Saudi Arabia Industry
Oil extraction and refining completely dominate the industry in Saudi Arabia. The oil is also converted to other products in an extensive petrochemical industry, where natural gas is also raw material. Artificial fertilizers and plastic products are some such industrial goods. The state is trying to broaden the industrial base to reduce dependence on oil exports.
The construction industry is extensive, the move into cities is fast and new cities are being built at a rapid pace to meet the needs of the growing economy. Cement and steel are important building materials made in the country.
In its five-year economic plans, Saudi Arabia has invested in especially the heavy industrial sectors. The idea is that oil revenues should be used to create a modern industrial state. The state-owned joint venture Saudi Arabian Basic Industries Corporation, Sabic, is leading the industry efforts. The cities of Jubayl, Yanbu and Jidda are key cities. Large projects are run in collaboration with foreign interests.
An important element of Saudi industrial policy is that Saudi Aramco buys itself into refineries in oil-importing countries. Giant markets China and India are also important targets. Swedish OK Petroleum (now Preem), was acquired in the 1990s by the Saudi oil magnate Mohammed al-Amoudi.
Five “economic cities” have also been set up for special industrial ventures outside the oil sector. They have different orientations, such as agricultural, information technology, electronics or especially labor-intensive industry. There is a close connection to research and extraction of large-scale solar energy is a priority goal.
Traditional small-scale operations are the manufacture of rugs and other textiles, pottery and furniture manufacturing. The food industry is also important.
Saudi alliance avoids UN criticism
In the UN annual report on children in war, the Saudi-led alliance that fights Yemen’s hibels is not on the “shame list” of those responsible. This is despite the UN report saying that the war in Yemen required 222 children’s lives in 2019 and that there were four attacks against hospitals and schools. Organizations such as Human Rights Watch (HRW) are upset and point out that other major powers also avoid UN criticism for how they treat children in armed conflicts.
Danish protest against Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia’s ambassador is called to the Foreign Ministry of Denmark. According to investigators, a terrorist group based in Denmark has acted with Saudi support and spied on Saudi Arabia’s behalf. Three suspects have been identified, people described as ethnic Arabs from Ahvaz in Iran (see February 3, 2020), and Denmark protests against Saudi action.
Indonesia abstains from pilgrimage
In anticipation of Saudi Arabia’s announcement of how this year’s pilgrimage will be handled, Indonesia has made a decision: In the light of the covid-19 pandemic, pilgrims from the most populous Muslim country in the world are failing. This year, the weekend which is the high season falls at the end of July / August. More than 220,000 pilgrims from Indonesia would, under normal circumstances, visit the sacred sites of Saudi Arabia. On June 11, Malaysia also announces that there will be no trip for the 31,600 Malaysians who would have made the pilgrimage this year.
Khashoggi’s children forgive
Writer Jamal Khashoggi’s children announce that they forgive the father’s killer. Khashoggi, who had been disgusted with the royal house, was murdered and cut in Istanbul by a murder command from Saudi Arabia (see October 2, 2018 and December 23, 2019). Five people convicted of the murder could, with the forgiveness of relatives, avoid the death penalty. There are reports that the Saudi state is paying maintenance and housing for Khashoggi’s children, but the details of a financial settlement have not been confirmed.
Increased VAT and canceled contribution
Saudi Arabia’s state income is squeezed by the corona crisis, with oil demand, and by the price war that the Saudis themselves started. During the first quarter of the year, oil revenues fell by almost a quarter and the state’s foreign exchange reserves fell to their lowest level since 2011. The government is now looking for new revenues and savings, announcing that VAT will triple from 5 to 15 percent from July 1. In addition, a monthly contribution of equivalent SEK 2,600 to living expenses that government employees have been able to raise since 2018 is also canceled. It is also announced, on the same day, that the Aramco oil giant will lower domestic fuel prices, which is interpreted as a state move to mitigate the shock to citizens.
The death penalty for young people and trafficking is abolished
26th of April
Saudi Arabia will no longer execute minors convicted of crimes. The decision is made by decree from King Salman. So young criminals should be able to be forced to a maximum of 10 years in prison. Two days earlier, the regime announced that the harshly criticized punishment should also be replaced by imprisonment. The punishment of activist Raif Badawi (see January 2015) is one of the cases that led to sharp criticism and diplomatic problems for Saudi Arabia.
Democracy activist dies in prison
Abdullah al-Hamid, who was one of the founders of the Saudi civil and political rights federation, dies in prison. Human rights activists accuse the regime of not having taken care of him after a stroke a few weeks earlier. The regime critic was imprisoned in 2013 for ten years, labeled as a troublemaker.
The executions are increasing
Saudi Arabia executed 184 death sentences in 2019, according to Amnesty International, which counted for 149 executions the year before. More than half of the executed were foreign nationals. Six were women.
