Italy looks to new business and political ties with Saudi Arabia

Italy looks to new business and political ties with Saudi Arabia
Tourists wearing protective masks outside the Colosseum in Rome. (AFP)
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Updated 12 November 2020

Italy looks to new business and political ties with Saudi Arabia

Italy looks to new business and political ties with Saudi Arabia
  • Undersecretary for trade says Saudi Arabia’s response ‘will help defeat pandemic’

ROME: The Italian government has praised Saudi Arabia’s running of the G20 amid “very challenging” circumstances due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, and expects the forthcoming G20 Summit, held in the Kingdom, to embolden a “strong commitment” on multilateralism.

“I want to compliment Saudi Arabia for running the G20 in these really unprecedented circumstances,” Italian Undersecretary of Foreign Affairs Ivan Scalfarotto, who will represent his country at the summit, said.

In an interview with Arab News, Scalfarotto, 55, who is in charge of the foreign trade dossier of Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte’s government, expressed his “deep sympathy for the difficult conjuncture that the Kingdom is facing due to the pandemic,” adding: “We are all in the same boat.”

 

Elected to the Italian Chamber of Deputies for the Partito Democratico, and now a member of Italia Viva, Scalfarotto has a proven business background, having worked for several years in managerial positions in the City of London. 

“Saudi Arabia had to handle the G20 in a very challenging time, also from an organizational perspective, because when we meet at multilateral fora, we tend to work with each other. Of course, there are formal meetings, but there’s also a lot of opportunities to talk to each other, cooperate and work on single issues,” he said.

Scalfarotto recalled that, normally, a number of meetings would run in tandem alongside summits such as the G20.

 

“In this case it was not possible, so I would say that the Saudi presidency did very well to keep us together and to keep the work flowing, in spite of the very difficult circumstances. We really appreciated their work and their commitment, and especially their ability to bring to our attention the most important issues we’re facing at this very moment.”

The undersecretary has high expectations for the G20 summit. “Especially after this pandemic we’re currently facing, what we need to see is a strong commitment of multilateralism,” he said, adding he was convinced that “this huge unprecedented challenge showed us that the only way forward for the world economy is strengthening the multilateral institutions in charge of regulating trade and economic relations.

“We are in the process of appointing a new director general (at the World Trade Organization). We know that the dispute settlement body has been stuck for some time already. So I think that what we have learned — the hard way — in facing this pandemic is that we need to leverage each other’s strengths and make sure that we get more integration; more globalization, not less globalization, within a multilateral and rule-based system.”




Italian trade envoy Ivan Scalfarotto.

The pandemic, Scalfarotto believes, “has been, and actually represents, an unprecedented challenge.” He recalled that the last major pandemic the world went through before COVID-19 was the 1918 “Spanish flu,” but added: “The world was completely different at that time. There was no internet. People were not traveling around. There was no globalization. In a way, the world seemed so much, much bigger at that time.

“Thanks to technology, now it is smaller, and this huge infection has basically hit all the continents.”

However, Scalfarotto is confident of a better future, and that the pandemic will be defeated. 

“History has taught us that humans were always able to face this kind of challenge. And I believe that the level of technology we have available now will be very, very important and useful for us all,” he said.

 

“I also believe that this will be something that forces us to carry out reforms that are needed in so many countries,” he added, highlighting bureaucracy as one. “But we also need to increase digitalization processes around the world. Then, I think of everything related to the environment, and sustainability.

“Most of the time, if they are well-handled, crises can turn into opportunities. We will have to restart and build with a brand new approach to the economy, with more attention to technological development and sustainability. It is a hard time, but I’m confident that Italy and the rest of the world will make it in the end.”

Scalfarotto also talked about the bilateral relations between Italy and Saudi Arabia, which he called “very good.”

Between the two countries, he said, “there are many areas of mutual interest. I would say that the business relations and political relations between Italy and Saudi Arabia are very good. Vision 2030 is a very important framework to develop cooperation in many sectors.”

He added he wanted to see improvement of bilateral cooperation in several fields, from infrastructure to manufacturing, but also in other sectors such as logistics, energy, health care, tourism and entertainment.

