RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s homebuyers would soon be able to cope with the undue strain of buying a house, with the Shura Council calling upon the Real Estate Development Fund to reevaluate its policies in favor of the people. 
According to El-Ekhbariya TV, the council urged the fund to consider encouraging real estate developers to sell residential units with affordable installments. 
In a resolution passed during the joint session on Wednesday, the council also requested a study to explore the possibility of increasing the nonrefundable amount provided by the fund to citizens, aiding them in acquiring their homes. 
Furthermore, the council encouraged the fund to explore diverse investment opportunities to ensure long-term financial sustainability. 
The potential changes in support mechanisms and increased investment opportunities also signal a commitment to bolstering the country’s property market while developing financial sustainability for citizens and the fund. 
This development is expected to significantly impact the housing market and potentially open new avenues for citizens to achieve their homeownership dreams. 
It remains to be seen how the fund will respond to the Shura Council’s call for reevaluating its housing support policies. Still, this move marks a positive step toward addressing housing issues in Saudi Arabia. 
In June, the fund deposited SR916 million ($244.1 million) in the accounts of affordable housing beneficiaries. 
According to the Saudi Press Agency, the total amount deposited from June 2017 to June 2023 surpassed SR49.3 billion. 
Additionally, the fund approved over 115,000 requests out of the 148,000 submitted to get clearance on the various stages of house construction, which included people seeking to build their own homes. 
To streamline the process, the fund set up electronic channels to enable people to update the construction phases of their homes, ensuring the required engineering and technical standards are met. 
The Kingdom aims to increase the proportion of Saudi households that own a house from 47 percent in 2016 to 70 percent by 2030. 
The fund’s Sakani program is a significant initiative in collaboration with other government entities to provide affordable housing solutions to Saudi citizens.   
It aims to address the housing needs of the population by offering various housing options, financing programs and support services. 
JEDDAH: Lucid Group celebrated the official opening of its first international car manufacturing facility in Saudi Arabia on Wednesday. Situated in King Abdullah Economic City, the new facility is not only poised to serve the local market but also has its sights set on future exports. 
In an interview with Arab News, Faisal Sultan, vice president and managing director for Middle East at Lucid Group, noted that the facility’s opening marks the start of their production operations and positions them to fulfill their recently signed agreement with the Saudi government.
The agreement involves purchasing up to 100,000 vehicles over a decade, with an initial commitment of 50,000 vehicles and an option for an additional 50,000 over the same period. 
Speaking about why Lucid ventured into electric car manufacturing in a country with a strong oil-based economy, Sultan said that Saudi Arabia was chosen for its strategic location and the ongoing transformative changes taking place within the country. 
“With Vision 2030, Saudi Arabia is transforming from only oil dependency and going into industries, tourism, healthcare, IT, and AI. So, those things all resonate with our policy. We are also in the business of transforming the mode of transportation, the luxury aspects, and trying to get customers to contribute to our sustainability,” he said.   
Sultan added that sustainability is the core policy of Vision 2030. “That was the main reason, but the other reason is the strategic location of KAEC, being on the Red Sea, giving us the opportunity to manufacture cars here, not just for local markets, but in the future to export them out through the Red Sea,” he explained.   
Held at KAEC, the inauguration event had some high-profile participants including Minister of Investment Khalid Al-Falih, Minister of Industry and Mineral Resources Bandar Alkhorayef, and Governor of the Kingdom’s Public Investment Fund Yasir Al-Rumayyan, along with the US Ambassador to the Kingdom, Michael Alan Ratney, and Lucid Group leadership. 
Aligning with green initiative 
Al-Falih highlighted that Lucid Motors’ establishment aligns with Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030, the Saudi Green Initiative, and the country’s commitment to sustainability and net-zero emissions.  
He noted the global shift towards electric vehicles, emphasizing the importance of preserving the environment. 
“Off all cars sold globally last year, EVs saw a 65 percent increase year on year, compared to a 7 percent decline for internal combustion engine cars. This rapid growth in EV sales is a testament to humanity’s dedication to preserving our planet and ensuring a safer, healthier future for generations to come,” Al-Falih said.   
