Young Saudis optimistic about future, Arab Youth Survey shows

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About 80 percent consider Saudi Arabia as an ally in the political sphere, with the US polling second highest as an enemy (59 percent), behind only Iran (67 percent). (File/Shutterstock)
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Updated 01 May 2019

Young Saudis optimistic about future, Arab Youth Survey shows

  • Approval ratings higher than the average in the MENA region, according to 11th annual poll
  • Interviews with 3,300 young Arabs reveals that they want their governments to help them secure decent and affordable lives

DUBAI: The 2019 edition of the Arab Youth Survey by Asda’a BCW offers a snapshot of 200 million aspirational young adults tackling the opportunities and challenges of modernity, but also seeking the reassurance of traditional structures and overwhelmingly concerned with their own well-being.

Perhaps the most eye-catching of the Dubai’s PR consultancy’s findings, released on Tuesday, is that while most young people across the Gulf, North Africa and the Levant want to see reform of their traditional religious institutions, which most see as “holding them back” in the modern world, they also want their governments to remain providers of most of their basic requirements — not just essentials such as security, education and health care, but also subsidized energy housing and even financial handouts.

Above all, they are concerned with securing a decent and affordable life for themselves and their families in an era of high unemployment and dwindling job opportunities in the traditional government sector.

The 11th annual survey is based on 3,300 interviews with Arabs between the ages of 18-24, split equally between men and women, in January this year. Asda’a BCW also offered Arab News a look at Saudi responses   specifically.

Young Saudis share the concerns of many of their age-peers across the region, but they expressed a new-found spirit of optimism in light of the Vision 2030 strategy, which Sunil John, president of Asda’a BCW, said was “transforming the economy and creating job opportunities.”

About 93 percent of young Saudis said they thought the Kingdom is headed in the right direction, with 83 percent believing the economy is on the right track. Notably, three-quarters (75 percent) told the pollsters that they expect to have a better life than their parents.

Approval ratings among Saudi youth for their government’s policies were higher than the average in the MENA region. A huge 89 percent said they believed Vision 2030 would succeed in securing the economic future, while 83 percent said government policies were right for them and their peer group, a good 30 points higher than the positive feeling toward governments across the region.

Saudi youth were outliers in some other respects, too, apparently more willing to stand on their own feet. Another feature of the survey was that despite the drive of governments to cultivate entrepreneurial young people, many still believe it is the state’s job to provide cheap energy, jobs, housing and even debt relief.

If there is one cause we should focus on, it is youth unemployment

 

A detailed look at the country breakdowns showed that young people in the Kingdom were less likely than those in other Arab countries to expect these services to be officially provided to all citizens.

Another feature of the survey, as in past years, was some fairly dramatic differences in opinion by young people in three main sub-regions within MENA. In education, for example, only 20 percent of Gulf youngsters were unsatisfied with the quality provided by the country’s educational system. This level of dissatisfaction rose to 53 percent in North Africa and 73 percent in the war-torn Levant. Not surprisingly, many more Levant youngsters would rather be educated in the West than their peers in the Gulf.

Saudi Arabia figured prominently in the survey in other ways, too. When young Arabs were asked which countries had grown in prominence in regional and international affairs, 37 percent named the Kingdom as the biggest gainer in influence this year.

A majority of them consider Saudi Arabia as an ally in the political sphere. Iran is seen as an enemy by an overwhelming majority (67 percent).

Only a tiny minority in the region believed that the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi would have any long-term negative impact for the Kingdom in Arab or international eyes.

If young Saudis were not Saudi, they would probably want to live in the UAE, the pollsters found. For the eighth year running, the Emirates topped the ratings for the preferred place of residence, chosen by 44 percent of those polled, followed by Canada and the US.

Reasons for the UAE’s popularity hark back to the basic self-interest of young Arabs: They like the range of work opportunities in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, the UAE is safe and secure, and it offers generous salary packages.

Jihad Azour, the International Monetary Fund’s regional head for the Middle East, hit the nail on the head when he delivered the keynote address at the survey launch. “If there is one cause we should focus on, it is youth unemployment. All economic policies fail if they cannot deliver on unemployment,” he said.