“There are so many fields where our economies and our skills are complementary. I’m sure we will be working together in an even more cohesive way so that we can build on our cooperation, for the benefit of both our countries.

“In the past years we have worked together very well, especially in the oil and gas industry,” he added. “A number of Italian companies have worked together with Saudi Aramco in that field, contributing to make the Kingdom a global leader in oil and gas. I believe that a portion of the success of Saudi Arabia in that sector comes also out of Italian competencies and quality.” For this reason, Scalfarotto believes that the G20 Summit could be an occasion for new political and business deals between Italy and the Kingdom. For the moment Scalfarotto does not want to show his cards, but he is definitely confident.

“I hope so, of course. I’m not in a position to comment on this because you wouldn’t comment on deals that are not closed.” He said. “But let me say that it is another opportunity to work together very positively.

“When you have a good business relationship and good political relations, sooner or later new deals come up. So I’m sure we will see something coming up in the close future.”


Surge in demand for companies looking to set up in KSA

Surge in demand for companies looking to set up in KSA
Updated 8 min 58 sec ago

Surge in demand for companies looking to set up in KSA

Surge in demand for companies looking to set up in KSA
  • Consultants have seen a 50 percent rise in activity in the first quarter of 2021

RIYADH: Sovereign AEI, a firm which specializes in helping companies set up operations in the Kingdom, has seen a spike in business activity.

“The beginning of this year has been very encouraging as we have seen a 40 to 50 percent increase in Saudi Arabia market-entry activity, when compared to pre-pandemic levels,” Stuart D’Souza, co-founder and CEO of Arabian Enterprise Incubators (AEI), one of the partner firms that makes up Sovereign AEI, told Arab News.

As part of the ambitious Riyadh Strategy 2030 announced by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman earlier this year, the government wants to attract up to 500 international companies to set up their regional bases in the city, create around 35,000 new jobs for Saudi locals, and double the capital’s population.

The strategy aims to invest up to SR70 billion ($18.67 billion) into the national economy by the end of the decade. The strategy is already paying dividends.

“Sovereign AEI is helping to facilitate this new strategy. Our products and services are conducive with Riyadh Strategy 2030 by helping new and existing businesses capitalize on the expected significant growth forecast for the Kingdom,” Paul Arnold, managing director of Sovereign Saudi Arabia, told Arab News.

BACKGROUND

• The government wants to attract up to 500 international companies to set up their regional bases in the city, create around 35,000 new jobs for Saudi locals, and double the capital’s population.

• The strategy aims to invest up to SR70 billion ($18.67 billion) into the national economy by the end of the decade. The strategy is already paying dividends.

“We are also encouraging businesses to look ahead and establish a physical presence in the Kingdom, while taking into consideration new criteria set to come into force by 2024, the specifics of which are yet to be formally announced,” he added.

Sovereign has been operating in Saudi Arabia for about 20 years and AEI since 2012. They formed their joint partnership in 2019.

In 2019, the company helped 600 businesses visit Saudi Arabia to investigate potential opportunities. Half were first-time visitors and over 70 percent went on to establish new business links in the Kingdom. AEI alone has helped over 1,500 foreign businesses to enter, establish or expand in Saudi Arabia since 2012.

Last year, despite the restrictions as a result of the pandemic, Sovereign AEI reported a 300 percent increase in corporate services in Saudi Arabia. The team is expecting this positive growth to continue in 2021.

“The Saudi market presents tremendous opportunities. Most companies are now aware of the potential of the market, the main pillars of Vision 2030 and the significant number of economic reforms carried out over the past 18 months. However, plotting a road map to success can be a challenge,” Arnold said.

“Our principles are to educate, de-risk and enable the client’s ability to enter, establish or expand in the Kingdom. Our robust performance in the first quarter is a testament to the attractive nature of the Saudi market and we continue to see a growing interest and increasing shift of client focus toward the Kingdom, as the country continues to unveil new strategic initiatives,” he added.


