INDICATING OPPORTUNITY

Saudi Arabia 2018-19 | ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

A massive overhaul utilizing smart data is leading to a better alignment with global standards to boost economic development.

Dr. Fahad Bin Sulaiman Al Tekhaifi
BIOGRAPHY
Dr. Fahad Bin Sulaiman Al Tekhaifi was appointed President of GASTAT by royal decree in 2015. Before that, he served for four years in progressive roles at the Human Resources Development Fund under the Ministry of Labor, lastly as Assistant Deputy Minister for Specialized Programs. He was also a manager of the research department at the Capital Market Authority, in addition to serving at the Institute of Public Administration and in many other organizations as a statistical advisor. He holds a BS in mathematics from King Saud University, a master's in statistics from Colorado State University, and a PhD in applied statistics from the University of Northern Colorado.

How can the Saudi labor market best absorb new talent, and what strategies should be put in place to capitalize on the country's demographic bonus?

Almost 59% of Saudis are under the age of 30, and 49% are below 25, which means we are an extremely young country. Many are also now entering the labor market. Within GASTAT, we have two teams working on this issue. The first provides statistics to the relevant entities, such as the Ministry of Civil Services, Ministry of Labor, and the Human Resources Development Fund (HRDF), which drafts our labor market policies. With our work, we can advance decision makers in the labor markets and give guidance on how to absorb the young population into the labor market. Our work has become more advanced: we include new indicators of job seekers such as their qualifications, age, and preferences, in addition to existing work visas and their division into the public and private sector. Furthermore, we classify these job seekers into regions, which, when combined with the other indicators, helps us provide the data for unemployment policy. As our work advances, we are also working to raise greater awareness on how to use our resources. This is not an obstacle unique to Saudi Arabia; every sophisticated institution across the globe is facing this problem. For example, not all ministries use our numbers, and that puts us under pressure to raise awareness of these services. Our counterpart in the Netherlands, for example, has a media program for its institutions, with detailed explanations of its research findings. We seek to launch a similar practice.

What trends does your current research show with regards to the growth of non-oil sectors?

We have evaluated our statistical products according to the international requirements set out by the World Bank and IMF and are currently developing a program to align our indicators more in line with international practices. For example, we need to make some of our figures quarterly rather than annually—GDP is now measured quarterly. Our job seeker indicator is also new. To measure the impact of Vision 2030 on the national economy, we are looking at 12 programs and developing our indicators accordingly. One of these new products was developed to support the Ministry of Housing to better serve the needs of the population in terms of housing development. In the recent years, and Vision 2030 has catalyzed this, we have tightened our collaboration with ministries and other government entities to better serve the public. Another new element is our focus on SMEs, and we are developing tools and products to serve them with better insights. We listen more to their needs and use their feedback in our research strategies. Since GASTAT became independent in 2016, we have significantly changed our way of working; we are now more proactive and treat government entities as VIP customers to better serve economic development.

How can you serve international businesses and investors with your statistics?

Within GASTAT, we have a team dealing with foreign investment. It closely collaborates with the Ministry of Commerce and Investment to develop the necessary indicators to measure economic growth and opportunities. It jointly consults with experts from the IMF, World Bank, and other renowned international institutions to satisfy the requirements for international businesses. A better alignment with global standards will make our data more presentable and comparable with the statistics of other countries, bring more transparency to international investors, and ultimately provide better opportunities. We are currently finalizing the new data set of top indicators for international investors.

What notable trends in sustainable development goals (SDGs) have you observed?

Certain SDGs are easier to track than othersm, and some indicators are easy to develop from surveying the data with well-known methodologies. For this, we plan to maximize those indicators and publish the progress made.