RIYADH: A cross section of Saudis and expatriates said here Sunday that they are entering 2017 with hope of better opportunities rather than fear and despondency.
They expressed confidence that the New Year will be one of peace, security and economic growth for the whole Middle East region after several years of conflict, strife, sectarian tension and hardship.
“The conflicts in the Middle East region continued to proliferate last year, but many of these problems are at least being addressed more seriously now than ever before,” said Adel H. Al-Saif, a political analyst.
He called on the international stakeholders to sit together and intensify efforts to solve the issues confronted in the region, especially in Syria, Yemen, Libya and Iraq.
“The civil wars and militancy witnessed by several countries in the Middle East must end for the sake of peace and prosperity for future,” Al-Saif said.
Hisham Mazrui, a faculty member of the Riyadh-based King Saud University (KSU), said war was having a much wider impact on the region.
“The conflicts in the Middle East (are) directly affecting the Gulf states including the Kingdom, and they are affecting even the world at large indirectly,” he said.
“The major powers including the permanent members of the UN Security Council will find themselves under pressure to resolve the regional conflicts and their implications.”
Mazrui added that the problems have compounded further, affecting the economic wellbeing of the people and the governments.
“I am hopeful that 2017 will be a year of peace,” he added.
Referring to the regional issues, Mazrui said: “The Israel-Palestine peace
process must be a high priority together with concerted action to combat terrorism and address the humanitarian issues in the Arab world.”
Saudi Arabia, he said, is “on the forefront of all efforts that have been directed to find amicable and acceptable solutions to the conflicts.”
On economic front, a local banker said that “the situation in the Gulf region is better,” while referring to the recently approved state budget of the Kingdom. He said that Saudi Arabia had successfully cut its state budget deficit and will increase government spending in 2017 to boost economic growth. The deficit shrank to SR297 billion ($79 billion) in 2016.
The financial challenges for Saudi Arabia stem largely from the fall in the global price of oil over the past two-and-a-half years, he added. Moreover, the value-added tax (VAT) provision confirmed in the Saudi budget for 2017 is likely to have a substantial impact, he noted. Gulf countries are expected to implement VAT system by the beginning of 2018, and it will apply to all stages of production of goods and services. The revenue generated from VAT is expected to amount to SR25-30 billion, which will contribute toward bridging the budget deficit.
Referring to life and expenditure in Saudi Arabia, Safder Parvez, branch manager of Danube company, said that he has several New Year resolutions.
“Hope for New Year has always been high,” he said.
“Personally, I am comfortable so long as I manage my expenses… I just want to be healthy and hope that everything works out… I will neither fight with anyone nor anger anybody,” said Parvez, explaining his resolutions.
Madiha N. Jameel, a Pakistani housewife, advised to keep hopes high in the New Year, no matter how distraught one might currently be feeling.
“I am happy in Saudi Arabia,” she said with a note of optimism. She said however that the passing of a year and beginning of another always reminds us that “we are getting older, and that the clock never stops ticking.”

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