin communities in rural areas.

It is an intricate craft that requires precise hand movements. The final product is always a beautiful design.

Dr. Delayel Al-Qahtani

“Al-Sadu is a craft that requires innovative skills and a lot of effort as the weaver works hard to transform the raw material into something new. It is an intricate craft that requires precise hand movements. The final product is always a beautiful design.”
The craft is found mostly in the central and northern desert regions of the Kingdom and Kuwait, it was recently added to UNESCO’s Intangible Heritage list.
To create the Saudi pattern, the weaver has to skillfully go through a number of phases. Firstly, the animal hair is sheared then cleaned before being shaken and combed. It is then dyed using colors extracted from pomegranate skin and tree cortex and finally spun on drop spindles, explained the director.
The loom, made of palm trees, was carried as Bedouins roamed the deserts in search of water oases to settle. With time and modernization, many families settled, but the tradition was kept alive.

FASTFACTS

• The craft is found mostly in the central and northern desert regions of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

• It was recently added to UNESCO’s Intangible Heritage list.

• The G20 logo was a decorative shape reflecting Al-Sadu.

“The Sadu craft has been gaining increasing attention over the past two decades. The G20 logo was a decorative shape reflecting Al-Sadu. Many organizations and centers give training courses on how to make Sadu products,” said Al-Qahtani.

Al-Qahtani said the craft should be modernized and advanced technology should be used to make it. Craftsmen should be trained by designers on how to make Sadu products modern to attract community and tourists.
Saudi fashion designer and founder of clothing brand Hindamme, Mohammed Khoja, used patterns of Sadu weaving in one of his collections. Referring to Sadu weaving as one of the Kingdom’s cultural jewels, he was inspired by his mother’s origins from Al-Ahsa in the Eastern Province. He explored his ancestral background and applied it in his designs.
“My mom’s home of Al-Ahsa is rich in history and heritage; she has always encouraged me to be curious and informed about different elements of heritage and how they came to be and the reasons why they look the way they do,” Khoja told Arab News.
He stressed that the Sadu design pattern holds great significance to Saudis, explaining that each pattern or each symbol within the Sadu represents an element of life for the early Arabs and Bedouins.
“It’s sort of like a pattern that reflects an element of storytelling because it says so much about the livelihoods of the early Arabs and I think that once it is shared with the global audience, its popularity will only grow.”

The Sadu weave is very much sentimental to the Saudi designer because it reminds him of the past and it reminds him of his upbringing and seeing it in his many trips to the desert.
“Each pattern within the Sadu reflects a different theme, and we have only been exposed to a very small part of the Sadu,” he said, adding: “It comes in many various forms in various colors so it’s incredibly inspiring I definitely know within my designs I wanted to reference it. I wanted to reflect its beauty in a more contemporary format.”
Khoja encourages more designers to look into using the design, but not necessarily imitating their entire look: “They can interpret it in their own way and become inspired by it, by its geometrical shapes and colors. So when I applied it to season two of my collection for Hindamme, I applied it in a more contemporary format with pieces that were inspired by rock and roll.
“It was really a clash of cultures and I did reference two or three various types of Sadu within this collection.”

Khoja said designers should be true to themselves but also encouraged them to study their heritage “because knowing your past can guide your future,” he said, adding that many different traditions in the Kingdom’s past are coming to light.
“We’ve been given these cultural jewels, and for us not to be inspired by them or use them would not be ideal. I feel like using them would pique our interest into our own designs and shape our cultural and design identity.”

This article was first published in Arab News

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Mission possible: Saudi Arabia ‘has control over virus spread’

28/12/20

The western region’s first vaccine center is serving 700 beneficiaries a day and operating from 1 p.m. to 10 p.m. (Supplied)
  • Eastern Province to begin inoculations with the opening of first vaccine center in the region

JEDDAH: The number of coronavirus cases in Saudi Arabia has fallen by 96.9 percent since a mid-June peak of 4,919, a clear sign that the Kingdom is in control of the outbreak, according to a Health Ministry spokesman.