How Saudi Arabia is initiating action on greenhouse gas emissions reduction

Updated 21 September 2021

How Saudi Arabia is initiating action on greenhouse gas emissions reduction

  • At UNGA, Saudi Arabia will show it is a leader in the global campaign for energy sustainability
  • The Kingdom has a big environmental responsibility as a major player in global energy markets

DUBAI: Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, the energy minister of Saudi Arabia, set out the Kingdom’s position on climate change loud and clear at the Future Investment Initiative forum in Riyadh earlier this year.

“We are long believers in the Paris Agreement and are doing everything in our power to achieve it,” he said, before issuing a challenge to other countries to match the Kingdom’s ambition in the campaign to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and thereby mitigate global warming.

“Whatever we will do in the Kingdom will support emissions reduction, and we are doing it willingly because the economic benefits (from new energy technologies) are clear. We will enjoy being looked at as a reasonable and responsible international citizen because we will be doing more than most European countries by 2030 to combat climate change,” he said.

That message — Saudi Arabia will be a leader in the global campaign for energy sustainability — will be hammered home at the continuing 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, where climate change and sustainability are bound to be key issues.

The UNGA meetings are an opportunity each year to monitor progress on the UN’s sustainable development goals, the set of 17 policy objectives put in place in 2015 as a “blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all,” and intended for full implementation by 2030.

That time frame coincides with Saudi Arabia’s own Vision 2030 strategy, itself designed to transform the Kingdom and diversify its economy away from oil dependency. Sustainability is a vital part of the Vision 2030 plan.

The message will be driven home in New York, and next month in Glasgow when the COP26 summit takes crucial decisions on the next phase of implementation of the Paris Agreements.

Saudi Arabia’s position on climate change is long-standing and clear: The Kingdom shares the concern of the rest of the world that global warming presents a risk to humanity if allowed to go unchecked. Moreover, as a major player in global energy markets, Saudi Arabia has a big responsibility for protecting the planet.

Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman set out the Kingdom’s position on climate change loud and clear at the Future Investment Initiative forum earlier this year

But, precisely because of its role as a leading energy producer, the Saudi position is far more nuanced than some in Europe and North America who have turned against hydrocarbon fuels in any form.

One Saudi policy adviser told Arab News: “We reject the false choice between preserving the economy and protecting the environment. We view the rising global demand for energy products as an opportunity to re-imagine the future of energy globally, and through the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, we aim to pioneer this future.”

That thinking is behind many of the energy policy initiatives that have emerged from Riyadh over the past couple of years. Prince Abdulaziz has long been an enthusiast of sustainability and energy efficiency, and the drive toward a comprehensive policy on climate change has been given new impetus since he was appointed energy minister two years ago.

Central to the Kingdom’s strategy on climate change is the concept of the circular carbon economy (CCE) — a framework for tackling climate change while continuing to enjoy the benefits of economic growth driven by oil and gas, the most efficient and powerful energy sources mankind has ever developed.

CCE is based on the principles of the 4Rs — to reduce, reuse, recycle and ultimately remove harmful CO2 and other emissions from industrial processes and the atmosphere.

The Kingdom has a longstanding policy of aiming to reduce greenhouse gases through energy-efficiency programs that target travel, industry and construction. Saudi oil is already one of the “cleanest” crudes in the world, as measured by independent scientists.

Saudi Aramco also has a big R&D program in place to develop more energy-efficient motor engines. Hydrocarbon products are reused and recycled across the Kingdom’s industrial sector.

Saudi Arabia long ago ceased the practice of gas flaring, which is still common practice in many oil-producing countries.

One of the persistent features of the Kingdom’s energy policy has been to use hydrocarbons and their byproducts as non-fuel ingredients in the chemical and other manufacturing industry, and this trend has accelerated since the merger between Saudi Aramco and SABIC, the petrochemicals giant.

Most climate experts agree that it is the fourth R — remove — that is the most challenging, but also potentially the most effective in lowering greenhouse gas emissions and slowing climate change to the 1.5C global temperature increase the Paris Agreement requires by 2050.

Saudi Arabia has a headstart in technologies linked to carbon capture, use and storage (CCUS), which aims to prevent CO2 from escaping into the atmosphere, either by reusing it in industrial processes such as building materials or storing it in secure “sinks” such as old oil reservoirs and other natural locations.

The Kingdom’s reliance on oil could soon become a thing of the past, with megaprojects such as NEOM being built on zero-carbon models. (AFP)

The Kingdom has also been funding R&D into direct air capture (DAC), which some climate scientists see as the long-term “silver bullet” in combating climate change. If CO2 can be successfully removed from the air on a global scale, that would go a long way to solving the problem of global warming.

