Saudi Arabia’s pioneering healthcare reforms leading the way across the region, experts insist

Special Saudi Arabia’s pioneering healthcare reforms leading the way across the region, experts insist
Saudi Arabia has set an ambitious plan in motion to expand healthcare facilities, with a particular emphasis on augmenting hospitals and primary healthcare centers. Shutterstock
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Updated 17 May 2024

Saudi Arabia’s pioneering healthcare reforms leading the way across the region, experts insist

Saudi Arabia’s pioneering healthcare reforms leading the way across the region, experts insist

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s bold healthcare reforms promise valuable lessons for the region and beyond, according to a senior official.

In an interview with Arab News, Adeel Kheiri, partner in Oliver Wyman’s India, Middle East and Africa health and life sciences practice, highlighted the Kingdom’s endeavors in this sector.

Saudi Arabia has embarked on a journey to prioritize the health and well-being of its citizens, laying a robust foundation for progress. 

This commitment has been evident through a steady increase in healthcare spending, with a staggering SR147 billion ($39.2 billion) allocated in 2020 alone, signaling a resolute dedication to revolutionize the nation’s health infrastructure.

Reflecting on this shift, Kheiri said: “Saudi Arabia’s ambitious healthcare reforms stand out for their scale, complexity, and rapid timeframe. This unique approach will undoubtedly offer valuable lessons learned for the IMEA (India, Middle East, and Africa) region and beyond.”

Vikas Kharbanda, Arthur D. Little’s Middle East partner and healthcare practice lead, echoed that analysis, and told Arab News that very few health systems have managed to “achieve the degree of structural, policy and operations reforms as Saudi Arabia is witnessing at the moment, particularly at the scale and geographical scope.”

Kharbanda expressed that the Kingdom is on a path to achieving an “unprecedented change” at a pace “that has not been seen in most health systems that have gone through similar modernization journeys.”

Foundation of progress

An ambitious plan has been set in motion to expand healthcare facilities, with a particular emphasis on augmenting hospitals and primary healthcare centers. 

According to project management and advisory services firm Currie & Brown, Saudi Arabia has 78,000 beds in more than 500 hospitals.

This is up from 445 hospitals and 64,694 beds in 2014.

At a macro level, the evolution of Saudi Arabia’s modern health system unfolded across three distinct periods, according to Arthur D. Little.

The initial decade of the century witnessed the early acknowledgment of challenges, leading to substantial investments in establishing core fundamentals. 

This included significant investments in physical infrastructure, formulation of health insurance policies, and the expansion of the healthcare network. 

“The second phase of development was triggered around the early part of the second decade amidst a growing burden on the public health system, increasing demand for services, the emergence of epidemics, steady growth in the health insurance sector, and need for efficiency that saw increasing focus on digitalization, integration, capacity, and productivity enhancement,” said Kharbanda.

The onset of the third phase of development, initiated toward the conclusion of the second decade, with the introduction of Vision 2030 and the Healthcare Sector Transformation Program, heralds a truly transformative era.

The program is transforming the Kingdom’s healthcare system to be more comprehensive, effective, and integrated than ever before. 

This enhanced system prioritizes innovation, financial sustainability, and disease prevention while improving access to healthcare. 

It also focuses on expanding e-health services and digital solutions, improving the quality of care, and adhering to international standards.

Adeel Kheiri, partner in Oliver Wyman’s India, Middle East and Africa Health and Life Sciences practice. Supplied

Elevating quality of care

Quality stands as a cornerstone of Saudi Arabia’s healthcare ethos, evidenced by the implementation of accreditation programs like the National Accreditation Program for Healthcare Organizations and the Saudi Central Board for Accreditation of Healthcare Institutions. 

These programs uphold stringent standards of patient safety and care, catalyzing an elevation in healthcare services quality throughout the Kingdom.

“Saudi Arabia is likely to make significant strides in managing the human capital to meet the needs of a more future-facing health system,” Kharbanda said.

He added: “This involves identifying and setting up the training systems and accreditation for new roles in the care delivery system, including nurse practitioners, biostatisticians, etc.”

The focus, according to Kharbanda, has to be on developing the necessary capacity and capability in the workforce to meet the new models of care delivery centered around people instead of patients and ensuring new skills to adapt to the rapidly changing medical technologies.

Universal health coverage

Furthermore, Saudi Arabia’s commitment to quality care extends to its efforts toward achieving universal health coverage.