The past six months have shown a steady decline, with Saudi Arabia recording 154 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday.
The number of patients in critical care units has also fallen by 83.1 percent since reaching its peak during the summer, while deaths have also decreased by 84.5 percent.
Though overall numbers have seen a significant decline in recent weeks, the ministry’s spokesman, Dr. Al-Abd Al-Aly, said that numbers in some areas have been fluctuating in the past two weeks, with half the Kingdom’s regions seeing a 50 percent rise, most notably in the Eastern Province, Qassim, Hail and Jazan, Northern Borders and Baha regions.
“The fluctuating numbers are not indicators that (the spread) is out of control,” Al-Aly said. “On the contrary, some areas have shown significant declines and any slight increase will make a difference.”
He said that the coronavirus vaccine being distributed in Saudi Arabia will be effective against the mutations now being detected in some areas of the world.
The Kingdom is joining the global community in monitoring the changes around the clock in order to ensure the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine.

FASTFACT

362k The total number of coronavirus cases in KSA reached 362,220.

“More than 700,000 people in high-risk groups have registered for the vaccine so far,” Al-Aly said.
“The number of registrations is increasing. This is a positive indicator that the community’s awareness level is high and people are playing a responsible role in ensuring the safety of the community.”
Vaccine clinics are set to open in Dammam as Saudi Arabia’s nationwide vaccine program rolls out.
With Sunday’s numbers, 362,220 people have been infected with the virus since March 2, 2020.
There are currently 2,856 active cases, 391 of which are in critical care units.
The Kingdom’s regions are again recording numbers below the 50 case mark, with Riyadh leading with 42 cases, Makkah with 33, Eastern Province with 17, Madinah with 16, and Asir region with 12.
A total of 175 new recoveries were also reported, raising the overall number to 353,179. The Kingdom’s recovery rate is currently 97.5 percent.
Nine new fatalities were reported, raising the death toll from complications due to the COVID-19 infection to 6,185.
More than 10.87 million polymerase chain reaction tests have been conducted in Saudi Arabia as part of efforts to curb the spread of the virus.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Saudi Arabia’s crown prince receives first dose of COVID-19 vaccine

26/12/20

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman receives his first dose of a coronavirus vaccine on Dec. 25, 2020. (SPA)
  • The Kingdom’s health minister said the government has worked to provide a safe vaccine in record time
  • Al-Rabiah thanked the crown prince for his keenness to provide vaccines to citizens and residents

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman received his first dose of the coronavirus vaccine, as part of the national inoculation plan implemented by the Ministry of Health, Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported on Friday.

Minister of Health, Tawfiq Al-Rabiah, thanked the crown prince for “his keenness and continuous follow-up to provide vaccines to citizens and residents.”

“What we are seeing today regarding the gains that have been achieved by the Kingdom since the beginning of the pandemic are an extension of one of the most important policies within Vision 2030 that prevention is better than cure,” Al-Rabiah said.

He added that this was brought about by stepping up precautionary measures, while putting people’s health first.

Al-Rabiah said the government has worked to provide a safe and internationally approved vaccine in record time to give to citizens and residents, “which made the Kingdom one of the best countries in the world in dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.”

Over 500,000 people have already registered to take the COVID-19 vaccine in in Saudi Arabia since its launch last Tuesday, the Ministry of Health said on Thursday.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Saudi industrial sector undergoing ‘fundamental’ changes: Alkhorayef

Time: 23 December 2020

Saudi Minister of Industry and Mineral Resources Bandar Alkhorayef. (SPA)
  • Work is underway to improve the industrial sector’s environment

Saudi Arabia’s industrial sector is remarkably undergoing ‘fundamental’ changes and currently seeing its historic ‘golden age’, Saudi Press Agency reported, citing Bandar Alkhorayef, Minister of Industry and Mineral Resources.

