Organizers promise ‘exceptional’ Saudi National Day celebrations

A cultural troupe performs after the GEA announcement of the National Day celebrations. (AN photo by Ahmed Fathi)
Updated 16 September 2019

Organizers promise ‘exceptional’ Saudi National Day celebrations

  • We are keen to have the largest international events to create an exceptional season, says GEA CEO Amr Banaja

RIYADH: Fireworks, concerts, festivals and international performances will be among the highlights of the 89th Saudi National Day celebrations this year.

The General Entertainment Authority (GEA) has announced a season of record-breaking events for the annual celebration.

At a press conference in Riyadh on Sunday, GEA CEO Amr Banaja said that Saudi citizens and residents can enjoy a number of entertainment activities planned across 13 regions of the Kingdom as part of the National Day season being supervised by the GEA from Sept. 19 to 23.

“The GEA is proud to oversee the Saudi National Day Season activities by launching a unified identity that brings together the society under “Himma Hatta El-Qimmah,” Banaja said, inspired by the words of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman: “The Saudis’ strength is like that of the Tuwaiq mountain.”

The GEA was proud to be overseeing the occasion, Banaja said. “We are keen to have the largest international events to create an exceptional season befitting this dear country,” he said.

“This year fireworks celebrations will continue for several days where more than 700,000 shots will be fired at an altitude of up to 300 meters, accompanied by music,” he said.

Celebrations will be held in all regions during the season, and visitors will be able to enjoy a range of activities that reflected the unity of the nation and the cohesion of the people and leadership.

“Distinctive international shows designed especially for the National Day will be held in Riyadh from Sept. 21-23,” he said.

Fireworks will light up Jeddah over Al-Hamra Corniche accompanied by sound and light effects and laser shows.

At the five-day Dhahran Exhibition in Dammam starting on Sept. 19, the world’s largest theatrical producer “Cirque du Soleil” will present a specially designed show for Saudi National Day.

Forty artists will present 14 shows of acrobatics, sports, music, and dance. Eight concerts will also be held in a number of regions where, besides international stars, Saudi and Gulf artists will present patriotic songs.

The concerts will begin on the first day of the season on Sept. 19 at Al-Jouf University Stadium in Sakaka with performances by Khaled Abdulrahman and Nabil Shuail.

The next day, a concert will be held at King Khalid Sport City in Tabuk staged by artists Abdullah Al-Rowaished and Aseel Abu Bakr.

On Sept. 21, Majid Al-Mohandes and Dalia Mubarak will perform at Prince Abdul Aziz Bin Musaed Stadium in Hail.

On Sept. 22, two concerts will be performed at King Abdullah Sports City in Buraidah by artists Rashid Al-Majid and Balqees Fathi; the second at Prince Sultan Cultural Center in Jazan by “The Artist of Arabs” Mohammed Abdo and Turki.

On Saudi National Day (Sept. 23), three concerts will be held in Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam.

Thousands will gather at King Fahd Cultural Center in Riyadh to listen to singers Hussein Al-Jasmi and Abadi Al-Jawhar.

In Jeddah, Rabeh Saqr and the artist Waad will perform at King Abdullah Sports City, while in Dammam, and in the Green Halls in Riyadh, Kuwaiti singer Nawal and the artist Ayed will entertain the audience.

Five forums will take place in five cities, where a number of speakers will present inspirational events.

Forums will be held in Madinah and Tabuk on Sept. 19, while in Abha and Buraidah the forum will be held on Sept. 21 and in Hail on Sept. 23.

Banaja said that the GEA had created 150 smartphone apps for the National Day celebrations with 40,000 downloaded so far.

He thanked the security authorities for their efforts to make the season a success, and all government, private and nonprofit sectors for their contribution.

The programs were mostly free, he said, though there were some concerts for which tickets could be purchased online.

There will also be a major aero show in Riyadh, Jeddah and the Eastern Province, and a Saudi falcon show will be organized in Riyadh, Jeddah and Alkhobar.

Pakistan assures to fully implement FATF action plan by February

Updated 19 min 55 sec ago

Pakistan assures to fully implement FATF action plan by February

  • Global watchdog warned Pakistan would be placed in blacklist if swift actions were not taken
  • Experts doubt the capacity of Pakistan's implementation institutions to overcome deficiencies in such a short time

KARACHI: Pakistan has reiterated its commitment to fully comply with the recommendation of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) by February 2020 to avoid the country’s blacklisting. However, experts doubt the capacity of relevant institutions to overcome the deficiencies needed to improve implementation in such a short time.
Pakistan managed to retain its place in FATF's grey list after the review in Paris last week, but the global watchdog explicitly warned Islamabad to curb terrorist financing or face blacklisting.
Islamabad has until February 2020 to fully implement the given action plan.
“Pakistan agreed to national action plan to fix serious weakness in anti-monetary laundering and terrorist financing framework. Despite high level commitment to fix these weaknesses Pakistan has not made enough progress. Pakistan needs to do more and it needs to do it faster,” Xiangmin Liu, president of the FATF, said at a press conference in Paris on Friday.
Liu warned that Pakistan would be placed in blacklist if swift actions are not taken. “FATF is giving this very clear warning…. if by February 2020 the country has not made significant progress we would consider further actions.”
Pakistan has reiterated its commitment to fully implement action plan to counter money laundering and terror financing within the given timeframe.
“On this issue government’s all institutions are on the same page. All institutions are committed to fight money laundering and terrorist financing,” Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, adviser to the prime minister on finance and revenue, who is currently visiting the United States told journalists in Washington on Sunday.
According to the FATF Technical Compliance Index, out of a total of 40 recommendations, Pakistan was fully compliant with only one, largely compliant with nine, partially compliant with 26 and non-compliant with four recommendations.
“I think Pakistan will be able to meet its target if proper efforts are made because it is largely compliant in most categories and non-compliant in only four,” Dr Salman Shah, former finance minister, told Arab News.
However, experts believe the targets were hard to meet within a span of four months as the implementing institutions lacked capacity.
“In my personal view, this work cannot be done in four months. Technical institutions involved here need capacity building with requisite technical advice. The banking and surveillance institutions involved lack capacity. Efforts are needed to improve their capacity,” said Dr Vaqar Ahmed, joint executive director of Islamabad based Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI).
He suggested that FATF and Asia Pacific Group (APG) should first provide the technical training and know-how to Pakistani institutions and then demand implementation inline with the training provided.
Many Pakistani experts also believe that the country is on the right track and maltransactions have reduced significantly. “It's hard to say if Pakistan can achieve targets for sure. But we are on the right track. The reported maltransactions have reduced significantly since the past year. But we have to be very vigilant to meet the February deadline because the repercussions are enormous”, said Komal Shakeel, Economic Policy Consultant at the Asian Development Bank (ADB).
Shakeek said that “in the context of slowed growth predicted by major international agencies and the dire need for Pakistan to expand export led growth, this [blacklisting] will be a huge blow to Pakistan's trade. Foreign exchange reserves may suffer greatly, and a blow to GDP growth may eventually lead to stagflation.”
To avoid further downgradation in February next year, Dr Ahmed suggests expedited diplomatic efforts to complement the implementation of the action plan. “Malaysia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and China can play a big role in further relaxation in February 2020. We need to actively engage ourselves diplomatically with these four countries,” he said.