Saudi Arabia Inaugurates Floating Desalination Plant

The floating desalination water plant self-generates electricity based on advanced technologies to filter and treat seawater (SPA)
The floating desalination water plant self-generates electricity based on advanced technologies to filter and treat seawater (SPA)
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Saudi Arabia Inaugurates Floating Desalination Plant

The floating desalination water plant self-generates electricity based on advanced technologies to filter and treat seawater (SPA)
The floating desalination water plant self-generates electricity based on advanced technologies to filter and treat seawater (SPA)

Saudi Arabia inaugurated the first floating desalination plant near al-Shuqaiq port on the western coast, as part of its water projects to enhance water security in all the Kingdom's regions.

Governor of Jazan Prince Mohammad bin Nasser bin Abdulaziz inaugurated the station in the presence of Minister of Environment, Water and Agriculture Abdul Rahman al-Fadhli, Saline Water Conversion Corporation (SWCC) governor Abdullah al-Abdulkarim.

The plant is an integrated project to generate electricity and supply the grid in the southern cities with energy.

The project is part of the privatization program, where the private sector will do the design, construction, and operation for 25 years.

The station is operating according to reverse osmosis, the leading technology for desalination of brackish water and seawater, and is equipped with a massive farm of solar panels to reduce oil dependency.

Bahri signed an agreement with SWCC to transport desalinated water from three floating stations to desalination tanks in Saudi Arabia for 20 years.

The barges would be transported according to the needs of each region across the Kingdom, ensuring consistently high availability levels and compliance with all applicable international and local codes and standards.

Once operational, each station will have a capacity of 50,000 cu m per day with a total capacity of 150,000 cu m a day.

The project will support the construction of floating water desalination plants to produce clean and safe water daily independently and reliably that supports and preserves marine life.

It will also support the promotion of innovation, the localization of the latest technologies, the empowerment of local content, and the provision of job opportunities for young people.

The project promotes the capabilities of the industrial sector in the country, maximizing its contribution to the total added value and making it more active and competitive.

SWCC seeks to boost its contribution by making a qualitative shift in the local content, encouraging national industries, and maximizing the business sector's contribution to economic development.

Abdulkarim said that SWCC receives unlimited support from the government to advance the most important factors of sustainable development and provide desalinated water.

He indicated that this achievement is within the National Water Strategy and aims to secure water resources under constant follow-up by the Minister of Environment, Water and Agriculture.

The governor stressed that the adopted high-efficiency technologies and increased production capacity would advance growth in the national economy.

For his part, the CEO of Bahri Abdullah al-Dubaikhi stated that this step is a significant achievement in terms of efforts towards business diversification in line with the long-term strategy that supports Vision 2030 to enhance national capabilities.

Dubaikhi stressed that the partnership with SWCC is a qualitative leap in this field at the regional level, noting that the expertise of Bahri will contribute to supporting the project and its implementation following the best international standards.



Expansion Plans, High Returns Raise Profits of Saudi Real Estate Companies

The real estate sector in Saudi Arabia is heading towards recovery. (Photo: SPA)
The real estate sector in Saudi Arabia is heading towards recovery. (Photo: SPA)
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Expansion Plans, High Returns Raise Profits of Saudi Real Estate Companies

The real estate sector in Saudi Arabia is heading towards recovery. (Photo: SPA)
The real estate sector in Saudi Arabia is heading towards recovery. (Photo: SPA)

Experts said that the real estate sector in Saudi Arabia is heading towards recovery thanks to the implementation of expansion plans, improved operating profits, and high investment returns and revenues.
They added that the sector continues to maintain annual growth levels due to the high volume of demand, compared to the supply.
Real estate companies listed on the Saudi Stock Exchange (Tadawul) achieved a significant 258 percent jump in their net profits by the end of 2023, reaching about SAR 3 billion ($800 million) during the past year, compared to SAR 831 million ($221 million) during 2022.
In this context, the CEO of Menassat Realty Co, Khaled Almobid, said that the real estate sector in Saudi Arabia is witnessing a state of recovery in terms of price as an asset value, as well as the high demand for various real estate products.
He added that the upcoming indicators are positive, especially with expectations of a cut in interest rates during the coming period and the giant projects announced in a number of cities, as well as Riyadh’s hosting the Expo 2030 exhibition and two important football tournaments, the Asia Cup 2027 and the World Cup 2034.
For his part, Financial Analyst Tariq Al-Ateeq told Asharq Al-Awsat that the most important factors that contributed to achieving a significant jump in the profits of real estate sector companies were represented by the implementation of strong expansion plans, the increase in profit margins, and improved operating profits, as well as the high fair value gains from investment properties.
He added that the real estate market in Saudi Arabia is promising for investment and profitability, given its potential as the largest among the Gulf Cooperation Council countries.