Work is underway to improve the industrial sector’s environment, with the aim of achieving the aspirations and objectives of Vision 2030, which include more participation by women in the development process, as well as creating more opportunities in such a vital sector, said Alkhorayef, who also chairs the Saudi Authority for Industrial Cities and Technology Zones (MODON).

The minister also indicated that the factories of the present and the future are different from those of the past, as they are now more open for creative work rather than routine, especially amid the expanding role of technology that continues to take over more businesses.

The statements came during the two-day virtual conference organized by MODON, under the title “Women in Industry 2020,” on Dec. 21-22.

The conference is part of the Kingdom’s drive towards supporting and enabling Saudi women in the industrial sector, in line with the objectives of Vision 2030 and the National Transformation Program 2020.

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SNAD Al-Zawaj scheme gives young Saudis a head start in married life

Time: 22 December 2020

The authority’s Saudi Youth in Numbers report, published in August, found that Saudi men and women are choosing to put off weddings. (AFP/File)
  • Young couples priced out of marriage can dream of a stable life thanks to the SNAD Mohammed bin Salman program
  • Cash grants and money-management courses enable young couples to settle down without incurring heavy debt

RIYADH: Leaving home, getting married and buying a first property can be daunting and expensive at the best of times, let alone in this age of uncertainty. As a result, many young Saudis are choosing to put off marriage until they have achieved some degree of financial independence.

Fortunately, the government-sponsored SNAD Al-Zawaj (Marriage), an initiative of the SNAD Mohammed bin Salman program, is providing generous grants and money-management courses to help young Saudis tie the knot and get a head start in life as a couple.

“I was newly engaged, in the beginning stages of my life, and any amount, no matter how small, could make a difference at the time,” Mohammed Al-Oniny, who was among the first to apply for the scheme, told Arab News. “This program lifted a weight off of my shoulders. I was overjoyed.”

Since its launch by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Dec. 30, 2018, the program has boosted opportunities for social development and economic sustainability in the Kingdom, where 36.7 percent of the population is aged 15-34 and 30.3 percent are under the age of 15, according to the Saudi General Authority of Statistics (GASTAT).

The authority’s Saudi Youth in Numbers report, published in August, found that Saudi men and women are choosing to put off weddings, citing “high cost of living” as the main factor, followed by “high cost of marriage.”

The coronavirus pandemic has only added to that sentiment, with lockdown pressures and financial woes playing a big role in how young people weigh up financial decisions, save money and prepare for emergencies.

The program has boosted opportunities for social development and economic sustainability in the Kingdom. (AFP)

SNAD Al-Zawaj specifically targets Saudi nationals who are preparing to get married, offering the financial and educational support they need to establish their own households and get on in life.

More than simply handing out money, the program teaches young people how to manage their finances responsibly through a mandatory financial-awareness course. To date, at least 100,000 people have completed the training scheme.

Over that period, SNAD Al-Zawaj has allocated more than SR 520 million ($138.6 million) in funding that has gone to more than 26,000 recipients.

Al-Oniny applied for a grant after spotting an ad on Twitter. “I looked through the requirements to apply and I met all of them, so I signed up and completed the course on financial awareness,” he said.

After sitting an exam and securing a grade above the requisite 60 percent, he was awarded a grant. “I benefited immensely,” he said. “After I passed the course the program sent me SR 20,000 without any request to return the payment in the future.”

PROGRAM PRIORITIZING A STABLE FAMILY AND SOCIAL LIFE

Saudi Arabia’s economic diversification plan, Vision 2030, has prioritized the empowerment of the Kingdom’s large youth population. Help has come in the form of boosting employment opportunities for young people, particularly women, and offering support for startups and young entrepreneurs. With the same objectives in mind, but particularly to help citizens achieve their socio-economic goals, SNAD Mohammed bin Salman was established in December 2018.

