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Economy

Saudi Arabia and Pakistan are back on track

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Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan is visiting Saudi Arabia at the personal invitation of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa arrived in Riyadh ahead of this high-profile visit to lay the groundwork for what is being described by the media as a major boost in Saudi-Pakistan ties, especially in terms of economic, trade and environmental cooperation.

This augurs well for the two brotherly countries, as their historic friendship faced an unfortunate rupture last year.

Luckily the leadership on both sides was resilient enough to see through the challenge and bring Saudi-Pakistan ties back on track.

To be sure, this resilience is rooted in the people-to-people relationship, which eventually helps them overcome temporary glitches and sustain cooperation on issues of mutual concern and interest. This time is no different — and here is why.

Soon after his election as prime minister in August 2018, Khan was able to develop a personal relationship with the crown prince.

He traveled to Saudi Arabia twice in the next two months, the second time at the personal invitation of the crown prince to attend the Future Investment Initiative conference as part of Saudi Vision 2030.

Khan had inherited a serious balance of payments crisis. So Saudi Arabia took the lead in offering a financial relief package of $6.2 billion, including $3 billion in loans and a $3.2 billion deferred oil payment facility.

Taking a cue from Riyadh, the UAE followed suit by offering $6 billion in additional support to Pakistan.

When the Saudi crown prince visited Pakistan in February 2019, he was personally driven by Khan to the prime minister’s house in Islamabad, up on the hill in Islamabad.

In another example that symbolized the personal chemistry between the two charismatic leaders, the crown prince cheerfully told the Pakistani premier: “I am your ambassador in Saudi Arabia.” (Later in the year, the crown prince would offer his personal plane to Khan to fly to New York for the UN summit. And even while Saudi-Pakistan ties briefly experienced a bad spell in 2020, Khan declared: “Pakistan and Saudi Arabia will always remain close friends.”)

That historic visit to Pakistan by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in 2019 witnessed a major transition in Saudi-Pakistan strategic relations in the economic sphere, with the announcement of $20 billion of Saudi investments in Pakistan, including a $10 billion Aramco oil refinery and petrochemical complex in the strategic port city of Gwadar.

The rest of the investments were in the mining and renewable energy sectors.

This was in parallel with the efforts to sign the Free Trade Agreement to increase the volume of bilateral trade, which was worth $2 billion.

In the past, the two nations cooperated closely in security and geopolitical matters, and Saudi economic help was confined to oil concessions. Now, for the first time, the Kingdom was interested in the long-term economic development of Pakistan.

This promising moment in Saudi-Pakistan ties is occurring amid a favorable turnaround in regional geopolitics, marked by breakthroughs on different fronts.

Dr. Ali Awadh Asseri

In particular, the choice of Gwadar for such an investment stake indicated the Saudi inclination to join the wider regional integration network: The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.

In the natural order of things, the next logical step would have been to jointly work out the development plans for the proposed Saudi economic projects in Pakistan.

Unfortunately, international forces inimical to Saudi Arabia’s exceptional position in the Muslim world, and the historic Saudi-Pakistan alliance, could not digest the fact that the two brotherly nations were taking their relationship to a different level, where their interests could be geo-economically intertwined in future.

What happened next is a sad part of our current history, which is not worth recalling.

What is worth stating, however, is that Saudi Arabia is, and will remain, the heart of Islam for the Muslims of the world, and no other country can claim such a right: That the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) is the sole representative body of 57 Muslim countries and no attempt to create an alternative Muslim bloc will ever succeed; and, of course, the fact that Saudi-Pakistan ties are well-rooted in the love and affection that their people have for each other, and hence no conspiracy can hamper their organic evolution as historic partners.

That is why the false narrative regarding the OIC’s role in Kashmir did not take hold for long. That is why the dismal portrayal of Saudi economic support for Pakistan finally failed the test of times.

Fortunately, both nations have formal and informal channels of communication to overcome any instance of grave misunderstanding or deliberate misinformation impacting their relationship.

Their bond is unbreakable as it is founded on the will of the two peoples.

Hence, the two brotherly nations have always stood shoulder to shoulder with each other in difficult times. From defending the sanctity of the two holy mosques to defeating the scourge of terrorism, Pakistan has always been a key Saudi partner.

Likewise, Saudi Arabia has never disappointed Pakistan when it is faced with hard times, be it the wave of terrorism post-9/11 or the devastating earthquake of 2005.

The two countries also closely cooperate to achieve peace and stability in Afghanistan. The current or emerging Saudi engagement in Pakistan reflects the same spirit of camaraderie with Islamic roots.

