King Salman also issued royal orders setting up state bodies to promote culture and protect the environment, and appointed a cleric known for moderate views to lead the Islamic affairs portfolio at a time when the deeply conservative Muslim country is easing social restrictions and promoting entertainment.

Private sector businessman Ahmed bin Suleiman al-Rajhi was named minister of labor and social development, according to the royal orders published on state media.

Getting hundreds of thousands of unemployed Saudis into the workforce is a major challenge for Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, known as MbS, who oversees economic policy for the world’s top oil exporter, where unemployment stands at 12.8 percent.

The kingdom, which has struggled for years to create jobs for its nationals, aims to create 1.2 million jobs by 2022 to reduce unemployment to 9 percent, a senior labor ministry official has told Reuters.

The selection of Rajhi, who chairs the Council of Saudi Chambers of Commerce and is the scion of an Islamic banker billionaire, follows a broader trend of tapping the private sector to fill top government posts, including the housing, water and agriculture ministers, and a senior defense official.

Last year sources told Reuters that Rajhi was among a delegation of 10 businessmen representing the private sector who met MbS to discuss how the sector had been hit by austerity measures designed to cut the budget deficit and rising fees for employing foreigners, which are encouraging an exodus of expats.

“Some of the labor ministry’s programs have been taken in isolation from the private sector which adversely affected their effectiveness,” said prominent Saudi economist Fadl Alboainain.

Economists said Rajhi, the third minister to hold the labor portfolio since 2015, is expected to create a more friendly business environment, enhance public-private sector communication and help support small and medium enterprises.

“This is the best news we have heard over the past few years, we are very optimistic,” said one Saudi businessman of Rajhi’s appointment, speaking on condition of anonymity.


King Salman also appointed Abdullatif bin Abdulaziz bin Abdulrahman Al Al-Sheikh, a cleric known for his moderate views, as minister of Islamic affairs, call and guidance.

Al-Sheikh – who once headed the kingdom’s religious police, whose powers were curbed two years ago – has previously voiced support for female employment and gender mixing.

MbS has promised to promote a more moderate form of Islam under efforts to modernize the kingdom, the birthplace of Islam, including the recent lifting of a ban on cinemas and the lifting later this month of a ban on women driving.

The royal orders also set up a Ministry of Culture, extracting it from the information ministry, as part of a move to capture more Saudi leisure spending at home.

Prince Bader bin Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Farhan Al Saud, who was appointed in April to the board of a newly-established General Culture Authority, was named culture minister.

Prince Bader, 33, has risen quickly within the government and already holds several top positions, including governor of a royal commission tasked with developing a historic tourism destination in the country’s north.

The Saudi Research and Marketing Group, which is closely linked to King Salman’s branch of the royal family, announced his resignation as chairman hours after his new appointment.

King Salman also ordered royal commissions for the environment and the holy city of Mecca, and an administration for preserving historical areas in the Red Sea city of Jeddah.

Maps tweeted by state media showed that six nature reserves established by the orders – “to reestablish wildlife, enhance their development and promote eco-tourism” – covered some 265,000 square kilometers (65 million acres) of territory.

One of the sites is named for the king and another, located between the proposed NEOM business zone and a Red Sea tourism project, for the crown prince.

The royal orders named several new deputies in the ministries of interior, telecommunications, transport and energy, industry and minerals, and appointed new heads to the royal commission for Jubail and Yanbu and the King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy.

“This article was first posted on on 02 June,2018: The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the Saudi-U.S. CEO Forum.”


JEDDAH – Women have an integral role in building the tourism sector in Makkah as current developmental activity has opened up plenty of opportunities to enhance the rich tourism experience in the province, stated industry experts at a workshop organized by the Makkah Economic Forum in Jeddah.

The discussions at the workshop have much relevance in view of the significance of tourism in realizing the Saudi Vision 2030 and driving economic growth in the Kingdom. It is expected that the tourism sector will create 1.2 million jobs in the country by 2030.

Maryam Al-Harbi, a female tourist guide, said, “The position of tourist guide was one of the professions prohibited for women before the launch of Vision 2030. But now in the changed situation, an increasing number of women are coming forward to join the sector and apply for a tourist guide license.”

Calling upon Saudi women to contribute to the efforts to revive the tourism sector, Al-Harbi pointed out that currently the ratio of women investors in the sector is still a modest 15 percent. Expressing optimism that this figure will improve, she said women need to be entrusted with senior roles to enhance their contribution to the sector.

