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Will Saudi’s Oil-Drenched Economy Slip from the Hands of MbS?



Saudi Arabia crown prince Mohammed bin Salman

Saudi Arabia’s long-planned journey towards diversification appeared a great initiative, when Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) announced the Vision 2030 plan in April 2016. However, nearly two years down the line, the prominent transition began buffeting the Saudis and their businesses.

As per the statistics, the Kingdom depends on its oil reserves for 87 per cent of the revenue. The government officials avowed that their policies have resulted in economic pain. However, the country is now on a trail of fixing the deep-rooted economic problems, which have been remained hidden behind petroleum revenues.

In an interview, the Saudi economy minister Mohammed al-Tuwaijri said, “We are trying to strike a balance here to make sure our market is sustainably growing.” He explained the “transformation journey”, under which the country is striving to ensure a friendly investment environment with real opportunities and a legal framework based on best practices.

Under its comprehensive plan, the world’s largest oil exporter has been taking several measures to set off its non-oil economy, including introduction of new taxes, rising gasoline and electricity prices, and pressing the foreign workers to leave the country to create opportunities for the Saudi citizens.

However, the outcome has been far from what the Crown Prince and his people expected. A new domestic challenge emanated for Mohammed bin Salman (MbS), while he has been trying to reform the over-conventional culture of his Kingdom. Certain initiatives taken last year were aimed in the same direction, such as permitting cinema, giving women the driving rights and allowing them to enter sports stadiums.

But, where the culture issues are being resolved, the economic program is not proving true to the vision.


The sweeping economic plan announced by the Saudi government has not been able to impress the citizens, yet. According to reports, some natives have decried that the program has been dissatisfactory for them.

A Jeddah resident complained, “As citizens, we’re not really benefiting from any of it.”

Moreover, certain business firms — Almarai Co. and Fawaz Abdulaziz Alhokair & Co. — also reported of inadequate earnings in 2018, where some also blamed the Saudi government. The new 5 per cent value-added tax and higher energy costs were some reform measures of the Crown Prince that were blamed for the adverse effects on business profits.


The amendment policy of the Kingdom imposed new levies on companies hiring foreign workers, along with the introduction of new fees for their families to stay. Over one million expat workers — recorded 7.4 million two years ago — left the country following the policy shifts. The economic decent is also a result of an exodus of the working-class immigrants.

In January, Saudi Arabia entered deflation, as only few people were spending money. Statistics reveal that in February, the consumer prices fell by 22 per cent in contrast to with the same month last year. Saudi central bank claimed that the drop is recorded as the steepest since a 2017 recession.


While the Vision 2030 plan was having a negative impact on the economy, Saudi Arabia’s human rights records were also going against its interests. Moreover, the country had to deal with international reprimand for its role in the brutal assassination of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, as well as the ruthless destruction of Yemen.

It has resulted in disinclination from the foreign investors to commit, relatively lower oil prices, and rebuffs from the international businesses and institutions; the issues that the Kingdom Prince MbS is contending. Foreign direct investment of $2.4 billion through three quarters of 2018 was up from 2017 — 14-year low of $1.4 billion — but far below historic averages and 2016 annual figure of $7.4 billion.


The Kingdom’s imbalanced working population is also a crucial area that needs attention, which the officials claim the policies are addressing. Holding one of the largest youth populations in the G-20, it accounts for nearly 60 per cent of the citizens under 30, most of whom are unemployed. A major portion of the non-oil workforce comprises of low-paid expat workers, marking the official Saudi unemployment rate at 25 per cent.

Economists believe that these economic problems are short term, and that the objectives of Crown Prince MbS would bring favourable results in the long term. However, no such signs are visible, even when the program is about to enter the third year.

HSBC economists Razan Nasser highlighted that the 2019 budget came with an increase of 7 per cent in state spending, where most investments are still state-led rather than private sector. Besides, the Saudi economy has become more reliant on oil revenues, and not less.

