RIYADH: The US-Saudi Arabian Business Council hosted a virtual town hall meeting on Wednesday to discuss the B20’s COVID-19 initiative, which addresses the economic effects of the pandemic.
The meeting aimed to raise awareness of the efforts by the B20, the members of which are business leaders from the G20 nations, and provide US and Saudi private-sector organizations with a platform to share their experiences during the health crisis, to help develop practical recommendations that can be presented to the G20.
Saudi Arabia holds the presidency of the G20 this year, and Dr. Abdulwahab Al-Sadoun is The Kingdom’s “sherpa” of the B20, responsible for the operational management of the presidency of the group.
In his keynote speech during Wednesday’s meeting, he highlighted the ways in which the B20’s COVID-19 initiative is tapping into the expertise of the global business community in an effort to mitigate the economic crisis caused the pandemic.
He also touched on the effect of the crisis on B20 Saudi Arabia’s approach to its key areas of focus, and the role of the business community in future crises of a similar magnitude. In particular, he noted that the 2021 G20 summit will be held in Italy, which is one of the countries worst affected by the pandemic.
Al-Sadoun reviewed the response to the crisis to date, and suggested the measures that must be implemented by industry and governments as they begin to focus their efforts on reviving the global economy. He stressed it is important to adopt a collaborative approach to tackle a crisis of this scale, and the need to protect workers through a coordinated response from, and ongoing discussions between, the global business community and governments.
“COVID-19 demonstrated clearly that SMEs (small and medium enterprises) were more exposed to suffer economic consequences,” Al-Sadoun said. “We should prioritize micro, small and medium-sized enterprises across the world as they are being hardest hit and account for more than 80 percent of employment in many countries. We must safeguard their viability.”
The B20 secretariat is working with businesses and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development on policy prescriptions, he added.
According to OECD, the short-term outlook for the global economy predicts a drop in growth this year from a pre-coronavirus estimate of 2.9 percent to 2.4 percent, with possible negative growth in the first quarter. More than 25 million people worldwide are expected to lose their jobs as a result of the effects on businesses of the COVID-19 crisis.
Turning to other B20 priorities, Al-Sadoun said that the participation of women has been prioritized for the first time, adding that their representation in the group now stands at 34 percent.
The meeting was moderated by Hall Delano Roosevelt, the president and CEO of USSABC. He noted that the B20 has already launched initiatives to help SMEs and a set of recommendations will be submitted to support these efforts.
Abdallah S. Jum’ah, the Saudi co-chairman of USSABC and chairman of the Saudi Investment Bank, thanked the council for hosting a virtual meeting and providing a forum to discuss the new business reality created by the global crisis, and prepare for the future.
“We have now learned to work in the digital world to achieve the goals,” he said.
USSABC is a member of B20 Saudi Arabia’s Trade and Investment Taskforce. The B20 group represents the global business community in all G20 member nations.