New oil price surge caps year of recovery since ‘Black Monday’

New oil price surge caps year of recovery since ‘Black Monday’
Updated 11 min 16 sec ago

New oil price surge caps year of recovery since ‘Black Monday’

New oil price surge caps year of recovery since ‘Black Monday’
  • Anniversary of US crude plunging to minus-$40 at start of pandemic recession

DUBAI: Oil prices resumed their surge on global markets on Tuesday as traders shrugged off the memory of “Black Monday” 2020, when some crude prices went into negative territory at the start of the pandemic recession.
Brent crude, the global benchmark, went above $68 a barrel for the first time in over a year, while West Texas Intermediate, which approached minus-$40 at the depth of the oil crisis exactly a year ago, leapt above $64.
The resurgence in the oil price — which has seen some experts suggesting the possibility of a “supercycle” in which crude goes back above $100 a barrel — is partly down to improved prospects as the global economy moves outs of pandemic lockdowns.
The global rollout of coronavirus vaccines has led economic experts to predict a sharp recovery in growth in 2021, with the International Monetary Fund recently forecasting a sharp rise in economic activity for the rest of the year. China last week said its economy had grown by 18.3 percent in the first quarter of the year.
But oil analysts believe the actions of OPEC+ — the producers’ alliance led by Saudi Arabia and Russia —had been the biggest factor in helping reduce the huge glut of oil that threatened to swamp the world market last spring.
Since last April, OPEC+ has taken more than 3 billion barrels of oil off the global market, through a combination of strong internal discipline and voluntary cuts by Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest exporter.
Prince Abdul Aziz bin Salman, the Saudi Energy Minister and co-chairman of OPEC+, has repeatedly urged caution on the 23-member organization as COVID-19 cases re-emerge in some parts of the world. Europe and India are the latest causes of concern.
“The reality remains that the global picture is far from even, and the recovery is far from complete,” he told the last OPEC+ meeting.
The oil price bulls are encouraged by increasing demand from China, the biggest oil consumer in the world.
Figures from the country’s customs regulator, released on Tuesday, showed that crude oil imports from Saudi Arabia — its biggest supplier — had risen by nearly 9 percent in March, with strong domestic demand bolstered by a freeing up of supplies after port congestions.
Some analysts still believe Brent crude could hit $75 this year, and reckon $100 a barrel next year is a possibility.
But nobody appears to believe the volatile market conditions of last spring, and negative oil prices, will happen again.
Robin Mills, chief executive officer of consultancy Qamar Energy, told Arab News: “That was a pretty unusual set of circumstances.”
He added: “Never say never, and traders have short memories, but I think the fixes in place would make it unlikely to go negative again.”


Egypt targets investments of $80 billion

Egypt targets investments of $80 billion
Updated 23 min 29 sec ago

Egypt targets investments of $80 billion

Egypt targets investments of $80 billion
  • Plan forecasts 125 percent increase in funding for production sector

CAIRO: Egypt is aiming to raise EGP 1.25 trillion ($80 billion) as part of its investment plan for the fiscal year 2021/2022, according to the Egyptian Minister of Planning and Economic Development Hala Al-Saeed.

The investment plan forecasts a 125 percent increase in funding for the production sector, the minister said, along with a 30 percent increase for the country’s service sector.

Al-Saeed said the plan helps address the public spending commitments related to health and education and scientific research, as well funding for the continued efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

She said priority would be given to high-productivity sectors that drive sustainable economic growth in Egypt such as the manufacturing, communications, information technology and agriculture sectors.

According to the minister, the most important goals of the 2021/2022 sustainable development plan include addressing important social issues such as gender equality and public investments into green projects.


Korean envoy invites Saudi Arabia to GICC2021

Korean Ambassador Jo Byung-Wook during a meeting with Prince Saud bin Talal bin Badr and officials from Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs and Housing. (Supplied)
Korean Ambassador Jo Byung-Wook during a meeting with Prince Saud bin Talal bin Badr and officials from Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs and Housing. (Supplied)
Updated 20 April 2021

Korean envoy invites Saudi Arabia to GICC2021

Korean Ambassador Jo Byung-Wook during a meeting with Prince Saud bin Talal bin Badr and officials from Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs and Housing. (Supplied)
  • The annual conference provides an opportunity to present projects to potential Korean partners, and to hold personal consultations

RIYADH: South Korean Ambassador Jo Byung-Wook has invited Saudi Arabia to attend the Global Infrastructure Cooperation Conference (GICC2021).

