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Is Saudi Arabia's Ambitious Vision 2030 Plan Dead –



Is Saudi Arabia’s Ambitious Vision 2030 Plan Dead? |

Irina Slav

Irina is a writer for with over a decade of experience writing on the oil and gas industry.

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    A $500-billion smart city. A $200-billion solar farm. Billions of dollars in investments in gas and petrochemicals. These were all facets of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030—perhaps the most ambitious economic diversification in the world. Now, that ambition is in tatters. Can Saudi Arabia pick up the pieces and truly diversify its economy away from oil, or are its plans dead in the water, leaving the Kingdom’s survival forever tied to oil revenues?

    Earlier this week, Saudi Arabia’s Aramco said it would shelve an investment of several billion dollars in Sempra Energy’s Port Arthur LNG terminal. It also said it would delay investments in a $20-billion refining and petrochemical project at home, at its Yanbu hub. The reason: cash conservation.

    Earlier this year, Riyadh government sources told the Wall Street Journal that Saudi Arabia was not pursuing its $200-billion solar farm project it had conceived in partnership with Japan’s SoftBank. Nobody was working on the project, the sources said, and Riyadh was discussing a replacement with several smaller solar projects.

    The $500-billion smart city project, Neom, is still on the table, it appears. The Kingdom’s oil ministry recently said it would help fund the project and make sure it was completed on time.

    Neom is the flagship project of Vision 2030, Prince Mohammed’s brainchild aimed at reducing Saudi Arabia’s reliance on oil revenues. Ironically, this diversification drive relied on precisely these oil revenues to materialize. And now that these revenues have been significantly reduced because of the effects the coronavirus pandemic had on oil demand, Prince Mohammed’s vision is under threat.

    There was always some doubt Saudi Arabia would be able to pull all of these projects off. They were simply too expensive, even for its massive sovereign fund. Of course, it was never assumed that the Kingdom would finance all of these major initiatives by itself, but it did rely heavily on Aramco—on its revenues and, of course, its public listing.

    The company went public last year but with half the shares that were initially supposed to be listed. It did well in the beginning, becoming the world’s most valuable company. The oil price crash, however, led to Aramco’s share price crash. Pretty much all oil stocks crashed this spring, so that was not unique to Aramco. But what was special about it is that a whole economic diversification program hinges on it—utterly and completely. Aramco also has hefty dividends to pay, but cash is now tight.

    More projects are being delayed, too, projects that don’t have anything directly to do with Saudi Arabia’s economic diversification. These are projects that have to do with Aramco’s international expansion.

    Related: Oil Rig Count Inches Higher Amid Price Plunge

    The company is reviewing a $6.6-billion petrochemical production plan for its Motiva refinery in the United States, the Wall Street Journal reported this week, citing unnamed sources familiar with the company’s situation. The company is also freezing for a year its plans to boost oil production capacity to 13 million bpd. This decision, of course, is hardly surprising given the state of global supply and demand, and more importantly, the outlook for the latter. It is, nevertheless, telling of Aramco’s—and Riyadh’s—step back from their diversification ambitions.

    It is an interesting development: a couple of years ago, there was concern among some observers that higher oil prices would discourage the Kingdom from pursuing its Vision 2030 diversification due to complacency, as history has proven time and again.

    “When countries kick-start reform programs when oil prices are low, sometimes the enthusiasm wanes when commodity prices move higher. That is potentially a risk here. It will take continued focus on discipline to maintain many of those initiatives with higher oil prices,” Fitch Ratings’ global head of sovereign ratings said in 2017.

    But the real threat to its grand diversification plans turned out to be exactly the opposite—lack of funds caused by low oil prices.

    Perhaps Saudi Arabia’s enthusiasm did not exactly wane when prices were high: news of a multibillion-dollar project continued to flow in as the Kingdom sought to secure future markets for its main export product.

    And then the second price crash in five years came.

    For the second quarter of this year, Saudi Arabia booked a deficit of $29 billion. Its GDP is shrinking, as it is across the oil-rich and oil-dependent Gulf. Austerity measures are back, spending cuts are being made, and Aramco must pay a dividend of $75 billion as it promised when it listed 5 percent of its stock in December last year. The company has to keep up these annual payments for the next five years. It doesn’t have the luxury of cutting these dividends like the international oil majors because its majority shareholder is the Saudi government and Aramco is its primary income source.

    With all these stressors, is Vision 2030 still on the horizon?

    It is, but it may well stay there like a mirage. A low-price environment is the right one for diversification efforts, but these efforts in Saudi Arabia are incredibly costly because of the scale of the program. Perhaps Riyadh will choose flexibility and substitute some of these multibillion-dollar projects for smaller ones, the way it reportedly did with its solar plans.

