Chinese President Meets UAE Leaders in Abu Dhabi

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Chinese President Meets UAE Leaders in Abu Dhabi

Friday, 20 July, 2018 – 09:15
Chinese President Xi-Jinping arrives in the UAE on an official visit (WAM)
Abu Dhabi – Asharq Al-Awsat
Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in the UAE on Thursday for a three-day visit during which he will hold talks with UAE leaders.

The Chinese leader and his wife were welcomed at the airport by UAE Vice President and Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum and the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, as well as other senior officials.

The two UAE leaders hoped that the visit would contribute to establishing a new phase of cooperation and joint action to meet the aspirations of the two countries and their peoples.

The two sides exchanged cordial talks on issues of common interest, historical ties and the continuous development of relations, WAM news agency reported.  They also pointed to the important role assumed by China in regional and international economic and political files.

For his part, the Chinese President expressed his happiness to visit the UAE, which he said shared with China friendly relations and a common vision on many issues, and wished the Emirates further growth, progress and prosperity.

On the occasion of Xi Jinping’s visit, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashed Al Maktoum said: “The historic visit of the Chinese president to the UAE establishes a new phase of strategic partnership that has brought the two countries together for decades.”

“We are delighted to welcome President Xi Jinping to the UAE on this important visit which we view as a cornerstone of wider prospects for prosperous cooperation between the two friendly countries,” he added.

He also underlined the strong economic relations and trade exchanges between the two countries, pointing out that the UAE trade with China represented about a quarter of the total volume of Arab-Chinese trade during 2017, which amounted to nearly 200 billion dirhams ($54.4 billion).

He emphasized the “active tourism movement”, saying that more than one million Chinese people visited the UAE last year alone. He added that economic cooperation extended to include many sectors such as oil and gas, renewable energy, infrastructure and advanced technology.

Former South Korean President Given 8 More Years in Jail

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Former South Korean President Given 8 More Years in Jail

Friday, 20 July, 2018 – 09:30
Former South Korean President Park Geun-hye is shown on her way to a court appearance. (AP)
Asharq Al-Awsat
Disgraced former South Korean President Park Geun-hye was sentenced to eight more years in prison on Friday after a court found her guilty on charges of causing loss of government funds and interfering in a 2016 parliamentary election.

She now faces the prospect of more than three decades behind bars. She’s already serving a 24-year prison term over a massive corruption scandal that led to her removal from office last year.

Seoul Central District Court found her guilty of causing substantial losses to state coffers by unlawfully receiving about 3 billion won ($2.6 million) from chiefs of the National Intelligence Service during her presidency and sentenced her to six years in prison.

However, she was found not guilty of bribery charges related to the money transfers. The court said it was unclear whether the spy chiefs sought or received favors in return.

The court separately sentenced Park to two years in prison for breaking election laws by meddling in her party candidate’s nomination while attempting to win more spots for her loyalists ahead of the parliamentary elections in 2016.

“Park’s private use of the funds weakened the principles of executing government funds, and barred the country’s chief spy agency from using the funds for its core duty of protecting the country and the people,” presiding judge Seong Chang-ho said as he delivered the verdict.

“However, the defendant has shifted blame to her assistants and refused to appear in court,” Seong said.

As the judge handed down the verdict, Park’s supporters attending the trial reportedly shouted “Release the innocent president,” and “Is this a law?”

All sentences must be served consecutively, a court spokeswoman said.

Park became South Korea’s first democratically elected leader to be forced from office last year when the Constitutional Court ordered her out over a scandal that exposed a web of corruption between political leaders and the country’s powerful conglomerates, or chaebol.

Park, 66, has denied wrongdoing and was not present in court. It was immediately unclear whether Park would appeal.

Israel Retaliates to Syrian Drone Incursion by Hitting Regime Positions near Golan

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Israel Retaliates to Syrian Drone Incursion by Hitting Regime Positions near Golan

Thursday, 12 July, 2018 – 09:00
Israeli soldiers stand on tanks in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. (Reuters)
Asharq Al-Awsat
Israeli forces carried strikes against Syrian regime positions near the Golan Heights on Thursday in retaliation to a Syrian drone incursion a day earlier.

