Published: Tue, December 12, 2017
Culture | By Antonia Gonzales

Saudi Arabia opens cinemas following a 35-year ban

Less than a year ago, Saudi Arabia's highest-ranking cleric had described cinemas as "a depravity".

In an attempt to balance the budget and rebuild the economy, Saudi Arabia has chose to raise domestic prices for gasoline and jet fuel, according to a source familiar with the matter. Gasoline and other fuels such as diesel, kerosene and heavy fuel oil, will see incremental price increases over several years, the person said. Jet fuel prices are expected to be hiked to global levels in one go, the unnamed source told Bloomberg. Other fuel types and electricity tariffs are also expected to rise in price over the coming years.

Saudi Arabia's Finance Ministry did not immediately respond for a request for comment.

The initiative is the latest example of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman progressing Saudi Arabia into the 21st century through a wave of social legislation that includes allowing women to drive and approving music concerts.

The world's biggest oil exporter is struggling to cope with low prices and spending cuts aimed to reducing a budget deficit that reached about 15 percent of gross domestic product in 2015.

Fuel prices, excluding jet fuel, are not expected to rise to worldwide levels until 2023 at the earliest. Next year's budget will be announced on December 19.

More details about the regulatory frameworks will be announced later. Officials have said that the payments, meant to compensate low- and middle-income Saudis for austerity measures, will begin before the next round of subsidy cuts.

The CEO of VOX parent company Majid Al Futtaim, Alain Bejjani, said yesterday it would be looking to expand into Saudi Arabia.

Minister of Culture and Information Awwad bin Saleh Alawwad said in a statement: "As the industry regulator, the General Commission for Audiovisual Media has started the process for licensing cinemas in the Kingdom".

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