Al-Harbi called for more women participation considering the massive shortage of human resources in the sector. She urged universities to set up tourism schools to fill the gap of professional expertise, and commended Princess Noura Bint Abdulrahman University for announcing plans to open a tourist guide school.

Maria Mahdaly, co-founder of Rumman Company, stressed the importance of increasing public awareness on domestic tourism and the opportunities the sector provides for women. She called for women empowerment through tourism institutes, and urged women to tap into the opportunities available in the sector.

The second workshop highlighted the importance of setting boundaries in interaction with others in work environment.

Dr. Majed Ashy, a psychology consultant, described the common traits of personal boundaries, listing them in three categories: Rigid, Porous and Healthy. Studies show that people with rigid boundaries have negative impact on themselves because they build boundaries between themselves and others, creating isolation. Describing porous boundaries as a combination of rigid and healthy, Dr. Ashy said it is advisable to maintain healthy boundaries because it contributes to building healthy relationships.

Dr. Salma Al-Mofti, psychology consultant, drew attention to the rampant issue of workplace bullying, and explained that it can take place in emotional form as well. She also spoke about bullying in schools and its long-term negative impact on children. The best treatment in instances of bullying is for the victim to muster up strength, find his or her weaknesses and then face the bully, she said.

Dr. Rola Ashour, psychotherapist and founder of Act Center for Psychology Consultation, explained that some people harass others by sending explicit content online or using expressions with improper intentions.

Citing global statistics, she said France has the lowest number of such cases while the US has the highest.

She said the best way to contain harassment at the workplace is by changing the work environment and enforcing strict rules and penalties on violators.

The workshops were held as part of a series of activities lined up by the Makkah Economic Forum across the entire year to involve the private sector as an active partner in the region’s development programs and help realize the objectives of Saudi Vision 2030. — SG

“This article was first posted on on 09 June,2018: The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the Saudi-U.S. CEO Forum.”

LONDON: Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea project will offer visas on arrival for overseas visitors following the creation of a company to deliver the ambitious project.

The project marked a milestone on Sunday with its incorporation as a standalone closed joint-stock company, The Red Sea Development Company (TRSDC), wholly owned by the country’s Public Investment Fund (PIF).

The company, which in October announced Virgin Group founder Richard Branson as one of its board members, on Sunday said it had recruited John Pagano, the former managing director of development for the UK’s Canary Wharf Group as its chief executive.

The newly-incorporated company will now move forward with the creation of its Special Economic Zone, with its own regulatory framework, it said in a statement.

The framework will be separate from the base economy, with a special emphasis on environmental sustainability, and will offering visa on entry, relaxed social norms, and improved business regulations.

“The destination will provide a unique sense of place for visitors and offer nature lovers, adventurers, cultural explorers and guests looking to escape and rejuvenate, a wide range of exclusive experiences, combining luxury, tranquillity, adventure and beautiful landscapes,” said Pagano.

The first phase of The Red Sea Project — which will occupy an area greater than the size of Belgium between the cities of Al-Wajh and Umluj — will include hotels and residential units, along with a new costal town, an airport and a marina, and is due for completion by late 2022, the company said.

Authorities hope the project will create as many as 35,000 jobs and contribute SR15 billion ($3.99 billion) to the local economy.

The project, unveiled last July by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, is one of the key developments in Saudi Arabia’s strategy to develop its tourism sector, alongside Qiddiya, an entertainment resort near Riyadh that will be two-and-a-half times the size of Disney World.

The country’s Vision 2030 economic development plan is targeting the creation of 1.2 million new jobs in the Saudi tourism sector by 2030.

“This article was first posted on on 07 June,2018: The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the Saudi-U.S. CEO Forum.”

WorleyParsons has been awarded a General Engineering Service (GES) contract by Yanbu Aramco Sinopec Refining Co. Ltd (YASREF) to help optimise the production of its facilities.

WorleyParsons will offer all engineering and consultancy services for the refinery, which includes feasibility studies, basic/concept studies, detailed engineering, procurement and construction support, and pre-commissioning/commissioning assistance. The services will be provided from Yanbu office with the support from Dammam team.

YASREF operates a full-conversion refinery that covers approximately 5.2 million m2 in the Yanbu Industrial City. It is the key anchor project in Yanbu.

YASREF uses 400 000 bpd of Arabian heavy crude oil to produce premium transportation fuels, as well as high-value refined products for both international and domestic markets. It became operational in September 2014.

“We have been working with YASREF the last couple of years under a short form contract. During this period, we provided high-quality services and earned client trust. We are looking forward to supporting YASREF in optimising the production of its facilities” said Shaun Mills, Manager of Projects at WorleyParsons Saudi Arabia.