The Israeli military said in a statement that it hit three targets in retaliation for the incursion by a Syrian drone, which was shot down over northern Israel.

“We are still looking into why it crossed – whether it was on a military mission and crossed on purpose, or it strayed,” said Lieutenant-Colonel Jonathan Conricus, an Israeli military spokesman. He said a stray drone was “not common”.

Israeli-issued black-and-white surveillance footage showed missiles hitting what appeared to be a hut, a two-storey structure and a five-storey structure amid hilly terrain.

The Israeli army “holds the Syrian regime accountable for the actions carried out in its territory and warns it from further action against Israeli forces,” the Israeli statement said after the strikes.

Syrian regime media said the positions were near Hader village in Quneitra province, near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

Israel has grown deeply alarmed by the expanding clout of Iran during the seven-year war in Syria.

Its air force has struck scores of Iranian deployments or arms transfers to Lebanon’s Iran-backed “Hezbollah”.

In Moscow, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged President Vladimir Putin, the regime’s key ally, to encourage Iranian forces to quit Syria, a senior Israeli official said.

David Keyes, a Netanyahu spokesman, said: “We don’t get involved in the civil war. We will act against anyone who acts against us.”

The Israeli official who requested anonymity said Russia was working to distance Iranian forces from the Golan and had proposed that they be kept 80 km (50 miles) away but that this fell short of Israel’s demand for their full exit along with that of Tehran-sponsored militias.

Russian officials had no immediate comment on the meeting.

Israel has been on high alert as regime forces advance on opposition factions in the vicinity of the Golan, which Israel took from Syria in the 1967 Middle East war.

Israel worries the regime could allow its Iranian allies to entrench near its lines.

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‘Human Trafficking’ from Lebanon to Syria a Thriving Business

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

‘Human Trafficking’ from Lebanon to Syria a Thriving Business

Monday, 9 July, 2018 – 08:15
Syrian refugees arrive in Wadi Hamayyed, on the outskirts of the Lebanese northeastern border town of Arsal, to board buses bound for the northwestern Syrian city of Idlib on August 2, 2017. AFP
Beirut – Sanaa Al-Jack
Human trafficking is currently spread at the Lebanese-Syrian borders as a thriving business due to the presence of some Syrian refugees who wish to return to their country without paying imposed
fines.

Asharq Al-Awsat witnessed how a group of brokers managed the smuggling of Syrian refugees from a travel agency near the vegetable market in the Sabra area in the Southern Suburbs of Beirut.

Those brokers, who operate at “administrative” offices, hunt their clients and bargain their safe and secure penetration through the borders, prettifying the adventure, which in many times could cause
their killing.

Most clients include Syrian refugees with uncompleted Lebanese residency permits. The Lebanese Security General does not allow them to leave the country before paying fees related to arranging their
papers.

Here comes the role of the smuggling. Amal told Asharq Al-Awsat about her experience with one of the brokers responsible for smuggling Syrians.

The broker had promised her husband, who works in the construction sector, to secure his safe passage by car through the border to his village in the countryside of Hama in return of $400.

The man paid the sum and left with his wife to the Masnaa border crossing in the Bekaa where they spent the night and were asked to remain in complete silence.

The brokers had told Amal that crossing the mountains from Lebanon to Syria would take one hour and that a vehicle would wait for them in the Syrian part of the border to take them home.

“They lied. We stayed running for more than eight hours in the dark. I lost my shoes and my feet were bleeding,” she said.

Even during the periods of tight security measures implemented at the borders by the Lebanese authorities, the illegal smuggling of Syrians does not stop, but only witnesses an increase of fees.

A security official told Asharq Al-Awsat that the trafficking of humans and goods is almost as old as the age of the borders between the two countries.

“We are exerting all our efforts to contain the smuggling but such mission remains impossible at the eastern borders with Syria which stretches around 145 kilometers,” the official said.

