MIAMI: Equipping the youth of the world with financial literacy and opportunities is vital if they are to overcome the growing cost-of-living crisis, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the US told the Future Investment Initiative’s Priority conference in Miami on Thursday.
Princess Reema bint Bandar was speaking during a panel discussion of what the UN has described as the “largest cost-of-living crisis of the 21st century,” and its disproportionate effects on young people around the globe, who are on the front lines of the crisis.
She said there certainly needs to be more personal accountability and understanding of what is needed at an individual level, but also at the national and international levels.
“We have all been overspending, overbuying and overconsuming and this ‘click button, immediate delivery’ has skewed our perception of what our personal costs are, personal needs and our engagement,” she said. “I think we have been thinking too macro; let’s go back to micro and have little bit more personal responsibility.
“I think (understanding) the concept of interconnectivity of our behavior and our actions, and having financial literacy and financial engagement at a younger age, will allow us all to be more efficient citizens, regardless of whether it’s in the Kingdom, the Middle East or the West.
“I think we’ve lost the concept of our personal impact on economies and other people’s lives,” she added.
The ambassador highlighted the success of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 national development project in engaging the Kingdom’s youth and the speed with which new opportunities have been created outside of the traditional governmental and public sector.
Five years ago in Saudi Arabia, she said, very few young people had any desire to step outside the “comfort zone” of the government sector; now, 58 percent of young people aspire to entrepreneurship pathways, confident that a system is in place in the Kingdom to support them.
“The reason you’re seeing success among young people, not just entering the government but also the private sector, is because today every single young person knows their role in this vision of evolving our country,” she said.
“It is creating opportunity for the individual to be part of the collective and recognize that every piece or step of work or ambition they have adds to the collective well-being of everybody else. That is what’s really driving us as a nation.
“We’ve been able to create education pathways; over $100 million has been spent not just on traditional education but expanding the pipelines of opportunity for young people in (sectors such as) hospitality, tourism and sport,” Princess Reema added.
She also refuted criticism from outside the Kingdom of investment and job creation in these sectors being “culture-washing” or “sport-washing” by pointing out it had created 3 million jobs so that young people can earn a decent living and wage, which could “help them uplift not just themselves but their households and their families and create opportunities for others.”
She said she feels the Saudi approach in this regard is what is “inspiring about being in the Kingdom today,” adding: “We have a moment to inspire young people to not just take, but to also give.”
On the growing engagement of young Saudi women in the process, she said: “You cannot create an opportunity for one gender and not the other, and that’s something we’ve been able to accomplish through Vision 2030.”