 

 


Safe-haven Gold Rises as Israeli Attack on Iran Raises Concerns of Wider Conflict

FILED - 16 March 2023, Bavaria, Munich: Gold bars and gold coins of different sizes lie in a safe on a table at the precious metal dealer Pro Aurum. Photo: Sven Hoppe/dpa
FILED - 16 March 2023, Bavaria, Munich: Gold bars and gold coins of different sizes lie in a safe on a table at the precious metal dealer Pro Aurum. Photo: Sven Hoppe/dpa
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Safe-haven Gold Rises as Israeli Attack on Iran Raises Concerns of Wider Conflict

FILED - 16 March 2023, Bavaria, Munich: Gold bars and gold coins of different sizes lie in a safe on a table at the precious metal dealer Pro Aurum. Photo: Sven Hoppe/dpa
FILED - 16 March 2023, Bavaria, Munich: Gold bars and gold coins of different sizes lie in a safe on a table at the precious metal dealer Pro Aurum. Photo: Sven Hoppe/dpa

Gold prices rose on Friday as risk aversion swept across financial markets following media reports on explosions in Iran, prompting fears of a wider regional conflict and increasing bullion's safe-haven appeal.
Spot gold rose 0.3% at $2,386.05 per ounce, as of 0429 GMT, after briefly jumping as high as $2,417.59 earlier in the session, not far from an all-time high of $2,431.29 hit last Friday. Bullion was set for a fifth straight weekly rise and has risen about 2% so far this week.
US gold futures rose 0.1% at $2,401.20, Reuters said.
The news of Israel's attacks on Iran today "is driving gold price attention in the Middle East which has been the sole thing keeping the gold price moving higher for weeks now. Market is now waiting for more information about the nature of the attack, and what the response would be," said Kyle Rodda, a financial market analyst at Capital.com.
"Gold is not a monetary policy trade at the moment, it's a geopolitics trade," Rodda said.
Israel has attacked Iran, three people familiar with the matter said, as Iranian state media reported early on Friday that its forces had destroyed drones, days after Iran launched a retaliatory drone strike on Israel.
Eventually, even if geopolitical risks subside, "Chinese gold reserve accumulation acts as the major catalyst. That is a process that seems to have scope for continuity, favoring gold's upside bias," Ilya Spivak, head of global macro at Tastylive said.
Meanwhile, Federal Reserve policymakers have gathered around the idea of keeping borrowing costs where they are until perhaps well into the year, given the slow and bumpy progress on inflation and a still-strong US economy.
Higher interest rates increase the opportunity cost of holding non-yielding bullion.
Amongst other precious metals, spot silver rose 0.2% to $28.28 per ounce, and was set for a weekly gain.
Spot platinum rose 0.6% at $938.39, and palladium was steady at $1,023.09. Both sister metals were headed for a weekly decline.


Indicators Point to Saudi Economic Prosperity in 2025

A general view of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (Asharq Al-Awsat)
A general view of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (Asharq Al-Awsat)
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Indicators Point to Saudi Economic Prosperity in 2025

A general view of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (Asharq Al-Awsat)
A general view of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (Asharq Al-Awsat)

Many indicators show that the Saudi economy is heading towards prosperity in 2025, based on data that made the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank raise their expectations for the growth of the Kingdom’s economy to 6 percent and 5.9 percent, respectively, from their previous prospects of 5.5 percent and 4.2 percent in January.

Dr. Abdullah Al-Jassar, a member of the Saudi Economic Association, told Asharq Al-Awsat that these expectations are based on key factors, including the improved performance of the non-oil sector, which is likely to maintain its growth momentum, driven by increased consumption and investment.

He also pointed to the continued rise of oil prices, noting that signs of improvement during the current year will contribute to supporting revenues that facilitate investment in infrastructure projects and economic development.