“This article was first posted on on 22 May,2018: The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the Saudi-U.S. CEO Forum.”


DUBAI, May (Reuters) – Saudi Aramco said on Sunday it has awarded Halliburton a contract for unconventional gas stimulation services.

The contract will “further improve the economics of Saudi Aramco’s unconventional resources programme”, Aramco said in a statement.

“The new agreement will provide lump sum turnkey stimulation services which include major hydraulic fracturing and well intervention operations,” Aramco said.

Saudi Aramco’s unconventional resources programme covers three areas of Saudi Arabia: North Arabia, South Ghawar and Jafurah/Rub’ al-Khali. (Reporting by Rania El Gamal Editing by Alison Williams)

“This article was first posted on on 27 May,2018: The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the Saudi-U.S. CEO Forum.”


DUBAI (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia’s Almarai 2280.SE, the Gulf’s largest dairy company, plans to spend 10.6 billion riyals ($2.8 billion) in capital investment under a five year business plan aimed at boosting its efficiency and expanding its geographic footprint.

The investment for the period from 2019 to 2023 will be financed through growing operating cash flow, bank funding, local and international sukuk programs, as well as the Saudi Industrial Development Fund and the Agricultural Development Fund, it said.

“Given the persistent challenging economic conditions across the region, the focus on efficiency and cost optimization measures will continue throughout the plan period to ensure continuous competitive advantage,” the company said in a statement.

Consumer goods companies and retailers in Saudi Arabia have suffered as the combination of the introduction of Value Added Tax, higher energy prices and a fragile labors market have curbed consumer spending. Almarai and other Saudi exporters have also been impacted by the cutting off of the Qatari market as a result of a regional diplomatic rift between Qatar and Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt.


Almarai said its investment will focus on the replacement of existing assets, improvement of production within farms and factories, distribution and transport facilities, widening of its geographic footprint and product innovation.


“This article was first posted on on 27 May,2018: The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the Saudi-U.S. CEO Forum.”


Goldman Sachs has been building its presence in Saudi Arabia for some time, boosting headcount, securing a stock-trading license and getting involved in key deals including the kingdom’s dollar bond sale

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. has approached a Saudi state-owned entity about a multibillion-dollar deal, according to the bank’s chief executive officer for the Middle East and North Africa.

“We’re very keen on deploying our principal capital in the region in both forms: credit and equity capital,” Wassim Younan said in an interview in Riyadh.

“We continue to prospect for opportunities to do so, and we’ve put forward at least one meaningful, multibillion-dollar proposal to a state-owned enterprise.”

Younan declined to name the enterprise or to be more specific about the type of deal. He said the bank is waiting for a response.

The US lender has been building its presence in Saudi Arabia for some time, boosting headcount, securing a stock-trading license and getting involved in key deals including the kingdom’s dollar bond sale. It wants to make sure it’s well placed to take advantage as the nation diversifies its economy away from oil and opens up to foreign investment.

Goldman has already been involved in sizable deals in the country. It was hired last year to advise Jabal Omar Development Co. on a potential merger with Umm Al Qura Development and is said to be among banks likely to manage the Saudi Aramco IPO, which could turn out to be the world’s largest initial public offering for the biggest crude exporter.

The New York-based firm also plans to double its headcount in Saudi Arabia, CEO Lloyd Blankfein said in a video message at a conference in Riyadh on Sunday. Goldman has already boosted its staffing in the city by two times over the past two years, according to Younan.

“If you ask me today what is the trend for our staffing levels, I’ll tell you for sure, upwards,” he said.

“This article was first posted on Forbesmiddleeast.Com. on 14 May,2018: The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the Saudi-U.S. CEO Forum.”


Saudi Arabia revealed that its non-oil income rose by 63% during the first quarter of 2018 due to its tax collection drive and other economic reforms.

The government netted close to SAR 52.3 ($14 billion) in non-oil revenues thanks to the implementation of VAT and other fees levied. Meanwhile the overall revenues rose by 15% in Q1 2018, the finance ministry said.

The Kingdom also noted that the oil revenues increased marginally by 2% to reach SAR 114 billion as the country leads OPEC and a group of other countries in maintaining production cuts in an effort to make prices competitive.

However, the expenses too have risen within the economy. Government spending rose by 18% in the first quarter this year to reach SAR 200.6 billion, compared to the same period a year ago. Saudi authorities have ramped up public spending in order to boost the economic activity within the country.

