Algeria to Establish Base for Economic, Investment Cooperation with Saudi Arabia

Algerian Ambassador to the Kingdom Mohamed Ali Boughazi (Photo Credit: Ali Al Dhaheri)
Algerian Ambassador to the Kingdom Mohamed Ali Boughazi (Photo Credit: Ali Al Dhaheri)
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Algeria to Establish Base for Economic, Investment Cooperation with Saudi Arabia

Algerian Ambassador to the Kingdom Mohamed Ali Boughazi (Photo Credit: Ali Al Dhaheri)
Algerian Ambassador to the Kingdom Mohamed Ali Boughazi (Photo Credit: Ali Al Dhaheri)

Algeria is currently planning to establish a base for economic and investment cooperation with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, an Algerian diplomat told Asharq Al-Awsat on Saturday.

Saudi-Algerian relations have recently witnessed remarkable development. Change could be felt through the high level of consultation and cooperation between Algiers and Riyadh. Senior officials from both countries had exchanged visits.

Algeria and Saudi Arabia share views on many political and economic files, Algerian Ambassador to the Kingdom Mohamed Ali Boughazi affirmed to Asharq Al-Awsat.

This alignment has allowed the two countries to coordinate in international forums, such as OPEC and OPEC+, added Boughazi.

He pointed to Algeria’s support for the Kingdom to organize Expo 2030.

He also mentioned the Kingdom’s support for Algeria’s candidacy for non-permanent membership of the UN Security Council in 2024 -2025.

“For our part, we will strive to do our utmost to raise the relations of cooperation between our two countries to the highest levels,” affirmed Boughazi.

“The number of agreements signed between the two countries exceeded 30,” added the diplomat.

Boughazi explained that the agreements cover a variety of economic and commercial fields, including the establishment of the mixed investment company and a joint business council.

Moreover, some deals were signed in the field of culture and archives.

“We will seek to raise economic cooperation to the highest levels,” asserted Boughazi.

“Our priority now is to work on intensifying mutual visits between investors and businessmen from both countries,” he added.

The ambassador acknowledged that the volume of trade exchange between the Kingdom and Algeria does not currently reflect the enormous capabilities available to the two countries, nor the aspirations of their leadership.

“A new investment law was issued that gives many advantages and provides many facilities for resident and non-resident investors,” revealed Boughazi, adding that conditions are very favorable for Saudi businessmen to invest in Algeria.

“We will work with the Saudis to overcome difficulties and implement mature investment projects,” said Boughazi.

Besides implementing several economic and investment cooperation agreements, there are several tabled projects, some of which are ready for signing and others are under study, revealed the diplomat.

Boughazi stressed his country’s desire to cooperate with new Saudi initiatives in the fields of green economy, clean energy, environment, and the climate.

He pointed to his country having paid special attention to renewable energies through the establishment of Algeria’s own ministerial department to manage this promising sector.



FII Institute PRIORITY Summit to Be Held in US on February 22-23

FII Institute PRIORITY Summit to Be Held in US on February 22-23
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FII Institute PRIORITY Summit to Be Held in US on February 22-23

FII Institute PRIORITY Summit to Be Held in US on February 22-23

Leaders from across the world, and across the political spectrum will gather in Miami for the Future Investment Initiative PRIORITY Summit on February 22 and 23.

The event will bring together 1,000 investors, business leaders and policy experts at a time of heightened global tensions.

With the world experiencing an array of immediate and long-term risks, including geopolitical tension, contested elections, polarized discourse, climate concerns, AI threats and economic headwinds, the FII Institute is convening an international summit to encourage the mobilization of investment as a force for good.

The summit, held under the theme “On the Edge of a New Frontier”, will address the changing economic, social and political realities, and the issues that are of concern to citizens the world over. Discussions will include the digitization of every economic sector, investor outlook, climate tech, the new AI ecosystem, innovations for better urban environments, and the forthcoming US elections.

