DEAD SEA, Jordan: Saudi Arabia's energy minister Khalid Al-Falih spoke at the World Economic Forum for Middle East and North Africa about the Kingdom's new vision for industrialization in the Middle East region.
The discussion with WEF founder Klaus Schwab opened with the Swiss thanking Al-Falih for the large Saudi delegation at the forum, and Al-Falih voiced his appreciation for Schwab's support for the Middle East region at the various WEF events.
Al-Falih thaned Schwab for WEF's ongoing support for the Middle East region at various, previous events and he echoed Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's assertion that the region "can become the new Europe."
The energy minister used the cases of Saudi Aramco and SABIC as examples of how Saudi Arabia can lead the way in advancing industrialization in the region and he mentioned how important tapping into the youth talent pool for development.
On the role of the private sector in the success of Saudi Arabia's Vision 2030 plans and economic diversification, Al-Falih said the Kingdom's government was making sure the private sector was encouraged to operate and invest in the Kingdom, citing examples of airports and ports, and facilities privatization in Saudi Arabia.
When asked by Schwab about the transition from fossil fuels to newer, renewable energy sources and its impact on Saudi Arabia's economy, Al-Falih said the process would take many decades, and that with population growth adding 2 billion people to the global population and the subsequent expansion of the 'middle class,' demand for all sources of energy — including oil and gas — will still exist well into the middle of the century.
Al-Falih highlighted Saudi Arabia's "heavy investment" in renewable energies, and how he advises the Saudi government as well as his clients that the use of oil and gas has to be "more effective", adding that both would peak by the middle of the century and saying "we will still need all solutions."
The energy minister was also positive about the future for the Kingdom in terms of youth employment and women empowerment in the workplace — stating the need for the private sector to be involved in the education of youth, of both genders, given they it benefits them when hiring graduates. It is something the education ministry in Saudi Arabia is concentrating on by revamping the curriculum to help graduates get into the private sector, Al-Falih said.
And Al-Falih said that, while Saudi Arabia's plan for women empowerment in the work force will come about differently to the way it works in other parts of the world, he was certain women in the Kingdom and the Middle East region as a whole will thrive.