Jun 23, 2017 11:40 AMJHI wishes our many friends in the Muslim world a happy Eid al-Fitr. We hope you enjoy the celebration of the spiritual, intellectual and human growth you and your families achieved during the month of Ramadan.We would also like to advise clients and friends who do not observe this holiday to expect office closures throughout the Middle East region, including JHI resources in Saudi Arabia & the United Arab Emirates, during the holiday.
Dec 19, 2016 2:36 PM
During the last week of September, immediately following the opening of the United Nations (UN) General Assembly in New York, a series of seminars, workshops and interactive displays collectively coined "A Day in Riyadh" was showcased at the UN. This week-long "Riyadh Day" was sponsored by the High Commission for the Development of Arriyadh (Riyadh), and particularly featured the ongoing work of the Arriyadh (Riyadh) Development Authority (ADA). As a Representative (Observer) for a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) to the UN, and an attorney with an office in Saudi Arabia, Mr. Huf, Principal of JHI, was pleased and excited to attend.
Focused on the capital city of Saudi Arabia (KSA, or the Kingdom) and the governate (province) of Riyadh, the series of presentations covered subjects relevant to the economy, culture, commerce and development of the entire Kingdom, and the Arab and Islamic worlds more generally.
Of particular interest to those who follow this space will be the planned reformation of Riyadh's transportation system which, if fully executed, may be the single-largest public works project on earth during the period of construction. However, we will list all of the subjects covered by the panel presentations at the UN between September 27 - 30, to provide a broad look at the planned continued development of Riyadh (one of the chief purposes of the conference) which, in turn, may give us a better view of the Kingdom-wide social and economic reforms known as Saudi Arabia's "Vision 2030".
9/27 "Riyadh: Planning for People" - the overall City Plan (by 2030) moving forward, including details on Riyadh's new "Smart City" initiative.
9/28 "Riyadh: A Sustainable & People-Friendly City" - details concerning the Sustainable Development of Riyadh.
9/29 "Riyadh: On the Move" - The King Abdulaziz Project for Riyadh Public Transport.
9/30 "Riyadh: Development of Civilization and Social Partnership" - Plans for the continued social, economic and intellectual development of the city's population in line with Islamic principles and the traditions of Arabia, particularly youth and especially young women, empowering them to take a more active role in the growth of the city and the future of the Kingdom as a whole.
(Jason Huf and Dr. Sana Alorf. Dr. Sana is extraordinary, but not unique. She is a medical doctor working in Riyadh who also participates in many charitable and civic endeavors. She volunteered, along with many other young Saudis, to travel to New York and talk about their culture, heritage and way of life in side bars at the exhibition. Many ladies are taking up professions [including and increasingly fields such as law, medicine and science], starting businesses and participating in life outside their homes in the Kingdom. Dr. Sana has a wealth of information that dispells many of the illusions concerning Saudi society and highlights the progress Saudi women have made - and continue to make.)
The public transortation project, scheduled for completion in 2018, is a massive affair that could revolutionize life in Riyadh. In addition to a new bus service, the project includes the construction of a commuter railway (Riyadh Metro) with six lines, dozens of stations, a main terminal for each line, and services areas at each stop, including large-scale shopping complexes at each of the main terminals. Anticipating use by roughly 3.6 million residents daily, over 3,000 transport stands will be constructed to accomodate waiting commuters.
With billions of Saudi Riyals being invested into the project, and given the rather brief time frame, this will generate a labor boom in the capital for qualified Saudis and expatriates. Mr. Huf asked Eng. Hassan Al Musa, Deputy Director of the Transport Planning Department of the High Commission for the Development of Riyadh, if resources had been allocated to process what should be a substantial spike in Visa applications. Potential contractors and subcontractors will be interested to know that the Deputy Director responded that his office is in touch with the Ministry of Labor on a regular basis as they set up for this contingency. So long as employers comply with their filing requirements, he said, there should be no delays in the project caused by a labor shortage brought about by paperwork backlogs.
