Expat workers rejoice as Saudi Arabia’s labor reforms usher in new era
Under changes to kafala sponsorship system, foreign workers in private sector will have improved job mobility
Ten million migrant workers are expected to benefit from changes under the kingdom’s Labor Reform Initiative
Updated 14 March 2021
Hebshi Al-Shammari & Hala Tashkandi
RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has ushered in a new era with historic labor reforms offering greater freedom to millions of migrant and expatriate workers taking effect on Sunday.
Under changes to the kafala sponsorship system, foreign workers in the private sector will have improved job mobility, and be able to change jobs and leave the country without employers’ consent.
The dramatic overhaul — part of the Kingdom’s efforts to build an attractive jobs market — also will allow expat workers to apply directly for government services, with their employment contracts documented digitally.
As many as 10 million migrant workers are expected to benefit from changes under the Kingdom’s Labor Reform Initiative (LRI), intended to foster “a competitive and fair working environment.”
The initiative will help foreign workers acquire residency status that is not tied to a specific employer, and will allow job mobility as well as exit and re-entry visas while protecting the rights of both employee and employer.
Expat workers have greeted the reform package enthusiastically, saying it offers them greater choice and support in employment.
“This is one of the best things to have happened since I came to work in Saudi,” Imroz Abdulrahman, an Indian expat who has been living in the Kingdom for five years, told Arab News.
“I remember four years ago, when I wanted to leave my former employer and go to work for another family, the process was very complicated and difficult for everyone involved. The problems took months to resolve.”
He added: “This is a great development and will help a lot of people. I am happy to have more control over where I can work and knowing that people like me will have more support in future.”
However, Abdulghani Al-Ansari, chairman of information technology firm Bayt Al-Edarah, said that the labor reforms are a “big challenge” for private sector SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises), adding that the government sector is leading the overhaul as part of the Vision 2030 objectives.
As many as 10 million migrant workers are expected to benefit from changes under the Kingdom’s Labor Reform Initiative (LRI), intended to foster ‘a competitive and fair working environment.’
“The private sector is still absorbing the changes,” he told Arab News.
Employers will be required to digitally document employee contracts to reduce the disparity between Saudi and expat workers.
“Today there is a big challenge ahead of us in terms of developing the human resources in SMEs, which are finding it difficult to absorb the concepts and mechanisms of the initiative easily.”
Al-Ansari said that he hoped SMEs will be given six months to adapt to the new rules.
“SMEs do not have laws protecting their secrets, meaning that the secrets of a company will go to another competitive company,” he said.
Al-Ansari, who led the human resources committee at the Madinah Chamber of Commerce, said the labor market is changing dramatically.
“However, minds and skills do not have a nationality or a race, and the private sector believes in profitability and competency, meaning that diversity is a good thing and will benefit the national economy,” he said.
Gloria Calinao, a domestic worker who has lived Saudi Arabia for 10 years, said: “I remember how complicated the kafala process was. I wish the new rule applies to domestic workers too so that they can also enjoy job mobility.”
Two government portals, Absher and Qiwa, have been designated for the reform procedures.
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Perception at odds with reality of generous Saudi humanitarian support for Ukraine
Kingdom’s track record belies lack of recognition of its donations for displaced Ukrainian refugees
A $10 million aid package has just been signed off by the UNHCR, WHO and Saudi Arabia’s KSrelief
Updated 15 August 2022
JEDDAH: The perception that Saudi Arabia is not helping Ukrainians affected by the war with Russia is completely at odds with the reality.
The firmness of the Kingdom’s commitment to supporting refugees and resolving the conflict has been evident since the outbreak of hostilities. Aid pledges have been matched by donations that are already making a big difference.
A $10 million Saudi humanitarian package for war-displaced Ukrainians has just been signed off by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the World Health Organization and Saudi Arabia’s leading humanitarian aid agency.
A delegation from @KSRelief, the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre, headed by His Excellency Dr. Abdullah Al-Rabiah visited UNHCR's warehouse in Rzeszow, SE, from where relief items are dispatched across the country and to Ukraine. @UNHCR_GCC, @khaledkhalifapic.twitter.com/xTtmyoiVfi
About half of the $10 million grant has been allocated for distribution through the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre (KSrelief).
