COP28 Agrees to Operationalize ‘Loss And Damage Fund’

People arrive at the venue of the COP28 United Nations climate summit in Dubai on November 30, 2023. The UN climate conference opens in Dubai on November 30 with nations under pressure to increase the urgency of action on global warming. (Photo by KARIM SAHIB / AFP)
People arrive at the venue of the COP28 United Nations climate summit in Dubai on November 30, 2023. The UN climate conference opens in Dubai on November 30 with nations under pressure to increase the urgency of action on global warming. (Photo by KARIM SAHIB / AFP)
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COP28 Agrees to Operationalize ‘Loss And Damage Fund’

People arrive at the venue of the COP28 United Nations climate summit in Dubai on November 30, 2023. The UN climate conference opens in Dubai on November 30 with nations under pressure to increase the urgency of action on global warming. (Photo by KARIM SAHIB / AFP)
People arrive at the venue of the COP28 United Nations climate summit in Dubai on November 30, 2023. The UN climate conference opens in Dubai on November 30 with nations under pressure to increase the urgency of action on global warming. (Photo by KARIM SAHIB / AFP)

Officially launched in the vibrant city of Dubai, United Arab Emirates, the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, known as COP28, is now underway.

The conference aims to address the challenges of climate change, marking a pivotal moment since the Paris Agreement.

Invitations have been extended to explore diverse strategies to confront the impacts of climate change and navigate the complex path laid out by the international community.

This event represents a significant milestone in the ongoing global efforts to combat climate change since the Paris Agreement, and expectations are high for substantial outcomes.

On the inaugural day of the week-long conference, a significant milestone was achieved with the adoption of the first foundational resolution.

Delegates at the COP28 climate talks in Dubai formally adopted a loss and damage fund Thursday to transfer finances to countries hit hardest by the climate crisis.

The details had already been agreed earlier this month at a pre-COP session, when it was decided that the World Bank would host the fund.

Participants emphasized the conference’s role in fostering global collaboration for effective and swift action.

The newly established fund garnered contributions exceeding $300 million in its initial round of pledges.

In a groundbreaking move, the UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed announced the country’s commitment of $100 million to the new fund dedicated to addressing climate-related disasters.

“We congratulate all parties on the historic adoption of this fund for climate impact response and announce the UAE’s commitment of $100 million as our contribution. We call on all countries in a position to do so to contribute generously, as an important symbol of solidarity,” Sheikh Abdullah posted on X.

Among other nations that pledged contributions to the fund during the previous conference held in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, were India with $100 million, the United Kingdom with up to £60 million ($75.89 million), the United States with $17.5 million, and Japan with $10 million.

In a remarkable early win for the Cop28 presidency, a loss and damage fund became official on day one.

“We’ve delivered history today. The first time a decision has been adopted on day 1 of any COP. And the speed at which we have done so is also historic. Getting this done demonstrates the hard work of so many, particularly members of the transitional committee who worked tirelessly to get us to this point. This is evidence that we can deliver. COP28 can deliver,” said Dr Sultan Al Jaber, president, COP28.

In a statement, Al Jaber said the fund will support billions of people, lives and livelihoods that are vulnerable to the effects of climate change.



Khalid bin Salman Named Chairman of SAMI Board of Directors

Saudi Defense Minister Prince Khalid bin Salman.
Saudi Defense Minister Prince Khalid bin Salman.
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Khalid bin Salman Named Chairman of SAMI Board of Directors

Saudi Defense Minister Prince Khalid bin Salman.
Saudi Defense Minister Prince Khalid bin Salman.

The Saudi Arabian Military Industries (SAMI), a key enterprise under the Public Investment Fund (PIF), announced on Wednesday a restructuring of its Board of Directors.

Defense Minister Prince Khalid bin Salman was named as Chairman of the board.

The board includes Minister of Industry and Mineral Resources Bandar Al-Khorayef, Chairman of the General Authority for Civil Aviation Abdulaziz Al-Duailej, Assistant Minister of Defense Eng. Talal Al-Otaibi, Dr. Khalid Al-Biyari, Yasir Al-Salman, Eng. Omar Al-Madhi, and Eng. Abdulaziz Al-Suqair.