China Criticizes Iran for Threatening to Block Hormuz Strait Oil Shipments

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

China Criticizes Iran for Threatening to Block Hormuz Strait Oil Shipments

Friday, 6 July, 2018 – 09:15
Trading shows and ships are docked on the Arabian Gulf waters near the town of Khasab, in Oman. (AP)
Asharq Al-Awsat
China condemned on Friday Iran for threatening to block oil shipments through the Strait of Hormuz.

Iran should make more effort to ensure stability in the Middle East and get along with its neighbors, said Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister Chen Xiaodong.

He made his remarks during a news briefing ahead of a major summit between China and Arab states that kicks off in Beijing next week.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and some senior military commanders have threatened to disrupt oil shipments from the Gulf countries if Washington tries to strangle Tehran’s oil exports.

Carrying one-third of the world’s seaborne oil every day, the Strait of Hormuz links Middle East crude producers to key markets in Asia Pacific, Europe, North America and beyond.

Asked about the Iranian threat to the strait, Chen remarked that China and Arab countries had close communications about Middle East peace, including the Iran issue.

“China consistently believes that the relevant country should do more to benefit peace and stability in the region, and jointly protect peace and stability there,” he added.

“Especially as it is a country on the Gulf, it should dedicate itself to being a good neighbor and co-existing peacefully,” he continued. “China will continue to play our positive, constructive role.”

Ministers from 21 Arab countries are attending the summit, as well as Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber al-Sabah. Chinese President Xi Jinping will give the opening address on Tuesday.

The United States Navy vowed on Thursday to protect oil routes and international navigation in the Hormuz Strait in wake of Iran’s threats.

“The US and its partners provide, and promote security and stability in the region,” Central Command spokesman Navy Captain Bill Urban said in an email to Reuters.

Asked what would be the US naval reaction if Iran blocks the strait, he said: “Together, we stand ready to ensure the freedom of navigation and the free flow of commerce wherever international law allows.”

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Saudi Banking Sector Exceeds Basel I Requirements

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Saudi Banking Sector Exceeds Basel I Requirements

Friday, 6 July, 2018 – 10:45
The Kingdom Centre Tower is seen in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, November 5, 2017. Picture taken November 5, 2017. REUTERS/Faisal Al Nasser
Riyadh – Fateh al-Rahman Youssef
A Saudi official has said that Saudi banks capital adequacy in the first quarter of this year exceeded 20.4 percent, surpassing the Basel I committee’s requirements of capital adequacy by two and half times.

Secretary General of the Committee on Information and Awareness Raising in Saudi Banks Talaat Hafez told Asharq Al-Awsat that liquid assets reached in the current year 20.6 percent, a high rate of financial efficiency in terms of liquidity size in the banking sector.

He noted that more than 18,000 ATMs and above 310,000 points of sale are distributed in the kingdom to support the development of e-services.

He pointed out that the liquid assets for short-term requirements reached in the first quarter of the current year 32 percent, a sign of good liquidity in banks and high financial solvency.

Hafez stressed that banks are working hard after announcing the financial sector development program, one of the 12 ambitious programs linked to Saudi Vision 2030, which focuses on supporting the private sector.

“The Saudi financial sector is currently working on developing the products’ base and reinforcing financial inclusion in which services are available for all clients,” he added.

Hafez continued that there are ongoing efforts under the supervision of the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority to develop the digital structure as one of the requirements of the vision, transformation program and development of the financial sector to have a digital Saudi society.

Cairo Invites Hamas for Talks over Reconciliation: With Fatah

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Cairo Invites Hamas for Talks over Reconciliation

Wednesday, 4 July, 2018 – 09:30
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh gestures during an interview with Reuters in Gaza. Reuters file photo
Ramallah – Asharq Al-Awsat

Egypt’s intelligence service invited the head of Hamas Politburo, Ismail Haniyeh, to visit Cairo within the next few days to discuss various issues, mainly the stumbling Palestinian reconciliation.

Several sources in Hamas confirmed that Haniyeh had received an invitation to visit the Egyptian capital along with a senior delegation from the movement.

The sources expected the visit to take place as soon as possible, “perhaps next week.”

The sources said the main aim of the invitation was to resume Egypt’s efforts to complete the reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas.

