The recent reforms in the Kingdom have been the drive behind foreign investment in the country, a panel debate on the “Next Steps for Saudi Arabia” at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos said Thursday.
Chairperson of the board of directors of the Saudi Stock Exchange, Sarah Al-Suhaimi said WEF reports reflected the positive changes in Saudi Arabia that had improved the country’s ranking in terms of investment.
“We have worked on developing the financial system of the capital market,” Al-Suhaimi told the panel, adding that in 2018 Saudi Arabia joined the FTSE Emerging Index which provides investors with a comprehensive means of measuring the performance
Saudi Minister of Economy and Planning Mohammad Al-Tuwaijri said to attract investors into Saudi Arabia needed to improve its infrastructure, which he says the Kingdom had been working on. This includes the 68 initiatives that were introduced last year to help the private sector.
Al-Tuwaijri also said unemployment rates had been kept steady over the past two years, while more women had entered the workforce, which he said played an important role in diversifying Saudi Arabia’s economy.
Minister of Finance Mohammed Al-Jadaan said that since the “significant economic and social reform,” the GDP of Saudi Arabia grew 2.3 percent in 2018.
In 2019 Saudi Arabia announced a $295 billion budget, which Al-Jadaan says with help the growth of the economy and create more jobs.
“We are determined to reduce the deficit from 19 percent to 5 percent,” he said.
Morgan Stanley’s CEO James Gorman welcomed the social reforms, calling them essential progress to provide the backbone for the economic reforms.
Meanwhile, French oil major Total’s chief executive Patrick Pouyanne said that Total was investing heavily in Saudi Arabia and that a petrol network in be established soon in the Kingdom.
When pressed by journalists on the Jamal Khashoggi case – the journalist who was killed in the Saudi embassy in Istanbul last year – Al-Jadaan said that Saudi Arabia was taking serious measures to hold those involved accountable.
Prosecutors in Saudi Arabia have said they will seek the death penalty for five defendants accused the murder of the journalist Khashoggi.
“We are absolutely sad about what happened to Jamal Khashoggi. Everyone in Saudi Arabia is sad. It goes against our beliefs and morals,” Al-Jadaan said, adding that the government has restructured the intelligence service as a result of the incident.