Answers attributed to Steen Jakobsen, Chief Economist & CIO, Saxo Bank
1- How will the “Davos in the Desert” event impact Saudi’s economy? And in which fields/sectors will it impact the most?
Saudi Arabia is running an ambitious socio-economic plan to attract investors and social change. This is in order to reduce the dependence on oil over time. This includes a big privatization program and looser regulatory framework. To promote this and get investors to see for themselves on the ground is of course a major part of Davos in the desert. The main fields of interaction are very much reflected in the impressive guest lists which classically includes CEOs from mainly banking, asset management and the political world.
Saudi Arabia is in the midst of a big privatization process which means finding foreign investors and access to global markets. This is classic consultancy, investment banking and political process.
2- Do you see Saudi hosting the annual global summit will help the kingdom in separating itself from being an oil-based economy?
Absolutely, the outside world know Saudi Arabia is an oil nation, but this forum gives Saudi Arabia ample opportunity to engage and tell their story of their future vision for not only Saudi Arabia but also the region where Saudi Arabia remains the most potent player.
3- The annual summit seeks to project the insular kingdom as a dynamic investment destination and draws 6,000 people and international firms to Riyadh. Do you believe this will stimulate meaningful foreign investment and impact growth across the GCC?
There is no doubt that “personal relationships” are almost as important as commercial links, but cementing the Future Investment Initiative and attracting top CEOs and politicians globally is a major signal of Saudi Arabia’s ambition and ability to attract both the global companies but also its investment. The recent inclusion of Saudi Arabia into the MSCI Emerging Market index has already generated 18 billion USD of inbound investment with at least 3 billion USD more expected this year. The MSCI inclusion, the global bond issuance of bonds from GCC countries has put the Middle East and specifically GCC on the map for investors, as the access to markets, the regulatory framework and increased openness is paramount for investors. That this whole strategy is validated by an impressive oil reserve, a tangible asset, of course makes the proposition more interesting and appealing and will benefit all of the GCC.
4- Wil this summit have any impact on the oil price?
Impact is limited but of course with high level political support from other emerging nations like India and Brazil in the audience plus significant high level Trump administration officials, there is a good chance that the present level of oil and energy overall will be discussed at several “sidebar meetings”, but the agenda here is to showcase Saudi Arabia as an investment hub, inbound and outbound and recover the international relationship post a bad 2018 for Saudi Arabia foreign policy. This year’s forum clearly shows Saudi Arabia and its guests have moved on.