Saudi-UAE Business Forum in Riyadh highlights investment opportunities

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The forum kicked off on Thursday in the presence of officials and representatives of governmental agencies and investors from both sides. (SPA)
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The forum kicked off on Thursday in the presence of officials and representatives of governmental agencies and investors from both sides. (SPA)
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The forum kicked off on Thursday in the presence of officials and representatives of governmental agencies and investors from both sides. (SPA)
Updated 01 February 2019

Saudi-UAE Business Forum in Riyadh highlights investment opportunities

  • Global economic challenges require us to redouble efforts, create investment environment: Al-Qassabi
  • The forum kicked off in the presence of officials and representatives of government and investors from both sides

RIYADH: The second Saudi-UAE Business Forum was held on Thursday in Riyadh. Participants discussed various ways to enhance potential investment and commercial ties between the two countries across different sectors.

The Council of Saudi Chambers (CSC) organized the forum in cooperation with the United Arab Emirates Federation of the Chambers of Commerce and Industry and the Abu Dhabi Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The forum was attended by Saudi Minister of Commerce and Investment Majid Al-Qassabi, UAE Minister of Economy Sultan Al-Mansouri, CSC Chairman Sami Al-Obaidi, and Vice President of the UAE Chambers Abdullah Sultan Al-Owais, along with around 200 Saudi and Emirati businesspeople.

Speaking at the opening session, Al-Qassabi said that the forum is an extension of the directives of the Saudi-UAE Coordination Council, and stressed the long-standing friendly relationship between the two countries.

He noted that both countries are focused on sustainable growth, adding that the forum has contributed to the opening up of investment opportunities and opportunities for the private sector.

“We look forward to creating more opportunities, with an emphasis on what is going on in the international market,” he said, and stressed that the global economic challenges of today require both the public and private sectors to redouble their efforts to create a fruitful trading and investment environment.

Al-Qassabi expressed his hope that the forum would lead to initiatives that will contribute to further strengthening the partnership between the two countries to serve their common interests and help their economies grow.

In his speech, Al-Mansouri highlighted the importance of the forum, and of enhancing economic relations between the two countries.

“In recent years, we have taken great strides in uniting energies and enhancing integration with unlimited support from the wise leadership in our two countries, and with a clear vision expressed in the strategy and outcomes of the Saudi-Emirati Coordination Council,” he said, referring to a council that met for the first time in Jeddah last year and set out a five-year plan consisting of 44 joint projects in an initiative called the Strategy of Resolve.

Al-Mansouri went on to say that the forum provides a platform to discuss bilateral cooperation, focusing on effective contributions from the private sector.

The UAE minister echoed Al-Qassabi’s statement that the economic challenges facing the world today make it more necessary than ever for countries to work together to strengthen partnerships.

The CSC chairman said that the economy is the most “fundamental and influential engine” in Saudi-UAE relations. Al-Obaidi pointed out that the economic relationship between the Kingdom and the UAE is the largest between any two GCC countries. Trade between the two was worth $24 billion in 2017, he noted, adding that the UAE is one of the Kingdom’s most important trading partners — the third largest importer and sixth largest exporter to and from Saudi Arabia.

For his part, Al-Owais stressed the vital role that the business sector plays in both countries.

Following the opening ceremony, the forum was divided into two sessions. The first discussed opportunities for Saudi investors in the UAE, while the second discussed investment opportunities in Saudi Arabia, highlighting various Vision 2030 projects including Neom and Qiddiya.

Easy credit poses tough challenge for Russian economy minister

Updated 18 August 2019

Easy credit poses tough challenge for Russian economy minister

  • Measures being prepared to help indebted citizens; situation might blow up in 2021

MOSCOW: New machines popping up in Russian shopping centers seem innocuous enough — users insert their passport and receive a small loan in a matter of minutes.

But the devices, which dispense credit in Saint Petersburg malls at a sky-high annual rate of 365 percent, are another sign of a credit boom that has authorities worried.

Russians, who have seen their purchasing power decline in recent years, are borrowing more and more to buy goods or simply to make ends meet.

The level of loans has grown so much in the last 18 months that the economy minister warned it could contribute to another recession.

But it’s a sensitive topic. Limiting credit would deprive households of financing that is sometimes vital, and could hobble already stagnant growth.

The Russian economy was badly hit in 2014 by falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Moscow’s role in Ukraine, and it has yet to fully recover.

“Tightening lending conditions could immediately damage growth,” Natalia Orlova, chief economist at Alfa Bank, told AFP.

“Continuing retail loan growth is currently the main supporting factor,” she noted.

But “the situation could blow up in 2021,” Economy Minister Maxim Oreshkin warned in a recent interview with the Ekho Moskvy radio station.

He said measures were being prepared to help indebted Russians.

According to Oreshkin, consumer credit’s share of household debt increased by 25 percent last year and now represents 1.8 trillion rubles, around $27.5 billion.

For a third of indebted households, he said, credit reimbursement eats up 60 percent of their monthly income, pushing many to take out new loans to repay old ones.

Orlova said other countries in the region, for example in Eastern Europe, had even higher levels of overall consumer debt as a percentage of national output or GDP.

But Russian debt is “not spread equally, it is mainly held by lower income classes,” which are less likely to repay, she said.

The situation has led to friction between the government and the central bank, with ministers like Oreshkin criticizing it for not doing enough to restrict loans.

Meanwhile, economic growth slowed sharply early this year following recoveries in 2017 and 2018, with an increase of just 0.7 percent in the first half of 2019 from the same period a year earlier.

That was far from the 4.0 percent annual target set by President Vladimir Putin — a difficult objective while the country is subject to Western sanctions.

With 19 million people living below the poverty line, Russia is in dire need of development.

“The problem is that people don’t have money,” Andrei Kolesnikov of the Carnegie Center in Moscow wrote recently.

“This is why we can physically feel the trepidation of the financial and economic authorities,” he added. Kolesnikov described the government’s economic policy as something that “essentially boils down to collecting additional cash from the population and spending it on goals indicated by the state.”

At the beginning of his fourth presidential term in 2018, Putin unveiled ambitious “national projects.”

The cost of those projects — which fall into 12 categories that range from health to infrastructure — is estimated at $400 billion by 2024, of which $115 billion is to come from private investment.