Saudi reforms encourage investment in Kingdom: Davos panel

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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. (World Economic Forum / Greg Beadle)
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Minister of Economy and Planning Mohammad Al-Tuwaijri speaking during the "Next Steps for Saudi Arabia session. (World Economic Forum / Greg Beadle)
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Robin Niblett, Chatham House, Mohammed Al-Jadaan, finance minister, James Gorman, Morgan Stanley, Sarah Al-Suhaimi, Saudi Stock Exchange, Patrick Pouyanné, Total, and Mohammad Al-Tuwaijri, Minister of Economy and Planning at the "Next Steps for Saudi Arabia" session. (World Economic Forum/Greg Beadle)
Updated 27 January 2019
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Saudi reforms encourage investment in Kingdom: Davos panel

  • Morgan Stanley’s CEO James Gorman welcomed the social reforms, calling them essential progress to provide the backbone for the economic reforms
  • Saudi Minister of Economy and Planning Mohammad Al-Tuwaijri said to attract investors into Saudi Arabia needed to improve its infrastructure

DAVOS: Leading Saudi officials took center stage at the World Economic Forum on Thursday to drive home the message that a revitalized economy and increased foreign investment could not happen without the social reforms of Vision 2030.
Permitting women to drive, the reintroduction of cinemas and other entertainment, and renewed fiscal discipline were all driving foreign investors’ interest in Saudi Arabia, they said.

Economy and Planning Minister Mohammad Al-Tuwaijri said Saudi Arabia had to improve its infrastructure and provide evidence of it to warrant confidence — and he promised both.
“All you’re going to see in the next couple of years is evidence,” he said, but Saudi citizens had to feel the benefits too. “Unless we provide for the local market … our credibility is at stake.” 
The minister said unemployment had been steady for the past two years, but with 350,000 people entering the job market each year the government was exploring how to convert the money spent on social protection into a job creation fund. 

But it was also important to retain a diverse labor market, with the skills that expatriate workers bring, he said. “We cannot say Saudization is the solution. We need to have a labor market that is mixed.” To that end, the government had ordered a top-to-toe overhaul of the education system “from kindergarten to future jobs.”

Minister of Economy and Planning Mohammad Al-Tuwaijri speaking during the "Next Steps for Saudi Arabia session. (World Economic Forum / Greg Beadle)

Minister of Finance Mohammed Al-Jadaan said the Kingdom was determined to impose fiscal discipline, and its gross domestic product had grown by 2.3 percent last year compared with a 0.7 percent contraction in 2017.
He conceded there was some skepticism when the government pledged in December to reduce its budget deficit while announcing its biggest-ever spending of $295 billion. 
“There were some raised eyebrows … but we ended 2018 exactly where we thought we would be,” he said.
Sarah Al-Suhaimi, chair of the Saudi Stock Exchange, echoed his optimism, and said improvements in the Kingdom’s financial system had improved its ranking as a place to invest.
“One of the main objectives was to join the global community. We do consider ourselves to be the access for international investment into the Middle East and especially the GCC,” she said.
Five megaprojects in infrastructure, water and health care had been awarded to the private sector in the past three months “and there are more to come in the next four months.”


Muslim World League signs deal with Moscow to promote interfaith dialogue

Updated 22 April 2019
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Muslim World League signs deal with Moscow to promote interfaith dialogue

  • Al-Issa lauds Russian model of national harmony and coexistence
  • Al-Issa also met with Speaker of the Russian Parliament last month

MOSCOW: The Secretary-General of the Muslim World League (MWL) Sheikh Dr. Mohammed bin Abdul Karim Al-Issa held a meeting with the president of the Russian People’s Council, Sergei Ordzhonikidze, and other council members, where they discussed issues of common interest.

They looked into means of boosting cooperation between Russia and the Muslim world, supporting positive national integration programs and countering extremist speeches and Islamophobia.

Al-Issa lauded the Russian model of national harmony and coexistence, while Ordzhonikidze presented Al-Issa with a copy of the council’s yearly report.

At the meeting the two parties signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to share their experiences in the fight against extremist ideologies, the promotion of interreligious dialogue and coexistence and the implementation of joint projects to achieve shared goals. They also stressed the pure and peaceful values of Islam and rejected all forms of extremism and Islamophobia.

The meeting was attended by the Russian deputy chairman of the Committee for the Development of Agriculture, Aygun Memedov, the chairman of the Committee on the Normalization of Relations Between Nationalities and Religions, Sheikh Albert Karganov, the Mufti of Moscow and the Khanti-Mansisk Region in Siberia Sheikh Tahir Samatov.

Last month, Al-Issa met with Speaker of the Russian Parliament Vyacheslav Volodin. They discussed subjects related to promoting and supporting dialogue among followers of different religions and civilizations, activating cultural contacts and exchanges between the Muslim world and Russia.

Al-Issa signed a cooperation agreement between the MWL and Moscow’s Fund for Islamic Culture, Science and Education. The agreement focused on tackling extremism and promoting tolerance. The agreement stressed the need for cooperation in the fight against extremism, intolerance, aggression and hostility among religions, races and ideologies that could lead to terrorism.

Both parties agreed to exchange information on the activities of scientific centers, cultural forums and websites.