Over one hundred luminaries from finance, business and government are due to speak, including Michael Dell, Founder, Chairman, & CEO, Dell Technologies; Larry Summers, President Emeritus, Harvard University & Board Member at OpenAI; Jennifer Johnson, President & CEO, Franklin Templeton; Pamela Liebman, President and CEO, The Corcoran Group; Julie Sweet, Chair and CEO, Accenture; Tom Vice, CEO, Sierra Space; Magda Wierzycka, Sygnia Ltd; Josh Harris, Founder, 26North and Managing Partner, Washington Commanders; Dr Chloé Bakalar, Chief Ethicist, Responsible AI, Meta; Caroline Yap, Managing Director, Global AI Business, Google; and Todd Boehly, Co-Founder, Chairman & CEO, Eldridge Industries

The Future Investment Initiative’s (FII) Founding Partner, the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia, will be joined by 25 Strategic Partners, including international companies Pepsico, Franklin Templeton, HSBC, Softbank Vision Fund, Standard Chartered, Straight Street, and GFH Financial Group. Strategic Partners support the ongoing work of the institute.

The FII Institute conducts ongoing research to identify the issues that matter to citizens worldwide. This year’s polling sampled 50,000 people from 23 countries to identify humanity’s priorities. The findings are used to shape FII’s policy agenda and program of summits.

This year’s research revealed a dramatic global drop of 20% in satisfaction levels, and discontent across a range of issues, including cost of living, loneliness, technology, and climate concerns. Meanwhile, 62% of respondents in the United States say their government is not doing enough to regulate the impact of emerging technology on society.

FII PRIORITY Summit Miami continues conversations held in Hong Kong and Riyadh in fall 2023. It is part of an ongoing global program of summits held next in forward looking global cities throughout the year, with summits coming up in Rio de Janeiro and Nairobi in the spring and summer.

Miami has been chosen for its vibrancy, diversity, economic significance, and its role as a vital link between continents, economies, and societies.

Richard Attias, CEO of the Future Investment Initiative Institute said: “This year marks an historic moment with nearly half of the world’s population participating in national elections in 2024, underscoring the significance of citizen priorities and leaders’ effective responses to them.”

“The choices made by leaders in government and investment during this period will have far-reaching consequences for global peace, prosperity, and stability and I am delighted that over 1,000 leaders will spend time in Miami deliberating on those issues that matter to the world,” he added.


Saudi Capital Market Forum to Host CONNECT Hong Kong Edition in May

Saudi Arabia represents 70% of the relative weight of the Middle East and North Africa markets in the MSCI Emerging Markets Index. (Asharq Al-Awsat)
Saudi Arabia represents 70% of the relative weight of the Middle East and North Africa markets in the MSCI Emerging Markets Index. (Asharq Al-Awsat)
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Saudi Capital Market Forum to Host CONNECT Hong Kong Edition in May

Saudi Arabia represents 70% of the relative weight of the Middle East and North Africa markets in the MSCI Emerging Markets Index. (Asharq Al-Awsat)
Saudi Arabia represents 70% of the relative weight of the Middle East and North Africa markets in the MSCI Emerging Markets Index. (Asharq Al-Awsat)

Saudi Arabia’s Capital Market Forum is set to enhance ties with China’s capital markets by venturing beyond borders to host the next edition in Hong Kong.
The Capital Market Forum — CONNECT Hong Kong, set for May 9 in the port city, was announced by Khalid Al-Hussan, CEO of Saudi Tadawul Group, during a fireside chat at the Riyadh forum.
The forum, designed to facilitate cross-border investments and foster collaboration, will feature a series of strategic discussions and networking platforms, inviting key financial minds and decision-makers.
Deputy of Financing and Investment Abdullah Binghannam revealed that the Kingdom has commenced its public consultation for the so-called “FMO” framework, aiming to enhance the market’s liquidity and accessibility.
During his participation in a dialogue session within the activities of the Forum, Professor Richard Cormack, Co-Head of Capital Markets in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa and Co-Head of Investment Banking in the United Kingdom at Goldman Sachs, revealed the bank’s expectations that the weight of the Middle East and North Africa markets will reach to 10% on the MSCI Emerging Markets Index, with Saudi Arabia representing 70% of this percentage, according to a research study published by Goldman Sachs.
Cormack stressed that these expectations mean the influx of active and passive investments worth approximately $50 billion into the Kingdom, which contributes to strengthening its position as a leading financial power equivalent to the economic bloc in Latin America, which is considered the largest bloc outside Asia.
Cormack also stressed that the Kingdom continues to record strong performance in line with the performance of advanced financial markets, noting that the profitability factor for stocks traded in the Saudi financial market has reached approximately 21 times, which is the same ratio recorded for stocks traded in the American market.
The Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development and Saudi Exchange signed a new cooperation agreement on the sidelines of the third Saudi Capital Market Forum to launch a Social Responsibility Index.
Furthermore, a memorandum of understanding was signed between the Saudi Tadawul Group and Atrum, supporting artistic initiatives, educational programs, and cultural exchanges within the Kingdom.
SALIC signed an MoU with Tadawul with the aim of establishing the foundations for effective cooperation and integrated coordination between the two parties towards aligning and sharing strategic initiatives in the field of sustainability.
An MoU was signed between Riyad Capital and E Fund to foster knowledge sharing on local investment expertise and stimulate collaboration on developing future investment products.
Meanwhile, the Saudi Capital Market, Muqassa and Swiss cash management company Instimatch Global signed an agreement to launch a Repo Trading Platform for the Kingdom’s market.