However, until the technology is proven and widely available, there are other techniques that can be implemented to ameliorate airborne carbon. Again Saudi Arabia has been at the forefront with its Saudi Green Initiative, which envisions the planting of 10 billion trees in the Kingdom over the next two decades as part of a wider Middle East Green Initiative that will eventually see a total of 50 billion trees planted in the region.

When he launched the initiative earlier this year, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said: “As a leading global oil producer, we are fully aware of our responsibility in advancing the fight against the climate crisis, and that just as we played a leading role in stabilizing energy markets during the oil and gas era, we will work to lead the coming green era.”

The other major plank of the Saudi Green Initiatives is a commitment to lift the proportion of renewables in the Kingdom’s domestic energy mix to 50 percent by 2030, replacing oil as an energy-generating fuel, with the balance to come from natural gas.

The Kingdom has already begun this program, with big wind and solar projects announced earlier this year to generate electricity from renewable sources.

The jewel in the crown of the Saudi sustainability strategy is the NEOM megacity under construction in the Kingdom’s northwest, which will have a zero-carbon footprint, with all its power and water needs satisfied by non-hydrocarbon sources, notably “green” hydrogen.

All the Saudi mega-projects of Vision 2030 also have sustainability at the heart of their plans.

Saudi Arabia is already a pioneer in developing hydrogen fuels, and last year exported the first shipment of “blue” ammonia — a much cleaner fuel that is a byproduct of the oil and gas industrial process — to Japan for use in that country’s electricity generation industry.

Saudi Aramco’s Shaybah oilfield. The company is one of the most profitable in the world. (Reuters)

An alliance with Germany was announced this year to study and develop hydrogen fuels, combining Saudi energy expertise with German engineering and technological prowess.

Nobody in New York — or Glasgow next month — is underestimating the scale of the climate challenge ahead, but Saudi Arabia has shown, and will continue to show, that a responsible approach to the problem can be adopted without totally abandoning the power and efficiency of hydrocarbons.

The Kingdom is winning allies in this challenge. At last year’s G20 summit of world leaders, the CCE framework promoted by Saudi Arabia was adopted unanimously as the preferred global methodology for combating global warming.

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Saudi Arabia, India share concerns about Afghanistan becoming 'sanctuary for extremists' under Taliban

Updated 20 September 2021

Saudi Arabia, India share concerns about Afghanistan becoming 'sanctuary for extremists' under Taliban

  • Expert says Prince Faisal’s visit “very significant” amid political changes in the region
  • New Delhi urges Riyadh to resume flights as two officials discuss COVID-19 challenges, trade and bilateral ties

NEW DELHI: Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan held talks with the Indian foreign minister in New Delhi on Sunday amid growing fears of a return to a repressive Taliban regime in Afghanistan.

The two men had what India’s Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar described as a “very useful exchange of views on Afghanistan” in a “cordial and productive meeting.”

Saudi Arabia's top Saudi diplomat arrived in New Delhi for a two-day visit on Saturday and is expected to call on Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday.

It was the first high-level visit by a Saudi minister to India since the COVID-19 outbreak and subsequent travel curbs early last year.

“(It) was a cordial and productive meeting with (the) Saudi foreign minister,” Jaishankar said in a Twitter post on Sunday after the meeting at Hyderabad House in New Delhi.

Prince Faisal’s visit comes amid the recent political changes in Afghanistan after the Taliban’s return to power last month, marking the first official interaction between the two allies.

“Very useful exchange of views on Afghanistan, the Gulf and the Indo-Pacific,” Jaishankar said.

Saudi FM Prince Faisal bin Farhan and India’s FM Subrahmanyam Jaishankar meet in New Delhi. (Photo courtesy: @DrSJaishankar/Twitter)

New Delhi had previously cultivated a close relationship with Ashraf Ghani, the Afghan president who fled the country when the Taliban swept into Kabul on Aug. 15.

“Saudi Arabia and India have shared concerns as to whether Afghanistan will become a sanctuary for extremists because then it would become extremely dangerous for the neighborhood as a whole,” Talmiz Ahmad, former Indian Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, told Arab News.

“It’s natural that both the close partners would discuss Afghanistan. It reflects very close relations that India and Saudi Arabia have established with each other.