In a landmark move in 2019, the Kingdom embarked on a journey toward UHC, guaranteeing free healthcare services for all citizens irrespective of their socioeconomic status. 

This initiative not only ensures equitable access to medical services but also fosters a culture of inclusivity within the healthcare framework.

The ongoing plans go beyond just investing in the capacity of the health system, according to Kharbanda.

He noted that the approach is centered on ensuring a more remarkable shift toward primary care to “manage health rather than sickness.”

Saudi Arabia’s commitment to UHC is a core tenet in its commitment to provide an economically vibrant society and underpin that with an equally robust, resilient, and lively social infrastructure. 

“In my view, Saudi Arabia’s investment in world-class health infrastructure will be critical at three levels,” Kharbanda said.

He explained that establishing strong social infrastructure, including high-quality healthcare, not only attracts and fosters top human capital but also directly contributes to economic growth by boosting productivity and creating jobs.

Kharbanda added: “To ensure access to equitable, high-quality, and affordable healthcare, it is necessary to rapidly shift the healthcare delivery system toward care out of the hospitals, and increasing participation of the private sector.”

This is anticipated to positively impact the national economy, potentially saving SR30 billion to SR40 billion in projected public health spending by 2030 and catalyzing over SR30 billion in private sector investments within the same timeframe.

Harnessing technology’s power

The advancement of digital health services, including telemedicine and other e-health services, has made significant strides in recent years and has had a positive impact on the post-COVID-19 environment in the Kingdom, according to Arthur D. Little.

“While consumer-facing digital health solutions are gaining traction, the most impactful innovations for Saudi Arabia’s healthcare transformation will likely be non-clinical and support service applications,” Kheiri said.

He explained that tech enablement in these areas can significantly improve automation, transparency, and efficiency, especially as government health systems are corporatized and expected to adhere to private-sector-like operating principles.

Through a digital health revolution, the Kingdom has pioneered telemedicine and e-health services, transcending geographical barriers to enhance patient care. 

The inauguration of the SEHA Virtual Hospital in 2022 exemplifies Saudi Arabia’s commitment to leveraging technology for the greater good, enabling virtual consultations and remote surgeries to reach even the farthest communities.

“Cross-border collaboration in healthcare and life sciences holds immense potential for the IMEA region,” Kheiri said.

He continued: “Saudi Arabia’s advancements can act as a catalyst, particularly in areas like life sciences localization and medical tourism. By working together, countries can leverage each other’s strengths, minimize duplication of efforts, and achieve greater success on the global stage.”

The Arthur D. Little partner believes that localization has always been a topic of great importance in ensuring the long-term sustainability and self-reliability of the sector. 

“The real opportunity resides in the emerging areas for biotech and genetic based services where the playing field is less loaded in favor of established and traditional pharma and other technologies suppliers,” Kharbanda added.

Challenges and opportunities

Despite the strides it is making in the healthcare sector, Saudi Arabia faces challenges, including the deployment and operations of capacity in low-density population zones.

“No capacity in any health system will be sufficient to meet the demand unless people take better care of their wellness and participate in the system by bringing greater accountability for their health,” Arthur D. Little said.

Therefore, the challenge is to develop systems where awareness, education, and greater participation lead to a more efficient health system. 

The top official noted that outside of the urban centers, there is a greater need to engage people in health management through a more vibrant community-based engagement and health management. 

“We see significant advancements in medical technologies and new therapies, the challenge will be to adapt the system to these requirements to take into account novel funding approaches, technologies, and an ecosystem capable of fostering and adopting these innovations,” Kharbanda explained.

However, the Kingdom remains resolute in its pursuit, with plans to privatize segments of the healthcare sector and localize pharmaceutical production, heralding new opportunities for growth and innovation.

Vikas Kharbanda, Partner and Healthcare practice Lead at Arthur D. Little, Middle East. Supplied

Insurance industry integration

Alongside its healthcare advancements, Saudi Arabia’s insurance industry is experiencing rapid growth. 

Projected to reach $22 billion by 2028, with a compound annual growth rate of 5.2 percent, the sector is primarily driven by the health and motor segments, accounting for 86 percent of overall gross written premiums. 

Despite expectations of normalization in growth starting from 2024, the industry has witnessed substantial expansion. 

Moreover, the creation of almost 4,000 new healthcare jobs through the signing of eight memorandums of understanding valued at $1.07 billion in October with international and local companies further demonstrates Saudi Arabia’s commitment to enhancing its healthcare sector. 

