Qatar has absorbed the shock of the siege, says researcher

A British researcher has downplayed the significance of measures imposed on Qatar, the official Qatar News Agency (QNA) reported on Sunday. According to Celina McMaster, the government has “absorbed” the initial shock of the boycott. “The measures taken against Qatar will not have an impact in the short term, in light of reassurances from the Qatari government on its ability to deal with shocks,” explained the researcher in Middle East affairs at the University of Westminster. “The boycott is not affecting the Gulf State because it is capable of obtain food without relying on the Saudi border.” McMaster praised Qatari diplomacy for its vibrancy in strengthening diplomatic ties with other partners, including Turkey. The Qatari response to the boycott, she […]

Lieberman insists Israel does not want war with Gaza

Avigdor Lieberman insists that political and military circles in Israel want to avoid any confrontation with the Gaza Strip because of the “high cost” of such an escalation. “Israel has no desire to fight a new war or battle,” the defence minister said in remarks broadcast by Israel’s Channel 2. “It is impossible to have a military confrontation every two years” he added, insisting that Israel also has no interest in reoccupying the Gaza Strip. Lieberman has threatened to destroy the entire infrastructure in the besieged territory in any future confrontation. Read: The humanitarian situation of the Gaza Strip in 2016 The right-wing minister’s comments on Gaza come at a time when internal reports by the Israeli army and the General […]

New tax doubles price of cigarettes, energy drinks in Saudi Arabia

Mon, 2017-06-12 03:00

JEDDAH: Prices of cigarettes and energy drinks have doubled with the implementation of an excise tax that became effective midnight Saturday in a measure unprecedented in the Kingdom.
The excise tax, commonly known as a “sin tax,” is imposed on “unhealthy products” that are likely to cause health problems and eventually increase medical expenses paid by individuals or the government, according to the General Authority of Zakat and Tax (GAZT) official website.
“We’ve communicated with the business sector and have set up many workshops to introduce the selective tax both at the GAZT and the Chamber of Commerce,” Mohannad Al-Madi, who handles public relations for the GAZT, told Arab News.
A few days prior to the implementation, some smokers struggled to find boxes of their usual cigarettes. Consumers attempted to stock up on cigarettes at their pre-tax price, while suppliers were trying to keep the products off the shelves until the prices rose.
“I went to several shops yesterday to buy the type of cigarettes I usually smoke. It was nowhere to be found,” Abdulghafour Ahmed, a middle-aged man who started smoking when he was 18, told Arab News.
Soft drinks were being placed on an empty shelf at one of the main supermarkets in Jeddah that Arab News visited Sunday afternoon. “There was nothing here yesterday,” the shelf stacker said, pointing at the shelf. “Yesterday, the price was normal. But today, a soft drink can is SR2.25 ($0.60).”
This price of a 355ml can of a soft drink matched that of another supermarket Arab News visited. The second supermarket had also kept the newly taxed drinks away from customers so they are sold 50 percent higher in price in the case of soft drinks, and double the price for energy drinks.
Consumers will now pay SR12 at one supermarket for a 250ml can of a popular taurine drink, which is priced at SR11.90 at another supermarket. Aside from tags of doubled priced energy drinks, a new sign has been posted on market shelves stating: “Energy drinks harmful to health.” The full warning matches the text on beverage cans.
The warning, written in English and Arabic, reads: “This product does not have any health benefits. Consuming more than two cans a day may negatively affect your health.” The warning mainly targets individuals under 16 years old, pregnant women, who are breastfeeding, people with heart conditions, individuals with high blood pressure or diabetes, people allergic to caffeine and athletes while exercising.
The tax authority urged producers and suppliers of taxable goods to register for the excise tax, the GAZT official website stated.
The statement read: “The GAZT has stated that every person who possesses excise tax goods should file a return for the transitional period starting Sunday (June 11) and pay accordingly within 45 days, to avoid being subject to legal penalties and fines.”
The taxing body expects to lower consumption by people with limited income of the taxed products after the price hike.
Yet Faizan Haider, a Jeddah-based Pakistani national working at a travel agency, said he would rather cut down on his food purchases than quit smoking.
“I will spend less on fast food and other stuff, but cannot quit smoking,” he told Arab News.
Haider, who has been in Saudi Arabia for 24 years, said that he was “disappointed” that the government has raised taxes on tobacco, “which is pointless.”
Regular smoker and energy-drinks lover 25-year-old Salma Walid, said the move would not make her quit.
“It’s an extra strain on the pocket, but it’s a habit that I can’t just quit or cut down on,” she said.
Walid bought her last pack of the cigarettes she smokes for SR12 one day before the tax into effect. Now it is SR24.
Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries are also set to implement a value-added tax (VAT) of 5 percent on certain goods beginning in 2018.

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Energy minister opens Saudi pavilion at Astana Expo 2017

Mon, 2017-06-12 03:00

RIYADH: Saudi participation in Expo 2017 in Astana reflects the Kingdom’s drive to develop and use sustainable energy, said Minister of Energy, Industry and Natural Resources Khalid Al-Falih.
The Kingdom is participating in the expo in the Kazakh capital with a wing supervised by the King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy (KACARE), in cooperation with public and private energy companies.
Some 115 countries and 18 global organizations are taking part in the three-month event titled “Future Energy,” the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) said.
Al-Falih, who is also board chairman of KACARE, opened the Kingdom’s wing at the expo in the presence of Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak and Saudi Ambassador in Astana Zafir Al-Inizi.
Al-Falih expressed pleasure over Saudi participation in the event, which he said stems from the Kingdom’s leading global position in the energy sector.
The Kingdom’s future policy in using sustainable and renewable energy sources is in line with Vision 2030 and the National Transformation Program (NTP) 2020, he said.
Saudi participation in the event aims to exchange expertise and strengthen relations in the energy sector within an international framework, he added.
The Kingdom has embarked on a strategy to diversify energy resources in a manner that bolsters its leading position on the global energy map, based on competitive advantages that will attract more local and global investors.
The Kingdom plans to produce 3.5 gigawatts of electricity from renewable energy sources by 2020, reaching 9.5 gigawatts by 2023.

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Transport minister praises Cabinet decision to limit taxi-app jobs to Saudis

Mon, 2017-06-12 03:00

JEDDAH: Transport Minister Sulaiman bin Abdullah Al-Hamdan said the Cabinet’s decision to limit jobs of driving taxi-app cars to Saudis will enhance security and provide full-time and part-time jobs for youths.
The General Transportation Authority (GTA) said it expects 200,000 Saudis to be employed at tax-app companies in the coming three years.
GTA Chairman Rumaih Al-Rumaih was quoted by Al-Eqtisadiah newspaper as saying about 120,000 Saudis currently work in these companies.

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