Furthermore, he added, through the inauguration of this facility, Saudi Arabia sends a message to the world, affirming its commitment to fostering innovation, investing in groundbreaking technologies, and spearheading environmentally sustainable advancements. 
This commitment extends beyond KAEC to NEOM, home to the world’s largest green hydrogen project, and Red Sea Global, where the first off-grid, all-renewable energy system will power operations. 
“We are laying the foundation for a future that prioritizes environmental consciousness right here in our own land,” the minister further added.   
Meanwhile, Sultan recalled Saudi Arabia’s announcement of the SGI, aimed at ensuring that 30 percent of cars sold in the country are EVs, underlining the nation’s belief in the global necessity for such a shift. 
He observed that there is a significant global shift as consumers increasingly embrace electric vehicles.  
“I think for Saudi Arabia to take that bold step and to also start putting the infrastructure and the companies like Lucid being present within the country producing cars will definitely help achieve those goals for the country and also help us create the demand that is really needed to get the electric vehicles on the road,” he said.  
Sultan added that a greater presence of electric vehicles on the road would unquestionably lead to reduced emissions, cleaner air, and a healthier environment for future generations. 
Manufacturing hub 
Al-Falih affirmed that this step would position the Kingdom as a regional manufacturing hub for the broader green economy. He added that Lucid’s presence would serve as a nucleus, unlocking the value chain of the EV industry and giving rise to spin-off effects and additional investment opportunities.   
Lucid’s presence in Saudi Arabia is expected to generate over 4,000 direct jobs, potential exports exceeding $117 billion, and a gross domestic product impact of nearly $50 billion.  
The facility aims to promote homegrown Saudi talent and provide expert skill development training. The company also highlighted that, through an agreement with the Human Resources Development Fund, it anticipates employing hundreds of Saudi nationals in the initial years and ultimately expanding the workforce into the thousands. 
For his part, Alkhorayef said in his speech: “We are quite determined to a complete cluster that will help different downstream and upstream industries, downstream chemical, and metals. We are also resolved to allow Saudi Arabia to become a global player in EVs, batteries, and so on.”   
He added that they are working very closely with Lucid, Ceer, and PIF to ensure Saudi Arabia becomes a hub of innovation.   
The industry minister also underscored that the occasion signifies not only the establishment of the facility but also a demonstration of the genuinely favorable investment environment in Saudi Arabia. 
In his speech, Ratney stated: “This partnership will deliver the world’s most advanced electric vehicles to a global market. It will inspire increased adoption of electric vehicle technologies globally and contribute to the development of the Kingdom’s own human capital.” 
He also emphasized that the timing is perfect for such a partnership, noting, “In fact, Lucid estimates that the first manufacturing plant in Saudi Arabia could generate $3.4 billion in value over the next 15 years, aligning Saudi investment and talent with US engineering, R&D, and manufacturing.” 
Charging stations  
Saudi Arabia is also investing in building a robust charging infrastructure for electric vehicles, with Lucid providing technical knowledge and support for smart charging infrastructure. 
Sultan said that Lucid itself provides its customers with a charger for their home that can actually charge the vehicle within a few hours.   
“But it is only when you are traveling from one city, like Riyadh to Jeddah, you will need to have the public infrastructure charging. So, we want to make sure that our customers have that through the discussions that we have with the government entities and the private sector,” he explained.   
The Lucid executive revealed that they have plans to export outside Saudi Arabia once their facility is fully operational.   
He stated that their strategy had been to export vehicles from Saudi Arabia upon reaching full capacity at manufacturing plant AMP-2, aiming to assemble 150,000 mid-sized platform vehicles.
Sultan mentioned technological partnerships, such as the one with Aston Martin, as part of Lucid’s long-term vision for electric mobility in Saudi Arabia.   
“We will continue to look for deals like that. I think Lucid technology is something that is very far advanced than some of our competitors. And we want to make sure that this technology is used for the greater humankind’s betterment,” he said.  
Sultan added that their goal is to increase the production of EVs and contribute wherever possible, be it through their own vehicles or technology partnerships, to get more electric cars on the road. 
He concluded by stating that they have already assembled about 51 cars in the new facility and are “ready” for further production. Sultan noted that their current annual production capacity at the assembly plant is 5,000 vehicles, but this capacity will significantly increase once the full complex in Jeddah is completed, reaching a total of 155,000 vehicles. 
