DOING BUSINESS

Saudi Arabia 2017 | ECONOMY | B2B

Saudi Arabia's economy offers significant opportunities for foreign investors.

Hassan Dahlan
HASSAN DAHLAN
Secretary General
Jeddah Chamber
AbdulRahman A. Al-Wabel
ABDULRAHMAN A. AL-WABEL
Secretary General
Asharqia Chamber

The Western Region has maintained strong economic performance in recent years despite economic headwinds. Why do you think this is?

Hassan Dahlan I do not see or feel any differences in the economies of the Saudi regions; indeed, they have all maintained strong economic performance despite the negative effect of declining oil prizes in the world market, comparing to years ago when the monthly oil prices in the world market were going up. Government spending has amounted to 39% of GDP over the past three years, and budget deficits have averaged 4.6%. In general, Saudi Arabia's regulatory efficiency and open-market policies have lagged behind those of other emerging economies. To a backdrop of low oil prices over the past two years, in April 2016 the country unveiled a notable policy shift in the form of a significant economic reform plan, Saudi Vision 2030. The plan is looking to increase foreign investment in all Saudi regions and enhance the overall competitiveness of the Saudi economy.

In what ways has the Asharqia Chamber helped attract trade and investment to the Eastern Province?

AbdulRahman A. Al-Wabel The Eastern Province Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Asharqia Chamber) has been playing a key role in attracting trade and investment to the Eastern Province. Actually, our Chamber's main activities are concentrated on touting the region's enormous trade and investment opportunities to the local and foreign investors. For instance, over the past year, the Chamber hosted 11 foreign trade delegations and organized a number of catalogue exhibitions of different countries aimed at establishing trade and business contacts between the Saudi companies and their overseas counterparts. In addition, the Chamber has also been engaged in various social and voluntary activities.

How has the Jeddah Chamber worked to improve foreign and domestic investment in Jeddah this year?

HD Saudi Arabia's economic challenges may offer significant opportunities for foreign investors, as improving the country's investment climate remains an integral part of the government's new efforts to liberalize the country's trade and investment regime and diversify an economy overly dependent on oil exports. The government took many positive steps to encourage foreign investment, including opening the Saudi stock market to qualified foreign investors; developing plans to privatize the country's civil aviation, technology, and healthcare sectors; removing the barrier to full foreign ownership of retail and wholesale businesses within the country; and publishing a new companies law that lowers some barriers to starting a new business. It continues to encourage investment across nearly all economic sectors, prioritizing investments in industry, manufacturing, transportation, education, health, communications technology, life sciences, and energy; as well as in four economic cities that are at various stages of development.

What role do you see this region playing under Vision 2030?

AAAW As the hub of the Kingdom's industrial activities, I believe the Eastern Province has taken the lead in supporting the most ambitious Vision 2030, which is mainly aimed at reducing the Saudi reliance on oil. In this economic transformation, the Eastern Province is the key player contributing significantly to the Kingdom's drive to diversify its income away from oil. With the robust growth of industries, the Eastern Province is now called "The Industrial Capital of the Gulf." Most of the Kingdom's manufacturing industries such as petrochemicals, chemicals, steel, cement, aluminum, and plastics are located in the region. These industries are largely based in the Dammam-I and II industrial estates and Jubail-I and II industrial cities. The Eastern Province is set to witness an industrial boom with a number of mega projects coming up. As you aware, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman Bin Abdulaziz recently inaugurated a host of basic infrastructure and development projects in Jubail and Ras Al-Khair industrial cities including the Sadara Chemical Company (Sadara) and the Saudi Aramco Total Refining and Petrochemical Co. (SATORP) in Jubail. The two projects are among the largest facilities in the refining and petrochemical industries that support the objectives of the Saudi Vision 2030. These two world-class projects are the successful partnerships between Saudi Aramco and two global companies — the Dow Chemical Company and Total—which are leaders in their respective areas of business.