In retrospect, what the visit of Prime Minister Khan to Jeddah shows is that the relationship between Saudi Arabia and Pakistan is back to the level it was at when the crown prince visited Islamabad more than two years ago.

The decision by Saudi Arabia and the UAE to roll over $2 billion loans to next year implies the resumption of their respective financial relief packages, which Pakistan desperately needs to ward off the devastating effects of the third wave of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The visit is expected to kick-start work on the $20 billion Saudi development projects in Pakistan, especially the Aramco oil refinery and petrochemical complex in Gwadar.

To boost bilateral trade, a comprehensive customs cooperation accord is also reportedly on the agenda.

Moreover, General Bajwa’s almost week-long interaction with his Saudi counterparts, and the recent appointment of retired Lt. Gen. Bilal Akbar as Pakistan’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia, will ensure enhanced coordination in defense and the strategic relationship between the two countries.

In fact, this time the relationship is expected to deliver deeper cooperation beyond defense and the economy, on issues of climate change in particular.

Khan shares the vision of the crown prince as set out in the recently announced Saudi Green and Green Middle East initiatives, which align with his government’s Clean and Green Pakistan initiative.

And, luckily, this promising moment in Saudi-Pakistan ties is occurring amid a favorable turnaround in regional geopolitics, marked by the Saudi olive branch to Iran, the end of the Qatar crisis, and the India-Pakistan cease-fire in Kashmir.

These developments surely open up the diplomatic space for Saudi Arabia and Pakistan to concentrate their joint efforts for economic development and regional stability.

• Dr Ali Awadh Asseri served as Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Pakistan from 2001 to 2009 and received Pakistan’s highest civilian award, Hilal-e-Pakistan, for his services in promoting the Saudi-Pakistan relationship. He holds a Ph.D. in Economics from Beirut Arab University and authored the book ‘Combating Terrorism: Saudi Arabia’s Role in the War on Terror’ (Oxford, 2009).

Business

Saudi Arabia Raises $2.81 Billion Through December Sukuk Issuance

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The National Debt Management Center (NDMC) of Saudi Arabia successfully concluded its December riyal-denominated sukuk issuance, raising a total of $2.81 billion (SR10.53 billion). This marks a significant increase compared to previous months, showcasing investor confidence in the Kingdom’s economy and its financial management.

Strong Investor Appetite:

The December sukuk issuance attracted strong investor appetite, with total bids reaching $3.77 billion (SR14.12 billion). This exceeded the initial target amount, indicating confidence in the Saudi Arabian government’s financial stability and prospects.

Issuance Structure:

The Sukuk issuance was divided into two tranches:

  • First Tranche: This tranche, valued at $1.39 billion (SR5.27 billion), matures in 2030.
  • Second Tranche: This larger tranche, valued at $1.42 billion (SR7.97 billion), matures in 2035.

Positive Sign for the Economy:

The successful sukuk issuance is seen as a positive sign for the Saudi Arabian economy. It demonstrates the Kingdom’s continued access to international capital markets and its ability to raise funds at competitive rates. This is particularly important as the country implements its Vision 2030 economic diversification plan.

“Saudi Arabia raised $2.81 billion through its December sukuk issuance.The issuance attracted strong investor appetite, exceeding the initial target amount.The success of the issuance is seen as a positive sign for the Saudi Arabian economy.The NDMC reiterated its commitment to sound financial management and diversifying its funding sources.”

NDMC Statement:

Commenting on the issuance, the NDMC stated: “The strong investor participation in the December sukuk issuance reflects confidence in the Kingdom’s economy and its commitment to sound financial management. We are committed to diversifying our funding sources and managing our debt portfolio responsibly to support the Kingdom’s continued economic growth and development.”

Looking Ahead:

The successful December sukuk issuance is expected to further boost investor confidence in Saudi Arabia and position the country well for future fundraising activities. With its ambitious economic diversification plans and strong financial management, the Kingdom is well-placed to weather any potential economic challenges in the years to come.

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Economy

Immigration Crackdown Must Not Harm Economy, Warns Jeremy Hunt

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Overview

Jeremy Hunt, the former UK Health Secretary, has warned that a crackdown on immigration must not damage the economy. Hunt stated that the UK must prioritize the economy while ensuring that immigration policies are not too restrictive. He emphasized that the country needs to balance controlling immigration and keeping the economy healthy.

Hunt’s warning comes amidst ongoing debates about the impact of immigration on the UK economy. Some argue that immigration can have negative effects on wages and employment opportunities for UK citizens. Others point out that immigrants often contribute to economic growth and fill labour shortages in certain industries. Hunt’s statement highlights the need for policymakers to carefully consider the potential impact of immigration policies on the economy.