In April, King Salman directed KSrelief to provide this amount of support for immediate assistance and give “urgent medical and shelter aid” to Ukrainian refugees, giving priority to those arriving in Poland.
The visit was followed by a distribution of relief items to refugee families from Ukraine living in the commune of Głogów Małopolski, and a meeting with officials who thanked the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for its generous support. pic.twitter.com/M9l3Kar0pG
“Thank you very much, and thanks to the center for helping us. The situation is as you can see,” a Ukrainian resident of a refugee center told Al-Arabiya news channel.
“All of us came from Ukraine, and we were in a very bad way. Thanks to you, our situation has improved. Thanks a lot, and we wish peace to the whole world.”
At the Poland-Ukraine border, Al-Rabeeah lauded the collaboration between the WHO, KSrelief, and the Polish government. “We highly appreciate the partnership with the WHO. Our work together has made great support to refugees and those in need here and elsewhere,” he said in a video released by WHO Poland.
The Kingdom’s support for Ukrainian refugees is an extension of its well-known humanitarian efforts in more than 85 countries, yet several reports have hinted that Saudi Arabia has picked sides in the conflict because of its ties to Russia as a fellow OEPC+ member.
Despite the political and humanitarian initiatives taken by the Kingdom, urging all parties to come to the negotiating table to resolve the conflict through dialogue and diplomacy, the Kingdom’s efforts have been viewed with skepticism in some quarters.
A March report by the Wilson Center, a US government-linked public policy think tank, claimed that Saudi Arabia “has decided to side with Russia” and “chose Putin over Biden,” accusing the Kingdom of playing political games to keep oil prices high.
The remarks came despite the Kingdom’s repeated offers to both mediate between the warring parties and increase oil production along with neighboring Gulf countries.
The differences between the Western and Arab positions on the question of how to end the war have not stopped either side from addressing the humanitarian emergency.
For its part, Saudi Arabia has reiterated that though ending the ongoing war in Ukraine is no easy feat, the Kingdom has treated the issue just as any ongoing crisis in the region, stressing that human suffering is the same in all conflicts and that violence is not the solution.
In March, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told Russian President Vladimir Putin that the Kingdom was ready to exert all efforts to mediate between the two nations.
In May, Prince Faisal bin Farhan, Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister, met with his Ukrainian counterpart, Dmytro Kuleba, at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, to discuss the crisis.
Less than a week later, Prince Faisal bin Farhan met with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov during the latter’s visit to Riyadh, where he underscored the importance of reaching a political solution to achieve security and stability for all involved.
Though scant details on Lavrov’s visit and meeting with Gulf Cooperation Council ministers were released, the trip was still misinterpreted as evidence of Saudi Arabia’s support for Russia, even though the Kingdom and other Gulf states had opted to stay neutral, treating the war in Ukraine in “a fair context” and providing aid to the needy.
In June, Prince Faisal bin Farhan clarified the Kingdom’s position further: “Our stance as Gulf countries regarding the Russian-Ukrainian crisis is unified,” he said on June 1 during a speech at the opening of the 152nd session of the Ministerial Council of the Gulf Cooperation Council.
“Today we had two fruitful meetings with the Russian and Ukrainian ministers, during which we stated our unified stance regarding the Russian-Ukrainian crisis and its negative consequences, namely the food security of the affected countries and the world.”
Saudi Arabia’s decision to remain neutral and prioritize humanitarian engagement during the war also ought to be viewed in the context of public opinion. In a recent Arab News-YouGov poll, of the more than 1,000 Saudis who were asked for their opinion, 14 percent blamed US President Joe Biden for the conflict while 21 percent blamed NATO.
Throughout the conflict, more than 40 countries, organizations, and individual donors have made pledges and commitments, some of which have made their way to the 6.3 million refugees fleeing Ukraine as well as those who remained. But there is a striking gap between pledged and delivered support.
Thus far, most Western governments have given priority to military assistance over humanitarian aid.