Last year, the Gulf country announced a $19 billion stimulus package to help revive growth in an economy that was battered by low oil prices and lesser government spending. The authorities said that it is aiming to help SMEs and other beleaguered firms to cope in the current conditions.

Saudi Arabia has been introducing a slew of reforms in an effort to reduce its reliance on oil. The world’s top oil exporter has imposed value added tax while it has lifted subsidies on gasoline and utilities. The cutback on such largesse has helped the economy make some periodic gains, leading to the current growth in revenues.

“This article was first posted on Forbesmiddleeast.Com. on 08 May,2018: The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the Saudi-U.S. CEO Forum.”


DUBAI (Reuters) – Saudi Aramco, the world’s top oil company which is preparing to go public, said on Sunday it has appointed new members to its board including a female executive, a milestone for Saudi Arabia and the oil industry where there are few women executives.

The appointments, which bring in more international experience, come as the Saudi government plans to float around 5 percent of Aramco in an initial public offering (IPO) – the world’s largest – later this year or early 2019.

Saudi Arabian Minister of Finance Mohammed al-Jadaan and Minister of Economy and Planning Mohammed al-Tuwaijri were appointed as members of the board of directors, Aramco said in a statement.

They are joined by Lynn Laverty Elsenhans, the former chairwoman, president and CEO of U.S. oil refiner Sunoco Inc. (SUN.N) from 2008 to 2012.

Other new members also include Peter Cella, former president & CEO of Chevron Phillips Chemical Co. LP, and Andrew Liveris, director of DowDuPont Inc, and the CEO of the Dow Chemical Company. Liveris’s appointment is effective as of July 1, Aramco said.

The five new members of Aramco’s board will join six returning members including Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih, who is also Aramco’s chairman, and Amin Nasser, Aramco’s CEO. Minister of State Ibrahim al-Assaf and Managing Director of the government-owned Public Investment Fund (PIF) Yasir al-Rumayyan also remain on the board.

The outgoing board members are Majid Al-Moneef, advisor to the Saudi Royal Court; Khaled al-Sultan, Rector of King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals; and Peter Woicke, former managing director of the World Bank and former vice president of the International Finance Corporation.

Appointment decisions to the new 11-member board of directors are made by the Saudi government.


Elsenhans was named by Forbes as one of the world’s most powerful women in 2008. Prior to her role at Sunoco, Elsenhans was the executive vice president of global manufacturing for Royal Dutch Shell (RDSa.L), where she worked for more than 28 years.

She also served on Baker Hughes’s board of directors from 2012 to July 2017 and sits on the board of GlaxoSmithKline (GSK.L).

Only a handful of Saudi women are appointed to the board of major Saudi companies but that is slowly changing in the conservative kingdom, where women are subject to a male guardianship system which in many cases restricts their opportunities to work.

Last year, the Saudi Stock Exchange appointed Sarah Al-Suhaimi, as its first female chair. She was the first woman to chair a major government financial institution in the kingdom.

In 2004, Lubna Olayan became the first woman to be elected to the board of Saudi Hollandi Bank, now called Alawwal Bank 1040.SE. In 2006, Lubna was one of four new appointments by PIF to the board of Ma’aden 1211.SE, the Gulf’s largest miner.

The Olayan family controls one of Saudi Arabia’s largest conglomerates.

“This article was first posted on Reuters.Com. on 29 April,2018: The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the Saudi-U.S. CEO Forum.”


RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir stressed the deep and strategic relations between the Kingdom and the United States and the shared mutual interests in several fields, particularly security, military, commercial, social, and educational fields.

Al-Jubeir was speaking at a joint press conference with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Riyadh, stressing that the bilateral meetings that were held within the framework of his visit to the Middle East, were positive, constructive, and fruitful.

During the meeting, the pair reviewed bilateral relations and ways of enhancing them in all fields. They also discussed the challenges in the region, including the situations in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq, as well as Iran’s negative interventions in the region, the crisis in Yemen, supporting the five countries in the African Sahel Region, and ways of dealing with the Libyan crisis. 

The Saudi Foreign Minister said the meetings highlighted the two sides “identical viewpoints” regarding several issues and the desire to intensify mutual efforts to to “enhance Iran’s Nuclear Deal” and tackle the issues of the region.

“We look forward to working with the Secretary of State in the future for the interests of the two friendly countries,” said Al-Jubeir.