SAMI CEO Walid bin Abdulmajeed Abu Khalid hailed the efforts of the previous board which managed to lead it to become one of the world’s top 100 specialized defense companies.

SAMI was established in 2018 by the PIF to contribute to achieving the Kingdom's Vision 2030 by localizing 50% of the Kingdom's defense spending.

SAMI has been playing an essential role in developing the capabilities of its defense system and enhancing its self-sufficiency through its growing portfolio of products and services across its business sectors.


SABIC Loses $739 Million over Challenging Operating Environment

SABIC revenues dropped by 22.69% to SAR141.5 billion at the end of 2023. (Photo: SABIC website)
SABIC revenues dropped by 22.69% to SAR141.5 billion at the end of 2023. (Photo: SABIC website)
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SABIC Loses $739 Million over Challenging Operating Environment

SABIC revenues dropped by 22.69% to SAR141.5 billion at the end of 2023. (Photo: SABIC website)
SABIC revenues dropped by 22.69% to SAR141.5 billion at the end of 2023. (Photo: SABIC website)

The Saudi Basic Industries Corporation (SABIC), one of the largest petrochemical companies in the world, recorded a net loss of SAR2.77 billion ($739 million) for the year 2023, at a time when the company faces a challenging operating environment.

“The petrochemical industry navigates a challenging operating environment,” SABIC Chief Executive Officer Abdulrahman Al-Fageeh said on Tuesday.

He added: “Underwhelming demand within our target market led to lower year-end product prices.”

On the other hand, Al-Fageeh noted that SABIC achieved profits from its main ongoing operations, amounting to SAR1.31 billion, compared to SAR15.79 billion during the previous year, which reflects the company’s financial strength in light of the current economic conditions and the impact of the sale of the Hadeed steel company last year.

These numbers highlight the extent of the challenge facing petrochemical companies as they grapple with market weakness, slow economic growth, and falling prices.

SABIC’s financial results coincided with the announcement by Moody’s credit ratings agency that SABIC, stc and SEC were rated at A1 with “positive” outlooks, while Maaden was assigned a Baa1 with a “stable” outlook.

SABIC said in its financial results statement published on the Saudi Stock Exchange (Tadawul) website that the net loss was due to discontinued operations amounting to around SAR4 billion, driven mainly from the fair valuation of its subsidiary Saudi Iron and Steel Company (Hadeed) amounting to SAR2.93 billion, as well as its lower financial performance during the current year.

The company achieved profits from ongoing main operations, amounting to SAR1.3 billion, compared to SAR15.7 billion during 2022, mainly due to several factors, including: the drop in profit margins for most of the main products and the impairment charges and write-offs of certain capital and financial assets, as well as provisions for the restructuring program in Europe and constructive obligations.

Al-Fageeh noted that the petrochemical industry was going through a challenging operating environment, pointing to “considerable uncertainty heading into the first quarter of 2024.”

He said that the company was committed to deploy between $4 and $5 billion in capital expenditure in 2024, adding that SABIC would strive to maintain dividend distributions to shareholders without compromising the robust balance sheet.


G20 Warns of Global Economy Challenges, Geopolitical Tension

The meeting aims to review global economic developments at a time characterized by growth slowdown and mounting pressures resulting from record debt burdens. (G20 website)
The meeting aims to review global economic developments at a time characterized by growth slowdown and mounting pressures resulting from record debt burdens. (G20 website)
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G20 Warns of Global Economy Challenges, Geopolitical Tension

The meeting aims to review global economic developments at a time characterized by growth slowdown and mounting pressures resulting from record debt burdens. (G20 website)
The meeting aims to review global economic developments at a time characterized by growth slowdown and mounting pressures resulting from record debt burdens. (G20 website)

Group of 20 finance leaders meeting in Brazil this week are expected to make only a passing reference in their closing statement to regional conflicts, according to a draft version seen by Reuters, due to deep divisions over wars in Gaza and Ukraine.

