Minister of Labor and Social Development, Dr.Ali Al Ghafis declared that work visa validity for foreign employees working in private sector companies will be reduced from two years to one year. However, visas issued for government services as well as domestic workers will not fall in this category.

This decision was taken based on Article 11 of the Saudi Labor Law which grants permission to the minister to take necessary actions for improving the efficiency of the employment market.

The Minister of Labor and Social Development, Dr. Ali Al Ghafis issued an order granting permission to employ non-Saudi mothers of Saudi children and non-Saudi children of Saudi women in those sectors which had earlier been limited only to Saudi nationals.

The revised Saudization program (Nitaqat) will treat any employee falling in the above category as Saudi citizens. This will be an added benefit to firms while calculating the percentage of Saudi employees in the company.

Saudi Arabia unveiled plans to build an independent mega city, investment and business zone in the north-western region of the country, backed by a capital of $500 billion.

The 26,500-square km mega city will span across the coast of Red Sea and Gulf of Aqaba, spreading across Egypt and Jordan, making it the world’s first private zone to extend across three countries.

The special zone, named NEOM, will offer an open platform for investing and financing. “NEOM will attract private as well as public investments and partnerships. The zone will be backed by more than $500 billion over the coming years by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund, local as well as international investors,” cited Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman, who is also the Chairman of the Public Investment Fund (PIF) while speaking at the Future Investment Initiative Conference in Riyadh.

Klaus Kleinfeld, will be the first CEO of NEOM. The zone will be designed to function independent of the Kingdom’s rules and regulations. The city would provide “an idyllic lifestyle paired with excellent economic opportunities”, claimed Public Investment Fund (PIF).

NEOM targets nine investment sectors including energy and water, biotechnology, advanced manufacturing, food, media and entertainment. The focus on these industries will reduce GDP leakage by providing fresh investment opportunities within the country.

Pursuant to the goals of Vision 2030 to strengthen the renewable energy market, the zone will be exclusively powered by wind and solar energy.

NEOM will also strive to become the most efficient destination in the world by ensuring hundred percent automation of all services and operations. In future, robots will take over repetitive and laborious tasks.

Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) revealed plans to nearly double the value of assets it manages by 2020.

PIF, which is currently managing assets worth around $230 billion, plans to raise its value to $400 billion in the coming years. The funding is expected to come from proceeds of privatisation of state owned assets, including 5 percent of oil giant, Saudi Aramco.

The Kingdom’s sovereign wealth fund has potential plans to create 20,000 domestic jobs, and around 256,000 construction based jobs. Real estate and infrastructure markets will witness new investments in the coming years.

The fund plans to increase its investment returns from 3 percent to nearly 4-5 percent by 2020.

PIF is looking forward for more alliances in the global market. It has committed $20 billion to a $40 billion fund with the US equity fund BlackStone, in addition to the $45 billion agreed earlier with Japan’s SoftBank. Yasir Al- Rumayyan, managing director of PIF described this as “a conventional investment” focussing on infrastructure and extensive construction programs.

The most challenging project currently undertaken by PIF is NEOM, the $500 billion mega city in the north-western region of the country. Recently, PIF is seen to be concentrating more on projects associated with Kingdom’s ambitious reform plan, Vision 2030.

SoftBank Vision Fund(SBVF), backed by Japan’s SoftBank Group, claimed a return of $3 billion during its first five months of collaboration with Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF). PIF earlier committed to invest up to $45 billion in SBVF over the next five years, in an effort to diversify the Kingdom’s portfolio beyond oil assets.

Masayoshi Son, the ambitious founder and CEO of Japan’s SoftBank group as well as the leading associate of PIF, said the Vision Fund launched roughly 15 investments in its initial months.

Son urged investors attending the Future Investment Initiative in Riyadh to focus on investing in hi- technology sector. He outlined the scope of technology sector in near future when robotics and artificial intelligence will revolutionize the business and commercial sectors.

The government of Saudi Arabia approved plans to issue tourist visas for the country, reported Al-Watan newspaper. During the first phase of its implementation, visas will only be made available to tour groups through authorized tour operators.

The Public Investment Fund (PIF) would play a key role in promoting tourism in the Kingdom and has undertaken several projects recently. Under the new initiative, Saudi Arabia expects 1.5 million tourists a year by 2020.

The Asir development project, yearly Souq Okaz at Taif, the Farasan islands, and several museums and archaeological sites spread across the country are few of the notable tourist destinations in the country, quoted Rustom Al- Kubaisi, head of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH) Jizan branch.

Over the years SCTH has played a key role in raising awareness about the significance of relics, urban heritage and historical buildings. It has also conducted several tourism workshops for the youth on topics like establishing small tourism projects and steps to increase safety in tourism establishments.

Saudi Arabia has shown a huge progress in corruption control in the World Bank Indicator report, according to a statement published by National Anti-Corruption Commission (Nazaha).

The Kingdom advanced 18 points in the corruption control indicator in 2016, in comparison to 2015 making this the country’s most significant improvement in the World Bank indicator report since 1996.

Every year World Bank publishes reports in six different categories, namely, Voice and accountability, political stability and absence of violence/terrorism, government effectiveness, regulatory quality, rule of law, and control of corruption.

The indicator which includes around 200 developed and developing countries, acquires its information from surveys and opinions from experts working in NGOs and private companies.

The Kingdom’s strive towards achieving Vision 2030, which calls on for transparency in performance and a zero-tolerance policy on corruption in all its forms has contributed to this improvement in corruption control.

The auction launched by Riyadh Metro on Sunday invited private companies to name and advertise in select metro shops, which is expected to open in 2019.

Local and international companies licensed in the Kingdom will be eligible to bid for naming and advertising rights at 10 stations, cited officials from Arriyadh Development Authority (ADA), who oversees the metro project.

The last date for the submission of bid is January 25, 2018 and winners will be announced by mid-2018.

The winning companies would have their logos advertised throughout the stations – at turnstiles, elevators, passageways and shopping areas.

The initiative is expected to generate millions of dollars to help cover operational costs. “(The revenues) will be allocated for running the train and supporting the public transit system in the city”, said Alwalid Alekrish, Director of Construction Development Projects and Project Director of the Riyadh Metro.

As Value Added Tax (VAT) is about to take effect in the Kingdom from January 2018, the official VAT twitter account announced that housing rents and government funded services are exempted from VAT levies.

Few of the governmental services cleared from VAT include passport and driver’s license renewal.

The Kingdom will be the first GCC member to implement VAT levies from January 2018. The standard VAT rate will be five percent, with a nil VAT rate for some goods.

Saudi Arabia will host the first World Boxing Super Series Cruiserweight final in May next year as well as its first-ever worldwide motorsport event, Race of Champions, featuring stars from Formula One, World Rally Championship, IndyCar, NASCAR, sportscars and touring cars competing against each other.

For the very first time in the event’s 30-year history, Riyadh will host Race of Champions early next year. The two-day racing competition will take place at the 75,000-capacity King Fahd International Stadium in Riyadh.

In May 2018, Jeddah will host World Boxing Super Series cruiserweight final, the first of its kind to be held in the Kingdom.