Frankly Speaking: Saudi Arabia doubling down on Diriyah Gate project, says DGDA CEO 

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Updated 19 June 2021

Frankly Speaking: Saudi Arabia doubling down on Diriyah Gate project, says DGDA CEO 

  • Jerry Inzerillo made the remarks on Frankly Speaking, a series of video conversations with leading Middle East decision-makers
  • Project’s budget has been increased from $20 billion to $40 billion, and its scope increased significantly, he said

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia is doubling down on its landmark Diriyah Gate project to build a leisure and cultural zone in the historic heart of Riyadh.

Jerry Inzerillo, CEO of the authority that runs the landmark project, told Arab News that his budget has been increased from $20 billion to $40 billion, and its scope increased significantly.

“What has happened is that the master plans, (following further) research, have evolved into a broader vision to allow it to be a component (of the strategy to turn) Riyadh into one of the 10 great cities of the world,” he said.

Inzerillo, a veteran of the global tourism business who was appointed to the top job at the Diriyah Gate Development Authority (DGDA) in 2018, revealed the project’s new ambitions in an interview with “Frankly Speaking,” the series of video conversations with leading business and political leaders.




The inaugural celebration of Diriyah Gate. (Supplied)

During the interview, he also spoke of the DGDA’s prime place within the Vision 2030 giga-projects, the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Kingdom’s tourism industry, and its far-reaching plans to rival such global attractions as the pyramids in Egypt and the Colosseum in Rome.

The move to increase the project’s budget and scope was the brainchild of Saudi Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman, Inzerillo said.

“It’s not just that we were given some more money. It’s a result of a change in vision. He (the crown prince) studies plans meticulously. As the smartest guy in the room, his visual acuity is amazing,” he said.




Old structures in Diriyah, the site of the first Saudi Kingdom in the 18th century, have been preserved. (Supplied)

"So, the same way Paris was master-planned and laid out, the same way Berlin was laid out, the same way Manhattan was laid out — this is how the crown prince looks at all the cities and that’s why we’ve grown.”

Diriyah, the site of the first Saudi Kingdom in the 18th century, is regarded as the centerpiece of the Vision 2030 strategy to diversify the economy and provide more leisure and cultural facilities for Saudi citizens, as well as attracting foreign tourists.

“There’s only one Diriyah. We’re the first born, we’re the favorite son. My fellow CEOs can come on the show and say, ‘No, we’re great.’ They’re all great, we love them, but there’s only one Diriyah,” Inzerillo said.

He insisted that Diriyah Gate and the other mega-projects are on time and have not been unduly delayed by the economic effects of the pandemic.

 

 

The budgets of the other big leisure projects — such as the Red Sea Development and AlUla — have not been cut back, he said.

“We executed our exact strategy all of 2020; we didn’t cut back. He (the crown prince) was brave,” Inzerillo added. “So now as a result of it, the major giga-projects in the Kingdom are on time and on budget.”

Some of the big projects will “need another budget cycle” to determine the right mix of equity and new investment required, but he is confident that the overall investment will be met by government funds, investment from the Saudi private sector and foreign investment.

Some tourism experts have questioned the overall strategy, which seeks to attract 100 million visits by the end of the decade to a variety of new leisure and cultural attractions, but Inzerillo said the projects are not in competition. “They’re very intelligently crafted to complement each other,” he added.

The reason for the big number of new tourism projects, he said, is that Saudi Arabia is trying to compete with other recognized global travel centers — such as Singapore and European countries — within a short space of time.

 

 

Inzerillo conceded that there has been an effect on the number of people visiting Saudi Arabia because of COVID-19 travel restrictions, but he estimated that it has been proportionately less than other big tourist destinations such as France and the US. “We’re coming off a low base,” he said.

In line with the new budget, the DGDA has lifted the estimate for the number of visitors it hopes to attract. It now expects 27 million visits and 100,000 residents by 2030.

Inzerillo said these estimates are achievable, and he took encouragement from the number of people applying for the new tourism visa — 55,000 per week — before the COVID-19 restrictions came into effect.