US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen on Tuesday called on allies to move forward urgently to unlock the value of frozen Russian sovereign assets to help Ukraine.

"Risks to the global economic outlook are more balanced," with faster-than-expected disinflation and more growth-friendly fiscal consolidation underpinning growth, the draft said.

"Among the downside risks to the global economy are [wars and] escalating conflicts, geoeconomic fragmentation, rising protectionism, and trade routes disruptions," the draft communique said.

The reference to "wars" in brackets reflects efforts to reach a consensus on the final language, said a person familiar with the matter.

G20 finance officials are expected to set aside geopolitics and focus on global economic issues as they gather in Sao Paulo this week.

Brazil's coordinator of the finance track at G20, Tatiana Rosito, said on Tuesday that the group is moving towards a short communique that reflects Brazilian priorities.

In the draft communique, the G20 finance leaders gave an optimistic view on the outlook for price pressures. Inflation has receded in most economies, they said, thanks in part to "appropriate" monetary policies, easing supply chain bottlenecks and moderating commodity prices.

The draft also said the G20 group reaffirms their existing exchange-rate commitment, which warns against excess volatility and volatile currency moves as undesirable for economic growth.

Meanwhile, Yellen said Israel has agreed to resume tax revenue transfers to the Palestinian Authority to fund basic services and bolster the West Bank economy. She called on Israel to allow commerce to resume there for the sake of its own economy and that of the Palestinians.

In the remarks, Yellen said she also urged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a recent letter to reinstate work permits for Palestinians and reduce barriers to commerce within the West Bank.

"These actions are vital for the economic well-being of Palestinians and Israelis alike," Yellen said.

"We continue to explore options for strengthening the West Bank economy" following an executive order issued by President Joe Biden earlier this month, Yellen added.

Yellen said Washington supported the World Bank’s commitments to emergency food security assistance in Gaza and economic support for the West Bank, and other ongoing loan programs by regional development banks and the International Monetary Fund in neighboring Egypt and Jordan.

She said Washington had not seen a significant impact of the conflict on the global economy but would continue to monitor the situation closely.

She noted that Washington had also led efforts to counter the financing of Hamas and responded to Houthi attacks in the Red Sea.


Aramco Signs $6 Billion Procurement Agreements

The agreements aim to strengthen Aramco's domestic supply chain ecosystem to meet customers' demands and provide suppliers with long-term visibility of expected future demand. (SPA)
The agreements aim to strengthen Aramco's domestic supply chain ecosystem to meet customers' demands and provide suppliers with long-term visibility of expected future demand. (SPA)
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Aramco Signs $6 Billion Procurement Agreements

The agreements aim to strengthen Aramco's domestic supply chain ecosystem to meet customers' demands and provide suppliers with long-term visibility of expected future demand. (SPA)
The agreements aim to strengthen Aramco's domestic supply chain ecosystem to meet customers' demands and provide suppliers with long-term visibility of expected future demand. (SPA)

Aramco, one of the world's leading integrated energy and chemicals companies, signed on Tuesday 40 corporate procurement agreements worth $6 billion with suppliers in Saudi Arabia.

The agreements aim to strengthen Aramco's domestic supply chain ecosystem to meet customers' demands and provide suppliers with long-term visibility of expected future demand.

They will contribute to achieving the objectives of Aramco's In-Kingdom Total Value Add (iktva) program, the company's pioneer initiative that aims to drive the growth of a vibrant economy and create new opportunities for Saudi people.

Aramco Executive Vice President of Technical Services Wail Al-Jaafari said: “The 40 new agreements signed today are expected to contribute to the domestic value chain and further enhance the ecosystem that Aramco is assisting to build.”

“These agreements move us towards a more prosperous, diverse, and resilient supply chain, which will help ensure business continuity. They also represent a key milestone on our iktva journey and provide our partners with an opportunity to benefit from a robust and diversified business environment,” he stated.

Additionally, Aramco signed two MoUs with strategic partners to collaborate on localization and supply chain development.