 

 

 

 


GCC Praises OPEC’s Role in Supporting Oil Market Stability

Jasem AlBudaiwi, Secretary General of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), receives Haitham Al Ghais, Secretary General of OPEC. (OPEC’s LinkedIn account)
Jasem AlBudaiwi, Secretary General of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), receives Haitham Al Ghais, Secretary General of OPEC. (OPEC’s LinkedIn account)
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GCC Praises OPEC’s Role in Supporting Oil Market Stability

Jasem AlBudaiwi, Secretary General of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), receives Haitham Al Ghais, Secretary General of OPEC. (OPEC’s LinkedIn account)
Jasem AlBudaiwi, Secretary General of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), receives Haitham Al Ghais, Secretary General of OPEC. (OPEC’s LinkedIn account)

Jasem AlBudaiwi, Secretary General of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), praised on Tuesday OPEC’s role in supporting oil market stability.
AlBudaiwi made his remarks as he received OPEC Secretary General Haitham Al Ghais, according to OPEC’s LinkedIn account.
The two men explored possible ways to enhance cooperation between OPEC and the GCC. They also discussed a number of issues related to the energy sector, including energy transitions, the importance of energy security, and the need for continuous investments.
A recent study of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System has concluded that OPEC’s credible decisions and research ensure the oil markets’ stability.
“We find that OPEC communication reduces oil price volatility and prompts market participants to rebalance their positions,” according to the study published on the Banks’ website.
“Our analysis indicates that market participants assess OPEC communications as providing an important signal to the crude oil market,” the study added.
OPEC on Tuesday stuck to its forecast for relatively strong growth in global oil demand in 2024 and 2025 and raised its economic growth forecasts for both years saying there was further upside potential.
In a monthly report, it said world oil demand will rise by 2.25 million barrels per day (bpd) in 2024 and by 1.85 million bpd in 2025. Both forecasts were unchanged from last month.

 

 

 

 


Media Minister: 2024 Marks Year of Media Transformation in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Minister of Media Salman bin Yousef Al-Dosary outlined key strategic aspects of the media system for the upcoming year. (SPA)
Saudi Minister of Media Salman bin Yousef Al-Dosary outlined key strategic aspects of the media system for the upcoming year. (SPA)
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Media Minister: 2024 Marks Year of Media Transformation in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Minister of Media Salman bin Yousef Al-Dosary outlined key strategic aspects of the media system for the upcoming year. (SPA)
Saudi Minister of Media Salman bin Yousef Al-Dosary outlined key strategic aspects of the media system for the upcoming year. (SPA)

Saudi Minister of Media Salman bin Yousef Al-Dosary expressed on Tuesday optimism about the future of Saudi media, anticipating numerous achievements and transformations across all sectors.

He outlined key strategic aspects of the media system for the upcoming year, detailing various projects and programs set to bring these features to fruition, while announcing 2024 as the "Year of Media Transformation."

