The Saudi economy: ‘With great challenges come great opportunities’

Julien Hawari, co-CEO of Mediaquest Corp.
Updated 10 April 2017
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The Saudi economy: ‘With great challenges come great opportunities’

JEDDAH: Few would dispute that Saudi Arabia’s economy has witnessed some tough times.
But as this week’s Top CEO Conference will hear, there are some golden opportunities amid the gloom that followed the oil-price crash.
Some of the burning issues facing corporations today will be discussed at the conference, which is being held for the first time in Saudi Arabia after previous editions in Dubai.
Held under the theme “Adapting to Disruption: New Roles, New Realities,” the event is organized by Dubai-based Trends magazine, an international publication on Arab affairs, in association with Insead business school.
Julien Hawari, co-CEO of Mediaquest Corp, the publisher of Trends, said that it is significant that this is the first time the event will be held in the Kingdom.
The country, grappling with significant economic challenges, last year laid out the ambitious Vision 2030 reform plan, which aims to wean it off its addiction to oil.
“With great challenges come great opportunities,” Hawari told Arab News.
“Hosting the Top CEO Conference and Awards in Saudi Arabia made sense, as Saudi (Arabia) is the giant economy of the region and it is fully taking on its role (as the) engine of growth for the region.
“Saudi Arabia is preparing itself (for) a transformation that will benefit society and create more jobs for our children. The issues are complex and the Top CEO Conference addresses many of those.”
The diversification of the economy is the underlying theme of Saudi Arabia’s reform plan — something that is common to strategies pursued by some other regional countries.
“Moving away from an oil economy has become a necessity for the entire GCC,” Hawari said.
“We believe that the Arab world has a lot to offer... (Members of) our new generation are bringing with them expertise and experience from the outside and a deep knowledge on how to take forward our societies.”
Key factors in this regional change include corporate governance and transparency, ensuring fair competition, and creating jobs — all issues that are set to be addressed at the Top CEO event.
The roller coaster ride in oil prices is not the only factor impacting the Arabian Gulf. New technology is also turning old business models upside down.
“One of the key issues Top CEO is focusing on this year is disruption,” said Hawari. “The full impact of the technology revolution is hitting the region. This makes the life of business leaders extremely challenging, as they need to have their eyes on 10 different things to take forward their organizations.
“A new norm is shaping and changing many status quos in regional business.”
The Top CEO event is set to be held on April 10-11 at King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC) near Jeddah.
In its third edition in 2017, the accompanying awards will honor the top 100 chief executive officers after evaluating their companies’ listings on the Gulf Cooperation Council’s (GCC) stock exchanges.


Urgency needed to boost Palestinian economy: IMF chief

Updated 26 June 2019
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Urgency needed to boost Palestinian economy: IMF chief

  • The MF has been warning of severe deterioration in the Palestinian economy
  • ‘If there is an economic plan, if there is urgency, it’s a question of making sure that the momentum is sustained’

MANAMA: IMF chief Christine Lagarde said Wednesday that major economic growth was possible in the Palestinian territories if all sides showed urgency, as she took part in a US-led conference boycotted by the Palestinian leadership.
The International Monetary Fund has been warning of severe deterioration in the Palestinian economy, with tax revenue blocked in a dispute with Israel which has also imposed a crippling blockade on the Gaza Strip for more than a decade.
“If there is an economic plan, if there is urgency, it’s a question of making sure that the momentum is sustained,” said Lagarde.
The IMF chief is attending a conference in Bahrain to discuss the economic aspects of a United States plan for Israeli-Palestinian peace, which has already been rejected by the Palestinians as it fails to address key political issues.
Lagarde said for the US plan to work “it will require all the goodwill in the world on the part of all parties — private sector, public sector, international organizations and the parties on the ground and their neighbors.”
Citing examples of post-conflict countries, Lagarde said that private investors needed progress in several sectors including strengthening the central bank, better managing public finance and mobilizing domestic revenue.
“If anti-corruption is really one of the imperatives of the authorities — as it was in Rwanda, for instance — then things can really take off,” she said.
The plan presented by White House adviser Jared Kushner calls for $50 billion of investment in the Palestinian territories and its neighbors within a decade.
The proposals for infrastructure, tourism, education and more aim to create one million Palestinian jobs.
Gross domestic product in the Gaza Strip declined by eight percent last year, while there was only minor growth in the West Bank.
Kushner, opening the conference on Tuesday, called the plan the “Opportunity of the Century” — and said the Palestinians needed to accept it before a deal can be reached on political solutions.
The Palestinian Authority has rejected the conference, saying that the US and Israel are trying to dangle money to impose their ideas on a political settlement.
Washington says it will unveil the political aspects of its peace deal at a later date, most likely after Israel’s September election.