Al-Jassar went on to say that infrastructure improvements and trade agreements help in strengthening the Kingdom’s role as a regional commercial hub and stimulating economic activity.

He highlighted the importance of promising sectors, including arts, entertainment, and tourism, in diversifying the economy and creating new job opportunities.

He stressed that the Saudi economy was moving steadily towards achieving its development goals, thanks to good economic policies, huge investments, and economic diversification programs.

Meanwhile, Chief Economist at Riyad Bank Dr. Nayef Al-Ghaith explained to Asharq Al-Awsat that the expectations of the IMF and the World Bank showed a growth momentum in 2025, thanks to an increase in the oil and non-oil economies during the coming period.

The non-oil economy has witnessed an expansion supported by the economic reforms established by Vision 2030, he said, adding: “Currently, we are seeing the results of these initiatives, as companies have witnessed a rise in orders and in the number of new customers, which has contributed to the overall increase in business operations.”


China’s Central Bank Vows to Prioritize Quality of Credit Over Size

Workers prepare a stall filled with seafood at a market in Beijing on July 10, 2019. (AFP)
Workers prepare a stall filled with seafood at a market in Beijing on July 10, 2019. (AFP)
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China’s Central Bank Vows to Prioritize Quality of Credit Over Size

Workers prepare a stall filled with seafood at a market in Beijing on July 10, 2019. (AFP)
Workers prepare a stall filled with seafood at a market in Beijing on July 10, 2019. (AFP)

There is still room for China's central bank to take steps to support the economy, but efforts are needed to prevent cash from sloshing around the banking system as real credit demand weakens, senior officials at the bank said on Thursday.

The world's second-biggest economy grew faster than expected in the first quarter, but several March indicators, such as property investment, retail sales and industrial output showed that domestic demand remains frail, weighing down momentum.

The People's Bank of China (PBOC) has pledged to step up policy support for the economy this year and promote a rebound in prices.

“A series of monetary policy measures introduced earlier are gradually taking effect, and the economy continues to rebound with a good start,” Zhu Hexin, a deputy governor of the PBOC, told a news conference on Thursday.

“There is still room for monetary policy going forward, and we will closely watch the policy effectiveness, economic recovery, and achievement of goals, and make good use of reserve tools at the appropriate time.”

China's central bank cautioned on Thursday against a “one-sided” pursuit of credit expansion after data showed a slowdown in bank lending, vowing to prioritize the quality of credit over size and move to revitalizing existing loans.

Zou Lan, head of the PBOC's monetary policy department, told the briefing that efforts should be made to prevent the accumulation of “idle funds” as some banks extend more loans than actually needed and some firms use low-cost loans to buy wealth management products or lend to other firms.

“Credit demand has weakened compared to previous years, and the credit structure is also being optimized and upgraded,” Zou said, adding that China's money supply growth could slow down and people should not simply look at year-on-year growth.

The central bank has in recent weeks delivered modest cuts in banks' reserve requirement ratio (RRR) and interest rates as part of broad measures to support the economy, with more policy easing expected in the coming months.

Real interest rates, when adjusted for producer prices, remain elevated for some industries - including ferrous metal producers, but high borrowing costs will help promote capacity control and inventory reduction among firms, Zou said.

“We should avoid weakening the driving force of structural adjustments and prevent excessively low interest rates,” he said.

New bank lending in China rose less than expected in March from the previous month, while broad credit growth hit a record low, boosting the case for the central bank to roll out more stimulus steps to help achieve an ambitious growth target.

China has set an economic growth target for 2024 of around 5%, which many analysts say will be a challenge to achieve without much more stimulus.

The central bank said 2024 growth of money supply and total social financing - a broad measure of credit and liquidity in the economy - would match expected goals for economic growth and inflation.

Analysts polled by Reuters expected the central bank to cut the banks' reserve requirement ratios (RRR) by 25 basis points (bps) in the third quarter, following a 50-basis point cut earlier this year, which was the biggest in two years.