"Today, we unveil the strategies for the Year of Media Transformation in the Kingdom, based on four pillars: figures, indicators, passion, and work, guided by a wise vision from the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques and led by Crown Prince," said Al-Dosary at the opening session of the Saudi Media Forum 3 in Riyadh.

The event was attended by over 2,000 media outlets from within and outside the Kingdom.

Al-Dosary said the Saudi media industry has contributed SAR14.5 billion to the GDP in 2023, projecting an increase to SAR16 billion this year. He emphasized the industry's investment in human capital, which generated 56,000 employment opportunities last year, with expectations to reach 67,000 this year.

He presented three implemented strategies serving as a roadmap for the future of media, fortifying the sector, increasing investment attractiveness, and improving the effectiveness of national cadres. These strategies involve collaboration with over 30 government institutions, shaping the comprehensive strategic direction of the Kingdom's media system.

Al-Dosary discussed the Saudi Broadcasting Authority’s (SBA) strategy, aiming to expand the Authority, enhance business competitiveness, nurture media professionals and talents, and produce outstanding content for international digital platforms. He also highlighted the Saudi Press Agency's (SPA) strategy, focusing on improving its global network, offices, and correspondents while aligning media content with public expectations and contemporary developments.

Additionally, the minister spotlighted noteworthy projects, including the "Media Oasis" coinciding with the Kingdom's participation in major summits and events. This initiative engaged over 2,600 journalists from 60 countries, providing insights into more than 30 national projects. Initiatives, like the "Mediazone", have completed their work or are in the process of developing new editions to stay aligned with creative advancements in media arts and expertise.

Al-Dosary emphasized the significance of the Hajj and Umrah seasons, highlighting the recent launch of the "Hajj and Umrah Mediathon" project. This initiative encourages interested parties and media professionals to compete in developing media initiatives and projects promoting innovative and creative media coverage.

He also announced the initiation of the "Hajj Media Hub" project, aiming to establish an integrated media community and environment to assist media professionals in their coverage. Additionally, there will be an interactive media exhibition showcasing services during the Hajj season. The minister disclosed an anticipated outreach to more than 2,000 media professionals and international visitors.

Moreover, Al-Dosary announced the establishment of the Saudi Media Academy that aims to empower, develop, and train individuals in future disciplines. It also aims to form early and innovative strategic partnerships with major technology companies and global media platforms such as Google, Huawei, Alibaba, and others.

Following the minister's remarks, President of the Saudi Media Forum and Chairman of the Saudi Broadcasting Authority (SBA) Mohammed Al-Harthi delivered a speech highlighting a comprehensive development renaissance witnessed by the Kingdom at all levels and fields. He emphasized that the media serves as a mirror reflecting global changes.


Al-Hogail at the Retail Leaders Circle MENA Summit: The Sector Represents 23% of Non-Oil Output

Minister of Municipal, Rural Affairs and Housing speaking during the Retail Leaders Circle MENA Summit in Riyadh. (Asharq Al-Awsat)
Minister of Municipal, Rural Affairs and Housing speaking during the Retail Leaders Circle MENA Summit in Riyadh. (Asharq Al-Awsat)
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Al-Hogail at the Retail Leaders Circle MENA Summit: The Sector Represents 23% of Non-Oil Output

Minister of Municipal, Rural Affairs and Housing speaking during the Retail Leaders Circle MENA Summit in Riyadh. (Asharq Al-Awsat)
Minister of Municipal, Rural Affairs and Housing speaking during the Retail Leaders Circle MENA Summit in Riyadh. (Asharq Al-Awsat)

