Mena youth ‘optimistic’ about future

EIGHT out of 10 young people in the Mena region are optimistic about their prospects in the coming year, although 45 per cent of employed young people are not doing the work they would like to do, said a new study.

The new online survey, ‘New Horizons: Young, Arab and Connected,’ was commissioned by Ooredoo to provide a snapshot into the digital attitudes and aspirations of young people across the Mena region.

It surveyed more than 10,500 young adults in 17 countries across the region and found that nine in 10 young Mena citizens believed that access to the Internet and mobile digital technology can help them realise their personal aspirations for employment, entrepreneurial opportunities, education, banking and healthcare.

About 91 per cent also believed that technology is the basis of a modern, forward-thinking and functioning society, but that its potential as an economic tool has not yet been realised for young people across the region, said the study.

More than 80 per cent of youth said the Internet enables them to continue their education beyond what is possible in their country.

Despite two-thirds of Internet users currently being men, the report highlighted the level of encouragement for women to play a more equal role with 72 per cent of men and 77 per cent of women agreeing that women should be given equal business opportunities.

The study got an insight on the changing patterns of behaviour online among young Arab nationals. While more than a quarter of time online is spent playing games and entertainment, there was evidence to suggest that increasingly young people are using Internet access to improve their life opportunities.

About 18 per cent of the time on the Internet is used to communicate, followed by 16 per cent for learning, education or training, 15 per cent on work activities and 12 per cent looking for jobs and other employment opportunities, according to the report.

About 91 per cent of respondents believed the Internet can nurture their entrepreneurial potential, with 83 per cent expressing a desire to have their own company and 66 per cent believing the Internet can help source funding.


Kuwait boosts government spending

KUWAIT government’s spending in the first nine months of the fiscal year 2013/14 surged 18 per cent to KD 9.6 billion ($34 billion) driven by current expenditures, said a report.

The public finance figures for the third quarter FY 2013/14 (October to December) reveal a large jump in government spending compared to the second quarter, driven by a rise in current spending, stated the National Bank of Kuwait in its report.

However, expenditure is still not particularly high for this stage of the year and within the overall total, capital spending continues to disappoint. Ultimately, underlying spending growth could end up at around 8 to 9 per cent this year, but strong oil revenues will ensure another huge budget surplus of more than 20 per cent of GDP.     

Most of this increase came from current spending, which rose 20 per cent y/y and almost doubled from its end of second quarter levels. Although large, the increase in current spending is not especially surprising: due to reporting issues, it can be volatile on a quarter-to-quarter basis.

According to NBK, the total government revenues stood at KD24 billion in December, down slightly in year-on-year terms. The fall is largely a result of the softening in oil prices over the past year, which has reduced oil revenues.

The combination of rising spending and softer oil revenues pushed the 9 month budget surplus down 11 per cent y/y, stated NBK. “Ultimately, we expect a full year (FY) budget surplus of around 23 per cent of GDP, only slightly down on the 25 per cent recorded in FY 2012 to 2013,” it added.


Saudi businesswomen save $26.6bn

BUSINESSWOMEN in Saudi Arabia have retained SR100 billion ($26.6 billion) in savings, which is 75 per cent of the total bank savings across the kingdom, said a report.

The share of the contracting sector owned by women stood at 14.8 per cent of total commercial registers for women in the Madinah region, Iman Fallatah, deputy head of the businesswomen’s committee at the Madinah Chamber of Commerce and Industry was quoted as saying in the Arab News report.

Fallatah pointed out that the volume of women’s investments in the kingdom has exceeded SR60 billion, nearly 21 per cent of the overall private sector investments.

The contracting sector dominated, followed by foodstuffs at 11 per cent, fast-food sector at 10.5 per cent, workshops 9.1 per cent, and dress-making shops 8.1 per cent, she said.


Gulf nationalisation policies paying off

FOR decades, GCC has been relying heavily on expats to underpin its booming economies. However, this trend is slowly changing with several countries introducing policies aimed at controlling the influx of expats and creating more jobs for nationals, according to a study.

Localising jobs has been a long-term goal for many GCC countries for years now, but efforts are accelerating, said leading job site, which recently conducted a survey to probe the main challenges being faced by governments in their nationalisation efforts.

A majority of the professionals (50 per cent) who took part in the survey believed that the current workplace localisation policies in their countries were effective, while 30 per cent said it was ineffective and more could be done to improve the hiring of local talent.

It has long been known that GCC nationals prefer working in the government or public sector. The government is perceived to offer higher salaries, shorter working hours and more flexibility in hours, but also better working conditions and non-monetary benefits.

In fact, according to the poll, the general perception is that national citizens are given “very much support” by the government as far as job search is concerned as stated by 42 per cent of respondents, with only a quarter (26 per cent) claiming that nationals receive no support.

When compared to expatriates, respondents believe that national citizens receive better pay (46 per cent) and are promoted faster (11 per cent). Only 11 per cent believe that local talents are paid less than their expat counterparts.

However, the survey found that several companies were reluctant in employing nationals for a variety of reasons.

The biggest issues relating to hiring locals were perceptions that they may want fewer hours or more pay (39 per cent); they may be relatively less competitive when it comes to training and experience (14.5 per cent); as well as that they may favour a select few limited industries for employment purposes (10 per cent).

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