The Kingdom’s highly anticipated future investment initiative will go live amid an ongoing pandemic.
Saudi Arabia, the Arab world’s largest economy, is set to hold its annual Future Investment Initiative (FII) amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and a new US administration reportedly reluctant to give in to the strategic imperatives of the kingdom.
The conference, which kicks off on Wednesday and dubbed Davos in the Desert, will see a plethora of government officials and senior leaders – from industries ranging from finance and pharmaceuticals to entertainment.
“The 4th edition of FII will see the most innovative technologies to facilitate global conversations and be inclusive for the benefit of all humanity”, Richard Attias, CEO of the FII Institute, said earlier this month.
“The FII Institute will act as a catalyst and pioneer in enabling the interaction and exchange of disruptive ideas. There has never been a more important time to bring together the greatest minds to seize this opportunity to reinvent our world.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) announced in 2016 that the country was building up its public investment fund to become a major player in global markets and unveiled a broad economic reform plan, known as name of Vision 2030, revealing how the oil-dependent state plans to diversify its economy over the next 14 years.
Saudi Arabia has announced plans to sell shares of state-owned oil giant Aramco and create the world’s largest wealth fund under the plan. The ambitious goals of MBS envisioned increasing the private sector’s contribution to gross domestic product (GDP) from 40% to 65%.
A main aspect of the vision was the development of a new $ 500 billion high-tech economic zone on the Red Sea called Neom – an area close to the size of Belgium.
Observers see the high-level conference as a way for the kingdom to redeem itself in the eyes of US President Joe Biden and the international community at large.
Previous summits marred by murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul by what Saudi authorities have described as a “rogue” government squad.
The assassination prompted an exodus of CEOs, with many announcing their categorical refusal to attend the meeting or send junior delegations instead.
Another potential obstacle to the successful outcome of the conference, analysts say, is Biden’s disregard for some of the kingdom’s policies in the region, including its war in Yemen and the recently completed blockade against small Gulf neighbor Qatar. .
Riyadh led an Arab-led coalition in 2015 after Houthi rebels in Yemen overtook the capital Sana’a from the internationally recognized government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.
The war has since led to what the United Nations has described as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, with 80% of the country’s 24 million people in need of humanitarian assistance.
“Under a Biden-Harris administration, we will reassess our relationship with the kingdom, end US support for Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen, and make sure America does not check its value at the door to sell goods. arms or buy oil, ”Biden said on the campaign trail ahead of the November US election.
However, Riyadh has reportedly regained some of the goodwill by ending its blockade on Qatar, which it imposed in June 2017 after accusing Doha of supporting “terrorism” and supporting its nemesis Iran – accusations constantly denied by Qatar.
This year’s conference, which will feature 140 speakers, will be televised live due to the coronavirus pandemic. The latest edition of the meeting, held in Riyadh in October 2019, saw the participation of more than 6,000 executives and officials.