Saudi Minister of Municipal, Rural Affairs and Housing, Majed Al-Hogail, said that the retail sector currently constitutes 23 percent of the non-oil GDP in the Kingdom and is expected to grow to more than SAR 460 billion ($122.6 billion) by the end of 2024.
Speaking during the 10th edition of the Retail Leaders Circle MENA Summit in Riyadh, Al-Hogail noted that the total number of active commercial licenses for the sector exceeded 400,000 licenses from 2019 until the end of 2023, as efforts to stimulate the sector resulted in the issuance of no less than 70,000 annual licenses, recording a steady growth of about 6 percent.
The minister emphasized that the Kingdom has worked to develop many legislations supporting the retail sector, with the aim to regulate its operation, sustainability and effectiveness, in addition to finding solutions, services and facilitations that encourage investors and help them overcome obstacles.
“We have made important steps towards developing the sector by enacting and introducing the necessary legislation, regulations and requirements for integration and partnership with the private sector... We have held many meetings and workshops with chambers of commerce in all regions,” with the aim of raising the standards of commercial and investment activities, updating licensing and oversight regulations and enhancing the principle of transparency in legislation and procedures,” Al-Hogail told the attendees.
He also pointed to continued efforts in cooperation with relevant authorities to build capabilities and develop skills according to the needs of the current labor market, as well as anticipating future requirements to empower the local workforce in the sector.
Al-Hogail stated that the retail sector contributes 23 percent to the non-oil GDP in the Kingdom, while the average occupancy rates of the sector in Riyadh and Jeddah reached 88 percent during 2023.
For his part, the General Supervisor of the Licensing and Compliance Agency at the Ministry of Municipal, Rural Affairs and Housing Affairs, Mohammad Al-Melhem, told Asharq Al-Awsat that as of the beginning of 2023, the ministry has worked to review all legislation related to business requirements, in cooperation with the private sector.
“Today, this qualitative change brought about by the Ministry, which will see the light at the beginning of the second quarter of 2024, will result in a major shift in terms of clarity of requirements and procedures,” he said.

 

 

 

 


Oil Hovers Near 3-week Highs on Middle East Tensions, China Demand

Pump Jacks are seen at sunrise near Bakersfield, California October 14, 2014. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
Pump Jacks are seen at sunrise near Bakersfield, California October 14, 2014. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
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Oil Hovers Near 3-week Highs on Middle East Tensions, China Demand

Pump Jacks are seen at sunrise near Bakersfield, California October 14, 2014. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
Pump Jacks are seen at sunrise near Bakersfield, California October 14, 2014. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

Oil prices edged up on Tuesday, hovering close to three-week highs on heightened Middle East tensions and recovering China demand.

Brent futures ticked up 3 cents to $83.59 a barrel by 0757 GMT.

US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude for April delivery inched up 2 cents to $78.48 a barrel. The March WTI contract rose 24 cents to $79.43 a barrel as traders prepared for that contract to expire during the day. There was no settlement for WTI on Monday due to a US public holiday.

Crude markets were "marginally lower" in "quiet trading over the Presidents' Day holiday in the US and as demand concerns offset ongoing Middle Eastern geopolitical tensions," IG market analyst Tony Sycamore said in a note.

The Iran-aligned Houthis continued their attacks on shipping lanes in the Red Sea and Bab al-Mandab Strait, with at least four more vessels hit by drone and missile strikes since Friday. One of them, the Belize-flagged, British-registered and Lebanese-managed Rubymar cargo vessel in the Gulf of Aden, was in danger of sinking, Houthis said, raising the stakes in their campaign to disrupt global shipping in solidarity with the Palestinians in Gaza.

"Signs of stronger demand in China also boosted sentiment," ANZ analysts wrote in a note.

Tourism revenues in China surged 47.3% year-on-year and rose above pre-COVID levels during the national Lunar New Year holiday that ended on Saturday.

China also made a record cut in a benchmark reference rate for mortgages on Tuesday, in a bid to shore up its beleaguered property market and economy.

However, the price-supportive factors did not completely offset demand worries. A bearish International Energy Agency (IEA) report last week revised the 2024 oil demand growth forecast downward on expectations that renewable energy would supplant fossil fuel usage.


Houthi Attacks Cut Suez Canal Revenue By 40-50%, Says Egypt's Sisi

A container ship sails at the Suez Canal, in Ismailia, Egypt March 31, 2021. (Handout via Reuters)
A container ship sails at the Suez Canal, in Ismailia, Egypt March 31, 2021. (Handout via Reuters)
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Houthi Attacks Cut Suez Canal Revenue By 40-50%, Says Egypt's Sisi

A container ship sails at the Suez Canal, in Ismailia, Egypt March 31, 2021. (Handout via Reuters)
A container ship sails at the Suez Canal, in Ismailia, Egypt March 31, 2021. (Handout via Reuters)

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said Monday that revenues from the Suez Canal had "decreased by 40 to 50 percent" so far this year due to attacks on shipping by Yemen's Houthis.

