Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques grants top medal to female teachers victims of burnt school, one million Saudi riyals for each

Crown Prince Naif patronizes symposium on Salafism

Prince Khaled al-Faisal calls on youths to seek learning, ethics

Bahraini PM hails Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques’ brave call for union

Saudi economy robust in domestic production

King Abdullah has awarded King Abdulaziz First Degree Medal and one million riyals to each of the three female teachers who lost their lives during the Bara’em Al-Watan School fire incident in Jeddah last month.

The late Ghadeer Muhammad Katou’ah, Reem Ali Al-Nahari and Suzan Salem Al-Khaldi sacrificed their lives while saving girls studying in the school.

Prince Faisal Bin Abdullah, Minister of Education, made the announcement during a ceremony in Riyadh Tuesday.

Over 40 students had sustained injuries when a huge fire broke out on Nov. 19 in Bara’em Al-Watan private girls’ school in Jeddah’s Al-Safa District.

The fire broke out in the school’s basement, allegedly caused by five school girls who were said to have been testing the fire alarm system. But investigations have not been completed yet.

The school had kindergarten, elementary and intermediate sections.

Meanwhile, a total of 41 local and international researchers will discuss how to promote a culture of volunteerism at the Volunteer Work Symposium at Umm Al-Qura University on Dec. 27.

Dr. Bakri Bin Matouq Assas, President of Umm Al-Qura University, thanked King Abdullah, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, for his patronage of the event.

“Umm Al-Qura University will organize this symposium because the university plays an important social role in society,” said Assas while chairing a meeting of the High Supervisory Committee of the symposium.

The members of the committee discussed the arrangements and preparations for the symposium and reviewed the research papers and program of the event.

Dr. Adel Ghabashi, Vice President of Umm Al-Qura University, said that 10 female researchers and 31 male researchers from the public and private sectors will discuss 40 out of a total of 67 research papers.

Crown Prince Naif bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Deputy Premier and Minister of Interior will patronize a Symposium on 'Salafism, A Sharia Approach and A National Demand, ' to be organized by Imam Muhammad bin Saud Islamic University.

In a statement to Saudi Press Agency (SPA), the University's Rector Dr. Suleiman bin Abdullah Aba Al-Khail pointed out that the symposium aims to clarify the reality of Salafism approach pursued by the State since its foundation emanating from the Holy Quran and Prophetic Sunnah, noting that the patronage of the Crown Prince of the Symposium reflects the attention and the trust of the Saudi leadership in the University.

Prince Khaled Al-Faisal bin Abdulaziz, Governor of Makkah Region, attended a dinner party hosted in his honor by Prince Abdulaziz bin Majed bin Abdulaziz, Governor of Madinah Region, on the occasion of his visit to Madinah to deliver a lecture on 'Saudi Moderate Approach' within the framework of the cultural activities of The Islamic University of Madinah.

The party was attended by a number of princes, scholars and men of thought, culture and literature.

On the other hand, Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa, the Prime Minister of Bahrain, hailed the call of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud to pass from the phase of cooperation to ultimate unity in one united Gulf entity, considering it one of the most significant resolutions ever passed by GCC Summits over the last three decades.

The Bahraini premier commended the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques for this courageous invitation to Gulf unity for the sake of realization of the aspirations of the people of the region in a union that binds them together and ensures their welfare.

Prince Khalifa described the invitation of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques as an "epoch-making brave step which responds to the demands of the present situation and expresses a pragmatic reading of potential future challenges which call for effective common action," describing the invitation of the Saudi Monarch as "a rebirth of the GCC and that this union will become a comprehensive umbrella for joint Gulf action in the face of hazards and challenges surrounding the region."

He stressed that the spirit of bravery which characterized the noble invitation of King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud to form the union reflects wise vision of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques to achieve the goals of the GCC in a manner as to serve the best interest of the countries and peoples of the region.

Prince Khalifa pointed out that the initiative of the Saudi Monarch made Riyadh Summit a successfully historic beginning on the road for prosperity and welfare of the region, describing the initiative as a point of convergence of the willpower of the leaders of the GCC countries in Riyadh Summit which is an honest expression of the anticipations and aspirations of the people of the region in developing common Gulf action and making the Gulf one united entity in order to realize security and stability for countries of the region, adding that "we are looking forwards to seeing this union created in order to achieve solid entente between GCC countries.

He also pointed out that the many challenges imposed by international transformations constituted the foundation for the invitation of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques for integration between GCC countries in all walks of life."

He visualized the Gulf Union as a strong driving force towards better investment of all available potentials in order to accomplish more gains in all aspects and provide security, safety and stability for peoples of the region, reminding that the current situation and challenges require a multi-dimensional strategy in order to reach stronger Gulf unity capable of overcoming future challenges whereas the Gulf Union will – with divine help - play an effective, powerful role in this respect.

The Bahraini prime minister urged for committed honest work in order to provide all components of success so that the Gulf Union will accomplish big socio-economic and political results and achieve mutual benefit to all Gulf countries for the long term.

Meanwhile, a new forecast issued by KIPCO Asset Management Company (KAMCO) expected that the Saudi economy, following a strong growth in 2010, will strengthen further in 2011.