According to the Kiel Institute for the World Economy, the US has pledged $23.8 billion in military aid, the highest amount to date, but has allocated a comparatively modest $8.9 billion to humanitarian assistance.
According to the center, that number has since increased but by a relatively small percentage. Similarly, the EU pledged $12.3 billion in military aid but just $1.4 billion has been siphoned for humanitarian response and aid packages.
Since the outbreak of the conflict, Western and Arab governments have been under no illusion that the need for a resolution of the conflict is no less pressing than addressing the humanitarian emergency.
Last month, President Biden visited Jeddah and met with King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The two sides discussed several topics of concern, including energy, security and the crisis in Ukraine.
Soon after Biden left the Kingdom, Adel Al-Jubeir, Saudi Arabia’s minister of state for foreign affairs, spoke to CNBC to set the record straight. “We have said from the very beginning, we supported the UN General Assembly Resolution and the inadmissibility abuse of force, about the sovereignty of nations and respect for that,” he said.
“We have called for a peaceful resolution to this; stop the fighting and get to the negotiating table and work out your differences peacefully.
“The concern that we have is that escalation on one side leads to escalation on the other side and before you know it, things are more likely to spin out of control and we all pay the price.”
For good measure, Al-Jubeir said: “We’ve reached out to both Russia and Ukraine. We’ve urged them to move towards a ceasefire settlement and their conflict peacefully. We continue to be engaged with them as are a number of other countries, and our hope is that they will be able to recognize that it’s better to argue across the table from each other than fight across the battlefield, because of the unintended consequences of war and conflict.”
Thank you H.E Dr. Abdullah Alrabeeah and @KSRelief for witnessing and discussing today UNHCR’s support to refugees in Poland & taking time to listen to refugee families from Ukraine in Warsaw. pic.twitter.com/vXlN3gWoW6
Meanwhile, when it comes to humanitarian giving, Saudi Arabia’s pledges continue to be matched by its actions.
On Friday, accompanied by Saad Al-Saleh, the Saudi ambassador to Poland, KSrelief’s Al-Rabeeah visited the UNHCR’s warehouse facilities in Rzeszow in Poland. They jointly inspected the aid already provided as part of the Kingdom’s $10 million grant to support Ukrainian refugees.
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Updated 15 August 2022
RIYADH: On the special occasion of the 76th Independence Day of India, I extend warm greetings and felicitations to all my fellow Indian nationals and friends of India in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
This year holds extra significance as we are also celebrating the momentous milestone of the completion of 75 years of our independence as Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav, which also coincides with 75 years of the establishment of India-Saudi Arabia diplomatic relations.
On the stroke of midnight on this very day in 1947, India cast off the shackles of 250 years of colonialism and began its journey toward fulfilling the dreams of its freedom fighters.
After a momentous freedom struggle, we were left with the enormous challenges of a low GDP, food insufficiency, low literacy rates, and poor health indicators, among many others.
This day reminds us of the incredible journey which India has traversed over the last 75 years to become an emerging geopolitical power with a vibrant economy, making it one of the fastest-growing major nations in the world.
Today, India is recognized across the world as a country with world-class educational institutes whose alumni are now working at the highest positions in government and private organizations across the world.
India is applauded for its achievements under the Millennium Development Goals and is commended as a leading nation working toward attaining the Sustainable Development Goals. This day offers us an opportunity to feel proud of our nation and its tremendous achievements till now.
The next 25 years leading up to the centenary of India’s independence will be a defining moment in India’s growth story. In the next four years, India is projected to become a $5 trillion economy. The latest IMF forecasts project the Indian economy to grow at 7.4 percent in the next financial year.
According to the 2022 IMF estimates, India is the fifth largest economy in the world with a gross domestic product worth approximately $3.5 trillion.
In the last financial year, India received its highest-ever annual foreign direct investment inflow which stood at $83.57 billion, after witnessing a steep growth of 85 percent from FDI inflows in the financial year 2015.
This has been made possible by an enabling environment through facilitative policy measures and an investor-friendly strategy, which has significantly improved the ease of doing business in the country.
The Indian economy has also been catapulted by its focus on technological advancements and a flourishing startup ecosystem.
