Saudi Arabia likely to ban foreigners from slew of hospitality jobs

Agencies
July 30,2019

Riyadh, Jul 30: The kingdom is trying to reduce unemployment by replacing foreigners

Saudi Arabia plans to restrict certain hospitality jobs to its own citizens by the end of the year, banning the recruitment of foreign workers for those positions.

The decision, announced in a Labour Ministry statement on Friday, will apply to resorts, hotels rated three stars or higher, and hotel apartments rated four stars or higher. Positions that must be filled by Saudis range from front-desk jobs to management. Among the exceptions are drivers, doormen and porters, the ministry said in the statement. Other jobs that will be restricted to nationals include restaurant host and health club supervisor.

As Saudi Arabia tries to develop its fledgling tourism industry, its also tackling citizen unemployment, which hit a high of nearly 13 percent last year. Hospitality is the latest sector to face stricter Saudization policies, which call for replacing the foreigners who dominate many parts of the private sector -- particularly blue collar and service jobs.

Officials say such policies are necessary to create jobs for Saudis in a country that’s relied heavily on cheaper foreign labour. However, some businesses complain that Saudization increases the cost of hiring and lowers productivity.

The decision will be enforced from an Islamic calendar date likely to correspond with December 29. Many hotels had already begun hiring Saudis to fill front-desk jobs in recent years, part of a gradual cultural shift as Saudis begin to take up jobs that once would have been considered undesirable.

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After discharging from hospital, Saudi King Salman tweets Eid Al Adha greetings

Agencies
July 31,2020

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Dubai, Jul 31: The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Salman bin Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia tweeted early on Friday sending congratulations to everyone on Eid Al Adha.

"I congratulate everyone on the blessed Eid Al Adha. May Allah [grant us another Eid where we will be in] good, blessings, health, and wellness," King Salman said.

"We also ask [God] to accept the pilgrimage of those who completed Haj, and [to accept] Muslims' prayers, and to remove the coronavirus pandemic in our countries," he added.

King Salman left King Faisal hospital in Riyadh after recovering on Thursday, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported on Thursday.

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Operations begin at UAE's Barakah plant, the first nuclear power station in Arab world

Agencies
August 2,2020

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Dubai, Aug 2: The United Arab Emirates (UAE) announced on Saturday that it has started operations in the first of four reactors at the Barakah nuclear power station - the first nuclear power plant in the Arab world.

Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC), which is building and operating the plant with Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO) said in a press release that its subsidiary Nawah Energy Company "has successfully started up Unit 1 of the Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant, located in the Al Dhafrah Region of Abu Dhabi".

That signals that Unit 1, which had fuel rods loaded in March, has achieved "criticality" - a sustained fission chain reaction.

"The start-up of Unit 1 marks the first time that the reactor safely produces heat, which is used to create steam, turning a turbine to generate electricity," said ENEC.

Barakah, which was originally scheduled to open in 2017, has been dogged by delays and is billions of dollars over budget. It has also raised myriad concerns among nuclear energy veterans who are concerned about the potential risks Barakah could visit upon the Arabian Peninsula, from an environmental catastrophe to a nuclear arms race.

Paul Dorfman, an honorary senior research fellow at the Energy Institute, University College London and founder and chair of the Nuclear Consulting Group, has criticised the Barakah reactors' "cheap and cheerful" design that he says cuts corners on safety.

Dorfman authored a report (PDF) last year detailing key safety features Barakah's reactors lack, such as a "core catcher" to literally stop the core of a reactor from breaching the containment building in the event of a meltdown. The reactors are also missing so-called Generation III Defence-In-Depth reinforcements to the containment building to shield against a radiological release resulting from a missile or fighter jet attack.

Both of these engineering features are standard on new reactors built in Europe, says Dorfman.

There have been at least 13 aerial attacks on nuclear facilities in the Middle East - more than any other region on earth.

The vulnerability of critical infrastructure in the Arabian Peninsula was further laid bare last year after Saudi Arabia's oil facilities at Abqaiq and Khurais were attacked by 18 drones and seven cruise missiles - an assault that temporarily knocked out more than half of the kingdom's oil production.

On Saturday, Dorfman reiterated his concern that there is no regional protocol in place to determine liability should an accident or incident at Barakah result in radioactive contamination spreading from the UAE to its neighbours. 

"Given Barakah has started up, because of all the well-rehearsed nuclear safety and security problems, it may be critically important that the Gulf states collectively evolve a Nuclear Accident Liability Convention, so that if anything does go wrong, victim states may have some sort of redress," Dorfman told Al Jazeera. 

The UAE has substantial oil and gas reserves, but it has made huge investments in developing alternative energy sources, including nuclear and solar.

Experts though have questioned why the UAE - which is bathed in sunlight and wind - has pushed ahead with nuclear energy - a far more expensive and riskier option than renewable energy sources.

When the UAE first announced Barakah in 2009, nuclear power was cheaper than solar and wind. But by 2012 - when the Emirates started breaking ground to build the reactors - solar and wind costs had plummeted dramatically.

Between 2009 and 2019, utility-scale average solar photovoltaic costs fell 89 percent and wind fell 43 percent, while nuclear jumped 26 percent, according to an analysis by the financial advisory and asset manager Lazard.

There are also concerns about the potential for Barakah to foment nuclear proliferation in the Middle East - a region rife with geopolitical fault lines and well-documented history of nuclear secrecy.

The UAE has sought to distance itself from the region's bad behaviour by agreeing not to enrich its own uranium or reprocess spent fuel. It has also signed up to the United Nation's nuclear watchdog's Additional Protocol, significantly enhancing inspection capabilities, and secured a 123 Agreement with the United States that allows bilateral civilian nuclear cooperation.

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Saudi King Salman chairs cabinet meeting from hospital via video call

Agencies
July 22,2020

Riyadh, Jul 22: Saudi King Salman held a cabinet meeting via video call from hospital in the capital Riyadh on Tuesday, a day after the 84-year-old monarch was admitted with inflammation of the gall bladder.

Three Saudi sources said the king was in stable condition.

A video of the king chairing the meeting was broadcast on Saudi state TV on Tuesday evening. In the video, which has no sound, King Salman can be seen behind a desk, wordlessly reading and leafing through documents.

The king, who has ruled the world’s largest oil exporter and close US ally since 2015, was undergoing medical checks, state media on Monday cited a Royal Court statement as saying.

Three well-connnected Saudi sources who declined to be identified, two of whom were speaking late on Monday and one on Tuesday, said the king was “fine”.

An official in the region, who requested anonymity, said he spoke to one of King Salman’s sons on Monday who seemed “calm” and that there was no sense of panic about the monarch’s health.

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