    That might be the most sensible path to take, after accepting an economy cannot change overnight, even if you have hundreds of billions of dollars to spend on this change. Economic diversification takes not just money but time, as well as realistic planning. Hopefully, the pandemic taught the world’s second-largest oil producer a valuable lesson about unforeseeable events and their effect on diversification plans.

    By Irina Slav for

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      Kitchener drive-thru COVID-19 testing site to reopen by appointment only on Thursday – CTV Toronto



      Kitchener’s drive-thru COVID-19 testing site will reopen on Thursday, but people will need to book an appointment to get a test.

      Anyone who needs a test should go online, pick a time slot and register with their name and health card.

      The site was closed down early on Wednesday morning after staff reportedly faced verbal abuse and threats of violence.

      A spokesperson for Grand River Hospital, which runs the site, said that the issue was compounded by traffic issues along the streets around the testing site.

      Long wait times and lineups have created tension around COVID-19 testing as more people look to get tested amid fears of a second wave.

      Some people arrived at the drive-thru site as early as 2 a.m. in order to secure a place there. Dozens of cars lined up Wednesday morning, and the line’s capacity was full by 7 a.m. Staff don’t start testing until 15 minutes after then.

      By around 8:30 a.m., the site had closed for the day. Waterloo regional police posted about the closure on Twitter, asking for people to be patient and avoid the area.

      Police said there were no arrests, but they did assist with setting up barricades.

      Thirty minutes later, the hospital tweeted about the closure as well, citing “safety concerns.”

      Everyone signing up for a COVID-19 test starting Thursday will need to fill out a separate pre-registration form, the Grand River Hospital said in a tweet. Only people who have pre-registered will be able to get a test.

      Those who were still in line would still be tested, Grand River Hospital said. By 11 a.m., the site, normally backed up for hours at a time, was completely empty.

      The difficulties of getting tested are not unique to Waterloo Region, as thousands of people face the same hurdles daily around Ontario. The calls for more accessible testing has led Premier Doug Ford to partner with pharmacies in order to allow more people to get tested.

      On Wednesday, Ford announced that 60 pharmacies would be offering testing soon. None of them are in Waterloo Region.

      The tests will be by appointment only for people without symptoms.

      St. Mary’s General Hospital said Wednesday that people should only self-refer to the assessment centre if they have COVID-19 symptoms or if they’ve been directed to get a test because they’re a high-risk contact of someone else with the disease.

      They said people can also come if they’ve been referred by a medical health professional to meet a ministry guideline, like visiting a long-term care home or having a medical procedure done.

      Lee Fairclough, head of the region’s COVID-19 assessment centres and president of St. Mary’s General Hospital, said she’d like to see pharmacies doing tests at local pharmacies.

      “We will certainly be open to how we do that within our region,” she said.

      Fairclough said the region is also seeking out new locations for additional testing sites, but the main priority is to beef up the existing sites.

      “The decision we are making right now is to move nurses, move physicians from other clinical services and practices, to do this testing,” she said. “That’s probably the biggest thing we are sorting through.”

      The walk-in centres are busy, but sites offering appointments are also swamped.

      “The numbers have gone through the roof,” said Dr. Joseph Lee from KW4 COVID Assessment Centre.

      The clinic’s next available appointment isn’t until early October. Lee said he’s proposing turning his other two walk-in clinics into COVID-19 assessment centres as well.

      Cambridge Memorial Hospital’s COVID-19 assessment launched a new phone number on Wednesday to help manage calls for appointments. The new number is 519.740.4975, but the centre said it’s best to reach through email at

      Anyone calling can register for a booked appointment when arriving at the centre, schedule an appointment and cancel an appointment.

      The centre said it’s prioritizing people with symptoms and anyone who’s been instructed to get a test by a public health official.

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      Shopify says it notified privacy commissioner of breach involving 'rogue' staff – CTV News



      OTTAWA —
      Shopify Inc. says it has notified Canada’s privacy commissioner about a recent data breach it says was carried out by two “rogue” employees.

      “In accordance with Canadian law, we promptly notified all affected merchants,” a spokeswoman for the company wrote in an email.

      “We have subsequently provided information regarding the incident to the Office of the Privacy Commissioner.”

      Earlier Wednesday, the commissioner’s office said it hadn’t yet received a report about the breach.

      “Our office is reaching out to Shopify, given the potential seriousness of the breach, to request more information about the matter,” Vito Pilieci, a senior communications adviser wrote in an email.