India now has the third largest startup infrastructure, with approximately 75,000 DPIIT-recognized — Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade — startups across the country.
Moreover, India now ranks second in innovation quality among middle-income economies.
The Indian economy has also allowed the exponential growth of unicorn companies.
The sector has ascended in the last five years, with a whopping growth of 66 percent on a year-on-year basis. As of July 2022, India had 105 unicorns with a total valuation of $338 billion. The sector is flourishing not only in the traditional domains of e-commerce, logistics, and services, but is also gaining ground in emerging areas of gaming, data analytics, artificial intelligence, and robotics.
Over the last seven-and-a-half decades, India has been guided by the principles enshrined in its constitution of justice, liberty, equality, and fraternity in its approach toward national development and on shared international issues.
India has become a leading voice on international platforms and raised critical issues such as the overdue reform of the UN Security Council, international consensus for counter-terrorism, maritime security, and peacekeeping.
India presided over the UNSC during Aug. 2021 and is currently a non-permanent member.
It is also pertinent to highlight that India has become a cardinal voice for dealing with emerging challenges like climate change and food security, and has been leading with tangible actions in that regard.
To emphasize the need for united global efforts to tackle the looming threat of global warming, India has led by example and instituted organizations such as the International Solar Alliance and the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure.
The year also marks the completion of 75 years of India-Saudi Arabia diplomatic relations.
During this period, our civilizational ties have grown multi-dimensionally and have reached unprecedented levels. The bonhomie between our leaders has driven bilateral relations upslope and, in the last few years, this has developed into a strategic partnership.
Bilateral economic relations have diversified to include a multitude of sectors, presenting enormous potential for trade and investment.
In the financial year 2021-22, our bilateral trade was valued at $42.9 billion.
During this period, India’s imports from Saudi Arabia reached $34.01 billion, and exports to Saudi Arabia were worth $8.76 billion, registering an increase of 49.5 percent over last year.
Saudi Arabia is a key energy partner for India as it imports around 18 percent of its crude oil requirement and 22 percent of its LPG requirements from the Kingdom.
At the same time, India is also a crucial partner to the Kingdom in ensuring food security.
Bilateral investment exchange has also been driven up in the last eight years as India’s investments in the Kingdom have reached $2 billion and are growing fast owing to the emerging opportunities under Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 program.
Similarly, the Kingdom is now the 17th largest investor in India, with investments amounting to $3.15 billion.
Investments from Saudi heavyweights such as PIF, Aramco and SABIC have strengthened the trust of investors in India’s growth story.
This growth in investments has come as per the announcement made by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during his visit to India in Feb. 2019 that the Kingdom would be investing $100 billion in India in diversified sectors.
Our partnership in the field of defense has taken huge strides in the last few years. The maiden visit of the then-Indian Chief of Army Staff Gen. M.M. Naravane, in Dec. 2020, gave new momentum to our defense ties.
Following that visit, our first bilateral naval exercise “Al-Mohed Al-Hindi” took place last year in August.
Recently, in June, the fifth meeting of the Joint Committee on Defence Cooperation concluded in Delhi with an agenda to further strengthen our defense collaboration in terms of security cooperation, training and capacity-building, and boosting trade in the defense sector.
Apart from these, I would like to underline the growing cultural engagements between our countries.
Our bilateral collaborations are expanding rapidly into novel domains of sports, entertainment, tourism, education, and health which have opened up recently in Saudi Arabia with the reforms undertaken as part of the Vision 2030 initiative.
India-Saudi bilateral cooperation is ready to achieve new heights on the strong foundation of our people-to-people ties.
More than 2.2 million Indians reside in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and contribute immensely to the service sector requirements of the Kingdom.
It is my strong belief that India-Saudi relations will grow manifold in the coming years. The embassy of India looks forward to working closely with the government and friendly people of Saudi Arabia toward this objective.
I also thank the leadership of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for their wisdom and for taking care of the welfare of all Indian nationals in the Kingdom.