“We now have a strategic council at the apex level. Therefore, the relationship that began with cooperation on counterterrorism has now become a very strong and deep strategic partnership.”

Return to repression

Despite promises by the Taliban that their new administration would be different from their hard-line Islamist regime in the late 1990s, a series of rulings by their interim government has raised fears of a return to repression, particularly of women.

About two dozen female activists protested outside the former women’s ministry on Sunday after it was closed by the Taliban and replaced by the Ministry for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, the group’s moral police.

Female staff said they had been trying to return to work at the ministry for several weeks, but had been told to go home. 

“The Ministry of Women’s Affairs must be reactivated,” said Baseera Tawana, one of the protesters. “The removal of women means the removal of human beings.”
Another protester, Taranum Sayeedi, said: “The women of Afghanistan today are not the women of 26 years ago.”

The new Taliban mayor of Kabul on Sunday ordered female city employees to stay at home, except those whose work could not be done by men.

Marzia Ahmadi, a rights activist and government employee, demanded that the Taliban reopen public spaces to women. “It’s our right,” she said. “We want to talk to them. We want to tell them that we have the same rights as they have.”

Afghan activists demonstrate in front of the former Ministry of Women Affairs in Kabul on Sept. 19, 2021, to demand better rights for women. (Photo by Bulent Kilic / AFP)

Strategic partnership

The two officials also reviewed progress in implementing the Strategic Partnership Council Agreement, signed during PM Modi’s visit to Saudi Arabia in October 2019, and bilateral cooperation at multilateral forums such as the UN, the G20 and the Gulf Cooperation Council.

Jaishankar congratulated Prince Faisal for Saudi Arabia’s successful presidency of the G20 last year, at the pandemic’s peak, a statement by India’s Foreign Ministry said.

“Both sides discussed further steps to strengthen their partnership in trade, investment, energy, defense, security, culture, consular issues, health care and human resources,” it added.

The foreign ministers also agreed to “work closely” to deal with pandemic-related challenges, with Jaishankar thanking Saudi “for the support provided to the Indian community during the COVID-19 pandemic,” urging the Kingdom to relax travel restrictions for visitors from India further.

In July, Riyadh imposed a travel ban on 13 countries, including India, to curb the spread of the coronavirus and its new variants, but removed the UAE, Argentina and South Africa from the list and re-allowed citizens to travel to the three countries starting Sept. 8.

According to Indian foreign ministry data, more than 2 million Indians are living and working in the Kingdom, employed in various sectors of the Gulf state. However, the COVID-19 pandemic rendered thousands jobless, with a majority unable to return to work due to travel curbs.

Jaishankar urged an early resumption of direct flights to Saudi Arabia while both nations “agreed to work closely on all COVID-19 related challenges.”

In April and May, Saudi supplied more than 140 tons of medical oxygen to Indian to help the South Asian nation tide over a health crisis amid a deadly second wave of the coronavirus that claimed the lives of more than 400,000 in a country of 1.36 billion people.


Coronavirus booster dose ‘unnecessary,’ say Saudi experts

Updated 19 September 2021

Coronavirus booster dose ‘unnecessary,’ say Saudi experts

  • New recoveries reported amounted to 77, raising the total number to 535,450

JEDDAH: A third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine is unnecessary, according to Saudi health experts.

“If the two doses of the vaccine prevent severe illness/staying in hospital/death, it does not make sense for the general population to receive a third dose,” said deputy health minister for preventive health, Dr. Abdullah Assiri.

Assiri, who is also an infectious diseases consultant, added: “At this stage of excellent vaccination coverage, we need to reconsider the rationale and method of laboratory testing for COVID-19, and judge the pandemic only from the perspective of the burden of disease on society.”

The comments came after news of proposed booster shots of Pfizer and BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine for the general public, and third jabs for people aged 65 and older and other vulnerable groups.


Meanwhile, infectious disease expert, Ahmed Al-Hakawi, said that accelerating demand for approval of a third (booster) dose for everyone was not supported by a study he cited.

FASTFACT

546k

The total number of coronavirus cases in KSA reached 546,479.

Titled “Safety and Efficacy of the BNT162b2 mRNA Covid-19 Vaccine through 6 Months,” the study, published on Sept. 15, was conducted on more than 45,000 participants in 152 sites in six countries.

The study concluded that “through 6 months of follow-up and despite a gradual decline in vaccine efficacy, BNT162b2 had a favorable safety profile and was highly efficacious in preventing COVID-19.”