Egypt decided to intensify its contacts with all parties in order to remove obstacles to the implementation of the agreement it sponsored on October 12 last year.

Egyptian efforts came after the appointment of a new Egyptian intelligence chief.

Before Hamas received an invitation to visit Cairo, Fatah Central Committee member Azzam al-Ahmad held talks with Egyptian officials in this regard.

Al-Ahmad said that Egypt has started moving towards completing the reconciliation file.

Sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that Egypt wanted to reach a specific agreement with Hamas on controversial issues with Fatah, such as security empowerment, as well as the possibility of forming a unity government to prepare for the general elections.

Egypt has also asked Hamas to maintain peaceful “return marches” so as not to cause a deterioration of the situation that could lead to a new war.

Abbas had announced his intention to take national and financial measures against the Gaza Strip after the assassination attempt on the Palestinian prime minister in Gaza last March.

The assassination attempt froze all contacts on reconciliation that had already been stalled between the two movements.

Saudi Arabia: Truth Knowledge And The History Of

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE ‘CIA FACT BOOK’)

 

Saudi Arabia

Introduction Saudi Arabia is the birthplace of Islam and home to Islam’s two holiest shrines in Mecca and Medina. The king’s official title is the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques. The modern Saudi state was founded in 1932 by ABD AL-AZIZ bin Abd al-Rahman AL SAUD (Ibn Saud) after a 30-year campaign to unify most of the Arabian Peninsula. A male descendent of Ibn Saud, his son ABDALLAH bin Abd al-Aziz, rules the country today as required by the country’s 1992 Basic Law. Following Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990, Saudi Arabia accepted the Kuwaiti royal family and 400,000 refugees while allowing Western and Arab troops to deploy on its soil for the liberation of Kuwait the following year. The continuing presence of foreign troops on Saudi soil after the liberation of Kuwait became a source of tension between the royal family and the public until all operational US troops left the country in 2003. Major terrorist attacks in May and November 2003 spurred a strong on-going campaign against domestic terrorism and extremism. King ABDALLAH has continued the cautious reform program begun when he was crown prince. To promote increased political participation, the government held elections nationwide from February through April 2005 for half the members of 179 municipal councils. In December 2005, King ABDALLAH completed the process by appointing the remaining members of the advisory municipal councils. The country remains a leading producer of oil and natural gas and holds more than 20% of the world’s proven oil reserves. The government continues to pursue economic reform and diversification, particularly since Saudi Arabia’s accession to the WTO in December 2005, and promotes foreign investment in the kingdom. A burgeoning population, aquifer depletion, and an economy largely dependent on petroleum output and prices are all ongoing governmental concerns.
History Although the region in which the

country stands today has an ancient history, the emergence of the Saudi dynasty began in central Arabia in 1744. That year, Muhammad ibn Saud, the ruler of the town of Ad-Dir’iyyah near Riyadh, joined forces with a cleric, Muhammad ibn Abd-al-Wahhab, to create a new political entity. This alliance formed in the 18th century remains the basis of Saudi Arabian dynastic rule today. Over the next 150 years, the fortunes of the Saud family rose and fell several times as Saudi rulers contended with Egypt, the Ottoman Empire, and other Arabian families for control on the peninsula (see First Saudi State and Second Saudi State). The third and current Saudi state was founded in the early 20th century by King Abdul Aziz Al-Saud (known internationally as Abdul Aziz Ibn Saud).

In 1902 at the age of only 22, Abdul Aziz Ibn Saud re-captured Riyadh, the Al-Saud dynasty’s ancestral capital, from the rival Al Rashid family. Continuing his conquests, Abdul Aziz subdued Al-Hasa, Al-Qatif, the rest of Nejd, and Hejaz between 1913 and 1926. On January 8, 1926 Abdul Aziz bin Saud became the King of Hejaz. On January 29, 1927 he took the title King of Nejd (his previous Nejdi title was Sultan). By the Treaty of Jeddah, signed on May 20, 1927, the United Kingdom recognized the independence of Abdul Aziz’s realm, then known as the Kingdom of Hejaz and Nejd. In 1932, the principal regions of Al-Hasa, Qatif, Nejd and Hejaz were unified to form the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Abdul Aziz’s military and political successes were not mirrored economically until vast reserves of oil were discovered in March 1938. Development programmes, which were delayed due to the onset of the Second World War in 1939, began in earnest in 1946 and by 1949 production was in full swing. Oil has provided Saudi Arabia with economic prosperity and a great deal of leverage in the international community.