Diriyah is aimed at both Saudi domestic visitors and foreign tourists, seeking to capitalize on the rich historical legacy of the region.

 

 

Inzerillo is convinced that it can take its place among the other great cultural attractions of the world.

“It is to Saudi Arabia what the Acropolis is to the Greeks, what the Colosseum is to Rome, what Machu Picchu is to Peruvians,” he said.

“So when people come to the Gulf, they’re going to want to see where it all started — the home of the House of Saud.”

Inzerillo, who trained in Las Vegas and went on to international projects in South Africa, the UAE and elsewhere, believes that the absence of alcohol in Saudi Arabia will make little difference to its attractiveness to tourists.

When global focus groups were asked about their priorities for tourism in the Kingdom, the non-availability of alcohol in the food and beverage mix was not in the top five concerns, he said.

 

 

“People were astonished by the beauty of the Kingdom, and by the warmth of the Saudi people,” he added.

Originally from Brooklyn in New York City, Inzerillo is enthusiastic about the quality of life in Saudi Arabia for him and other Western expatriates, who make up about 20 percent of the DGDA workforce.

 

 

“But the No. 1 thing that people like is civility — the fact that you’re treated warmly and kindly, and the great thing about the Kingdom right now as a society — it’s optimistic, it’s positive,” he said.

Inzerillo also gave some insight into the decision-making style of the crown prince, whom he described as a “supercharged CEO.”

Inzerillo said: “He’s very methodical, asking, ‘What’s your process? How did you study this issue? Who did you study it with? Did you study it with the world’s best? What did you learn, and what options are you bringing to me?’

“So when you leave a meeting with an approval, he doesn’t stop. One day, two days, five days later, you’ll get a call from him. ‘If you connect that with that, doesn’t it make Diriyah better?’ ‘Yes sir, we didn’t see that’.”

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Twitter: @frankkanedubai


Saudi Human Resources Development Fund approves 106 professional, technical diplomas

Updated 05 August 2021

Saudi Human Resources Development Fund approves 106 professional, technical diplomas

RIYADH: The Saudi Human Resources Development Fund (Hadaf) approved 106 professional and technical diplomas in various specializations and fields. 

The certifications are linked to the requirements of the labor market with the aim of raising the efficiency of the national workforce.

The professional certification program supports Hadaf’s other initiatives in improving professional training, increasing competitiveness among the workforce in specialized fields and stimulating professional development.

The Hadaf program offers an interconnected set of specialized courses designed to provide and enhance basic professional skills in areas of specialization, reflecting positively on career performance.

It targets all citizens wishing to develop their professional career by obtaining a certificate, whether the applicant is a government or private sector employee, job seeker or student.

With its focus on professional training and certification, the fund aims to boost labor market productivity to reach international standards and create new career opportunities.

To benefit from the program, applicants must have an accredited professional certificate and acknowledgment from their employer stating that they are not covering the fees of obtaining it.

Each applicant can process a maximum of two certificates. For payment, the applicant must file a claim through the taqat.sa website along with a copy of the professional certificate.

After verifying the validity of the certificate, the related costs are transferred directly to the applicant’s account through the IBAN number given on the registration page.

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Sea ambulance service launched in KSA’s Farasan Island

Updated 39 min 16 sec ago

Sea ambulance service launched in KSA’s Farasan Island

  • Sea ambulance cost $3.6m and is equipped with the latest safety systems, five beds, a CPR device, and a shock-absorbent stretcher
  • Will be able to transfer emergency cases from Farasan Island to Jazan Port within 45 minutes

JAZAN: Jazan Gov. Prince Mohammed bin Nasser bin Abdul Aziz on Wednesday inaugurated a sea ambulance service in the Farasan Island governorate.

The governor listened to a detailed briefing from Jazan Health Director Dr. Awaji Al-Naami about the sea ambulance, which was manufactured at a cost of SR13.6 million ($3.6 million) and is equipped with the latest safety systems.

The sea ambulance has up to five beds, including an ICU bed, along with a cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) device, a shock-absorbent stretcher that can adapt to waves and rough conditions at sea, a suction device, and medicines needed for emergency care.