Saudi Arabia and its issues have been revolving around the extensive oil reserves, it discovered over the years. The country has spent several years by relying on the sole source of its wealth. However, as so far it has been moving without any future planning, the Kingdom is at a stage of experiencing severe economic crisis, which prompted a sudden need of diversification.

As the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) is now taking several initiatives, will he be able to save the sinking economy of Saudi Arabia?


Saudi airport hit by Houthi drone attack; one killed and several injured



Saudi airport hit by Houthi drone attack; one killed and several injured

Yemen’s Houthi rebels, on Sunday, targeted an airport in Saudi Arabia, killing one Syrian national and wounded several, including thirteen Saudi nationals, two Egyptians, four Indians, and two Bangladeshis.

Spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition, Turki al-Maliki confirmed the attack on the Abha International Airport, located in the southwest of the Kingdom. This is the second attack in a month on the same airport, wherein 26 people were wounded previously.

The drone attack on airports of Abha and Jizane (south) was claimed by the Houthis via their Al-Massirah television channel. However, the coalition did not mention an attack on Jizane. After the announcement of the attack on Abha airport, the airport authorities announced on Twitter the normal resumption of air traffic.

Saudi Arabia has been intervening militarily in neighboring Yemen since 2015, leading a coalition of several countries in support of pro-government forces opposed to the Houthis backed by Iran, Saudi Arabia’s regional rival.

Several missiles intercepted

Attacks by the Houthis rebels have intensified in the recent weeks against the Saudi Kingdom. Several drones and missiles were intercepted. On June 19, Yemeni rebels fired a “projectile” that fell near the Al-Chouqaiq desalination plant in Jizane province. The attack did not kill anyone or caused damage to the property. On June 20, Saudi forces intercepted a Houthi-launched drone against the city of Jizane.

The spokesman for the coalition denounced the increasing number of Houthi attacks on civilian installations in Saudi Arabia, claiming that they amounted to “war crimes”. After the June 12 attack on Abha airport, the NGO Human Rights Watch described the operation as an apparent “war crime” and the UN Security Council condemned it in the strongest words. The Houthis control much of northern and western Yemen and its capital Sanaa.

The conflict in Yemen has killed tens of thousands of people, including many civilians, according to various humanitarian organizations.

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New Zealand Arrests Local for Sharing Christchurch Shooting Video



Christchurch Shooting

The horrific Christchurch shooting that shook the whole world three months ago has yet again become the cause of frown for New Zealanders. Philip Arps, a Christchurch businessman, has been sentenced to 21 months in imprisonment for sharing a video of people being shot dead inside the mosques.

Arps modified the dreadful video of the mass shooting in the mosques to a video game format, including the kill count and cross hairs. The video of the event, which claimed the lives of 51 people and led the country to a new era of gun laws and prohibition on certain weapons, was shared to 30 associates.

 The man behind the Christchurch shooting Brenton Tarrant had live-streamed video on Facebook of the hate crime he committed at Al Noor mosque on March 15. Tarrant was soon apprehended and currently faces 92 charges. He is expected to be at trial next month.

The devastating incident led Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand, to enforce strict gun control laws. Ardern also worked towards eluding the social networks and other internet driven platforms from being used as a means to spread hate, organise extremist groups and broadcast attacks.

Arps has pleaded guilty to the two charges he is facing after he shared the video of the Christchurch shooting. During the trial, he was subjected to 14 years of imprisonment on each charge according to the laws of New Zealand, which have been enforced to restrain the distribution of objectionable material.

However, he argued that he had the right to publish and share the video, according to the freedom to pursue political beliefs – one of the constitutional rights of the citizens of the New Zealand. His lawyer Anselm Williams asked the Christchurch district court Judge Stephen O’Driscoll to not send his client to prison.

