Women in Saudi Arabia finally hit the roads early on Sunday steering their way through the busy streets after the world’s last remaining ban on women driving was lifted.
The historic reform is expected to usher in a new era of social mobility as well as boost the Kingdom’s income, and according to Bloomberg estimate, add $90 billion to economic output by 2030.
Authorities said that more than 120,000 women have applied for licenses, and a handful of driving schools that serve women have months-long waiting lists already.
Amongst several economic and social changes spearheaded by Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Muhammed bin Salman last year, ending the driving ban on women is one of the most socially-consequential reforms and 24 June 2018 will be remembered as a landmark day in the history of Saudi Arabia.
“Ending the ban means women will be more empowered and more mobile and I think they will participate more in the job market over time, so I think its going to contribute to employment of females in Saudi Arabia.” Said Saudi Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih in Vienna, where he was attending an OPEC meeting. “A secondary effect will probably be higher gasoline demand”, he added.
The benchmark Tadawul All Share Index rose 1.76 percent on Sunday, buoyed partly by the insurance sector, which could benefit from more drivers on the roads.
Meanwhile, social media is abuzz with tweets and posts from Saudi women, officials, businessmen and even international celebrities celebrating the historic moment and congratulating Saudi women on this revolutionary day.
Bloomberg – 24 June 2018
In a move to protect the Kingdom’s natural environment and wildlife and to transform them into tourist destinations, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman issued a royal decree establishing the Council of Royal Reserves under the chairmanship of Crown Prince Muhammed bin Salman.
Nine areas have been designated as royal reservations and their board of directors has been appointed to help promote natural landscapes as tourist destinations as well as to limit overfishing and overgrazing, prevent deforestation and maintain and encourage vegetation. The designated areas will not be fenced off because they are public property.
The royal order declared that each natural reserve must have its own independent management and budget and allowed a three-month duration to the Experts Commission at the Council of Ministers to appoint qualified leaders to manage each reserve.
The scope of ecotourism is on the rise globally and the nine locations identified by the royal decree will help the Kingdom become a renowned ecotourism hub in the Middle East. Its rich flora and fauna, as well as biological, geological, and genetic diversity that have tremendous potential to withstand harsh environmental conditions, will attract global tourists and provide alternate sources of income to the Kingdom in line with Vision 2030.
Saudi Arabia, the world’s top crude exporter has seen a boost in its revenues after the recent surge in oil prices, noted Capital Economics, a London-based think-tank group on Tuesday.
The Kingdom has pulled itself out of recession and depicted a 1.5 percent economic growth in the first quarter of 2018, after having shrunk by 0.7 percent last year.
Oil prices escalated to approximately $80 a barrel last month from under $30 a barrel in early 2016 after OPEC and non-OPEC producers hit a deal to cut output. The crash in oil prices dipped the Kingdom into negative territory last year for the first time since 2009, a year after the global financial crisis.
To overcome the crisis, the Saudi government has announced a budget deficit in the last four years, borrowed from domestic and international markets, hiked fuel and power prices as well as introduced a five-percent value-added tax from January 2018.
Jadwa Investment, a Riyadh-based investment company said on Monday that Saudi fiscal reserves rose by $13.2 billion in April, marking its largest monthly increase since October 2013.
Saudi Arabia is all set to adopt a digital platform in line with the objectives of Vision 2030. Mohammed Al-Jadaan, the Kingdom’s Finance Minister announced obtaining King Salman’s royal decree which calls for suspending paperwork of all procedural and financial transactions, in a final transitional move towards e-governing.
The ruling ordered all ministries and government agencies to install a digital system within 60 days and scrap paper documents related to financial transactions and other procedures at the earliest.
State bodies who fail to meet the government requirement within the specified time should send their explanation to the finance ministry in participation with the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology.
The Etimad digital platform was launched earlier in January with the aim of providing digital financial services to the public and private sectors.
Jadaan noted that e-services will greatly reduce time and effort as well as increase transparency of government transactions and operations. Furthermore, a fully developed digital system would open more competitive lines for SMEs.