Prince Mohammed also reviewed the action plan of the sea ambulance, which can transfer emergency cases from Farasan Island to Jazan Port within 45 minutes.

He got acquainted with the smart systems that enable the medical transfer operations center at the Emergency, Disasters, and Ambulatory Transportation General Department at the Jazan Health Directorate. The smart systems can also monitor the sea ambulance’s movements in the sea until it arrives at the port.

The sea ambulance is part of the Ministry of Health’s endeavors to provide health services to citizens and residents alike.

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61 quarantine violators arrested in Saudi Arabia

Updated 05 August 2021

61 quarantine violators arrested in Saudi Arabia

  • Health Ministry reports 1,043 new coronavirus cases, 1,211 recoveries, 14 deaths
  • 28,492,380 people in the country had to date received a jab against COVID-19

RIYADH: A total of 61 offenders have been arrested  in Saudi Arabia in the past week for failing to adhere to quarantine regulations after their infection of the virus was confirmed.

The media spokesman for the police in Hail region, Captain Tariq Al-Nassar, said that a video circulating of a man with a positive PCR test wandering about in a shopping mall had led to his arrest after the authorities identified him. Legal action has now been taken against him.

Al-Nassar said that the penalties for violators of the precautionary and preventive measures against COVID-19 included a fine of no more than SR500,000 or imprisonment for a period not exceeding five years, or both. 

In Qassim region, the media spokesman for the police, Lt. Col. Badr Al-Suhaibani, said that 60 people were arrested for violating quarantine regulations after it was confirmed that they were infected with the virus. 

Saudi Arabia on Wednesday reported 14 more COVID-19-related deaths, taking the overall toll to 8,284.

There were 1,043 new cases, meaning that 529,995 people in the country had now contracted the disease. A total of 10,393 cases remained active, of which 1,396 patients were in critical condition.

FASTFACTS

Saudi Arabia reported 1,043 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, bringing the total to 529,995

A total of 10,393 cases remained active, of which 1,396 patients were in critical condition.

The death toll has risen to 8,284 with 14 more virus-related fatalities

28,492,380 people in the country had to date received a jab against COVID-19

Of the newly recorded cases, 214 were in Makkah region, 192 in Riyadh region, 169 in the Eastern Province, and 65 in Madinah region.

In addition, the ministry said that 1,211 patients had recovered from the disease, increasing the total number of recoveries in the Kingdom to 511,318.

The region with the highest recovery rate is Riyadh at 267, followed by Makkah at 217 and Eastern Province at 200.

Saudi Arabia had so far conducted 25,443,550 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests, with 106,517 carried out in the past 24 hours.

Testing hubs and treatment centers set up throughout the country have dealt with hundreds of thousands of people since the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak.

Among them, Taakad (make sure) 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 (rest assured) 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.

Meanwhile, 28,492,380 people in the country had to date received a jab against COVID-19, including 1,496,037 elderly people. About 55.9 percent of the population had received the first dose, while 25.9 percent had completed both doses. At this rate, 70 percent of the population is expected to have completed both doses by September 28, 2021.

Meanwhile, Rafha Health Affairs in the northern region of the Kingdom, represented by the Central Hospital, has activated virtual clinics for patients benefiting from its services in outpatient clinics.

This gives patients the option to remotely attend medical appointments in an attempt to limit the spread of COVID-19. The management of Central Hospital explained that this service allows direct communication between doctors and their patients through interactive video communication.

“We have made remote clinics available to save people’s time and efforts, as it is possible to communicate directly with the doctor, without the need to come to the clinic,” the minister of health said earlier.


High-flying Saudi women are making the most of new career opportunities

Updated 05 August 2021

High-flying Saudi women are making the most of new career opportunities

 

JEDDAH:  Saudi women continue to embrace the new career opportunities that have opened up to them in the Kingdom in recent years, with a determination to succeed. One of the sectors in which they are increasingly making their mark is aviation.

Flight attendant Anhar Tashkandi joined Saudia airline two years ago.