“It’s my submission that this court needs to be very careful to sentence Mr Arps based on what it is that he has actually done, and what he accepts he has done, not on the basis of the views that he holds,” Williams said.

When the judge asked Arps about the video of the Christchurch shooting which he had shared, he termed the video as “awesome” and said to have “strong and unrepentant views towards the Muslim community”.

According to the judge, Philip Arps had impenitent and extreme views towards the Muslim community and even compared himself to Rudolf Hess, a Nazi leader under Adolf Hitler.

The judge said, “Your offending glorifies and encourages the mass murder carried out under the pretext of religious and racial hatred.”

While the never-ending hate crime continue to negatively affect the citizens of New Zealand and its image as a secular country, the efforts by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern continue to create a positive impact, making sure that the country does not have to go through an event similar to the Christchurch shooting.

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Sadiq Khan and Donald Trump Enter the Revenge Arena Yet Again



Sadiq Khan and Donald Trump

Known for his oblivious statements, the United States President Donald Trump was unable to leave hands with his eccentricity, as he launched an inept pugnacity at the London Mayor Sadiq Khan. Over the weekend, the British capital witnessed five violent attacks in less than 24 hours.

The incidents caused deaths of three people, while three other were injured. It raised the total number of homicides in the city for this year to 56. Citing the frequency of the attacks, Trump stamped Khan as a “national disgrace” over Twitter. Moreover, he believes that this is the time when London needs a new mayor.

On Sunday, the US President retweeted a post by right-wing media commentator Katie Hopkins, stating that Labour Party’s Khan “is a disaster – will only get worse!”. Besides, he accused the mayor of “destroying the City of London”.

However, it wasn’t late when similar fingers started pointing Trump and his country’s condition in retaliation. Many highlighted the per capita murder rate of America, which is twice as high in the New York city.

While the US President attempted to showcase bogus sympathy towards London, it was associated to the long-running feud between him and Sadiq Khan. As per the reports, Trump’s antipathy towards Sadiq Khan goes back to 2015, when the two were campaigning for elections.

Back then, Khan had criticised Trump’s presidential campaign pledge as ‘outrageous’, where he had promised to ban Muslims from America. A year later in 2016, the Muslim London Mayor described the US President’s views as “ignorant”, which coerced Trump to challenge him to an IQ test.

The tiff went on for another year following the London Bridge attack, when Trump deliberately highlighted a different context to Khan’s tweet.

The Mayor’s spokesman stated that Khan had “more important things to do than respond to Donald Trump’s ill-informed tweet”.

The spat escalated further, and Trump’s proposed state visit was canceled by the British government, as he titled Khan’s ignorance as a “pathetic excuse”.

“I don’t think we should roll out the red carpet to the president of the USA in the circumstances where his policies go against everything we stand for,” Sadiq Khan stated on Channel 4 News.

The fire between the two rivals is still burning same. Earlier this month, the American leader reflected some burning ashes of the rage, when he called the mayor a “stone cold loser who should focus on crime in London”.

Khan’s spokesman said that the “childish insults should be beneath the president of the United States”.

The ember has reignited with Trump’s recent Tweet. While he had not left any chance of being humiliating Sadiq Khan, the recent attack is being considered to have crossed every limit. The American ruler, who is known for taking bizarre decisions for his own country and causing internal disputes in his administration, is questioning the leaders of the UK.

While President Trump refuses to keep his hands to himself, his heedless remarks are just pushing Khan in a better light, who on the other hand has been running his political image on the basis of strong opposition to discrimination.

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Julian Assange to Remain in UK Jail Until Next Year



Julian Assange

Last updated on June 17th, 2019

Julian Assange’s fight against the extradition will probably have to wait until next year. On Friday, a British court set the full hearing date on whether the WikiLeaks founder should be sent to the United States. He will have to deal with the multiple charges against him in 2020 during his five days hearing beginning on February 2020.

