Saudi CEO funds Rhodes grant

Source: Arab News

Time:  April 16, 2018

A new Rhodes scholarship has been announced in partnership with Saudi entrepreneur Mohammed Al-Agil and the Kingdom’s Ministry of Education.

Saudi students aged 19-25 will be eligible for the annual scholarship when applications open later this year.

The Rhodes Trust, based in Oxford, is hoping for a diverse set of applicants from around the Kingdom. Eligibility criteria will be published

Al-Agil, co-founder of Jarir Bookstores and chairman of Jarir Marketing Co., is funding the annual Rhodes scholarship for Saudi Arabia.

The Rhodes Trust, the international scholarship program established at Oxford University in 1903, selects creative young leaders with a commitment to serving others. 

Charles Conn, CEO of the Rhodes Trust, said: “I am extremely pleased to announce another scholarship to add to the diverse annual cohort of courageous young leaders. Our mission will be to find those exceptional Saudi students a platform to explore their full potential as they prepare to make an impact on the world.

“The introduction of this scholarship comes at a time when the Kingdom is at the forefront of major economic and social transformations in line with Vision 2030. I look forward to welcoming our new scholar to Rhodes House in October 2019, and witnessing our community becoming increasingly more diverse.”

Al-Agil said: “I have benefited enormously from my education and the opportunities I have received from my country, and I believe that endowing a Rhodes scholarship to Saudi postgraduate students is a small gesture to pay back my fellow citizens.”

Jasir Alherbish, the Saudi Ministry of Education’s deputy for scholarships affairs, said: “We are excited about our collaboration with the Rhodes Trust and so keen about opening new horizons for our bright youngsters. It is yet one more excellent venue to be added to the Saudi distinguished scholarships. Thanks to Mohammed Al-Agil and the Rhodes Trust, as well as our team at the ministry, for making it happen.”


The young prince with big ideas will set the course for the modern development of Saudi Arabia well beyond 2030

Time: 01 April 2018

Mohammed bin Salman, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, received a truly royal welcome in London this month. Although the crown prince’s three-day visit was not a state occasion (such an honour is reserved solely for heads of state), the programme showed that the full attention of the British political establishment and royal family was given to the young prince, from an audience with the Queen and dinner with the Prince of Wales to extensive discussions with Prime Minister Theresa May, briefings with security and intelligence agencies and meetings with senior business leaders and members of Parliament.

The atmosphere of the short visit was overwhelmingly positive and some $91 billion of mutual trade deals were discussed, including a second batch of Typhoon fighter jets worth about $14bn. This aircraft has proved its capabilities in Yemen with the Royal Saudi Air Force and the British government’s determination to maintain its defence relationship with the Kingdom shows the strength of the UK-Saudi alliance.

I support this relationship because I have seen for myself the ballistic missile threat that the kingdom faces on its southern border with Yemen. If the Iran-backed Houthi militia become entrenched in northern Yemen (as Hezbollah have done in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq), that is a threat to Britain’s security as well as to the security of the GCC.

But security issues did not dominate the visit and disquiet over the Yemen conflict were muted. The media narrative was dominated by the ambition of the crown prince’s Vision 2030 – his hugely ambitious plan to reform and diversify the Saudi economy (the largest in the Arab world) and modernise and liberalise its society.

He talked of this when we met. The crown prince is a tall, imposing man with a full beard, firm handshake and broad grin. A workaholic with a restless intellect, endless drive and huge energy, he fizzes with ideas when discussing the future of his country and displays a mastery of detail.

The challenge facing him is huge but what the kingdom needs is strong, youthful leadership. What young people of Saudi Arabia (about 70 per cent of a population of 20 million are under 30) are looking for is freedom from orthodoxy and the social constraints of religious conservatism. Change has begun; women will be permitted to drive this year and entertainment such as cinemas and concerts – which were part of life in the kingdom until the 1970s – are making a comeback. Prince Mohammed’s reform is balanced against the need to appease religious conservatives in the Kingdom and he cannily pitches his reform agenda as a return to a more traditional, moderate form of Islam. As he said: “There were musical concerts in Makkah in the 1970s. Does that mean those people were not good Muslims? No. Our people want to return to a normal way of life. I am a family man, I want the same thing.”