Aramco Adds Significant Volumes to Proven Gas, Condensate Reserves at Jafurah Field

Aramco Adds Significant Volumes to Proven Gas, Condensate Reserves at Jafurah Field
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Aramco Adds Significant Volumes to Proven Gas, Condensate Reserves at Jafurah Field

Aramco Adds Significant Volumes to Proven Gas, Condensate Reserves at Jafurah Field

Saudi Aramco, one of the world’s leading integrated energy and chemicals companies, has added significant volumes to the proven gas and condensate reserves at the Jafurah unconventional field in Saudi Arabia.

The Company has booked 15 trillion standard cubic feet (scf) of raw gas and two billion stock tank barrels (STB) of condensate as proven reserves at Jafurah. It is now estimated that Jafurah contains a total of 229 trillion scf of raw gas, alongside an estimated 75 billion STB of condensate.

These new estimates were calculated using a novel approach to shale reserve booking, which was applied to unconventional resources for the first time in the industry and has the potential to be deployed at a larger scale.

Reserve booking practices were assessed through establishing continuity of resources and consistency of performance. These new estimates were technically validated by respected industry reserves certification consultancy DeGolyer and MacNaughton, which reviewed the statistical booking mechanism and provided a fully independent assessment.

Aramco President and CEO Amin H. Nasser said: “This achievement enhances the Kingdom’s hydrocarbon wealth through proven gas reserves, which are a vital resource for the energy and chemicals industries.”

“Aramco’s upstream business is deploying state-of-the-art technologies including advanced modeling and artificial intelligence to make tangible progress in developing Jafurah, which is one of the company’s growth catalysts and an important economic empowerment for the Kingdom. The field represents a key element in our ambitious strategy to increase Aramco’s gas production,” he stressed.

Work is currently underway to deliver production at Jafurah, with plans to ramp up to reach a sustainable sales gas rate of two billion scf by 2030, in addition to significant volumes of ethane, Natural Gas Liquids (NGL), and condensate.


Red Sea Unrest Revives Djibouti Ports

Doraleh Port is designated to receive containers and has witnessed a revival due to the disturbances in the Red Sea (Photo by Turki Al-Aguili)
Doraleh Port is designated to receive containers and has witnessed a revival due to the disturbances in the Red Sea (Photo by Turki Al-Aguili)
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Red Sea Unrest Revives Djibouti Ports

Doraleh Port is designated to receive containers and has witnessed a revival due to the disturbances in the Red Sea (Photo by Turki Al-Aguili)
Doraleh Port is designated to receive containers and has witnessed a revival due to the disturbances in the Red Sea (Photo by Turki Al-Aguili)

The unrest in the Bab al-Mandab region, the Red Sea, and the Gulf of Aden has contributed to the recovery of container handling operations in Djiboutian ports in recent months, according to Djiboutian officials.

Container handling at Doraleh Port, Djibouti's largest port, increased by up to 10% compared to the previous months, officials told Asharq Al-Awsat.

Houthi attacks on commercial ships in the Red Sea caused a sharp rise in marine shipping insurance, with fees imposed to cover risks associated with conflicts.

Since November 2023, the Iranian-backed Houthis have been carrying out attacks on commercial ships in the Red Sea that they suspect are linked to Israel or heading to its ports.

They say that this comes in support of the Gaza Strip, which has been witnessing a war since Oct. 7, 2023.

Washington and London have also launched joint military strikes on Houthi positions inside Yemen several times since last Jan. 12.

Advisor of the CEO of Operations at Doraleh Port Ismail Hasan told Asharq Al-Awsat that the port served more than 100,000 containers with an average of 60-70 ships of various sizes last January, and it can receive the largest ships in the world.

All international shipping and navigation companies are in Doraliya Port, serving over 60 ports worldwide.

Last January, the port witnessed an increase in handling by a rate of 5-10% compared to previous months.

During Asharq Al-Awsat's visit to Doraleh Port, the Chinese ship Zhong An Xin Huayuan was anchoring for the first time, according to Hasan.