The canal is one of the main sources of foreign currency for Egypt which is gripped by a severe financial crisis.

Since November, the Iran-backed Houthis have launched numerous attacks on vessels in the Gulf of Aden and Red Sea, which the group says are aimed at ships with links to Israel in solidarity with the Palestinians in the war-torn Gaza Strip.

The attacks have caused several major shipping firms to suspend passage through the Red Sea, which usually carries around 12 percent of global trade, and divert vessels thousands of miles around Africa.

"See what is happening at our borders... with Gaza, you see the Suez Canal, which used to bring Egypt nearly $10 billion per year, (these revenues) have decreased by 40 to 50 percent and Egypt must continue to pay companies and partners," Sisi said during a conference with oil companies, AFP reported.

The United Nations said in late January that the overall number of ships passing through the Suez Canal, which links the Red Sea to the Mediterranean, had fallen 42 percent in the previous two months.

The number of weekly container ship transits through the Suez fell by 67 percent year-on-year, according to the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), while tanker traffic dropped 18 percent, the transit of bulk cargo ships carrying grain and coal was down six percent and gas transport at a standstill.

The engineering landmark, which opened in 1869, raised around $8.6 billion for Egypt in the 2022-23 fiscal year, a vital source of foreign currency, alongside tourism and remittances, in a country where importers and money changers struggle to source dollars.


Israeli Economy Shrinks by 19.4% in 3 Months Due to War in Gaza

Demonstrators hold signs while blocking traffic as they attend a rally calling for the release of hostages kidnapped in the deadly October 7 attack on Israel by Hamas from Gaza, in Tel Aviv, Israel, February 19, 2024. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez
Demonstrators hold signs while blocking traffic as they attend a rally calling for the release of hostages kidnapped in the deadly October 7 attack on Israel by Hamas from Gaza, in Tel Aviv, Israel, February 19, 2024. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez
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Israeli Economy Shrinks by 19.4% in 3 Months Due to War in Gaza

Demonstrators hold signs while blocking traffic as they attend a rally calling for the release of hostages kidnapped in the deadly October 7 attack on Israel by Hamas from Gaza, in Tel Aviv, Israel, February 19, 2024. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez
Demonstrators hold signs while blocking traffic as they attend a rally calling for the release of hostages kidnapped in the deadly October 7 attack on Israel by Hamas from Gaza, in Tel Aviv, Israel, February 19, 2024. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez

Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics said Monday the Israeli economy plunged 19.4% in the final three months of 2023, affected by the war on Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

For all of 2023, the Israeli economy grew 2 percent, down from 6.5 percent in 2022.

On February 9, Moody’s Investors Service decided to downgrade Israel’s credit rating.

Moody's lowered Israel's credit ratings to A2 from A1 with a negative outlook, downgraded from stable, underscoring the economic damage of the country's war with Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

The war was sparked by the Hamas October 7 attack on southern Israel.

The Taub Center for Social Policy Studies, an Israeli think tank, said the Israeli economy is expected to shrink by 2 percent this quarter, with hundreds of thousands of workers displaced by the war with Hamas or called up as reservists.

The report, published by The New York Times last December, stated that about 20 percent of the Israeli work force was missing from the labor market in October, up from 3 percent before the fighting began.

The spike in unemployment reflects the fact that about 900,000 people are now either enlisted in the Army, unemployed at home, fled from settlements where attacks have been concentrated, such as by the borders of Lebanon and Gaza, or are unable to work due to the destruction of their work industry, according to the report.


Dubai Airport Could Break Passenger Record This Year, Says CEO

Dubai Airports' official forecast for this year stands at 88.8 million passengers. (AFP)
Dubai Airports' official forecast for this year stands at 88.8 million passengers. (AFP)
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Dubai Airport Could Break Passenger Record This Year, Says CEO

Dubai Airports' official forecast for this year stands at 88.8 million passengers. (AFP)
Dubai Airports' official forecast for this year stands at 88.8 million passengers. (AFP)

Dubai's air hub has "every chance" of breaking its record for passenger traffic this year after surpassing pre-pandemic levels in 2023, Dubai Airports' CEO told AFP on Monday.

