Saudi Arabia 2017 | ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to the Ministry of Commerce and Investment, on strengthening the economy, boosting the SME sector, and Vision 2030.

Majid bin Abdullah Al Qasabi
Majid bin Abdullah Al Qasabi has been the Minister of Commerce and Investment since August 2016. He received a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from the University of Portland, a master’s in civil engineering management from UC Berkeley, and a doctorate in engineering management from the University of Missouri. Previously, he has been an assistant professor of industrial engineering at King Abdulaziz University and has served as secretary general of the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry, as an advisor to the Crown Prince’s Court, and, most recently, as the Minister of Social Affairs. He sits on the boards of several Saudi charities.

What are the main objectives and achievements of the Ministry of Commerce and Investment?

In response to the current economic challenges, Saudi Arabia has taken several steps to enhance the power of the Saudi economy and increase its effectiveness. Therefore, a restructure within the Ministry of Commerce has been made to include the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA) under MCI. Thus, the General Authority for Small and Medium Enterprises was established to effectively contribute to the realization of the Kingdom's Vision 2030, taking into consideration a number of strategic objectives that include: ensuring fair trade between consumer and seller, creating consumer confidence with products sold in the market, raising the culture of entrepreneurship, increasing the contribution of SMEs to GDP, increasing job opportunities provided by SMEs, promoting and increasing consumer's awareness, and increasing the level of competitiveness of local products and services. In a joint effort with the Ministry of Labor and Social Development, the Ministry of Commerce and Investment has pledged to introduce a number of mechanisms to empower and support the role played by SMEs in the local economy.

Which initiatives relating to the SME sector have you launched, and how will they impact the economic reforms of Vision 2030?

Taking into consideration the importance of the SME sector as a major factor of the local economy, the General Authority of SMEs has been established, which aims to increase the contribution of small and medium enterprises to GDP, create job opportunities, and promote and support a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship. Accordingly, a number of initiatives has been launched to achieve the objectives of the Authority, such as introducing business accelerators and incubators and entrepreneurs centers, where these facilities are concerned with providing support and services to entrepreneurs and the emerging SMEs. Second, we are launching applications and services for the SMEs sector, thus supporting small and medium enterprises with various electronic programs designed specifically for SMEs, including offering and presenting opportunities, cloud e-services, training and consulting services, and a job platform. Third, we are encouraging an initiative that seeks to enhance the status of the commercial franchise in the country by introducing the franchise system, as well as helping the Saudi Franchise Association be successful, in addition to spreading the culture and awareness of the franchise among local investors. Fourth, we are enhancing the contribution of small and medium enterprises by facilitating the necessary procedures, so they are able to compete in the public and private sectors. Fifth, we are launching a SMEs Data Center initiative, which is a statistical database, representing the historical and current data and the future forecasts for the SMEs sector. We are also revamping financing services and the relevant solutions to support the SMEs sector by creating direct or indirect new financing sources.

How does the Ministry of Commerce and Investment expect the Saudi investment environment to change based on Vision 2030?

In line with the Ministry of Commerce and Investment's mission to enhance the capabilities of the trade and investment sectors and protect the interests of the beneficiaries through the development and formulation of effective policies and implementing mechanisms that contribute to sustainable economic development, the Ministry of Commerce and Investment has set out 18 strategic objectives, which are: creating investment opportunities, enhancing competitiveness and the business environment, promoting foreign trade, guaranteeing fair trade, enhancing the productivity of the commercial sector, providing strategic goods and input, developing small and medium enterprises, supporting major large companies, developing investment companies, enhancing national infrastructure, developing and empowering chambers of commerce and industry, updating and promoting rules and regulations, promoting distinguished professional services, developing the capacity of manpower and human cadres within MCI, developing governance systems and improving the operation model relevant to MCI, updating and digitizing information technology and data analysis, supporting decision making, and strategizing internal and external communication.