(Eng. Hassan Al Musa and Jason Huf. Mr. Huf found him to be capable, earnest and modest. Although entrusted with day-to-day management of a massive public works project that progresses under a tight schedule, he always gives credit to others, refering to his "Army" of dedicated public servants. "That makes you a General", responded Mr. Huf, who later added, "Eng. Hassan is a nice guy".)
In addition to the lifestyle transformation and relief of traffic congestion that will take place once this project is complete, young Saudis who are lacking in resources such as cars of their own will be able to much more easily venture beyond the confines of their own neighborhoods to look for satisfying work and important educational opportunities. And, everyone who lives in Riyadh should enjoy the benefit of cleaner air arising from fewer cars on the highways.
The entire program provided a window through which one could sample Saudi Arabia's Vision 2030, the rapid modernization and other wide-ranging reforms ordered by King Salman and spearheaded by Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, with the aim of guiding a modern but authentically Islamic Saudi Arabia that remains true to its people's history and traditions into a future "Post-Oil" economy.
These reforms include the KSA's Sustainable Development program, which closely follows the UN's Sustainable Development Goals while keeping in conformity with Kingdom's Islamic principles; increased opportunities for youth & women; and, Saudi Arabia's nuclear power program.
At JHI, we have offered our own modest suggestions for the shaping of such sweeping reforms, with an emphasis on attracting increased Foreign Direct Investment in the Saudi market.
With an incoming US Administration that seems keen on utilizing America's energy resources; and, (if feasible) working with Russia to defeat ISIS (which, in addition to commiting henious atrocities, has been fighting forces led directly or indirectly by the Iranians), some may see such investment from the West as slow in coming, and the KSA's reception of it to be less-than-enthusiastic.
Seen by some as signalling potential push-back against the further development of US energy resources and other recent or possible future policy changes, Prince Alaweed bin Talal of Kingdom Holding Company (Saudi Arabia's soverign investment apparatus) suggested selling holdings previously classified "not sellable" (such as shares in Citi Group and US Treasury bonds), which would be a divorce from Saudi Arabia's long-standing policy of having "buy-ins" in important American economic institutions and, thus, the American economy - effectively giving the US a stake in the KSA's existence and continued success.
Noises concerning such potential push-back seem unlikely to stem the increased exploitation of US energy resources (another dip in the price of oil, for example, would seem more likely to give pause to an increase in US production). And, the US-Saudi alliance of over seven decades, while fraying a bit over the last several years, should remain rather tightly tethered: after ISIS is destroyed, a check on Iranian ambition will have been eliminated, and the US and the KSA will more clearly and simply share strong interests in containing Iran and managing increasingly complicated relationships with Russia.
In fact, the strong relationships the KSA enjoys with the West, the interest Western countries have in seeing the continued modernization of Arab states, and Western companies' keen eye to continue - and, possibly increase - their investments in the Gulf region were reinforced recently by UK Prime Minister Theresa May in her mid-December visit to the Gulf Cooperation Council summit in Bahrain.
Pending changes to the Kingdom's commercial and corporate laws, which continue to be rolled out, and given at least one or two geopolitical uncertainties, JHI presently and on the whole views it likely that the environment for Foreign Investors will become even more attractive as the Vision 2030 reforms are implemented in the KSA. As to the Great Social & Economic Reformation of the Kingdom known as "Saudi Arabia's Vision 2030", Mr. Huf doesn't think its on par with the Maji Restoration (the radical transformation experienced in Japan during the late 19th century), but he does see it as the most significant series of reforms in the history of the KSA since the reign of King Faisal (perhaps in the Kingdom's entire history - we'll see) and the most positive collection of developments to take place in the Arab world thus far in this new, turbulent 21st century - and, he certainly viewed the exhibition at the UN positively.