Dubai International, the world's busiest airport for international passengers for nearly a decade, hit 87 million visits in 2023, beating the 2019 figure of 86.4 million despite the Gaza war, new figures showed.

Chief executive Paul Griffiths cited early recovery in Dubai -- the United Arab Emirates' business and financial center -- from the pandemic and a quick rebound in airport staffing levels as key factors.

"We were ready sooner. We were back to 100 percent capacity much sooner, and as a result, our traffic has rebounded far more quickly," he said, adding that Dubai's record of 89.1 million passengers, set in 2018, could be surpassed this year.

"I think there's every chance of going above it. It could be a new record," Griffiths said. "I've had a peek at the January numbers and let's say it gives me some cause for optimism."

Dubai Airports' official forecast for this year stands at 88.8 million passengers, just shy of the record, despite Israel's war against Hamas which began in October.

"We've demonstrated the absolute resilience of the network that we operate," said Griffiths, adding that Dubai's airport serves 104 countries via 102 airlines.

"If there is a bit of a dip in demand from one destination or point of origin, then that tends to be compensated by the rest of the network filling the space," he added.

Cargo traffic was up 20.4 percent in the last quarter, perhaps because of attacks on shipping through the Red Sea by Yemen's Houthis, Griffiths said.

He would not discuss security arrangements for the airport, beyond saying they were "well developed".

Griffiths said the growth in traffic to and from fast-developing Saudi Arabia had been "phenomenal", with Riyadh now Dubai's second busiest route behind London.

"If you look at the growth of travel and tourism across the world, we are only scratching the surface in this region," he said.


Saudi Minister: Unified GCC Tourist Visa Boosts Tourism

The Saudi flag. Asharq Al-Awsat
The Saudi flag. Asharq Al-Awsat
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Saudi Minister: Unified GCC Tourist Visa Boosts Tourism

The Saudi flag. Asharq Al-Awsat
The Saudi flag. Asharq Al-Awsat

Saudi Minister of Tourism Ahmed Al-Khateeb took part in the eighth meeting of Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) tourism ministers in Doha during which he said a unified GCC tourist visa improves the position of Gulf countries as top tourism destinations.

The meeting addressed means of enhancing collaboration in implementing the unified tourist visa for GCC countries.

Al-Khateeb, in his speech, commended the historic step taken by the GCC Supreme Council in approving this initiative, which reflects the commitment of GCC countries to strengthen tourism cooperation.

He further emphasized that the unified GCC tourist visa will significantly improve the Gulf states' standing as a distinguished global tourist destination.

Al-Khateeb commended the progress in activating the Gulf Tourism Strategy and stressed the importance of continuing efforts to implement the agreed-upon initiatives and programs within the strategy.

Highlighting the Saudi plans, the minister noted that the Kingdom will invest $800 billion in various cities and major tourist destinations over the next decade. He recognized tourism as a prominent economic sector contributing to achieving Saudi Vision 2030 by welcoming 27 million international visitors by 2030.

Al-Khateeb said during the first three quarters of 2023, visitors to the Kingdom spent SAR100 billion. The minister stated that the Kingdom ranked first among the Group of Twenty (G20) countries and second globally in terms of the growth in the number of international tourists, with a remarkable 56% increase in 2023 compared to 2019.

Building on these achievements, the Kingdom aims to welcome 150 million visitors by 2030, including 80 million domestic tourists and 70 million international tourists, Al-Khateeb said.

He emphasized that investments will not only benefit the Kingdom but also have a positive impact on all GCC countries and highlighted the need to increase the percentage of the travel and tourism sector's contribution to the GDP in GCC countries from the current 7.8% to 10%.

The minister stressed the importance of joint tourism efforts in the Gulf region, especially considering the upcoming investments in mega tourism projects. He called for the activation of initiatives, programs, and activities that maximize the benefits of attracting international visitors.

"We affirm our continuous support to achieve further achievements and successes aspired by the leaders of the GCC countries," the minister concluded.