Based on several social and nonprofit initiatives launched by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, SNAD envisages sustainable development through social cooperation that ensures a decent life for citizens in line with the teachings of Islam. The most recent initiatives involve support for charitable associations, release of prisoners and development of historical mosques.

Unlike other welfare schemes that simply hand out money, SNAD strives to promote knowledge and awareness to achieve sustainable social development through nonprofit institutions and sectors. Its aim is to develop nonprofit social initiatives for public welfare while addressing the needs of different segments of Saudi society. The first phase, SNAD Al-Zawaj, is designed to motivate young Saudis to get married and have a stable family and social life.

Rather than loading young people with debt just as they are starting out in life, there is no expectation to repay the marriage grant and no limits on how it should be spent. Recipients are simply asked to take the course and pass the exam.

It is also discreet — welcome news for those hesitant about the idea of accepting government assistance.

“The program is confidential,” Al-Oniny said. “No one gave me SR 20,000 and then asked to take my picture to promote the program. This is one of its major advantages. They don’t ask for anything in return.”

The money came at just the right moment for Al-Oniny. “The program is very helpful, and I think it needs to be promoted and spoken about more. It has helped me and it can help so many more people.”

Mohammed Al-Oniny, SNAD Al-Zawaj grant recipient

Al-Oniny has since encouraged his friends to make their own enquiries and has even taken to social media to praise SNAD Al-Zawaj.

“I promoted and explained the program in a YouTube video, and immediately began to receive many questions and comments from people across the Kingdom,” he said.

“I helped them and a lot of people received the SR 20,000 from the program. Many of my friends and people I know have benefited from it.”

The online application process has been streamlined to make it easy to navigate, with video lectures and step-by-step guides.

Although SNAD Al-Zawaj is designed to assist the widest possible demographic, there are limits on who can apply. For instance, the prospective husband and wife must both be Saudi nationals. The man must be between 21 and 40 years of age; the woman between 18 and 40.

Male applicants must have completed a high-school diploma and their salary must not exceed SR 4,000 per month. Furthermore, the agreed upon dowry must not exceed SR 50,000.

Only the male applicant must complete the financial awareness course and pass the exam with at least 60 percent in order to be considered for a grant.

Al-Oniny was particularly impressed by the educational element of SNAD Al-Zawaj, which sets it apart from other welfare programs and appears to embody the self-reliant spirit of a changing Saudi Arabia.

The grants keep the neediest in mind, and thus are prioritized for applicants orphaned as children, people with disabilities, and the families of fallen soldiers.

“It’s different from other social services because it addresses the needs of different groups of society to develop and to flourish, contributing to Vision 2030,” Al-Oniny said, referring to the Kingdom’s economic diversification strategy.

“I am proud to say that the government noticed me — a single person from Yanbu.”

This article was first published in Arab News

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Saudi Arabia to supply more housing units to support needy families in 2021, says finance ministry

Time: 16 December 2020

Above, a new housing project under construction in Riyadh. (AFP file photo)
  • The targets include providing usufruct housing to the most-needy families

The Kingdom’s housing targets for 2021 include continuing to pump more units from off-plan sales to the beneficiaries of Sakani program, the Saudi Ministry of Finance said in the 2021 budget statement.

The targets include providing usufruct housing to the most-needy families, and stimulating factories producing housing units to attract modern and futuristic building technologies in order to raise production capacity, reduce costs and raise quality.

The Ministry of Housing also targets developing mechanisms to regulate the off-plan sale market with the aim of increasing the number of real estate units for the sale and leasing system; protecting the rights of beneficiaries, investors, and developers; and providing support for those who have failed to repay subsidized housing finance installments for those undergoing exceptional, temporary circumstances that are expected to disappear.

This is in addition to continuing to provide financial support for the beneficiaries of the Ministry of Housing and the Real Estate Development Fund to support financing profits at a maximum of SR500,000 ($489,666) for the beneficiary families.