He is winning out against more stifling conservatism and is not afraid to take on the elite. Corruption is being stamped out, starting with members of the extended royal family, who were detained at the Ritz Carlton. The crown prince’s approach is popular among Saudis I have spoken to. “If you want to clean the stairs, you start at the top,” said one.

The kingdom is an essential ally for Great Britain and the visit succeeded in showing the crown prince that we want to turbo-charge our relationship with the Kingdom and help him succeed in reforming his country.

But it is the Saudi-US relationship that will be the defining one for his leadership – and the 20-day duration of his stay is a clear marker of the importance he places on it. In Donald Trump, the crown prince has found a natural ally who shares his strategic priorities for the Middle East: containing Iranand defeating terrorism and religious extremism in all in forms, including the Muslim Brotherhood.

These shared objectives will bring the Kingdom and the US closer than ever before, an alliance that will not be undermined by US concern over either the Qatar dispute or the Yemen intervention. Now that John Bolton is National Security Adviser and Mike Pompeo Secretary of State, Mr Trump will have space to follow his hawkish instincts to the full. Nor will Congress provide a block. The Senate voted down a resolution brought forward by Bernie Sanders last week to stop US support for Saudi operations in Yemen.

Indeed, seeing Mr Trump with the crown prince reminded me of the meeting between the founder of Saudi Arabia, King Abdulaziz ibn Saud (the crown prince’s grandfather) and former president Franklin Roosevelt in February 1945, on board USS Quincy in the Suez Canal. Back then, the terms of the relationship were clear: Saudi oil for American security. Defence is still a critical part of the relationship (as the $12.5bn arms sales on Mr Trump’s picture board showed when they met) but the terms of the relationship are now broader. Prince Mohammed needs American support to modernise the kingdom and move the Saudi population from being consumers to producers.

His plan will set the course for the modern development of Saudi Arabia well beyond 2030 and perhaps for the next half-century. His time in London and the US has shown the world he has the willing allies he needs to make it a reality.

Leo Docherty is the MP for Aldershot and a member of the defence committee in the House of Commons.

This article was first published The National

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Vision 2030


Time: April 01, 2018

The economy of Saudi Arabia is one of the largest in the Middle East and in the top twenty globally. Over the past 25 years, the Saudi economy has grown by an average of more than four per cent annually, contributing to the creation of millions of new jobs. However, in order to preserve and augment this growth for future generations, the Saudi economy is undergoing a process of diversification and reform.

In April 2016, the Kingdom launched Vision 2030, a plan to help reduce Saudi Arabia’s dependence on oil revenue. Vision 2030, is an ambitious yet achievable blueprint, which expresses the country’s long-term goals and expectations for its economy. Chief among its goals is the increase of non-oil government revenue through added investments, the development of unexploited assets and the implementation of structural reforms. The ongoing privatization of state-owned assets will bring in new and more diverse revenues for the government and new initiatives will open up the country for further investment and business. Such efforts are designed to enhance financial resources and economic stability, which will, in turn, be reinvested for long-term impact.

The blueprint also aims to increase foreign direct investment and the private sector contribution of gross domestic product. To aid this process, measures are being introduced to improve the business environment, to restructure the economic cities, to create special zones and to deregulate the energy market to make it more competitive.

One of the main ambitions of Vision 2030 is the aim to transform Saudi Arabia into a global investment powerhouse. The Kingdom holds strong investment capabilities, which will be harnessed to stimulate the economy and diversify revenues. The investment activities being undertaken by PIF sit at the heart of this goal, acting as an essential vehicle for diversifying government resources and the economy.