He explained that the tensions in the Red Sea led new shipping companies to enter as new clients of the Djiboutian ports.

Djibouti has about five specialized ports, including Doraleh Port, and others for various goods, commodities, and iron, some of which are dedicated to energy.

Several Chinese shipping lines have been redeploying their vessels to serve the Red Sea and the Suez Canal in what analysts have said is an effort to exploit China's perceived immunity from the Houthi attacks that have driven most other operators out of the area, according to the Financial Times.

The newspaper said two vessels were listed on the website of Qingdao-based Transfar Shipping, which describes itself as "an emerging player in the transpacific market" as part of its fleet list.

However, Transfar said on Friday that it had stopped operating the ships in February 2023 and needed to know which company was using them now.

The report stated that the move of Chinese lines to the Red Sea comes after most big container shipping lines — including China's Cosco, operator of the industry's fourth-biggest fleet —abandoned the southern Red Sea because of the security risks.

According to Hasan, Djibouti seeks to become a global hub that serves most of the markets, extending from China in the east through the Middle East and the Mediterranean all the way to Northern Europe.

According to official statistics, Djibouti ports witness daily transit of about 90 ships, 59% of which are coming from Asia, while vessels from Europe represent 21%, while other continents, including Africa, represent 16%.

According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), maritime transport through the Red Sea decreased by approximately 30% in one year.

The International Chamber of Shipping says the Red Sea is a vital route that usually carries about 12% of global trade.

Doraleh Port, established in 2009, is about three kilometers from the gate to the edge of the sea, with a depth of 20 meters and a width of 1,050 meters, and it is considered one of the largest container ports in Africa.

Hasan told Asharq Al-Awsat that the port was equipped with the most advanced handling machines in the world, and it began operating only about three months ago.

The port ranked first in Africa for three consecutive years, and there are 30 mechanisms dedicated to distributing containers registered in a system with unique codes.

Some containers are destined for domestic and neighboring countries, and others are being re-exported to other international ports.

He explained that all the working crews are Djiboutian, with 800 full-timers and about 1,000 hired when needed.

Hasan addressed the establishment of a seaport for Ethiopia in Somaliland after announcing an initial agreement between the two sides, indicating that this would not affect the Djiboutian ports.

The advisor asserted that establishing an Ethiopian port in Somaliland would not affect the Djiboutian ports.

- Freight train to Ethiopia

Doraleh Port is directly connected to the main train terminal to transport goods from the port to Ethiopia.

Djibouti is the main gateway for Ethiopian imports and exports to and from the world.

According to the advisor, the train's journey from the port to Metu in Ethiopia takes 10 to 12 hours before continuing its way to Addis Ababa.

Hasan pointed out that three train lines can be operated simultaneously, while two trains run daily to Ethiopia, with an average of 106 containers for each train.

The Addis Ababa-Djibouti railway line is the first electric-powered railway line designed to Chinese specifications.

Djibouti and Ethiopia benefit from it by establishing industrial and logistical zones and constructing new cities and villages along this line, which passes through the Horn of Africa.

Ethiopia, which exports and imports nearly 90% of goods through Djibouti ports, has plans to expand the train network to extend to Sudan, Kenya, and South Sudan.


Saudi National Transformation Program Achieves 34 Strategic Goals of Vision 2030

The National Transformation Program report shows remarkable progress towards Vision 2030 strategic goals (Asharq Al-Awsat)
The National Transformation Program report shows remarkable progress towards Vision 2030 strategic goals (Asharq Al-Awsat)
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Saudi National Transformation Program Achieves 34 Strategic Goals of Vision 2030

The National Transformation Program report shows remarkable progress towards Vision 2030 strategic goals (Asharq Al-Awsat)
The National Transformation Program report shows remarkable progress towards Vision 2030 strategic goals (Asharq Al-Awsat)