Emergency call from princess in prison
Princess Basma bint Saud states that she is kept imprisoned in prison and asks her uncle King Salman and his son, the Crown Prince, to ensure that she is released. It is clear that the messages come from an account on social media belonging to the 56-year-old princess, who has been active in the role of human rights issues.
Death shot in conflict over mega project
A clan member who refused to leave land for the state prestige project Neom is reported to have been shot dead by a security force. Abd al-Rahim al-Huwaiti belongs to a clan in Tabuk, where the mega project Neom is to be built. Prior to being shot, he has posted protest videos on the internet, where he has documented, among other things, how the authorities act to be able to claim land. al-Huwaytat is a nomadic tribal federation with representatives in several countries, including Saudi Arabia and Jordan. In the areas where they now oppose exploitation, they have lived long before the Saudi state was formed.
Free amortization year for poor countries
Saudi Arabia is gathering, via the internet due to the covid-19 pandemic, the finance ministers and governors of the G20 (the world’s economic superpowers) to discuss the global crisis that the pandemic has triggered. The G20 lenders are now giving poorer countries, most in Africa, the opportunity to suspend their payments on loans for a full year. The G20 also encourages lenders in the private market to join the initiative. The IMF has announced a few days earlier that 25 countries will not pay installments for six months.
Paperless Ethiopians are deported
Saudi Arabia has deported nearly 3,000 Ethiopian migrants over the course of a few days, despite the risk that it will cause the spread of coronaviruses, says the UN organization IOM. Those sent home are people who do not have a residence permit.
Oil countries are reducing production
Opec member countries and several non-member oil producing states (Russia, Mexico and Kazakhstan) agree to reduce their production by a total of 9.7 million barrels per day to raise oil prices. The decrease corresponds to almost a tenth of world production, but it is still uncertain if they succeed in their ambitions to get more paid for the oil. The severe restrictions imposed by the world’s countries to counter the corona pandemic have caused global demand to collapse, for example on aviation fuel.
Curfew around the clock
The curfew is being tightened in the capital Riyadh and a number of other major cities so that it now applies around the clock (see March 23). To counteract the coronary infection, travel between provinces has been prohibited. When the curfew is alleviated again on April 26, the holy city of Mecca is one of the places where there will be no relief.
Pilgrims are asked to wait with booking
Saudi Arabia is asking the world’s Muslims to wait to book their trip ahead of this year’s grand pilgrimage, which falls in July-August. Two million pilgrims usually go to Mecca and Medina at the festival (hajj), in addition to the domestic visitors. This year, the corona pandemic may have to cancel the big holiday.
Prosecution in Turkey for the Khashogi murder
Prosecutions are brought in Turkey against 20 people suspected of involvement in the deliberate murder of writer Jamal Khashoggi 2018. Among those designated, who are not in Turkey, is a former adviser to the Saudi royal house and a former head of a Saudi security service. The two are held responsible for having staged the assassination, designated by an UN reporter as an extrajudicial execution. Khashoggi was murdered at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul and is believed to have been cut by the murder patrol (see mainly October 2, 2018 and November 15, 2018).
Curfew of infection
Nightly curfew is introduced with reference to the spread of coronavirus. According to the royal decree, the curfew is valid for three weeks. A few days later, when the country’s second casualty in covid-19 disease is confirmed, the curfew is extended and the capital Riyadh is blocked off as are the holy cities of Mecca and Medina (see March 17). Saudi Arabia has then reported 900 infected.
Crisis packages are promised in double bad times
A stimulus package worth $ 32 billion to the Saudi economy is announced, in addition to measures to protect SMEs, which the Central Bank published a few days earlier. The reasons are two: worse times are also threatening in Saudi Arabia when the spread of coronavirus affects the world economy and reduced revenues may be the result of the oil price war launched by the Saudis themselves (see March 9). Ever since an oil price fall that occurred in 2014 and had lasting effects, Saudi government finances have gone into deficit, and the state now expects to increase its borrowing because it does not want to sell any of Saudi Arabia’s major assets both domestically and abroad.
Infectious risk closes mosques
To limit the spread of coronavirus, all mosques for prayer indoors are closed for the time being. The exceptions are only Islam’s two main shrines, in Mecca and Medina. The prayer calls continue as usual, so that anyone who wants to pray in the home or other privacy.
Price war lowers oil prices
Oil prices are plummeting around the world. It is based on active pricing policy from Saudi Arabia and the discontent between oil-producing countries in Opecand other non-member oil producers. Saudi Arabia has tried in vain to get Russia to cooperate on reduced oil production, to raise prices. One reason is that Saudi revenues from oil sales to China have dropped sharply, when measures to stop the spread of coronavirus have led to China’s industrial production being cut. Now, Saudi Arabia is trying to increase its market shares instead. The production that can be knocked out by an international price war is above all the extraction of shale oil in the US, which is much more expensive to produce than the Saudi oil. (Russia may also benefit from a reduction in US oil production; Russian oil is cheaper to extract than shale oil in the US.)