Jul 5, 2016 2:41 PMJHI wishes our many friends in the Muslim world a happy Eid al-Fitr. We hope you enjoy the celebration of the spiritual, intellectual and human growth you and your families achieved during the month of Ramadan, despite the challenges to peace and security during the Holy Month this year. We would also like to advise clients and friends who do not observe this holiday to expect office closures throughout the Middle East region during the holiday.JHI will continue its expansion in the region and hopes that, even as they mourn those lost this past week, the good people of Medina, Jeddah and elsewhere in the Kingdom celebrate God-given life and its highest pursuits.
In the United States, we celebrated the 240th anniversary of our Independence on July 4. These past several weeks have seen barbarity at its worst. With specific reference to the terrorist attack at Medina, we in the Land of Liberty, irrespective of faith, stand with and pray for the innocent victims of that atrocity. Everyone has a right to freedom from terror.
While the savage primitives of ISIS/IL are strongly suspected of coordinating the attack in Medina and other places throughout Saudi Arabia, no group as of the date of this writing has claimed responsibility and the motives of the suicide bomber in Medina are as yet unknown. It was nonetheless a murderous act of barbarity that the whole of the civilized world must reject. ANY "cause" served by the use of Terror as a tactic must, summarily, be deemed illegitimate.
Further, when terrorism is employed, the actors betray their so-called "cause" to be nothing more than a pretext for a war of conquest. This is the reality civilized people across the globe must face with the determination that any such enemy will be defeated and placed in history's rubbish pile, along with so many other would-be tyrants of the past.
Sep 16, 2015 2:24 PMDuring King Salman's recent visit to Washington, DC, members of the Saudi delegation issued several announcements concerning planned commercial reforms and other developments that could prove significant to Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in Saudi Arabia (KSA) as the Kingdom looks to broaden its economy at a time when low oil prices are projected to be the norm for the medium term. We will highlight some of the more significant announcements in this and subsequent notes.
While Saudi Arabia remains committed to continuing its current record-setting output of light sweet crude (one of the major factors contributing to low oil prices), the KSA is now facing projections of massive budget deficits and rapidly depleting cash reserves. Increased FDI, particularly from the United States, appears to be critical to the KSA's strategy for coping with the downsides of consistently low oil prices.
Reforms in the Arab world often begin with teasers that function as "trial balloons". This note will reference such a trial balloon floated by a Saudi official associated with the Deputy Crown Prince. In a closed door meeting with business leaders in DC, this official announced that the Kingdom is considering opening the Saudi banking market to permit entry of additional foreign banks - especially American ones - wishing to do business in the Kingdom. In additional to financing major projects, it is hoped that such banks would also cater to small businesses and individual depositors.
Even with the recent entry of a branch of a bank based in fellow Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Member State Qatar, Saudi Arabia is still seen as, perhaps, the most "under-banked" market in the world. To attract additional FDI, which has been in slight decline in recent years, some see the entry of additional Foreign banks and the capital they bring as critical. Entry by foreign banks based elsewhere in the GCC has been helpful, but it will take the power of additional American and other western banks to take a more broad-based growth to the next level.
Not stated, but understood, in this announcement is Saudi Arabia's desire that western powers continue to see that they have a stake in the stability of the Kindgom vis-a-vis its continuing conflict with Iran and, increasingly, Russia.
Of course, the devil is in the details: What will be required to gain entry? And, once in the market, how secure is a bank's investment in the Kingom and how will such a bank be regulated and taxed? How might such a venture impact an investing bank's legal and regulatory position at home?
JHI will continue to track the flight path of this trial balloon and let you know where it lands...
Jul 17, 2015 1:11 PMJHI wishes our many friends in the Muslim world a happy Eid al-Fitr. We hope you enjoy the celebration of the spiritual, intellectual and human growth you and your families achieved during the month of Ramadan.
We would also like to advise clients and friends who do not observe this holiday to expect office closures throughout the Middle East region during the holiday.
Jul 28, 2014 2:48 PMJHI wishes our many friends in the Muslim world a happy Eid al-Fitr. We would also like to advise clients and friends who do not observe this holiday to expect delays in certain services, and possible disruptions of projected time frames, due to office closures throughout the Middle East region during the holiday.
Jason Huf International, pc
"Exploring the Boundaries of Your Business."