RIYADH: Environmental sustainability can only be delivered if a country has a strong and stable economy, stated the Saudi minister of investment during a panel discussion at the UN World Tourism Day 2023 event in Riyadh. 
Khalid Al-Falih stressed that his role as minister entails ensuring financial agreements are closely connected to environmentally friendly practices. 
This means investments made “in the fuel of the future” in smart cities and mobility are sustainable, he said, adding that they should “give the tourists a sense of comfort that they are undertaking a journey, a vacation, a holiday and along the way they are benefiting the environment and not harming it.”
He stated that the tourism sector is undergoing a significant definition and development process in the Kingdom, emphasizing that this is relevant to the region and the broader Middle East. 
“With the leadership of (UN World Tourism Organization) Secretary General Zurab (Pololikashvili), Saudi Arabia is helping define the future of tourism in a sustainable way,” Al-Falih noted. 
He added: “It is important that tourism becomes counter and actually helps through the connectivity that we create between institutions, technologies and people.”
These connections are expected to be crucial in promoting eco-friendly practices and outcomes. 
During a roundtable, Pololikashvili discussed the dynamic changes in the Kingdom’s investments, infrastructures, and regulations, opening new opportunities, especially in hosting international events. 
“The country was totally closed to international travelers, and now here you see people coming from Argentina, Chile, Japan, and from all over the world. Almost 20 African ministers are here,” Pololikashvili said. 
He continued: “Nobody could imagine (this) five years ago. So, these are the steps. There’s a longer vision. It’s not only the year 2030. Many more things will happen here.” 
Pololikashvili emphasized that the government and the minister of tourism are striving to increase the number of international visitors, making it their top priority.
Citing data from the International Air Transport Association, Gloria Guevara Manzo, chief special adviser at the Saudi Ministry of Tourism, stated that the Kingdom had 4.5 billion passengers before the pandemic.
“This year, we are going to achieve 94 percent of that, and the reality is going to double,” Manzo continued. 
However, she added: “For that, you need to have the technology, and for that you need to have the cooperation of the government and of course the private sector.” 
Furthermore, in alignment with Vision 2030 objectives, the nation is undergoing a remarkable transformation towards openness, diversity, and sustainability, stated Basmah Al-Mayman,  Middle East regional director at the UNWTO, in an interview with Arab News on the sidelines of the event. 
Al-Mayman noted that this goal serves as a model of inspiration to the world. 
However, she told Arab News: “One main challenge that was facing the tourism sector in the Kingdom was the women working in the sector in our conservative society.” 
Al-Mayman added: “Nowadays, the situation has changed a lot as women have become more visible in the workforce and community, contributing more to the economy and development of the Kingdom. This is creating an outstanding shift in attitudes and behavior that will appeal on an international stage.” 
Moreover, the UN official underscored the importance of establishing a robust institutional framework for the tourism sector through a close collaboration between the public and private sectors. 
This involves creating regulations that define the roles and responsibilities of the private sector within the tourism industry and fostering an environment that encourages investment in travel. 
“In fact, the future of tourism is dependent on building strong partnerships with the private sector. It is now more important than ever to enable and empower the private sector,” she explained. 
Al-Mayman went on to say: “This new framework for collaboration with the private sector and relevant government entities will improve the quality of services in the tourism sector and promote Saudi Arabia as one of the top five global destinations.” 
The two-day event concluded Thursday as CEOs and leaders delivered keynote comments, while panel discussions focused on three UNWTO essential themes: people, planet, and prosperity. 
Saudi Arabia will hand over the chair to Georgia, who will host the event next year.
RIYADH: Financial trade between the UAE and Egypt is expected to surge after the monetary authorities of the two nations signed a currency swap agreement. 
The countries’ respective central banks formalized an arrangement between the UAE dirham and the Egyptian pound, according to a press statement. 
The deal, signed by Central Bank of the UAE Gov. Khaled Mohamed Balama and his Egyptian counterpart Gov. Hassan Abdullah, allows for the exchange of local currencies between the two institutions with a nominal size of up to 5 billion dirhams ($1.36 billion) and 42 billion Egyptian pounds. 
