SAUDI ARABIA - Economy
Secretary-General, Riyadh Chamber of Commerce & Industry (RCCI)
Mohammed Al-Kathiri is the Secretary General of the Riyadh Chamber of Commerce & Industry (RCCI), prior to which he was the Deputy Minister at the Ministry of Commerce & Industry for Foreign Trade. He holds a PhD in Business Administration from Manchester Business School, University of Manchester. He also holds a Master’s degree in Business Administration from the University of Ottawa and a degree in the same area from King Saud University.
If we look at the Kingdom’s economy in general, and its GDP in particular, we find that the economy consists of products and services that are mostly produced by the private sector. That means that the major components of the economy are derived from the private sector of the economy, including the collective products and services of those companies that constitute the sector. Therefore, supporting and helping companies to grow in the Riyadh region, which comprises more than 300,000 registered enterprises, about 116,000 of which are members of the RCCI, essentially means enhancing the national economy. Our services, however, are not limited to members only; they extend to all businesses within the Riyadh region as well. By helping enterprises, the RCCI indirectly participates in achieving the country’s economic objectives through our liaising and coordinating on behalf of the private sector to facilitate their issues and transactions with the government. Our training programs and statistical database help in spotting business opportunities and overcoming difficulties encountered by members and non-members of companies and enterprises. This results in companies producing more goods and services for society in general, which is reflected in the GDP. This is how the RCCI looks at the issue.
Saudi Arabia is one of the largest economies in the region and is a member of the G20. It is also one of the major oil producers and an influential player in the global economy. We, in the RCCI, are aware of these facts and act accordingly in the best interests of the national economy as well as those of national investors and international entrepreneurs. We believe that international trade is important for the Kingdom and knuckle down to develop the terms of trade both at the national level and the international one. We receive worldwide attention from almost all countries. In 2012, for example, the RCCI received around 150 high-level trade delegations that generally visit the Kingdom for two main reasons: general interest in the country and the pursuit of potential opportunities in both trade and investment. On the business front, and in cooperation with the Saudi Council of Chambers, we are working relentlessly to form a delegation that will take on the responsibility of promoting and marketing Saudi Arabian investment opportunities abroad as well as showcasing our own services. In 2013, the RCCI established the International Cooperation Committee, which includes the chairmen and CEOs of a number of major international companies doing business in Saudi Arabia, through which we aim to officiate more functions and further the cooperative effort.
The RCCI initiated a corporate social responsibility (CSR) program and holds a department that is dedicated to this end. One reason why we believe that the private sector should take part in this program is that beyond the benefits to be reaped by the participating companies, there is also a national interest to consider. Therefore, social responsibility became a major part of the RCCI, and that is why we are devoted to encouraging companies to participate in this program, benefitting all segments of society including the companies themselves.
For some companies, it is an issue; however, regularized companies and those that comply with Saudi laws will not suffer. There are some companies that may be benefitting from daydreaming about a continuation of non-regularization, but I think that, inevitably, any reforms applied can be said to have their plusses and minuses in relation to different stakeholders. However, the Saudi economy has long required such labor reforms, as both the country and the economy at the end of the day will clearly grow stronger.
Nuclear energy is a major issue that will be taken care of at the right time. We need to promote and nurture any viable opportunities in the country and present them to potential investors. Saudi Arabia is moving in the direction of nuclear and renewable energy. We do have initiatives at the RCCI and also run our own research center that conducts feasibility studies on any potential opportunities that might be expedient to private sector enterprises.
The Kingdom’s economy is growing at higher rates and the government is fully supportive of the private sector by way of providing for huge opportunities all over the country. Therefore, we should be able to reflect this situation at the cutting-edge of all levels, aspects, and fields. The capital city of the country is on the verge of becoming a dynamic hub for regional business. If you look at the Kingdom’s favorable geographic location, political stability, economic reputation, and societal solidarity, you will undoubtedly notice that Saudi Arabia is moving in the right direction. Almost 60% of the population is aged below 30 and is well educated; the Kingdom has sent around 200,000 students abroad for education. All these are good signs that make Riyadh eligible to be a major regional focal point for business and trade, with the RCCI playing a key role as a facilitator. I believe we should consider the bigger picture of the country, including the Saudi economy and the government, as we ultimately need to help Saudi companies achieve their objectives, especially where this would help the government set and carry out its business polices and future development plans.
© The Business Year – January 2014
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