Saudi Arabia accelerating Vision 2030 reforms — investment minister

General view of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, after the Saudi government eased a curfew following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease, June 21 2020. (REUTERS/File)
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Updated 21 November 2020

Saudi Arabia accelerating Vision 2030 reforms — investment minister

  • We’ve built resilience into our financial systems, into our financial reserves, and into our monetary policy: Al-Falih
  • The minister said there was also a huge emphasis on protecting the global economy from the adverse impact of the pandemic

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia has been accelerating reforms and remained focused on the goals of Vision 2030 despite a global pandemic, Minister of Investment Khalid Al-Falih said on Saturday.
“We were not distracted from our strategy and our Vision 2030. In fact, we doubled down on it. We accelerated our reforms. We continued to diversify our economy, and commit our resources to make sure that Vision 2030 is not derailed by (the coronavirus disease) COVID-19,” he said.
His comments come as the Kingdom’s leadership of the G20 concludes over the weekend in Riyadh.
Saudi Arabia has shown resilience amid the global threats of COVID-19, Al-Falih said, acknowledging the distinctiveness of its presidency of the G20.
The minister said the annual summit was called on to do something which had never been done.
“The G20 and its presidency has been called on to save the world, and to mitigate the effects of the crises,” he added.
Al-Falih said the Kingdom stepped up to the challenge, guided by its belief in multilateralism — that “global problems require global solutions.”
Building local resilience
In order to perform its role, Al-Falih said Saudi Arabia had to build resilience locally.
“Resilience at home, on all fronts, was an essential element for us to do what we have to internationally and multilaterally,” he explained.
Saudi Arabia has taken “dramatic steps” to deal with the pandemic, Al-Falih said, adding there was no room for any distraction from its “transformation” as a country.
He pointed out the Kingdom’s “effective and competent governance” from the early days of the pandemic, and its “balanced approach” in making important decisions.
Saudi Arabia has also made sure to buffer the pandemic’s blow to its economy.
“We’ve built resilience into our financial systems, into our financial reserves, and into our monetary policy,” the investment minister said, adding foreign investments had not been significantly affected by the global crisis.
“I’m glad to say that foreign direct investment (FDI), in the first half, has increased by 12 percent compared to last year. We are seeing a year-on-year increase over the last two years. Our FDI performance is improving,” he added.
Policy reform
This increase, he said, could be associated to ongoing policy reforms in the Kingdom, including changes related to intellectual property, as well as tourism, mining, and other local industries.
He discussed the Kingdom’s push to diversify its economy, which has been one of its main lines of defense against the impact of the pandemic. 
The minister also hailed the rest of the G20 members “for rising to the challenge,” alluding to the pandemic he described as “a human crisis as people were pushed back into poverty, fear, psychological and social tensions, overlaid by an unprecedented economic slowdown.”
He said $21 billion had been earmarked to support healthcare initiatives against the virus, including for the development of vaccines, and the improvement of diagnostic and treatment tools.
There have also been mechanisms to help poor countries deal with the pandemic, including debt relief programs that have already helped dozens of nations.
Global economy
On top of healthcare initiatives, Al-Falih said there was also a huge emphasis on protecting the global economy from the adverse impact of the pandemic.
“Thanks to the collective efforts of the G20 members, we see that the global economy is contracting less than anticipated earlier in the year,” the minister said.
Global trade has also been adjusted due to the pandemic, with countries relaxing trade barriers to allow the easy movement of critical goods among nations.
Al-Falih said the G20 would not be complacent as the crisis continues, and will continue to work to navigate through the unique challenges of the pandemic.


Saudi aerial photographer reveals secrets of AlUla Old Town to global audience

Updated 25 November 2020

Saudi aerial photographer reveals secrets of AlUla Old Town to global audience

  • Use of drones by cameraman brings history to life in one of KSA’s most famous archaeological sites

MAKKAH: A Saudi aerial photographer’s passion for history has won him global acclaim for images revealing the secrets of AlUla Old Town.

Ali Al-Suhaimi’s eye-in-the-sky portrayal of the famous Islamic city has helped to provide a fresh insight into the past lives of the inhabitants of the now deserted settlement.

AlUla Old Town, located in the north of the Kingdom about 20 km from the archaeological site of Mada’in Salih, is seven centuries old and filled with mosques and markets that reflect its beauty and heritage.

Rich in history, the region was an ancient trade station linking the north and south of the peninsula and one of the main stopping-off points for pilgrims traveling between Syria and Makkah.

Al-Suhaimi told Arab News that his inspiration to photograph the area from the air came from his deep-rooted desire to find out more about the country’s ancient civilizations.

“The idea from the onset revolved around simulating the history of AlUla region, which has become one of the most important heritage attractions on a local and international level.

“The location includes stone landmarks and high mountains which set a breathtaking rocky harmony depicted by the drones of aerial photographers.

“It was the place of people who set the link with us on architectural and human levels. 

The region is one of the great forgotten treasures of antiquity. (Social media)

They built a town which bears witness to the magnificence and cultural depth and momentum of its human legacy,” he said. Studies of AlUla’s castles have proved that the site was once a thriving community, Al-Suhaimi added. “Photographing these places in all their detail only adds to my enthusiasm for transmitting images to a world craving for the secrets of these places of old times to be unveiled.”

The high-flying lensman has snapped all of AlUla Old Town’s castles and villages, as well as the castle of Musa bin Nusayr, and the Aja and Salma mountains which rise to 1,000 meters.

By using drones, Al-Suhaimi has been able to get close-up pictures of the houses and buildings that occupy the site. “There are monolithic houses that reflect the depth of relationships that linked those people who fused with each other as if they were one family.”

HIGHLIGHT

AlUla Old Town, located in the north of the Kingdom about 20 km from the archaeological site of Mada’in Salih, is seven centuries old and filled with mosques and markets that reflect its beauty and heritage.

He pointed out that although the houses seemed to be randomly clustered together, they were actually “architectural enigmas” which had been cleverly designed to ensure a smooth flow of air in and around them.

Aerial photographs of the town had also raised questions about how its people had been able to move around from building to building in such a close-knit environment.

Al-Suhaimi said he had gained all the necessary licenses to operate drones in the area. “We were keen on taking pictures and transmitting them to the whole world, as internationally it is one of the most outstanding Islamic cities. Its mud houses are living witnesses that resisted time.”

He added that he had been astonished by the positive global feedback from his photographs of the region. One notable feature of AlUla Old Town is the Tantora sundial. The shadow that it cast was used to mark the beginning of the winter planting season.

“They set stones atop one another so that the shadow would be projected on the tip of the stone once per year, which is evidence of the astronomy legacy of the people of the region,” said Al-Suhaimi.