The annual conference provides an opportunity to present projects to potential Korean partners, and to hold personal consultations.

The ambassador met Prince Saud bin Talal bin Badr, undersecretary at the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs and Housing for housing subsidies, and general supervisor of the International Cooperation Department at the ministry in Riyadh.

GICC2021 is scheduled for “later this year,” the ambassador told Arab News, adding that the meeting “reviewed the close, friendly and cooperative relations” between the two countries, and “agreed to continue to expand bilateral cooperation in the housing sector.”

He said: “I commended the Saudi government’s efforts to help Saudi families own their house through the Sakani program, taking note of the signing of four agreements during the Sakani Forum held last Thursday in Riyadh.”

The Sakani program helped 70,000 families in the first quarter of 2021, surpassing its target of serving 51,000 families.

It was formed in 2017 by the Ministry of Housing and the Real Estate Development Fund, with the aim of facilitating home ownership in the Kingdom by creating new housing stock, allocating plots and homes to nationals, and financing their purchase. It has a goal of reaching 70 percent home ownership by 2030.

The program aims to serve 220,000 Saudi families this year by creating 50,000 housing units, facilitating the reservation of 30,000 residential land plots, and arranging 140,000 real estate loans. To date, Sakani has enabled more than 350,000 families to own homes.


Finance giant Fitch partners with SIDF Academy for Saudi talent program

SIDF Academy has more than 47 years’ experience in training employees in the finance, technology, industry, mining, energy and logistics industries. (File Photo)
SIDF Academy has more than 47 years’ experience in training employees in the finance, technology, industry, mining, energy and logistics industries. (File Photo)
Updated 20 April 2021

Finance giant Fitch partners with SIDF Academy for Saudi talent program

SIDF Academy has more than 47 years’ experience in training employees in the finance, technology, industry, mining, energy and logistics industries. (File Photo)
  • Fitch Learning: Scheme will ‘set professionals on fast track for success’
  • SIDF Academy: ‘Collaboration represents major step on path to train, develop keen talent’

LONDON: Fitch Learning, the knowledge and training arm of global financial leader Fitch Group, has announced a partnership program with the Saudi Industrial Development Fund (SIDF) to boost financial education in the Kingdom.

The delivery of the Certified Investment Financing Professional (CIFP) training program will “enrich the financial skills of local talent,” and “provide them with a better insight into the increasingly complex global financial landscape,” Fitch Learning said in a statement.

The program will be delivered in cooperation with SIDF Academy, which aims to build knowledge in key sectors in line with Saudi Arabia’s industrial vision.

It will “allow CIFP participants to keep pace with the Saudi economy, and also offer them a pathway to building global expertise and qualifications,” Fitch Learning said.

The CIFP program will target employees in the finance, credit and investment industries. It will include three levels with 18 distinct training modules, including financial accounting, financial analysis, lending, business development and financial modeling.

“Saudi Arabia is a key strategic market for the Fitch Group, and we are delighted to play a key role helping the Kingdom enrich financial training skills across the Kingdom,” said Fitch Learning CEO Andreas Karaiskos.

“We will deliver exactly the right international financial certification opportunities via our CIFP program to set professionals on the fast track for success.”

SIDF Academy Director Dr. Kholod Ashgar said: “We are proud to be working together with Fitch Learning, a leading global provider of professional development courses for the financial services industry, to deliver this CIFP program via SIDF Academy.

“This collaboration represents a major step on our path to train and develop our keen talent to stimulate future prosperity, jobs and growth in this vital sector of the Saudi economy.”

SIDF Academy has more than 47 years’ experience in training employees in the finance, technology, industry, mining, energy and logistics industries.

In 2019, SIDF was aligned with Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 reform plan, enabling the fund to play a vital role in shaping the Kingdom’s future.