Oil Surges, Equities Sink as Iran Blasts Fan MidEast Escalation Fears

FILE PHOTO: A general view shows the central station gas processing plant at Rumaila oilfield in Basra, Iraq, November 5, 2020. REUTERS/Essam Al-Sudani/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: A general view shows the central station gas processing plant at Rumaila oilfield in Basra, Iraq, November 5, 2020. REUTERS/Essam Al-Sudani/File Photo
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Oil Surges, Equities Sink as Iran Blasts Fan MidEast Escalation Fears

FILE PHOTO: A general view shows the central station gas processing plant at Rumaila oilfield in Basra, Iraq, November 5, 2020. REUTERS/Essam Al-Sudani/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: A general view shows the central station gas processing plant at Rumaila oilfield in Basra, Iraq, November 5, 2020. REUTERS/Essam Al-Sudani/File Photo

Oil prices rallied and equities sank Friday as reports said explosions had been heard in Iran and Syria, fueling fears of an escalation of the Middle East crisis after last weekend's missile attack on Israel by Tehran.
The reports followed another batch of data indicating the US economy remained in rude health and compounded concerns that the Federal Reserve will hold off cutting interest rates this year or even hike them again, The Associated Press said.
Traders have been on edge since Saturday's barrage by Iran, which Israel's army chief General Herzi Halevi warned would be met with a response.
Leaders in Tehran said the strike was a legitimate response to a deadly attack on an Iranian embassy building in Damascus that it blames on Israel.
Iran state TV said three blasts had been heard near central Isfahan, the site of a key nuclear facility. Tehran had earlier said it could revise its nuclear policies if Israel threatened to attack its sites.
The Mehr news agency also said that "flights to Tehran, Isfahan and Shiraz, and airports in the west, northwest and southwest have been suspended".
Israel's military said sirens sounded in the country's north.
The news sent shivers through markets, with both main oil contracts surging more than three percent on worries about supplies from the crude-rich region, while fears of a regional conflict saw equities tumble.
Tokyo, Seoul and Taipei each plunged more than three percent, while Hong Kong and Sydney were off more than one percent.
There were also losses in Shanghai, Singapore, Wellington, Manila and Jakarta.
The rush for safety also saw the yen rally against the dollar and gold jump more than one percent past $2,400, while US Treasuries climbed.
"It is now clear that the escalating shadow warfare between Israel and Iran... has finally ignited the powder keg in the Middle East, and we have moved decisively out of the shadows and into the glaring light of open conflict," said Stephen Innes of SPI Asset Management.
"It should be noted that this is not a staged response to an Iranian drone attack but rather an indication that we have entered a new phase of this conflict, one that is likely to have significant and far-reaching consequences for Middle East peace and least of all risk markets."
The mood among traders was already downbeat as they contemplated the prospect of the Fed staying pat on interest rates this year following data showing jobless claims came in below expectations while a gauge of business activity hit a two-year high.
Meanwhile, Atlanta Fed boss Raphael Bostic said inflation is "too high" and he felt there was no need to cut borrowing costs until later in the year.
"I'm comfortable being patient," he added.
New York Fed chief John Williams and governor Michelle Bowman also said they saw fewer reductions than expected, if at all, this year.
Michael Landsberg, of Landsberg Bennett Private Wealth Management, said: "We are firmly in the camp of no rate cuts in 2024.
"We believe investors should prepare for a higher-for-longer regime when it comes to both inflation and interest rates."


IMF Revises Down Middle East Growth Outlook

An International Monetary Fund police officer walks by an IMF banner, during the World Bank/IMF Spring Meetings in Washington, Thursday, April 18, 2024. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
An International Monetary Fund police officer walks by an IMF banner, during the World Bank/IMF Spring Meetings in Washington, Thursday, April 18, 2024. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
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IMF Revises Down Middle East Growth Outlook

An International Monetary Fund police officer walks by an IMF banner, during the World Bank/IMF Spring Meetings in Washington, Thursday, April 18, 2024. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
An International Monetary Fund police officer walks by an IMF banner, during the World Bank/IMF Spring Meetings in Washington, Thursday, April 18, 2024. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

The International Monetary Fund said on Thursday Middle East economies would grow at a slower pace this year than it previously projected as the war in Gaza, attacks on Red Sea shipping and lower oil output add to existing challenges of high debt and borrowing costs.

The IMF revised down its 2024 growth forecast for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region to 2.7% from 3.4% in its October regional outlook. That would be an improvement from 1.9% growth in 2023.

The downward revision was driven by conflicts in Sudan, the West Bank and Gaza, as well as oil production cuts.

"Assuming these factors ease in 2025, growth is forecast to strengthen to 4.2%," the IMF said.

"Uncertainty is high and medium-term growth is forecast to remain below pre-pandemic historical averages."

