FII highlights shift to human-centric, technology-driven economy post-coronavirus

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The coronavirus pandemic’s disruptive effect on the world economy is engendering a shift of focus towards a more human-centric, technology-driven system, as highlighted by speakers at the fourth edition of the Future Investment Initiative (FII) summit in Riyadh.

Saudi Arabia’s The Line project at NEOM is one example of the Kingdom “putting a model forward that’s renewable” and shifting traditional car-centric urban planning towards a more pedestrian-friendly approach, said Abdullah Amar al-Swaha, Minister of Communications and Information Technology.


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Amin Nasser, president and chief executive of Saudi Aramco, spoke about how the company has been utilizing technology to improve efficiency and cut down on carbon emissions.

One such development includes the recent inauguration of the Dammam 7 supercomputer, thought to be one of the most powerful in the world, which will be used to improve oil discovery and recovery.

The pandemic also offers an opportunity to “rethink the role of companies in this world,” said chief executive of the London Stock Exchange David Schwimmer. “With governments rescuing companies in these kinds of economic situations, do we need to have a different look at how companies are managing their tax strategies and have more focus on ESG [environmental, social, and corporate governance] as a result of the pandemic?”

One lesson learnt from the pandemic, according to Andrew Liveris, special adviser to Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), is that countries cannot always rely on global supply chains and should, where possible, strengthen domestic industries.

“I think sovereign capability in supply chain resiliency is what we’ve learned,” he said. “Big ships can be stopped by little particles.”

China and Singapore are examples of where this strategy has worked well, and the Kingdom is learning from the far east, Liveris added. It has also been a focus for the US, where President Joe Biden recently signed an executive order to boost government purchases from American manufacturers.

Another way that companies can reconfigure themselves amid the pandemic is by looking at ways to improve leadership, said Todd Gibbons, chief executive of BNY Mellon in a panel titled ‘The new CEO playbook: How are leaders reinventing work for the post-COVID world?’

“Empathy is important for leaders,” he said, “Recognizing what’s going on around them, listening, showing true objectivity and driving decisions accordingly.”

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