SAGIA aims to get Kingdom in top 20 for ease of doing business by 2020

Saudi Arabia is introducing measures to improve the speed and ease of doing business in the Kingdom. (Getty)
Updated 03 May 2018
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SAGIA aims to get Kingdom in top 20 for ease of doing business by 2020

  • Kingdom has introduced new laws on arbitration and insolvency and plans to speed up the business visa process
  • “We are a model for the whole world in how to improve the business environment," says SAGIA chief

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia wants to be in the top 20 countries measured by “ease of doing business” by 2020, the head of the Kingdom’s investment promotion agency, the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA) said on Thursday.

Ibrahim Al-Omar, SAGIA governor, said that there were a lot of reforms that would have to be accomplished if it were to achieve top 20 status as measured annually by the World Bank, which put the Kingdom at number 92 in the world out of 190 countries.

But he said that there was a “great interest” among international investors to get more involved in business in the Kingdom and reforms were being pushed through fast.

“We are a model for the whole world in how to improve the business environment”, he said, highlighting the new arbitration and insolvency laws, the efficiency of the Kingdom’s ports, and the ease and speed of getting a business visa.

“There has been some negative feedback on the insolvency laws, but really they are a protection tool for any business. It will give you the opportunity to reschedule your liabilities,” Al-Omar said.

He met around 400 companies in the UK and US when he accompanied the royal tour of those countries, and told them of the Kingdom’s investment potential.

But he said there were risks perceived by international investors because of the limited clarity and awareness of reforms in the Kingdom. “It is hard to communicate when we’re going so fast,” he said.

Al-Omar, who described SAGIA as a provider of “VIP concierge services” for potential investors, also said that there was only limited market information about the investment opportunities available, and that SAGIA was setting up an online portal listing all potential deals on offer.


UK shoppers rein in spending as Brexit nears

Updated 30 min 21 sec ago
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UK shoppers rein in spending as Brexit nears

  • Retail sales volumes fell 0.2 percent in the fourth quarter after a 0.2 percent rise in the three months to November
  • Businesses are also cutting investment before Britain’s scheduled departure from the EU in late March

LONDON: British shoppers cut back on spending in the three months to December for the first time since last spring, adding to evidence of a consumer slowdown as Brexit approaches, data showed on Friday.
Retail sales volumes fell 0.2 percent in the fourth quarter after a 0.2 percent rise in the three months to November, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.
Friday’s data chimed with other signs that consumer spending is cooling after a strong summer.
Businesses are also cutting investment before Britain’s scheduled departure from the European Union in late March, leaving the overall economy growing at a snail’s pace.
In December alone, retail sales fell 0.9 percent, recoiling after November’s Black Friday splurges, but were 3.0 percent higher than a year earlier. Both readings were below economists’ forecasts in a Reuters poll.
“A major concern for retailers will be that already cautious consumers further limit their spending in the near term at least due to the heightened uncertainties over Brexit,” economist Howard Archer from the EY ITEM Club consultancy said.
Sterling and British government bonds were little changed after the data.
The ONS said the value of sales fell for the first time in three years in the three months to December, underlining a squeeze on retailers’ profit margins as they battle for customers.
A survey last week from the British Retail Consortium showed retailers failed to increase Christmas sales for the first time since the depths of the global financial crisis a decade ago.
Supermarkets Sainsbury’s and Morrison missed Christmas sales forecasts though Tesco beat them. Clothing retailer Next and department store John Lewis reported a late surge in demand.
The ONS data showed a drop in sales of carpets and floor coverings, possibly reflecting a stalling housing market.
While disarray over Brexit has weighed on consumer confidence, there has been some comfort for households recently with the fastest underlying pay growth since 2008 and inflation falling to an almost two-year low of 2.1 percent.
Highlighting the easing of inflation pressures, the ONS’s measure of annual price increases in stores cooled to 0.6 percent in December from 1.3 percent in November, the smallest uptick in more than two years.