These agreements aim to facilitate self-sufficiency in the healthcare sector by localizing the supply chain for advanced medical devices, thereby generating 3,800 job opportunities within the Kingdom. 

“With a strategy centered on the growth of private providers, there has, in parallel, been tremendous focus on the growth of the private insurance sector as well,” Kharbanda emphasized.

He added: “The GWP (gross written premium) for the health insurance market in the Kingdom has grown by almost 50 percent over the last six years, with nearly 25 percent growth being achieved in 2022. This clearly demonstrates the increasing penetration levels for health insurance in the Saudi market.”

GWP is the total amount of money an insurer collects from its customers in exchange for insurance policies. 

The mandatory health insurance program, along with economic growth driving workforce expansion, is expected to further boost the health insurance market, according to the top official.

“What would be very interesting is to explore models for supporting a greater collaboration in private and public health financing to allow more choices for patients to shift between public and private providers through an episode and enhance access to services while gradually re-aligning the whole health financing model with more outcome-based and value centric schemes,” Kharbanda suggested.

Looking to the future

As Saudi Arabia continues to develop healthcare financing, the future holds promising prospects for collaboration between public and private sectors.

Business can help accelerate healthcare innovation and accessibility, according to Oliver Wyman’s partner.

“Public-private partnerships and other forms of private sector engagement can help address existing ecosystem gaps and also support planned enhancement to the care continuum,” Kheiri said.

Establishing clear collaboration models, aligning incentives, and balanced risk-sharing will be essential for success, he noted.

The Kingdom has embarked on a journey of reforms within the health system that aims to achieve changes in a time that is unprecedented in many ways. 

“This presents a unique opportunity for Saudi Arabia to become a case study of how health reforms can be carried out in an inclusive, ambitious, and comprehensive fashion,” Kharbanda noted.

This transformation happens when the underlying medicinal science and technologies go through a very rapid evolution, he explained, adding “this also presents a unique opportunity for Saudi Arabia to demonstrate the ability to transform an existing health system and construct a future health system centered on wellness, digitalization, and people-centric health management rather than patient-centric care delivery.”

Saudi Arabia and Switzerland strengthen economic ties at 4th Financial Dialogue in Zurich

Saudi Arabia and Switzerland strengthen economic ties at 4th Financial Dialogue in Zurich
Updated 20 June 2024

Saudi Arabia and Switzerland strengthen economic ties at 4th Financial Dialogue in Zurich

Saudi Arabia and Switzerland strengthen economic ties at 4th Financial Dialogue in Zurich

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia and Switzerland are poised to deepen cooperation in finance and economics as top officials convened for the 4th Saudi-Swiss Financial Dialogue in Zurich.    

The event, inaugurated by Saudi Arabia’s Finance Minister Mohammed Al-Jadaan, focused on enhancing macroeconomic outlooks, fostering international multilateral cooperation, and advancing specific bilateral economic initiatives.    

It comes against the backdrop of a robust trade relationship between the countries. In 2023, Saudi Arabia exported $810.67 million worth of goods to Switzerland, while Swiss exports to the Kingdom totaled $6.77 billion, according to the UN’s international trade database.   

“The Saudi-Swiss relations have been growing for more than six decades, and our meeting ... for the 4th Saud-Swiss Financial Dialogue in Zurich embodies the two nations’ keenness to deepen cooperation between Saudi Arabia and Switzerland in various fields, most notably in finance and economics,” Al-Jadaan said in a post on X a day before the event.   

“Today, I was pleased to inaugurate the 4th Saudi-Swiss Financial Dialogue with the participation of the Head of the Federal Department of Finance & Vice President of the Swiss Federal Council, Ms. Karin Keller-Sutter. I emphasized on the Kingdom’s aspiration to explore new areas and markets that would deepen the existing cooperation between the two nations,” the minister added in another post.

In February, a high-profile delegation of Swiss business leaders visited Saudi Arabia to explore burgeoning trade and investment prospects in the Kingdom.   

Guy Parmelin, a Swiss Federal Councillor and head of the Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research, led the delegation at the time.  

In an interview with Arab News during his visit, Parmelin highlighted the robust growth in trade between Switzerland and Saudi Arabia in recent years. “Swiss companies are very interested in investing in the Kingdom,” he added.   

He emphasized the eagerness of the accompanying business delegation to capitalize on Saudi Arabia’s rapidly transforming economic landscape.   