The National Transformation Program (NTP), one of the Saudi Vision 2030 programs, accomplished 34 strategic goals out of 96 goals set to be achieved by 2030.
Since the launch of Vision 2030, the tremendous positive transformations witnessed in the Kingdom’s cities and regions have contributed to shaping a new, higher-quality life and providing better livelihoods, driven by the National Transformation Program.
The Program includes government digital services that save effort and time, and enhance the role of the private sector.
According to a recent report issued by the Program, a copy of which Asharq Al-Awsat viewed, the digital experience maturity index for government services during 2023 reached 80.68%, and 97% of government services in the same period were digitized.
The volume of savings from digital government initiatives last year amounted to $1.6 billion.
- Advancing globally
The Kingdom achieved its highest historical result in the E-Government Development Index 2022, issued by the United Nations, in which it advanced 12 places to 31st rank globally.
Saudi Arabia is also one of the best countries in the world in providing information on government services, making open government data available, and sharing it with citizens and business sectors.
According to the report, the average Internet speeds for download in the Kingdom for fixed and mobile internet reached 153.1 Mbps and 214.6 Mbps, respectively, while the fifth-generation mobile reached about 327.49 Mbps.
- Judicial transformation
The Program focused on activating digital transformation in judicial services and raised the percentage of services provided electronically from 30% in 2015 to 86.9% by the end of the previous year.
The Ministry’s Najiz platform contributed to reducing the case duration by 79% and supported beneficiaries of digital judicial services in more than 100 countries.
The Ministry digitized 180 million real estate documents, including records, controls, and transactions, and sorted and merged more than 100,000 deeds within minutes for each request.
It also completed 17,000 transactions worth $5.4 billion in the first week of launching the real estate stock exchange platform.
The report stated that the “Tawakkalna Services” application, with its new identity, witnessed an expansion in its integrated and harmonious services that enrich the experience of citizens, residents, and visitors through 240 services provided and 31 million users, supported by seven languages, and operating in more than 75 countries.
- Environment protection
Regarding environmental issues, the Program’s initiatives contributed to the rehabilitation of more than 192,000 hectares of natural vegetation and increased the percentage of natural reserves compared to Saudi Arabia’s total area from 4.3% in 2016 to more than 18.8% in 2023
The accuracy rate of forecasting and early warning of meteorological hazards three days prior increased from 60% to 81.14%.
The Kingdom launched the most extended irrigation network in the world, utilizing treated water to irrigate 7.5 million trees in its capital.
The network supports the Green Riyadh initiative, which aims to increase the use of treated water for irrigation by 100%.
- Promoting food security
To combat any food crisis, NTP’s initiatives strengthened the Kingdom’s grain storage under the General Food Security Authority, increasing from 2.5 million tons in 2016 to 3.5 million tons in 2023.
The report shows the self-sufficiency rate for the most important agricultural products: dates at 124%, table eggs at 117%, dairy products at 118 %, and poultry and red meat at 68% and 60%, respectively.
- Investment licenses
The Kingdom ranked 1st in the MENA region for Venture Capital Investment in 2023, capturing 52% of the total capital deployed with a value of $1.4 billion.
Riyadh became a valuable investment destination for global investors, whereby more than 180 companies obtained permits in 2023 to open a regional office.
In 2023, more than 8,500 foreign investment licenses were issued, an increase of more than 96% compared to the previous year.
The Kingdom continues comprehensive economic reforms to empower the private sector and attract local and foreign investments, continuing its progress in the World Competitiveness Booklet by achieving 17th place globally among 64 countries and 3rd among the G20.
The “Investment Saudi” platform, affiliated with the Ministry of Investment, offered about 1,283 opportunities ranging from tourism and entertainment, communications and information technology, biotechnology and pharmaceuticals, advanced industries, metals and mining, energy, financial and environmental services, and others.
- Labor market
The Saudi Business Center has provided 2.5 million services to the private sector since March 2020, in addition to 160 initiatives, including legislative, procedural, and technical reforms and 66 partnership agreements to facilitate starting business.
The report also touched on the decline in unemployment rate during the third quarter of last year to 8.6%, and the improvement of working conditions for expatriates increased to 73%.

