Saudi Arabia remains a bastion of economic stability
It is no secret that the Kingdom has been subjected to a concerted negative media campaign over the past year. Aiming to plant the seeds of doubt into the hearts of potential tourists, investors and entrepreneurs, this highly sophisticated campaign is still utilizing nearly every media platform to spread unsubstantiated lies about Saudi Arabia’s economic viability on the world stage.
As someone who is professionally and emotionally invested in improving the Kingdom’s image abroad, I can tell you with absolute certainty that the battle against this campaign is far from over.
I can also tell you that the star-studded attendance at this year’s Future Investment Initiative (FII) proved that Saudi Arabia still enjoys a high degree of economic attractiveness among the world’s financial leaders and institutions. From Ray Dalio, founder of Bridgewater Associates, the world’s largest hedge fund, to Stephen Schwarzman, CEO of The Blackstone Group, it is clear that the world’s top hedge-fund managers, investors and bankers still flock to the Kingdom not only for the wealth of investment opportunities it offers, but also for its solid track record of economic stability.
Still, Saudi Arabia acknowledges the rapid onset of challenging global economic trends, such as automation, volatile energy markets and global tariff wars. It also acknowledges the challenges that are facing global investors, as global foreign direct investment has continued to fall for the third year in a row.
As such, the country is continuing to take strident steps toward new legislation to improve its investment climate, focusing on streamlining all aspects of doing business in the Kingdom. Carefully designed yet ambitious diversification strategies have been put into motion to open up key economic activities that will prove attractive to foreign investments.
In fact, Saudi Arabia is already experiencing the highest investor interest since 2010. More than 800 investor licenses have been awarded so far in 2019, according to the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA).
This year’s FII event proved that local and international innovators, investors and visionary entrepreneurs are eager to throw their ideas into the Kingdom’s economic arena
One key Saudi sector that investors are taking advantage of is the nation’s booming tourism industry. More than 55,000 tourist visas have been issued since Saudi Arabia officially opened its doors to the international community a little over a month ago, with visitors coming from China, Russia and the US.
Those lucky enough to attend the FII undoubtedly recognized the massive opportunity this strategic sector represents, as deals between local and international investors worth nearly $27 billion were announced by SAGIA and the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage.
FII attendees were also definitely aware of Saudi Arabia’s credit ranking, which was recently affirmed by Standard & Poor’s Global Ratings to be “A-/A-2.” While the Kingdom aspires to even higher ratings with other major credit-rating agencies, such as Moody’s, Aramco’s ability to bounce back and swiftly recover from the recent attacks on its oil facilities prompted S&P to assess that Saudi Arabia still enjoys a stable economic outlook. Its analysts stated that they “expect Saudi Arabia to redouble its efforts to secure key oil production and processing facilities, increase storage capacity, and enhance attempts to develop Red Sea export routes that would help avoid the volatile Arabian Gulf.”
Speaking of the prestigious oil company’s future, I would argue that the upcoming Aramco stock market launch should be measured by the company’s resilience, decisiveness and resolve in the face of terrorism. The Abqaiq oil facilities were subjected to a calculated act of malevolence, designed to not only throw doubt on Saudi Arabia’s ability to produce oil, but to sow discord and disarray in the world’s energy markets. Needless to say, the perpetrators failed to achieve either of those nefarious ends.
Just because the ship is turning toward more stable waters does not mean that Saudi Arabia’s sweeping economic reforms are not still taking effect. The private sector is still nowhere near its full potential, as a young and ambitious nation remains hungry for recognition and success.
If anything, this year’s FII event proved that local and international innovators, investors and visionary entrepreneurs are eager to throw their ideas into the Kingdom’s economic arena, which will inevitably transform Saudi Arabia into the globally competitive economic powerhouse it is meant to be.
• Reem Daffa is vice president and executive director of the Saudi American Public Relation Affairs Committee (SAPRAC).