Consul General’s Message: In India, Saudi Arabia has a trusted partner
Updated 15 August 2022
Mohammed Shahid Alam
JEDDAH: I extend my warmest greetings to all Indians and friends of India on the occasion of the 76th Independence Day of India. On this auspicious day, I honor and remember every personality whose blood, toil and sacrifice have made possible the freedom we enjoy today.
Today’s India-Saudi cooperation is no longer restricted to the traditional sphere of oil-energy trade. Instead, the relationship has become multifaceted thanks to the impetus given by the leaderships of both countries to other areas, including defense, maritime security, counterterrorism, science and technology, strategic oil reserves, investments, tourism, and so on. This bonhomie has come about at a time when mega economic reform programs are underway in Saudi Arabia, for which India would extend all its support and be a partner in all possible fields.
We express our sincere gratitude to King Salman, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and the government and people of Saudi Arabia for their support and for providing a conducive environment for the Indians to live and work in the Kingdom. We also congratulate the Kingdom on the successful organization of Hajj this year in which about 80,000 Indian Hajjis were able to complete their most cherished dream of Hajj.
With the cooperation of Saudi authorities, we have worked sincerely and diligently to ensure the delivery of the best possible consular and welfare services to the Indian community living in the Western Provinces of Saudi Arabia. We thank the Saudi Ministries of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development, Interior and the authorities of Jawazat, Tarheel and other agencies who have always provided the best possible assistance to the consulate in its efforts to ensure the welfare of Indians.
I also thank my fellow Indians in Saudi Arabia and the people of Saudi Arabia for the bond they share and the contributions they make to the strengthening of India-Saudi Arabia relations. We look forward to your continued participation and support to the consulate’s activities and endeavors.
Happy Independence Day! May our spirits rise with the flag today!
Oil behemoth Aramco beats forecasts with record Q2 profit of $48.4bn
The oil giant was expected to report $46.2 billion in net income based on 15 analyst forecasts.
Profits of “the most profitable oil company in the world” hit SR182 billion ($48.4 billion) after revenue soared 80 percent to SR562 billion.
Updated 14 August 2022
RIYADH: Saudi Aramco’s profit has surged 90 percent in the second quarter of 2022, beating the median of analysts’ forecasts with the highest quarterly profit since going public in 2019.
The oil giant was expected to report $46.2 billion in net income based on 15 analyst forecasts.
Profits of “the most profitable oil company in the world” hit SR182 billion ($48.4 billion) after revenue soared 80 percent to SR562 billion, according to a bourse filing.
This is up from SR148 billion in the prior quarter and SR95.5 billion in the second quarter of 2021.
The crude producer said the results were primarily driven by rising crude prices which soared to record highs earlier this year, higher volumes sold, and improved downstream margins.
“Our record second-quarter results reflect increasing demand for our products — particularly as a low-cost producer with one of the lowest upstream carbon intensities in the industry,” said CEO, Amin Nasser, commenting on the results.
“While global market volatility and economic uncertainty remain, events during the first half of this year support our view that ongoing investment in our industry is essential — both to help ensure markets remain well supplied and to facilitate an orderly energy transition,” he added.
Further to the solid results, Aramco maintained stable quarterly dividends at SR70.3 billion, representing a per-share payout of SR0.3198 to be paid on Sept. 7.
Capital expenditure during the quarter grew 25 percent to $9.4 billion as Aramco continued to invest and capture growth opportunities.
In terms of half-year performance, Aramco outperformed with an 86 percent profit surge to SR330 billion from SR177 billion a year earlier.
The Saudi-listed company almost doubled its revenue to SR1.03 trillion, compared to SR584 billion in the first half of 2021.
Buoyed by higher operating cash flow, Aramco managed to strengthen its balance sheet with a gearing ratio of 7.9 percent at June end, compared to 14.2 percent at the end of 2021.
“We expect oil demand to continue to grow for the rest of the decade, despite downward economic pressures on short-term global forecasts,” Nasser said.
“But while there is a very real and present need to safeguard the security of energy supplies, climate goals remain critical, which is why Aramco is working to increase production from multiple energy sources — including oil and gas, as well as renewables, and blue hydrogen.”