 

 


UN Tourism and WTTC Laud Saudi Arabia for Receiving over 100 Million Tourists in 2023

The Kingdom has achieved this milestone seven years ahead of the initial goal, the Saudi Ministry of Tourism said
The Kingdom has achieved this milestone seven years ahead of the initial goal, the Saudi Ministry of Tourism said
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UN Tourism and WTTC Laud Saudi Arabia for Receiving over 100 Million Tourists in 2023

The Kingdom has achieved this milestone seven years ahead of the initial goal, the Saudi Ministry of Tourism said
The Kingdom has achieved this milestone seven years ahead of the initial goal, the Saudi Ministry of Tourism said

Saudi Arabia has received international recognition and praise from UN Tourism and the World Travel & Tourism Council for the "remarkable achievement" of receiving over 100 million tourists in 2023, according to a statement issued today by the Saudi Ministry of Tourism.
This accomplishment, the statement said, significantly surpassed the target set for 2030, positioning Saudi Arabia as "an emerging global tourism powerhouse.”
According to the ministry, the Kingdom has achieved this milestone seven years ahead of the initial goal, according to the latest data. Motivated by this success, the Kingdom has now set a new ambitious target of welcoming 150 million tourists by 2030.
Tourism has proved to be a significant contributor to the nation’s economy, with domestic and international tourists spending over SAR250 billion in 2023. This expenditure represents over 4% of GDP and 7% of the non-oil GDP, and reflects the crucial role played by tourism in diversifying Saudi Arabia's economy.
Tourism Minister Ahmed Al Khateeb said that this announcement demonstrates the scale of the Kingdom's transformation since the National Tourism Strategy was launched five years ago.
"Tourism is a key pillar in the nation’s economic transformation under Vision 2030, creating jobs and revenue for the Kingdom," he said. "We thank both UN Tourism and WTTC as valued partners in our journey for their shared commitment to a sustainable and prosperous tourism sector.”
Al Khateeb said the tourism sector operates in line with the national tourism strategy, developing diverse tourist destinations. The aim, he said, is to enrich the tourists’ experience, diversify options for both local and international visitors, and improve hospitality facilities along with other services provided.
"We are committed to aligning with top-tier international experiences and practices. This approach contributes to shaping a prosperous future for our tourism industry, improving the quality of life, and bolstering the Kingdom's position on the global tourism map," said the minister.
According to the statement, the tourism sector in the Kingdom has made significant leaps, with the total number of tourists, both domestic and international, reaching 106.2 million in 2023. This represents a remarkable 56% increase over 2019 and a substantial 12% surge over 2022.
International tourists numbered 27.4 million, a substantial 56% increase over 2019 and an impressive 65% rise compared to 2022.


Oil Prices Rise amid Concerns about Red Sea Attacks on Shipping

Oil rig pumpjacks, also known as thirsty birds, extract crude from the Wilmington Field oil deposits area near Long Beach, California July 30, 2013. REUTERS/David McNew//File Photo
Oil rig pumpjacks, also known as thirsty birds, extract crude from the Wilmington Field oil deposits area near Long Beach, California July 30, 2013. REUTERS/David McNew//File Photo
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Oil Prices Rise amid Concerns about Red Sea Attacks on Shipping

Oil rig pumpjacks, also known as thirsty birds, extract crude from the Wilmington Field oil deposits area near Long Beach, California July 30, 2013. REUTERS/David McNew//File Photo
Oil rig pumpjacks, also known as thirsty birds, extract crude from the Wilmington Field oil deposits area near Long Beach, California July 30, 2013. REUTERS/David McNew//File Photo