Prior to his death in 1953 Abdul Aziz, aware of the difficulties facing other regional absolute rulers reliant on extended family networks, attempted to regulate the succession.

Saud succeeded to the throne on his father’s death in 1953. However, by the early 1960s the Kingdom was in jeopardy due to Saud’s economic mismanagement and failure to deal effectively with a regional challenge from Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser. As a consequence Saud was deposed in favour of Faisal in 1964.

Intra-family rivalry was one of the factors that led to the assassination of Faisal by his nephew, Prince Faisal bin Musa’id, in 1975. He was succeeded by King Khalid until 1982 and then by King Fahd. When Fahd died in 2005, his half-brother Abdullah ascended to the throne.

Geography Location: Middle East, bordering the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea, north of Yemen
Geographic coordinates: 25 00 N, 45 00 E
Map references: Middle East
Area: total: 2,149,690 sq km
land: 2,149,690 sq km
water: 0 sq km
Area – comparative: slightly more than one-fifth the size of the US
Land boundaries: total: 4,431 km
border countries: Iraq 814 km, Jordan 744 km, Kuwait 222 km, Oman 676 km, Qatar 60 km, UAE 457 km, Yemen 1,458 km
Coastline: 2,640 km
Maritime claims: territorial sea: 12 nm
contiguous zone: 18 nm
continental shelf: not specified
Climate: harsh, dry desert with great temperature extremes
Terrain: mostly uninhabited, sandy desert
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Persian Gulf 0 m
highest point: Jabal Sawda’ 3,133 m
Natural resources: petroleum, natural gas, iron ore, gold, copper
Land use: arable land: 1.67%
permanent crops: 0.09%
other: 98.24% (2005)
Irrigated land: 16,200 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources: 2.4 cu km (1997)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural): total: 17.32 cu km/yr (10%/1%/89%)
per capita: 705 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazards: frequent sand and dust storms
Environment – current issues: desertification; depletion of underground water resources; the lack of perennial rivers or permanent water bodies has prompted the development of extensive seawater desalination facilities; coastal pollution from oil spills
Environment – international agreements: party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography – note: extensive coastlines on Persian Gulf and Red Sea provide great leverage on shipping (especially crude oil) through Persian Gulf and Suez Canal
Politics The central institution of the Saudi Arabian government is the Saudi monarchy. The Basic Law of Government adopted in 1992 declared that Saudi Arabia is a monarchy ruled by the sons and grandsons of the first king, Abd Al Aziz Al Saud. It also claims that the Qur’an is the constitution of the country, which is governed on the basis of the Sharia (Islamic Law). According to The Economist’s Democracy Index, the Saudi government is the ninth most authoritarian regime in the world.

There are no recognized political parties or national elections, except the local elections which were held in the year 2005 when participation was reserved for male citizens only. The king’s powers are theoretically limited within the bounds of Shari’a and other Saudi traditions. He also must retain a consensus of the Saudi royal family, religious leaders (ulema), and other important elements in Saudi society. The Saudi government spreads Islam by funding construction of mosques and Qur’an schools around the world. The leading members of the royal family choose the king from among themselves with the subsequent approval of the ulema.

Saudi kings have gradually developed a central government. Since 1953, the Council of Ministers, appointed by the king, has advised on the formulation of general policy and directed the activities of the growing bureaucracy. This council consists of a prime minister, the first prime minister and twenty ministers.

Legislation is by resolution of the Council of Ministers, ratified by royal decree, and must be compatible with the Shari’a. A 150-member Consultative Assembly, appointed by the King, has limited legislative rights. Justice is administered according to the Shari’a by a system of religious courts whose judges are appointed by the king on the recommendation of the Supreme Judicial Council, composed of twelve senior jurists. Independence of the judiciary is protected by law. The king acts as the highest court of appeal and has the power to pardon. Access to high officials (usually at a majlis; a public audience) and the right to petition them directly are well-established traditions.