Regarding Iran, Minister Al-Jubeir noted: “We said in the past that the Kingdom supports the policy of President Donald Trump and the efforts to improve the Iranian nuclear agreement, and we believe that it must have a limit to the quantity of uranium enrichment, it should be eliminated permanently and we believe monitoring Iran’s nuclear sites must be intensified.”

He added: “We believe that the Iranian problem must be dealt with by imposing further sanctions on Iran for violating international resolutions on ballistic missiles, supporting terrorism and for intervening in the affairs of the countries of the region.” 

For his part, Pompeo stressed the Kingdom is a key partner and long-time friend of the US and their bilateral partnership is growing to serve the common interests.

The US official thanked King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for their generous hospitality, saying: “I have had the opportunity to work closely with Saudi Arabian leaders for years, and I look forward to the constructive work as United States Secretary of State.”

The Secretary of State praised the outcomes of the Saudi Crown Prince’s visit to the US the last month, his welcome by Trump and his meetings with many administration’s leaders.

During his visit to Riyadh, which is the first leg of a Middle East tour, and talks with Mohammed bin Salman, Pompeo said topics related to Iran, Syria, and Yemen were discussed, as well as relations with Gulf countries.

He said the “Saudi Arabia’s security is a priority for the US and we will continue to work closely with our Saudi partners to counter threats to this country’s security.” 

“That, of course, starts with Iran. Iran destabilizes this entire region. It supports proxy militias and terrorist groups. It arms – it is an arms dealer to the Houthi rebels in Yemen, and Iran conducts cyberhacking campaigns. It supports the murderous Assad regime as well,” he added.

Pompeo also said: “Unlike the prior administration, we will not neglect the vast scope of Iran’s terrorism. It is indeed the greatest sponsor of terrorism in the world, and we are determined to make sure it never possesses a nuclear weapon. The Iran deal in its current form does not provide that assurance. 

“We will continue to work with our European allies to fix that deal, but if a deal cannot be reached, the President has said that he will leave that deal,” he stated.

Pompeo went on to say that the nuclear agreement has failed to moderate the regime’s conduct in many other areas, noting that “Iran has only behaved worse since the deal was approved,” as it has been supporting Houthi rebels in Yemen by providing military equipment, training and funding.
He described this as a violation of Iran’s commitments to the UN Security Council resolutions, also referring to the Houthi’s continued targeting of the Kingdom and the navigation routes in the Red Sea with ballistic missiles. However, he insisted a political solution was the only way to advance long-term stability in Yemen and end the suffering.

The Secretary of State also said there was an agreement to support the efforts of the new UN Special Envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths, and push for a lasting political solution to end the civil war and address the deteriorating security situation, pointing out that Al-Qaeda and Daesh took advantage of the long political and security vacuum left by this conflict.

He said: “The visit of President Trump to Saudi Arabia was historic. He attended the opening of the Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology (ETIDAL),” indicating that Muslim-majority countries should head the fight against extremism and violence.

“If we’re going to conquer extremism and defeat the forces of terrorism together, I know that Saudi Arabia will be at the front of it. We all must honestly confront the crisis of Islamist extremism and the Islamist terror groups it inspires,” he declared.

He stressed his country’s readiness to stand with the Kingdom in its pursuit of common interests and bilateral security, noting that Vision 2030 and the reform agenda were inspiring initiatives that promote tolerance, respect, economic development and women empowerment.

Concluding, Pompeo stressed strong US support for promoting common economic and security interests and emphasized the necessity of Gulf unity to ensure regional security.

On Friday at a NATO foreign ministers meeting in Brussels, the first stop on his trip, Pompeo repeated Trump’s pledge to withdraw from the Iran deal unless it is significantly strengthened. He said the US was “unlikely” to stay in if that was not done.

“Absent a substantial fix, absent overcoming the shortcomings, the flaws of the deal, he is unlikely to stay in that deal past this May,” Pompeo said.

Also looming over the trip is uncertainty over Trump’s policy on Syria, which has shifted between a speedy all-out withdrawal of American forces and leaving a lasting footprint to deter Iran from completing a land bridge from Tehran to Beirut.

Pompeo also is taking a leading role in President Donald Trump’s preparations for an expected summit in May or early June with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Pompeo, while en route to Israel, was asked whether a US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal would complicate negotiations
“I don’t think Kim Jung Un is staring at the Iran deal and saying, ‘Oh goodness, if they get out of that deal, I won’t talk to the Americans anymore. There are higher priorities, things he is more concerned about than whether the Americans stay” in the accord, Pompeo said.

“This article was first posted on ArabNews.Com. on 29 April,2018: The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the Saudi-U.S. CEO Forum.”