Building a new investment environment in the Kingdom
This weekend, the inaugural Saudi-US CEO Forum will be held in Riyadh to coincide with the historic state visit of US President Donald Trump.
At the forum, a series of landmark deals will be reached to grant a further round of licenses for 100 percent ownership by US companies in key sectors for growth and development in the Saudi economy.
This progress is not simply good news for Saudi Arabia as a nation, but also a welcome boost for Saudi and American workers and businesses as the two countries seek to create jobs and further cement their economic interdependence. Our ambition is bold: To deliver 450,000 non-government-sector jobs inside Saudi Arabia under the National Transformation Program (NTP) 2020, the first step to achieving the goals of Vision 2030.
On top of the operating licenses unveiled in 2016 during the visit of Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to the US, this weekend’s agreements will deliver thousands of jobs, taking us on our journey toward our overall target and making tangible gains affecting the future career prospects of thousands of Saudis.
Our ambition to develop the knowledge economy in the Kingdom will rely on collaboration between domestic Saudi business expertise and innovation, and the knowledge and perspectives of our US counterparts. Partnership for the generations is our watch-phrase, and the participation of leading Saudi firms in this weekend’s forum underlines the importance of the participation of Saudi businesses to further deepening bilateral ties.
The Kingdom is undergoing an economic transformation unlike any other G-20 nation. These new licenses will continue our efforts to enable foreign companies to invest in retailing and wholesaling without a local partner, giving investors 100 percent equity when reaching into a market of 1.5 billion consumers across the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia.
The changes in the investment environment are specifically targeted to improve opportunities for investors in Saudi Arabia, as well as boosting foreign direct investment too. The Kingdom is uniquely positioned for both internal and foreign direct investment. The population is growing rapidly, and purchasing power among Saudi consumers continues to grow and boost further the dominant economy in the Middle East.
Our commitment to enhance the investment environment will equip us to achieve our aspirations of Vision 2030 by diversifying the Saudi economy and opening up new sectors by privatizing public services and assets. Crucially, the new licenses to be agreed this weekend will create unprecedented opportunities for new investors, increasing the ease of doing business while strengthening the established ties of economic interdependency.
Of course there is further to go, and as the global investment landscape shifts, the reforms we are enacting are having even greater impact on our economic prosperity and diversification. We know that to truly prepare our economy for the next phase of growth and opportunity, we must increase the ease of doing business in Saudi Arabia and open the way for leading global businesses to enhance their level of investment here.
By collaborating with old friends in the US, we are ensuring that our future is forward-looking, argues the head of Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority.
An essential plank in our strategy to achieve this is the introduction of the 100 percent ownership licenses that allow foreign companies to invest in Saudi Arabia on their own. These are significant and tangible steps designed to bring record levels of foreign direct investment to the Kingdom and make our economy robust and multi-geared for future generations.
Investing in and fostering local talent will build the local economy and support a transformation to a more sustainable and diversified Saudi economy.
By opening our economy to these partnerships and collaboration with old friends in the US and with companies worldwide, we are ensuring that Saudi Arabia’s future is as a forward-looking and connected country. Whether in health care or technology, the agreements reached this weekend will drive billions of riyals of investment into jobs, skills and infrastructure.
Our economy benefits from this boost to inward investment and job-creation that Vision 2030 has encouraged, and ensures that Saudi Arabia has a competitive edge. To qualify for a 100 percent license, international firms must invest over SR200 million ($53.3 million) to boost Saudi employment and develop skills over five years, while emphasizing manufacturing, research and development, or logistics.
This initiative is not isolated. It is central to our plans to diversify the Saudi economy and open up new sectors by privatizing public services and assets to allow new investment for both Saudi and US companies.
We have already made progress in comprehensively raising the competitiveness and attractiveness of the Kingdom as an investment destination, including establishing a new arbitration center designated specifically for commercial disputes and issuing a new companies law.
This is only the start. The Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA) is actively working with international partners to establish new operating licenses and drive further investment to the Saudi economy. The agreements to be announced at the Saudi-US CEO Forum this weekend will mark a key staging post on our journey toward a diversified and internationally competitive private sector in Saudi Arabia.
Our mutually beneficial agreements reached with leading US firms will open the way for more opportunities to work closely with our American counterparts and establish a partnership for future generations. All this equates to better services and career opportunities for Saudi citizens, and strengthened ties to long-held partnerships with the US private sector.
• Ibrahim Al-Omar is the governor of the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA). He brings over 15 years of private sector experience to SAGIA. He has served on the boards of numerous public and private sector organizations, and as the chairman for three major international telecom projects for various consortiums. He is an alumnus of Harvard’s Program for Leadership Development, and holds a bachelor’s degree in electric engineering from the King Fahd University of Petroleum & Minerals (KFUPM).