The combination of relatively high oil prices and exports led to a revenues windfall for Saudi Arabia during 2004 and early 2005. For 2004 as a whole, Saudi Arabia earned about $116 billion in net oil export revenues, up 35 percent from 2003 revenue levels. Saudi net oil export revenues are forecast to increase in 2005 and 2006, to $150 billion and $154 billion, respectively, mainly due to higher oil prices. Increased oil prices and consequent revenues since the price collapse of 1998 have significantly improved Saudi Arabia’s economic situation, with real GDP growth of 5.2 percent in 2004, and forecasts of 5.7% and 4.8% growth for 2005 and 2006, respectively.

For fiscal year 2004, Saudi Arabia originally had been expecting a budget deficit. However, this was based on an extremely conservative price assumption of $19 per barrel for Saudi oil and an assumed production of 7.7 Mbbl/d (1,220,000 m³/d). Both of these estimates turned out to be far below actual levels. As a result, as of mid-December 2004, the Saudi Finance Ministry was expecting a huge budget surplus of $26.1 billion, on budget revenues of $104.8 billion (nearly double the country’s original estimate) and expenditures of $78.6 billion (28 percent above the approved budget levels). This surplus is being used for several purposes, including: paying down the Kingdom’s public debt (to $164 billion from $176 billion at the start of 2004); extra spending on education and development projects; increased security expenditures (possibly an additional $2.5 billion dollars in 2004; see below) due to threats from terrorists; and higher payments to Saudi citizens through subsidies (for housing, education, health care, etc.). For 2005, Saudi Arabia is assuming a balanced budget, with revenues and expenditures of $74.6 billion each.

In spite of the recent surge in its oil income, Saudi Arabia continues to face serious long-term economic challenges, including high rates of unemployment (12 percent of Saudi nationals), one of the world’s fastest population growth rates, and the consequent need for increased government spending. All of these place pressures on Saudi oil revenues. The Kingdom also is facing serious security threats, including a number of terrorist attacks (on foreign workers, primarily) in 2003 and 2004. In response, the Saudis reportedly have ramped up spending in the security area (reportedly by 50 percent in 2004, from $5.5 billion in 2003). Saudi Arabia’s per capita oil export revenues remain far below high levels reached during the 1970s and early 1980s. In 2007, Saudi Arabia’s citizens earned around $20,700 per person, versus $22,589 in 1980, but it is catching up. This 80 percent decline in real per capita oil export revenues since 1980 is in large part because Saudi Arabia’s young population has nearly tripled since 1980, while oil export revenues in real terms have fallen by over 40 percent (despite recent increases). Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia has faced nearly two decades of heavy budget and trade deficits, the expensive 1990-1991 war with Iraq, and total public debt of around $175 billion. On the other hand, Saudi Arabia does have extensive foreign assets (around $110 billion) which provide a substantial fiscal “cushion.”

Saudi municipal elections took place in 2005 and some commentators saw this as a first tentative step towards the introduction of democratic processes in the Kingdom, including the legalization of political parties. Other analysts of the Saudi political scene were more skeptical.

People Population: 28,146,656
note: includes 5,576,076 non-nationals (July 2008 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 38% (male 5,458,023/female 5,245,911)
15-64 years: 59.5% (male 9,470,353/female 7,284,696)
65 years and over: 2.4% (male 356,910/female 330,764) (2008 est.)
Median age: total: 21.5 years
male: 22.9 years
female: 19.8 years (2008 est.)
Population growth rate: 1.954% (2008 est.)
Birth rate: 28.85 births/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Death rate: 2.49 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Net migration rate: -6.82 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.3 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 1.08 male(s)/female
total population: 1.19 male(s)/female (2008 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 11.94 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 13.58 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 10.23 deaths/1,000 live births (2008 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 76.09 years
male: 74.04 years
female: 78.25 years (2008 est.)
Total fertility rate: 3.89 children born/woman (2008 est.)