“We completed the training period, which focused on ensuring the passengers’ comfort and safety,” she said. “This job offers us the opportunity to visit different countries and learn from their cultures.”

Saudi women now work as flight attendants alongside male colleagues, a job that was previously restricted to women from other countries.

Ashwaq Nasser told of her pride at being one of the first Saudi women to work in the profession.

“I would like to take this opportunity to thank my parents for supporting my choice of becoming a flight attendant,” she said. “I would also like to thank Saudia airline for providing us with the opportunity to join this program.”

Her colleague, Reham Bahmishan said that since childhood she had wondered why there were no Saudi female flight attendants.

“When I later saw that the Saudia airline was accepting applications for this position, I was very excited and applied immediately,” she said. “Thanks to Saudia, I am currently living my childhood dream.”


Counter-extremism center Etidal calls for ‘proper reading of religious text’

Updated 05 August 2021

Counter-extremism center Etidal calls for ‘proper reading of religious text’

  • Says some extremist groups were “trying to embrace the texts to interpret them according to what they want”

RIYADH: Religious text must not be a “prisoner” to the interpretations of extremist groups, the secretary-general of the Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology (Etidal) has said.

Dr. Mansour Al-Shammari stressed that some extremist groups were “trying to embrace the texts to interpret them according to what they want” and he looked forward to an integration with specialized institutions to find a proper reading of these religious texts.

Al-Shammari's comments came in a press conference on Wednesday in Riyadh, in the presence of Jehangir Khan, director of the UN Center for Counter-Terrorism (UNCCT).

Al-Shammari said that Saudi Arabia spared no effort in supporting international efforts to combat extremist ideology and terrorism, believing that they are the main enemy of the development and stability of any society.

The success of development plans, he added, depended on the ability of countries to protect their capabilities and citizens from the dangers of this ideology.

HIGHLIGHT

Dr. Mansour Al-Shammari, the secretary-general of the Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology, said that Saudi Arabia spared no effort in supporting international efforts to combat extremist ideology and terrorism, believing that they are the main enemy of the development and stability of any society.

He praised the UN’s efforts in combating terrorism, stressing Etidal’s keenness to exchange experiences to serve the common goals and strategies of Etidal and the UNCCT.

“Etidal’s and UNCCT’s partnership came after many meetings and fruitful efforts between the two parties,” said Al-Shammari, stressing that the goal was to reach projects on the ground.

He said that Etidal and UNCCT’s efforts had culminated in the signing of a joint memorandum of understanding last April. One objective was to cooperate in building international capacities to prevent violent extremism, and to combat the use of the Internet and social media platforms to spread extremist ideology and terrorist agenda.

“Etidal is working to expose the methods of extremist organizations in targeting young people, educating them about the dangers of this thought, and disproving the suspicions that the organizations exploit in their recruitment processes,” he said.

Al-Shammari added that Etidal was aware of the dangers of this way of thinking and of the organizations that employ all means to spread it, and they had developed specialized plans and strategies to refute such thought.

Additionally, Etidal had launched a number of initiatives to increase societal interaction with the center’s goals including: Moderate, refutation, research cooperation, university training and the Gather2 Initiative, which aims to raise awareness among people with hearing disabilities about the risks of extremism.

Khan praised Saudi Arabia’s cooperation with the international community in confronting extremism and protecting current and future societies and generations from its dangers, valuing the Kingdom’s efforts to cut off funding for terrorists.

He said that Etidal was a pillar of the UN’s strategy to combat terrorism, stressing that the issue of terrorism was “complicated,” and that the international community must be active and prepared to confront terrorists.

“Terrorism has no religion or homeland,” he said, noting the importance of developing anti-terror projects around the world. He warned that terrorists sought to influence young people in various forms such as video games.

 

Decoder

Etidal

Based in Riyadh, Etidal is the Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology with a mission of fighting extremism. To do that, it seeks to identify such the root causes of such ideologies and address them using tools and technologies such as social networks and the Internet as well as other media outlets. Its membership is open to countries, organizations, or any participating entity.