In November 2022, during an official visit to Riyadh, Swiss Finance Minister Ueli Maurer met with his Saudi counterpart, Al-Jadaan, and they signed a cooperation agreement to inaugurate the third Saudi-Swiss Financial Dialogue.   

Lauding the strength of the Saudi economy, Maurer stressed the importance of bilateral dialogues in developing economic activities in both countries and strengthening Switzerland’s role as a strategic partner for the Kingdom in achieving the goals of Vision 2030. 

Pakistan stocks hit record high on budget, IMF optimism

Pakistan stocks hit record high on budget, IMF optimism
Updated 20 June 2024

Pakistan stocks hit record high on budget, IMF optimism

Pakistan stocks hit record high on budget, IMF optimism
  • Pakistan released tax-heavy budget last week which investors believe will strengthen case for new IMF bailout
  • Market breached 78,000 level for first time during intraday trade as it reopened after five-day break on Thursday

KARACHI: Pakistan’s benchmark share index rose 2.8 percent to a new record high on Thursday, driven by expectations last week’s budget will strengthen the case for a new bailout from the International Monetary Fund.

The government’s budget was welcomed by investors as it avoided an anticipated increase in capital gains tax, despite an ambitious tax revenue target.

The market extended its post-budget rally on Thursday when it reopened after a five-day break, which included a public holiday, and breached the key 78,000 level for the first time during intraday trade.

Foreign portfolio investment in the market is at the highest in almost ten years, with inflows of $83 million as of June 14, data compiled by Topline Securities and JS Global Capital showed.

Sohail Mohammed, CEO of Topline Securities, said that a statement from credit rating agency Fitch that the budget would strengthen the prospects for an IMF deal would help to bring more foreign inflows.

The benchmark share index is up 26.2 percent year to date and has almost doubled since Pakistan signed a nine-month standby arrangement with the IMF last summer.

“Pakistani equity investors are driving the PSX higher, continuing to unlock valuations on better sentiment, which is a trend that began when Pakistan signed its last IMF deal last summer,” said Amreen Soorani, head of research at JS Global Capital.

“The trend paused briefly on anticipation of stricter capital gains taxes, which did not materialize,” she said, adding that the index is trading at a four times price to earnings ratio despite the recent rally and offers attractive dividend yields.

The financial sector was up 4.4 percent, with banks like UBL, HBL, MCB, Bank Alfalah, Habib Metropolitan Bank, Allied Bank, up more than 4 percent.

Adnaan Sheikh, assistant vice president of research at Pak Kuwait Investment Company, said that foreign investor interest and the central bank’s decision to cut its key rate by 150 basis points last week — its first rate cut in nearly four years — had pushed the market up.

Apart from the capital gains tax, analysts said the budget and other revenue measures were in line with expectations and key to sealing a new IMF program. This will include a challenging tax target of a near-40 percent jump from the current year and a sharp drop in the fiscal deficit to 5.9 percent of GDP from 7.4 percent for the current year.

Sheikh said the strict budgetary measures to secure new IMF funding will be likely to attract more foreign investors to the market, in addition to the current inflows.

Pakistan’s lower house of parliament is set to meet later on Thursday to debate the budget that the government presented last week. 

Giga-projects propel Saudi Arabia’s construction boom amid global interest, study says

Giga-projects propel Saudi Arabia’s construction boom amid global interest, study says
Updated 20 June 2024

Giga-projects propel Saudi Arabia’s construction boom amid global interest, study says

Giga-projects propel Saudi Arabia’s construction boom amid global interest, study says

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s state-backed initiatives, including NEOM and Vision 2030, are driving growth in the construction sector, attracting substantial domestic and international investments, an analysis showed.    

In its latest report, global consultancy firm Turner & Townsend highlighted that the construction activities are also driven by the Kingdom’s preparations for EXPO 2030 and the 2034 FIFA World Cup.   

This comes as Saudi Arabia emerged as the leader in global construction activity for the first quarter, with the Kingdom having $1.5 trillion of projects in the pipeline, according to a report released earlier this month by real estate services firm JLL. 

The JLL analysis further highlighted that the Kingdom accounted for a 39 percent share of the total construction projects in the Middle East and North Africa region, valued at $3.9 trillion. 

“The stand-out story is the accelerated development of Saudi Arabia, where vast ambitions are being realized via projects like The Line, King Salman Park and Diriyah Gate,” said Mark Hamill, director and head of Middle East real estate and major programs, at Turner & Townsend.   