Key Takeaways

  • Jeremy Hunt warns that immigration crackdown must not damage the economy.
  • The UK needs to balance controlling immigration with keeping the economy healthy.
  • Policymakers must carefully consider the potential impact of immigration policies on the economy.

Jeremy Hunt’s Warning

Context and Background

Jeremy Hunt, the then-Home Secretary of the United Kingdom, warned in 2018 that any immigration crackdown should not damage the economy. He argued that the UK’s economy had benefited greatly from immigration, and that any changes to immigration policy should be carefully considered to avoid negative economic consequences.

Specific Points Raised

Hunt’s warning came as the UK government was considering changes to its immigration policy in the wake of the Brexit vote. He pointed out that many sectors of the UK economy, such as healthcare and hospitality, rely heavily on immigrant workers. He also warned that a crackdown on immigration could lead to labor shortages and harm the UK’s ability to compete in the global economy.

Hunt’s warning was echoed by many business leaders and economists, who argued that a hard-line approach to immigration could be disastrous for the UK’s economy. They pointed out that immigration had helped to fuel economic growth in the UK, and that any changes to immigration policy should be made with this in mind.

Overall, Hunt’s warning was a reminder that immigration policy is a complex issue that requires careful consideration. While there are certainly valid concerns about immigration, it is important to ensure that any changes to the policy are made in a way that does not harm the UK’s economy or its ability to compete on the global stage.

Potential Impact on the Economy

Jeremy Hunt, the UK Health Secretary, has warned that any immigration crackdown must not damage the economy. Hunt believes that the country needs to attract the best talent from around the world to maintain a strong economy. The UK has been heavily reliant on foreign workers to fill low-skilled jobs, which has helped to keep wages low. However, there is a risk that a crackdown on immigration could lead to labour shortages, which could drive up wages and reduce economic growth.

Immediate Effects

One immediate effect of an immigration crackdown could be a shortage of workers in key industries such as healthcare, hospitality, and agriculture. This could lead to higher wages for workers in these industries, pushing inflation and reducing economic growth. In addition, businesses that rely on foreign workers may struggle to find enough staff, which could lead to reduced productivity and lower profits.

Long-Term Consequences

In the long term, an immigration crackdown could have a significant impact on the UK economy. The country has a rapidly ageing population, which means that there will be fewer workers to support an increasing number of retirees. This could lead to a shortage of workers in key industries, which could drive up wages and reduce economic growth. In addition, a reduction in immigration could lead to a decline in innovation and entrepreneurship, which could harm the country’s long-term economic prospects.

Overall, it is clear that any immigration crackdown must be carefully managed to avoid damaging the UK economy. While there are certainly concerns about the impact of immigration on wages and public services, it is important to remember that immigrants have made an enormous contribution to the country’s economic success. By attracting the best talent from around the world, the UK can continue to thrive and prosper in the years ahead.

Balancing Immigration and Economy

The UK government has been struggling to strike a balance between immigration and the economy. In 2018, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt warned that any immigration crackdown must not damage the economy. The government has been trying to find a way to balance the need for immigration with the need to protect the economy.

Proposed Solutions

One solution that has been proposed is to create a points-based immigration system. In this system, immigrants would be awarded points based on their skills, qualifications, and experience. The more points an immigrant has, the more likely they are to be granted a visa. This system would ensure that only the most skilled and qualified immigrants are allowed into the country, which would benefit the economy.

Another solution is to invest in education and training programs for UK citizens. By providing UK citizens with the skills and qualifications needed to fill the gaps in the job market, the government can reduce the need for immigration. This would also benefit the economy by reducing unemployment and increasing productivity.

Challenges Ahead

Despite these proposed solutions, there are still challenges ahead. One challenge is the need to balance the economic benefits of immigration with the social and cultural impacts. Many people are concerned about the impact of immigration on their local communities and the strain it can put on public services.

Another challenge is the need to address the issue of illegal immigration. Illegal immigration can have a negative impact on the economy, as it can lead to exploitation and unfair competition in the job market. The government needs to find a way to tackle illegal immigration without damaging the economy.

In conclusion, finding a balance between immigration and the economy is a complex issue that requires careful consideration and planning. The UK government needs to continue to explore solutions that benefit both the economy and society as a whole.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the potential economic impacts of an immigration crackdown?

An immigration crackdown can have both positive and negative economic impacts. On one hand, reducing immigration can lead to increased job opportunities and higher wages for native workers. On the other hand, a reduction in immigrant workers can lead to labor shortages and lower economic growth. Additionally, immigrants often contribute to the economy by paying taxes and starting businesses.