A currency swap agreement is a legally binding contract between two parties that outlines the terms and conditions under which they will exchange currencies and make periodic interest payments.  
Commenting on the agreement, Balama expressed that it reflects the strong relationship between the countries and provides an opportunity to promote cooperation while developing their respective economic and financial markets. 
“In line with the efforts of the UAE and Egypt’s leadership to collaborate more broadly across multiple areas, the CBUAE is keen to deepen its cooperation with the CBE (Central Bank of Egypt) to achieve common interests, positively impact the trade, investment, and financial sectors, and enhance financial stability,” Balama added. 
Furthermore, Abdullah noted that the move was in support of the “continued robust relations” between the UAE and Egypt.
He added he was confident the move will “bolster cooperation between both financial sectors in their respective currencies.” 
A day before signing the deal, Abdullah met with his Chinese counterpart Pan Gongsheng in Beijing, where the two heads discussed various topics intending to enhance economic and financial cooperation between the countries. 
A currency swap agreement was among the most prominent subjects examined, intending to improve the partnership between nations.
The discussions also included the Egyptian government’s plan to issue panda bonds denominated in Chinese yuan.
Additionally, the officials encouraged Chinese and Egyptian banks to establish a presence in each other’s county to enhance financial integration between economies.
RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Tadawul All Share Index slipped on Thursday, losing 20.98 points, or 0.19 percent, to close at 11,055.96. 
The total trading turnover of the benchmark index was SR6.26 billion ($1.67 billion) as 98 of the listed stocks advanced, while 114 retreated.  
The Kingdom’s parallel market Nomu rose 58.5 points, or 0.26 percent, to close at 22,690.31. This jump came as 32 of the listed stocks advanced while 19 retreated. 
Similarly, the MSCI Tadawul Index dropped 4.85 points, or 0.34 percent, to 1,415.67. 
The best-performing stock of the day was Etihad Atheeb Telecommunication Co. The company’s share price surged 9.97 percent to SR128. 
Other top performers include The Co. for Cooperative Insurance and Saudi Pharmaceutical Industries and Medical Appliances Corp., whose share prices soared 6.06 percent and 5.53 percent to SR126 and SR35.30, respectively. 
The worst performer was Sinad Holding Co. The firm’s share price dropped 3.61 percent to SR11.74. 
Others to see falls were Almunajem Foods Co. and National Agricultural Development Co., whose share prices dropped 3.04 percent and 2.76 percent to SR70.20 and SR47.50, respectively. 
On the announcements front, International Human Resources Co. has announced the approval of the board of directors to move to the primary market. 
According to a statement to Tadawul, the move to the main market is subject to the approval of the Saudi Stock Exchange. It is also conditional on fulfilling all requirements stipulated in the listing rules. 
On another note, Allianz SE notified Allianz Saudi Fransi Cooperative Insurance Co. of its decision to sell all its shares in the firm that it indirectly holds through its three subsidiaries. 
Allianz Europe BV, Allianz France SA. and Allianz MENA Holding represent 51 percent of the company’s share capital to Abu Dhabi National Insurance Co. 
 A bourse filing revealed that the three subsidiaries entered into a legally binding sale and purchase agreement with ADNIC, in which the firm will acquire the sale shares at a total price of SR499 million. 
Meanwhile, Saudi AZM for Communication and Information Technology Co. has disclosed its annual financial results for the period ending on June 30. 
According to a bourse filing, the firm’s net profit reached SR23.96 million, reflecting a 325.52 increase compared to the SR19.09 million recorded in the previous year. 
JEDDAH: Boeing is working with Saudi airline companies to implement advanced aircraft and engine technologies that align with global sustainability goals, according to a senior executive of the US-based aerospace company. 
Speaking to Arab News, Randy Heisey, managing director of commercial marketing in Africa and the Middle East region at Boeing, said that the future of flying would incorporate the latest digital design, test and production tools, airframe, propulsion and systems technology, keeping in mind the global sustainability goals.   
He added that different power and energy solutions will apply across diverse market segments and aircraft sizes.    