Oil prices on Tuesday built on gains made a day earlier amid attacks on shipping in the Red Sea that have exacerbated supply worries.
Brent crude futures rose 36 cents, or 0.44%, to $82.89 a barrel by 0745 GMT, while US West Texas Intermediate crude futures (WTI) were up 31 cents, or 0.40%, to $77.89 a barrel, Reuters said.
"Concerns around shipping disruptions in the Red Sea have supported a rebound in the price of crude oil overnight, offsetting a more hawkish Fed currently weighing on the demand side of the equation," said Tony Sycamore, an analyst at IG in Sydney.
The attacks by Iran-aligned Houthis in support of Palestinians have increased freight rates and shipping times. On Monday, US Central Command said that the Houthis had unsuccessfully fired a missile at the US flagged oil tanker Torm Thor in the Gulf of Aden on Feb. 24.
On Tuesday, US President Biden said Israel has agreed to halt military activities in Gaza for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, as Hamas studied a draft proposal for a truce which includes a pause in fighting and a prisoner-hostage exchange.
Oil prices were also supported on Tuesday by indications of improved demand in China.
"Concerns over Chinese demand are abating, as refineries continue brisk buying in the physical market after a boom in Lunar New Year travel. This is despite them having planned more maintenance halts than usual," analysts from ANZ Bank said in a note.
Also on Tuesday, Russian authorities announced a six-month ban on gasoline exports from March 1 to compensate for rising demand from consumers and farmers and to allow for planned maintenance of refineries.
Both oil benchmarks settled more than 1% higher on Monday which followed declines of 2%-3% over the previous week as markets factored in a greater likelihood that rate cuts might take longer to come.
Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank President Jeffrey Schmid on Monday used a debut speech on policy to signal that he, like most of his central banking colleagues, is in no rush to cut interest rates. High borrowing costs typically reduce economic growth and oil demand.
A market focus for the day will be the American Petroleum Institute industry group's weekly data on US crude inventories which is due to be released at 4:30 p.m. EST (2130 GMT).
Analysts polled by Reuters on Monday estimated on average that crude inventories rose by about 1.8 million barrels in the week to Feb. 23.


Gold Prices Gain on Softer Dollar; Focus on US Inflation Data

Gold jewelry is seen displayed for sale at a Chow Tai Fook jewelry store in Shanghai, China November 27, 2023. REUTERS/Nicoco Chan
Gold jewelry is seen displayed for sale at a Chow Tai Fook jewelry store in Shanghai, China November 27, 2023. REUTERS/Nicoco Chan
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Gold Prices Gain on Softer Dollar; Focus on US Inflation Data

Gold jewelry is seen displayed for sale at a Chow Tai Fook jewelry store in Shanghai, China November 27, 2023. REUTERS/Nicoco Chan
Gold jewelry is seen displayed for sale at a Chow Tai Fook jewelry store in Shanghai, China November 27, 2023. REUTERS/Nicoco Chan

Gold prices rose on Tuesday as the dollar softened, while investors awaited a key US inflation report and speeches from Federal Reserve officials for cues into the central bank's potential rate-cut timings.
Spot gold was up 0.4% at $2,038.19 per ounce, as of 0840 GMT. US gold futures rose 0.5% to $2,047.90 per ounce.
The dollar traded weaker, making greenback-priced bullion relatively less expensive for other currency holders.
"Ahead of inflation number we expect some kind of consolidation. We expect gold to trade in a very narrow range ... bias will be 'sell' on jump," said Ajay Kedia, director at Kedia Commodities in Mumbai.
The support for gold follows Japan and the UK entering into a technical recession, a trend reflected in the gold-silver ratio, which is currently at 90 <XAU-XAG>, Kedia said. "But, there is no change in war premium, everything has been already priced in."
Recent remarks from Fed policymakers suggested that the US central bank was in no hurry to cut interest rates, largely cementing bets against any rate cuts before June.
Markets are currently pricing in about 81 basis points of rate cuts for 2024, with a 64% chance of the first quarter-point cut occurring in June, according to LSEG's interest rate probability app, IRPR.
Lower interest rates boost the appeal of holding non-yielding bullion.
At least 10 Fed officials are due to speak this week, while investors are focused on the core personal consumption expenditures price index, the Fed's preferred inflation gauge, due on Thursday.
Investors are also monitoring the risk of US government agency shutdowns if Congress fails to reach an agreement on a borrowing extension by Friday.
Spot platinum climbed 0.8% to $887.04 per ounce, palladium jumped 0.9% to $963.50, and silver rose 0.7% to $22.67 per ounce.