Saudi Arabia Added to MSCI Emerging Markets Index

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Saudi Arabia Added to MSCI Emerging Markets Index

Thursday, 21 June, 2018 – 11:00
Saudi market regulator has approved Awazel IPO. (File Photo: Reuters)
Riyadh, New York- Shuja Al-Baqmi and Asharq Al Awsat
Index provider MSCI said on Wednesday it will begin including Saudi Arabia in its classification as an emerging market, sharply broadening the investor base for the country in a move that could support their equity markets.

Meanwhile, Saudi stock market resumed its trading following the suspension for Eid Al-Fitr holiday, amid remarkable profit on the shares of leading companies, especially in the banking sector.

On Wednesday, Saudi stock market fell by about 100 points, but the decline did not restrain the shares of some of the small and medium-sized companies from rising, while the shares of the insurance sector rose about 1.23 percent, amid good gains made by sector shares.

The Saudi Stock Market index closed on Wednesday at a decline of 1.3 percent, 8166 points, with few transactions in terms of liquidity amounting to about $ 498.6 million.

These developments come after Saudi Arabia’s launch of the Financial Sector Development 2020 Program. The Program is one of the 12 executive programs launched by the Council of Economic and Development Affairs (CEDA) to achieve the objectives of Vision 2030. The program seeks to develop the financial sector as a diversified and effective financial services sector to support the development of the national economy by stimulating savings, finance and investment.

The program’s objective is to create a thriving financial sector that serves as a key enabler in achieving Vision 2030’s objectives. By 2030, the sector is expected to grow large enough to fund Vision 2030 objectives, offer a diverse set of products and services through traditional and newly emerging players, give citizens thus far excluded from the financial system access to it with an inclusive structure, achieve a high degree of digitization and maintain financial stability.

Through its first pillar, “enabling financial institutions to support private sector growth”, the Program aims to promote a diverse and inclusive sector that drives innovation and serves the financial needs of a broader population. In doing so, it will open the sector to emerging FinTech players, remove obstacles that hinder the growth of finance companies, unlock financing for SMEs, and increase mortgage penetration. Further, the program will improve access to financing and enhance product offerings to better serve the needs of economic sectors.

Google Bars Using Artificial Intelligence Tech in Weapons, Unreasonable Surveillance

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Google Bars Using Artificial Intelligence Tech in Weapons, Unreasonable Surveillance

Friday, 8 June, 2018 – 09:45
FILE PHOTO: Google CEO Sundar Pichai speaks on stage during the annual Google I/O developers conference in Mountain View, California, U.S., May 8, 2018. REUTERS/Stephen Lam/File Photo
Asharq Al-Awsat
Google announced Thursday it would not allow its artificial intelligence software to be used in weapons or unreasonable surveillance efforts under new standards for its business decisions in the nascent field.

The Alphabet Inc (GOOGL.O) unit said the restriction could help Google management defuse months of protest by thousands of employees against the company’s work with the US military to identify objects in drone video.

Chief Executive Sundar Pichai said in a blog post: “We want to be clear that while we are not developing AI for use in weapons, we will continue our work with governments and the military in many other areas,” such as cybersecurity, training, or search and rescue.

Pichai set out seven principles for Google’s application of artificial intelligence, or advanced computing that can simulate intelligent human behavior.

He said Google is using AI “to help people tackle urgent problems” such as prediction of wildfires, helping farmers, diagnosing disease or preventing blindness, AFP reported.

“We recognize that such powerful technology raises equally powerful questions about its use,” Pichai said in the blog.

“How AI is developed and used will have a significant impact on society for many years to come. As a leader in AI, we feel a deep responsibility to get this right.”

He added that the principles also called for AI applications to be “built and tested for safety,” to be “accountable to people” and to “incorporate privacy design principles.”

The move came after potential of AI systems to pinpoint drone strikes better than military specialists or identify dissidents from mass collection of online communications has sparked concerns among academic ethicists and Google employees, according to Reuters.

Several technology firms have already agreed to the general principles of using artificial intelligence for good, but Google appeared to offer a more precise set of standards.