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The traditional Bedouin coat is a Saudi’s best friend in the cold December nights

14/12/20

Niclas Trouve, ambassador of Sweden to Saudi Arabia, Oman and Yemen, tweeted recently: ‘Ready for a winter night in the desert of Al-Jouf with my new warm farwa.’ (Twitter photo)
  • Farwas won’t give you the cold shoulder in winter

RIYADH: As the nation moves into the winter season, many Saudis have begun packing away the sundresses and shorts and reaching for their sweaters and thermals. But one of the most highly coveted articles of winter clothing is the traditional Bedouin farwa.

Farwas are believed to have originated from Syria and Levant where Bedouins would wear them during the cold winter months.
The long, sweeping, fur-lined overcoat has now established a firm foothold in countries all over the Gulf.
It is a staple in many Saudi households, particularly in the northern and central regions where the biting desert cold can reach surprisingly low temperatures.
Farwas range in material from cheaper offerings, lined with synthetic fur with a protective cloth overlay of linen, velvet, or cotton, to pricier options, such as those made with real fur or hand-dyed sheep’s wool, which can set you back more than $250.
Ahmad Alsharif, a resident of Turaif in the northern province, told Arab News that, living in a town where the average winter temperature can be as low as -5C, he considers a farwa an essential household item.
“During winter, people in the cities wear farwas both at home and when going out. For the Bedouins who live outside of the city, the farwa is even more of a necessity, given how cold it gets in the desert,” he said.
Alsharif said that a real fur farwa can be considered a luxury item or a statement piece among residents in the north. “They make very popular gifts for friends and loved ones,” he said. One of the most favored types, and the most expensive due to its soft touch and light weight, is the karakul, made from the fur of fetal lambs, commonly known as broadtail, or of new newborn lambs. Similar but cheaper is the “Persian” farwa, which is less dense.

FASTFACT

Farwa is a staple in many Saudi households, particularly in the northern and central regions where the biting desert cold can reach surprisingly low temperatures.

Other types include the Iraqi farwa or “Mosuliya Iraqia,” a native of northern Iraq and one of the more expensive types that could reach up to over $1,000. Similarly, the hand embroidered Syrian farwa could reach up to $400 and can take up to 2 weeks to be designed and made.
Faisal Althunayan, a college student from Riyadh, said that getting to show off his collection of farwas was his favorite part of the winter season.
“My friends and I are avid campers; in the winter, we go for a kashta (traditional Saudi camping trip) almost every weekend. Sitting around the fire, grilling burgers and kebabs on an open flame, and huddled up against the cold while bundled up in our furs is my idea of heaven on earth,” he said.

Saudi Tourism Minister Ahmed Al-Khateeb

Althunayan says that due to the relative shortness of the winter season in Saudi Arabia, every second of cold is one that he appreciates.
“Our winters aren’t long, so we take advantage of them when we can. And despite what most people think, desert cold is actually some of the worst you can experience because the cold is very dry. Hits you right in the bone. A farwa is really helpful during those moments,” he said.
Though the farwa’s purpose remained the same, the styles have become more versatile as more city dwellers have taken to them and designers are adding their personal touch using leather, fabrics and ornaments for their designs.
The traditional-looking farwa, which is usually a nondescript black or brown with minimal decoration, is turned into stunning, modernized pieces for both men and women to flaunt.
Bright colors, delicate trims and decorations, and even shorter, jacket-like farwas have all found their way into mainstream culture.
Hana Abu Said, a Saudi abaya designer, said that farwas were one of her favorite things to design.
“There’s so much you can do with them. The challenge lies in making sure the article is functional as well as beautiful. It has to do what a farwa is supposed to do first and foremost — keep you warm. As long as the purpose is achieved, it can look however you want it to look,” she said.
“Some women choose to wear a farwa instead of an abaya during the winter. And sometimes, with the excess fur, I can trim winter abayas for those times when the weather is cool, but not yet cold enough for a full-on farwa.”