      Under the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, it is mandatory for companies to report breaches to the privacy commissioner’s office, “where it is reasonable to believe that the breach creates a real risk of significant harm to an individual,” Pilieci said.

      Shopify spokeswoman Rebecca Feigelsohn said the two employees involved in the breach were fired.

      On Tuesday, the Ottawa-based company first revealed on an online discussion board that it had identified two workers involved in illegitimately obtaining records connected to some of its merchants.

      “We immediately terminated these individuals’ access to our Shopify network and referred the incident to law enforcement. We are currently working with the FBI and other international agencies in their investigation of these criminal acts,” the company said.

      “While we do not have evidence of the data being utilized, we are in the early stages of the investigation and will be updating affected merchants as relevant.”

      The customer data the employees were accessing was linked to fewer than 200 merchants, who Shopify has declined to identify but says have been notified.

      The improperly accessed data includes basic contact information such as emails, names and addresses, as well as order details, such as what products and services were purchased.

      Shopify said complete payment card numbers and other sensitive personal or financial information were not part of the breach and it has yet to find evidence that any of the data was used.

      This report by The Canadian Press was first published September 23, 2020.

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      The latest on the coronavirus outbreak for Sept. 23 –



      A coronavirus sniffer dog named E.T. receives a cuddle from trainer Anette Kare at the Helsinki airport in Vantaa, Finland, on Tuesday. E.T. is trained to detect arriving passengers with COVID-19. (Antti Aimo-Koivisto/Lehtikuva/AFP via Getty Images)

      We looked at 120,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Canada. Here’s what we found 

      The coronavirus has been confirmed in more than 146,600 people across the country since the first case was detected. CBC News has dug deep into the data collected by the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) to examine how COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus, affects the young, the elderly, men and women in order to better understand what’s most likely to land you in hospital — or worse. The data contains details on 121,795 cases up to the first week of September.

      Some of our findings:

      CBC’s analysis reveals that since mid-August, infections among young people (under 30) have surged and now, after a summer of provincial reopenings and expanded testing, cumulatively outnumber the elderly. COVID-19 infections are also on the rise among the very youngest (under 20) as schools, colleges and universities reopen.

      The 9,000 cases that list symptom details suggest that people with COVID-19 suffer differently depending on age and symptoms. Chills, sore throat and runny nose were reported more frequently among those under 50. Cough and fever were common among all age groups.

      Close to 10 per cent of people who tested positive for coronavirus ended up in hospital, according to the cases tracked by PHAC. Two per cent of cases landed in intensive care units (ICU) across all ages but mostly among people over 50. In people admitted to hospital, shortness of breath and fever were more common symptoms, while headaches, sore throat and runny nose were seen more often in less severe cases.

      More than 9,200 people have died in Canada with COVID-19. Of all confirmed infections in Canada, six per cent, or 9,274 cases, have been fatal, with the elderly hit the hardest. Only two people under 20 are known to have died from the disease so far. More women in Canada have died from COVID-19, especially in the 80+ age group, where they outnumber men. Outside that age group, more men are dying from the virus.

      Click below to watch more from The National

      A runny nose and sore throat can be symptoms of COVID-19, but they’re also common symptoms of a cold or flu. British Columbia has removed them from a list disqualifying children from in-class learning, calling it a minor symptom of coronavirus, while other provinces are considering following suit. 2:01

      IN BRIEF

      Trudeau to make rare address to the nation amid COVID-19 fight; throne speech promises more support for affected Canadians

      Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will make a rare address to the nation Wednesday evening on the fight against COVID-19 as confirmed cases continue to climb in Canada. Trudeau is also expected to summarize the government’s plans laid out in the throne speech, which included a promise to extend emergency support to people affected by the pandemic.

      Two of Trudeau’s rival party leaders, Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole and Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet, have tested positive for the virus and have been forced to delay their responses to the throne speech until their self-isolation periods have ended.

      CBC News will carry Trudeau’s address at 6:30 p.m. ET, followed by analysis and reaction. Watch, listen and follow live on, the CBC News app, CBC TV, CBC News Network, CBC Gem and CBC Radio, as well as on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter.

      Ontario to launch COVID-19 testing in pharmacies Friday

      Ontario will begin offering COVID-19 testing in pharmacies Friday, beginning with up to 60 pharmacies around the province, Premier Doug Ford says. The testing will be available by appointment only, for those not experiencing symptoms of the virus, and is expected to roll out to further locations in the coming weeks, the province says.

      In addition, three hospitals will be offering saliva testing starting this week. Those hospitals include Women’s College, Mount Sinai and University Health Network―Toronto Western Hospital. The saliva-based tests will at first be conducted alongside the usual nasal-pharyngeal testing to assess their accuracy, Health Minister Christine Elliott said at a news conference Wednesday.