Several princes are arrested
The Crown Prince strengthens his grip on power. Three princes are arrested, among them a former crown prince. They are reported to be suspected of planning a coup against current Crown Prince Mohammed and King Salman, but formal charges are delayed. A few days later, the country’s anti-corruption agency Nazaha announces that nearly 300 civil servants have been arrested for bribery or embezzlement. Among the arrested are also security personnel. What the arrested are or when the arrests are made is not clear.
Stop for small pilgrimage
4th of March
For now, Saudi authorities are stopping all pilgrims who want to visit the sacred sites to perform umra, sometimes called the little pilgrimage. The reason is the risk of spreading the new coronavirus causing the covid-19 disease. Many cases of illness have been linked to Iran in the region, and restrictions on visas for Iranians and Emirates have already been introduced, but the new decision applies to both Saudi citizens and others. Umra can be performed at any time during the year, while major pilgrimages (hajj) are linked to a specific month during the religious year.
Women’s football gets series games
Several new ministries are being set up, creating new ministerial posts for sport, tourism and investment. For example, Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki gets his job as the top sports manager upgraded. All the changes are based on the regime’s desire to invest in new areas to reduce dependence on oil revenues. One of the news is that a women’s soccer league is being introduced. The matches will be played in three different cities.
Death penalty for espionage
One Saudi is sentenced to death and seven to multi-year imprisonment on charges of spying on Iran’s behalf. For Saudi Arabia, where Islam’s principal shrines are located, Iran, the leading Shi’ite state, is an arch enemy. Relations are particularly frosty since the Saudi Shiite leader Nimr al-Nimr was executed (see January 2, 2016).
Al Qaeda leader killed by US
US President Donald Trump states that Qasim al-Raymi, designated as leader of the al-Qaeda terror group on the Arabian Peninsula (Aqap), has been killed in a US operation in Yemen. Trump does not say when it happened, right. Aqap has carried out a series of attacks against Western interests since the turn of the millennium, and recently took on a deed performed on a base in Florida in December 2019. The perpetrator at the base in Pensacola was a Saudi military and had been sent to the United States for education (see December 6 2019 and January 13, 2020).
Saudi Arabia is accused of spying
Three people are charged in Denmark with suspicion of spying on Saudi Arabia’s behalf. The three are Iranian citizens of Ahvaz, where they are said to have belonged to an Arab separatist group. According to the Danish security police, PET, they have collected intelligence information for Saudi Arabia between 2012 and 2018, when they were arrested. In 2018, Denmark accused Iran of in turn planning to murder the three separatists on Danish soil.
Israel provides green light for trips to Saudi Arabia
The Israeli government is providing a clear sign for citizens who want to make business trips or pilgrimages to Saudi Arabia, despite the fact that the countries do not have diplomatic relations. Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan replies via CNN that Israelis are currently not welcome. But Israel’s changed attitude is equally a sign that contacts with Saudi Arabia have become warmer, even though the issue of Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories has not been resolved. In connection with the decision, Prime Minister Netanyahu praises the chairman of the Mecca-based Muslim World Federation for visiting Auschwitz in Poland in recognition of the 75th anniversary of the opening of the Nazi Holocaust camp.
Crown Prince is accused of data breach
Legal experts linked to the UN system want it investigated if the Saudi Crown Prince has been involved in data breaches on Amazon founder Jeff Bezo’s phone. The request is made by Agnès Callamard, UN Reporter in cases involving extrajudicial executions, and David Kaye, Freedom of Expression Reporter. Jeff Bezos owns the Washington Post magazine, where Saudi system critic Jamal Khashoggi was a co-worker. Khashoggi was assassinated in the fall of 2018 at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, a murder that Callamard has investigated on behalf of the UN (see October 2, 2018, October 19, 2018 and June 19, 2019). Some time before the murder, Bezos received a file that had been sent from the Crown Prince’s own account and the phone began, without Bezo’s knowledge, to leak data, the British writes The Guardian. According to a technical analysis, the cell phone may have been infected with a spyware program. Bezo’s privacy was later rewritten in American press on the basis of his text exchange with a girlfriend.
Princess becomes UN representative
Princess Haifa bint Abdulaziz al-Muqrin becomes Saudi Arabia’s representative in the UN organization Unesco, which works among other things to protect the world’s cultural heritage. Some relief has been made in recent years to open the Saudi labor market for women, but appointments to high positions are still uncommon (see February 24, 2019).
The United States sends home to Saudis
The US Department of Justice announces that 21 Saudis who have been in military training in the United States will be sent home. The decision is a result of the investigation conducted after the shooting at a Florida base on December 6, 2019. A Saudi flight officer then shot dead three Americans. According to the investigators, the perpetrator had jihadist motives. US authorities have not been able to prove that there was a plot behind the murders, but say they have found jihadist material even among Saudis other than the perpetrator.