The 13th Euromoney Saudi Arabia Conference has opened in Riyadh, welcoming 1,700 delegates from 28 countries and scores of influential speakers.
Attracting delegates from across the Middle East and beyond, the two-day forum, which concludes tomorrow, explores financial opportunities and challenges in the Kingdom.
HE Mohammed Al-Jadaan, Minister of Finance, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia officially inaugurated the event. He commented on the remarkable progress of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 economic development strategy in his keynote address.
He said that the world is expecting positive growth rates in both developed and emerging markets, which will increase expectations of improved economic growth in the Kingdom, despite risks to global markets, and large and rapid changes in the oil market as well.
“The Saudi economy continues to be the focus of attention of major companies and investors around the world, due to its great economic significance on a regional and international levels and its huge and promising investment opportunities. In its Executive Board Article IV Consultation with Saudi Arabia, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) praised the magnitude of the economic reforms being carried out by the Kingdom's government, as well as the progress being made in achieving the objectives of the structural reform agenda under Vision 2030, particularly with respect to consolidating the country's fiscal position, which is beginning to bear fruit,” said Al-Jadaan, adding that the Government was on-track to cut the budget deficit to seven per cent of its GDP.
span lang="EN-GB">Privatisation is at the forefront of delegates’ minds, as the Kingdom aims to raise $10 billion through the sale of government assets over the next two years, with the most recent plans to sell sports clubs and a major desalination plant, among other state-owned assets, announced in April, as well as handing over 25 state schools to the private sector according to an announcement in early May.
In addition, the role of the financial sector in driving sustainable growth in the Kingdom was a key topic. Tens of billions of dollars are entering Saudi Arabia ahead of a potential MSCI upgrade to emerging market status, and national and international investors are tracking the progress of the market with interest.
“Innovation is driving change in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The challenge is that innovation has always been faster than regulation and we need to fit innovative businesses within the existing regulatory framework,” said HE Mohammed El-Kuwaiz, Chairman of Saudi Arabia’s Capital Market Authority.
Tadawul CEO Khalid Abdullah Al Hussan also spoke, highlighting the new opportunities being created by the launch of Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) in the Kingdom, sating the REITs pipeline is healthy.
With women gearing up to resume driving in the Kingdom next month after a decades-long ban, female employment and financial inclusion were also hot topics – Saudi Arabia has set itself a target of boosting the number of women in the workforce in line with the Vision 2030 economic development strategy. This area was explored in the day’s first panel, titled ‘The Saudi and Global Economy: 2018-2019’.
Oil, gas and energy prices were key areas of interest for delegates, with the Kingdom preparing to list state oil company Saudi Aramco and crude prices hitting $75 per barrel for the first time in four years. There is also the prospect of Donald Trump re-imposing sanctions on oil from Iran, and potentially introducing them in Venezuela.
The Euromoney Saudi Arabia Conference is organised in partnership with Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Finance.