In its latest economic forecast published by KAMCO on Sunday stated that the growth would be fuelled by a robust increase in non-oil GDP indicating a rebound in the private sector supported by massive capital spending by the government and a rally in oil prices amid rise in global oil demand as the world economy is gradually recovering from the financial turmoil.

Looking ahead, it said, the economy is poised for continued robust growth. Oil production is increasing further to compensate for lower output in the region. As a result, fiscal balance is likely to register strong surpluses in 2011.

Reflecting the positive momentum, overall real GDP growth is projected by the IMF to reach 6.5% in 2011 with inflation likely to rise to about 6% as a result of both domestic and imported factors.

The IMF pointed out that strong near-term outlook for the Saudi economy provides an opportunity to address longer-term priorities, high among these are providing jobs and housing for the growing young population.

Key steps by the Kingdom will to continue progress in diversifying the economy, building on the positive business environment, and continuing to improve access to credit for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) as well as for housing.

The new fiscal stimulus policy initiatives entail spending commitments over the next several years which will reduce fiscal surpluses and boost activities within the private sector.

The government remains committed to diversify its economy away from the hydrocarbon sector as its recently announced budget focuses spending on construction and services sectors to boost Fixed Capital Formation: Saudi Arabia’s non-hydrocarbon sector will play an increasingly vital role in the economy, as the government’s initiative to diversify the economy away from the hydrocarbon sector will bolster private consumption and gross fixed capital formation (GFCF).

GFCF growth is expected to outperform all other expenditure components of GDP from 2011 onwards through to 2015. Saudi Arabia’s Council of Ministers approved the budget for FY-2011, projecting a deficit of $10.7 billion, with revenues coming to $144 billion and expenditures adding up to $154.7 billion.

Despite the announced deficit, it said, the government uses very conservative estimates for oil prices in its budget, and as such, will likely post a budget surplus; in order to balance the budget, an oil price of approximately $70 per barrel would be needed, while a price of $80 per barrel would result in a surplus of about $21 billion.

However, it added, with oil prices exceeding $110 per barrel on the back of speculations of disruptions in oil supply due to the political unrest that is prevailing in the MENA region, a budget surplus of $25 billion is expected to be recorded in 2011 based on an average oil price of $95 per barrel.

Spending on financing new and on-going projects is set at $68.3 billion, with a large portion of it marked for the public services sector.

The budget indicates the government’s decision to invest in human capital, as 26% of the budget is marked for education and training, while 12% is allocated for health and social affairs, with a goal of eliminating poverty and improving medical care in the Kingdom.

Another 25% of the budget is allocated towards municipality services, transport and telecommunications, water, agriculture and infrastructure, specialized credit development institutions and government financing. As part of a longer-term spending plan, the government plans to spend $155 billion in 2011 with a prime focus of investing in education and infrastructure.

According to report the private sector would benefit from the budget by participating in the implementation of projects for the public sector.

The budgeted expenditures for 2011 are seven per cent higher than in 2010, which is lower than the average yearly increase during expansionary periods for Saudi Arabia in the past decade; therefore, it is supposed that the government expects the private sector to assume a greater role in the public-private development of the economy.

However, the budget includes funds allocated to specialized credit institutions to improve the financing conditions for the private sector.

Although the funds allocated to these institutions are 2.7 per cent lower than the 2010 allocation, they will support industrial projects and support human and social development, as banks in the Kingdom have only increased credit to the private sector by three per cent on year-on-year basis in 2010.

Overall, the budget continues to support the 2010-2014 five-year development plan with the goal of long-term sustainability by investing in infrastructure, healthcare, social and economic development projects, which will diversify the economy and create the human capital needed.

Saudi Arabia’s attractive investment environment is promising, aided by the government’s efforts to promote the non-hydrocarbon sector.

The government funded projects will raise interest amongst foreign investors, especially with regards to infrastructure upgrades. In the past decade, the Kingdom emerged to become amongst the top 10 FDI recipients in the world.

According to a recent report from the Saudi Arabia General Investment Authority (SAGIA), FDI inflows are distributed over a wide range of sectors, most important of which being real estate, construction and transportation infrastructure.

During 2010, FDI dropped 33.5% to $21.6 billion, down from $36.5 billion in 2009.

Economic policy for the medium term aims at maintaining and improving the efficiency of the hydrocarbon sector, while efforts are undertaken to improve education, healthcare, transportation, and food security, along with other infrastructure projects aimed at improving the quality of life, such as the construction of four cities that will provide job opportunities and housing for the large population of youth in the country.

Public investments planned for 2010-2014 include maintaining Aramco’s oil production capacity at 12 million bpd and ramping up the output of gas, refined products and petrochemicals, construction of major rail across the Kingdom and investment in food abroad.

Saudi crude oil prices have recovered steadily from their trough of about $32 per barrel in 2009 to an average of $77 per barrel in 2010.

Oil prices are forecast to average around $95 per barrel in 2011, fuelled by the pickup in global oil demand and by OPEC’s supply constraint along with the geo-political tensions in the MENA region.