The Line is a linear smart city currently under construction in Saudi Arabia’s $500-billion megacity NEOM, while King Salman Park is a 4102-acre large-scale public park and urban district which is being developed in Riyadh.   

The report highlighted that despite political uncertainties, substantial investments are driving growth in the Gulf region as countries seek to diversify beyond traditional energy sources.  

This occurs against the backdrop of Turner & Townsend ranking the Kingdom as the 19th most expensive country for construction globally, contrasting sharply with the US, which dominated the top 10 list. 

The report further noted that construction cost inflation in Riyadh is easing from the highs of 7.0 percent seen in 2023, but is forecasted to remain high at 5.0 percent through 2024.   

The analysis also highlighted Saudi Arabia’s efforts to attract global corporate occupiers through its Regional Headquarters Program.  

It added: “This scheme encourages companies to launch offices in Saudi Arabia and there are cost advantages to office investment with an average high-rise central business district office in Riyadh costing a relatively low $2,266 per sq. m.”   

The UK-based company also pointed out that Saudi Arabia is also facing a shortage of skilled labor which is crucial to materialize and fulfill construction activities as planned.   

“Skilled labor shortages are also keeping costs elevated as Saudi Arabia suffers from a distinct shortage of skilled labor that is vital to deliver its most ambitious programs. The talent and resources needed for giga-projects in the country are also stretching overall supply chain capacity across the Middle East,” said the report.     

Regional insight  

According to the report, Qatar’s capital city Doha is the second most expensive market in the region at $2,096 per sq. m.   

However, following the high output in the lead-up to the 2022 FIFA World Cup, construction cost inflation is projected to fall from 3.5 percent in 2023 to 2.5 percent in 2024, the study said.   

On the other hand, Dubai has an average cost to build of $1,874 per sq. m., supported by high tourism activity and residential sector development.  

“The UAE has been a hotspot for tourism in the region in recent years and its relatively low cost of construction, when compared with Western markets, still makes it an attractive place to build the hubs and amenities for international visitors,” said the report.     

It added: “In Dubai, residential development is buoying the local market as the city aims to support its growing population. Its attractiveness as a market is bolstered by its comparably low cost of construction.”   

On the other hand, Abu Dhabi is the fourth most expensive market in the Middle East at $1,844.2 per sq. m.   

Hamill noted that there are considerable real estate opportunities in the UAE and Qatar as inflation cools.   

He added: “Nevertheless, with labor capacity being stretched across the region, clients will need to review their procurement and contracting models to help mitigate supply chain disruption and maximize the potential opportunities on offer.”   

Global outlook  

The report revealed that construction pipelines globally are set to grow this year, but skill shortage could remain a major concern.   

“The global real estate market is emerging from a challenging period of inflationary pressures, volatility and disruption. Our sector has proved resilient, and a focus on building new approaches to procurement and supply chain development to drive efficiency and productivity is opening new opportunities across many markets,” said Neil Bullen, managing director, global real estate at Turner & Townsend.   

He added: “Clients need to understand where labor bottlenecks may constrain their capital investment programs and work collaboratively with the supply chain to understand how best to mitigate the risk to delivery.”   

The US dominated the rankings of the most expensive places to build, with six cities from the country grabbing their spots in the top 10 list.   

New York retained its position as the most expensive market to build in for the second year running at an average cost of $5,723 per sq. m., closely followed by San Francisco at $5,489.   

Zurich came in the third spot as it surpassed Geneva in the ranking with an average cost of $5,035 per sq. m. Geneva, which came in the fourth spot, averaged $5,022 per sq. m.   

US cities Los Angeles, Boston, Seattle and Chicago came in the fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth spots respectively in the list.   

From Asia, Hong Kong came in the ninth spot with an average cost of $4,500, followed by London at $4,473.   

The report also highlighted that implementing technology in the construction sector could help overcome various challenges faced by the industry.   

“Accelerating digitalization also presents a huge opportunity, but this requires us to keep up with the demand for skilled labor, and persistent shortages risk constraining potential growth,” said Bullen.   

He added: “As interest rate cuts become an increasing possibility for many markets, and pent-up investor appetite can be unlocked, capacity could be tested still further.” 

