Key Economic and Financial Leaders Address Euromoney Saudi Arabia Conference in Riyadh
Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia:- Increasing competition, encouraging financial sector reform and driving financial sustainability are key issues for the continued development of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, according to a range of senior policy makers addressing the Euromoney Saudi Arabia Conference in Riyadh today.
More than 1,200 senior financiers, business leaders and government officials gathered in Riyadh for the event, which saw keynote presentations from the Minister of Finance, H.E. Dr. Ibrahim Al-Assaf; the Minister of Housing, H.E. Dr. Shwaish Al-Dowaihy; and the Minister of Economy and Planning, H.E. Dr. Muhammad Al-Jasser on the first day.
The move towards greater competitiveness was one of the key issues highlighted across the panel of speakers. The continued growth of the economy – against a backdrop of global economic crisis – has been driven primarily by government spending, with government expenditure as a percentage of GDP rising from 29 percent in 2006 to 36 percent in 2012, even as GDP has expanded dramatically.
However, policy-makers are increasingly recognising the limits of driving growth through government spending alone. Speakers at the conference said that introducing reforms that encourage greater private sector investment, as well as creating wider choice in the market, were top priorities for the Kingdom.
His Excellency H.E. Dr. Ibrahim Al-Assaf, Minister of Finance of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, outlined some of the progress made to date in his opening remarks.
“Saudi Arabia has acted to create a favourable environment for sustainable and competitive finance, by strengthening the Kingdom's economic stability in recent years and continuing to use surplus budget revenues to strength its reserves and lower the public debt, which has now reached 3.6 percent of GDP. This, in turn, has helped to accelerate the pace of investment in infrastructure and strengthen our development goals,” he said.
H.E. Dr. Shwaish Al-Dowaihy, the Minister of Housing, outlined some of the steps necessary to resolve the housing challenges facing the country, which are exacerbated by the rising population and increase in expatriate demand for housing.
In addition to increasing the availability of housing, upcoming changes to the financial sector will enable more Saudi nationals to buy and own their own homes, he said, that in turn will have important implications for the banking sector and will serve to increase the competitiveness of the economy.
Throughout the day, speakers made reference to the need for the development of debt markets in Saudi Arabia, in spite of the strength of the economy and the on-going fiscal surplus. A number of speakers suggested that liquid and efficient debt markets would support financial sustainability and the development of the non-oil economy.
Other speakers on Day One included H.E. Eng. Abdullatif Al-Othman, Governor and Chairman of the Board of Directors, Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA); and H.E. Dr. Mohamed Al-Sheikh, Chairman of the Board, Saudi Arabian Capital Markets Authority (CMA).
There were also interviews with top business leaders, including Mr. Ali Al-Barrak, President and Chief Executive Officer, Saudi Electricity Company; Mr. Mohamed Al-Mady, Vice Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, SABIC; and Dr. Abdulrahman Al-Ibrahim, Governor, Saline Water Conversion Corporation.
Representing the global financial sector were Dr. Yahya Alyahya, Chief Executive Officer, Gulf International Bank and Chairman, Gulf International Bank (UK) Limited; Mr. Frédéric Janbon, Global Head of Fixed Income, BNP Paribas; Mr. Mohammad Al-Tuwaijri, Regional Head of Global Banking and Markets, HSBC Middle East and North Africa and Mr. Sjoerd Leenart, Chief Executive Officer for Middle East and North Africa, J.P. Morgan.
The Euromoney Saudi Arabia Conference, the longest-running, largest and most influential conference in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, is taking place at the Al Faisaliah Hotel in Riyadh, from 7-8 May.
For more information on the Euromoney Saudi Arabia Conference, visit www.euromoneyconferences.com/saudi