      The testing initiative is the second part of the government’s fall pandemic preparedness plan. The first piece involved purchasing millions of seasonal flu shots that the government is encouraging all residents to get.

      “We have prepared for the worst,” Elliott said. The province has seen modelling of various scenarios including a slow burn of little peaks and valleys in the daily numbers to more dramatic increases, the minister said. Elliott said further details about those models will be unveiled as the province continues to roll out its fall plan.

      120 active COVID-19 cases reported on First Nations reserves across Canada 

      There are currently 120 active cases of COVID-19 on First Nations reserves across Canada, according to data from Indigenous Services Canada. New cases since last week were primarily reported in Alberta, British Columbia and Manitoba. One death was reported, bringing the total of deaths on-reserve from COVID-19 to 10.

      There have been 616 cases of COVID-19 on First Nations reserves as of Sept. 21, as well as 51 hospitalizations. A total of 486 First Nations people have recovered. Cases on First Nations reserves reported per region as of Sept. 21:

      • British Columbia: 132
      • Alberta: 265
      • Saskatchewan: 96
      • Manitoba: 8
      • Ontario: 68
      • Quebec: 47

      Read CBC Indigenous’s weekly roundup of COVID-19 news in Indigenous communities here. 

      Stay informed with the latest COVID-19 data from Canada and around the world


      Johnson & Johnson begins final phase of single-shot COVID-19 vaccine study

      New Jersey-based drug conglomerate Johnson & Johnson is beginning a huge final study to try to prove if a single-dose COVID-19 vaccine can protect against the coronavirus, The Associated Press reports. The study starting Wednesday will be one of the world’s largest coronavirus vaccine studies so far, testing the shot in 60,000 volunteers in the United States, South Africa, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru.

      In August, Canada signed a deal with a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson to secure up to 38 million doses of the company’s potential vaccine.

      A handful of other vaccines in the U.S. — including shots made by Moderna Inc. and Pfizer Inc. — and some in other countries are already in final-stage testing. Hopes are high that answers about at least one candidate being tested in the U.S. could come by year’s end, maybe sooner.

      Many vaccine specialists question whether the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will move at a safe pace under intense pressure from the current U.S. administration. U.S. President Donald Trump has consistently presented a faster timeline for a new vaccine than experts say is adequate to fully test the candidates. On Wednesday, he tweeted a link to news about the new Johnson & Johnson vaccine study and said the FDA “must move quickly.”

      “We feel cautiously optimistic that we will be able to have a safe and effective vaccine, although there is never a guarantee of that,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, infectious disease chief at the National Institutes of Health, told a Senate committee on Wednesday.


      Preserving your pandemic harvest? Start slow, say experts

      In this file photo, pickling jars are seen at a culinary event in New York City in 2011. This year saw an explosion of interest in gardening as the pandemic forced people to stay closer to home. (Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for International Culinary Center Catering & Events)

      Canadians who grew their own gardens this pandemic summer and are looking to try pickling their bounty for the first time should start small, says an Edmonton woman who has been canning for years.

      “You don’t have to take the whole weekend,” said Johwanna Alleyne, who teaches canning courses and runs a pickling business in Edmonton called Mojo Jojo Pickles, which produces everything from ketchup to jelly and relish. “Start with single jars, like make one or two jars of something that you’re really proud of…. You’ll catch on pretty quickly.”

      This year saw an explosion of interest in gardening as the pandemic forced people to stay closer to home. Similar to the early rush for toilet paper and flour, people are now facing a shortage of Mason jars used to preserve their homegrown fruits and veggies.

      Alleyne said she’s certainly noticed people getting into canning and pickling for the first time this year. “I didn’t know that pickles were an essential service, but it seems like they are,” she told CBC Radio’s The Current. “I think we’ve all appreciated just slowing down a little bit. And fresh, real food and good flavour and the comfort of good flavours become really important.”

      With pickling, the amount of acid in the jar and how you fill it is important, as is the processing time, said Alleyne. That’s because canning gone wrong can lead to spoilage or cause botulism. If jars meant to preserve peaches or nectarines aren’t prepared properly, for example, you may notice air bubbles, which will cause the preserved fruit to slowly spoil.

      Find out more about COVID-19

      Still looking for more information on the pandemic? Read more about COVID-19’s impact on life in Canada, or reach out to us at if you have any questions.

      If you have symptoms of the illness caused by the coronavirus, here’s what to do in your part of the country.

      For full coverage of how your province or territory is responding to COVID-19, visit your local CBC News site.

      To get this newsletter daily as an email, subscribe here

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