Within MENA, oil exporters are seen faring better, with the IMF projecting 2.9% growth this year, up 1 percentage point from last year.

Gulf economies are seen growing 2.4% this year, a downward revision of 1.3 percentage points from October, the IMF said. Non-hydrocarbon growth in the oil-rich region will be the main driver of growth going forward and ambitious plans to diversify their economies are expected to reduce dependence on hydrocarbons, the IMF said.

Non-Gulf oil exporters are seen growing 3.3% in 2024, up from 3% seen in October.

Prolonged disruptions to trade in the Red Sea would further impact trade volumes and shipping costs.

"The conflict in Gaza and Israel is a key downside risk for the MENA region, particularly the risk of further escalation or a protracted conflict and disruptions to trade and shipping," the IMF said.


Iraq to Seek Bids for Oil, Gas Contracts April 27

FILE PHOTO: A general view shows the central station gas processing plant at Rumaila oilfield in Basra, Iraq, November 5, 2020. REUTERS/Essam Al-Sudani/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: A general view shows the central station gas processing plant at Rumaila oilfield in Basra, Iraq, November 5, 2020. REUTERS/Essam Al-Sudani/File Photo
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Iraq to Seek Bids for Oil, Gas Contracts April 27

FILE PHOTO: A general view shows the central station gas processing plant at Rumaila oilfield in Basra, Iraq, November 5, 2020. REUTERS/Essam Al-Sudani/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: A general view shows the central station gas processing plant at Rumaila oilfield in Basra, Iraq, November 5, 2020. REUTERS/Essam Al-Sudani/File Photo

Iraq will hold a bidding round for oil and gas exploration contracts on April 27, the oil ministry said on Thursday.
Iraq will auction 30 new oil and gas projects in two licensing rounds distributed across the country as it seeks to produce much needed natural gas for power stations and cut imports burdening the country's budget.
The "fifth plus" round includes 16 projects, some of which were not awarded in the fifth licensing round, while the sixth round will offer mainly exploration gas blocks, the ministry said in a statement.
The country flares much of its own gas, extracted alongside crude oil at its fields, because it lacks the facilities to process it into fuel. Instead, it uses Iranian power imports to generate electricity.


UN Says Solutions Exist to Rapidly Ease Debt Burden of Poor Nations

UNCTAD's Rebeca Grynspan compared the debt burden facing poorer countries to "a reverse blood transfusion". Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP
UNCTAD's Rebeca Grynspan compared the debt burden facing poorer countries to "a reverse blood transfusion". Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP
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UN Says Solutions Exist to Rapidly Ease Debt Burden of Poor Nations

UNCTAD's Rebeca Grynspan compared the debt burden facing poorer countries to "a reverse blood transfusion". Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP
UNCTAD's Rebeca Grynspan compared the debt burden facing poorer countries to "a reverse blood transfusion". Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