“The vaccine still provides protection against severe disease even six months after the second dose,” said Al-Hakawi, who is also a hospital epidemiologist in Riyadh.

Saudi Arabia recorded 68 new cases of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) on Saturday, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 546,479, the Ministry of Health said.

Of Saturday’s cases, 20 were in Makkah, 17 in the Riyadh region and seven in the Eastern Province. Hail and Najran were the regions with the lowest case count, posting just one each.

New recoveries reported amounted to 77, raising the total number to 535,450.

With the high recovery rate, the number of active cases has declined to 2,373, of which 361 are in critical care.

Five people have died in the past 24 hours, raising the total number of deaths to 8,656.

More than 40.7 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in the Kingdom at the rate of 201,505 a day.

At this rate, Saudi Arabia could have 70 percent of its population fully vaccinated by Oct. 31.

The Ministry of Health said that 587 centers across all regions of the Kingdom processed the inoculations. Those who have not yet received a vaccine were urged to get one.

The ministry renewed its call for citizens and residents to adhere to precautionary measures and to register with the Sehhaty app to receive vaccines.

Meanwhile, testing hubs and treatment centers set up throughout the country have helped millions of people since the pandemic outbreak.

Taakad centers provide COVID-19 testing for those who show no or only mild symptoms or believe they have come into contact with an infected individual.

Tetamman clinics offer treatment and advice to those with virus symptoms such as fever, loss of taste and smell, and breathing difficulties.

Appointments for both services can be made via the ministry’s Sehhaty app.


Head of KSA’s King Abdulaziz Foundation meets Mauritanian PM

Updated 18 September 2021

Head of KSA’s King Abdulaziz Foundation meets Mauritanian PM

RIYADH: Secretary-General of the King Abdulaziz Foundation Dr. Fahd bin Abdullah Al-Semari met Mauritanian Prime Minister Mohamed Ould Bilal Massoud in the country’s capital, Nouakchott.

The meeting, which included an accompanying foundation delegation, was attended by Saudi Ambassador to Mauritania Dr. Hazaa bin Zabin Al-Mutairi.

During the meeting, both sides discussed cooperation between the foundation and the National Documents Administration in Mauritania, and ways to enhance and develop their relationship.

Both Saudi and Mauritanian sides also discussed a number of topics related to heritage and cultural issues.

Al-Semari also held a meeting with the director of Mauritanian National Documents, Dr. Muhammad Al-Mukhtar Sayed Muhammad Al-Hadi, to discuss ways to enhance cooperation between the two sides.

 

 

 

 


Who’s Who: Sultan Bader Al-Otaibi, CEO of Dur Hospitality

Updated 18 September 2021

Who’s Who: Sultan Bader Al-Otaibi, CEO of Dur Hospitality

Sultan Bader Al-Otaibi, CEO of Dur Hospitality, is an inspirational visionary and impactful leader within the Middle East’s hospitality industry, with a proven track record of excellence in finance and asset management.

With more than 20 years’ experience in various managerial and leadership roles at Dur Hospitality, Al-Otaibi has stood out for his numerous achievements. Having formerly held the position of vice president of property and assets, he demonstrated his far-sighted strategic planning and astute decision-making by maximizing the returns of the company’s real estate asset portfolio.

As general manager of Makarem Hospitality Group, Al-Otaibi oversaw the overall management of the group’s properties (hotels and resorts) to guarantee seamless operations, harnessing his organizational and team management skills to oversee world-class hospitality standards.

Recognized for his accomplishments in the industry, Al-Otaibi formerly ranked 25th on the Hotelier Middle East Magazine Power 50 list. He is also known for his active participation and contributions as a member of the tourism committee at the Riyadh Chamber of Commerce.

Al-Otaibi has been distinguished as a successful and influential figure at Dur Hospitality for his outstanding capabilities and vast experience in the field, leading by example and steering the company to new heights to achieve the strategic objectives of the company in line with the goals of Saudi Vision 2030.

Driven by his passion for the hospitality industry, Al-Otaibi enriched his background in the field by undertaking a master’s degree in international hospitality management from the Emirates Academy of Hospitality Management, after receiving a bachelor’s degree in accounting from King Saud University. In pursuit of higher education, he continued to study at Cornell University, an Ivy League research university in Ithaca, New York.