“We continue to advance the safety and viability of other renewable energy sources and their use on the aircraft, including electric, hydrogen and other sources of energy which may come to fruition,” said Heisey.   
Highlighting some of the critical partnerships and collaborations Boeing has established with Saudi airline companies, he said that the airplane manufacturer enjoys a strong and long-standing relationship with the Kingdom, founded on a partnership back in 1945.   
“Since then, Boeing has developed and expanded relationships in the Saudi commercial and other aviation sectors. Our investments have helped strengthen and grow the local aerospace sector, creating jobs and driving innovation for mutual benefit,” he said. 
Heisey added that they have over 2,000 people employed in the Kingdom today by various Boeing entities and joint ventures in Saudi Arabia.  
Based in Riyadh, Boeing Saudi Arabia is primarily run by the Kingdom’s employees, including its leadership. The company supports all programs in the country, including Boeing Defense, Space & Security, Boeing Commercial Airplanes and Boeing Global Services.  
“To support the development of Saudi-led aerospace and defense capabilities in the Kingdom, we stand to partner with the Kingdom as it diversifies and grows the economy here,” said Heisey. 
As Saudi Arabia spreads its wings in the aviation sector, Boeing is working with established and emerging companies to drive the industry. 
Heisey pointed out that his company supports the growth and operations of its airline partners, focusing on their needs and how they can best succeed in their endeavors.   
“As was demonstrated earlier this year with the purchase that was consummated by both Saudia and the new exciting airline Riyadh Air to commit to up to 121 new 787 Dreamliner aircraft, which will deliver not only great efficiency and sustainable operations but an unparalleled passenger experience,” he said. 
Moreover, Saudi Arabia’s strategic location at the crossroads of major continents has significantly contributed to its status as a global aviation hub.  
The Kingdom’s well-developed aviation infrastructure, geographic position and substantial economic policies have fostered aviation connectivity, making it a crucial transit point for travelers and a center for air cargo transportation. 
The Saudi government has invested in expanding the capacity of airports in cities like Jeddah and Madinah to handle the increasing number of Umrah pilgrims, which includes the construction of new terminals and runways. 
 “That has been a part of helping the commercial aviation industry in the Kingdom grow and prosper, and the Vision 2030 initiatives will be the foundation, which will be accelerated going forward,” said Heisey.  
He added: “So, we see bright prospects given the geography and the emphasis put on the diversification of tourism in Saudi Arabia, which will only lead to more and more benefits for the airlines here.” 
While discussing the company’s upcoming projects, the Boeing executive said: “We’re participating actively in the fleet renewal with our leading technology products, and those will enable the Saudi airlines to effectively compete against others, not only in this region but globally.”    
Moreover, the aviation industry worldwide has been under increasing scrutiny due to its contribution to carbon emissions.  
Meeting environmental targets and regulations and developing more sustainable aviation technologies have emerged as significant challenges. 
Boeing is working closely with its partners to help Saudi airline companies to counter the problems. 
“Boeing has four key approaches we are taking to address this big challenge for the civil aviation industry,” said Heisey while explaining that the strategy’s first pillar is fleet renewal. 
The fleet renewal includes bringing in new generations of airplanes that provide efficiency and reduced emissions of anywhere between 15 percent and 40 percent over the generations preceding them. 
He added that the second pillar is improving operational efficiency, where fuel consumption and emissions reductions can net around a 10 percent benefit.   
“Of course, renewable energy is another major contributor. Sustainable aviation fuel is a major element of how the industry can make progress in this area, but it is not the only element,” reminded Heisey. 
He further said that SAF today could contribute to a reduction in emissions of 80 percent and, in the future, could go to a 100 percent reduction in emissions.  
“The fourth element is one that we are actively pursuing: research and development in advanced technologies,” said the executive.  
Boeing has been leading the aviation space by partnering with the Saudi industry in driving a new fleet, facilitating the flying machines to operate with SAF, and providing its knowledge about other fuels to the industry, including those who are involved in refining and developing new sources of sustainable or alternative fuels.   
It has been working closely with governments, regulatory bodies, airlines, airports, and industry stakeholders to take the Saudi aviation industry to new heights.  
It is also ushering in innovation and adopting sustainable practices to promote the long-term viability of the aviation sector.