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Housing boost for more than 300,000 Saudi families

Time: 11 December 2020

The Sakani program offers Saudi nationals access to land and residential housing. (SPA)

RIYADH: More than 300,000 Saudi families have so far benefited from the Ministry of Housing’s Sakani program, according to the ministry.
The Sakani program offers Saudi nationals access to land and residential housing across eight regions of the Kingdom through various financing solutions with the aim of enabling families to own their first home, whether through prefabricated units, under-construction builds, or self-construction.
The ministry announced that 11 projects were delivered last month for villas in Shaqra and Al-Uyaynah in Riyadh; the Al-Khorma housing project in Makkah; the Unaizah housing project in Qassim; Alkhobar, Hafr Al-Batin and Al-Ahsa in the Eastern Region; the Rafha housing project in the Northern Border Region; the Hail housing project; the Qurayyat housing project in Al-Jouf; and the Najran housing project.
The ministry also reported that 42 prefabricated housing projects providing around 14,000 residential villas have so far been completed.

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50% hike in beneficiaries of Saudi Justice Ministry’s alimony fund

Time: 08 December 2020

Saudi Ministry of Justice. (SPA)
  • It covers applicants with alimony rulings in their favor but that were not implemented

RIYADH: The number of beneficiaries of the Saudi Justice Ministry’s alimony fund initiative rose by 50 percent in November, according to a ministry statement.
The Justice Ministry said in November 1,500 benefited from the initiative.
The ministry wants to ensure financial coverage for beneficiaries during a transitional period to create stability. The initiative seeks prompt disbursement of maintenance funds to ensure the financial stability of families, the ministry said.
In order to fast-track applications, the ministry has opened direct communication with clients through an online platform.
The first phase of the alimony fund was launched in April 2019. It covers applicants with alimony rulings in their favor but that were not implemented.
In November, the percentage of those whose temporary alimony was disbursed based on a preliminary ruling reached 28 percent while 72 percent of cases were decided based on final judgments.
The ministry has linked the alimony fund to the “Tahseel” system of the Ministry of Finance to ensure online payments.

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Saudi Arabia ‘safest among G20 countries,’ indicators say

Time: 01 December 2020

Saudi Arabia’s progress has led to the Kingdom ranking first among G20 nations for safety, outperforming the five permanent members of the UN Security Council (UNSC), international safety indicators have shown. (Shutterstock/File Photo)

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia has topped the list as the most secure country according to international indicators related to security, outperforming the five permanent members of the UN Security Council.

The results were revealed through five security indicators included in the Global Competitiveness Report 2019,and the Sustainable Development Goals Index 2020.

The Kingdom ranked first among the G20 countries, ahead of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, surpassing China and Canada among the G20, and surpassing China and the US in the “Feeling safe while walking alone at night” index for this year.

Saudi Arabia also came first in the citizens’ confidence in police services index, which measures confidence in security and effectiveness in enforcing law and order.

Saudi Arabia also ranked first in the reliability of police services index, an indicator which measures public confidence in law enforcement and its success in achieving order and safety. The Kingdom topped the G20, and surpassed the five permanent UN Security Council members in this index, too.

Saudi Arabia ranked third among the G20 countries, after Australia and Japan and ahead of Canada, South Korea, France and Germany in the Security Index for 2019 issued by the Global Competitiveness Report. The Kingdom also surpassed, in the same index, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council.

The Global Competitiveness Report, issued by the World Economic Forum, showed that the Kingdom advanced three places to rank 36th internationally in terms of international competitiveness. The report indicated that the Kingdom is making rapid steps to diversify its economy, with expectations of growth in the non-oil sector, and that more investments outside the mining sector will appear in succession in the public and private sectors in the coming years.

The report commended Saudi Arabia’s clear insistence on carrying out structural reforms and its widespread adoption of communication technology, with the high potential for innovation, especially in the field of patent registration.

The Global Competitiveness Report, published annually, is designed to support and help policymakers, business leaders and stakeholders identify policies and practices best suited for long-term measures to assess their progress.

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