The court decision comes after the Home Secretary Sajid Javid signed the formal extradition request from the US, backing the Assange’s detention.

The 47-year-old appeared for his hearing through a video link from the Belmarsh Prison on the outskirts of London. He remained absent in the previous hearing, where his lawyer Jennifer Robinson informed that her client was too ill to appear. The United Nations official, along with the experts, asserted Assange’s condition a symptom of declining physical and mental health.

Several protestors gathered in support of Julian Assange outside the Westminster Magistrates Court in London, demanding his release as they denounced Javid’s decision.

The US’ prosecutors charged him with a single count of computer hacking, and 17 other charges, including violation the Espionage Act. According to the US Justice Department officials, most of the charges were associated with obtaining the secret document records as opposed to publishing them.

Julian Assange was seen wearing glasses and a gray T-shirt in the Friday brief court appearance. Reuters reported that as prosecutors read out the allegations on him, he denied hacking a Pentagon network password.

“It is important that people aren’t fooled into believing that WikiLeaks is anything but a publisher,” Assange told the court. “The U.S. government has tried to mislead the press.”

His lawyer Robinson on Friday said that her client was being held in the held in the hospital’s health care ward and “continues to suffer the permanent and difficult adverse health impacts” of his long-term stay in the Ecuadorean Embassy, and then in prison.

As there are several months before the next hearing, the final judgement is vague. However, the extradition process is expected to be long and complicated, in case the court’s judgement turns in favor of the US.

While Julian Assange is serving his 50-week jail term, the major concern is his health condition. However, with the next hearing set for 2020, the supporters are expecting him to recover better.

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Julian Assange Extradition Request Gets a Green Signal from Sajid Javid



Julian Assange

Last updated on June 15th, 2019

The WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange had expressed his plans to fight the extradition and the battle is expected to begin anytime soon. On Thursday, Home Secretary Sajid Javid revealed that he has signed a request for the 47-year-old Australian to be extradited to the United States.

Julian Assange was arrested on April 11, after spending seven years at the Ecuadorian embassy in London. The US Department of Justice (DoJ) highlighted that he was taken into custody under an extradition treaty between the UK and Washington.

While the owner of an anti-secrecy website, WikiLeaks, was already under the charges of conspiracy to commit computer intrusion, the investigation that was dropped by Swedish prosecutors over rape and sexual assault in 2017 was also reopened last month. The US Justice Department had issued an 18-count indictment against him, including the charges under the Espionage Act.

At Present, he is serving imprisonment of 50 weeks since May 1, 2019 for jumping jail in 2012. During that time, Assange was facing an extradition to Sweden for questioning over the sexual assault allegations made by two women against him. The accusation is, however, denied by him.

While both the countries have been requesting his extradition, Sweden’s attempt were turned down after a court in Uppsala stated that the detention is not required, last week. Following the news, Britain recently received the formal request from DoJ to extradite Julian Assange for the first time since the arrest. While the Javid has stated to have signed the request, it is yet to go in the court.

“There’s an extradition request from the US that is before the courts tomorrow but yesterday I signed the extradition order and certified it and that will be going in front of the courts tomorrow,” Javid was heard saying on a BBC Radio 4’s “Today” programme.

The British Home Office stated that the final decision on Assange’s extradition relies upon the court.

According to the Home Secretary, Assange is “rightly behind bars”. While the ultimate decision remains with the courts, Javid stated that he wishes “to see justice done at all times and we’ve got a legitimate extradition request”.

While the cases, charges and their complications are increasing, Julian Assange’s health is also deteriorating. Last month, he was reported to be “too ill” for appearing at a hearing at Westminster magistrates regarding to the US request, which is rescheduled for Friday. Depending upon his condition, it may take place at Belmarsh prison where he is being held.

Julian Assange could possibly face imprisonment of 175 years. Where his health is being reported as an outcome of psychological torture, chances for his situation to become worse in the United States are much higher.

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