Aramco and Cognite, a global leader in industrial software, announced the launch of CNTXT, a joint venture based in the Kingdom, which will be headquartered in Riyadh. CNTXT will support industrial digitalization in Saudi Arabia and the wider Middle East and North Africa region.
Aramco was reported to weigh an initial public offering of its unit Aramco Trading Co. that could potentially raise over $30 billion, slated to become one of the world’s biggest listings this year.
Aramco joined hands with Thailand's national oil company PTT, as it expands its footprints in Asia. Both companies will work together in areas of blue and green hydrogen and various clean energy initiatives.
Aramco acquired US-based Valvoline Inc.’s global products unit in a $2.65 billion deal.
Saudi tour guides shine at NEOM’s The Line exhibition
Details of NEOM project on full display at the exhibition
About 49 tours are organised per day, allowing visitors to grasp the scope and complexity of the project’s designs
Updated 12 August 2022
JEDDAH: An exhibition exploring Saudi Arabia’s ambitious The Line project is leaving visitors enthralled thanks to the work of specialist tour guides.
The details of the NEOM project are on full display at the exhibition, hosted at the Jeddah Superdome. Visitors of all age groups will get first-hand insights with the help of the Saudi tour guides, who explain visual displays in both Arabic and English.
The guides are bringing the exhibition to life with about 49 tours per day, allowing visitors to grasp the scope and complexity of the project’s designs, architectural concepts and engineering capabilities.
Speaking to Arab News, several tour guides expressed their enthusiasm at taking part in the exhibition and playing a small but important role in NEOM.
One of the guides, Ragad Seit, said: “The experience is beyond wonderful. I love the excitement on the people’s faces while we explain the details of The Line. It is amazing to see the excitement they have for this revolutionary project and watching that makes me feel that it’s worth being a part of this exhibition. I am sure this will be a great movement for the future and we can’t wait to see the completion of The Line.”
Another young guide, Ghalya Faisal Alsahhaf, said: “My job here is to explain the unique and rare NEOM flora that will be grown in The Line. The experience is definitely one of a kind where I get to educate people on the vegetation aspect.
“The look on the people when they learn about the different kinds of flora is incredible. Also, I get to meet people from different cultures and backgrounds where I interact with them about the exhibition, and have discussions. The enthusiasm of the visitors is unimaginable.”
Abdulaziz Salmin said: “Although I am here as a tour guide, I am very proud to be a part of NEOM and work on this project.
“I work on sections one and two where I explain to the people what The Line is all about. The thrill and anticipation that the public show is very similar to my excitement. I am eagerly waiting to see how the city will turn out, especially after learning a lot more about it through this exhibition,” Salmin added.
Apart from tour guides, NEOM officials are also present at the exhibition to assist those looking for in-depth answers.
The Jeddah exhibition opens its doors from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. until Aug. 14, before moving to the Eastern Province and then staying in Riyadh.
“I learned about the project for the first time on social media and I was so excited to get my own first impression of the revolutionary model of The Line. I’m so excited to see this in reality,” Mohammad Ali, a visitor, said.
“Besides, we now understand more about the project with the help of the tour guides. It’s true that they can take the visitors on a whole different journey,” he added.
Another visitor, Raees Ali, said: “The tour guide turned my experience into a most pleasurable one by answering my questions and providing the information available in a clear and simple way.
“The project definitely looks futuristic and promising. After the tour, I did have many technical questions in my mind, but I am certain that they will be answered in the coming days. Hopefully, I would really like to relocate to this dreamy place.”
Saed H. was awestruck at The Line’s designs on display at the exhibition and is excited to see how the city will look after construction.
“It is definitely a good idea to have a guide who gives some interesting details. I was surprised to learn about the football stadium in the city which will be embedded in a way where the city itself will turn towards the stadium and become the venue. All these details are so mind-blowing that the visitors were awe-inspired by this dreamy world. We really look forward to seeing it come to life,” said Saed.
Divided into different sections, the displays at the exhibition detail urban living plans being implemented in the city. The Line follows a human-first approach with health and well-being prioritized over transportation and infrastructure.
Free tickets can be booked through the Hala Yalla application for events.