World Economic Forum: What to expect from Saudi Arabia

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The 53rd edition of the World Economic Forum will kick off on Monday in Davos, Switzerland where leaders from across the globe will meet to discuss the global economy.

The meeting follows a tumultuous year for the global economy with rising food prices driven by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine which began in February 2022 and which saw numerous countries imposing sanctions on many Russian politicians and oligarchs.

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As the rest of the world began bouncing back from the COVID-19 pandemic, with most places fully opening back up their economy after continued lockdowns, China continued with stringent measures to fight the virus. This in turn put enormous pressure on the country’s economy having the knock-on effect of disrupting global supply chains.

Despite the war between Russia and Ukraine showing no signs of stopping and worldwide inflation continuing to hamper economies, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries could be set for an economic boom in 2023.

The Kingdom leads IMF world economic growth outlook projections for 2023 out of all Middle Eastern and Central Asian countries, while another IMF report said Saudi Arabia was likely to have been one of the world’s fastest growing economies in 2022.

Even though consumers in Saudi Arabia, as well as in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), are concerned about rising inflation, a recent survey found that spending power in the country remains strong going into 2023.

A number of high-ranking officials from Saudi Arabia including Saudi ambassador to the US, Princess Reema Bandar Al-Saud and Economy Minister Faisal Alibrahim will attend the conference, and participate in a number of panel discussions.

Tuesday January 17

Saudi Finance Minister Mohammed al-Jadaan will participate in a panel on how economies can work to advance technology during global economic shocks.

Foreign Affairs Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan will then be part of a panel that will address challenges such as food shortages and humanitarian crises while Minister of Industry and Mineral Resources Bandar Alkhorayef will be part of a group discussing manufacturing.

Wednesday January 18

Princess Reema Bandar Al-Saud, Minister of Industry Bandar Alkhorayef, Finance Minister Mohammed al-Jadaan, and Minister of Communications and Information Technology Abdullah al-Swaha will all be on a panel discussing how countries can navigate global challenges, such as those related to oil, during “a difficult economic context.”

OPEC+ - an alliance between the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) members and their allies – in October announced plans to cut oil production until the end of 2023 after weeks of lobbying by US officials against such a move.

The US accused Saudi Arabia of kowtowing to Moscow, which objects to a Western cap on the price of Russian oil in response to its invasion of Ukraine, although, the Saudi foreign ministry at the time stressed the “purely economic context” of the oil cut.

Despite the controversy, the decision was supported by many countries including the UAE.

As part of Saudi Arabia’s plans to stop relying on oil revenues for income, the country is plowing on with its Vision 2030 by boosting industries such as gaming and e-sports.

Last year, for instance, Saudi Arabia announced plans to invest 142 billion riyals ($38 billion) in gaming companies through state-owned company Savvy Games Group.

The country is also continuing with its development of the futuristic city NEOM.

Thursday January 19

Al-Swaha will also be part of a panel on Thursday that addresses how to maximize the potential of the metaverse, while Minister of State of Foreign Affairs Adel bin Ahmed Al Jubeir will participate in a forum on the evolution of urban life.

Minister of Investment Khalid al-Falih will be on a panel on how businesses and political leaders can successfully navigate the reshuffling of global value chains.

Economy Minister Faisal Alibrahim will also be on a panel on how countries can manage tax challenges and tax reform.

To round-off the day will see NEOM’s CEO Nadhmi al-Nasr participate in a panel about “bold new cities.”

United Arab Emirate’s delegation

The UAE will also be sending a delegation to the economic forum which includes Education Minister Ahmad bin Abdullah Humaid Belhoul al-Falasi, Minister of AI and the Digital Economy Omar Sultan al-Olama and Trade Minister Thani Ahmed al-Zeyoudi.

UAE delegates will participate in several panels which discuss remote working and AI, the digitization of supply chains, the future of cryptocurrency and the blockchain market and climate and energy markets.

Other Middle East-featured panels

Other panels looking at issues in the region will include one on Wednesday on how economies in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) can preserve regional stability.

On Thursday, representatives from Jordan, Iraq and Tunisia will have a discussion on deepening economic ties during recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

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