The heavy debt weighing on developing countries can be alleviated through readily available measures, the UN's trade and development chief said, pleading for bold international action.
Rebeca Grynspan compared the debt burden facing poorer countries to "a reverse blood transfusion", with money flowing "from the ones that need it to the ones that don't".
In 2022 -- the last year for which there are clear statistics -- developing countries "paid almost $50 billion more to their external creditors than they received in fresh disbursements", UNCTAD said in a recent report.
"What we need to be aware of is that the markets are not in distress, people are," Grynspan told AFP in an interview this week. "We are in a debt crisis."
The former Costa Rican vice president and government minister pointed out that it was "the small and medium-sized countries that don't move the markets, that are the ones that are in the distress".
They are "in a situation where they are spending more on their debt than on human development, on their own health or education" systems.
'Too slow'
UNCTAD, she said, estimated that currently "there are 52 countries that are either in debt distress or on the brink of debt distress".
Grynspan said she planned to address the issue during this week's meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank in Washington.
Grynspan, who in 2021 became the first woman to lead the agency, has raised its profile by participating in G20 meetings, and also by representing the UN on difficult briefs.
She has among other things played a vital role in negotiations towards ensuring the continued export of fertilizers from Russia -- vital for global food security.
There have been numerous efforts over the decades to resolve debt problems weighing on poor countries, but Grynspan said they have been so slow and complicated that they often act as a "deterrent".
"Countries think twice before they go into a restructuring process that takes so long," she said, so "they prefer to pay, although the cost and pain is so big".
"It's a huge cost for the population."
Grynspan hailed efforts underway to lessen the burden on countries appealing for aid, including an IMF call to speed up the treatment of debt relief applications.
She stressed though that "these are ad hoc mechanisms".
In the long term, "we need an internationally-agreed, stable mechanism for debt restructure."
'Great relief'
Some countries do not have the luxury of waiting for the creation of such a mechanism, and need immediate relief, she said.
Grynspan highlighted that the dire situations many countries face stem more from cascading crises suffered during the Covid-19 pandemic than from government mismanagement.
"So there is a reason and a rationale for the international community to come with much more help and support for these countries," she said.
"A low-hanging fruit," she said, would be to remove the surcharges that 17 countries currently pay to the IMF.
Exempting them from those charges, which are aimed at encouraging countries to quickly exit IMF assistance, would swiftly free up $2 billion, according to Grynspan.
That money, she said, could provide "great relief" if used towards "the needs of the people of these countries".
She also hailed an idea put forward by the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank and its African counterpart to provide guarantees to "really lower the premium of the interest rates in the developing countries" to attract private investment.
And she suggested accelerating the IMF's Resilience and Sustainability Trust (RST), aimed at helping vulnerable countries build resilience to shocks, including from climate change.
Other interesting proposals, she said, included to swap debt for nature, and to automatically suspend interest payments for countries hit by natural disasters.
"Those are things that can be decided today," Grynspan said.
"We don't have to wait a decade to have results."


11.2 Million Saudis Join Private Employment Market

According to the Labor Observatory statistics, the total number of workers in the private sector reached about 10.9 million. (SPA)
According to the Labor Observatory statistics, the total number of workers in the private sector reached about 10.9 million. (SPA)
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11.2 Million Saudis Join Private Employment Market

According to the Labor Observatory statistics, the total number of workers in the private sector reached about 10.9 million. (SPA)
According to the Labor Observatory statistics, the total number of workers in the private sector reached about 10.9 million. (SPA)

A new report has shown that the Saudi private sector employment market has for the first time incorporated over 11.2 million employees, 8.8 of whom are expatriates and 2.3 million are Saudi nationals.
The increase in the number of Saudis in the employment market comes at a time when the unemployment rate among Saudis recorded the lowest level at 7.7 percent during the last quarter of 2023.
This is very close to the Vision 2030 unemployment target of 7 percent, thanks to the increase in the number of female workers and the government’s efforts to create more job opportunities for Saudis.
In its statistical figures, the National Labor Observatory said on Wednesday that over 28.1 thousand citizens joined, for the first time, the private sector’s labor force last March.
According to the Observatory, 9.9 million employees in the private sector are males, while the number of females touched 1.3 million.


UAE, Costa Rica Sign Trade Deal

The UAE and Costa Rica signed a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) during a virtual ceremony. WAM
The UAE and Costa Rica signed a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) during a virtual ceremony. WAM
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UAE, Costa Rica Sign Trade Deal

The UAE and Costa Rica signed a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) during a virtual ceremony. WAM
The UAE and Costa Rica signed a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) during a virtual ceremony. WAM

The United Arab Emirates and Costa Rica have signed an agreement that will help improve bilateral trade and investment ties, UAE President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan said on Thursday.

The Gulf and Central American countries signed a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) during a virtual ceremony, the president said in a post on social media platform X.

CEPAs signed by the UAE are broad free trade agreements that typically also include clauses covering investment and services.

“The agreement, which was signed by Dr. Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, UAE Minister of State for Foreign Trade, and Manuel Tovar, Minister of Foreign Trade of Costa Rica, heralds a new era of bilateral cooperation between the two countries. It will also enhance trade flows, increase private-sector collaboration, and provide new opportunities for investment, particularly in priority sectors such as logistics, energy, aviation, tourism, and infrastructure development,” UAE's state news agency (WAM) said.

Bilateral non-oil trade between the two countries was worth $65 million in 2023, up 7% on the previous year, according to the report carried by WAM on the CEPA signing.

Sheikh Mohamed welcomed the agreement as a new chapter in UAE-Costa Rican economic relations.

He highlighted the importance of trade to international cooperation, particularly in the pursuit of secure, resilient supply chains and solutions to pressing global issues such as climate change and food security.