What measures can be taken to balance immigration control with economic growth?

Balancing immigration control with economic growth requires a careful approach. One potential measure is to implement a points-based immigration system that prioritizes highly-skilled workers who can contribute to the economy. Another measure is to invest in education and training programs to upskill native workers and fill labor shortages. Additionally, policies that promote entrepreneurship and small business growth can help stimulate economic growth.

How has immigration historically affected the UK economy?

Historically, immigration has had both positive and negative effects on the UK economy. Immigrants have contributed to economic growth by filling labor shortages, starting businesses, and paying taxes. However, some have argued that immigration has put pressure on public services and lowered wages for native workers.

What is the current state of UK immigration policy?

The current state of UK immigration policy is in flux due to Brexit and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. In 2021, the UK government introduced a new points-based immigration system that prioritizes highly-skilled workers and limits low-skilled immigration. Additionally, the government has implemented strict travel restrictions to limit the spread of COVID-19.

What are the key factors driving immigration policy in the UK?

The key factors driving immigration policy in the UK include economic concerns, national security concerns, and political considerations. The government must balance the need for economic growth with concerns about the impact of immigration on native workers. Additionally, the government must consider national security concerns related to border control and terrorism.

What is the role of the government in managing immigration and the economy?

The role of the government in managing immigration and the economy is to balance the need for economic growth with concerns about the impact of immigration on native workers. The government must also consider national security concerns related to border control and terrorism. Additionally, the government must work to promote policies that stimulate economic growth and create job opportunities for native workers.

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AI

AI in the World of Discord: Bridging Virtual Communities

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an artist s illustration of artificial intelligence ai this image depicts the process used by text to image diffusion models it was created by linus zoll as part of the visualising ai

In the vast expanse of the internet, virtual communities thrive. From gaming clans to hobbyist forums, these digital spaces connect people across geographical boundaries. At the heart of these communities lies Discord, a platform that has revolutionized online communication.

1. The Rise of Discord: A Brief Overview

Discord, founded in 2015, started as a voice chat app for gamers. However, it quickly evolved into a multifaceted platform that caters to diverse interests. With customizable servers, text channels, voice channels, and bots, Discord became the go-to hub for communities of all kinds.

2. AI-Powered Bots: Enhancing User Experience

Discord bots, powered by artificial intelligence, are pivotal in shaping the user experience. These bots automate tasks, moderate discussions, and even provide entertainment. Let’s explore some popular AI bots:

a. MEE6

MEE6 is a versatile bot that assists server administrators. It can track user activity, assign roles, and even generate custom commands. Its AI-driven moderation features keep conversations civil and respectful.

b. Dyno

Dyno is another powerful bot that automates administrative tasks. From managing invites to creating custom commands, Dyno streamlines server management. Its AI learns from user behavior, adapting its responses over time.

c. Dank Memer

Dank Memer, a humorous bot, adds a touch of levity to Discord servers. It generates memes, quizzes, and even currency systems. Its AI algorithms ensure fresh content and witty responses.

3. AI Worldbuilding: Crafting Immersive Environments

Discord servers often host role-playing games (RPGs) or collaborative storytelling. AI-driven tools aid in worldbuilding:

a. AIDungeon

AIDungeon, powered by OpenAI’s GPT models, generates dynamic narratives. Players input prompts, and the AI constructs intricate storylines. Whether exploring fantasy realms or solving mysteries, AIDungeon sparks creativity.

b. World Anvil

World Anvil assists creators in building detailed fictional worlds. From maps to character profiles, this AI-enhanced platform organizes lore and encourages collaborative storytelling.

4. Challenges and Ethical Considerations

As AI infiltrates Discord, ethical questions arise:

a. Privacy Concerns

How much data should bots collect? Striking a balance between functionality and privacy is crucial.

b. Bias and Fairness

AI algorithms can inadvertently perpetuate biases. Developers must ensure fairness and inclusivity.

c. Authenticity

Can AI-generated content truly replicate human creativity? Striving for authenticity remains a challenge.

5. Conclusion: The Future of AI-Driven Communities

Discord continues to evolve, and AI plays an integral role. As technology advances, we’ll witness even more innovative applications. Whether it’s organizing events, moderating discussions, or crafting fictional worlds, AI is shaping the very fabric of virtual communities.

So next time you join a Discord server, remember that behind the scenes, AI bots are working tirelessly to enhance your experience. The AI world and the Discord universe converge, creating a dynamic space where pixels meet possibilities.

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