Credit facilities for UAE’s business and industrial sectors exceed $206.2bn

Credit facilities for UAE’s business and industrial sectors exceed $206.2bn
Updated 20 June 2024

Credit facilities for UAE’s business and industrial sectors exceed $206.2bn

Credit facilities for UAE’s business and industrial sectors exceed $206.2bn

RIYADH: The cumulative credit balance in the UAE’s business and industrial sectors rose to 757.4 billion dirhams ($206.2 billion) in the first quarter of the year, up from 741.8 billion dirhams at the end of 2023.

A release from the Central Bank of the UAE showed that credit facilities extended just by the country’s national banks to these sectors reached 15.6 billion dirhams in the three months of the year.

Comparing month-on-month figures, the credit balance saw a rise of 9.3 billion dirhams in March compared to the previous month, reflecting a steady upward trend in lending activities, the Emirates News Agency said.

Year-on-year, the sectors experienced a substantial 3.02 percent increase in credit availability, amounting to 22.2 billion dirhams from 735.2 billion dirhams in March 2023, showcasing sustained financial support over the past year.

National banks emerged as the primary financiers, contributing 841.7 billion dirhams or 90 percent of the combined credit balance for these sectors by the end of the first quarter of 2024, according to WAM.

In contrast, foreign banks held a smaller share, providing 84.3 billion dirhams, highlighting the dominant role of domestic financial institutions in driving economic growth.

Geographically, Abu Dhabi-based banks played a significant role by extending credit amounting to 374.1 billion dirhams, while Dubai-based banks provided 363.3 billion dirhams. 

Additional Emirates banks collectively contributed 104.3 billion dirhams to support business and industrial activities during the same period, underscoring the balanced regional distribution of financial resources.

In terms of banking preferences, conventional financial institutes continued to be the preferred choice for credit financing, accounting for approximately 694 billion dirhams or 82.5 percent of the total credit extended to the trade and industry sectors by March 2024. 

Islamic banks, reflecting their growing influence in the financial sector, contributed approximately 147.7 billion dirhams, constituting 17.5 percent of the financing provided, reflecting their expanding role in catering to diverse financial needs.

In 2023, the UAE’s industrial sector alone contributed $54 billion to the country’s gross domestic product, up 9 percent compared to 2022 figures.     

The boost was attributed to four main pillars, including providing a business-friendly environment that supports the growth and attractiveness of UAE firms, the Emirates News Agency reported.

Saudi Arabia leads emerging markets in bond issuance, surpassing China

Saudi Arabia leads emerging markets in bond issuance, surpassing China
Updated 20 June 2024

Saudi Arabia leads emerging markets in bond issuance, surpassing China

Saudi Arabia leads emerging markets in bond issuance, surpassing China

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has emerged as the top issuer of international bonds among emerging markets, surpassing China with $33.2 billion in bond sales to date, according to a new report.  

This marks the first time in 12 years that China has been displaced from the top spot, thanks to an 8 percent growth in Saudi Arabia’s bond sales this year, Bloomberg reported.  

The Kingdom’s record pace of borrowing is driven by increasing support from global debt investors for the nation’s Vision 2030 plan which aims to diversify the Saudi economy away from oil dependence and transform the country into a global business hub by the end of the decade.  

In contrast, Chinese borrowers are experiencing a significant shift in their financing strategies. A surge in demand for local-currency bonds has slowed China’s international bond issuance to one of its lowest levels in recent years.   

“Sentiment for Saudi bonds is very healthy,” Apostolos Bantis, managing director of fixed-income advisory at Union Bancaire Privee, told Bloomberg.  

“It’s not a surprise that the Kingdom has become the largest EM bond issuer given its large funding needs for large infrastructure projects,” he added.  

Saudi Arabia’s ascent is particularly notable given its relatively smaller economy compared to China.   

With a gross domestic product only 1/16th the size of China’s, the Kingdom’s ability to attract substantial international investment is a testament to the growing confidence in its economic reforms and strategic vision.  

The surge in bond issuance across emerging markets reflects a broader trend of falling borrowing costs and a robust appetite for higher yields among global investors.   

This favorable environment is enabling countries like Saudi Arabia to secure funding for ambitious projects aimed at economic diversification and enhanced global connectivity.  

In addition to boosting its bond issuance, Saudi Arabia is actively seeking alternative sources of funding to address an anticipated fiscal shortfall of approximately $21 billion this year, the report stated.  

The Kingdom expects its total funding activities for the year to reach around $37 billion to help accelerate the Vision 2030 initiatives.

The substantial turn to the bond market is partly a response to shortfalls in foreign direct investment and constrained oil revenues due to supply cuts.